Thursday, January 14, 2016
When we first met, you wanted to introduce me to everybody. Everybody.
I was there to interview you and Celine for her biography, but you wanted to make sure that everyone had a chance to speak to me if they wanted to, because they were all a part of Celine's success. You introduced me to musicians, lighting and sound crew, backstage help, casino staff, the caterer... you told me the caterer's specialty and suggested I come back to try it. You introduced everyone with the same respect, the same level of importance.
Later, when you walked me back out to the casino, you were beyond cordial when a group of fans came over to talk to you. It wasn't for appearances; you were so happy they were there-- so appreciative that they had traveled to come see Celine. Even though this happens every day, all the time, it still touched you and you still wanted to ask questions about their hometown. You introduced them to me, too!
"When Rene likes something, he wants to share it with everyone," Celine told me. She was talking about your propensity for bringing in loads of food and telling the crew, "You have to try this! It's the best!" but really, it was about her, too. You were so adorably proud of her and you just wanted everyone to hear what you heard in her.
Rene, in this life, you loved so well and you were loved so deeply in return. That is the pinnacle of life.
In one of my early interviews with Celine, I started, "Before 1988, which was when you lost your voice onstage..."
"'88 was my first kiss in Dublin!" she interrupted.
"Okay, that's one historic thing, but there was another important thing that happened that year..."
I was referring, of course, to the fact that she won the Eurovision Song Contest.
"Who cares about the song? What about the kiss?"
She turned into a giddy teenager before my eyes-- because of you. Her husband, father of her firstborn child... you were literally the only man she had ever really kissed and she still lit up at just the thought of you. That stunned me. In a world full of disposable relationships and temptation, you are the only person she ever wanted to love.
Before I saw you two together, I thought about your age difference. That disappeared the minute I met both of you. All I could see was love. Stunning, once-in-a-lifetime type of love. I asked you about Celine's best and worst qualities and you struggled so hard to think of one negative thing to say. Finally, you came up with the thought that it takes her a while to wake up in the mornings. That was it. I cannot even imagine having someone love me so much that that's the only flaw they can see.
You were so happy when your poker buddies came to see your wife perform. You were there every night for nearly her entire career, every performance, breathing with her, cheering her on and sending her love. And when your health faltered, it was so important to both of you that you were still there in her earpiece before each show and between numbers, telling her how wonderfully she was doing and how much you loved her.
You helped this woman soar to such great heights, and she was your greatest fan in return. Your last great act of love was to get her back to performing when you knew that she would need it... when it was clear that your time was running short and you wanted her to have somewhere to be again, where she would be supported and uplifted by all of her fans and her musical family as you made your crossing.
The message you left on my phone after you read the manuscript so many years ago is something I'll never forget. I can hear your voice, so soft and genuine, telling me, "I couldn’t stop reading the manuscript. It’s so well written, so good. It was really emotional for me at some times to read what you had written. You captured Céline so well and I’m really proud of you for doing that. I just wanted to thank you."
That is not the kind of message many biographers get from celebrity clients. I could have stayed a faceless nobody, but you both brought me into this circle of love, and it was easily one of the best experiences of my life. Both you and Celine were cut from the same cloth-- so warm, humble, and deeply caring. Somehow unjaded by the celebrity life that causes so many others to forget about anyone but themselves.
I can't imagine how you felt, knowing that you were going to leave this Earth soon. But I know that yours was a life well lived, and filled with one of the greatest loves I have ever witnessed. May it carry your family and friends forward. I feel very blessed to have known you and I will always carry you in my heart. Thank you for everything.