VAN NUYS, Calif.—As one attendee at the Celebration of Life for the late Christian Mann put it, "I don't know of anyone else in the industry who'd get so many people in one room celebrating his life." That's not surprising given Mann's long résumé at a variety of adult companies—including California Publishers Liquidating Corp. (CPLC), Catalina Video, Video Team, Metro Media and, finally, Evil Angel, as well as the Free Speech Coalition Board of Directors—but the outpouring of affection had as much to do with who he was personally as it did with his industry affiliations.
The celebration of the 53-year-old's life—abbreviated but well lived—which took place at the Airtel Plaza Hotel on Valjean Avenue on Friday evening, attracted an estimated 600-plus people who eventually filled the hotel ballroom to standing-room-only capacity. Though guests started arriving at 4 p.m., it was a half-hour before the room was called to order and Paul Fishbein, Mann's longtime friend, welcomed the guests—and explained that the entire affair had been orchestrated by Mann himself, "every minute of it," from his hospice bed—including the menu, which consisted of hot dogs, chili, potato chips, cookies and various beverages. (Later it was acknowledged that Marci Hirsch and Vicky Kaplan had taken care of the details of pulling the event together.)
"Christian would have loved this," Fishbein began, adding, "He first asked me to do the eulogy a year and a half ago, when he just was diagnosed ... and it was actually at a time when we actually thought that he was going to beat this. It was in the same conversation where he said he was going to be the one person who was going to be in the New England Journal of Medicine as the guy who beat this insidious disease, but then he said to me, 'But if not, you're doing my eulogy.' And I said, 'It's a year and a half off. Let's write it together, let's have a service now, let's have a party now, and you can hear all these great things people are going to say about you, which they would have said when you were dead, only you'd be alive, then you beat the disease, and we'd have this fucked-up moment where we already celebrated and you're still here.'"
"Christian is the best person many of you will ever know," he stated. "I know he's one of the best people I've ever known."
Fishbein went on to describe how Mann used the lessons he'd learned from his early days as an addict, and how he shared those philosophies with his friends and associates who weren't in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)—and more importantly, lived them himself.
"When I met him was over 30 years ago, and it's all a blur," Fishbein admitted. "It feels like he was always there, always a part of my life, always part of this core group of friends who all kind of are the same age and started together in the same business, and whose friendship has nothing to do with the business that we're in."
Fishbein then launched into a series of stories about Mann—"More shared experiences than you could fit into a novel," Fishbein put it—and as the evening progressed, it seemed that almost everyone who knew him had a humorous or quirky story to relate about their interactions with the father of three.
"There's a bunch of stuff I can't really talk about because some things have to be left in the archives," he said ominously. "Let's just say that more than a few grenades were jumped on, and that is a real friend." That sentiment too was echoed by several other speakers.
Fishbein also directed comments to Mann's three sons, Kurt, Joey and Chandler, saying, "There's nothing I can say to you guys that's going to make this easy. You all know how your father was, what his hopes and dreams for the three of you were, and how he would have hoped to see you manage your lives. You're adults; it's time for you to make choices for yourselves, not your father. But keep your dad in mind when you make those choices. Stop and ask yourselves, 'What would he think?' And I guarantee you'll make better choices. Because all he ever wanted for the three of you were to be happy, productive people, to live your lives morally and with the same dignity that he lived his. He's not here to tell you that anymore, but you know what he would say to you."
"And Melissa: You know how thrilled he was to have found you, his intellectual sparring partner," Fishbein added, addressing Mann's wife. "He never stopped making it clear to me what you meant to him. For me, there's no silver linings when you lose someone who you love, but if there was a silver lining, meeting you and spending the kind of time that we spent together, that only the closest friends spend together, means so much to me and I'm proud to say you're one of us."
Fishbein then introduced a video excerpt from a documentary on the adult industry that directors Wesley Emerson and Luc Wylder are in the process of producing.
