DISCLAIMER: This is my way to understand all the feelings I am feeling after hearing of the death of someone I personally knew; someone who died at the age of only 42-years-old. Someone I was estranged from for good solid reasons. I have forgiven her, in fact, I did many months ago (for her causing me humiliation and embarrassment). I did not wish for this.
Months ago, I ended a friendship, and blogged about it here.
Even though, I was not speaking to Jenee Bandler. I was saddened to hear of her early death. There was a time, not too long ago, I believe she considered me her best friend; or one of them.
Sadly, I found it difficult to consider her my best friend. Why? When Jenee informed me that “if you really loved me as a friend, Angela“, after one of my friends didn’t want to date her … Jenee informed me it was my “job” to end the friendship with this man. A man I had known for over fifteen years.
I don’t feel friends should dictate to whom I, or anyone else, is supposed to call a friend.
Jenee also would take it upon herself to tell me exactly how and why I owed her my loyalty, and should do for her or as she asked, because of the times she went out of her way for me. I thanked her for any and all favors she gave to me, I truly appreciated it and in return, in many cases, I did several favors for her, of course. She often reminded me, though, it seems, I still owed more to her.
Perhaps, it was, somewhere in her subconscious, she knew she didn’t have much time left here (?)
Our friendship began years ago in our hometown of Phoenix, AZ. As a teenager, I was involved in a group ran by Michael Lancy, through the Greater Phoenix Jewish Community Center. The group was a performing arts group called Centerstage.
The young girls, in the group, flocked to me, a teenage girl they looked up too. I was young, pretty, tall, talented, kind and popular. All these little girls thought of me, I am sure, as a big sister. Jenee Bandler was one of them.
I came back a couple of years later, after I graduated from high school. Mike Lancy had a “touring” group, two of them — Centerstage West (beginning acting students) and Centerstage USA (advanced). I auditioned and was placed in Centerstage USA; I was a honor drama student in high school. Jenee was there, now 14-years-old or maybe 13-years-old. We were all teens (I was 18-years-old) and we all had our little clicks. Jenee was in group of younger teens who came from the wealthier Jewish family’s of Scottsdale and Phoenix, AZ. I was not in this group as I was a bit older and from a middle-class background.
Jenee was friendliest of that particular click. She had another typical trait of her age, too — she was boy crazy! In fact, I was shocked that some of the girls, aged 12 (maybe even younger) to 17 were talking about their sexual exploits so openly. Shook me up as I, just 18 and still a virgin, felt they were much too young to be sexually active, or so verbal about “doing it“.
I had a boyfriend, ever since I was 16-years-old and we were still dating, at this time. But, at Centerstage I formed a crush on a younger man–a rather effeminate 16-year-old I’ll call M.E.
Suddenly, as I flirted and fantasized about M.E., apparently, Jenee was also interested in him. It seemed to me, just as M.E. & I started having conversations and were getting along, Jenee jumped in and started her campaign to win his heart. I felt she was competing with me . . . on purpose.
In fact, it often seemed the click, all of them, wanted to compete with me. It irked me. They [the group] seemed angry when I was given a solo, or the girls would interrupt my conversations bringing attention to themselves. Jenee particularly did this when I was talking with M.E.
This was my “friendship” with Jenee for two summers in the 1980s. She ended up dating M.E., and bragging to me all about it.Thus, the rest of the summer (on tour); Jenee and I never really fought, but were certainly made quips — both of us guilty — about or toward one another. Then, tour was over and I did not see her until the next summer, when I did Centerstage USA tour again. The 2nd year, if M.E. and Jenee were dating, it was hard for me to tell. Jenee and I talked briefly, on occasion, yet, I don’t remember any particularly rude or even in-depth personal conversations between us. We weren’t enemies, nor particularly close; we were civil, accepting and decent.
Her brother, Norm Bandler, on the other hand, aged about 11, acted like he had a huge crush on me . . . me, the older woman! It was so cute. Norm was a very sweet little boy and followed me around a lot on that tour. He was highly intelligent, we both were big fans of the tv series “Mork & Mindy”. I felt like a teacher to Norm. He asked me lots of questions about acting, tv and films — we talked for hours. Norm was wise way beyond his years.
Then, summer was over, 2nd year in a row. I didn’t see, nor speak to Jenee again until about two years or so later. Not for any particular reason, bad or good. I was to never see Norm again, sadly.
My mother was doing a production of “The Sound of Music” at a new theatre called Shadow Rock; about two or so years after my Centerstage experiences. Cast beside my mother, as a nun at the Abbey, Jenee Bandler!
Picking up my mother at a rehearsal one evening, Jenee and I got to talking, catching up. She was still dating M.E. and seemed happy. It was a good conversation, and we parted company on a friendly manner.I believe, by this time, I had preparing to move to New York (or already had) and was involved with Nick Atonna. I would say this was 1984.I know I never saw the production of “The Sound of Music” with my mother and Jenee — either 1) because I wasn’t in town when it went up or 2) or I was sick or 3) doing another production [maybe].
