Larry Vaughn with Mentora Vaughn Gratrix

Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

He Had Me at Carrots! Remembering Gilbert Blythe…

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Maybe you don’t think I’m good enough for you now, but I will be someday.
— Gilbert Blythe

Jonathan Crombie, better known as Gilbert Blythe, passed away last Wednesday from a brain hemorrhage at the age of forty-eight. The news was devastating, not only for me, but for so many other women . . . and men (my brothers never liked to admit it because it wasn’t cool, but I knew better!), who like me grew up watching the classic miniseries Anne of Green Gables. Honestly, Gilbert Blythe had me at “carrots!” No one could get under Anne Shirley’s skin like Gilbert Blythe. While their tantalizing love story kept me on a rollercoaster of emotions, Gilbert’s unfailing love and patience in his pursuit of Anne Shirley made him, well, quite irresistible.

Anne, wait! I’m sorry for teasing you about your hair.
Don’t be mad at me for keeps.

In a very real sense, the memory of Jonathan Crombie will continue to live on. Unlike most of us, actors have a unique legacy because we can watch their films long after they’re gone. Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley were my role models growing up. During my dating years, I gave guys such a hard time (not on purpose); but deep down inside, I realize now I just wanted someone willing to patiently woo me, as Gil did with Anne.

And thankfully Gilbert’s legacy will continue. My girls and I are in the middle of reading Anne of Green Gables, and I am anxious to finish the book so we can watch the movie together. I can’t wait to watch their reaction as they meet Gilbert Blythe for the first time. I hope they too will admire his patience, kindness, and strength and that they will look for those characteristics when they are old enough to have a man in their life. And most importantly, I hope they learn that it’s okay to be complicated as a woman—and, yes, even a challenge. Why? Because every girl wants to have this conversation someday:

Anne Shirley: You just think that you love me.
Gilbert Blythe: Anne, I’ve loved you as long as I can remember. I need you. 

Perhaps LOVE unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship.. as a golden hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables


USA TODAY’s writer Jayme Deerwester wrote a tribute to Jonathan Crombie’s life:

Crombie is best remembered for his work as Gilbert. He was never bothered by the fame it brought him and even answered to the name Gil when recognized on the street, [Jonathan Crombie’s sister, Carrie] says.

“I think he was really proud of being Gilbert Blythe and was happy to answer any questions,” she told the CBC. “He really enjoyed that series and was happy, very proud of it — we all were,” she said.

The son of former Toronto mayor and Canadian Cabinet minister David Crombie, he beat out fellow Canadian and future 90210 star Jason Priestly for the role. “We never screen-tested him,” Green Gables producer Kevin Sullivan told the CBC. “We met him and he was cast. It was a perfect storm. … It just all worked perfectly.”

“I think for legions of young women around the world who fell in love with the Anne of Green Gables films, Jonathan literally represented the quintessential boy next door,” he said, explaining the actor’s appeal.

“I think there will be hundreds of people who will be floored that this has happened,” he said of Crombie’s sudden passing. “It’s such a devastating tragedy. In reality, Jonathan was as generous, as kind, as sensitive and as ambitious, in some ways, as the character he came to be identified with.”

Keeping in character with his kind, generous alter ego, Crombie’s organs were donated.

Throughout his acting career, Crombie traveled back and forth between New York and Toronto via bus. “That’s how we are going to be bringing him back,” his sister explained to the CBC. “We felt that it was an ode to Jonathan. He would never go on a plane, so we’re going to make the trek from New York to Toronto on a bus with his ashes.”

Read the entire article here:


Remembering Bert Livingston

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 Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives.
When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
– Clarence the angel, It’s a Wonderful Life

Last week I wrote a tribute to my dear friend Bert Livingston. Monday my daughter, Mentora, and I boarded a plane and headed to LA for the funeral. It was a whirlwind of a trip as we returned home on Wednesday, but it was a trip that Mentora and I will never forget. Saying goodbye is never easy, but saying goodbye for the last time is extremely difficult. Flying home I thought about how hard it is to believe that my good friend will never call or text me again.


Bert with his beautiful wife, Janie.
(Photo credit: Livingston family)

The funeral service far exceeded my expectations. Bert would have been very pleased. Brett Resnick, who worked for Bert for many years at 20th Century Fox, delivered a wonderful tribute to Bert’s life that included personal and even humorous accounts of “Bertisms.” Bert’s sister, Betsy Burlin, gave an emotional tribute from her heart of her love for her brother and what it was like growing up with Bert. Julie and Matt, Bert’s adult children, told touching stories of Bert as a father. Then Janie, Bert’s wife, spoke. She was not on the program, but with strength and love she shared the story of how she and Bert met. Janie recounted her first experience with Bert’s heart issues, and how some thirty years ago she prayed God would give her ten years with Bert. She shared how Bert gave her two beautiful children in their years together and that God gave her not just ten years, but thirty years with Bert. I was very moved by Janie’s perspective on Bert’s life. The service concluded with Psalm 23, a Psalm that gives hope and comfort in time of grief.


North Ranch Country Club lowered their flag in honor of Bert Livingston (Photo credit: Julie Livingston)

After the service, guests were invited to a memorial luncheon at the North Ranch Country Club, a favorite spot that Bert visited often. They honored Bert by serving his favorite foods—the meal was delicious. A special appreciation goes to Clark and Carolyn Woods as they did a tremendous job in helping with the funeral arrangements and the memorial luncheon. Several of Bert’s friends shared some great Bert stories of how genuine and caring Bert truly was. I was reminded once again that the movie industry is a family—and a family cares for their own—as there was a tremendous outpouring of love from the film row family to celebrate Bert’s most remarkable life.

