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Memorial: Grovites Remember Maggie McCorkle
by Bruce-Michael Gelbert

On the crisp morning of December 3, many Grovites turned out at the Quaker Friends Meeting House, on Rutherford Place, off East 15th Street, in Manhattan, to celebrate the life and honor the memory of beloved Grove citizen and thespian Margaret (Maggie) Olwen McCorkle (February 20, 1924-October 15, 2005).

Thom “Panzi” Hansen, moderating the memorial program in full drag, called Maggie the “heart and soul of Cherry Grove” and compared the Grove without her to “Paris without the Eiffel Tower.” On first meeting her, Panzi said, “Maggie immediately became very special to my heart.” Styling her “my mentor,” “who changed my life,” Panzi declared, “Maggie, to me, is a saint.”

Audrey Hartmann, Maggie’s erstwhile long time life partner, said they first met when both worked for impresario Sol Hurok and met again at the “notorious Bagatelle bar.” Audrey reminisced about dancing with Maggie at Duffy’s Hotel in the Grove and noted, “We endured a love for each other and a friendship over all these years.” Maggie’s ex, Julie, commented, “I know, wherever she is, she’s putting on a hell of a show.”

“Maggie was my closest friend. She made me feel very special. I didn’t realize she was making everyone else feel special, too,” quipped Lois Fisher, despite the overwhelming emotion of the day for her. At 12 Step meetings, Lois said, “Maggie was always the warmest and friendliest to me … I adored her,” she continued and, though a stab at being lovers did not work out, “We stayed bosom buddies for the rest of her life.” Of Maggie’s accomplishments on the Grove stage, Lois exclaimed, “In my mind, she’ll always be a star!” Said Barbara Dowd, “She was part of Lois’ and my family. Maggie loved us, she loved Cherry Grove and Cherry Grove loved her back.”

Susan Freedner spoke of Maggie encouraging her to participate in Arts Project of Cherry Grove shows and, when Susan had trouble making a love duet, “People Will Say We’re in Love,” with a particularly difficult partner persuasive, reminded her, “That’s why they call it acting.” Other speakers included Rae De Stefano, Jeannie Lieberman, Tim Webster, Tommy Tush and, in from Ireland, Alice Carey.

The memorial, which, fittingly, boasted a printed program in the form of a theater playbill, concluded with the screening of clippings, coordinated by Matt Baney and Wendy Lewis, from Arts Project shows, featuring Maggie’s upbeat “Cherry Grove’s My Home,” sentimental “I’ll Be Seeing You” with the full company of “Radiola” (1987), throaty Marlene Dietrich tribute “Lili Marlene,” and swaggering “I’m One of the Girls Who’s One of the Boys.”