Smiling On Broadway

By Sarah Ashman Gillespie

This is one of my favorite photos of Howard, he looks happy (and a little apprehensive, for good reason, you’ll see) but it’s also  a wonderful metaphor for theater and the people who make theater.

Howard is smiling under a poster for Smile.  Forget the heartbreak after opening. On that day, Howard was on Broadway.  He was finally going to open a show – one that he wrote and directed – on Broadway.  And my husband, who was practicing his photography had bumped into him on the street.


They stood and looked at that poster, it was way up over Broadway, looking toward the Lunt-Fontaine, where Smile would play.  Ron wanted a photo of Howard smiling under the Smile poster that hung so far above the ground.  But there was no way to get both Howard and the poster in the photo.

Then Marty Robinson happened by.  Marty is the brilliant puppeteer who created the original Audrey II puppet and played hundreds of performances scrunched into that giant pod on the stage of the Orpheum Theater.  Marty, as it happens, is also very strong and very tall.

After some discussion of what angle was needed, Marty knelt and Howard climbed onto his shoulders, just high enough so that Ron could take the photo.

I would not be the person I am today without Howard.  I was lucky to grow up under his wing even though, understandably, I was also often in his shadow.  I was just lucky to be in the shadow of a generous older brother who thought I was worth encouraging.

But no one succeeds without so many others.  So many shoulders to stand on.  Just like Howard in that photo on Broadway way back in 1986.  No matter how successful, how talented, how driven we are – sometimes we need someone else to lift us up.  Sometimes we need a shoulder to stand on.

Howard was born on May 17.  Today would have been his 69th birthday.  He is ever missed.