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The Jolson Story ... Bran Pace

During this holiday season, it was with sadness that I read about someone from our Broadway family who met with a bullet in a dark alley in Baltimore. Two lowlifes attempted to rob a featured dancer in the touring production of Jolson. Instead of robbing him (he resisted), they fired a gun into his neck and left him in that alley to die. Fortunately, another member of the cast came to the scene and sought help; even he was fired upon, but the lowlifes missed. However, Bran Pace is paralyzed from the chest down.

Now, I used the words Broadway family for a reason. As many of you know I have been writing this column for about two years. On a daily basis I correspond with actors on Broadway, agents, publicity people or you name it. The Broadway community is a small one comprised of those involved professionally as well as the fans throughout the world. The beauty of the Internet in the last two years, for me, was to interact with this family. In August when we had our charity auction people like Ann Reinking, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Robert Cuccioli and a myriad of others donated things for our fundraising auction for BC/EFA and the family of fans responded and we raised thousands of dollars. Well, I need to talk to the family again. We need your help.

Bran was taken to Johns' Hopkins Hospital where he was placed in the Intensive Care Unit for several days and then was transferred to a rehabilitation center in Atlanta where he will be close to his family. Needless to say, the expenses the family incurred while traveling to Baltimore, hotel rooms, etc. etc. added up quite quickly. Let's not even mention the medical bills to come.

The good news is that reports are circulating on the Internet that Bran is doing remarkably well. Donna Lynne Champlin, a member of the Jolson company, reports that Bran is in good spirits and a visitor with Bran told the following:

"I can't tell you all, though, how wonderful he looks. And his spirits are so amazingly high. He is an inspiration to me and to everyone who has had the chance to visit him. He told us a great story about how during his physical therapy, he showed his therapists that he could move his abdominals (and then he showed us this with GREAT vigor). Convinced that this was not possible (as he IS paralyzed from the CHEST down, NOT the waist down), they told him he had to have been "cheating" by using his back muscles. He insisted that they were wrong and had them put their hands on his back while he moved his abdominals again. And, of course, his back muscles never moved."

Obviously, Bran amazed the staff at Johns' Hopkins. Other reports are that his breathing is getting easier and is able to feed himself. He's also talkative and in high spirits.

He will continue in rehab in Atlanta and from time to time, we'll report on the progress that Bran is making.

Now, what can you do? Well, obviously, money is the first thing that comes to mind, but let's put that secondary for now. You, as a member of our Broadway family, can let Bran know that you care and are saying a prayer for him simply by sending a card of well wishes during this holiday season. Let him know that you're there, rooting for him. You can write to him at:

Bran Pace
c/o The Shepherd Center
2020 Peachtree Rd. NW
Atlanta, Ga. 30309

Now, the good news is that Bran has been approved for Workers Comp so his medical bills, or most of them, will be paid for, as well as 75% of his salary. However, once Bran's accounts are depleted, The Actors' Fund of America will begin to pick up his expenses. It's the first time in their history they have set up an account for an individual. And this is where you can help. Think, right now, what's the balance in your checking account? Can you spare ten dollars? Twenty, fifty? A dollar? If so, do it right now. It's Christmas time, it's Chanukah, it's the time of year for giving. Please do what you can. Bran is our brother and he needs our help.

Mail your contributions to:

The Actors' Fund of America
729 7th Avenue
10th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10019

And make sure you put a note on the "memo" part of the check that it's for the Bran Pace fund.

"God bless you everyone," said Tiny V.J.!

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