I first met Michael Lightsey almost two decades ago, at an audition for what turned out to be a very strange production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. I was a member of the theater company that produced it, but he was not. He came to audition because he had seen our production of Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real and loved it.
Anyway, our meeting was one of those rare moments in my life that’s probably only happened about three or four times, when I randomly met a stranger, and after two minutes of conversation, it felt like we’d known each other forever.
In fact, I don’t remember which one of us auditioned first, but we both wound up in the tiny theater lobby afterwards, and hung around just talking for at least two hours.
The “just talking for two hours” thing, by the way, is the major sign for either a) We’re going to be really good friends from here on until the end of time, or b) We’re fucking tonight.
Michael and I have never fucked.
But put us together in a room, and we can talk each other’s ears off, and spin ourselves into such ridiculous riffs and scenarios that we’ll both wind up giggling like we’re stoned off our asses when, in fact, we are both completely sober.
That’s one of the best attributes really good friends can share — the ability to make each other laugh unto the point of pissing themselves.
Okay, that’s never happened to either of us literally, although laughing so hard that we couldn’t breathe and the airport called to complain about the noise — um, the one in Orange County, not L.A. — is a really good indicator that we’ve both got something great here.
This man always lifts my spirits, challenges my mind, and supports the hell out of my creative endeavors.
So here are some of his creative endeavors and, honestly, I am utterly jealous of his artistic ability. His pencil portraits are unreal in their absolute accuracy, and I should know because one of the best surprise Christmas presents I ever received was his portrait of me that he drew from a photo he took one day when we had lunch together in downtown L.A.
He doesn’t just do pencil portraits, though, and his figure studies and abstract art are also things to behold. I am very proud, in fact that one of his abstract pieces hangs right above the computer I’m writing this on, and it brings me comfort — a constant reminder that he’s still a part of my life even if COVID has kept us physically apart.
Bonus points on the beauty of his very colorful abstract works: He’s actually colorblind, and yet I’ve never seen a hint of on his canvases.
Finally, I was incredibly honored when he asked me to help adapt his nascent graphic novel, Strophalos, into an actual novel, in order to create IP that would generate interest in financing and creating the graphic novel in turn.
It’s an amazing story and was very fun to be let loose on. I was incredibly flattered that he asked me and trusted me, but also reminded in the process that we are kind of Yin and Yang in that I’m absolutely scientifically minded while he leans toward the mystical.
But it’s also a reminder that when the friendship is grounded on such a solid and loving foundation, that kind of difference doesn’t matter at all. Neither does the fact that we haven’t been able to get together in person since last March due to COVID — about six weeks after my and one week before his birthday — and yet are still both there for each other.
He worked at Center Theater Group, comprising the Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson theaters in downtown L.A. and the Kirk Douglas in Culver City, so I got to come down a lot to see shows for free, and we would often hang out before or after. He’d also come by my place after work as well.
Maybe, some day, we’ll meet again. Meantime, enjoy his art and support his work. He deserves it.
Image: Portrait of Dame Edna Everage and Barry Humphries, © Michael Lightsey.