Last fall I had the very special pleasure of meeting Pat and Hsiao Lien Budman and their young actor son Jade during the many long rehearsals in October and November and finally during each one of the 16 performances at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. The play was the Barbara Robinson heart warming comedic classic, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” directed by Stan Kelly. The performance by a large cast of mostly youthful and talented actors won abundant critical acclaim. So while the hours were long and the commitment prolonged, to stage parents like Pat and Hsiao Lien and yes even a crusty stage daddy like me it was all time well spent.
Such is the fate of stage parents everywhere. You spend many hours on many days taking your son or daughter to auditions and when they work out to rehearsals and then a filming or stage performance for which the financial rewards are typically modest despite the modern media generated perception to the contrary. But it is not the money that drives most parents; it is their love of their children and the child’s love of acting. I know this well because of the passion of my own daughter Kari who is a superb and driven actress. Her and Jade joined together in this play, both in character as members of the notorious Herdman family.
If you are lucky then as these long days play out you might just make new and wonderful friends. I was lucky because over the several weeks both my wife and I developed a strong friendship with Pat and Hsiao Lien Budman and their talented young son Jade. It is truly impossible to watch every rehearsal and every performance without going completely mad, so often Pat and I would sit on a bench in front of the theater and discuss all of the important issues of the day. This often included large doses of bragging about our respective kids but that is what parents are supposed to do. Our wives Hsiao Lien and Nenita took an immediate liking to each other and this all added greatly to the pleasure of the experience. So as the play came to its inevitable final performance we agreed to remain in touch and visit with each other from time to time.
We did stay in touch by telephone and email. It was always nice to hear tales of Jade running off to this audition or that shoot and dad’s pride always came through as well it should. I too, of course, did my fair share of bragging about my daughter and complaining about agents for this is the sort of thing stage parents will do. Then one day just a few weeks ago my daughter Kari choreographed and performed in a very interesting dance piece at her school in Burbank, California. Fortunately I managed to get a good video of the performance and put it up on You Tube. Then figuring that Jade would get a kick out of seeing his fellow Herdman doing a very cool very youth oriented dance I sent the link over to him. The response was absolutely chilling.
This is Emily, Jade’s sister. My mom asked me to write to you
to first thank you for the video, and secondly, to let you know that
Pat has recently passed away.”
Hey Ron one of your good friends just died, but hey thanks for the video. You have to be kidding! This is how shock affects people. Pat was in his early to mid sixties, and yeah he was a smoker, but he always seemed very healthy. What do you mean PASSSED AWAY? Passing away is for old folks, you know in their nineties or so.
I immediately called Hsiao Lien and with amazing grace and composer I got the whole story which was even much worse than I had originally thought. Just a few weeks ago Pat and Hsiao Lien and her mother and Jade all drove up to Reno, Nevada to check in on a small piece of property they owned up there and to visit some old friends. While there Pat began coughing heavily and unrelentingly. Wives being what they are Hsiao Lien kept pushing Pat to visit the doctor which he finally did. The result was a diagnosis of Stage 4 lung cancer. Very bad news indeed.
So the ride home was not a joyous one and Pat became very tired and Hsiao Lien took over driving as he nodded off for a much needed sleep. As Hsiao Lien was driving down the freeway near Fresno another car suddenly lurched in front of her narrowly missing hitting them. This startled her and she instinctively attempted to brake while turning the wheel to the left to avoid a collision. The collision was avoided but their car flipped over and violently struck the pavement upside down. After their vehicle had skidded to a halt the police and paramedics responding found Pat dead, Hsiao Lien’s mother dead, Hsiao Lien alive but unconscious and in a coma and little Jade in great pain from several broken bones. That is half the family dead and the other half in very bad physical condition. Oh and the driver of the car that had cut them off – gone.
Now I am going to do something here I generally hate. I generally don’t take well to all the many folks who are constantly asking for some charity. But please consider this.
Hsiao Lien came out of her coma after a few days in the hospital and she and Jade are back in their modest apartment in North Hollywood. But Pat is gone, his mother in law is gone, a final curtain for both of them. Hsiao Lien can barely walk with multiple fractures she struggles to get around with the aid of a walker. She will need months and maybe years of physical therapy and probably more surgery in the future. But she has no way to go to work and earn money. Jade is a young kid but he too can walk now only with the aid of a walker. His acting days while perhaps not over are suspended. So he cannot help earn any money right now. Pat had no life insurance and all those many government options such as social security and state aid will take weeks or maybe months to kick in and then no one really knows at what level. So in the mean time these two lovely people both in unimaginable physical and emotional pain could use little help. Rent still needs to be paid, electricity must be maintained and food still needs to be purchased even while waiting for bureaucrats to do whatever they will do and whether they are in pain or not. If you would like to help please send whatever you can to: Attorney John Blanchard, 9818 Belmont Street, Bellflower, CA 90706. Make checks or money orders payable to John Blanchard but write in the memo section “for Budman family.” John is just another good friend willing to help out in a time of need. He too has a son who is a performer.
This is real charity folks. No non profit corporations, no tax deduction, no complicated and expensive trust funds and the need will not last for ever. But right now these good people need just a little help. I hope you will join me in providing that help. I thank you very much.
Sorry that not every story I write can be gushing with joy but this one can have a happier ending.
The author may be reached by email to: [email protected]