I first saw my finest friend Bruce acting on stage at Medford High School in Medford, Oregon, in the spring of 1977, during a state Thespian conference for high school actors. He was performing a scene from Of Mice and Men with his friend Bill Helwig, a tall, redheaded kid who weighed in at around 300 pounds. Bill played Lenny and was, no surprise, the focus of much of the audience that attended that afternoon's performance. But Bruce made an impression playing George as well. So much so that I remembered him several months later when I ran into him in the basement of the Sigma Nu house on the University of Oregon campus, looking just as nervous as I was, on the set of National Lampoon's Animal House. I introduced myself after a couple of minutes, sure that he'd just dismiss me as an oddball. To my amazement, he did not, and nearly 28 years later I'm wishing him happy birthday on the Internet. (For those wishing to get a glimpse of Bruce circa 1977, check out the courtroom scene in Animal House-- Bruce can be seen wearing a blue sweater just off of John Belushi's left shoulder, joining Bluto and the rest of the Deltas in their cough-covered invitation to Dean Wormer and friends to "eat me!")
We've been through a lot together-- there's no need to itemize the experiences here, because he already knows about 'em. I just wanted to take this opportunity to express to him how much his friendship means to me, how much I value his support and his critical voice, and how lucky I feel that we've been able to remain so close despite never living, except for those college years and one year here in Los Angeles when I first came to this city, within 400 miles of each other during those 28 years.
Friend, you make me feel understood, and you afford me the opportunity to be real like I can be with no one else outside my wife and daughters.
We laugh together at things that few others would understand or even find funny, and the raised eyebrows of wives and family just seem to make it all funnier.
And I think we both know that in the other there will always be an ear to hear, a shoulder to lean on, and a place to rest and not worry about being entertaining, or erudite, or even awake.
Many grand wishes to you, Bruce, on your 46th birthday. Emma sang it, I wrote it, and everyone here in this household hopes your birthday was as special to you as you are to me, and to us.
"You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought!" [Cue sped-up version of Star Wars score]...