Arts Listings

Memorial for Jack Tucker Saturday

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Friday January 18, 2008

Jack Tucker of Richmond—theater critic, retired columnist for the Contra Costa Times, who the Guinness Book of Records named “Oldest Known Living Newspaper Columnist” in 2005—died Dec. 27, 93 years of age.  

A memorial gathering will be held Saturday from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley (in Kensington). Information and directions are on Tucker’s website, where his reviews appeared after his retirement, 

Tucker, the emeritus of the Bay Area theater critics scene, knew both sides of the proscenium, acting in many local productions over the years. Dory Ehrlich, Berkeley actress and publicist for the Masquers Playhouse in Pt. Richmond, recalled acting with Tucker in a production of A. R. Gurney’s Scenes from American Life at Contra Costa Civic Theatre in 2002. 

“It was a PlayMakers production, directed by Louis Flynn [founder of CCCT, also recently deceased, age 86], who hand-picked his cast, all of whom had worked at CCCT before—as Jack said in his column, ‘a sort of old-home week reunion for many, fittingly all together again as a stage family.’ Jack played a dance instructor, and I can picture him with his bow-tie and his stick, patiently tapping out the rhythm for the less than perfect dancers. As always, he was a gentleman, onstage and off.” 

Of his lively writing style, entertainment publicist Kim Taylor noted, “Jack had the kind of flair that could make any fellow writer jealous; there were times he made me downright pea-green with envy. He could always spin my submissions into wittier, tighter items. I’ve lost a friend and mentor and the theater community has lost one of its biggest supporters.” 

Born in Tennessee, Tucker wrote as society columnist for the Detroit Free Press and theater critic for the San Diego Tribune (now the Union). He’d mention as asides in conversation his presence at the surrender of Japanese troops in Korea at the end of World War II, or spotting Huey Long at the sidelines of a ballgame and engaging him in a chat.  

In recent years, he posted his Thurberesque cartoons on his website (and on mugs), appeared on a float in the How Berkeley Can You Be? parade and held annual Weird Food parties with his wife, horticulturalist Gail Morrison, in their pioneering sustainable and edible garden. Morrison noted that, despite his rich personal experience, the only person Tucker never covered in his columns was himself.