Today in My History

2000:  It's Too Damn Hot
2001:  Someone Else's Treasure
2002:  Called on the Carpet
2003:  Home to Mother
2004:  Love and Marriage, the other Side
2005:  Welcome to My State
2006:   Fighting City Hall

2007:  "The Cave"
2008:  Gone in a Flash
2009:  Living with Gerry
2010:  Nice to be Old
Do You Remember...?
2012: Book Storage
2013: A Day at "The Home"

2014: Sunday Stealing
2015: Sunday Stealing
2016: Omigod, You Guys
2017: Narcoleptic Walruses
2018  For Father's Day
2019: Saturday 9

Theater Reviews
Updated 3/10

Books Read in 2020
 Updated 3/30
"An Echo in the Bone"

Personal Home Page

My family

Books Read in 2020
Books Read in 2019
Books Read in 2018

Books Read in 2017
Books Read in 2016
Books Read in 2015
Books Read in 2014
Books Read in 2013

Books Read in 2012
Books Read in 2011
Books Read in 2010

updated 7/16

(you know how to fix it)

Some Background Links:
The Philosophy of Juice & Crackers
The story of Delicate Pooh
The story of the Piñata Group
Pumpkin pies
Who IS this Gilbert person anyway?

mail to Walt / mail to Bev  


15 June 2020

It's become familiar, this feeling in the pit of my stomach. 

I hate it.

We received word that John Ziaja died.  "Ziaja" (ZAY-ja) we always called him.  He was about 12' tall and was one of the Lamplighters brightest stars for many years.  This was my favorite picture of him and it was the last page in second Lamplighter history.

John joined the Lamplighters in the chorus of Trial by Jury in 1970, and went on from there to give unforgettable performances of the principal bass/baritone roles in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas (two roles in most of them), as well as in The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, and a couple of Offenbachs. One of his most memorable roles was as W. S. Gilbert himself, first in The Savoyards in 1976, and after that in several galas. For many of us, John was Gilbert in all his curmudgeonly glory — feisty, irascible, brilliant, hilarious, and ultimately tenderhearted. His Mikado was a towering creation in every way — tall, forbidding, crazed, and hysterically funny. His Dr. Daly was sweet, poignant, and lovable, his Don Alhambra elegant, haughty, and amusingly menacing. One reviewer described his Wilfred Shadbolt as a “bananas oaf.” Every role was carefully crafted, individualized, and fully inhabited.

He and his wife Jean (who died of a heart attack in 2007) often appeared on stage together.  They were part of our "GRUB" group ("Gala Re-internment of Uncle Buddy"), which met each year to commemorate the anniversary of Gilbert Russak's death.

After Jean died, Ziaja continued to come to the dinners until his physical problems made it too painful for him to leave the house, so I have not seen him in many years, though he was also part of a "geezers" group that Walt was in -- several Lamplighter men "of a certain age" who got together once a year just to get together.

Walt says the last time he saw Ziaja at a geezer group was when the dinner was at his house, so he didn't have to leave.

There were six men in that group and three have died.

Ziaja was never a close friend but he was a part of that part of my world which was so very special and which is now just slowly disappearing.

Within a few minutes after receiving the notice of Ziaja's death, a second note came from the Lamplighters, announcing the death of Roy Oakley, who played in the orchestra for many years.  I used to sit in the front row, right by the orchestra and he and I kibitzed a lot while waiting for the shows to start.  I haven't seen him in many years, but still it's sad to know that he, too is gone. 

The death of these two had me looking through Book 2 of the Lamplighters history and every page brought back that emptiness in the pit of my stomach.

So many faces, so many friends, so many memories, so many gone.

I wouldn't give up those years with the Lamplighters for anything, but it's so painful watching them all slip away.


Ziaja and Robert Wood (also dead), Merry Widow, 1978

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