I found him. I finally found John McLaughlin. There he was in black and white, his big, smiling Irish face filling the screen of my laptop. After sporadic searches for almost 20 years, I finally found him on an online New England paper. He’s deceased, it says.

I hate that word. “Deceased” is a cold word scratched on a tag attached to a corpse in the morgue. It’s not for friends. I prefer simply “gone.”

It’s a great picture. It’s him, all right, no mistake. It’s better than any of the old 8-by-10s he used when we were young actors on the streets of Hollywood.

After Kay and I left Hollywood behind, John and I lost track of one another. Neither of us were big letter writers. Had we made it to today, we would have Facebook and Twitter and reconnected. But we were children of corner phone booths and postcards.

Over the years, I tried dozens of times to find him, with no luck. I guessed he must have given it all up and moved back East, where he was born.

I know his family were saloon keepers somewhere in the East. I have forgotten where.

Actors grow old like everyone else, and like the pictures in our albums, get a yellowish tint and fade away. Unless you become a big star with indelible credits, you tend to get lost; and in show business, when you’re lost, nobody goes looking for you.

Screen Actors’ Guild and Actors’ Equity files had no record of him, and those who knew us both are gone.

Occasionally, bitten by nostalgia, I’d give it a try. But life, as it always does, runs by us, over us, through us, and memories fade. I gave up.

I write this today in memory of two old actors, lucky guys: John Patrick McLaughlin and Jeremiah Patrick Devine, grandsons of Irish immigrants.

The two of us became fast friends from the moment we saw each other at our first actors’ audition set for 2 o’clock on a hot, dry afternoon on Franklin Street in Hollywood. “You’re late,” he said when I walked in and smiled.

The agency was Sonja Warren’s Commercials Unlimited, run by Sonja and her three Irish sisters, off the boat in their teens and blessed with Irish pluck. Sonja loved her Irish “boyos” and signed a pack of us.

We were so different looking, Johnny and I, that we were almost never up for the same parts; but when there was a call for a smiling young husband, daddy, car salesman, bartender, cop or coffee drinker, we both showed up. He was on time. I was always late.

And after dozens and dozens of weeks and months and years of auditions and shared stories, we became what our grandfathers called “corner boys.”

Pretty soon there were more of us: Jack Riley from “The Bob Newhart Show,” Bobby Donner from “Mork and Mindy,” and comedian Charles Nelson Reilly, among others. Now, all gone to the other side, to the warm end of the great celestial bar.

After auditions and callbacks, the pack of us would retreat to J. Sloans or Tom Brennan’s, where our names were posted on green paper shamrocks behind the bar, for a nip or two and a handful of fish-shaped crackers.

One day John asked me to meet him for his birthday lunch at Musso & Frank’s legendary steak house on Hollywood Boulevard. There he was at the bar, checking his watch. “You’re late. You’re always late.” I always was.

This week in The New Yorker magazine, the poet Edward Hirsch pens his poem, “My Friends Don’t Get Buried.” Here, I broke some pieces away to share my grief.

“My friends don’t get buried

in cemeteries anymore …

No old buddies weeping in corners,

telling off-color stories, nipping shots …

But the mourning goes on anyway

because my friends keep dying

without a schedule,

without even a funeral,

while the silence

drums us from the other side …

the darkness grows warmer, then colder.

I just have to lie down on the grass

and press my mouth to the earth

to call them

so they would answer.”

I’m still here atop the grass, Johnny. I’m sorry I was late.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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