The Life & Death of Bryan Burgess
by ben hill
With sadness and a profound sense of loss, we bid farewell to our friend and colleague Bryan Burgess: A Fringe co-founder, our sales director, the man running the bar and a great light in our world. Too soon we are all forced to say goodbye to someone who loved unconditionally and was unconditionally loved.
As many of you know, the central Fringe team has been together for many years and has developed a close bond. Bryan was a critical link amongst us all. In many situations, he was the smartest, most level-headed, most loving, best friend we ever had. A man who always saw the goal line with clarity, listened to voices of others, who sought to understand while many of us struggled to be understood.
Bryan was the most loyal soul I will ever know; his sense of duty to friends and family was unparalleled in my experience. Never did I doubt his commitment, his passion, his sense of duty, his goodness.
I first met Bryan in Iowa City where many of us spent time together. We hosted many parties there, no doubt good practice for our future lives at Fringe. Bryan would arrive first, party the hardest, fall asleep last, and rise for cleanup in the morning.
Community was in Bryan’s spirit. When we were discussing branding for our imminent LA project, his favorite company name was “Us”. His role in the Fringe was to make sure everyone had a good time. This was Bryan’s personal mission, he cared about people’s experience not just the advancement of their careers. We might have lost this key element were it not for his efforts.
He loved reading, games, talking loud, drinking beers, conspiracy theories, pranks, wet dogs, potatoes, family dinners, YouTube, sleeping late, his friends. He hated hypocrisy, fascist cults, and the federal reserve bank. He didn’t need much to live happily other than good times, good friends, and a place to pass out when the party was over. He loved Hollywood and never saw much point in going anywhere else. Although I often called him a human tornado of destruction, he built far more than he destroyed. His was a chaotic good, a force of nature no man-made barrier could cage or deny.
For the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Bryan left an indelible mark. Future festival participants will benefit from his commitment to their good times. From this point forth, the bar at Fringe Central will bear his name with honor. A scholarship in his name will be established for participants unable to afford the registration fee. His spirit will playfully haunt every event so long as the Fringe endures.
In Bryan’s wake, an unbridgeable void remains we can only fill with our many memories of him. I will always remember Bryan shirtless, beltless, blue jeans dropping just a little too far below his waste, pbr can in-hand, a luminous smile on his face. Even in the face of adversity and conflict, Bryan always managed to smile. It’s his smile I miss most of all.
Now we must endeavor to smile without Bryan’s face lighting up our days, to march forth without our fallen friend. To try to understand or at least accept; to be at peace with his life and death.
It’s been several days now since he left us, it’s still so hard to understand, to make sense of his final exit. I keep hoping the next day will be easier, but each day I feel his presence in my memory a little more distant. Every molecule in my body struggles to hold on to him. It’s up to all of us to keep the flame of his life alive.
Biting the bullet, closing our eyes, putting our heads down and charging into the next day. That’s how Bryan did it. That’s how he lived.
Ben Hill, Festival Director
The Hollywood Fringe Festival