We were checking out the community gym at our Bethany Beach rental Saturday, when I overheard the security guard at the desk say to a co-worker, “Jim Vance died.”
Vance. Jim Vance, one of my father’s best friends, one of the few people who probably understood him.
I had to stop and sit for a minute, because I had only just been talking about Vance to my husband earlier in the week. It seemed an odd coincidence.
The connection between Vance and my father was immediate, starting already when my father flew to DC in early 1980 for an in-person interview. Their on-air banter was as genuine as it was entertaining.
I wrote in my book about one particular exchange. During the commercial break, Vance had made a comment about women not baking anymore. When they came back on air, they were still arguing, Vance telling my father not to get him in trouble here. Vance countered, “I didn’t say they can’t bake; I said they don’t bake bread anymore.” Dad bragged, “My daughter Cindi bakes me raisin bread all the time.” When I heard that exchange, I immediately baked two loaves, one for Dad and one for Vance. The next night, on the air, Dad presented Vance his loaf of homemade raisin bread, and the camera zoomed in to show raisins poking through a golden crust. Vance wrote me a thank you note, a note I have cherished and saved for 30 years now.
They had their classic exchanges, Is “wrassling” as Vance called it, for real? Viewers joined in on taking sides on this debate, and I love the photo of the poster a fan made telling Vance to “sit on it.” There are the serious moments, too, when Len Bias, the University of Maryland basketball player, overdosed in 1986, my father gave way to tears on air and Vance had to finish the story for him. On the lighter side, I have watched the episode of them cracking up over the runway model stumbling, multiple times.
I wonder about their instant connection. Was it the understanding of how they both had succeeded despite their difficult childhoods? Or that, after accomplishing so much, they should have had an inner strength and self-confidence, but neither really did.
Vance gave the eulogy at my father’s funeral, saying that his biggest fear was of failure. I wonder, if my father had been alive, what would he have said of Vance? For sure, he would have thanked him for making work FUN.
My condolences to Vance’s family and friends. May he Rest In Peace.