While the final few hours of Dec. 31 — as the hands of the clock inch ever closer to midnight — are innately a time of reflection, celebration and inspiration, when you gather an eclectic mix of writers, musicians, actors and artists of various disciplines together to see the arrival of the new year, each of those aforementioned elements becomes exponentially enhanced.
That was the case this past New Year's Eve as actor and Burbank High School drama teacher Brooks Gardner, his wife, Ann, and their daughter, Taryn, invited longtime friends and colleagues to join them in welcoming in 2014 at their beautifully decorated Burbank hills home.
Best known for his role as Travis, the wild and boisterous, steak-loving cowboy who served as the commercial spokesman for Black Angus Restaurants from the late-1990s through the early-2000s, Brooks Gardner, is also known locally as a former member and chairman of the Burbank Police Commission, a regular master of ceremonies for various events staged by the La Providencia Guild of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, a member of the choir at Burbank's First United Methodist Church and, for the past 10 years, the head of the Burbank High School drama department.
Ann Gardner, an accomplished actress and singer who met her husband in 1978 when they were cast as the leads in a summer stock production of "Two Gentleman of Verona," is a highly requested soloist who has sung at more local weddings, funerals and events than she can begin to remember.
A highlight of the Gardner's New Year's Eve gathering saw Ann perform an original Christmas song, "A Memory of Christmas," accompanied on the piano by the song's writer and composer John Rusnak, whose music has been featured in numerous television and film productions and who has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and in an internationally televised papal concert at the Vatican on Christmas Day 1999.
Among those enjoying the evening were Gardner friends Mark and Denise Sugar, guitarist Brian Fairweather, who has played with many legendary recording artists including Bernie Taupin and Earth, Wind and Fire, and his wife, Zena, a British-born artist who is acclaimed for her dramatically realistic portrait work.
Other Gardner guests included historian and writer Robert Newcombe, who just saw the release of his latest book, "Images of America Series — Montrose, California," and his wife, Debbie, Joanie Rudesill, who does hair and wig design for Burbank's Colony Theater, as well as film and television editor Ron Spang, accompanied by his wife, Deborah, who oversees the La Providencia Guild of Children's Hospital Los Angeles Thrift Store on Burbank Boulevard.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.