Obviously those who inspire are important to me, and I want to touch on a special one today.
I went back and forth forever about this one. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to post when it happened. December is not an easy month for me anyway, and this was the thing that made me take a break this year. Also, as of a year and a half ago I’ve lost one of my best friends and mentors, two people who pretty much helped raise me, as well as one of the biggest influences of my life. I’ve been selective in what I talk about publicly because otherwise this would be the most depressing blog ever. And, there’s that little, insidious part of me that is aware that there are people who knew him way better, who were much closer, and what do my words really mean in the scheme of things anyway?
At the end of the day, though, that’s silly, and I’m also well aware that Brooke would tell me just that, so whether these words help remember him or are just for me, here they are.
So I’ve done a lot of posts on Lost Boys through the years. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about why it was a turning point for me, and that’ll happen at a later date. Let’s just say it influenced my costume design work and obviously my writing. Somewhere between those two time frames, though, Brooke McCarter became my friend.
It feels like ages, but I suppose it was only like seven years ago that I met him at a con. Meeting Brooke was like going from being completely intimidated to talking to a good friend I hadn’t seen in forever in like twenty seconds. He has this gift to just really connect with people and I’ve always been somewhat blown away to watch that in action because it’s always genuine and from this beautiful, sincere place. We got to talking because I was near an area he’d grown up in, and I’ve got the most incongruous, out of the box collection of entertainment work experiences ever. A couple ideas were kicked around, and life went on.
There may have been emails, it’s hazy now, but like a year later I was neck deep at the main job I had out of like five thousand at the time. I’d just taken on new duties without a lot of clarification. I loved the creative work, but because a lot of what I was doing fell under the weird and nontraditional vs the sparkly fun stuff you see on a stage, I definitely felt like I was viewed from a different lens than those around me, plus I was having to reinvent the wheel a few thousand times. Typically at that gig I had two sizable tech weeks in eight months, maybe three weeks that were really hardcore. That year I think I had about three months of builds and tech weeks, plus extra design work I was taking on.
I go into that only to stress that Brooke is probably one of the most patient human beings on the planet. The first time he called me I totally thought the number was a vendor who had hung up on me after a heated conversation, so I may have answered with WHAT?! And two minutes later we were talking about where we each went to school, G Tom Mac’s music, and by the way he hadn’t forgotten me and had some more stuff to kick around. Through the next few years we went back and forth on projects that never quite got there, but that’s not what I remember about him. Honestly, while yeah, he was in Lost Boys, that’s not what I think of when I think of him.
He was more tolerant than I probably deserved, because we both had the worst timing trying to contact each other, and I could probably write a story about how ridiculous some of those moments were. He usually just rolled with it and was pretty impossible to ruffle. He was hilarious, as so many people have said, and he always seemed to know how to steer a conversation. It’s a lot little things that keep coming to mind: certain songs, how he ribbed me because I murdered three phones in a year. He was both amazed and taken aback by how detailed I could get in an email and found the fact that I never quite got the allure of amusement park rides completely ironic and weird. We talked about how the area had grown up and when he went through St. Louis (where I partly grew up) we talked about that. Conversations were fast and brief, but never felt arbitrary.
For those that are not super close to me I tend to be pretty filtered. Here in blogland is not how I talk in real life (mostly). Con me or podcast me is somewhat closer, but it is no secret that The Great Wall of Selah is a real and present thing. Especially at the time we first met, I was super conscious of being on my best behavior to the world at large. And somehow Brooke was able to get to my sarcastic, curse-happy, flippant self in record time. And it was like a mission for him to keep doing it.
Really, there are some people that are like lightning – they come out of nowhere and you have no idea what’s going on and you’re a little freaked out at first, but then you realize how awesome it is. He was like that.
This was admittedly at a time where I was growing creatively but also miscommunicating with people who didn’t always get it, which made me question everything. And that, plus the work load, wasn’t easy. He may not have always gotten what I was working on (I couldn’t always talk freely about it and some of it was hard to describe) but he was always supportive. Not in the general sense, either. He genuinely paid attention and pointed out things I was kicking butt at. I can’t even remember what led to it, but there were a couple specific phone calls where I was at what felt like the end of my rope and didn’t even feel like I could string words together. So he came back with ‘So don’t talk, just listen,’ or something. And I will never forget those conversations. It wasn’t like some movie or story turning point, mind you, but they helped me reassess how I saw myself, definitely helped me keep moving forward, and helped me realize that taking time for myself wasn’t a dirty phrase. He reminded me that I had a lot of strengths. I have always been beyond tenacious – he’s the one person to compare me to a pit bull that I haven’t smacked or yelled at because he was just so excited over the analogy, but I don’t think he ever knew how much his advice helped me keep my head. I became more confident in production meetings and dealing with different people and side commissions and gigs. His words gave me focus in a whirlwind and I was able to re-ignite my self confidence.
