Brooklyn has lost Its Citizen.
The world has lost a Giant.
We've lost TK.
Many years ago a Bay Ridge legend walked back into Xaverian High School a dozen or so years after graduating, to "audition" for a role in Little Shop of Horrors, being presented by X-ACT – The Xaverian Alumni Community Theater. Cast as Audrey 2, he sat behind a microphone, off stage and gave voice to a plant. He gave voice to a bunch of cloth and Styrofoam and what not.
He was not on stage and was never seen by the audience. His mere vocal contribution to Little Shop was enough to bring standing room only crowds for the entire run of the show. I had the privilege of being in that production and even had top billing on the poster. The supremely talented Bay Ridge Stage star, Liz Kash shared that top bill with me and she was UNBELIEVABLE, as Audrey. We were very much second bananas to Bay Ridge’s true star. The incomparable Tom Kane.
That performance led TK to become one of the most popular performers in Brooklyn Community Theater. What many of you do not know is that he could have been an actual star. I hooked him up with an acting teacher friend of mine. At their first class, the teacher recognized that TK was special.
This teacher told me "This guy is a star waiting to happen." I knew that. Tommy and I had many conversations about what his next move might be and ultimately TK decided he didn't want to leave his friends and family to pursue a career in show business. - He could have been. He would have been a star...no doubt. He wouldn’t admit it, but he knew it, too.
Instead, he was a star in all of our hearts and minds. A giant of a man who also, just so happened to be a big guy. He made EVERYONE feel like they were his best friend. He loved unconditionally and he lived joyously.
He loved everyone…and…EVERYONE LOVED HIM.
A year or two after we did Little Shop of Horrors, Tommy approached me about playing the title role in his new play The Life and Times of Matthew Ryan. It was a sweet musical telling of the death of this guy, who lived in his whole life in his birth neighborhood. The show is his funeral.
Just before we started rehearsals, TK shared with me that Matthew Ryan was a partially autobiographical play. Wait, actually, it was a frickin musical. The man wrote a musical. If you don’t think that’s impressive, give it a try.
Anyway, I was essentially playing TK in a play that took place at his imagined funeral. I had been acting professionally five years or so by then and this was the first time I cried on stage. Every rehearsal, every performance, just about every time I think of the moment, all these years later…tears. The moment, played with my dear, dear friend, Ray Napoli was powerful. Ray cried too. Every time.
This man I barely knew…who was a novice writer, was able to tap emotions in Ray and me, like a seasoned pro. This should not have been surprising…He lived this way. He tapped emotions in friends and family on a daily basis. He loved so much you had NO choice but to love back. You always felt better about yourself and the world after spending time with Tommy.
And now here we are...preparing for TK's actual funeral. This should not be...it's way too soon. He was way too young. He had too much to do and too much love to give and too much TK to be, to be leaving us now. In Matthew Ryan, Matthew dies suddenly and his friends and family are faced with the awful task of going from everything is OK to everything has changed.
Life is usually like that. But here, it wasn’t. We all have known for a while now that we were losing Tommy. We watched his weight dwindle and the lines in his face grow deeper and his hair grow whiter. For a while, we had hope. “If anybody can beat this it’s Tom Kane.” NO WAY TK is going to . . . die. No way. No.
TK succumbed to the relentless killer. There was no more the doctors could do. Ellen and the rest of his family tried all they could before finally, seeking hospice care for our Softball Coach…our Golf Partner, our Sox Fan, our leader, our mentor, our brother, our friend.
Thank You, my friend for the privilege of portraying you and for the gift of your friendship. So, now let’s celebrate his life. Sure, cry. You won’t be able to stop yourself. But celebrate. Tell a story. Hug a friend. Raise a glass. In his autobiographical musical, the cast sang: “Here’s to Matthew Ryan. He would have wanted it this way.” So…
Here’s to Tommy Kane. He would’ve wanted it this way.
In the words of the great Brooklyn Bus Driver, Ralph Kramden ...“TK, you’re the Greatest.”