In honor of my friend, Scot Copeland, who shuffled off his mortal coil on this day a year ago, I am re-posting this remembrance. He has left a hole in the hearts of many across this land, and while his work will be celebrated on into the future, it is the heart of the man that we cherish and hold dear. God bless you, B.A. 3, and Rene, and Josh and Ben.
Back in 1951 some friends of Groucho Marx pressured him to join the Friar’s Club of Beverly Hills. He never participated in any of the club’s activities, and after his short-lived membership, he wrote a letter of resignation to the president of the club. The president responded immediately with his own letter asking for an explanation for his abrupt and unexpected departure, and Groucho promptly wrote back: “Because I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.”
In his lifetime, Scot Copeland was given awards and memberships to many organizations, but there was a little known club to which he belonged that was so exclusive it had only three members: the Bad Ass Club. Its origins began years ago through an unusual set of events.
In the summer of 1999 after her first year of college, my oldest daughter, Kristin, had a suitor she had dated at college pay a visit to the farm. He had expressed his affections, and Kristin entertained the notion that this relationship had potential. But after a couple of days of close quarters, Kristin knew this was a dead end street and put the poor boy on the plane in tears at the end of his stay. She was a bit melancholy after returning from the airport, and so Kay and I decided we would take her out to dinner and cheer her up. Kristin and I got into the car, I in the driver’s seat and Kristin scooting into the back seat, and we waited in the driveway for Kay to join us. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw my daughter’s downcast eyes.
“Honey, I know it’s tough but you did the right thing. I’m proud of you,” I said, but my vote of confidence in her judgment on ending this romance received a tepid, “Yeah. Thanks, Dad.” So I tried the big-picture approach.
“So Kid, when you are imagining the guy you would fall in love with and see as a lifetime partner, what kind of guy would he be?”
She was quiet for a moment, the sound of the idling car engine filling the silence, and then she responded.
“I want a Bad Ass like you, Daddy.” And she paused briefly before adding. “…and Robert Kiefer.”
My heart swelled with pride. Even if it wasn’t true, the fact that she believed it and stated it was enough. I wanted to be sure of the veracity of what she said and looked into the rearview mirror once again. She bore a solemn countenance; this was no joke; this was no flattery; this was her thoughtful response to an honest question.
Of course I called Kiefer with the good news, and like me, his heart did back flips when he heard he had been one of the chosen few. For a while we went around with puffed chests and a “Sons of Anarchy” swagger, proud of our exclusive membership in the Bad Ass Club until time and gravity began to ding and dent our façades. It wasn’t long before we extended membership privileges to Mr. Copeland who did not hesitate accepting the invitation.
The three of us mistakenly thought that the quality of membership was to spend time in secret locations sipping expensive whiskey, swearing, eating red meat, swearing, smoking cigars, swearing, and reshaping the world to our specifications and with much better lighting. And did I mention swearing, blue language spoken with our “outside” voices (thus the reason for secret meetings), mainly because all three of us were going deaf with age. We simply referred to one another as Bad Ass One, Two, and Three, Scot being B.A. 3 only because he was the club’s youngest member.
It came as a shock to Kristin that Kiefer and I had, on our own, inducted Scot into the club without her knowledge or permission. We had done this after one of the shows we worked on together as the three of us stood in a circle, arm-in-arm just laughing and enjoying one another for no other reason than that we were all past sixty years of age, had been artists all our lives, and just By-God, loved each other. Sometime after this ménage a trois (French for “household of three”) of Bad Ass manliness backstage at NCT, Kristin informed me that Scot was not an “official” member until she said so. Duly noted, thus Scot was put on temporary probation until the Queen extended him her scepter. Scot’s dragon tattoo gave him a leg-up—Kristin herself the canvass of such colorful artwork—but still he had to be interviewed.
Fast forward to the end of February, 2015, at the funeral of my dear mother, Bernie Arnold. Scot came to the church straight from rehearsal. I pulled him out of the receiving line for a little one-on-one. Bad Ass 2 (Kiefer) had yet to arrive. When Kristin saw us standing off to the side, she came straight over and began the interview process. For her, a Bad Ass had very specific qualities. In her words, a Bad Ass is “someone who is a defender of the people he loves, loyal to the end, doesn’t mince words, doesn’t play it safe, loves and fights with equal passion, knows himself and doesn’t compromise to fit any mold. When a Bad Ass loves you, nothing else compares.” For Kristin, a Bad Ass was someone who was not just a character or could play a character, but someone with character. It did not take Kristin long to size up the man. After a few minutes with Scot, she turned to me and said, “He’s in.”
On the morning after Scot shuffled off his mortal coil, I called B.A. 2 and said, “We’re down one member.” We both sighed and wept.
In the coming days, stories and remembrances of Scot Copeland will flood in from far and wide. He is worthy of all the praise he has and shall receive. He was a man who displaced air, who defied the ephemeral nature of theatre to create stunning works of beauty, a pirate in good standing, a seer of dragons, a man who improved all the lives he touched, a Bad Ass to his core and worthy of my daughter’s definition, and an irreplaceable husband to Rene and father to Josh and Ben. His sudden exit has made a hole in all our hearts, and what gets me is that he offered no explanation for his departure and asked no one’s permission.
Why could this not be just another tech rehearsal where we would hear Scot say, “Hold please,” and we all go back to our first positions for another chance to get it right? Unfortunately, life is not a rehearsal. So love well as did my Bad Ass friend, Scot Copeland.
B.A. 3, the light is always on. Drop by anytime.