"My life has been very unusual," Mann said from beyond the grave. "I've been rich and I've been poor, not only as an adult but in my childhood. ... Between my mother and my father, they gave me an interest in literature and culture and the human condition. ... One of the most defining moments of my life was the morphine from a 27-year-old, 26-year-old young guy making more money than he should, not knowing what to do with it, being insecure and living in daily fear and finding that drugs and alcohol were the only outlet for that that made sense, and what at age 27 was now a 15-year thing—I started really at age 12, became a daily pot smoker really because I just wanted to be cool, but before long, the drug culture of the '70s and my need for self-medication to fill that void changed when I got sober and sometime later met men who taught me about living a principled life in a way that would make it possible for me to feel comfortable in my skin.
"These guys taught me how to live in the now," he continued, "how to not be propelled by a host of character defects, whether it's fear or self-centeredness (which I still suffer with); insecurity, not living in today, greed—all of these things that are somewhat instincts gone awry—these guys changed my life and made it possible for me to conduct myself in my personal relationships, my business relationships in a way that works for me and to lead as close to a principled life as I can, imperfect as I am, and to find myself, at age 52, facing what is considered to be a life-ending disease. I have cholangiocarcinoma. The average life expectancy for someone with that disease is one year to 18 months, and I've had this diagnosis for a month, so while I'm giving it my fight, that watershed moment that happened when I got sober almost 25 years ago is making it possible for me today to do it without an inordinate amount of fear, to do it in a way that makes me feel purposeful and of service, not just to myself but to the people I love, and to not cheat this day out of its value because of a fear of what's going to happen tomorrow.
"So I'm living my life, I'm in the middle of it now, and I'm doing it not just with a sense of purpose but with a sense of joy," he explained. "My interpretation of what a higher power would be, whether some people want to call it 'God' or whatever, and I'm not getting into what works for others, but my interpretation of what it means to me is that thing that wants me to be joyous, happy, free and to be of service to others in that same pursuit. ... There is no joy, no greed, no sex, no anything that really competes with the orgasm, if you will, that I get from making someone else feel good."
Mann's brother Jason was the next to speak, and spent his few minutes reflecting on Christian's musical tastes, which included the Beatles, and he encouraged the audience to seek out their tune "Golden Slumbers" and "think of it in your head."
"I will say this about my brother: He was, especially these last 18 months, man, he just—he got even better; he became an even better person. Wasn't to say he wasn't ever an asshole, because he was; he could be longwinded and opinionated. Our friend Richie once said of him, 'Man, you ask the guy what time it is, he tells you how to build a fucking clock.' It's true."
He also called his brother "a collector of guys. He had guys everywhere—and guys could be gals too, but we'd be pulling up to someplace, he'd pull up in the red curb, and I'd go, 'Christian, it's a red curb,' and he goes, 'It's okay; I got a guy.' And sure enough, a guy would run out, 'Hey, Christian, how are you? Come on; all set.'"
"So let me assure you that, wherever he went, he had a guy waiting," he concluded.
Christian's sister Melissa Villaneuva spoke more briefly. Where Jason had said he'd wanted to do a song while up at the podium, Melissa said she wanted to do a dance. Instead, she told of Mann's last hours, when she and his wife Melissa had been constantly at his bedside.
"One morning we woke up, and I looked at him and I said, 'Christian, are you pissed that you woke up today?' And he said, 'Yeah, I don't have anything else to say. I said everything I need to say.' I said, 'Oh, dude, I'm sorry.' He looks at me and he says, 'Wait, I have one more thing to say.' And I thought, Oh my god, I'm going to hear this man's last words. So I grabbed his frail little hand and waited and waited—Christian kept me waiting, as was his style—and he looks at me and he goes, 'You're ugly.' That's what I'm going to miss. I'm going to miss all that crap he gave me."
The next scheduled speaker was Paul Cambria, who was Mann's personal attorney and had consulted with him on many legal issues affecting the adult industry, particularly in Mann's position as president of the Free Speech Coalition Board of Directors.
"There was an announcement about Christian's passing, and it said, February 3, 1961, and then there was a dash, and it said July 30, 2014," he began. "We all know what the February 3 was, very important day, the day Christian was born. And we know what the July 30 was, because that's the day we lost him. But it's the dash in the middle that's Christian's life. We know when he was born, we know when he passed, but the dash represents his life.