At one point a year or more later I’d replied to an email or something and mentioned he wouldn’t be able to get hold of me for a few days because I had to have not quite emergency but ‘you’d better get your butt in here in a hurry’ surgery. Like twenty minutes later my phone started showing texts asking what was going on. Even though there wasn’t a reason to hear from him that often and it was common to not hear back for a while, he gave his ear and attention when he talked to you. He took time to talk out a couple music questions I was having while writing In the Red. Now that it’s back in edits and I’ll be working on it again, it hurts that two of the people who had my back with that book are gone. Hell, in the past year despite trying to do more folklore-oriented work, everything I’ve sold or been in discussion for has been a vampire piece…except for a story about the legends of Santa Cruz. Little things just keep coming up and I’m thinking about him all over again.
We both got busy and the cons I was doing were in different areas and of different types. Life happens. Bizarrely, I was at lunch and realized that I hadn’t heard from him in a while…and then the update came up on facebook. And ever since then I’ve been trying to put together my thoughts. I hate that so much of this is in reference to me, because he was such an amazing person. Kind, generous, with potential and talent for ages. Someone that you never expect to not be there.
He was so articulate as a performer. There are moments in some of his work that I am just completely jealous of and take me back to all my college acting classes. He had such a gift as a musician. I only saw him play twice, but it was hypnotizing. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t those things or being in a popular film that made him amazing. After he died in late December, a lot of people started sharing memories and it turns out he was there for so many people. So many people posted about his kindness, his support, his friendship, it was just incredible and uplifting. to read.
Brooke was a surprise master class on how to handle an audience. When I first met them it was still years before I started trying to get published, and I only got to see him at a couple cons, but still. Every person who came to his table or came up to him mattered. It wasn’t a business transaction. He gauged and interacted with people so well, you’d think that everyone was his best friend. Brooke, Billy Wirth, G Tom Mac, Chance Michael Corbitt (and later Jamison Newlander) were the first con experiences I had. Totally ruined me for just going as an audience member, because they are not the norm. When I’m doing a signing or a con or festival, a part of my mind is always on them and on Brooke. I’m not extroverted by nature, but that’s okay. It’s about paying attention to the person in front of you and going from there. I had good teachers.
He was always mentioning other people he knew and what they were up to and how cool it was. He was all about his family and the life he’d built for himself beyond the 1980s. I think maybe once we talked about the film, but mostly I just remember how much he loved what he was doing and who he was around, wherever that was. I think he got that people liked Lost Boys, but I don’t know that he truly got how much his interactions with people meant to them and how much of an influence he was. Is.
My heart goes out to his family and closest friends – I know how much he loved them and it’s so, incredibly hard to go through something like that, especially during the holiday season, I know from personal experience. There’s nothing that anyone can say that’ll take away any of that, nor should it. He meant a ton to them, so of course that’s going to be felt. They’re in my thoughts and prayers and I hope they can take even a little comfort in how much he was loved.
It’s my Christmas Eve tradition to binge my favorite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s one of those things that reinforces probably one of the most important things in life to me. I want everyone to know how much they’re appreciated and that they matter, especially in a day and age where there’s so much changing and going on and so many stipulations of what you have to do and be before you can be considered any one thing or status. No, man. You matter. People matter. And Brooke was just amazing at lifting people up and making them realize that. He touched so many people, not just because of a movie, but because how he interacted with those that were curious about it. It wasn’t because he was in movies or his music or whatever. He mattered because of the person he was.
He still matters, because a lot of people, myself included, are going to carry those experiences with them for the rest of our lives and be better going forward because he came into our lives.
Click on the linked text to donate to the gofundme for Brooke’s daughter
If you’re in or can get to the Cherry Hill area this weekend, the guys will be doing their Lost Boy thing at Monster Mania, along with a tribute to Brooke. Trust me when I say go, because you won’t be disappointed.