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Robert Michael Morris

Today marks one year since the lovely Robert Michael Morris was taken from us. Russ and I were fortunate enough to meet Michael through our good friend, writer/director Glenn Gaylord. Glenn knew of our love for The Comeback, especially the character Mickey, whom Michael played, and had directed Michael in a TV pilot, Lez Be Friends. One night, he brought Michael to dinner at our place. We quickly became fast friends, meeting him for lunch regularly at Shenandoah at the Arbor, as we loved the food and patio–and it was central to where we lived and where Michael lived, as he hated to drive, especially at night.

Michael was smart, sassy, and funny–but not entirely like the beloved “Mickey” he played on The Comeback. At times he could be like an old auntie, scolding when he didn’t approve of something. He’d been a teacher for years, teaching both high school and college, which perhaps explains his tendency to “mother” people.

His generosity knew no bounds. When I was gathering items for a silent auction to help those battling HIV/AIDS, he handed over boxes of random trinkets and jewelry he’d collected through the years, as well as several original paintings. I doubt that he knew the value of any of them–they’d just struck his fancy–and it is likely that he felt that if they were worth something to him, they’d mean something to someone else as well.

Michael was also a prolific writer, with enough plays to fill four anthology volumes, and was the author of An American Scrapbook. Rumor also has it that, prior to his death, he was at work or had completed a memoir. How I’d love to read that!

In the months before his death, Michael sent us a beautiful Lladró porcelain, depicting Othello and Desdemona. He’s intended it to honor both our artistic endeavors and that both of our children are black, as Michael had mentioned more than once that he found our adoption of them somewhat noble. While to us there was nothing “noble” about these adoptions–we simply wanted healthy children–we thoroughly appreciated Michael’s unwavering support. Still, when we unpacked the gift, I looked at Russ and said, “Do you think he’s preparing for the end?”

We’d known about Michael’s cancer some time, and when he found out that they were indeed going to film a second season of The Comeback, he shared that his cancer would be part of the storyline. If you haven’t seen The Comeback, I urge you to and won’t spoil anything, other than to say that his performance in season 2 should have won an Emmy. There are moments throughout the season between him and Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow) which are simply magical-breathtaking-emotional-riveting. Their relationship proved the show’s most strongest, allowing each a shoulder on which to rely. Season 2 marked some of the best television anywhere, and was Michael’s finest performance on film. He also gave memorable appearances on Running Wilde, Arrested Development, Will & Grace, How I Met Your Mother, The Class, and Brothers and Sisters.

In the end, it isn’t only his performances I’ll best remember, but the simple kindnesses he repeatedly showed… The way, when sharing something particularly delicious, he’d place his hand on yours, giving it a squeeze, showing he trusted your confidence… His hearty laugh, which inevitably made an appearance in every meeting…

Robert Michael Morris was a class act and deserved even more attention than he’d already received. Kind, caring, and witty, Michael lives on in the heart of anyone whom ever heard him utter, “Oh, Red…”

 

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