"Now many people have said that Christian's dash wasn't long enough, and you know, in the adult business, you don't want to be saying anything about somebody's dash not being long enough," he quipped, and the audience of more than 600 responded with muted laughter. "And some people felt that maybe Christian's dash wasn't significant, and obviously he would expect me as his friend and lawyer to defend the significance of his dash and to convince you that it wasn't too short a dash, too small a dash; it was long enough for him, but as we know how these things go, it depends how you measure to determine the length and importance and significance."
Cambria continued extolling the virtues of Mann's dash: "So, to defend the significance of Christian's dash, I think we have to talk about how we're going to measure it. If we measure it by character, if we measure it by loyalty, friendship, articulation, intelligence, the ability to have all the people you see in this room come here to celebrate his life, if we measure it by that, then I think Christian had a John Holmesian size dash."
Cambria kept returning to the "dash" theme as he talked about Mann's compassion and knowledge and ability to bring opposing sides together.
"He was a loyal and true friend to all of us," Cambria said, "and you know, Christian has inserted that dash of his into each one of us; maybe some people more than others, but he has definitely done so, because every one of us has a little Christian Mann that will never leave us in our existence and our life. We will think about this day and marvel at all the people he touched in such a positive fashion.
"So I say this: If we think about the size of Christian's dash and the worth of Christian's dash, meaning his life, it's gargantuan," Cambria concluded. "There would be no one in the industry, I think, with a bigger, more important dash, or life, than Christian. We're gonna miss you Christian; you're one in a million. I can see that smirk, little snide kind of smile, always there with a quip and always ready to say something that was important. He was significant. He was an individual who put his mark on you and it was a good mark; it was something that made you a better person, and you could appreciate these great qualities that he had. Farewell, buddy; you are one of the best."
Fishbein then asked those who had earlier indicated they wanted to speak to come up to the stage in threes, and while some apparently thought better of it and stayed in the audience, the first to give voice to his thoughts was Good Vibrations' Joel Kaminsky. He described meeting Mann in San Francisco in 1987.
"A bunch of guys went out and got plastered, of which Christian was one of them," he began, "and came back the next day, didn't look too good, and said to me, 'How come you don't want to go out with us?' And I said, 'Oh, I don't do that anymore.' And he says, 'Oh, you're one of those AA guys,' and I said, 'Yeah,' and he asked me about it, and I said, 'Well, it's just not my thing. I'm a junkie; you don't want to get me started. I like to be home by next year.' Long story short, a few months later, I get a call, somewhere in '88—I guess that's when he did get sober. He said, 'I just want to tell you, I'm going to meetings.' I said, 'Really?' He says, 'Yeah. Can you tell me how you did it?' I said, 'It's real easy, Christian; you just don't take the next one.' He says, 'Yeah, but tell me more.' I says, 'I don't know more.' ... We went to a meeting together and he got his 60-day chip, or 90, whatever it was, and he just grilled me. He wanted to know more about what it's like to live sober, and I'm in the industry, he's in the industry, and I told him the challenges of being in the industry and it was all around us, especially at that time in the movie industry, and he just grabbed it."
Kaminsky went on to extol Mann's intelligence, and noted that even while Mann was in his hospital "riddled with cancer," he nonetheless texted Kaminsky to ask how his bad back was doing.
"That basically says it all," Kaminsky concluded. "He was thoughtful, considerate. I told him through these texts how proud I was of how he was handling himself in this whole battle and everything, and he said he owed it to me, he owed it to guys like me. He deflected all the time, his humility reeked out of every pore, and I'm so grateful to have known Christian and carry Christian in my heart from here on in... We call this the infinity chip he now has."
Glenn King went Kaminsky one better, describing Mann as "my hero," and talked about his last golf game with Mann, who was in pain while on the course, but nonetheless managed to win the game "by the largest margin of any we'd played."
