Michael Breen grew up on Emporium Avenue. He loved the Beatles like I did. He came to my house once because he wanted me to help him figure out the descending guitar figure that introduced the verses of “Help”. He wore collarless shirts and vests. I wished I could dress like him. I couldn’t pull it off, and I couldn’t afford it in any event. He was decidedly his own man, even as a boy. A fully formed human, with none of the petty insecurities or games that the people around him, his contemporaries, were forced to endure every day.
He was the “oldest” high school student I ever knew. He was literate, well-read, musical, and a fabulous actor. This he would not let you forget. I learned the game by watching Mike. See, there were these token auditions where you would ostensibly be trying out for a spot in “Stage Choir”, a very select group, indeed. Though I imagine the group was already pretty much decided by our music teacher, it was really a time to sharpen your claws on people less talented than you. Mike could’ve sung “Turkey In The Straw” while performing vivisection on Mary Lou Retton and still be given a pass. Eschewing the commonplace, he performed the opening number from “Sweeney Todd”! Oh, everyone wet their fucking pants watching him strut his stuff. He didn’t just sing. He acted it out. Aching in its sincerity, but galling in its needlessness. He spit out the words as if Sondheim himself was dangling a playbill and a contract in front of him.
In the spring, West Senior put on their massive, expensive production of “Fiddler On the Roof”. Mike was Tevye. Auditions were held (as if FOTR wasn’t chosen to jibe with his talent exactly beforehand…) and I was cast as Lazar Wolfe, a rarely achieved (ahem) Sophomore lead role. In fact, I used the name Lazar Wolfe in some of my adult film appearances. “Le Chiam!!”
We were on stage during a rehearsal of the scene where Lazar and Tevye are arguing about the withdrawn betrothal of Tevye’s daughter. The entire cast is supposed to be arguing at this point. No one can hear us above the din. No one is supposed to. You know. “Peas and carrots, peas and carrots…”
Lazar (me): “Tevye…you promised your daughter’s hand to me!”
Tevye (Mike): “I’m sorry, Lazar…you see the bind I’m in…I cannot give her to you.”
Lazar: “Tevye, I can’t believe it! You’re a liar…”
Mike (who is no longer in character) : “STOP!!! (to the director and to me), Lazar Wolfe would NEVER call Tevye a liar. It simply was not done.” The directors quickly agreed, and my banter was adjusted accordingly.
And so it was.
The last thing I remember about Michael Breen was his dissertation on why he had to change his name to Michael D. Breen. Because there was already a Michael Breen with a SAG card. The guy had dreams. I had every reason to believe he would make them all come true.
I don’t mean this as a slight in any way. I just post this because it is really odd where people’s lives take us. Michael seems to be a success. You judge:
Michael, like so many ex-Buffalonians, is regarded as an “American” from “New York”. NYC is about 500 miles away from Buffalo.
Michael seems amused and a little irritated by the questions he’s facing. He strikes me as a man who had a few past lives and is toying with this new generation of blind people.
I like watching Michael’s videos and imagine him talking to a beautiful London escort as he unrolls another wad of bills and bids her stay past the appointed arrangement. That’s just me.