(Neil ) Patrick Hillan, 47, a Los Angeles based actor and producer originally from the United Kingdom was killed along with 2 other people in a tragic accident on the 101 freeway in the early morning hours of May 23, 2010. Patrick studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London was the founder and artistic director of the award winning John Montgomery Theater Company in New York and London. Over the long holiday weekend Patrick was celebrated and memorialized by over a hundred friends and family members. Friday May 28th many friends from an acting studio where Patrick studied for 10 years gathered at El Torito in Sherman Oaks to lift a glass and karaoke in his honor long into the night. On Memorial Day, May 31st Patrick’s friends and co workers from Bon Appétit / Getty Center where Patrick was the restaurant manager for many years, memorialized him with a beautiful gathering on a downtown LA rooftop. Patrick was remembered with beautiful words and song.
To the many of who studied and worked with Patrick over the years, this is not only a loss of a brilliant actor, but the loss of a cherished friend. I first meet Patrick in a soap opera class nearly 10 years ago. I asked for his number, not because of his always smiling blue eyes or his wicked sexy British accent, (well, only because we were both spoken for at the time) but because he was the best actor in the class. The way expressed gentle vulnerability in his work was so charismatic, I thought, with any luck we could continue to work together as actors. I was even luckier, because we became friends. Well, not right away. It took Patrick a bit to realize that this uptight- all- business, A type personality American gal (his word was stronger, more precise, rhymed with witch) anyway, that this girl he knew at the actors studio could actually party like a Brit when you got her across the parking lot to the bar. So with the first of many Margaritas our friendship was sealed.
Although, Patrick worked in the catering industry for the last several years he always found a way to be supportive of our plays and standup comedy. He would cater our opening night parties by dropping off food he prepared and then rushing off to work himself. I remember returning the favor when I had to steal and slightly damage my brother’s car cause mine had broken down and I had waited until the last night to catch him star in the a play at Sierra Madre Playhouse. I found his comic timing to be impeccable that performance, so much so, that I picked up all the left over programs of the theater floor after the show and stuffed a ballot box with votes for him as “Best Actor”. Not that he really needed my help, he was clearly THE BEST. (And by the way, I still believe that Patrick didn’t end up working on the TV show “Frasier” that time because he was just a much funnier and sexier bugger than Kelsey Grammar character, in my humble opinion.)
Patrick’s friend, Anthony said to me the other night, that Patrick felt I was a rock for him, but really I was more like jelly fish and Patrick the rock for me. The night Patrick found out his mom passed back in the UK we meet at El Torito, of course. I was going through my typical man drama at the time, but trying so hard to be strong for Patrick. By the end of the night he was laughing at me over his beer because I as usual, was the one in tears.
Just two weeks ago we buried my grandmother in New England; she was blessed with 50 more years than Patrick will see. Like Patrick, she was an avid learner and traveler; she traveled the world until she was very late in age. When watching “Wheel of Fortune” and the guest were faced with a choice of prizes, she would yell at the TV : “Take the trip and shove the rest”. So it got me thinking about Patrick’s short trip- his journey on the plane. I have come to believe that our lives should be measured not so much by years, but by joy- the joy we feel-the joy we give. You needed only to look in Patrick’s eyes and the eyes of the people who were around him to see that he was a master of that! So to end this, my prayer is that we can all take lessons from Patrick’s journey – fallow your passion- your art- where ever it leads you, be gentle, loving, kind, and generous with yourself and others including our four legged friends, eat and drink good food and fellowship with great people often, tell the truth in art and in life, and even in hardship find a way to laugh and smile.
Adios, my dear friend.
Photo credit: Deborah Vancelette