Saturday, January 21, 2012

Judy Houghton

Judy was the first choreographer that I ever worked for.  It was a challenge for a 15 year old ventriloquist who had never been in a show like the Campus Review at Six Flags Over Texas. It was probably a challenge for her as well. Not only was I not a dancer, I was holding a puppet the entire show. But we got through it together, because we had one big thing in common:  It was Judy's first year to work for Charles R. Meeker, Jr. too. A man who would become very important in both our lives.

I continued to work for Mr. Meeker off and on for the next 10 years, which meant I was working with Judy as well. Judy was always there during the Meeker days. Mr. Meeker wrote, cast and produced the shows and Judy set the movement. She was the live show manager at Six Flags Over Georgia the summer I did 918 shows for the season.  We never knew the arrangement between them other than business partners, I never heard her call him anything but Mr. Meeker.  Ultimately it didn't matter and no one really cared. To those of us who worked for him Mr. Meeker was bigger than life and couldn't be defined by normal rules. 

Judy was there when Mr. Meeker passed away. He did it his way... left a rehearsal, went to the hotel and died. Judy continued to produce shows and plan meetings in the tradition of Mr. Meeker. It wasn't always easy because of his bigger than life legacy and the fact that it was still "boys club" at the time.  Judy and I stayed in touch but by this time I was in Los Angeles trying to ply the experience that Judy and Mr. Meeker had given me.  Our time together became mainly reunions with casts members she had taught.

Years later Judy would influence my career again in a very direct way. We had occasion to talk about my one man show.  She knew I was trying to complete the funding for a shot at  Broadway. She decided that Dallas Summer Musicals should get involved and began to lobby our mutual friend Mike Jenkins. With the tenacity of Mr. Meeker she convinced Michael to come to the Colony Theatre to see the show. His participation was the tipping point and we were on our way to Broadway with the Two and Only.  It was perfect to have Judy there at my Broadway opening, she had been so much a part of my journey.

A couple of weeks ago she called me to say that she had not answered my email because her computer was up stairs.  She had been in the hospital and she was too weak to walk up the stairs. We talked, we reminisced, we said we would talk more. I looked forward to that. Last Monday my friend David Sinkler told me she was back in the hospital, Thursday our friend Judy passed away. 

Her family is large, it includes kids from Six Flags, Cedar Point, Desert Fiesta, Charlie's Place, Incredible Charlie's, the Miss Universe Pageant, the Miss Teen Age America Pageant, Dr Pepper Bottlers Tours, and those are only the family members I know about.  There are many more. 

Judy crossed over too young, but I swear I can hear the voice of Charles R. Meeker, Jr. saying "Chop, Chop Judy.... we got work to do.".

Goodbye sweet friend,



Roomie said...

What a lovely tribute.....she was a special I didn't know as long as you did, but I loved her just as much....she and CRM were our mentors in so many ways....those 'unsung heroes' that shaped who we are today.....and I am certain that she and Mr. Meeker are already fast at work on another project....bigger than ever!!! Perhaps we will be fortunate to be a part of one when it's our turn to join them....
Carry on,

Judy T said...

Jay, I just learned of Judy's death through my Mom. I immediately googled to see if there was anything on the internet about her, and ran across your blog. It was wonderful reading about those old days.

It immediately took me back to Cedar Point, Miss Teenage America and Charlie's Place. Those were wondeful days. What fun we had. I remember pageant week when we never slept. After the girls went to bed, we would all meet in Mr. Meeker's suite and stay up to all hours listening to his stories. Judy probably had heard them all many times, but you never would have known. What a faithful and loyal person she was to him. You are right. No one could ever define their relationship, but it didn't matter. It just worked.

This makes me very sad. I've lost several friends this past year. And, now, another chapter of my life has closed. As Mr. Meeker would say, "Button." Now it is done.

Judy Thomas

vclementsdp said...

JUdy's sad passing brought back a lot of wonderful memories of the years Foots and I were associated with her and Charlie Meeker. Charlie handled our Dr Pepper bottler meetings for several years before Judy Houghton joined him -- but bringing Judy in as his
Assistant, was a shining moment in his carrier. Charlie was the brains, and Judy the brawn. Judy made everything happen to perfection under his guidance and leadership. All he had to do, was to layout his ideas, turn it over to Judy--and it was done!

Judy's life changed dramatically after Charlie passed away....she had lost a part of herself. Life wasn't easy for her, but se carried on with strength and dedication to build on her personal life and professional carrier, as she had done so well with Charlie Meeker. Even so, it wasn't the same as they had been inseparable, and Judy never got over the loss.

Many young lives were influenced and careers
benefitted by their association with Judy and Charlie. Their legacy will live on through all who knew them.

They are now together again--what a joyous reunion.

Virginia Clements

Virginia Clements