Da Doo Blog

When Howard Met Bill

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re rerunning a post written by the love of Howard’s life, Bill Lauch:

For a long time Sarah has wanted me to contribute to her blog, but I’ve resisted.  It’s not that I’m uninterested in the website (I think it’s great), or that I have nothing to share.  It’s that writing isn’t easy for me, especially if I really care about the subject.  But after lots of encouragement and a little arm-twisting you may occasionally see something here from me.  So where to start?  As Glinda tells Dorothy, “It’s always best to start at the beginning.”

Howard and I met in 1984 on a February night close enough to Valentines Day to claim it as our anniversary.  We met, as many pre-internet single gay men did, at a bar.  Boy Bar to be precise.  Now long gone, it was in the East Village on St. Marks Place between Second and Third Avenue, close to where I lived at 14th Street and Avenue A, and less than a block from the Orpheum Theatre where “Little Shop” was running.  Later I learned about Howard’s practice of popping into the theater and watching the show from the back to give notes and keep his “baby” in good shape.  I suspect that’s exactly what he had done earlier that night.

Boy Bar had two levels, a loud dance space on the first floor and a quieter lounge upstairs.  Our first words were exchanged downstairs but we quickly moved up out of the noisy crowd to chat.  He was immediately likable with handsome Germanic features and blondish hair that was short on the sides, loose and wavy on top.  His blue eyes were friendly and his smile revealed a cute little gap between his two front teeth.  He was out-going, confident and energetic.

Howard around 1984

Initial conversations at bars are frequently awkward, but I recall ours being relaxed.  We talked about our families and hometowns and work.  I was at an architectural firm in mid-town, the third I worked for since moving to NYC from Columbus OH four years earlier.  Howard said he wrote and directed theater.  I wondered if he’d done anything I might know, stunned when he said, “Little Shop of Horrors,”  with a question in his voice.  I wasn’t expecting something I’d actually seen.  It was great to be able to say I thought it was wonderful and really mean it.  He asked when I saw it to determine which cast I saw, and the late summer of ‘82 meant it was the original with Ellen and Lee.  That pleased him.  Nothing wrong with subsequent casts, he just liked that I saw the first.

Countless times in years to come I would watch Howard’s work on a stage or screen, often right by his side, eventually with only the memory of his essence.  But on St. Marks Place that night, getting to know this nice guy I just met, there was no clue how his life and mine would entwine from that moment on.


Posted on: February 14th, 2014 by Sarah Ashman Gillespie 10 Comments

10 Responses

  1. Taswin Karnadi says:

    Tim Rice’s lyrics of “How Does A Monent Last Forever” sums it all up: Howard & Bill,
    Howard & Alan and Howard & all who love him. Thank you, Tim

  2. Georgina Warren says:

    It’s a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance Bill! Such sweet recollections and I’m always happy to hear your thoughts on your life with Howard. I love all the songs he composed for a little shop of horrors, One Halloween I even crafted my own costume of Audrey Two using a big cardboard box for the flowerpot and a yellow sweater in safari hat for the head part. Mobility was a little tricky though, yet totally worthwhile! Promising to post a picture in due course. I also worked a few shifts volunteering at Ford’s theater Washington DC and got to see a production of Little shop there.

  3. Phyllis says:

    What a tragic loss! Ashman and Menken were the Rogers and Hamilton
    Of our time. He contributed so much…loved the charming music and lyrics
    Watching Disney movies with my kids
    Howard Ashman is irreplaceable
    I agree, too bad the meds available to treat this disease were unavailable
    Back then

  4. Chris Bailey says:

    Beauty and the Beast is dedicated “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950–1991.”

    I remember reading this after seeing Beauty and the Beast in 1991. It and many Disney movies have been some of my favorites through the years. I will always remember seeing this and thinking, how terribly sad. Had this terrible disease only met him in 2000 or later he’d have been able to live with it and treat it. I know we lost such an amazing talent in him. I spent much of my youth as a vocalist and have such wonderful memories of many of his works. We should be grateful we were blessed to have a talent such as his and celebrate his life through his works. To his family, to Bill and to Sarah I offer my deepest sympathy. Time can heal but it can never replace. I hope you are able to take all the positive things he did in life and celebrate them and honor his memory.

  5. Alex says:

    It hurts so much losing young people, specially those talented like Howard. The worst part is that he acquired his virus during an intimate moment… making love. Why did he have to give up his life for making love? it doesn’t make sense.

  6. Jane M says:

    Beautiful story, why are the most wonderful people like Howard taken so early

  7. Jordan Briskin says:

    Love does not stop as time passes, if you live in different places, or when someone is gone. And so it has been with Howard and everyone who knew and loved him.

  8. Mary B says:

    Oh, what a beautiful story ! I so would have wanted to see William and Howard get married and live happily ever after, like in fairytales. We miss your talent Howard. You and Menken made 1990′s children’s childhood. Howard’s lyrics are unforgettable. My sister was born 9 years ago and grown up with Ashman’s music (well, lyrics) and keeps singing his songs everyday. This is how you see who’s a Genius in our wicked world. God Bless You, Howard.

  9. Brandon says:

    Wow. I am tearing up. What a sweet, romantic moment. I am so grateful to you for having shared this with us.

  10. James T says:

    How great it is that I found this site.
    Thank you Sarah for the work you’ve done and thank you Bill for sharing your memory of meeting Howard!

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