"I learned about Christian; I learned a lot about the industry, I learned about the kind of man he was," King said. "I learned he was the kind of guy who looked out for other people. ... He was the kind of guy that took anyone under his wing that he thought he could help, and that makes him different. ... He was the kind of guy who was a mentor. He helped me with my business, my personal life, my career. He never told me what to do; he just mentored me by asking questions and giving hints and letting me reach my own conclusions. ... I'm sort of known as the king of ass worship, but I like what Paul Cambria said: 'I admire Christian's dash,' so today, I'll be the king of dash worship, because he had a great dash."
Next up was former director Paul Norman, who'd directed several movies for Video Team, of which Mann was a part owner. In particular, he directed the early parody Edward Penishands, based on an idea from Mann, and its two sequels.
"I saw Chris about three weeks ago," Norman said of his visit to Mann's bedside. "He motioned me to come closer, which I did, and in a voice barely above a whisper, he said, 'My memorial's going to be a fucking love fest. You have to tell all the bad stories.' Then he made a gesture like this, and it's a gesture that he, I and I think Joey often made; it reminds us of Valley Heart. Valley Heart is just a street in the valley, a place where we rented a house. It was in that place that life changed for all of us. The easy description of that time, of Christian in his 20s, was sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, but it was so much more than that. Christian had the world in front of him and he wanted to run with it."
Norman went on to describe how Mann "wouldn't come home with one girl, he wouldn't come home with two girls; he'd come home with a whole group of girls, and you had to be careful when you walked into Christian's room, because you couldn't be sure who was being tied up under the covers or in the corner. ... I think I've made more breakfasts for Christian's guests than I have for anyone other than my own kids. ... I owe much of my career to Christian. I don't think there would have been a Paul Norman without him. ... But it's not the crazy nights or the movies when I think of Christian; it's the kindness and advice that was there throughout his lifetime. He was always there with the words that sometimes you didn't want to hear. He was a true friend. He told you what he thought regardless of the outcome."
As should be obvious by now, there was a lot of humor gushing forth at the celebration, but few got the laughs that Larry Paciotti, aka Chi Chi LaRue, did.
"This day is both fucked up and fabulous at the same time," Pacciotti began. "I loved Christian Mann. He hired me 28 years ago when I moved from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Los Angeles, California with no money in my pocket, and"—at which point he began to weep openly, saying, "I'm sorry; I'm a queer, so I'm gonna cry," a sentiment understood by all present.
"I applied for this job and walked in and sat across a desk from just a cutie pie with a big nose, so Jewish, so cute, just little—and I was this 360-pound man thing that dressed in drag and he hired me on the spot because I told him his movie was better than Paul Norman's," Paciotti recalled.
"You know, I'm looking at people in here I haven't seen for years, and it all comes rushing back to me, and the days at that house, with Jeanna Fine and Seka and Bionca drunk, falling into the rose bushes and their legs all cut up with thorns—but still posing fabulously for pictures," he continued. "That was my life in the beginning with him. And you know, being a big giant gay drag queen porno-loving freak was embraced by this wonderful little Jewish fucker."
This wasn't the last time that someone would try to make the point that Mann was Jewish, but in fact he wasn't, though as AVN's Peter Warren explained later, he apparently was planning to convert to Judaism. But as Paciotti summed it up, "He's a Jew to me! He hired me, I made lots of money, we used to do cocaine on his desk—he was a Jew!" he exclaimed.
"He had tolerance and acceptance and was the ultimate friend," he concluded, "and you can take that to the Jewish bank!"
Next up was veteran actress Julia Ann, who said she'd wanted to read a poem in his honor, but knew that she'd never be able to get through it without crying.
"I won't be able to say much of anything," she sobbed, "other than the fact that he's somebody that, whenever I saw the [AVN Awards] show, it automatically filled me with pride just knowing that he was in our business. I've always loved this industry so much, but he made me love it even more, and those times that I get full of myself at an AVN show, because we get all wrapped up in the fact that we have to have our wardrobe a certain way, our makeup a certain way, our jewelry has to match for our five hours of signing because our fans have to take a picture, I would just look at him and see him walking down a hallway as I walk in, and he would just like bring me to earth, just his face. Suddenly we're just all human again."
