The Rose Theatre and the Port Townsend Film Festival lost a dear friend yesterday. Robert Osborne passed away peacefully at his home in New York at the age of 84. He was the long-time host of Turner Classic Movies, and he was responsible for bringing to the Port Townsend Film Festival such luminaries at Tony Curtis, Eva Marie Saint and Jane Powell. Robert grew up in Colfax, WA, and as a young boy he watched movies at the local theatre - the Rose. In the early nineties he rekindled a college friendship with Peter Simpson, the former director of the Port Townsend Film Festival. And when Robert learned through Peter of my efforts to restore and reopen a long-shuttered theatre in Port Townsend - also named the Rose - he insisted on being a part of it. There are 35 owners of the Rose Theatre, and Robert was one of them.
Robert was a walking encyclopedia of film history. Google couldn't hold a candle to him. For a couple of years Peter and I were engaged in a postcard game of movie trivia; we would mail each other typewritten, movie-themed postcards with the most arcane movie trivia questions that we thought we could stump each other with. What Peter never knew, is it that when I stumped by his questions, which was often, I would call Robert for help. It was our secret.
The next time you're standing across the street from the Rose, look up at the beautiful Rose mural that is painted on the side of the of the Silverwater building. That was a gift to the Rose from Robert. During one of the film festivals, he and I were standing across the street from the theatre when he said, "How about a Rose mural up there?" That's the kind of generous man that he was.
Early last month I had breakfast with Robert in his apartment at The Osborne in New York. Yes, Robert Osborne lived in an apartment building that coincidentally was named The Osborne. (If you Google it you'll discover that its notable residents have included composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein, pianist Van Cliburn, actress Vera Miles, newscaster Charles Osgood, singer Bobby Short, and actor Gig Young).
Our talk that day was all about the future, his possible return to TCM, and getting out into the warm spring weather that was just around the corner. But mostly he wanted to know everything about the Rose, and he dazzled me - as he always did - with his incredible knowledge of the history of movies. He was as sharp and whip-smart that day as I've ever seen him. It was a wonderful visit, and I looked forward to seeing him again.
Robert was an old-school gentleman of the first order, and the most gracious man I've ever met. As I walked out the door that day, he said, "Be well, my friend."
I will, my friend, and thank you for the lovely memories.