Please Don’t Talk about Me When I’m Gone

As a freshman in college, I often took gigs as a drummer.  One night, I played a gig with my friend, the pianist and music director Mike DeVito, at a Moose Lodge in Towson.  The gig was providing the music for a melodrama – a Victorian musical – called The Drunkard.  The cast and crew were old show people. We sat around at the bar together making increasingly crude remarks.  The oldest cast member, Edith Webster, chain smoked with no regard for her recent heart bypass.

During that show on 22nd November 1986, Edie had a big moment.  Her character, the grandmother-in-law of the drunkard, dies at the end of the first act.  Before dying, she belted out the old torch song, “Please Don’t Talk about Me When I’m Gone.”  Her dark, raspy voice filled the space.  She held her final note to thunderous applause, grabbed her heart, and died as the lights went out.

Given my proximity to Edie, I heard her little gasp.  When the lights came back on, she was still in the middle of the stage.  She had died, on cue.

The next twenty minutes were a blur of activity.  The hall was attempted to be cleared. The paramedics came.  Then came the moment I will never forget..  after the director apologized and said no one felt much like continuing, the leader of the Moose Lodge – still wearing his Fez – said, “Drinks are on the Mooses”.  Thus began an Irish Wake before the paramedics even pronounced her dead.

In the pre-internet era, I little understood how this news had traveled via the AP Wire.  It shocked me to learn that this story was covered in Los Angeles Times.  Even now, it shocks me to learn that the story has made its way into curious corners of the internet.  As recently as November 2010, the story was referenced in an article on Salon.com.

I was an eyewitness to this curiosity. And long after she has gone, we are still talking about Edie.

“There was tremendous applause. Hearing that, she died,” said Richard Byrd, director of the melodrama.

“Night after night, she died and she died, and last night she died and she really did,” Byrd said.

At first, the audience thought the calls for aid were part of the script, Byrd said. Afterward, the audience sat quietly for almost an hour after the performance was halted.

The lyrics of the song are as follows..

Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone
Oh honey, though our friendship ceases from now on
And listen, if you can’t say anything real nice
It’s better not to talk at all is my advice

We’re parting, you go your way I’ll go mine
It’s best that we do
Here’s a kiss I hope that this brings lots of luck to you
Oh makes no difference how I carry on
Remember, please don’t talk about me when I’m gone

We’re parting, you go your way I’ll go mine
It’s best that we do
Here’s a kiss I hope that this brings lots of luck to you
Makes no difference how I carry on
Remember, please don’t talk about me
Please don’t talk about me
Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone

Source Credits: Paul Mathews. Also Snopes, Los Angeles Times and GoBlog

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