Bert, I miss you, dear friend. Thank you for caring for and loving my family and me through the years. Life is not the same without you, but I’m thankful for the memories—I’m thankful for the Bertisms—I’m thankful for your life! Blessings to Janie, Matt, Julie, and Betsy—Mentora and I are thankful we could be a part of such a special tribute to a most wonderful man.



Saluting Bert Livingston

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Photo credit: Julie Livingston

When someone you love dies, you don’t lose them all at once. You lose them in pieces over time, like how the mail stops coming.
—Jim Carrey (Narrator), Simon Birch

Christmas Eve I received a phone call from my former colleague and dear friend Bert Livingston. In his usual chipper voice Bert said, “Larry, guess what I am getting for Christmas?” Before I could answer his question, Bert joyfully exclaimed, “A new heart! Larry, I am getting a new heart for Christmas. The heart transplant is happening tonight.”

How does one describe Bert Livingston? Well, there’s only one Bert. I had the pleasure of meeting Bert Livingston back in 1985 when he was a branch manager for Twentieth Century Fox, and I was the head film buyer for Wometco Theatres in Miami, Florida. The two of us took a liking to each other from the get-go. We became life friends as we worked together day in and day out trying to do the best job for our respective companies, while understanding there always had to be a little give and take from both sides in order to get the Fox movies on the Wometco theatre’s screen.

For those of you who never had the privilege to meet Bert, let me try to describe him in a single word—GENUINE. Bert Livingston was one of the most genuine men that I have ever known. Bert was not a man of false pretenses: he said what he meant and meant what he said.

While my daughter Mentora and I were writing my life story, Hollywood’s Chosen, I asked Bert if he would look at the manuscript and give me any thoughts or suggestions as to how I might improve the book. After reading the manuscript, Bert called me and emphatically remarked as only Bert could say, “Larry, loyalty, you have got to emphasize to the reader how loyalty was our bond. Sure, we knew the rats who couldn’t be trusted, but for the most part, our business was all about loyalty.” As I listened to Bert, I thought back over my friendship and work relationship and how the word loyalty was a defining characteristic of exactly who Bert Livingston was.

For as long as I’ve known Bert, he has struggled with heart-related issues. Bert’s phone call on Christmas Eve seemed like the answer to all of our prayers. Christmas Eve was the start of six days of uncertainty and fear for all of us who knew and loved Bert. His new heart developed blood clots, and his doctors put him in an induced coma. The new heart never woke up. Bert passed away Tuesday, December 30th. The news broke my heart. The last few days felt like I’d been on a heart-wrenching roller coaster ride that ended with an unexpected crash. The sense of loss was overwhelming—as I didn’t just lose a former colleague, I lost my buddy, my friend. Bert and I have talked numerous times on the phone. Our friendship was rekindled through the writing of my life story. Bert would often end our phone conversations with, “You know I love you, Larry.”

God’s ways are not our ways. I’m thankful that I can rest knowing that His ways are best. My prayers go out to Janie, his beautiful wife and their adult children, Matt and Julie, and to the many friends and loved ones who knew this most wonderful man.

Eighteen years ago, Bert gave me the surprise of a lifetime when he flew to Greenville, South Carolina, for my surprise 50th birthday party. I was shocked and touched that Bert would come all that way for my birthday. I remember Bert got up to speak, and he said, “There’s a lot of stories that I could share.” Then he smiled and looked at me knowing I’d be squirming in my seat because we certainly had some wild stories that he could share! He continued, “There’s a lot of stories that I won’t share.” I had a hard time deciding which Bert story to share. Bert worked for Fox for twenty-nine years. I read an article online about his retirement where Bert said, “My life at Twentieth Century Fox has been the greatest. The studio has been like a second family to me. I love this business. Not many people know that I am a second generation film peddler, as I followed my father’s footsteps into an industry he loved, and he instilled in me a similar passion. But I’m at a point in my life where I’d like to spend more time with my wife and kids, do some traveling and just relax.” Here’s a great Bert moment that demonstrates his passion for his company:

Bert caught my attention as he stretched his arms. He smiled at me, tilted his head down slightly, and reached his right hand up and saluted me. His gesture affirmed that he was pleased with the way my testimony was going. His salute also brought back a funny Bert Livingston story from my Wometco days. I was attending a trade screening of a 20th Century Fox film; Bert, at the time, was the Florida branch manager for Fox. I don’t remember the movie that was being screened, but I do remember there were a lot of people at the screening. The lights in the auditorium dimmed, and the famous 20th Century Fox logo appeared on the screen, with its famous fanfare music. As soon as the drums started playing, Bert, who happened to be seated on the front row of the auditorium, immediately stood at attention and extended a lengthy salute that would have made a Marine Corps general proud. The audience broke into laughter, and then applause, as they enjoyed watching Bert give a wholehearted salute to his employer, the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Excerpt from Hollywood’s Chosen

If I could talk to Bert again. I would be sure to tell him, “You know I love you, Bert.” True friends are rare. They stick with you through thick and thin. I’m so thankful for the many fond memories I have of Bert Livingston. Bert, today I salute you. May Bert Livingston’s memory live on forever.

This one’s for Bert…