The next speaker was Peter White, who'd been Mann's sponsor at AA—a situation he described as "the blind leading the blind"—and noted that Mann had offered his offices as an AA meeting place, saying, "That was classic Christian: Always the first one to step forward to help out. That's the way he was for the 12 years I knew him."
"I wouldn't want any one to go through what he had to go through the last 18 months of his life," White concluded, "but he did so with such dignity, and his ability to open up to everyone who wanted to be close to him, who wanted to have that moment with him—he was so generous of his time and family life to allow us to come in and be with him, to let him know how much we cared, and in turn, it allowed us to see someone with a huge, huge heart. He was always concerned about the other person, not himself, and I feel truly, truly blessed to have gotten to know him and walk through this journey with him."
Joey Wilson, who'd gone to high school with Mann, was the next speaker, and in a sense, his brief talk was the opposite of White's. Wilson regaled the audience with tales of the Valley Heart house—"I always used to say I was safer on the road than in that house," Wilson stated—and a long narrative about how Christian had accompanied him to Las Vegas to settle a gambling debt, which didn't work out quite as planned—and the audience loved it.
UC-Santa Barbara professor Constance Penley then took the stage.
"I teach porn," she began, noting that she's been teaching that film course for 20 years, in an attempt to bring the history of the adult movie "fully into academia." However, her main reason for speaking this evening seemed to be to announce the fact that in a recently published volume from M.I.T. Press, Mann had been interviewed along with many other "media moguls" regarding the business of media.
The only person to speak of Mann's days as head of Video Team was his former production manager, Kimberly Wynn.
"One of the moments that I always remember was when we would prepare every year to go to our annual trip to Adam & Eve," she recalled, "and Christian was always the one who would always wait till the very last minute and say, 'Okay, what are we going to do? What are we going to present?' And during that time, our relationship just grew over the years. ... I'm just grateful to have known him and I just want to applaud him and all that he instilled in all of us."
Mann's boss John Stagliano spoke next, but much of what he said has already been printed in recent articles: about how he met Mann in an airport, and that the discussions they'd had there led to his eventual hiring as Evil Angel's general manager.
"He always had stuff on his mind," Stagliano offered, adding, "It was so much fun to have Chris in the office every day."
While there was no formal break between the speakers, the festivities did pause for a few moments to play a song in tribute to Mann: Bruce Springsteen's "You're Missing," whose opening lyrics are, "Shirts in the closet, shoes in the hall / Mama's in the kitchen, baby and all / Everything is everything / Everything is everything / But you're missing."
The son was followed by video tributes from several Evil Angel directors: Rocco Siffredi, who described Mann as "one of the most incredible guys in the history of this business"; James Deen, who deemed Mann "amazing"; and David Perry, who recalled playing tennis with Mann.
Exile Distribution's Howard Levine described having met Mann when Levine was working at General Video West and Mann was repping Catalina Video, which Levine described as their "best-selling gay line"—but when Mann pulled up in a limousine, and stepped out wearing trousers, a tie and a blue blazer, Levine's first thought was, "He's gay. But then again, like Larry, I could have sworn that he was Jewish and that maybe this was some terrible joke his parents had played on people like me by naming him 'Christian.' ... When I became clean and sober, there was two people I called, and Christian was the first and Joel Kaminsky was the second... He was my first call on the road to recovery as I imagine he was for so many other people; he touched so many people that way. When I got my six-month chip, Christian came to give it to me as well as Steven [Hirsch] did, and it was a really big deal for me."
Levine also recalled, on a recent trip to Vegas, meeting Mann and Melissa at the In-And-Out Burger at an outlet mall, and when Levine commented that Mann shouldn't be indulging in the Double-Double and fries that his doctors had warned him not to eat, Mann simply said, "I don't care; I'm gonna eat it."
"We had a great lunch and reminisced about people and places, and when I told him how good he was looking and asked him how he was dealing with it all, he said, 'One day at a time, my friend.' He was much loved and highly respected and I will miss him dearly."
