“When Everything Old is New Again”

Gilbert is heavy on my mind again today. I have not connected to his memory in quite some time, but this project seems to be stirring lots of old thoughts and memories. Gilbert was probably one of the kindest and genuinely generous person I have ever known and was filled with so much passion it become infectious to all those around him. He was forward and blunt, some times to the point that he would just blurt things out almost to shock you. He was passionate about everything he approached or worked on. He had a fascination with movies and this is how we become life long friends and we had a weekly ritual of Saturday afternoons at the cinema. When I returned to Montana I began to hang out with Gilbert a lot. So much in fact I eventually become his personal assistant and organized all of his record keeping on the computer and brought him into the modern era of electronics. We had elaborate parties and fund raisers at his Victorian Mansion. Anytime some sort of celebrity was in town, Gilbert hosted some sort of event in their honor. I was one of the organizers for a festival in Missoula called The Five River’s Festival of Film. A brilliant concept started by a woman named Cinda Holt who had worked with Robert Redford on the Sundance Project. We would screen a series of films and then have the artists and behind-the-scenes craftsmen come and talk about their work and their process of art. Cinematographers, art directors, directors, costumers, writers, and such. The project didn’t last long but was a huge success while it did. Gilbert was an avid supporter on anything having to do with film and one of the reigning moments of his life was when he got to host the actress Janet Leigh at his house for dinner. He was completely in heaven.

The side of Gilbert not many saw was that he was a very reserved and private person and preferred dwelling in solitude. Very few people were actually allowed into his inner world. Sometimes we would plan big elaborate events and he would completely disappear. He would love to attach him self to just one person and pull them off to some remote part of the garden or house and just spend the entire time with them leaving me to handle the details of everything else. Gilbert and I instantly hit it off and were somehow bound because we were both gay. Though we were from different generations, we found a kinship and trust within each other that I have never felt with any other. Our relationship remained purely professional. We idealized and respected each other and learned and grew so much from the others life experience. Gilbert’s deepest fears and innermost anxiety surrounded issues of being a homosexual, which he ever really came to terms with. It was something he struggled with all of his life and he was haunted by to his last breath. He lived vicariously through me and I sensed envied the open and honest way I lived my life. You see Gilbert didn’t think anyone could see him as gay, although it was quite obvious to anyone who encountered him. Then one day, when one of his long time women friends come to the house and asked him if he was gay. He was aghast with indignity that someone would even think so and went off, shutting himself in the house and ranting for weeks about the incident. Gilbert had a terrible temper and could become obstinate if things would not go to his liking and would become obsessive on the issue allowing it to consume him. When he would get in one of these moods I would come to work, see the fit he was in and walk back out the door telling him: “I would not work with him he until he get over it and to call me when it had passed.” I always got a call a couple of hours later asking me to come back to work. But for the most part I think Gilbert was a lonely man. He was a man who had the resources to do or obtain anything in the world and yet he was trapped in an inner struggle of obsessive collective behavior, to surround himself creating a mask to cover his insecurities. I know he loved me and nurtured me as an artist. He was fascinated by my images, especially the nudes, and I would tribute new pieces to him. I would not be here today if it were not for Gilbert. He has taught me so much about myself because, though his internalized homophobia, I found strength within myself. It made me face my own fears and anxieties allowing me to step outside myself, recognize my own connection to it, and explore these themes though my on images. Gilbert I forget how much you haunt me. Thanks for giving me such a precious gift of art.

Thinking of Gilbert I am reminded of a musical production number from the Broadway Production of The Boy From Oz where High Jackman sings: “WHEN EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN”.

3 thoughts on ““When Everything Old is New Again”

  1. tony

    >thinking of Gilbert with a mixture of melancholy and amusement. He was, as you say, Terry, a most generous man in so many ways. It always made me giggle to myself to know he didn't assume people knew he was gay. Regardless, he did so much for gay causes, art and artists, that he well deserves the title Patron of the Arts.

    He could appear very prim in many ways too. Though I think he enjoyed the ipmish, mischieveous, "naughtyboy" part of his personality as well. I loved how he'd feign shocked proprity… with a glint in his eye… and his wonderful laugh when something tickled him…

    I have so many reminders in my garden of dear Gilbert. Again his generosity was boutiful. He'd call to ask if I would like…knowing that I certainly would like WHATEVER he was generous enough to share from his garden. I called myself a plant whore, to which he'd say,"plant slut!!"

    He was also generous to me when I started doing my photo notecards. He'd call me over a couple of times a yr to show him what I was doing and then buy more cards than he'd ever really need. I believe gave him much satisfaction to nurture art even though he didn't consider himself an artist.

    To your credit, Terry, I could tell that you did way more than your job description with Gilbert. It was good that you were there to be his employee, confidant and friend. I venture to say Gilbert saw you as the son he never had. I remember well your concern and care of Gilbert especially after his diagnosis. John and I knew he was in good hands with you when we came to the hospital and then to the house a few days before he left us… all too soon.
    I know Gilbert would be very proud of your journey, progress and accomplishments in photography and even more, in life.

    Cheers to Gilbert and to you!
    fondly, Tony

  2. Sheila Miles

    >So wonderful to remember Gilbert, his kindness, and generosity. He was so supportive of me and my art and our causes. He was a great landlord and friend in the way he took care of everything.
    Thanks Terry for helping us remember.

  3. Justin

    >Thanks for sharing Terry. At times, I feel that Gilbert is a figment of my imagination… a person I’ve made up to personify everything I’ve ever admired in another human being. Your friendship helps to remind me of his presence and of the indelible mark his life has made on so many of us that were lucky enough to have known him.

    Gilbert defined the phrase, “larger than life.” The irony is that I don’t believe he ever saw himself as a particularly exceptional person (few exceptional people ever do I guess). But the fact that we’re still talking about him today, is a testament to the strength of his spirit. Gilbert wasn’t perfect, but his beauty was in his imperfection.

    One of my favorite quotes is from the end of the movie “A River Runs Through It,” (the movie responsible for inspiring me to move to Montana back in 1994).

    “I am haunted by waters.”

    I am haunted by Gilbert.

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