THE DEATH OF THE PARTY
BY JONATHAN MARC SHERMAN
In 2043, in my sleep, after working all day, having wine and dinner with my family and closest friends, and making passionate love with my lady. Not a second before.
— Quincy Jones, Vanity Fair, July 2007, answering the question “How would you like to die?”
It’s the best answer I’ve heard, but Quincy’s still alive, and since he produced Off the Wall and I did not, I’m not banking on going like him. As for actual deaths, well, I’m not sure there’s a perfect way to die, but my great-uncle Jerry came close. There exists a photograph of him at a wedding reception in Brookline, Massachusetts, and he looks very sharp, wearing a suit and a bow tie, and he’s either taking a nap — understandably, because he was eighty-five years old when the shot was snapped — or he’s dead. Nobody can say for sure. He was alive at the start of the party. He ate, drank, and danced with gusto, as he always did — most especially at the “Second Bar Mitzvah” he threw for himself when he turned eighty-three. I don’t think he had deeply religious reasons for having a sequel to his original Bar Mitzvah decades previous; I think he just wanted a really good excuse to throw a party where all the women had to dance with him the whole night long. Uncle Jerry was a “Brownie” (a local Massachusetts version of being a member of the Polar Bear Club), and there are newspaper photographs of him at age seventy-five happily doing handstands and push-ups on the beach in frigid weather. He had a stack of Playboy magazines in his closet that I discovered with my cousin one day so long ago that we had to stand on our tiptoes to see the top of the stack. He used to do magic tricks for us — he’d ask for a quarter, make it disappear, and that was it. You didn’t get your quarter back. Uncle Jerry’s actual name was David, but well before I was born he gave himself the nickname Jerry, and most people I knew not only called him Jerry, they called him Uncle Jerry. He set out to be the Life of the Party at every celebration he attended, and pretty much succeeded, with the exception of the aforementioned wedding reception, where he came off the dance floor, sat back down at his table, closed his eyes, and became the Death of the Party. I hope he’s resting, but not in peace, for I have a feeling “peace” would bore the hell out of my beloved Uncle Jerry. &