I had grown up knowing I had this exotic worldly uncle who lived in Rome and was a dancer. When my mother married my stepfather and went to Rome on her honeymoon, she came back with this big Italian Harper’s Bazaar , where my uncle was in a fashion spread with fellow Italian dancers decked out in jewels, furs, and watches. That layout made a vivid impression on me and reinforced my desire to study in Europe and one day be a designer. I went onto to Europe at seventeen and never connected with my Uncle Roy, or Bob as he was known to many .
When my mother died in 2000, I picked up the phone to call him. It was our first conversation ever and he immediately flew ‘home’ for his eldest nieces Memorial service. My mother wanted a cremation and we had a beautiful two day music and dance filled memorial service. I had a cousin show up with her boyfriend at the time who was in the funk group Cameo, and all sorts of people from various walks of life. And then there was Bob, or Roy as he was know to his family . Everyone was blown away when they saw this beautiful man dance down the aisles. He must have been in his mid seventies , but his movement and grace captured all. I could feel my Mommy’s spirit beaming at this spectacular service. All who didn’t know him were amazed that this man ,who was so fit and had body most people cant attain, was in his seventies. Uncle Bob was home and he reconnected with his surviving siblings.
I next flew to Vienna to visit him later that year with my Auntie Mame. He had a big exposition of his artwork,called Remember The Soul, in which he was focusing on now, that the dance career was winding down. So many friends and admirers turned out for his exhibition, and its seemed as if Vienna was at at our feet. His friends were so eager to see his nieces from America and were curious about us. He was so happy we were there for him.It was truly an artistic and glamorous crowd.That first trip to Vienna was so memorable. I since returned a few more more times , the last being for his grand 80th birthday celebrations in 2004. A book on his life was also released to coincide with this event. He looked a little weaker and thinner as he caught a bug while traveling and teaching in Africa. His heart weakened more and more over time. He gave me some art on that trip and I remember going through photos with him and looking back over his life. He dropped the names of all these glamorous and beautiful people one only reads about. He was frank and real about his life and experiences. His life was one for the books.
His dear friend Christoph came to the US last year for his one man show. While here, he was also working on a documentary of my dear uncle. We were worried as we knew he was getting frailer and older. His manager and good friend had passed away earlier and we all started to wonder what if? Good friends, like Renate continued to look after him. The family gathered at Auntie Mame’s condo and we spoke to Uncle Bob via the miracle of Skpe. It was amazing to see this man, born in 1925 in Mississippi, just as chic and slim as ever in his black turtle neck surrounded by his art, talk to his many generations of family via a Mac Book, just after the election of our nations first black president. I guess on some level we all knew. Uncle Bob never wanted to trouble us and kept his health struggles to himself for the most part. As of recently there was talk of a exposition.
On Saturday Auntie Mame and I will fly to Vienna for his funeral.
We will Remember the Soul and toast his beautiful life.