Today we celebrate the life of Richard-Charles Hoh. Richard was WFM’s eldest living artist and has been with us as an artist from the beginning of Watchfire Music. He lived on this planet with us for a fascinating 92 years and passed from us January 11, 2018.
Richard was (and remains) one of Julia’s and my closest friends.
I first met Richard in an elevator. I first got to know Richard in that same elevator—the elevator in Manhattan Plaza in NYC where we both lived. Richard was a working NY actor who was constantly out there every day making his rounds, auditioning, starring on Broadway, seeing the world performing on the ships tours around the world. For years I marveled at this dapper, joyful man who seemed to know everybody by name and simply lit up the elevator whenever I had the pleasure of riding up or down with him.
He began his show business career at age 7 as one of 8 brothers and sisters (and a father) comprising the Hoh FamilyOrchestra in Pennsylvania. He received his BFA in Drama at Goodman Theatre, Art Institute of Chicago. Summer and Winter Stock and TV shows brought him to New York City where he was the winner of the Garry Moore Talent Search at CBS- TV.
Following two years with Dom DeLuise as half of the Dick & Dom Comedy Act, Broadway saw Richard in Tovarich and The Student Gypsy, as well as Off-Broadway shows, including 2½ years as Captain Jim in the musical, Little Mary Sunshine.
Thirteen years of entertaining on cruise ships also gave Richard the opportunity to exercise his talents as an extraordinary portrait painter, having more than 350 to his credit (including Maureen Stapleton, Marian Mercer, Ruth Buzzi, etc.). Julia and I are the proud owners of one of his masterful portraits—of us.
One day after no connection except on the elevator, I got a call from Richard who hired me to produce his next album. At the time, he was 82 years old. I had no idea how that would work out, but that started a 10-year rich friendship with Julia and me that we will always cherish.
He also hired Frank Owens, one of NYC’s best studio pianists, as his musical director on the album. Together, we recorded 19 songs, all from his life of singing in the entertainment business. The album, Looking Back With Love – My Life In Song, has long been one of our great staple sellers. Don’t let the fact that he was 82 when the CD was recorded turn you away. This man had a lot of music in him still.
Julia and I lived on the 38th floor—Richard lived alone down on the 29th. I wouldn’t call him a lonely man. He was far too gregarious and loved by neighbors, guards, staff people and elevator riders. He always had a good word for everyone, a smile and a funny line or two for everyone alike. And everyone knew, and loved, Richard.
We began to invite Richard up to dinner and that started over a decade of friendship with this funny, charming man who ended up coming up for dinner every Thursday for the next 10 years.
Our dinner table talks always went on into the night as Richard remembered story after story of his life in show biz, his anecdotes of the people he starred with and the places around the world that he had visited.
In his latter days as his memory began to fail him, I always marveled that he had a tough time connecting the names, but he could still remember all the lyrics to just about every song he’d ever sung.
Our favorite dinner conversations often went like this: Richard would say, “Oh, remember that actor, uh, what’s her name, in that movie, uh, what was the title, uh, you know the one who was married to what’s his name who was also in that other movie, uh, you know, the one directed by …” You get the idea. I would always bring my iPad to the dinner table and be madly googling any clues he might be able to dredge up to get his point across.Sometimes he would get so frustrated that we’d all just break up laughing. Those dinners provided mountains of laughs over the years and a decade of Thursday night entertainment for all three of us.
The thing I’ll always remember about Richard was that he was (and I’m sure, still is) a truly funny man. He has a great wit. He saw the humor in all things and most every conversation ended with a laugh, for he saw the fun in life. It’s why we needed to be with him, get a great dose of him, week after week.
Richard loved people. And people loved him. The world is a sadder place for his passing, but a better place for his life.
If you are interested in Richard’s CD, “Looking Back With Love,” please click here.