Another person who knew Mann beginning with his Video Team days was actor Mr. Marcus, who began, "I thought he was Jewish, too!"
Marcus noted that they met after Marcus had received an emergency call to replace an actor during a sex scene, which led to a 20-year friendship.
"When I went through what I went through a few years ago, Christian was the first person to step up and offer advice and arrange meetings," Marcus recalled. "I battled him; I'm a black dude from Pomona, and I had my way of thinking, and I always wanted his approval, but I rarely got it, but I would fight so hard for this guy because he was just one of those dudes, I knew he was a stand-up guy. ... To the end, he stayed positive. Cancer may have taken his body, but it never took his mind."
Another of Mann's longtime friends, John Soporno, spoke next, noting that they'd corresponded and spoke to one another often over the years, in many cases to ask for his advice, which he would give unstintingly.
"For anyone here who also knew that they could call upon Christian to give them sound, reasonable advice that they would not get from anyone else, but he would come through and tell them to do what they wanted to do, or tell them why they mustn't do the thing that they'd really like to do but they know it would not be a good call," he said. "For those people, you knew Christian well enough that he will be a part of you forever, as I know he will be for me, because before I would pick up the phone to call, I already knew what he was going to tell me, and so I know that for the rest of my life, I'm going to continue to have conversations with Christian despite the fact that he will not be in a position to answer, which is fine."
"I can only say, as Christian would say, 'That funny thing called life, none of us get out of it alive,'" began actor Julian St. Jox when it became his turn to speak. "This is a big room full of people who know Christian very well, but believe me, he's affected millions more with what he did for the industry by putting quality productions into African-American and ethnic product. I think that changed the perception of adult for a lot of people out there in the world. ... He got the best out of everybody, because he was being his best. He was a mentor to me in a lot of ways; he gave me an opportunity to be me, and I appreciate it."
Journalist/blogger Gram Ponante spoke next, and spent his time telling the audience how Mann had essentially saved director David Aaron Clark's life, giving him an opportunity to direct features again.
"Toward the end, as kind of the bottom dropped out, he [Clark] lived less and less on commissions and more and more on hope, and unfortunately, that's a fatal condition in this business," Ponante said. "But towards the end of his [Clark's] life, Christian, who was a great friend of his, plucked him out of despair and gave him a job at Evil Angel, I think he gave him a job DVD authoring, and he also threw him a bone and let David direct probably his greatest film, and the one that he really felt proud of. It was a movie based on Realm of the Senses called Pure. ... David Aaron Clark wrote me an email, saying, 'Christian saved my life, he's a sweet man,' and I think everybody feels that way about him. ... Everybody needs to be a little bit more of a Christian man."
Another high school friend of Mann's, Sandy Hart, spoke next, recalling, "I met Christian in the summer of 1977 in Palos Verdes, through this band of brothers; we were all friends. ... He was my best friend; he was this fearless, awkward, lanky, questionably insecure and audacious kid and he knew the answer to everything, and he also knew a lot of things that I didn't think I needed to know, the words to every single song, the words to every singly Monty Python skit, and a lot of information that I thought was useless and probably was the key to the universe. ... Christian was the smartest and the funniest person I ever knew. Oh, and I was reminded tonight, my mother thought he was Jewish too, and he let her believe that. It was fun to watch him play with her, and if memory serves me correctly, I'm sure he also carried on some conversations in Yiddish with her."
The final speaker from the audience was Lexington Steele, who lauded Mann's even-handedness in dealing with people.
"One of the things that was important about Christian was that he didn't discern between the levels that a person was; he gave the same amount of attention to an individual that he would give to the president of a company or big distributor; it didn't matter to him," Steele said. "One of the key skills that Christian displayed for me was his ability to listen to people, and when you were in conversation with him, he gave you 100 percent of his attention, and you felt that you were in conversation with a person that really was paying attention to what you guys were sharing. ... When I started in L.A. in 1998, Christian talked to me like a man; he didn't talk to me like and object or a performer. ... He was one of the people who was very forthright in terms of career direction. I speak on behalf of the other performers that are not here: He had compassion for people from the ground up."
