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VOL. 128 | NO. 72 | Friday, April 12, 2013

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

I’m Lucky to Know Bea

By Dan Conaway

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REMARKABLE CONNECTIONS. After last week’s column, Bea dropped me a thoughtful email note as she often does about whatever I’m writing about. My story about Linda Courtney and her son Bill struck a common chord, and Bea wanted to share.

Bea is a bit stooped these days and needs a walker to get around, but, if you know her, you know that no one stands taller on America’s community theater stages or has been stronger in support of live theatre here than Bea. She needs a ride these days to get around, but, if you know her, you know what a driving force behind the success of Theatre Memphis she’s been, and you also know how many wrecks she’s helped avoid, how sure her turn-by-turn navigation.

I know Bea, and I know what that means.

Bea married Hal Miller, and that means she not only knew Happy Hal, she married him. Happy Hal was on TV with Happy Hal’s Fun House when TV was new and so was I. Happy Hal owned Happy Hal’s Toy Town, purveyor of Spud Guns and Hula-Hoops and Glub Glub ducks.

And I just found out that Hal and Bea knew both the Pink Panther and Moses. But Bea can tell you about that. Here’s her email:

“Your story reminded me of some people I have known and I understand your feelings. I graduated high school with a young man whose family was very poor. He played the piccolo in the school band and was writing music on the side. The head of the school’s music department recognized this talent and managed to get him a scholarship to Juilliard.

“His name? Henry Mancini. Academy Award winner a number of times.

“Another poor boy had his high school recognize his talent and got him a scholarship to Northwestern. Hal and I were one of three couples that hung out together the year and three-quarters before the boys were drafted. All three couples married during the war. After the war we ended up in New York, being together for the five years before we came back to Memphis. We stayed in touch. He, too, won an Academy Award.

“His name? Charlton Heston.

“My third story is to me the most remarkable of all. I have a first cousin (once removed) who became a rabbi. I learned this week that Rabbi Eger (my maiden name) is soon to become the head of all the reform rabbis of the world!

“Remarkable? This rabbi is female and gay. I do love success stories.”

Bea lost Hal in 1997, and last week, she lost their son, Allen, and I find it pretty remarkable that she would read my column at all much less drop me a note. But maybe we get through these things by the good things we remember, the remarkable connections our lives make.

I love success stories, too, and Bea can measure hers by the standing-room-only crowd that loves her.

I’m a Memphian, and I’m lucky to know Bea Miller.

Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

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