One of my closest friends, Steve Levine, passed away nearly two years ago. This piece is for his daughter, a reprint of a two-part remembrance once posted on Facebook, because she reminded me of him today.
On my Facebook page today, my friend Becky posted: Joel, you know how I feel about the loss of a father.
The context was an online condolence call to a very close friend who had just lost his dad.
I also know from personal experience how Becky feels.
No dad should ever become a statistic.
Becky, this is for you as we were both reminded today …
July 18, 2018
When I was a child, if something didn’t go right I used to say, “It’s not supposed to be like this.”
I lost one of my closest and oldest friends about ninety minutes ago. He was 62 years old.
It’s not supposed to be like this.
I’ll be off Facebook for a day or so. All I’ll say here, now, is Becky Levine, he loved you. You know that. Ben, he loved you. You know that too.
As for my dear bud, Steven Levine … I’m remembering suddenly when I moved back to New York in 1991. You thought that prior night’s dinner was a tough goodbye?
More later, when I can actually process this one …
July 19, 2018
Thank you everyone, sincerely, for your kind words on the passing of my old buddy Steven Levine.
I wrote some words earlier today, and sent them to his daughter Becky to see first. She agreed; he would have enjoyed this:
It was all about the women, you see. Well, maybe not “all,” maybe “mostly,” as if deciphering the inner workings of the opposite sex was an ongoing voyage of discovery he never quite mastered …
I was going to stay off here today, but I woke up thinking it would be easier for me to work out my thoughts of the last few hours by writing them down. But, if I’m going to do this, I’ll need to compose this remembrance in such a way that he would have approved.
And so …
Steve is being cremated in the very near-future. Tough to swallow. He loved women, was politically passionate, and an avowed atheist. Did I say he loved women? He was the most non-politically correct person I’ve met outside of family … and yet was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.
My arm wasn’t exactly twisted, but when we were younger and single (and desperate) we sauntered into coffee shops yapping in foreign tongue (consider Andy Kaufman’s “Latka” speaking something akin to Pigeon Yiddish) hoping ladies would find us “cute.” Yeah … it never worked. He then had another idea: He’d walk up to 100 women, cold, and speak to them in the hopes they’d find him desirable. Surely one would take “the bait.”
Yeah … Predictably, that didn’t work out too well either. Not even the assumed “One percent success rate.” Many of the women thought he was joking, and most even thought he was charming, but as he was never overt about his intention he never did seal the deal.
I saw one person disgusted by It all, though. This one exception was horribly offended — I was dating her at the time — and she gave me an ultimatum. “You associate with him, you can forget about me.”
I haven’t seen her in years.
Steve dated a pre-“Wheel of Fortune” Vanna White for a spell, which he told me about at every opportunity. The day they reunited in Vegas was surreal to me at the time. She was making millions spinning letters; he and I were making $12 an hour in a telemarketing room and had very large dreams. He also dated actor Jerry Van Dyke’s daughter, Kelly. Long after they split, when he found out about her suicide, that was the first time I saw him In real pain.
I mention Vanna and Kelly here as following these incidents he began to change. He became more serious, even studious. He just couldn’t seem to fully pull the trigger when it came to his talents, as he began to believe — unnervingly so — that those who suceeded were “lottery winners,” and everyone else may well have been wasting their time.
Truth is, Steve was a hell of a photographer. Also, in 2014, he attained his life-long dream of being a published novelist, with “Eulogy in Blue.” A sequel was in-progress, but not completed.
I met the guy in the 1980s. We both worked at KCET (our Los Angeles PBS station) in the telemarketing department; he was my supervisor for the first month, until I received a promotion in my second to a position equal to his. Steve supported the promotion, taught me the ropes, and we became lifelong friends.
He introduced me to Buster Keaton, or, more accurately, watching Keaton on the big screen in front of a paying audience. He introduced me to Fairfax’s Silent Movie Theater. These were big, inspiring things for me.
In part due to Steve (and our evening-shift cohort Steve Scott — Judy Lamppu’s late husband and another of my closest friends who I miss immensely), the job at KCET was the best and most fun I’ve ever had working for an entity other than myself.
Steve Levine would help anybody who needed it, but had little patience for those who wouldn’t help themselves. He was prone to bouts of sadness, and I did what I could to help him work through them.
His mom was terrific and I cried at her funeral. I lived with her for awhile when I was finding my place in Los Angeles. His children were his life. Becky and Ben. Ben is autistic, and Steve angered at public misconceptions as to the nature of the disability. He was a terrific father, and an advocate for knowledge.
Steve did not always have the easiest road in life, either personally or professionally. He was a loner, especially in his later years. But I knew the guy. I knew him well.
He was one of the good ones. One of the very best as far as I’m concerned because he was among the most loyal of friends. He stood up for me at my wedding to Lorie …
He told me about a book-in-progress shortly thereafter, one he insisted would be his masterpiece if only he could finish. Weeks ago, being nearly 18 years following that comment, guess what he emailed me?
And he was right. ”Ennison Swayburg” is masterful. As to that strange title? He accused me of mumbling once. I told him I was in the mood for French fries from Carlsbad. He thought I said something along the lines of “Ennison Swayburg.” I joked and said it would make a great book title.
I’m gonna miss him. I last spoke to him less than two weeks ago, when Lorie and I were about to pass through Nevada (following our two week road trip) — where he lived — en route back to California. I wanted to visit, but he was working. He asked if I could come “tomorrow,” but I would already be back home by then.
And that was that.
There was no “tomorrow.”