A recent gathering in Greenwich Village to honor the memory of performer AJ Irvin, a native of Pennsylvania who passed away in April at age 46. Also known by many as a popular bartender and piano bar singer both in the Philadelphia area (The Bike Stop, which held its own memorial) and in the NYC area (Rose’s Turn, etc.), his performing career included the tour of the musical Victor/Victoria and two holiday-timed specialties: he was Santa Claus for six seasons on tour with the Radio City Rockettes and the famed Christmas show and was in a company the revue That Time of the Year (a live performance at Don’t Tell Mama was recorded and is on DVD). The memorial was an event for which grateful acknowledgments are in order; and so, NiteLife Exchange shares these thoughts and thanks:
Thank you to Bill Morgan and Kurt Kelly for hosting at The Stonewall Inn. Thank you, Mark Hartman, for being an awesome musical director. Thank you, Poppi Kramer, for co-hosting! Thank you, Jeff Reid, for making those incredible slideshows. Thank you, Kathy Robinson, for helping plan this whole thing. Thank you for raising your voices in song so that AJ could hear them from high above. Thank you to Mike for bringing the baseball cards that were made of AJ. Thank you to all of AJ’s friends from all walks of his life who gathered together to celebrate a life cut too short. And thank you to the speakers who found just the right words to capture what we were all feeling so deeply. Michael McDonald, you were simply eloquent. I just wanted to post part of Kimlee Hicks’s speech (with her permission) because she said what we were all feeling, but were maybe too afraid to say. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We will never forget you, AJ Irvin. You were loved.
“If you need help, ask for it. Don’t be too proud to beg.
I look around this room and see all of you beautiful, highly intelligent, very compassionate, extremely talented, dysfunctional people. We’re all f****d up! Its OK!! Its OK. Lets make AJ’s death stand for something. Let’s promise to help each other get through this life. And anyone that knows me knows I am not ‘Little Mary Sunshine.’ I am not the voice of optimism. I’m a selfish bitch!! I don’t want to go to another memorial for a Josh Brooks. Or a day of remembrance for a Patrick Shank. Or a celebration of the life of an AJ Irvin. This s**t needs to stop.
These people didn’t die from the scourges of old age, or a terrible cancer or a deadly virus. They died from loneliness and addiction and depression and despair. We can fight these diseases together. If you don’t want to drink, call somebody. If you do want to drink, call me! When the voices in your head get so loud that the music can’t drown them out anymore, ask for help! Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Don’t let go!
Life may suck, but it’s life. There is no do-over. This is the show! Vulnerability is not a weakness. If you are too proud or too ashamed to talk to a friend, call a hotline. There are total strangers who will listen to your B.S. for hours. I know. And they’ll make no judgments; they’ll just listen. If you want to honor AJ’s memory, live for him! Live your lives, but please live.
I will miss AJ’s funny smile, his charming wit and cutting sarcasm, his huge generosity of talent— that voice!! But I will remember his lovely spirit. May AJ’s spirit live on in all of our hearts and minds always. And, AJ, I promise to never rest on my Laurel Watsons.”