Star gazing in Tryon

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Just like the rest of the world, I’m broken-hearted over the loss of Robin Williams. And in the middle of my grief, I discovered Lauren Bacall had also passed away. They say these things come in threes, so by the time this goes to press, there may yet be another celebrity death to grieve.
Celebrity is an odd thing. We all feel as if we know famous people and grieve their loss as our own because indeed we have lost something even though we don’t know these people personally. But we do feel a connection to them. There’s no denying that.
When a friend in Atlanta recently discovered I was writing these columns for the Bulletin, she commented, “Wow. You must be like a local celebrity.”
I nearly did a spit-take and assured her that no, no one considered me to be a celebrity, and in fact, we have actual celebrities living here in Tryon and no one pays any attention to them.
I’d be willing to bet our local celebrities love the fact that no one fawns over them in public, asks for an autograph or to take a selfie with them. We have a rock star, a movie star, a supermodel and various other famous folks who live here now after hugely successful careers out in the big world.
We also have an unusually large number of talented performers and artists whose names aren’t known by the gossip rags of our fame-hungry country at all, but we know and love them plenty here in Tryon.
Rich Nelson was probably the first local star my husband and I met when we walked into Skyuka Gallery on a day his wife Kim was at a dentist’s appointment. Rich was minding the gallery and chatted with us, giving us some history on the house we’d bought that our Asheville realtor was unaware of.
Of course, later we learned that he was an award-winning painter and popular musician. His latest band, 176, has performed at TFAC and the Barbeque Festival as well as other local events.
A member of Rich’s horn section is also our favorite waiter at Lavender Bistro: Tony Maccherone, yet another celebrity in Tryon.
On the harmonica in 176 is Lee Stockdale who also happens to be the emcee at the bi-monthly Literary Open Stage at Upstairs Artspace as well as last year’s Sidney Lanier Poetry Prize recipient. Yes, another Tryon celebrity.
This year’s winning poet is Monica Jones, jewelry designer extraordinaire and tap dancing beauty with the Tap Dames of Spartanburg. I caught one of their performances at a Tryon Little Theater fundraiser at Sunnydale and the troupe took my breath away.
Another memorable local celebrity who performed that evening was Lavin Cuddihee who mesmerized the room with “If Ever I Would Leave You” from Camelot and yes, I cried it was so beautiful. Then Lavin made me laugh at the Tryon Theatre screening of Cinema Purgatorio where he played a lovable buffoon to perfection.
And speaking of actors who can sing, Mark Schweizer wowed me at TFAC playing a perfect Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. Little did I know then he has also penned a series of 14 mystery novels.
And while we’re in the theater, I should mention I’ve seen Chris Tinkler perform monologues to sold out crowds three Christmases in a row at the Upstairs Artspace fundraiser at Sunnydale, and then I watched him direct stages full of kids for whom a theater experience will forever be cherished.
This could very easily become the longest column I’ve written with all the talent in this town, but I know the Bulletin’s page can only hold so much.
I’ll stop here and say how lucky I feel to live here surrounded by so many wonderful artists and performers, and Tryon has so many venues to showcase local talent. People don’t need international recognition to be a star. They only need fans, and those can be found close to home.
If celebrity deaths do come in threes, then I’d like to tell you about a man who died the day before Robin Williams. His name was Ted Kirby Thompson and he was a commercial background actor. I worked with Ted for years and grieve his loss along with our colleagues and friends in Los Angles. You won’t learn much about him if you look him up, but I can tell you he was a star in my world and will be missed by many.
It breaks our hearts when stars leave us, so the next time you see our local celebrities out and about here in Tryon, make sure and tell them how much they’re appreciated.
-Susan McNabb

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