Monday, July 14, 2008

MATT CONLEY REMEMBERED

In the Early 90's when I was focusing more on playwrighting than my art, I reconnected with an old Actor/Director Friend named Matt Conley. He was at the time an ex-college teacher and later a great mentor to me - one of the few I have had in my life - he was always excited about the theater and we used to chat and have dinners (my own little Tuesdays With Morrie, if you will) at a restaurant called Rachel's in Hell's Kitchen where we both lived at the time. He would get smashed and red faced and would snort with laughter at his own tales of chumming around with the likes of Tallulah Bankhead and other starlets. He was a class act and a masterful old-school thespian. We were close for a while there until I moved further uptown and eventually met my wife and I lost touch with him.

A few years ago I was told he might have passed away but no one was sure until today. I came across a website of the last film he acted in. A Indie piece called West Bank Brooklyn that has a notice of his passing on their news page. I don't know when he passed on exactly - after 2003 sometime based on the film's release - I can't find on-line his obituary or anything. There is no remembrance page dedicated to him either.

I phoned him one time when I happened to be at Rachel's, I was thinking about him and randomly called an old number I had for him in my phone -- to my surprise he actually answered! I was so excited to have him come by and meet my wife who was en route. He informed me that sadly he could not because had just had open heart surgery and maybe in a few weeks he could go out again. I told him I'd give him a ring then. A few weeks passed, then a few months -- then years. Now he is gone and I feel sad I never called him when I should have.

I'll miss the days I spent with him I'm sure...and now I always order his favorite dish when I go to Rachel's - the fish soup over linguine. Remember that, Matt? That was your favorite.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have no idea how I ended up on your site but I did. My (now) husband Paul and I were students of Matt's at UB from 89-93. We stayed in touch with him for many years after wards but also lost touch over the years. We knew of his death when it happened. We live in Massachusetts now and we were not able to make it to NYC for his memorial. He died in Oct 2004. You captured him beautifully. Best regards, Janice Ruddy Higgins

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mike. I had no idea that Matt passed away. I loved your memorial to him. I always think of him when I hear French cabaret music. Eileen

Anonymous said...

I, like Janice and Paul was a student of Matt at UB... He was my mentor as well, I have used many of his colorful stories and also subscribe to his ever popular belief that to act, all you need are " two boards and a passion " . He treated me as a daughter and was indeed a father figure to me when I was young and away from home. I also had the immense pleasure of playing his daughter Anne Frank in " Your's Anne ". He was a lovable, funny, charasmatic man, but lonely none the less. It brings me relief and joy to know that he had you and others like you as I grew older and followed my dreams..
Thanks for this tribute.
Marnie Weinstein Clearie

M. Mararian said...

Wow. It's so nice to see people responding to this...I hope Matt's soul can sense it somehow that people are thinking of him. I just wish organizations like Actor's Equity would do publically accessible obituaries that highlight actors with photos etc...because I bet there are a lot more people like him of that pre-internet generation who never had their own website and have now just dissapeared with no record. I couldn't even find a nyc public record obituary on him from any newspaper.

Anonymous said...

I, like Janice, have no idea how I ended up here. I, too, was a student of Matt's, and he was an important influence to me as well. I still remember his Jacques Brel show...he was a talented, kind, and patient man who gave me a long leash and a lot of attention even though that could not have been easy at times. Some didn't sink in until later, but I learned many lessons from that man. He gave a lot of himself to all of us, and I will certainly never forget him.
-James

Anonymous said...

I had the most fabulous love affair with Matt in 1977 and 1978. I was a 25-year-old guy. He was one of the most attractive men in New York at the time and I believe he was in his mid-fifties. I am not able to describe the depth of our lovemaking. We stayed in touch on and off as friends for very many years. I called him once and told him I'd just turned 50. Without missing a beat, he said he'd just turned 25. The last I heard of him, it was on my voicemail. Breathing with difficulty, he was saying the timing was bad for us to get together while I'd be in NYC. Every night when I go to sleep, I thank God for having once created Matt Conley and for having cared enough to put him on my path.

Anonymous said...

I knew Matt Conley and his wife, Norma, when I was a child growing up in NYC. My uncle worked for ABC and had a number of actor friends that would hang out at our apartment. I always thought Matt was kind and funny and great with us kids. We went to I think it was Green Hills (where he was doing summer stock) one time to see him play the lead in Mack the Knife. He was so terrific in the role. And, very handsome, too.

John Mucci said...

Matt and I were business partners for a few years in the early 80s; he was taking care of Phoebe Brand and Morris Carnovsky, who also became friends. Together we produced one documentary with the Carnovskys, and started to rehearse and tape Morris's adaptation of "The Bear" for PBS. But the money ran out, and we never completed it. That was very sad, as I know it would have been a tremendous little show.

Michael Mararian said...

@ John - Hi - thanks for your post - you know, I think I did a day shoot on that Bear PBS film! Matt had me play a Russian coachman. My scene was me pulling up in a horse-drawn carriage to an estate. I was scared to death guiding the horse all by myself -- was that the same project? - it was so long ago...

Laura Von Stein said...

Oh, Matt -

How I loved you! Mentor, Father figure, Cheerleader all rolled into one human being! No one on this earth is more lucky than I to have such a selfless supporter in my corner.

Always, always, always on the top of my list as one who helped shape me into the strong and capable-of-anything woman I am today.

Forever,
Laura