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Marlan Warren is a free-lance publicist who promotes entertainers and book authors (Roadmap Communications and Book Publicity by Marlan, respectively). She is also a film maker (Roadmap Productions), Reiki Master/Teacher (Light Hands Reiki Studio and Institute), Screenwriter, Novelist, PhotoJournalist, Tai Chi practitioner. 

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My life, your life, our lives inside and outside of Los Angeles and its angels.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Big with Mercy": In praise and loving memory of George Weinberg-Harter

Note: This is not a bona fide obituary for my beloved friend, George Weiuberg-Harter. There are some excellent ones. Here are the links for them:

San Diego Union Obit

Welton Jones in San Diego Story


“One of the few who know who I really am has died.”
—What Don Draper, Mad Men, almost said

George Weinberg-Harter
Farewell

Back in 2004, when I decided to answer the Call of Rural Kansas and leave L.A. with all its woes and narcissists behind, my longtime friend in San Diego, George Weinberg-Harter sent me the CD set for the Mahler music based on the poetry of Li Po, which I saw as the equivalent of "Don't let the door bang you on the butt on your way out, Marlan." Included in this was an e-mail with the lyrics to one of the songs, aptly titled:  
THE FAREWELL.



I did not know then that I would be reading it at an impromptu memorial dinner for him on Thanksgiving 2016 in front of the friend who usually gathered there annually and who would have been bereft not to celebrate together, even if it was in grief:

THE FAREWELL

The sun departs behind the mountains.
In all the valleys,
evening descends with its cooling shadows.
O look! Like a silver boat,
the moon floats on the blue sky-lake above.
I feel the fine wind wafting behind the dark spruce.

The brook sings loudly through the darkness
The flowers stand out palely in the twilight.
The earth breathes, full of peace and sleep
and all yearning wishes to dream now.
Weary men go home,
to learn in sleep forgotten happiness and youth.
The birds crouch silently in their branches.
The world is asleep!

It blows coolly in the shadows of my spruce.
I stand here and wait for my friend;
I wait to bid him a last farewell.
I yearn, my friend, at your side
 to enjoy the beauty of this evening.
Where do you tarry? You leave me alone for so long!
I wander up and down with my lute,
on paths swelling with soft grass.
 O beauty! O eternal love - eternal, love-intoxicated world!

He dismounted and handed him the drink
 of parting. He asked him where
 he would go, and also why it must be.
 He spoke, his voice was choked: My friend
 on this earth, fortune has not been kind to me!
Where do I go? I will go, wander in the mountains.
 I seek peace for my lonely heart.
 I wander to find my homeland, my home.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

[Accompanying E-Mail From George Copied Below]*

George Weinberg-Harter
 Alas, poor George, I knew him well. Or thought I did. We only saw each other annually or maybe twice in a year over the last 36 years. He probably knew me better than I knew myself. In my files are the letters he wrote me over the years, urging me to write what he predicted would be my key to a Pulitzer: White Bitch. He provided many details for its contents, based on my mishaps as a bus rider who found herself stranded, first without a car in L.A. and then as a victim of a 9 week long bus strike. This thinly disguised memoir would include a mixture of everything I'd ever written him about my angst in La La Land. But more on that in a bit.

On the day before the 2016 Presidential election around 7:30 a.m., George Weinberg-Harter was felled at home by heart failure in the presence of his devoted and loving wife, Susan. I found out, as many did, on Facebook hours after he left this mortal coil.

George and Susan Weinberg-Harter
It was shocking to us all that someone who had so much incredible energy and life and curiosity and sensitivity and love could be gone from our lives in an instant. This has been a notable year for celebrity deaths. Many of my generation's idols and icons have died. But I would have preferred for George to remain so that we might giggle together or shrug our shoulders or howl over the election news and recent deaths, sitting in George and Susan's quaint, very English kitchen, in our usual chairs at the lovely tiled table, when I came for my annual Thanksgiving visit this year.

George the Playwright: 
"Golden Trash Stamps: A Bureaucratic Tragedy"

 
Welcome to the Askew World of George Weinberg-Harter
 --Welton Jones' Review of Golden Trash Stamps

George Weinberg-Harter and I met in the Marquis Public Theater's Playwrights Workshop in 1979 or 1980. I had just moved to San Diego from Chicago. George had written the funniest play I've ever read, based on his misadventures as a caseworker for the Department of Social Services: Golden Trash Stamps: A Bureaucratic Tragedy.