In 1989 ish, I returned to Phoenix, AZ [from New York –1984-1988]. I was in Phoenix, AZ for a few years this 2nd time around. While doing a production of Good Clean Fun with a former Centerstager, Heather Brody (the Producer); Jenee stopped by a rehearsal, briefly, one day with her boyfriend (not M.E.). We only had a quick conversation and she said something about M.E. being a jerk and, obviously, she had moved on.
Then, around 1998 ish, I was living in Burbank, CA; I brought a Richard Simmon’s video and while doing ‘Disco Sweat’, at the end, one of his biggest stars, on the video, was a familiar face, Jenee Bandler!!! I attempted track her, found an address and phone in Burbank — but she had moved.
Jump to 2007, either Jenee found me or I found her on facebook: We were both now living in New York. She asked me to take some photographs of her . . . as she wanted to go back into acting — from years of pursuing and becoming a Clinical Psychologist. She was married and updated me on Norm — he was living in Los Angeles, CA, living his dreams.
The one thing I remembered about Jenee, from the Centerstage days, was her incredible singing voice — at age 14, it was remarkable! Our re-acquainting, all these years later, I found Jenee more mature, sweet and funny.
Tragedy struck soon after . . . before I could get a phone call from Norm and re-acquaint with the really cool young man from so many years ago. Norm died in a tragic accident. Jenee was understandably devastated. It happened the very day she was to come be in a production at the theatre I was active in, Manhattan Theatre Source.
After this, I watched Jenee go from a married woman, slightly overweight and mature to a devastated, partying woman with an ending marriage and unhealthy habits increasing. Jenee was quite overweight when we re-acquainted, yet, after her brother’s death, and her divorce, she gained more weight.
It must’ve been a few months after Norm passed on when Jenee began doing plays at Manhattan Theatre Source (MTS). She was immediately infatuated with my friend, a regular at MTS. As she became involved with MTS, Jenee’s personality came out.
Jenee Bandler was fun, loud, theatrical and opinionated! It was fun, at times, even if a bit overwhelming. I mean, my personality is big, too — Jenee could make me look shy! LOL!
What started to be a problem, though, was her psychology degree. I noted, silently, her need to psycho-analyze people, particularly J.A. I always secretly hoped she would not and tried to avoid being analyzed by her.
In March 2008, I left New York and went to Los Angeles, CA. My return in November 2008 left me homeless, in NY. Jenee, luckily, offered me a couple of weeks at her apartment in the Bronx, NY. While staying there, we got along pretty well, considering. Nevertheless, she became angry with me and accused me of lying when, while sleeping on her couch, I was eaten up by fleas (my ankles) and/or bed bugs. I went to a drug store and bought some spray to kill fleas and doused the couch and my suitcases. The professional opinion was the fleas came from the couch.
My only other issues, staying with Jenee, was housekeeping (she doesn’t do any) and her smoking at night. The cigarettes bothered me more than anything.
She did give me a “temporary” place to stay, though, and I did find other accommodations, as agreed, two weeks later.
I’m opinionated, too — and people who think they know everything are very annoying to those of us who do [know everything]! Ever since we were teens, even if we weren’t close, I knew, with Jenee, I must walk a bit on eggshells. She was over-emotional, took too much personally and overbearing with her diagnosis.
Yes, she could be fun, very funny and certainly was highly intelligent . . . and a good actor! Thus, she had skills to manipulate with her knowledge and acting talents. Sometimes these combos were lethal. Jenee’s feelings were easily hurt and her anger explosive. No one could predict what would trigger it, either.
One morning, early, Jenee phoned J.A. and woke him up. He was disturbed and read Jenee the riot act. She was offended greatly at his anger and him chastising her for “calling at an ungodly hour”. This rift between J.A. and Jenee went on for months, or a year . . . I lost track. Anyway, months later, J.A. is very humorous, tells lots of jokes. Well, Jenee is cast in a short play that J.A. wrote . . . during a rehearsal, J.A. make a JOKE to Jenee about “call at a decent hour”. She hit the ceiling.
So, that evening, during the performance, because J.A. didn’t apologize [for the joke] to Jenee. Jenee told her scene partner she was “not performing” J.A.’s play.Well, that would leave her scene partner no performance — and the girl’s parents were in the audience. As many of us tried to convince the angry Jenee to “do the show” and deal with J.A. later, she was telling us she didn’t care about anything and J.A. deserved it. Yet, we couldn’t convince her that she was hurting her scene partner, an innocent in this. Luckily, the scene partner talked Jenee into doing the show after lots of tears [the scene partner] and begging.
Jenee always yelled about acting professional, and this action proved to me and others . . . it didn’t mean her. As it was unprofessional to do that another actor just because someone made a sarcastic remark to her! Silently, I vowed, I would never work with Jenee again. And I am sure many of the other actors and directors there felt the same sentiment.
