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A Tribute to John Raitt from a Lifelong Friend

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JOHN RAITT, AN ACCIDENTAL MATCHMAKER
by Frank Bouley

It was the end of 1952. I had just finished my two years in the army at Fort Monmouth, NJ, after being drafted for the Korean War, out of a contract at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. I had decided to settle in New York and try my hand at Broadway.

A notice in "Backstage" told me of an audition for "Rio Rita" which was being done by a small group in Rye, NY. I auditioned and landed the lead part of "JIM". The show went well and on opening night I had a visitor back stage. It was John Raitt, a singer I had always admired, who had a home in the area. He congratulated me on my performance and said that he had recommended me to Richard Berger, also from the Rye area, who produced the summer stock series of Musicals every summer in Kansas City, Mo. To make a long story short I signed a contract to do 10 musicals for the 1953 season.

On the train to Kansas City my seat mate was a cute little red headed Balanchine dancer who had recently finished a two year tour of Oklahoma and was also headed for Kansas City. Her name was Joan Bowman and two years later we were married and have just celebrated our 50th anniversary.

Over the years Johnny and I stayed in contact and became friends. I managed to perform under 17 Equity Production contracts (13 of them were Broadway shows) but unfortunately never managed to work with John. During the 60's and 70's I served three terms on the Actors Equity Council which also afforded me the opportunity to see him.

Johnny was a very good natured individual who always had a smile and a good word for everyone. He was a big man. I remember one day walking down 8th ave. running songs in my head when suddenly a hand grabbed the scruff of my jacket, lifted me off the ground and turned me to face him. It was Johnny, who while holding me nose to nose said, "Don't you say hello to your friends?" I just stuttered an uncomfortable apology while he just stood there and laughed.

Have you ever played the "what if" game? I do it often. What if I hadn't met John Raitt? What if he hadn't introduced me to Richard Berger? Then I wouldn't have met and married Joan (Pixie) Bowman and I wouldn't now have three wonderful kids and 5 (soon to be six) terrific grand children.

Thank you John, I will always be deeply in your debt.


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