I don't recall how it came about that I was selected to direct that play (I had directed plays in Chicago, after it was ascertained that I had more directing than acting talent), although I do remember the interview I had with Kent Brisby who was the artistic director of The Gallery, a 49 seat space set aside for the Marquis workshops and Asian American plays. George's play revolved around the hapless Fred C. Bloggs (no coincidence that that's Bogart's name in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and his having to stave off immigrant applicants from four different countries who come seeking the mysteriously desirable "Golden Trash Stamps." Brisby asked me what my vision was for the play, and I said it should be kind of Monty Python-ish, like the Boat People coming in wet. Kent smiled and said, "As if they had to swim the last 100 miles."

Alan Goya, who brilliantly (along with the equally genius Janine Lowe) played all four immigrants told me that when he saw Kent before we opened, he was asked, "Will you be wet?" (We had nixed that idea.)

George had been stand-offish with me up until we worked together. He didn't care for the raving feminist self-defense musical I was working on, nor did he seem to give a hoot for anyone's writing but his own. However, the moment we began collaborating on the production, it was a match made in Proverbial Heaven.


George was amazingly flexible and willing to rewrite bits and take suggestions. I offered the idea of having a performer all in black come in and hold up subtitles during the scene that was mostly in Spanish, as in No Theater, and adding "sting" music of a violin every time the Stamps are mentioned.

Every now and then the Universe comes up with a timing that we could not dream up. George's father had recently passed away suddenly of heart failure, leaving his mother distraught and alone in their big house. So George thought that holding rehearsals there would cheer his extroverted mother up, and he was right. Jane Harter not only welcomed us with great joy and excitement, she immediately bonded with me. A bond that lasted until...well, it's never been broken. Not really.

The actors were perfect. John Lux, who played Bloggs, was ideal. George and I both hate auditioning, but we danced around like teenagers after Lux read for us. Paul Nolan really showed range in the dual role of the slacker coworker and the treacherous gypsy.



George Weinberg-Harter has the knack of hitting hard truths right on the sweet spot...
--Welton Jones

The show broke box office records. Everyone wanted to extend it, but there was another show already slated for the space. George gave everyone connected with the show a copy of the script with golden covers and he'd glued terrific photos from the play inside (which I cannot find now).

Credit needs to be given to wonderful Bill Teague (George's college roommate and good friend) who moderated that workshop, and also wrote a play that we committed to video. 

Big with Mercy
One of the main reasons I put off writing this tribute is that George is not here to read it. Even though he's "gone," I wish he could read my posts on social media and chime in with his two cents. It is unimaginable that he is no longer among us in human form, and that his illuminating intellect, split-second mind and jovial humor can no longer be accessed on this human plane. Even as I write this, I can imagine George's wry responses to it. Perhaps that is the way it is when someone you love so well for so long is suddenly taken from this earthly plane. Carolyn See wrote a book entitled There Will Never Be Another You in homage to the man she loved, and that sums up the reactions of everyone who ever had the inexpressible pleasure of knowing him.

The Weinberg-Harter Residence
Right after I found out on Facebook that George had passed away, I boarded a train for San Diego, hoping to console his sister Anne and wife Susan. Since I met George in 1980, he and his "relatives" have been like family to me. "Family" in the highest sense of the word. And not being an actual family member allowed me to appreciate everyone in a pleasant haze that, of course, cannot be enjoyed by actual family members who must trudge through the hazards of Life together.

Susan, Mina & George
My files bulge with correspondence between George and Susan and myself. Occasionally, I run across a memento of Anne's. I still have the beautiful poem she wrote when I got married. And I have loads of memories of our high jinks before Anne settled down with her husband Forrest (some of those antics not fit for public ramblings).


George and Susan Many Moons Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away
Wherever I am I’m always talking to you…
--Cat Stevens 

Over the decades, when I was single, when I was married, when I was divorced, and even after I left California for a while...we have kept in contact. What I see when I think of those times is a montage of moments, perhaps most have meaning only to me.

My friend Leslie in San Diego once yelped while we were at dinner in a restaurant, "Would you two stop with the punning?" I hadn't realized we were doing it that much. Or, in fact, that I was doing it at all.

