You may have heard about the freak avalanches that took the lives of three skiers over the past few days in California.
Freak because the ski resorts where they happened usually have to manufacture snow. They’re such minor mountains and so far South, avalanches are almost unheard of there.
But after a rare and sudden three feet of snow last week, conditions were not normal, and even seasoned off trail skiers like my friend, the actor Chris Allport, were taken by surprise.
His body was recovered yesterday, but his loss will be felt for years to come.
Chris has been described in news reports of his death, as a “character actor.” It’s not clear what the media means by that label, and I always find it suspect. If it means actors who play a lot of different characters, well, that’s what actors do, so that includes every actor.
If it means actors who drastically change their appearance from role to role, as Di Niro and Dustin Hoffman and Charlize Theron and George Clooney and, again, most actors have done at least once in their careers, well, we’re back to talking about actors in general.
I think what they often mean is “not a star”—someone who plays supporting roles more than leads, most often because they don’t fit the stereotype of “leading men” and “ladies.”
Though Chris worked a lot and most often in supporting roles, he was as handsome and charming as any “star,” and he had the kind of charismatic, warm smile that could melt your heart, like only a few stars possess.
He was also a terrific singer and guitar player and writer. He often brought along his guitar to parties and other gatherings and not only entertained those present, but got them to shed their inhibitions or cool poses and sing along to old rock’n’roll and folk and whatever was called for.
He was married to an old friend of mine, a beautiful and fine poet and writer. A marriage that always seemed so romantic and loving it was much admired, and probably envied, by those who knew them.
Their modest home, in Santa Monica, is one of those old-California-style bungalows that always made an Easterner like me feel like I was in a movie just being in it. But the most obvious characteristic of the place is how welcoming it always was, to friends and strangers alike.
They have a beautiful boy, just a tad older than my youngest, born in Santa Monica, where Chris's family were some of the first people he knew. My little guy’s mother reminded me that we have a video somewhere in which their little boy, hardly big enough to know how to walk let alone talk, when asked who his favorite singer is shouts “Bob Dylan!” They are those kind of folks.
The hearts of everyone who knew Chris, and Susan and their son and Chris's older son, are broken by this tragedy.
Any sudden unexpected death is painful, and all deaths suck for someone left behind. If anything good can be made from this tragic passing, it’s the years that Chris had with his beautiful family, and the memories they will always have. And the fact that he went out doing one of the things he loved almost as much as his family.
For the rest of us, his handsome face and beautiful smile will live on in the movies and TV shows he was a part of, even the ones where the roles required him to not smile or look so handsome. Small consolation for his family, but something for his friends to hold on to.