This is my old friend, Terry. He passed away in January of last year.
Terry Teachout (February 6, 1956 – January 13, 2022)
I’m in a mood.
That’s because, for the last day I’ve been thinking about Terry, and missing him. Knowing the date of the one-year anniversary of his death was coming up, I started watching a lecture by him on YouTube last night. He gave the one-hour-long-lecture, “Confessions of a Critic“, at the Institute for Advanced Study. I clicked on the link because I wanted to see him and hear his voice.1
I’m in a mood.
Not that I get in moods that often. And I have to say that I like the way he died: he died in his sleep, apparently.
So, there was no long pain, no feelings of regret, and the tears for us around that know this person’s going through sh*t.
You know: pain, fear, and the body breaking down. The things that John Milton knew when writing about hell in Paradise Lost.
My great aunt died that way – fast; no pain.
She and Gramma Anne came out every year when we were little. They’d play Bridge with our parents. Aunt Winnie would drink Grasshoppers and Pink Ladies (maybe both did; I can’t remember), and would take, “just a little bit more” of a piece of pie or cake after holiday meals. And she would line us all up for interminable amounts of time while she tried to get the photos with her Brownie Camera.
one night she and Gramma Anne were coming back from dinner when 90-year-old Winnie opened the door to their rent-controlled apartment in Chicago and died before crossing the threshold.
Dad said he went to her funeral in Chicago (we were in Pennsylvania) and those at the wake were really glad with the way she died. Dad told me they were like, “Way to go, Winnie!” I was maybe 17 or 18 years old.
Ok: nice story. Get to the point, Keiran:
Because I’ve not been able to write about his death or process it before. In fact, I don’t know if I am processing it right now. Yet, the arrival of the one-year anniversary lets me write about meeting him.
I met Terry in 2005 when he came to take a tour at Taliesin. I did sometimes give “special tours” for those in media. The tours I gave were off of the schedule, and did not rely on strict timing. You could go over with a person (or persons) in your own vehicle, and shoot around the other tours. Still, I started the tour as a normal, “give-information” tour. I might as well have been doing just a public tour. But, while I drove Terry in my car on the inner roads of the Taliesin estate, something flipped in my mind.
I don’t remember the moment, but I went from “professional guide mode”, to suddenly having a deep conversation with someone.
In Hillside, he grooved on the theater and dining room. I talked about the concerts given there, and how you’re so close to the musicians when they play. He thought that was cool. I told him how once I watched a bat circle over the head of a violinist while the audience tried not to gasp, and he laughed. [Here’s a hyperlink to musicians playing, but I don’t think you’ll see a bat in that footage.]
We talked about Fallingwater at one point, and I told him my idea that Fallingwater is like “the platonic idea of Organic Architecture” (just go with me on this one). “Yes!” he replied. I took him to a great view across the valley, for which he was grateful. We walked about Taliesin’s waterfall. Then we had lunch, where he told me about his New York City apartment, and the art work he owns.
Then we went, after lunch, to the House….
… He was amazed at the compositions (and, really, the pictures don’t do it justice). I’m amazed at the composition. I have never been able to articulate why it works, although the combination of lines and materials work together in perfect tension….
We stood and looked. He got teary-eyed (I love it when that happens). Here’s his blog post [at www.aboutlastnight.com]…:
At the end of the day, Keiran and I stood together on a hill overlooking Taliesin, gazing at the house and the vast, all-encompassing view beyond it…. For a moment I didn’t trust myself to speak.
“I guess you get used to everything,” I finally said, “but I don’t see how anyone could get used to seeing this every day.”
“Oh, you do,” Keiran replied. “Most of the time, anyway. Except when the wind and sun and humidity are just right. When everything is right.” She paused. “Then it’s so beautiful, it hurts.”
Great guy. Great day. Like the best I can come up with sometimes on tours, all rolled into one.
Our meetings almost completely took place in Wisconsin. As the drama critic for The Wall Street Journal, he came out every (or almost every) year to review plays at the local repertory theater I posted on, the American Players Theater. Due to that, I got the extra-special privilege of getting my pick of plays every time he came out, once he told me what he was going to review.
I never asked him his thoughts on the plays (I didn’t want to distract him while he did his job). But I got to see him afterward while his thoughts on the plays percolated in his mind. Plus, I got to hear him tell me that, APT’s rendition of “A Streetcar Named Desire” was the best he’d ever seen. And I learned how he loved farces, like he said when we sat down before “A Flea In Her Ear“. And my husband and I went with Terry to “A View From the Bridge“, and got to say hi to one of its lead actors.1
And then there was the post I wrote here, on bats at Taliesin. In the post I mentioned how Terry got to stay a night at Taliesin because of an invitation from Taliesin resident, Minerva Montooth. He also wrote a post on his website, About Last Night. But he sent it me so that I could provide feedback before it went live.
He described how, at one point,
“A black bird came in, flew around the ceiling, then fluttered out. I never saw it again.”
I loved telling people on my tours that I replied, “Terry… that was a bat.”
fine, fine, fine. But –
Years ago, I realized that I met some really great people in that one year:
which “provides design, engineering, and custom installation services for audio, video, and lighting systems.” I thought that Bill looked at sound systems as a different material in art making.
While I originally wrote more, on the last time I saw Terry with his wife, Hilary; and spoke on her degenerative illness (that was responsible for ending her life) –
I decided that’s not fair to him, or to her, or to the woman Terry was in love with before he died, or others who knew him.
All I know is that, damn: I miss that man.3
Posted January 10, 2023.
The photograph at the top of this post was taken by Terry Teachout and is licensed under Creative Commons. The image is cropped. Here’s a link to the image on-line.
1 And I wish I could tell him that I do not think he was right about poet Alexander Pope, but that’s just because Pope was a Catholic in England at a time that this.was.not.done; but really because I love the poem “The Rape of the Lock“.
2 Actually, saying “hi” to a lead actor at APT is not hugely unusual. Members of the core cast live in town and we all run across each other, just like normal humans. But before that night, I’d never talked to actor Brian Mani.
3 and not because I got free theater tickets.
Never in my life have I been given a more sensitive and comprehending tour of anything, anywhere. Listening to her talk about Wright and looking at everything she pointed out, I felt as if my eyes had opened to twice their normal size."
Whenever I have a question regarding anything Taliesin-related Keiran Murphy is the first person I turn to."
… her knowledge of Frank Lloyd Wright is close to astonishing. Over many years she has simply absorbed him—and his beloved Taliesin—into her bones.” “I am in awe at her willingness—her delight—in sharing what she knows with others."