What I remember mostly is laughter. Not-being-able-to-catch-my-breath laughter. That giddy feeling one gets when one is understood at so many levels of understanding that it is like coming home to go visit this person. George had a photographic, encyclopedic memory. I remember lots of stuff, but George remembered damn near everything, most of it found in books, films, plays, magazines like The New Yorker...and of course poetry, poetry, poetry.

Calligraphy by George Weinberg-Harter sent to cheer me up.

George wrote fine poetry that he published on Facebook. And he had an idea for a book that I always wished he would write, and he often wrote fun drafts of it: comparison of poems. He would juxtapose one well known poem with a similar one that would have an opposite take.

Susan and George used to occasionally come up to Los Angeles, and I would pick them up and take them to The Huntington Library and Gardens for their elaborate afternoon tea in their gorgeous tea house. One time we got into a debate in between gorging ourselves with tea cakes and sandwiches. And it turned into an argument. I said something angry, something mean probably, to get them to stop talking about it. When Susan got up to get something else to eat from the buffet, George turned to me and said, "How could you talk that way to me? It's like a knife in my heart!"

Another time we went with Susan's sister and husband who were visiting from England. They appeared low key throughout the opulent tea, and when they got up to help themselves to more, George whispered to me: "Susan says they are really impressed and having the time of their lives!" Later, while they were perusing the Bloomsbury special exhibit at The Huntington, George sat with me on the lawn to wait, and we entertained each other with the silly songs we collect.

On Thanksgiving 2016, I repeated the "Knife in My Heart" story to a couple of his friends. One was Mike Waters who had come up to me with tears in his eyes, barely able to get the words out, saying: "I will never forget he said to me, 'Mike, I love you.'" And later to Lucile Cheng who was going around the room to sit with each attendee at the annual dinner to talk privately about their memories of George. When I told her, she put her hand over her mouth, overcome with emotion and rocked back and forth. We were both laughing and crying.


George and I only had two other falling outs that I can recall. One was my stupidly harsh reaction to a play he wrote that he asked me to read. I have never again attempted to critique a friend's writing to the degree that I did this one. In a nutshell, I didn't care for it. I would have been better off handing it back with a sweet, "Thank you for letting me read this." But when he gave it to me, he complained that another friend had already done that, and it made him think his friend didn't care for it. I recall adding that it might make a good musical. It was later made into a musical, but George had been so deeply hurt that he would not allow me to even inquire after it.

George's Poster Image for "The Mikado" on a T-shirt during his Gilbert & Sullivan days.

Such sensitivity can handicap an artist, but George had a way of rebounding and making lots more creative lemonade.

The second altercation was shocking to me because I was totally unprepared for his sudden flash of anger. It was a couple years ago, during one of my visits--staying in their beautiful home and soaking up its loving, intellectual and artistic energy--when I observed that George kept falling asleep throughout the day without meaning to nap. As I was leaving, I suggested he check back with his doctor about his medication. Maybe the dosages needed correction (he took a lot of pills for his heart). He became furious with me. I'd never seen him so angry: "I'm not like you! I don't go in for all these herbs and Chinese medicines!" After that, on Christmas, he landed in the hospital because the potassium meds he was taking had raised his potassium level too high.

Why mention this now? As George might say, "No use crying where angels fear to tread."

Well, it's because I felt a kind of alarm when I read one of his last posts on his Facebook page, accompanied by this picture:





LAST NIGHT I was visited by the Queen of Elfland. I awoke and there she was standing illuminated and smiling and beautiful. Mina my Cat, who had been sleeping in the crook of my arm did not seem alarmed, but jumped up and sat at the other end of the bed. I myself got up on my knees and faced the Faery Queen. "Who are you? What are you?" I asked. I put out my hand to touch her, but it went through her as she began to vanish in the brightening air. When I lay myself down again, somewhat bedazzled, Mina returned to the crook of my arm. Had she not been there, perhaps the Queen might have taken me off to Elfland like True Thomas the Rhymer. 