The penultimate speaker was Mann's wife, Melissa, and her words were very much in tune with the evening's theme, the "Celebration of Life."
After an outpouring of support evidenced by a standing ovation from those assembled, Melissa began by noting that, although her husband wasn't Jewish, he was planning to convert, and that her researches had shown that his father Kurt was Jewish—and that her husband definitely was not gay, though on their first date, she'd had her doubts because he knew what brand of boots she was wearing.
"I gotta tell ya, it has been a ride—a crazy, terrible, exhilarating, beautiful, painful, adrenaline-drenched, life-changing ride for me, and it hasn't lasted that long," she said. "I have to admit I'm a little jealous of all y'all, because you've all known him longer than I have. ... I want to hear all of [his stories] and we've got lots of time, because I'm still here."
She discussed his sobriety and his family, but noted that "he found a niche that he liked, he found an age that really suited him ... and then he found me. But it took us decades to be ready for each other, to know that there could be human sanctuary where the serenity that eluded you in this meat-space out here might be embodied in the connection of two souls."
She told of their first time in bed together—in two different cities—and how they cemented their relationship by phone and how she was won over by some of the sentiments he expressed.
"A year later, when we were unquestionably together, and I told him how much his words that night had meant to me, he grinned and rolled his eyes. 'You mean you believed that shit?' Lesson learned, darling; thank you very much; never again," she joked.
She made light of Mann's devotion to his work, which kept him constantly looking at his phone, but noted, "I realized that his passion for perfection was part of what gave him his incredible energy," she said. "Christian bounced. ... He would never let anything get the better of him."
"A nice conversation between the two of us might swing from Van Morrison's predilection for cross-dressing, geometric proportions in distributive justice, Raphael Nidal's knee problems and the possibility that the French Open was up for grabs, Richard Nixon's paranoia, Mott the Hoople's third album and why it was a misunderstood classic, a childhood story about skiing home in Switzerland, all punctuated with his hands pounding out a tattoo on the steering wheel in time to the song on the radio," she summarized. "Seventies guitar rock; it had to be '70s guitar rock; English, not American, unless Paul Rogers was in it; then he changed the station. There were so many rules with Christian that you couldn't keep track of them all!"
Her memories of her time with Christian came flooding out, at nearly breakneck speed.
"But for the next three years, Christian and I were at the center of this little tiny universe that we inhabited, unashamedly focused on each other," she stated, "and finally, we were focusing entirely on him, and if you'd seen the two of us any time in the last year, we weren't apart; only the very brief times that we were, and it was excruciating for both of us because I had this compulsion to be with him, to care for him and for him to know that he was completely, totally loved. ... His passion for life, for this life in this moment was wider than the blue sky overhead, and together, we made the world our own."
Her talk was filled with memorable phrases, both about Christian and about life in general, and she spent several minutes discussing how he learned that he had cancer: a trip to the emergency room on New Year's Eve of 2013.
"He turned, not away from confrontation, but directly into the center of his pain," she said. "The courage he showed amazed me and it made me recognize that anything I showed that was less was not acceptable, and I said this to a lot of people, but you would do the same for the person who was the love of your life."
"You know what there is to know about Christian," she said. "You know that he was brilliant, that he was talented, that he was funny, creative, he was audacious, he was generous, he was kind. All these things that you've said about him today and more, he was more of those things. I'm the lucky woman with whom he chose to share his life, and I'm deeply grateful for everything he shared."
"I want you to help me; help me get to know this man better," she pleaded. "I knew him better than any of you in so many ways, but there are things about him that you hold dear that will make me laugh until I fall out of my chair. Those are the stories I want to hear. Take me to dinner. I'm a cheap date, I promise. Tell me the stories that I don't know, and I'll tell you how strong and brave and nearly as smart as I he was. But I want to hear how he made you laugh, how he drove you crazy." After she finished speaking, the crowd once again leapt to its feet.
