I am a romantic.  A trait I learned from my brother but also from my father.  It’s not necessarily a good thing and the irony is that Dad and I were textbook depressives.  Neither one of us ever found those rose-colored glasses that make the world look so much nicer. Thankfully, the romance I’m thinking of doesn’t call for optimism.  I’m talking about classic romance here – the kind that Webster’s says reacts to, “the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious or idealized.”

Of course, Howard was a romantic, too.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, or even a dramaturge, to get that.  Beneath Little Shop’s puppetry and fun and games and monster movie references beats the heart of a romantic idealist longing for a world that doesn’t and never did exist.  That’s true of most literature, of course.  Really, of most art.

As with many writers, Howard romanticized his family.  I think he saw the majority of the people in his life as characters.  And if you liked the character he chose for you, as I did, you tried your best to live up to what Howard saw.

As a girl, I felt like a cheat, because Howard seemed to believe I was someone better, more articulate and more intelligent than I felt I really was.  People who knew us as kids, often think that I must have been jealous or bitter because Howard got so much more attention.  I truly didn’t feel that way and the reason was Howard himself.  He had decided, against what I thought were pretty clear indications to the contrary, that I was as special as he was.  I was grateful for the attention and for the faith he had in me.  As an adult, I’ve learned to try (I said try) to live up to his idea of me.

I in turn have romanticized Howard.   He made it easy, by being an artist, by clawing his way to the top with Little Shop, stumbling badly with Smile and then, just as his talent began to bring him fame and wealth, dying a young and tragic death.  Would that he had skipped that last part.

Sometimes I wonder whether those of you reading this blog think I’m so naïve as to believe that Howard was a saint – not a flesh and blood man who made enemies, got angry and angered others.  But hey, I’m a romantic, not an idiot.  Of course he did all those things but believe me when I say that his good so outweighed his bad, that his extraordinary talent was matched by a true goodness, that his lack of faith in religion never subtracted from his abundance of faith in those he loved.

And with that said, I wish all of you a beautiful new year, full of all the optimism, joy and yes, romance, you can find.