Thomas Wictor

A letter to David Shiner and Bill Irwin

A letter to David Shiner and Bill Irwin

Dear Messers. Shiner and Irwin:

I want to thank you for your show Fool Moon, which I saw at the James A. Doolittle Theatre in Los Angeles, January 26, 1994. With me were my brother Tim and my mother Cecilia, CeeCee to her friends. I heard about the show on the radio, and on a hunch, I bought three tickets. It was without question one of the best nights of my life.

Mom is in the final stages of cancer. She won’t last much longer. To this day she talks about your show and how much she loved it and the two of you for making her laugh so hard and for seeing the indelible beauty and art of clowning.

She’s had a difficult life, and her illness has been indescribably terrible. But we’ve probably talked about your show almost every month for the past nearly twenty years. I live next door to Mom, and we have nightly conversations in her living room. Mom has been a huge fan of Bill since she saw him on Northern Exposure as the Flying Man. Something told me that Fool Moon would be brilliant. The urge to get tickets to the show was almost like a command.

Both Mom and Dad were diagnosed with cancer on the same day, January 16, 2013. Dad gave up immediately and died February 23. Mom fought as long as she could, but now she just wants to sleep. She’s eighty-five and it’s not likely that she can come back from her drastic weight loss.

Mom is a very sensitive person who hates Schadenfreude. What amazed all of us that night—January 26, 1994—was that David could go out into the audience and do things like polish a bald man’s head with a handkerchief and twirl another man’s comb over into a horn, yet it wasn’t mean spirited! How did he do that? That’s what we loved so much about the show. It was truly magical. Mom said it was the briskness of his actions that made them impossible to be taken seriously. David was lampooning someone who did mean things, but his actions weren’t in any way insulting. All of us are grateful that we got to witness such mastery.

It seems as though we saw Fool Moon last night. We’ve kept it that fresh in our minds.

Your show changed my life, and it changed my mother’s. What it did was create permanent, unassailable reservoirs of good cheer in us that we’ve drawn on when things got really bad. All we had to do was say, “Remember in Fool Moon when Shiner—?” Or “How about when Irwin—?” And we’d smile and be back in those seats, the three of us, enthralled and whisked to a place of joy and kindness.

Your show was incredibly kind. That’s another reason I want to thank you. Kindness is rare, especially in entertainment. You treated my mother with respect, and for that I can’t thank you enough.

On that night you not only made lifelong fans, you showed three people in difficult circumstances that there was a different way. We’ve always remembered it. Your show made us stronger. In my case and in my brother Tim’s case, your show convinced us to pursue our dreams in the arts. In Mom’s case, your show proved that there were people who shared her sensibilities and would not subject her to the coarseness that she as a former teacher finds deplorable. Your show was for people of all ages. You generously included her. It was a night of communion.

We owe you a lot.

With my deepest gratitude,
Thomas Wictor

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