At age 77, longtime cabaret admirer Stu Hamstra has passed away in Florida, where he’d relocated after many years in the New York City area, where he was the writer/publisher/chief cook and bottle washer for the newsletter Cabaret Hotline. Going back quite a few years, his publication began on paper and later the information appeared on the web. The labor-intensive efforts found Stu learning new computer programs to manage the vast amount of information about cabaret shows — not just the Manhattan events he often attended, trudging in from his geographically-challenged locations out in Queens (when increasing physical challenges and the weather allowed), but all around the country and beyond.
A free version of the Hotline and special members-only editions and updates came out weekly for years. And as time went on, and Stu’s dedicated hours and computer upgrades amassed, it became more reader-friendly, with multi-color lettering, photos, commentary, actual reviews, calendar listings, and detailed show descriptions difficult to find anywhere else. Despite a constant challenge to meet expenses, Stu persevered, with funds coming in from advertising, memberships, donations, and annual anniversary fundraisers where singers entertained, donating their time and talents. In an era when record stores were quickly disappearing and cabaret singers thus lost visibility for their CDs, he began a separate section of his website to show those albums, with Christmas issues shown separately.
He was a major and loyal champion of those singers who caught his ear and his fancy, whether they tended to be the more popular and lauded artists among the general cabaret community or not. Regular readers would note both frequent mentions of those names as well as notices of newcomers who’d otherwise be virtually invisible or just more names among so many others. In gamely describing each show, Stu continued his uphill battle in trying to educate the less savvy singers doing their own promotion about how to present the needed information without having to do their work for them. Ongoing personal problems, including having to move to new quarters more than once, and the physical toll of increasing age limited his ability to attend shows in recent years.
The Metropolitan Room honored him with one of their This Is Your Night! tributes where the community could thank and celebrate him, with performances by close associates such as Sue Matsuki. Stu Hamstra relocated to Florida, where his sister lived, but continued putting together his Cabaret Hotline Online from there, albeit without the fringe benefit of attending the cabaret shows by New York regulars.
While in Florida, Stu was faced with a serious medical diagnosis. The following is a notice taken from the Cabaret Hotline Online edition at the end of January, summarizing his struggle at that point:
“PLEASE NOTE: Since November 2015, editor/publisher of Cabaret Hotline Online Stu Hamstra has been undergoing treatment for bladder cancer in Miami, FL. For over a year he has been able to keep the Cabaret Hotline Online updated with the latest news and listings of the art & artists of cabaret. After both chemo and radiation treatments in 2016, the cancer remains and, starting February 1st, new and stronger chemo treatments will begin. The last 2 weeks in January 2017 have been spent with additional tests with meetings with his team of surgeons, specialists and others to lay out the schedule for the next phase of treatment. To prepare, Cabaret Hotline Online is temporarily on hiatus – with a complete physical scheduled for Monday, January 30th and possible invasive surgery on Wednesday, February 1st.”
Unfortunately, the optimistic assumption that the hiatus would be temporary has not proved to be the case, and cabaret has lost both the publication and the man who dedicated twenty-seven years to it. At this time, no other details have been announced as to services or remembrances. Stu Hamstra passed on Thursday, April 13. May he rest in peace.