How You Never Forget
Walking around someone's home can reveal a lot; in the home of my sister, Peter duBarry, you can see the abundance of taste and refinement that marks many a Newport home. But, I always look for the pictures.
Seven years ago a very young man died, whose name to this day, makes Peter choke up. His name was Michael Magerah, a talented costume designer from Newport who had made quite a name for himself on Broadway; so much so, that Salve Regina College in Newport gives an award every year in his name. When you walk around Peter's gracious home you can see Michael's photos everywhere; he's a striking boy with black hair and porcelain skin. There is Michael with Peter, Michael with Liza, Michael everywhere. Peter always said to me, "If you had only known Michael...."
When Michael died Broadway dimmed it's lights for ten seconds; I somehow feel Peter dimmed his for much longer than that. He organized a benefit in Newport in Mrs. Astor ballroom at Beechwood for which Liza Minelli and Broadway star (a great friend of Peter's), Mimi Hines performed.
Beechwood is privately owned and not open to the public, although a sort of living tableau exists there. In testimony to Michael, Peter used the money from the benefit to install this urn in Micheal's memory on the south wall of Beechwood (and donated the rest to Broadway Cares). The urn is named Whispering Angels and fits in so perfectly that you might almost think Caroline Astor, herself, put it there. But Peter put it there in an act of love and devotion which brings tears to my eyes even though I never knew Michael.
It reminds me of the famous Carrie Brown Tower on Benefit Street in Providence. Carrie had married Italian Count Paul Bajnotti, and her death must have devastated him, too. He erected two huge fountains in Providence in her memory and the striking bell tower on the grounds of Brown University. The Count's sense of loss can be seen every day over the door to the tower in the inscription, "Love Is Strong As Death".
I'll will always see that, too, in the baroque urn on the south wall of Mrs. Astor's Beechwood.
Love is strong as death.