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Death has been way too busy in Tom's world lately

Death is that humorless clown that shows up at your party uninvited and is always—ALWAYS—the last one to leave.

Death has been busy lately. I'd like him to take a holiday, but it's unlikely. A couple months ago, we lost Doug D'Amore, one of the great sports figures in town. He was a fan and a sports dad and he coached youth teams on the north side of town. He was always great to sit with at a game, especially when he was watching his son, also named Doug, coach the boys' basketball team at Catalina Foothills High.

Dr. Mel Dixon, Frontier Dentist, has always been (and will forever be) the Coolest Person In Tucson. He lost his mom last month. She was a member of a pioneer Tucson family. Her dad was Morgan Maxwell, for whom the K-8 school on the west side is named. Morgan Maxwell was the principal at the all-black Dunbar School for many years. Yes, for decades, black students in Tucson were segregated until they got to high school, at which time they went to the integrated Tucson High. I can't figure it out, either.

Just last week, Bruce Ash put together this really nice farewell thing for our friend Emil Franzi, who died not long ago. A bunch of us got to say our goodbyes in this publication just after Emil passed away, but the gathering at the Mountain Oyster Club was a final, raucous get-together for friends and family. And no, I did not partake of the house specialty. Be it known that I ain't eatin' no kinds of testicles.

There were a bunch of speakers including Congresswoman Martha McSally, our editor Jim Nintzel, and Daily Star cartoonist Dave Fitzsimmons, who, for a time, did a Point-Counterpoint thing on local TV with Franzi until Dave blew their gig by mooning a weatherman at the station.

Having been Emil's radio co-host (on and off) for 15 years, I said a few words. I told the story of the time that Emil came to see one of the basketball games that my girls' team was playing. Just by chance, I had also invited a long-time friend of mine, also named Tom, who happened to be gay.

During the first half of the game, I looked up at the bleachers and Emil and Tom are sitting next to each other, chatting away. At halftime, I walked over to them and sad, "What in the world could you two have in common to talk about...beside Jim Kolbe?"

Tom howled and, without missing a beat, said, "Oh, I've got this great Jim Kolbe story for you!"

They just kept right on talking. I don't know if either one saw any of the game.

During my talk, I happened to mention that Emil liked opera. I must've said it the wrong way (I was using the Latin form which is plural for "opus"), because some guy who looked like Tim Conway took offense. Allow me to clear this up: Opera is cool. It's not Marvin Gaye, but it's cool.

Let me just ask you this: In the 23rd century, when James Tiberius Kirk is commanding the starship Enterprise, will he be more likely to listen to "Rigoletto" or "Let's Get It On?" Yeah, uh-huh.

I stayed and listened to all of the other speakers. It was great. On the way out, this guy who was sitting at a table in the anteroom called me by name. He asked if I recognize his voice, which, I must admit, had a serious Pimp Daddy, FM deejay quality to it. I wasn't sure, so he introduced himself as Vince, my long-time radio nemesis. He said that after all these years, it was great to finally put a face to my voice. (Knowing full well what my face looks like, I quite naturally apologized.)

Vince would always call in to Emil's show to give me crap. He would scold me by starting with an exasperated "Tommy, Tommy, Tommy..." Believe me, nobody calls me Tommy unless they can kick my ass, which pretty much means that anybody can call me Tommy. Vince is a big dude; his shadow could kick my ass. It was really cool meeting him and his wife (they, too, had come to say goodbye to Emil). I want to get back on the radio just so Vince can scold me again.

Tom died a few years back. He and I used to go to the movies together and we'd disagree as to whether we had to leave an empty seat between us. (Unless it's a packed house, if two or more straight guys go to a movie, they generally leave an empty seat between the two of them. That empty seat used to be referred to by a term that is no longer socially acceptable.)

That was one of the things that I thought was cool about Emil. While kids growing up today are far more accepting of (or, even better, far more likely to shrug at the existence of) gay people, such was not the case for Baby Boomers such as myself or for people in Emil's generation (he was about 15 years older than I).

Emil was a mensch, unlike Death, which is a total bitch.

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