Jonathan Slater 1966-2016
Where to begin? It has to be from the beginning…
For me, that was 1977. I had just moved to Los Angeles from the L.A. suburbs. My parents were going through an acrimonious divorce. I’d bounced from school to school to school over the previous two years as my mother and father kept moving in the aftermath of their separation.
I landed at Ivanhoe Elementary School for 6th grade. My mother, and her sister Julie–having gone through her own divorce–rented a house to raise their four combined children: me, my sister, and my cousins. Ivanhoe was roughly two miles from my new home and I walked it most days.
6th Grade at Ivanhoe Elementary. Jonathan was the tall kid with dark hair in the back row. I was the doofy looking off his right shoulder.
My first day of school, knowing nothing about it or anyone going there for that matter, the teacher (can’t remember who that teacher was) assigned me to Jonathan Slater to show me the ropes around the school. I expected him–already a giant of a kid–to resent this additional duty of babysitting me. Me, this dorky 11 year year old with ridiculously long 1970’s hair and wearing hand me down clothes because we were incredibly poor. Instead, I experienced the character of Jonathan Slater for the first time. He not only took care of me, he befriended me and stayed close to me for the next 39 years.
I could highlight all the things we did, but instead, I’ll try to focus on him and how the things we did left impressions on me, shadows of him.
Jonathan introduced me to the Beatles. I mean, this was 1977-78, I knew of the Beatles – but not the way Jonathan knew the Beatles. He imparted his already vast 11-12 year old knowledge on me, forever making me a Lennon-McCartney fan. When I turned 12, we went to a Beatlemania concert at the Pantages theater for my birthday. To this day, I cannot listen to the Beatles without thinking of Jonathan.
Then I moved. I left California for Denver to start over, yet again. 1978, no internet, long distance phone calls were pricey – especially for a 12 year old. A cycle of falling out of touch began – a cycle that would continue over the course of our relationship.
My mother still lived in LA, so when I went to visit, I would always get back together with Jonathan. Seeing him was always the best part of going back to California. We saw each other throughout our teenage years for brief moments, keeping our friendship kindled.
Years later, when we were in our 20’s I came back through California as I was moving from Hawaii to Maryland. This time, married and with 2 kids. Kids? Jonathan couldn’t be more pleased – perfect excuse to go to Disneyland! You couldn’t know Jonathan and not know that he loved Disney – not just Land but the movies as well.
Jonathan with my mother, daughter Katrina, and sister Shannon at our wedding in 2002
He took Katrina, then 6, to see Alladin – what adult without kids wants to see Disney movies? Jonathan!
Years later, in our 30’s, the first marriage was over, but I was getting married again. It seemed only right that Jonathan needed to be there. He of course, dropped everything and flew out to Maryland to take part in our wedding and as an added bonus, he filmed it!
Ellen and Jonathan – downtown Hollywood
Time for a tangent. Film. It was who he was. He loved the media. He worked most his adult life as a film editor – for Fox Sports – even though he was never a sports fan. He worked on numerous hit series including Entourage and My Name is Earl. He rubbed shoulders with movie stars, but never let that change him. One time he texted me a picture of him and a fat bearded guy. I had no idea who it was. I had to ask, who are you with – he texted back, “Ron Jeremy.” I immediately, responded with: “wash your hands!”
Taking pictures of the Hollywood sign in 2010
In 2010–now in our 40’s, Ellen and I went to California and saw Jonathan for what would end being the last time. Yet another long gap in between seeing each other. We spent the night in his house in Silver Lake – on the opposite side of the reservoir of the house he grew up in. He played tour guide of LA for Ellen, taking her to our old haunts: the Chinese Theater, Hollywood and Vine, the home of the Oscars, Griffith Park, the Hollywood sign, and one of his favorite spots – the Hollywood Cemetery, where the stars reside. Of course we finished the tour at the Red Lion – because, that’s where you go!
Jonathan and Shannon
Jonathan passed away yesterday, 2 1/2 months short of his 50th birthday. You could always remember Jonathan’s birthday because it fell on April Fools Day. Always seemed appropriate to me, not because he was a practical joker, but he was always jovial and fun to be around. He had a charisma about him that attracted people to him, but moreover, he had an unlimited capacity to invest himself in his friends – unlike anything or anyone I’ve ever met.
Jonathan and Al Pacino
His Facebook page is loaded with comments from people that are hurting today because of his passing. Each of them, myself included, feel like we lost our best friend. It’s a remarkable testament to the man that so many people felt so close to him – and him to them! We hurt because we lost not just him, but that part of ourselves that felt the joy of being around him and knowing we’ll never have that again. It’s a void that we are unsure how we will ever fill or replace. People like Jonathan are incredibly hard to find, but when we do find them, you hold on to them as long as you can. In my case, it was 39 years.
It would be only fitting if Jonathan is laid to rest at the Hollywood Cemetery, he deserves his place among the stars.
These are my memories of a truly great friend. I left out the little things that all add up – like going to Dodgers Stadium for All Star game warm-ups when we were kids. How I practically lived at his home in 6th grade, spending days on the campus of UCLA where his mother was taking classes. Seeing Roger Waters with him in 1987 right before I went in the Army. So many memories – all that I’ll look back on and smile, with a twinge of regret that we will never build more together going forward.
Obituaries never capture the essence of the person. Jonathan needs to be remembered by those who loved him in a way four inches of type can ever capture. He touched so many lives. I look forward to reading the diverse memories of his friends. 49 is far to young. It wasn’t you that deserved more – it was us. We are all emptier without you!