I lied, though . . . a couple of years later. I ended up being cast beside her in another MTS Spontaneous Combustion production. Admittedly, though, it went very well. In June 2010, though, our last time working together as the friendship ended in July 2010. I invited Jenee to do a reading of my play for the MTS Source Writers group. The day before the reading, she phoned me and chastised me for not giving her the lead and/or not writing the play about plus-sized women. Well, I wrote this play in the 90s and I only called her to give her something to do in the acting world.
Her reading, of the small role, was good, though. Jenee, at the time, though, was limping and telling me she “fell again” and had injured her leg or hip. It was about the 3rd or 4th time she had “fallen” and been “injured” that year alone. I also know she was treated for some sort of ‘brain bleed’ awhile back. Nevertheless, considering her weight and these sort of injuries, I was doubting if her health was good and/or being monitored.
Then, Jenee, after this time, was getting very, very dependent on me. She would call me and ask me to sign her up for auditions, or find her auditions, etc. . . making me her agent, suddenly. Although, I never applied for this job.
She told me I owed her for making her come out, injured, to do my reading. Although, I told her to not come if she was hurt. I owed her for all the times she “did” for me; I owed her because I stayed in a friendship with J.A., against her will and thus I betrayed my friendship for her.
The last time I spoke to her, in person, was when I ended the friendship.
See my blog: https://angelaura28.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/update-crazy-people/ . Warning: It is harsh.
I wrote it in great anger.
On or around the first week in January 2011, I received a strange text from Jenee — having not spoken to her since July 2010. It read: I love you and miss you. I wish you would let me help you through this. Happy New Year 2011.
It angered me all over again. My decision(s), back in July 2010, to protect my psyche — a happy and calm as can be lifestyle [as I am on medication for high blood pressure] was to 1) remove negative people from life [namely: Jenee], 2) to never contact Jenee again until she admitted she was “very wrong” to contact 911 over an argument — knowing full well I was NOT suicidal and 3) to never work with her again. If I had seen her in person, I would’ve been civil.
Even after the July incident, Jenee tried to tell me she was “right” and that “if anything happened” to me that she’d be upset [even though there was nothing wrong with me and SHE KNEW IT]. It was all about her being a hero, etc. Thus, her text was, perhaps, her crying out for help: ” I wish you would let me help you through this.”
We had no contact since July 2010, now January 2011, her blocked from my accounts — I thought, what in the world is she texting about?! My life is going great — Jenee helping me through things would mean me being locked up in a mental institution, apparently. Please! I deleted it. Never heard from her again.
In January 2011, though, there was mention of her name again. A playwright I know was doing a reading of her new play — she asked J.A. and I to be in the reading. She also asked him and I for Jenee’s number. We both, separately, wrote back the playwright saying we “will not work with Jenee.” The playwright found another actor and kept J.A. and I.
Then, the Source also announced a “Volunteer Appreciation/Anniversary Party”, asking me to attend. In fact, the manager wrote a private email. I didn’t want to go if Jenee would be there. Suddenly, I thought, “she won’t be there again.”
My intuition, or something told me she had moved on — I felt it meant she had passed on. This is part of my gift which I don’t always enjoy. I will get the message when someone has passed on, just as I did when Debby Coleby passed. I tried a more positive thought . . . “No,” I thought, “Jenee just moved back to LA or Phoenix.”
The message returned to my intuition: Jenee Bandler has reunited with her brother.
I didn’t want to believe it.
Nevertheless, that night, or soon after, I was reading my facebook wall feed. I have Jenee blocked, but am friends or have a friend request pending with the infamous M.E. His status, which appears on my wall, read: My high school friend died in NY.
I knew it was Jenee, but, did try to push it out of my mind. Thinking it was another friend . . . then, the day of the party at the Source; which I agreed to go to, M.E.’s facebook status read: My high school girlfriend died. That was, indeed, Jenee.At the Source party, I had a friend check Jenee’s facebook [as she hadn’t blocked her]. The party was February 5th, 2011. Jenee, herself, last posted on January 14th. Then, 18 hours before we checked her facebook page, her uncle posted that he “was sorry to inform us, his niece passed away [yesterday] in her home.
I had known, truly known for about a week, of course. Now, confirmed, I was sort of mixed. I did truly wish she had just moved back to Phoenix or California, so I wouldn’t have to avoid her anymore. I didn’t want nor wish for her to die, of course. Yet, even a year or so ago, I knew it was coming. Her overall health didn’t seem to suggest she’d be with us very long.
I feel most for her parents. They have now buried both their children. A fate I would never wish on any parent, ever.As for me, I’m a little shocked in some ways. Relieved in another as Jenee Bandler seemed an unhappy person and missed Norman terribly. Now, she is at peace, and reunited with her beloved brother.
It is strange, though, to not have Jenee Bandler in the world. She was a force to be reckoned with, most of the time.
Soon after, and I’ll post it another time, I dreamt about her . . . and/or she visited me in a dream. She didn’t know she had died, and I had to tell her to go to the light and take Norm’s hand.