Prelude, Fugue & Riffs

Diminished Ranks

by Jamie Bernstein

It is bad enough to lose longtime loved ones – but it's far worse when you lose several of them at the same time. In addition to the incalculable loss of Harry Kraut, the Bernstein crew lost four important members over the past year.

Margaret Carson was Leonard Bernstein's press agent for decades. Tough, classy and good-looking, she could easily have been the template for the original Career Gal. She had a sixth sense for what would work and what was right. We already sorely miss her deadpan wit, her stalwart presence at all Bernstein-related events, and of course her extraordinary collection of hats.

Speaking of hats, we are also missing the millinery excellence of Floria Lasky. Among her many illustrious activities, Floria represented the Estate of Jerome Robbins (for which reason we had occasion to see her often). No artist could hope for a more fiercely loyal protector and advocate. Floria was partial to very tall fur hats. When she strode, hat first, into a meeting, she was so formidable that it took many of us a long time to discover what a thoroughly engaging, witty and warm woman she actually was.

Truly, truly: they don't make women like these any more.

Later in the year, we lost David Oppenheim, one of Leonard Bernstein's closest, dearest friends dating back to his 20's. Bernstein dedicated his Clarinet Sonata to David, who also premiered and recorded it. He was best man at my parents' wedding. David's first wife, the actress Judy Holliday, was in the original cast of the Revuers, the Comden & Green cabaret act that launched them all. David and his second wife, Ellen Adler, continued as longtime participants in the Bernstein family's inner circle of beloved friends.

And finally, Robert Lantz. To say that he was Leonard Bernstein's agent does not begin to explain the scope of Robby's influence. His devotion and love were as dependable as sunlight. With his courtly European manners and laser-like intelligence, he glided through the combined worlds and coasts of theatre and movies like a divine messenger. And more often than not, his messages were pulverizingly funny.

We miss Margaret, Floria, David, Robby – and of course Harry. We send all our affection to their respective families, which feel very much like an extension of our own.

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