Volume I, Issue II Winter 2002

Robert Urich is dead

Robert Urich was only 55 when he died. I knew he had been battling a rare form of cancer the past few years, but I thought it was under control, if not actually beat. I hadn't heard anything to the contrary, in fact he'd just recently completed a much-publicized TV movie. So I was thinking that he was one of the "cancer warriors" who had graduated to a "cancer survivor."

I heard the news in the middle of the night on a talk radio show (I leave the radio on all night) while on a trip to the bathroom. I went back to bed, but couldn't go back to sleep. I was shocked, stunned and saddened.

The relationship is one of those six-degree things. My mother worked, and was friends with, his first wife, in spite of their generation-spanning age difference. Her name, like mine, was Evelyn. They worked together for many years at the Retail Clerks Union (Local 770) Dental Office on Hollywood Boulevard. This was about the time period when they first started installing stars in that famous sidewalk.

My mom was the PBX operator there, the person who operated the switchboard. She answered and routed all phone calls. (There are no PBX Boards or operators any longer. Been obsolete for years. People don't even know what they are when they see them in old movies or TV programs.) Evelyn Urich was a dental assistant. There are still dental assistants.

Robert Urich

We didn't see much of Evelyn Urich socially; she worked full time, had two kids, a mom of her own, and was going through a separation and divorce from Robert. Even so, once in awhile we'd all go out for a meal, or she'd stop by my mom's apartment and I'd see her there. She was a normal young woman, suffering what we all suffer when we go through a divorce (as I would later find out first-hand).

I met Evelyn's mom, went to her house several times (seems to me it was in Toluca Lake), because Evelyn's mom was a part-time seamstress working from her home. In fact, she made all my mother's dresses. (All from the same pattern, just different prints, colors and materials. Strange, I know, but for years, Mom wore the same basic dress; she liked it and hated shopping.) So, Robert Urich's ex-mother-in-law was my mother's seamstress.

Evelyn's mom also made the bridesmaids' dresses and hats for my best friend, Judy's, wedding. That was the only time I was ever part of a formal wedding. I was about eighteen, and excited not about only my friend's big, upcoming wedding, but also about being a bridesmaid. The bridesmaid's dress, of course, required many fittings, which were conducted at Evelyn's mother's house. Sometimes the bridesmaids went in groups, sometimes solo, depending on schedules. So, Robert Urich's ex-mother-in-law made my bridesmaid dress.

I can't remember Evelyn ever being present for any length of time when I was at her mom's house. I do remember once, when I was there by myself, that Robert arrived; he didn't come in, just delivered the children to their grandmother after having had a visit with them. I was in the midst of a fitting, and therefore only wearing underwear. These fittings occurred in a combination sewing and fitting room that Evelyn's mom maintained in her home. I tried to catch a glimpse of him, because I knew through Evelyn that he was pursuing an acting career. I opened the fitting room door a crack, but the angle wasn't right; I couldn't see him. Before I left, I did meet Robert Urich's two young children; they were sitting on the couch watching cartoons on TV.

Being a somewhat star-struck young woman from mid-America who had lived in Hollywood and surrounding areas for several years, I pursued any opportunity I could to see the "stars." (Sometimes I even got an autograph.) Therefore, I lamented that I hadn't gotten to meet Robert Urich. For one thing, I was curious about what kind of husband Evelyn had.

I heard his voice, though. A voice I would come to know well over the years as I followed his upward spiraling career. That's one reason I especially liked his stint as host on the "National Geographic Explorer" television programs; I could hear his voice, as it really was, and not as a character he was portraying.

Robert and Evelyn did soon get divorced. I lost track of Evelyn after my Mom became ill and left that job after ten years of working there. Evelyn did come to my mother's funeral a few years later, by herself. I never saw, or heard, from Evelyn or her mom again.

The bridesmaid's dress and hat were truly horrible, absolutely the wrong style, color and material for me. But the bride was happy, so I was happy to wear them. I kept them in a white dress box in a closet for years. I can't remember whatever happened to them.

Judy's marriage lasted about ten years and then they, too, divorced (as did my own husband and I shortly thereafter). Judy and I remained close friends up until a few years ago when she called to say she'd met a new man and was moving to Colorado. Sadly, I haven't heard from her since, and my occasional attempts to track her down have thus far failed.

I do have a professional portrait of me from the wedding, a 5x7-framed picture, in that awful hot pink dress and hat. The framed picture was a gift from the bride, a treasured gift. In it, I am looking straight ahead, though holding a plate with a piece of wedding cake on it; I'm smiling and my eyes are shining, undoubtedly from the combination of the excitement of the wedding, and far too much champagne.

That picture is hanging right here, right now, on a prominent wall, just as it has all these intervening years. I walk past it many times a day. It reminds me of people who were, and still are, important to me. It reminds me of a time when life still had future, and the future still contained hope. Robert Urich has died. And I will grieve for and miss a man I've never met. Yet the six-degrees connection remains.

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