Saturday, February 5, 2011


In the matter of John Franklin Ganzer's legendary perseverance, our Great Uncle Harold took us Pullman First Class on the Great Empire Builder to Seattle in the Summer of 1966. We stopped in Havre Montana, where we have many relatives. We went on a picnic and John and I climbed a small mountain in the latter party of the mid-day afternoon. The scenery was breath-taking (this was August, under a cloudless Montana sky). John had to get a picture, but we had left the camera at the picnic table. He didn't even ask me to accompany him back down the mountain to fetch the camera to climb the mountain again whilst the sun was setting every more rapidly. He made it back in time and got some great photos. Persevere my man. Keep on keepin' on, my brother.
The summer after his high school senior year, he was selected as one of Barrington Consolidated High School's two representatives to the local song and dance troupe Great Waves of Care, which put on one heck of a show and toured the country. From that experience he made many more friends, and the following summer, he and Colleen Zenk put together a musical, song & dance ensemble to raise money for the Little Sisters of the Poor Catholic home. The talent was incredible! I wrote the musical score for Summer In the City, for which Matthew Ward was eternally grateful, because that was not one of his favorite numbers. I sang Luck Be a Lady Tonight, solo, and Peter Hayward got a perfectly fitting tuxedo for me for the part. Probably helped that his father was the President of the Chicago Bar Association.
To truly delve and ken the power of performance to seep into the cracks of people's minds, you would have had to watched the duet of Hey, Johnnie Look Sharp. The sad song ends when Johnnie, after singing to and with his mother, is shot dead, and dies. This was 1972, as my memory serves me, and this was a very powerful anti-war moment, when you could literally have heard a pin drop in the audience. As Ian Anderson wrote for Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick Album - "I may make you feel, but I can't make you think. Your sperm's in the gutter, your love's in the sink."
And in a moment when the audience was dazed, almost as if it were a bull, about to be killed by the matador, we lifted up the curtain to expose the Wizard of Oz, the meek, mild, weak puppet master pulling the strings, trying to maintain the illusion of power, and the entire ensemble pulled tiny American flags from our sleeves as we sang "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Familiarity, the audience burst out into a resounding round of applause that didn't stop until more than a minute after we had finished singing the song.
The last John Franklin Ganzer story is this. He is in the hospital in NYC, the AIDS virus has mestastisized into the pnemoniua from which one never recovers. John awakens. The medical staff begins its interogation:
"What's your name?" "John Ganzer."
"Where are you?" "Hospital in New york City, New York."
"What day of the week is it?" "Tuesday."
"Who's the President?" "Colleen Dewhurst."
I will carry you in my heart, my brother so dear, my brother so fair, unto my last breath, unto my last memory fades, and I emerge, a star burst, perhaps a single drop of rain - perhaps I may become a highway man again; but I'll come back again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again.