Friday, August 15, 2014

Robin Williams

I had the pleasure of interviewing Robin Williams several times on movie junkets and shared one of those rare couple of minutes when cameras aren't ready to roll. We talked about my son's imminent birth. Robin leaned in, that famous face widening in a grin you've seen a hundred times, saying "Aw, there's nothing greater in the world!"

     I told him we were having trouble coming up with a name. It was really between Cooper, a name that would work whether he was an actor, writer or baseball player. Or Tucker, a family name. I said my fear with the name Cooper is the other kids will wind up calling him Cooper the Pooper. Robin shook his head. "No, no they won't. They'll call him "Cooper the Super Duper Pooper". And there was hardly a beat before he added. " But that's a lot better than Tucker."

      So that's my Robin Williams story. The lightening fast wit and, above all, the generous humanity. What a sad day for me. And my son Cooper.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Bryan Boys

Upon the death of J. St. George Bryan, 66, in June, 1945 the Bryan-owned Richmond New Leader ran this editorial:

Sharply etched as was ST GEORGE BRYAN in personality, he seldom thought of himself, so far as we observed, otherwise than as a member of a family, the son of JOSEPH BRYAN and the grandson of JOHN STEWART, of Brook Hill. If he had ever analyzed the psychology of a name, he would have put the emphasis on BRYAN and not on ST. GEORGE.
    This was true, in varying degrees, of all five of the sons of JOSEPH and ISOBEL LAMONT STEWART BRYAN. They were brothers in spirit to a degree more marked even than that of their diversified individuality.

John Stewart Bryan surrounded by his newspapermen

 JOHN STEWART BRYAN was the senior in spirit as in birth, versatile, humane, captivating in manner and of eager intellectuality. 

DR. ROBERT C. BRYAN was unique in charm, skillful as a surgeon, profoundly interested in all his patients, and of a broad sympathy that made him the cherished counsellor of hundreds.
 JONATHAN BRYAN, the third son, much resembled his grandfather, JOHN STEWART, in person and in financial acumen. Singularly successful in business, he was far more than a businessman. He was socially irresistible, an intellect at once restless and philosophical, interested but always balanced, a MAECENAS whose full encouragement of promising men and noble enterprises will never be known.

 THOMAS PINCKNEY BRYAN, the youngest and the first to die, was regarded by his admiring brothers as socially the most captivating of them all. Wherever he went, he won hearts impulsively. Never did he enter a company that he did not seek to do kindness to every member of it. His brilliant law career was climbing to its shining crest when he succumbed to typhoid and pneumonia. No man of his day was more lamented.

   ST GEORGE BRYAN,  the fourth of the sons, and the survivor, had his special share of the family endowment.  His amazing wit, which had become a tradition in his lifetime, was one aspect only of a mind curiously intuitive. Those who worked with him in the newspaper business were accustomed to say of him that if he were asked for an instant answer to a question of business policy, he was almost inerrant. He might mistake if he pondered; he seldom did if he followed his intuitions. It was a remarkable quality and it helped to explain a fact in Richmond journalism that should not be overlooked: The years of his most active participation in the management of The Times Dispatch --roughly, 1909-13--were those in which its new foundations were made secure.

   It is a grievous duty to bid farewell to the last of the "BRYAN boys," as they affectionately were styled through a long generation. Seldom is a city blessed with so many sons of a single family who gave so much and in so many ways to the enrichment and enlivenment of life. In saying Ave et salve, there is comfort in the reflection that of the next generation , seven sons and four daughters carry on the fine tradition. Six of the sons of the "BRYAN boys"  are in the armed services. One had given his life. So widely have these grandsons of JOSEPH BRYAN scattered that few of them will walk tomorrow the gravel path to GOD's acre at Emmanuel Church; but many friends will follow--to remember the five, to thank GOD for them, and to sing reverently and gratefully, "The strife is o'er, the battle won...Allelujah!"

J St George Bryan in 1890

Another editorial, this was most likely from the Times-Dispatch:

No Richmonder of his generation was more sought after as a friend and companion than J. ST. GEORGE BRYAN, whose death occurred yesterday after a long period of failing health. His warm-heartedness and geniality, his capacity for friendship, inspired the same qualities in others. Tall and handsome, with a fine presence, he was a striking figure , and his gift for bon mots and repartee, his seemingly inexhaustible fund of anecdotes, made him the center of many gatherings.

    His quick wit was always in evidence, and as a mimic he was incomparable. Few dared to cross swords with him in a good-natured duel of words, for the intrepid one who did so was apt to be verbally skewered, albeit deftly and without the infliction of a wound. Among the few who were able to swap repartee with MR BRYAN on anything like evn terms were the late EGBERT G LEIGH and the late CHARLES COTEWSORTH PICKNEY . It was an unforgettable experience to sit in the old Westmoreland Club and listen to the scintillating, crackling conversation of those remarkable men.

   They are gone, and so are the four brothers of ST GEORGE BRYAN--JOHN STEWART, DR ROBERT C., JONATHAN and THOMAS P. BRYAN, who passed on before. Five such notable brothers would be hard to find in Richmond's more than two centuries of history. Of the charming gentleman who outlived all the others, and whose death occurred yesterday, it can truly be said that he was a man of unusual gifts and high integrity, worthy of his great heritage.