It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to report that I’ve only just discovered that my life-long friend Kevin Geer passed away. In January. He was 64. I always felt we traveled in approximately the same theatrical circles, but I guess not. I’m absolutely shocked at his passing. He was always the Spirit of Youth to me.
I met him at La Mama in 1972 when I was working at the box-office at 74A East Fourth St. He was with Gerome Ragni, the late co-author of “Hair“, whom he lived with until Ragni died many years later.
Kevin hadn’t even BEGUN to act yet, but he was studying it, with Gerri’s support, and I immediately felt he had star quality. He had a strapping build and chiseled leading man features, even then. His father, whom he never knew, was evidently also an actor in Hollywood. He once told me “I met a fella who said he knew my Dad.” He said that “He was very handsome and a very good actor.” Which is what Kevin always wanted to be. From his earliest days. And what he became, an actor’s actor.
I’m happy to say that he was featured prominently in two of my early plays and that they perhaps constituted his stage debuts, certainly his earliest roles.
He played ironically a character called The Spirit of Death, which was supposed to embody the Actor’s Studio. He was always dressed in a black turtle neck and was often carrying a dead seagull. This was in my autobiographical musical “Audition!” in 1972. I was 24 and decided it was time for a look back…I had had a teacher in college who was obsessed with the Actor’s Studio, and I just did NOT fit in to that traditional mold. And..well, enough of that…
Kevin and Agosto Machado, who also appeared in “Audition“, were standing under a tattered awning on St. Mark’s Place and the Bowery that said “Two Saints.” It inspired me to make my first movie, only ten minutes or so with Agosto standing in for both parts because Kevin was squeamish, at the time, of playing Agosto’s counterpart. They remained friends for Kevin’s life, and they really were, as I thought that summery day in the ’70s Two Saints.
Agosto Machado is the renowned downtown Asian transvestite. He and I were both in Jackie Curtis’ “Vain Victory,” a Warhol extravaganza that I think Kevin and Gerri Ragni came to see nearly every night. In 1972. And so did Bette Midler. That was where she got the idea of being a mermaid in a wheelchair. Candy Darling was a mermaid in it who longed for legs, and I was her greedy, demanding stage mother, Nunca the Divine. It was a Golden Age for Off-Off Broadway.
It was about that time that Kevin also. quite accidentally, was filmed for the “American Family“, the ground-breaking Reality TV documentary, at the Chelsea Hotel talking with Holly Woodlawn about seeing “Vain Victory.” He was in the late Lance Loud’s room. Lance had taken his straight-laced Mother Pat to see “Vain Victory.” And she famously did not like it.
Kevin is seen in a scene sitting on Lance’s bed, describing his awed reaction to the nearly all-drag queen performance, and commenting particularly on the 6 foot plus ballerina Ekaterina Sobechenskaya,who was played by the late Larry Ree. That cast also contained Candy Darling, Mario Montez, Eric Emerson…and me. As Candy Darling’s mother. Kevin told me it was his first week in New York.
Kevin gave what I always thought of as his greatest performance in my play “Men.” He played the part of The Boy opposite the late, great Ridiculous director John Vacarro’s amazing, brave turn as The Man. He was an ex-drag queen who cruised Men’s Rooms in the Broadway Central Welfare hotel, as did this lost Boy that Kevin embodied so unforgettably. His character was always being beaten up there. The Man saves him. I think the lines were-
BOY: Mister, what should I do? What should I do with my life?
MAN: Take the moment, baby. Take it. It’s all we’ve got. It’s all we’re given.
It was one of the first Out Gay plays, and I’m very proud of all who were involved in it including Christine Ebersole, in a wordless walk-on as a “Dyke with Cigarette.” She was just out of NYU Tisch Acting School, and I have no doubt that Kevin, had he lived, would’ve been right up there on the Great White Way with her.
Actually, his back on the poster of “Dude” was immortalized in one of Broadway’s great flops. He played Dude, the title role that would have made him an instant star. It was written for him as a tribute by Ragni, but he was fired from it, by producers who I always felt were jealous of Kevin and Ragni’s relationship.
After Gerri’s death, Kevin was able to survive and thrive on his own, even so far as acting on Broadway in “Side Man” and “Twelve Angry Men.”
He’s the big guy on the far left of this “Side Man” picture.
He was well on his way to establishing himself as his own man and his own independent, always working actor.
According to The New York Times obit, he had no survivors, but he will be deeply missed by all his theater friends.