Monday, April 20, 2015

Cy Brinson

Before she changed her name to Cy she was Cindy Brinson to me. We both came from Dallas and her Uncle was my older Brother's boss during his college days.  Cindy was a singer and a piano player and we both ended up in Houston working for the Astroworld live show department after college.  When I reported to rehearsal in the Summer of 1971 Cindy was my only friend.  She was now married to Trey Wilson whom I would come to admire as one of the most talented people I have ever known.
I remember distinctly one evening as we left rehearsals Cindy said to me, "This is going to be a great summer.  Sandi Asbury said working with you was going to be a blast."  
"Sandi.. the beautiful dancer said that?"  I replied in astonishment.  I had an immediate crush on Sandi but had no idea she even knew I was in the cast.  I suddenly thought I might have a chance with her. Turns out a year later Sandi and I were married. (by the same preacher who married Cindy and Trey)
Cindy played the piano during the five shows a day we did at the Crystal Palace.  She was the one who observed every show and every prank we played first hand.  Some of the time we were doing things on stage just to crack Cindy up.  She had the greatest smile.
Cindy even went with Sandi and a group of University of Houston performers on a USO tour for two months the Christmas before we were married. Sandi and I lived in Houston for a couple of years and saw Cindy and Trey on a regular basis.

Cindy stayed in Houston as Sandi and I left for Hollywood.  Most of the kids from the USO tour were making their way to the coast to pursue show business. Cindy stayed and became a highly acclaimed jazz musician jumping head first into her music.  She changed her name when she and Trey were divorced. 
We would hear rumors about Cy Brinson and her popularity in Houston, but eventually lost touch personally. Typical show business, you meet, you laugh, you love and you leave. Friends forever even if you never see them again. 
A year ago I got an email from Cy Brinson it was out of the blue after 40 years of radio silence.  It was a long letter catching up on what she had been doing for these last decades.  The story included a incident during a tour her group was playing in Russia.  It seems that two of the guys in her group were gay.  As she and the two guys were walking back to their Hotel after dinner one night, they were attacked by some homophobic Russian bullies.  They beat up the two gay men severely and when Cy went to help, the hoodlums threw her to the sidewalk where she hit her head on the curb.  As it turned out she was hurt more seriously than the guys but she didn't know it at the time.  
After experiencing head aches and sever anxiety she went to her Doctor back in Texas.  He concluded that the injury to her head had damaged her brain severely, and these headaches and depression were symptoms of that incident.  There was nothing to be done but prescribe medications to help with the side effects.
Her letter went on to say that she went to a family cabin in the woods to recuperate and basically became a hermit. There she developed even more symptoms.  She became agoraphobic and could not be in a crowd of more than three people. She lost all interest in the piano and singing but developed hypergraphia, a condition that caused her to write and drawn compulsively.  She was either writing or drawing the entire time she was awake each day. She finished several books and hundreds of paintings.  She had come through that phase and was now reaching out to reconnect with her old friends.  We continued to email back and forth.  She became a fan of my blog commenting occasionally and that is the way it was until about 5 months ago.
That's when I got a friend request from Cy Brinson on FaceBook. I quickly accepted and directed her to some of her other friends I knew were on Facebook.  Over these last few months she posted pictures of herself and her art work and old black and white photos from the USO tour.  It was great to be back in touch with Cy... Cindy.  I thought this was perhaps the best use for Facebook, a person who wants to reconnect with old friends but could not be with more than three of them at a time in real life.  All of us were so happy to be back in touch with Cy.  It seemed like an empty space in our hearts had been restored.  
Last week in an effort to think about my own spiritual leanings I wrote a blog on my idea of Life Eternal. Cy wrote a comment:  

