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15 May 2011

The Friendship Garden (part 2)

by Wendie Busig-Kohn

Friendship Garden (part 2)There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In MY LIFE I loved them ALL

The Lady came from Baltimore segment of the Friendship Garden!

After the initial inspiration provided by my friends, Wendi Florentine, Fred Ebeling and Donny Frank of Palm Springs, I knew what needed doing next.

I wanted to wake up every morning and be greeted by all of the friends and family that I had lost, when I entered my garden. Where to begin? Where I began!

I decided to created sections of the garden to pay tribute, in white roses, to all of those I had loved and lost over my lifetime. Of course, I began with family - my mom, father, grandmom and grandfather, aunt and uncle - all represented in a row of white roses along the front wall of my home.

As I step out of my front door, each day, there are three friends whose stories I wish to share with you.

I met my best friend, Gidjette Pascale during one of my auditions for new talent discovery for Contempo Models and Talent, back in the 'old days', in Baltimore. She was exotic. She was a stripper. She also claimed to be a devil worshiper. Gut instincts told me we had absolutely nothing in common. I wasn't interested in representing her or being her friend.

The next day, after the audition, she just walked into my office. Taken aback, she presented me with a gift. "Somehow I just knew, by looking at your hands, that you played piano." she said. I opened this beautifully, artistically wrapped gift to discover a music box; a piano music box. This priceless little thoughtful gift was a baby grand that, when opened, played a beautiful song. I was truly humbled. Who was I to prejudge anyone anyway? Shame on me! She insisted on taking me out to lunch and from that point on, despite the horror I felt when I was in her apartment with her tarantula and snake pets, we became the very best of friends for many years thereafter!

She used to say, "I'm here to provide the balance. You are such a goody two shoes, you really need an 'evil person' to have your back!" Gidjette was not evil nor did I ever see her practice evil but she always did have my back. One of the funniest memories I have of her was when I created the Rubber Band Dance...yep...made actual large elastic bands to dance to that song! I don't remember why I chose to pair us up for the big debut! She was 5'2" and I was 5'11" but, we made that dance such a hot new sensation, we were later invited to demonstrate/perform at the Capitol Center Arena in the DC area in tandem with the SPINNERS' concert!

Gidjette was killed by a drunk driver who had entered on the exit ramp on the Baltimore - Washington Parkway. The impact was so massive, she died almost instantly.

Gidjette loved me like a little sister who she needed to protect 24/7. She had this amazing word scramble talent! She'd say things like, "You know it's colder in the winter than it is in the country?" or "It's closer to New York than it is by train." Sometimes, when we were out, we used this kind of secret language when others (unwanted attention) were hanging on us. We'd ramble out a few, as if we were really engaging in a private conversation. Then, we'd always turn to the pesky people who were hovering and demand "How many fish can YOU name?" Stunned as they were, we would in unison say, "The answer is SEVEN!" then walk away!

Oh, and she used to call me 'Pooh', as in Winnie the Pooh. She is the FIRST white rose bush I see every day. She is still with me!

Oh, my beautiful friend, I miss YOU so!

I met Bobby at the HIPPO club in Baltimore. A gloriously gay and festive club, I choreographed, produced and performed in 'disco fashion shows' every week there. Bobby, at that time, swept the floors. I noticed him one day during rehearsal. Stunningly handsome does not even begin to describe his Sidney Poitier (even more handsome, though, truthfully!) looks! He was quiet with this luminous smile and I asked him why he wasn't modeling!

Soon thereafter, Bobby became not only one of my biggest stars, but my very best friend too! He would always make me laugh! He was totally without conceit despite being one of the most handsome men I've ever seen. He even got along with my ex-husband who truly loved him too! He was like a 'good will ambassador', always bringing any level of dispute to a successful conclusion of giggling perspective.

Bobby went on to a successful career in music and modeling in New York. But, somewhere along the line, we lost touch. Perhaps he felt the need to hide something. Bobby died of an overdose.

The Friendship Garden also includes many other Baltimore friends including Reverend Meissner, Ed Timmerman, Michael Hood, Milton Borzynowski, Susan Piracci, Steve Ireton, Mimo, and Dantini.

Since I began this story another rose bush needs planting for a very special friend and mentor. Perhaps, I can blame 'writers block' for the delay in posting 'part 2' but, shortly after posting 'part 1', I received news that the most incredible Mayor and Governor, William Donald Schaefer had died. I was so sad. Even as a teenager Mayor Schaefer, as he was then, was such an inspiration to me.

He always made time to write thank you notes and add hand written comments each time I created an event at the War Memorial Plaza, downtown. He nominated me for 'Baltimore's Best' award at age 19! I was, as legend has it, the very first woman he ever posed with for a photo for Contempo Magazine. There's more, much more! To say that Mayor Schaefer was one of my earliest mentors would not be an understatement. He was the very best mayor of Baltimore - an amazing Governor, too! Everyone loved Mayor Schaefer!

Now I must make a trip, again, to Home Depot and plant the most amazing roses that I can find in tribute to him, too!

(story continues in part 3 - MALIBU)

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