Celebrities Pay Tribute to Jerry and Elaine Orbach During Launch of Remember How I Love You

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Celebrities, family and friends of the late Jerry and Elaine Orbach gathered recently, at The Snapple Theater Center in Manhattan’s Theater District, to honor them with readings from their newly released book, “Remember How I Love You - Love Letters From An Extraordinary Marriage.”

The star-filled evening brought out such notables as Alan Alda, Anita Gillette, Regis Philbin, Richard Belzer, B.D. Wong, Jesse L. Martin, Jerry Stiller, Tamera Tunie, Heather Summerhayes Cariou, Len Cariou, Kelly Bishop, Lorraine Bracco, Kathy Russell and author Ken Bloom along with family members of the late Jerry and Elaine Orbach.

The Snapple Theater Center, a multi-theater complex located on the corner of 50th Street and Broadway across from the famous Winter Garden Theater, honored the late thespian couple by naming one of its theaters, The Jerry Orbach Theater and, a studio, The Elaine Cancilla Orbach Dance Rehearsal Studio.

The evening was a mix of humor and nostalgia as friends of the late Orbach offered memories of his stage and screen performances before they read experts from the book. A reception followed in the dance studio.

Jerry and Elaine had a love affair that did not offer tantalizing tabloid tidbits as they were consumed with each other and from all accounts they loved each other with a definition of marriage and love that is rare in the entertainment industry. 

Love fueled the evening; it was a tribute to a couple who found, cherished and treasured a life together and built it as one builds a home, brick-by-brick, with each day, and the poetry, the mortar.

The words are not lost or silenced by the passing but immortalized and touched the audience as Orbach wrote honest, easy comfortable words written from the soul. Some even silly, always honest and from the heart, that were placed each day by Elaine in a tureen.

Upon his passing, she gathered her treasures from their twenty-five year marriage, and with the encouragement of theater and film historian and author, Ken Bloom, they began the process of sorting and weeding until the collection of poetry took its own form and included the story of their love affair.

Jerry Orbach is best known as Detective Lenny Brisco from the long running “Law & Order” series and many of his “Law & Order” friends and extended family were on hand to pay tribute and recall the memories of their good friend. Sam Waterston provided an introduction to the book and Richard Belzer an afterword.

Before “Law & Order” Jerry Orbach had a long screen and stage career and is remembered for his performance in the blockbuster film, “Dirty Dancing” starring opposite the late Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray. Suddenly, dancing was in style again. 

Having the chance to hear about him from those who knew him best; his friends and extended family from the hit television series “Law & Order” gave way to interviews with several of those who mingled at the reception including Jesse L. Martin and Richard Belzer.

Janet Walker: How long did you work with Jerry?

Jesse L. Martin: I worked with Jerry for about six years.

JW: What are your most memorable moments with him?

JLM: My most memorable moments. Well, let’s put it this way. The most memorable thing to me about Jerry was how good he was to the other actors.  Somebody said that tonight and it is absolutely true. When guest stars would come in they would be terrified because they would be working with Jerry Orbach and he would always make sure to put them at ease.  Not only put them at ease but make them feel like they were the best actors in the world.  He was great like that. He made everyone feel really good. When you left the set that day people were really happy because they couldn’t believe how Jerry Orbach sort of doted on them and took care of them and made sure everything was okay.  It was really cool.  That’s one thing I learned from Jerry be nice to the folks on set. Not that I wasn’t nice before but he brought the point home.

JW:  When he passed away I’m sure you were devastated.

JLM: Of course, everybody’s was. A lot of people in New York. I mean that’s the weirdest thing about being here in New York and filming in New York was everybody on the street knew who he was. They would all say ‘hello.’ So when Jerry passed away we would see the very same people on the street and they would stop and say, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry about your partner.’  Everyone felt the loss.

JW: And when you were asked to participate in this evening’s event?

JLM: Yes. I’d do anything for Jerry.  Just Yes.

Another participant in the evening’s tribute Richard Belzer of “Law & Order, SVU” who wrote the afterword, a epilogue in the book and also agreed to a brief interview.

Janet Walker: What are your most memorable moments with Jerry Orbach?

Richard Belzer: Every moment.

JW: That’s a wonderful answer.

RB: He and I become very close when I did “Law & Order SVU.” I’d go over there and he’d let me use his dressing room and he loved to make me laugh which I found very flattering that he wanted to make me laugh and of course, I wanted to make him laugh. We just had a very easy rapport. We loved working together, hanging out. And the two of them together I’m certain if there is no Heaven they willed Heaven into existence. That’s where they are now.  Their love story was a true love story.

Author Ken Bloom, a noted Film Historian, also spent a few minutes recalling Jerry and Elaine.

Janet Walker: How did you come across this project with Jerry and Elaine?

Ken Bloom: When I went to Jerry’s memorial service they read some of the poems. I had known Jerry and Elaine for like eight or so years before that. I directed some benefits he did and so I met Elaine. I called her and ask her to do a book on the poems. Just the poems. Not a story of their love affair. Someone else was doing a biography of Jerry and Elaine wanted to save the poems for that. That project fell through and so three years later we started working and we found Simon & Schuster, who have been fantastic to us, and we expanded the book to give the story of their love affair which is reflected in the poems.

JW: What are your memorable moments?

KB: We did a benefit for The New York City Opera at Studio 54 which was like a block from their house and Peter Duchin was the band and Jerry was the host. He came from Law & Order as we were introducing Peter to take over for Jerry. And Jerry walked right up onto the stage like nothing was wrong; he did fantastically, and then after the benefit instead of running home; they stayed and danced to the orchestra until the end of the evening. It was so sweet. They both loved to dance and you could see how much in love they were. And he wasn’t the star like you think of. He never had a publicist; he never bought an apartment they always rented; never had a car; he was just a low key regular guy. When we would have these benefits I would call him up I would call him up personally not his manager or his agent and he would call me back. It was all very easy and non ego about it. So that’s my nicest memory. I can still see them dancing on the floor together.

After speaking with Ken Bloom he graciously introduced Elaine’s sister, Ms. Rita Hubbard.

Janet Walker: What do you remember most about your sister?

Rita Hubbard: Just how close we have always been. There are seven years between us, she came to NY when I was 10, but we have been best friends the whole time. It is so terrible that this happened and I miss her so much.

JW: Your memories of Jerry and Elaine together . . .?

RH: Are wonderful. Jerry’s is everybody’s Uncle. When he came to my house my children, and my children are in their forties, their friends still refer to them as Auntie Elaine and Uncle Jerry. He blended into our Italian family.  And he was just part of it.

JW: Is there one moment that eclipses everything of their love together or their life together?

RH: I think it is probably the poems. When Elaine starting showing us the poems it’s like they said, they made all men look bad. It was the poems. That’s amazing.

All proceeds from the evening’s sale of “Remember How I Love You – Love Letters from an Extraordinary Marriage” benefitted Bideawee, the animal welfare organization that provides shelter, care, compassion and adoption for over 100 years and The Eye Bank for Sight Restoration. Both Charities were favorites of Jerry and Elaine Orbach.

For more information on Remember How I Love Your – Love letters from an Extraordinary Marriage: please visit: www.simonandschuster.com

 

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