We Lost Our VP

by Leonard Buschel


He died in his sleep, in the middle of the night, next to his third wife. He had lived a very busy life.

His daughter mourned in Arizona, and his son published a very touching farewell Instagram post, that was not without humor.

Bob was a big man. 6’3”. When I lifted his urn in the air a few days after his passing, there was a heft I had not anticipated. Perhaps he was all bones and heart, or undaunted by the fires of the crematorium.

We had been friends for 45 years I met him when he was 40. Our conversations started after a screening of his work-in-progress, ‘Moment To Moment’ at Temple University.I offer to work  without pay for this underground filmmaker because I had income from an underground career. I offered to do anything, from sweep the floors, to clean the camera lenses. I said, “It’s not what you do that’s important, it’s who you do it for.” I would have done anything for Bob.

Our conversations continued until a few weeks before he succumbed to Parkinson’s.

Bob never flew. He was in a near crash in the Army, and always took trains, even coast to coast, his whole life. He was deathly afraid of going down in a crash. Last time we spoke, he was bed bound, I told him he could relax, it didn’t look like that was going to happen.

We shared a great love for motion pictures, i.e. features, documentaries, shorts and live theater. When our conversations about life, health, relationships or sports got slow, “seen any good films lately?” would start the tongues wagging again.

In 2008 I flew to New York to ask this prolific filmmaker to be the VP on the founding committee  of a film festival I was planning to start, the REEL Recovery Film Festival & Symposium. After all, he was familiar with the addiction scene as an Al-anon member for a few years when his son was a ‘maybe he will, or maybe he won’t’ …die or live!

Bob asked me if I wasn’t afraid of running out of films after, The Lost Weekend, Days of Wine and Roses and Less Than Zero? For the last 13 years I loved telling him the REEL Recovery Film Festival and Symposium gets over 175 submissions a year. When there are no more dangerous addictions, or no more filmmakers, then we might run out of films to show. I pray there will always be filmmakers, but there will never be another like Robert Downey Sr. He was the nicest man I ever knew.

Bob was always very supportive of REEL Recovery and made presentations and introductions for the 8 years we were in New York, and once in LA when he was visiting.

His role as VP was invaluable and he will be missed, though never forgotten.

To quote a line from Greaser’s Palace when Lamey Homo is brought back from the dead by Jessie the Christ, he says, “I was swimming with millions babies in a rainbow, and they was naked, and then all of  a sudden I turned into a perfect smile.”


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