Niagara Gazette

Columns

January 19, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: 'Odd Couple' exit to a bigger stage

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Messies and Fussies — When the old year exited, so did Oscar and Felix. Bob Beach and Walt Hastrich, stars of “The Odd Couple” when Doug made his adult theatrical debut, died within days of each other, just before Christmas, both in their 80s.

Here’s how we remembered Bob in our year-end couplet collection:

“Bob Beach, his ‘Liz,’ now beside her;

Actor, joker, easy rider.”

Wife Elizabeth Beach, inspiration for our current Parish Players, cast Bob as the definitive slob for the Island Theatre Group in 1970, saying, among other things, that he looked more like a sportswriter than did Doug, who had been one for 25 years (and a slob for far longer than that). Walt was neat-freak Felix, twitching and whining so authentically that at times Doug, part of the poker cohort, thought he was actually sick.

What happened to Walt, then, provides a lesson for us all. He was a terrific actor, wide range, easy wit. With boundless, almost frenetic energy he would write, direct, help with sets, sell tickets. He was just good at it, sort of an untrained Jack Lemmon, absolutely absent ego. Everybody liked him, even in difficult circumstances.

After retiring from his day job, Walt moved to Florida, where community theaters abound, with a demographic skewed our way. Once he got his bags unpacked, Walt wandered over to the troupe nearest him and asked how he could help out.

He couldn’t, they told him. He sent us an e-mail that brought more tears to our eyes than any serious role he ever played. “Just too old for them, I guess,” he wrote. “They don’t even want me to help paint the sets.”

How could anybody refuse an offer from Walt Hastrich? He didn’t come in demanding to play Hamlet (or even Morrie Schwartz), he just wanted to be follow the avocation with which he had shared so much joy. Instead, they turned him away, reminding us, somewhat, of a grim Jack Nicholson movie titled “About Schmitt.” Nicholson, at least, got to wind up sharing a hot tub with Kathy Bates.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • NIA DeLuca, Michele mug DELUCA: Say it ain't so, Joe I had just parked my car in front of the Gazette offices on Niagara Street last week Thursday when a man approached me and stood by my door.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Tom T mug TOM'S CORNER: Bringing your own parts to repair shop is a bad idea The Gazette has partnered with local automotive expert Tom Torbjornsen to publish his weekly national column. Tom's Corner will appear in Thursday's editions.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Glynn, Don mug GLYNN: Tourism operators ready for new season Niagara area hospitality industry people will mark National Tourism Week, May 3 to May 11, with special events focusing on the assets that shape the Cataract City as a major destination.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Bradberry, Bill mug BRADBERRY: Neither long ago, nor far away ... If you did not catch documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' latest masterpiece, "The Address" on PBS last night, it will be well worth your time to look for the re-run, or to find it online as soon as possible.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Confer, Bob Mug CONFER: Don't go soft on teenage criminals New York is one of two states â€" North Carolina being the other â€" that automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in misdemeanor and felony cases. Other states do so only on a conditional basis at the whim of the presiding judge.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Higgs, Norma mug HIGGS: Gothic architecture -- a fitting structure for church services Before we get involved in the new church building, we need to know what happened to the former structure on First Street which was utilized for St. Peter's Church services for 30 years until 1880 when the present stone church was ready for use.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • GLYNN: Local interest mounts in India's big election A number of people whose families have emigrated from India to the U.S. -- a solid sector of the hotel and restaurant business in the Niagara area -- are expected to hear a message today directly from the homeland.

    April 13, 2014

  • SINGER: Locating the next Shaq or Bird? With hallowed college hoops programs thriving around here, plus March NCAA games held in Buffalo (featuring champ-to-be UConn, upstart Dayton and a winnowed 'Cuse), will some new Shaq or Bird be located?

    April 13, 2014

  • Rick Pfeiffer COPS NOTEBOOK: Road rage and turkey shooting

    It would be fair to say Ryan Jackson, of Youngstown, has had a difficult couple of weeks.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Smith, Doug and Polly LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Chronicling crime on the 'Island' Why is Rick Pfeiffer never around when you need him? The guy whose cubicle we shared during the Koop-Jasen-Rice era at Channel 4 now carefully chronicles criminals for the Gazette, notably those a few flakes short of Raisin Bran, but his crime wave is a mere ripple compared to ours.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
Opinion
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page