Cy Brinson Your timing was perfect for me today. Thank you. Thank you. Did I say, "Thank you?"
The thumbs up "like" was mine.  It was the last communication we had. A week later (last Saturday morning) she took her own life breathing helium until she went to sleep and never woke up. The official cause of death was self inflicted suffixation. It was planned in every small detail and she left a letter to all of us to "explain". In fact, the reaching out to all her old friends and joining Facebook was part of that plan.  We didn't know she was saying good bye. 
Her best friend said  "In Cy's world Saturday (the day she died) was a great day." 
It was the depression that finally got her.  That feeling of hopelessness that never goes away in spite of any happy circumstances.  She said she could not cope with it any more. In her letter she said, "It is difficult when people all around you say, you seem so happy.  You don't seem depressed."  She made the analogy that is was like treading water as hard as you can in the ocean just to keep from drowning and people on a passing cruise ship see you out there.  They smile and wave and assume you are having as good of a time as they are.  It is the classic dismissal most people give to depression.
It is very hard on those who "knew her when" to reconnect with her only to have that connection severed so quickly.  Music, Art, Literature, Laughter and happiness have all taken a huge hit with her exit.  The event that caused her so much anguish was the result of cruel intolerance and violence, two ideas that Cy most certainly did not indulge in. A beautiful friend, who was a loving and kind soul. It is tragic on so many levels.
We all miss you Cy/ Cindy,


michael murakami said...

Jay, beautifully written and a wonderful tribute to an obviously terrific old friend...

Chip Keyes said...

Very moving. You did her honor and sent her off well.

Hardy Haberman said...

Jay, that was a wonderful and touching tribute.

cwalter said...

Jay, I did not know that you knew Cy Brinson. I'm sure she played some of the same venues in Houston that Jerrel and I did. We never got to know her, however. I was sorry to hear of her passing. Your article was touching.

Don Bailey said...

So sorry, Jay. That truly is sad, but what a loving tribute you shared. The analogy of cruise ship and swimmer.... descriptive of so many more friends than we realize. My condolences to you and Cindy's family and friends. It was wonderful for the two of you to have reconnected, if only to say goodbye.

Sam said...

And thank YOU, Jay. You expressed beautifully what others of us have been trying to get our minds around for the past 2 days. Cindy (for me too) and I met in the second grade. I had missed her so often and was ecstatic when FB brought her back to us ... even mostly for goodbye.

Ken Johanson said...

Well said and a sincere testimonial to a forever friend. The comments about depression are a reminder to us all to be more aware and sensitive to the feelings of those we encounter who struggle with depression.
Thanks Jay.

Paul Meyer said...

I'd been looking all over for the Why of it. Thank you so much for so eloquently explaining. In helping others to better understand, I've posted your link to Thorne Dryer's FB page (at, where I first heard about Cy's passing away.

Esmerelda said...

Lovely Jay - but I'd like to clear up one thing. She did not give up singing and piano completely. I met her at a local nightclub near her lake house where she was playing in 2001. Before I knew it she had me (a classically trained flutist) jamming with her at the club on all kinds of funky tunes. Then it was private parties, weddings etc. She used to have my sons over for "art lessons." They would draw and paint and jump on her little exercise trampoline and talk about everything. She participated in an Art Day at the local elementary school where she taught kids creativity. To this day when I burn the incense she used to burn in her house my (now adult) sons walk in and say "It smells like Cy." They love her dearly. She gathered together a wonderful group of artists, writers, and musicians in the red-neck hick town of Pottsboro, Texas that reveled in our defiance of community norms. Only she could do that. Later she did become a "hermit." But she would force herself to tread water with us from time to time. It was clearly a struggle and we were always so grateful for her tireless efforts to remain in this world.

Karen Romano said...

What a moving and beautiful tribute, Jay.

Scott Greathouse said...

Thank you for sharing that. Peace my dear, dear Cy

P. Grecian said...

I know depression and how hard it must have been for her. Your tribute made me know her as if she and I had spoken or performed together. I am the poorer for not having truly known this lovely woman. You are the richer for sharing space and thoughts with her...and I am the richer for knowing you and for reading of her. Thanks once again, Jay.

Hollie said...

Thank you Jay. I am so sorry for your loss. I appreciate your tribute, it's just beautiful. I feel her so strong today, like she is still visiting before she goes.. Smile for her and hug yourself, I'm sure you were one of the first on her list