The evening's final speaker was Steve Hirsch, and he began, through tears, by acknowledging some of the people who'd helped Mann in his final days, and who'd helped put this event together, including Melissa his wife and Melissa his sister, as well as Howie Klein, Michael Warner and Paul Fishbein, whom he described as "great guys, amazing friends," and many, many more.
"When I was thinking about what I wanted to say, it was very difficult and very emotional—so I decided to write Christian a letter," he said.
In it, Hirsch reflected on their 30-year friendship, saying, "You were the first one to reach out and help anyone, any time; that was you."
He went on to talk about a plane ride the two of them took to Chicago.
"I don't know if it was that I found you interesting, or it was the fact that you had the drugs," he half-joked. "Probably a little of both... In the early days, you would come by the office, hang out for hours and we would party, and more and more." Hirsch also recalled finding out that Mann was in rehab, an activity that Hirsch himself engaged in three months later.
"It was because of you," he said of Mann. "You saved my life. I'm not sure I ever thanked you for that, but today, I do."
Hirsch spoke of "those damned football trips" that he and Mann, Fishbein and Frank Koretsky had taken together, and declared that he would never go on one again—but he recalled their most recent trip, which Mann did take even though he was in great pain, made worse by "Colonel Fishbein having us up at 5 a.m. so we could make an 8 p.m. game. But you hung in there, never complained, not once."
He spoke of some of the concerts that he and Mann had attended together: "You were sick but you wanted to go. We only stayed half the time but I think you enjoyed it. I'm glad you did. I knew it would probably be the last show we would go to together, and it was sad—and even worse, it was Jethro Tull."
He also described learning that Mann had cancer, and the emotions attendant to that discovery.
"You never felt sorry for yourself, even when it got toward the end," he said. "You handled it with courage, dignity and with grace. I just don't know how you woke up every morning knowing you would die. ... Through it all, you never lost your sense of humor. I remember right at the end, you called me over to the bed, you could barely talk, and you whispered in my ear, 'I always liked you more than Paul'"—a remembrance that brought down the house.
"Seems like only yesterday, we were sitting in my office, laughing, making fun of Paul," he concluded. "Thirty years, wow, they went so fast. I'm forever grateful to have known you and to share so much of my life with you. All the memories will live with me forever. Goodnight, my friend. Goodbye, my friend."
Hirsch then asked for a moment of silence "for all of us to remember Christian Mann, remember how he touched every one of us, remember how he just wanted to make us happy and comfortable, remember how he made us a better person."
It was a fitting end to an extraordinary evening.
Also present at the event, in no particular order, were Dan O'Connell, Moose, Susan and Larry Colvin, Al Bloom, Fred Hirsch, Chuck Zane, James Melendy, Mo Reese, Alex Chance, Jeffrey Douglas, Reed Lee, Dave and Lynn Swanson, Constance Penley, Mireille Miller-Young, Bill Margold, Karen Summer, Eric Edwards, Michael Whiteacre, Diane Duke, Joanne Cachapero, Bob Christian, Marci Hirsch, Brad Armstrong, Jessica Drake, Wesley Emerson, Jim South, Ron Braverman, Kim Airs, Alec Helmy, Dan Miller, Tod Hunter, Tori Welles, Anita Cannibal, Colin Rowntree, Brian Gross, Luc Wylder, Alexandra Silk, Kevin Beechum, Brandy Aniston, Mark Spiegler, Jonni Darkko, Manuel Ferrara, Kayden Kross, Bryn Pryor, Casey Calvert, Brandy Aniston, Anton Slayer, Raylene, Bobbi Starr, Tanya Tate, Alexander "Monstar" Raymond, Axel Braun, Will Ryder, Gary Miller, Steve Orenstein, Renee Preston, Ssippi, Francesca Le, Mark Wood, David Peskin, Amanda Fishbein, Kevin Moore, Frank Koretsky, Dennis D., Lissa Baren, Joey Silvera, Adam Grayson, Jack Napier, Steve Volponi, Raven Touchstone, Mick Blue, Anikka Albrite, Samantha Lewis, Jules Jordan, Jackie White, James Bartholet, Steve Holmes, Dana Vespoli, Nate Glass ... and many, many more.