A Brother and Friend Forever
Word has come in that they called off the search. I do not know if that order was for today only, or permanently. I had posted news of my friend’s accident early on Facebook this morning as I had heard it directly from a veritable family member of his, then deleted it moments later when through my emotion I realized I might have been betraying a confidence.
My old friend Shad Gaspard is presumed dead, though that has not been formally announced. He was taken under by a rip current yesterday in Venice Beach, after motioning for the rescue team to first save his 10-year-old son who was also in the waters.
It is not my place to say he’s passed away. It is my place to offer solace to his beloved family, and his tag team partner for life Jayson Paul, aka JTG.
Regardless, I want you to know about Shad, the man, who should never be remembered as just another pro wrestling statistic.
If there is such a thing as a miracle, Shad will have survived and seen this today.
In the immediate aftermath of Kobe Bryant’s death, on January 26, 2020, Shad sent me this text:
My wife and I were immensely touched.
After all, I was his “He-Bro” for life, a nickname he gave me due to my Jewish heritage.
I had met Shad through Rick Bassman, both of whom ten years ago attended a networking group I was running with another close friend, Eric Shaw, for entertainment professionals. We immediately hit it off. I’m a writer-producer by trade, and Shad was not only looking at breaking into acting, he was also a talented writer. But, more than that, we were both former Brooklynites.
He became like a young brother to me, though in truth I’m old enough to be his dad.
My independent production office was then at Paramount Studios. He visited the lot one day and offered me a deal:
“Get me a pass for the lot so I can network and try to advance my career. In exchange I’ll be your intern.”
One-sided, maybe, but I wanted to help the guy. He went from WWE and national television exposure to being an unpaid intern for my company at Paramount … where he would frequently try to prove — and he was right — that his biceps were larger than my head.
We had taken several meetings for a comic book he had written with Marc Copani, formerly Muhammad Hassan of WWE. Though the project did not sell, we remained close.
He introduced me to Sam Sokolow, an executive producer on Ron Howard’s “Genius.” Together with former WWF Attitude Era writer Dan Madigan, we tried to get Shad’s wrestling-themed project, “Pinfall,” off the ground.
That one is still pending, but through all the professional obstacles Shad had the greatest attitude in the world.
“You know me,” he’d say. “I’m chill. When it happens, it happens.” He would follow the comment with his usual manic Gaspard laugh.
Shad would do anything for those he loved.
When my brother, Mike, had his 50th birthday party in Los Angeles a few years back, I picked up the phone.
“What time do you want me there?” Shad asked.
He came early.
Just as he did at a surprise party I threw for my wife, at my house, several years before. He loved her and she thought he was a total “mensch.”
Shad dropped everything for my family. When my nephew, Justin, was in town from New York, I called Shad to ask if he could take him through the paces and train him for an hour at his favorite boxing gym.
We were in the midst of the biggest rainstorm LA had seen in years. No matter.
This is what Justin posted on Instagram today:
I introduced Shad and Jayson to Anthony C. Ferrante, director of the “Sharknado” films. They were then hired to play Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in a cameo for the franchise’s sixth installment, with Shad as the former.
Though all of what has passed may be fun and nostalgic, the most emotional part of Shad’s tragedy is he reminded me, ironically, of my own father.
My dad loved me unconditionally. And Shad … was very much of the same mold. He loved his boy and was an amazing father. Shad took great pride training and teaching his son, and always being there for him. He took immense honor in raising his child to be proud of the family heritage, and just as much in him becoming a role model for future generations.
A glimpse of Shad’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts will tell that story.
When I watched the two of them spar at the boxing gym, Shad was gentle, stern and loving.
He loved his wife, who he spoke of frequently. Family was every last thing for Shad Gaspard.
In disclosure, I did not know Siliana — his wife — nor his child that well. I had met them several times, but my time spent with Shad was usually either with him alone, or infrequently with him and Jayson.
All too brief, to be sure.
I believe I lost someone today who I consider to have been a very close friend. If so, he was 39 years old.
“Only the good die young.” — Billy Joel
He was the best.
I hope I am so wrong.
Big man, your “He-Bro” misses you something fierce today.
Love you, man. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and my family. I will be sure to always be there for yours if they need me.
For everyone else, please pick up the phone, or make a Zoom or FaceTime call, and tell someone you love how you feel about them today.
UPDATE, 5/20/20: Shad’s body was found and identified this morning.
Goodbye, uce. You were, indeed, a mensch.