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My Life Was Changed By Russ Weatherford


Today, August 10th (8/10) at 8:10am, I lost another dear friend, Russ Weatherford.  That’s my third loved one lost in less than a year’s time!  But after fighting pancreatic cancer for almost a year and a half, and after another six months of unknown pain even before that, I am almost certain that Russ is resting peacefully without pain and where he belongs.

But–as always–there’s a story I want you all to know…

Eight years ago, when I first moved to “the big city,” my first job was working as a Venue Director for NYMF (The New York Musical Theatre Festival). It was a six week gig while I slowly drowned what was left of my savings from Pittsburgh, which was definitely fun while it lasted.

One day at a NYMF show, I hear a surprisingly familiar voice–one you could easily recognize in a crowd–and as I looked up from taking tickets, sure enough I see KT Sullivan standing before me. I had recently worked with KT earlier that year (2008) back in Pittsburgh with a company called Cabaret Pittsburgh. But here we were, both in New York City, and we recognized each other immediately! After the show, we exchanged contact information and that was that.

Or so I thought…

For the next few months, KT would call me from time to time, mostly to check in on how I was adjusting to the city, but also to invite me to her shows at the Algonquin Hotel. KT was (and still is) one of the best cabaret performers in town, so naturally I accepted every invite. How could I resist? I’m sure some of you feel the same at a classy cabaret venue, because I felt like a celebrity at the Algonquin! As a 20-something-year-old at the time, I was definitely out of my league there. It felt great!

Then one day in 2009, KT called to invite me to her annual 4th of July party. At first, I had to decline. I was supposed to attend a wedding in Massachusetts on July 3rd, and the happy couple was throwing their own 4th of July party since all their friends and family would be in town, so I was sad to tell KT, “No.”

20 minutes later, I thought to myself: What the fuck am I thinking!? How can I say no to this!? This is the networking opportunity I’ve been waiting for!

So I quickly called KT back and told her I would make it work. I would take an early bus back to the city on the 4th, and she was thrilled that I could attend. So was I!

Finally, the 4th of July came around, and I remember being so nervous arriving to the event. I mean, Tommy Tune was going to be there! Talk about being out of my league!

But something else happened at this party that I never expected…

….I met my dear friend, Russ Weatherford, and his partner, Eric Rudy.

I remember talking with Eric as Russ took pictures of the party, a hobby he did for almost every cabaret artist in town. Then Russ and I chatted about my wanting to be an actor in a city full of actors. The two of them were such a delight that I hoped the instant connection I felt wasn’t just me…

Sure enough, a few months later and it wasn’t KT calling me any more to invite me to her gatherings, it was Russ. A few weeks after the 4th of July, he invited me to Eric’s birthday party at my dear friends’ apartment where we currently play bridge every week. Before I knew it, I was attending Christmases at Russ & Eric’s place (the first time I ever saw a “Chandetree”), playing bridge all over the city, and attending New Year’s Eve with new friends.

Seven years later, my life has changed before my eyes, and it’s all because Russ and Eric took me under their wings and introduced me to my now best friends. Friends I never would have met if it weren’t for the two of them. Friends like the bridge group I write about (or at least try to) every other week. Friends I have learned so much from, yet also cherish as much as I do Russ and Eric.

I sometimes think back to that phone call with KT and think: What if I never accepted her invitation to that 4th of July party? Would I still have met Russ some how?

I think we would have, yes. Perhaps at one of KT’s shows at the Algonquin. Or maybe even at her 4th of July party the following year. It sounds corny, but I feel that destiny would have made it happen…

What I do know, however, is that I do not regret going to KT’s party only seven years back. It is one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, and it’s not because I got to meet Tommy Tune.

It’s because I got to meet Russ and Eric…

THANK YOU, Russ Weatherford, for changing my life and teaching me that friends of all ages are just as important as the air that we breathe. I would not be the man I am today without having met you and your devoted husband.

I just wanted you all to know that…


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2 Responses so far.

  1. Arline Rubin says:

    You are a very gifted writer, Josh, and I love reading what you create. You are so open and sensitive! I can’t wait to read your children’s story being published soon.
    I am so glad that you are in my life.

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