Stan was there for the curtain call New Year's Eve
June 17, 2008 · Updated 1:04 PM
Ive never missed a New Years Eve Party at the San Juan Community Theatre since they started a few years ago. Not just because Im a party animal, but rather because there always seems to be a mellow significance when you join friends and neighbors toasting their survival through another year and the cup of kindness for auld lang syne.
The day before New Years, I learned that Stan Kramer had died after a long bout with heart disease. At first it cast a pall over the idea of celebrating at a party in the theater to which he had contributed so much of his last 12 years. He and Ted Soares became the Ziegfelds of San Juan Island, directing, costuming, choreographing and even acting, according to Hank Curtis, theater historian.
Then I thought back to the last few parties and other occasions when I would see him, regally dressed despite being in a wheel chair, thoroughly enjoying every performance as others carried on the wonderful tradition of extravaganzas he inaugurated with Bye Bye Bijou (1994), Flat Foot Follies (1996) and Hello Bijou, Hello! (1998).
The San Juans was Stan Kramers third career. He started at age 7 with his familys marionette show which toured Europe and the United States for 25 years. Then he was with NBC for 25 years in the golden age of television, as he and Soares liked to call it.
Ted Soares was an integral part of that team when he moved to the San Juans with Stan in the late 80s. They enjoyed the peace and quiet on their 35-acre ranch on the west side. Soares was with Kramer in Bellingham when he died after a relapse.
Rather than change to a more somber outfit I decided to stick to my annual tuxedo. Only thing, I couldnt get my favorite tuxedo shirt to button and was having trouble with the studs. I called up my date and asked if I could come early, explaining my dilemma. Sure, she said, But you better have an extra shirt in case because Ill be upstairs dressing. The kids will have to help you.
Try as they would, they couldnt get the collar to button. Cant you compress your neck some more? asked the grandson. No way, I decided, not without being in danger of cutting my throat with a safety pin. I retired to the bathroom and put on the other shirt after taking off the cummerbund, suspenders and all the other studs and cufflinks involved in formal regalia. I retrieved the dinner jacket after redressing and then came out for inspection.
Ta dah ... how does it look now? I asked triumphantly. There was a pause and one youngsters shook her head.
Youre fly is showing.
I turned around to correct the situation and she asked, Havent you ever heard of XYZ?
Examine Your Zipper.
That hilarious scenario started off the evening in a manner that anyone who has been involved with vaudeville would have appreciated ... I know Stan Kramer, whose sense of humor was as great as his talent, would have.
We went on to the Soroptimist-Theatre fund-raising gala and felt Kramers approving presence as we partied in the backdrops and wings of the theatre, the lobby, the orchestra, the balcony, the Gubelman Theatre with its black light, the stage with its wonderful curtains purchased by Kramer and Soares. Mitzi Johnson, with the able assistance of my Soroptimist sisters, had transformed the place into an elegant delight.
Nancy Hansen, who chaired the event with Robin Wadleigh and Lynn Danaher, told me the event cleared costs and a considerable sum was raised for the Soroptimist scholarship fund.
It was boffo and we not only toasted the new year, but also thought of Stan Kramer, Paul Whittier, Bev Steele, Martha and Herb Gubelman, Kate Weed, George Thorson and all the other islanders, past and present, who built and guided this great institution into being.
How appropriate that Stan Kramer would have his demise at a time when we could celebrate him as a community.
Go with the F.L.O.W. (Ferry Lovers Of Washington).
Howard Schonberger is a columnist for sanjuanjournal.com and The Journal of the San Juan Islands. He can be reached at (360) 378-4191, ext. 12, or email.