Today, I learned that my friend, Jano (Alejandro Lozano-Sanchez), unexpectedly passed away last night in Palm Springs. Apparently, he told a friend late yesterday afternoon that he didn’t feel very well and was going to bed early. He died sometime during the night. Of course, this was a shock and made me very sad. Jano was someone with whom I have shared several key milestones over the past 25 years and I certainly didn’t expect him to leave this earth quite this soon.
It would not be an overstatement to say that Jano is directly responsible for my active participation at St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church, Hollywood. He was sitting in the pew in front of me one Sunday back in the mid-1990s when our family was new to LA and after the mass said, “Honey, with a voice like that you need to sing in our choir.” I was very shy about singing in front of anyone except my children and was hesitant to commit to anything as big as Thursday night choir practice and regular Sunday morning services, but Jano must have sensed my need for the St. Thomas community. The very next Sunday, he sat in front of me again and then marched me over to meet the choir director, Jim Keltner. I was a member of the choir starting that day and then went on to sing with daughter Sarah and Jano in the West Hollywood Chorale and later with several of my fellow St. Thomas choristers in the Los Angeles Camarata, a wonderful community choral group that culminated that particular season with a trip to sing in Carnegie Hall in New York City. (Thank you, my friend!)
Jano also has the dubious (or is that distinctive) honor of “birthing” my alter-ego, Brenda Lurleen. He talked me into performing with another choir member in our annual Choir Follies and he choreographed the entire skit and song. I played a rather colorful gal from rural Arkansas and my brother BM (yes, Jano’s idea) and I had just arrived in LA to make our splash in “moving pictures.” Jano and one of his friends asked me to come to the friend’s apartment two hours before the performance and there they dressed me in clothes Jano has especially picked out, slathered bright blue eye shadow on my eyelids and frosty pink lipstick on my lips, then set a big, red wig on my head. The minute they turned me around so I could see myself in the mirror, Brenda Lurleen was born. Saucy, sassy and ready for trouble, she slipped on the six-inch heels Jano had bought at GoodWill and off we headed for the church. When we arrived, most people didn’t recognize me, but they definitely gave Brenda Lurleen the once-over. One young male parishioner later told me he said to his brother, “Who is that sexy but totally trashy woman who just walked in?” To Jano’s credit, my partner and I played our roles just as he’d directed us and our skit was the hit of the show. To this day, I have a few “old” parishioners who still lament not getting to see Brenda Lurleen a little more often. (Thank you, my friend, for that as well.)
Jano and I also shared a tragic event together in 2000. Our priest called Ray and me one morning in early September and told us that Jano’s partner, Anthony, had committed suicide early that morning. Father Davies was going over to see Jano and hoped we could accompany him. We all went together and arrived just after they’d taken Anthony’s body away. We stayed with Jano for several hours until his brother could arrive from some distance away. Jano was in shock, but also deeply sad. We all sat together in the living room for a very long time talking about Anthony. Jano asked if we would kindly take Anthony’s little parrotlet to live at our house since he just wasn’t in the proper mental state to take care of her. We took her home and that little bird, Frances, bonded with me and became my bird. I had her until she died several years later. (Thank you, my friend, for trusting me with Anthony’s Frances.)
Any time I saw Jano after Anthony’s death, he called me, “My angel.”
I hadn’t seen Jano lately because he moved to Palm Springs a while back. However, we were on Facebook together and shared comments and posts with one another very often. (He and Ray did the same thing.) So, Ray and I were completely shocked to receive that call today and learn of Jano’s death.
Peace be with you, my friend. May light perpetual shine upon your open, loving, generous, kind and hilarious soul. I am trusting that you and your beloved Anthony are holding each other close right this minute and that little Frances is very happy to have her family together again.
Brenda Lurleen says to tell you she’s sending you a big frosty pink kiss.