Skip to comments.Veteran Actor Collapses Onstage, Dies ("He died doing what he loved,..)
Posted on 10/06/2006 5:37:49 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
CHICAGO - Twenty minutes into the performance of "The Best Man" at a Chicago theater, veteran stage actor Gene Janson, onstage with fellow performer David Darlow, unexpectedly put his head in his hands.
When Darlow asked Janson if he was OK, "He replied that he was not," said James Bohnen, artistic director of the Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, which is producing the play.
Darlow rushed off the stage to get help, and a nurse in the matinee audience came to Janson's aid. Janson, 72, was taken Wednesday to Lincoln Park Hospital, where he died shortly after of a heart attack, said his son, Christopher Janson.
"There is a certain poetic irony to his death," Christopher Janson said. "He died doing what he loved, which was being on the stage and in a play he was so proud of."
In the Gore Vidal drama, Janson portrayed a fictional former U.S. president who dies unexpectedly. Bohnen said the role was one of Janson's finest in a 50-year career.
"He brought so much to his character," Bohnen said. "He was having the time of his life with this part."
Janson worked mainly on the stage, although his film credits included "The Blues Brothers," "While You Were Sleeping," and "My Best Friend's Wedding." He also appeared in TV shows and commercials.
Janson was familiar to Chicagoans as a pledge drive spokesman for public station WTTW-TV, a job he held for more than 20 years.
Remy Bumppo planned to resume "The Best Man" with an understudy in Janson's role, a spokesman said Friday. The company has dedicated the rest of the play's run at Chicago's Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theater to his memory.
Besides his son, Janson is survived by a wife, two daughters and four grandchildren.
I remember a similar fate befalling zany actor Dick Shawn (best known as LSD in THE PRODUCERS). He died during the intermission of his one man show, which he spent onstage under a pile of leaves in full view of the audience. When he didn't get up again after the break, the crowd thought it was all part of the act. Eventually, it dawned on people that even Dick Shawn wouldn't make the bit go on that long. The stage manager checked on him and he was dead.
Wow, I never heard that story about Dick Shawn. I'll have to ask hubby if he knew this.
I remember reading about an opera premiere a few years ago where the opening scene has a man sitting on top of a ladder, the first line he sings is something like: life is so short...
The poor man who had the part sang the line and fell off the ladder, dead of a heart attack.
May they all rest in peace.
May he rest in peace.
Died doing what he loved.
What more can one ask for?
I heard it the other way back when it happened. I'd seen Shawn do this particular show twice - it was hilarious. Guess the account I heard was not quite accurate, but close.
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