When I was in graduate school at UCLA, I was living in a small single flat in Venice, Calif. There was a woman named Pam who lived one door west, and her new boyfriend was a guy named Gregory, who was in a popular local band called Severance. I used to talk over the fence with her and Gregory. Then I shipped off to Paris, where I taught ESL for two years.
When I got back from France, Gregory Hines was famous. He’d returned to the East Coast, teamed up with his talented brother Maurice, and was doing very successful musicals on Broadway. When he returned to LA around 1983 to star with Paula Kelly in the musical Sophisticated Ladies, I interviewed him on Morning Becomes Eclectic. He recalled that when he was living next door to me a decade earlier, he’d walk to the beach and the most important decision he’d make when he reached the water was whether to turn right or left.
A decade later, Gregory Hines was back in LA and I used to run into him on Tuesday night salsa at St. Mark’s on Windward Avenue. I was an intermediate dancer at the time, while Gregory was just learning the steps. I thought to myself, “I can dance better than Gregory Hines”!
I was saddened to hear of his premature death in 2003; he was only 57. I recall that he died while trying to drive himself to the hospital. It was heartbreaking news for me.