“Light down, light down now, True Thomas
And lean you head upon my knee.
Abide and rest a little space
And I will show you ferlies three."
When He had eaten and drunk his fill,
She said, “Lay your head down on my knee,
And before we climb yon high, high hill,
I will show you wonders three.
Oh, see you not yon narrow road
So thick beset with thorn and briars?
That is the path of righteousness
Though after it but few enquire.
And see you not that broad, broad road
That lies across that lily leven?
That is the path of wickedness
Though some call it the road to Heaven.
And see you not that bonnie road
That winds about the fernie brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland
Where thou and I this night maun gae.
But Thomas, you must hold your tongue
Whatever you may hear or see
For if you speak word in Elfin land
You'll ne'er get back to you ain country.”



Celeste Innocenti Did you speak word, George -- or were you allowed to go back to you ain country?


George Weinberg-Harter

George Weinberg-Harter I never got as far as Elfland with her, nor did she give instruction. I think Mina the Cat prevented that.

To be continued....

PS - 
*George's E-Mail Reply to My Thank You for Sending Me "Farewell" Lyrics:


3/22/05



Marlan!

Glad you liked the Li Po, again, in this latest translation, as well as
in the other translations sent previously (including my own rather silly
version that I sent at one time). It's my traditonal Spring thing. I'm
sure you immediately recognized it to be essentially the same poem that
Mahler used, in a somewhat elaborated German version, as the text for
"Der Trunkene im Fruehling" in his "Das Lied von der Erde," a CD of which
I once sent to you.

Congratulation on winning the Pullet Surprise! (I'm sure you'd heard that
old groaner long before I cracked it, but I was pleased to see it turning
up yet again in your heading.) The article was terrific. I'd like to buy
you for what they pay you and sell you for what you're really worth.

Very interesting, your sojourn in Lindsborg. It sounds sort of like the
Kansas rough equivalent of California's scam-Scandanavian Solvang, along
with the charming addition of home-grown corn-fed fascists. (Solvang and
nearby Buellton--and briefly San Diego too!--figured prominently in the
recent film "Sideways," which we much enjoyed.)

Keep those "postcards from das Herzland" coming! Surely there must be
articles or a book--something that pays $$$--in all this. It'd be like
the sheep reporter the Thurber fable who wrote "My 24 Hours in Wolfland."

Did I tell you I've been cast in a play, directed by D.J. Sullivan--Lee
Murphy's "Catch a Falling Star"?  I play an alcoholic Texan daddy named
Darryl (DAY-RILL!).

Yr. humble,

        George

George & Susan Weinberg-Harter
(619) 295-8948 [home + fax]
E-mail:
susngeo@juno.com




Jan. 16, 2006
Having a terrific time at Pat Launer's Patte Awards banquet along with
the creme-de-la-creme of San Diego Theatre talent! Next best thing to a
Shriner's convention!

Jan. 15, 2006

Marlan!

We may take comfort that prophecy is rarely literal. And when it is --in folklore, and in my actual experience --there is always a joker in the deck. To prophesy is to reveal not so much exactly accurate future happenings, but the will or a message of God or the gods, usually in an obscure or poetic manner. Prophecy --like great science fiction--is not really about the future but about the present. Prophecy often comes in dreams which can be figurative and need to be interpreted. (Think of Pharoah & Joseph.)  In more recent centuries, dreams have been taken as deep reflections of the psyche and the Zeitgeist.

Other such dreams I have had throughout the years:

*The moon crashed into the earth and everything was cataclysmically wrenched & turned sideways. We lived on, but as if on the side of a huge cliff, trying to live as normally as possible in our sideways cliff dwellings.

*A gigantic volcanic explosion destroyed all of the Los Angeles area. We could see it happening  from here, a hundred miles south. Huge gouts of fiery clouds and gases exploded high into the night sky to the north, a fantastic and terrifying sight. We in San Diego survived it. But rivers and streams of lava came flowing down from the north. We carried on our lives as before, but having from time to time bridge and get over the various hot glowing rivers of lava.

I looked out from the back of my house, north across Mission Valley, and saw, in the midst of a great storm, some score or more tornadoes, ranged out in a row and heading towards us.

Well, none of those things have ever happened yet. But they might mean something. Certain themes recur, for instance, trouble coming often coming from the north. Soothsayer, say unto me the sooth!

Yr. humble,

    George


George the Ghoul



Susan (L) Leslie (UR) George (LR) Little Italy, San Diego


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