Jim Haynie: Feb. 6, 1940 – April 3, 2021

Haynie

Haynie

Jim Haynie — veteran actor of stage and screen, original manager of the Fillmore auditorium, astrologer, athlete, carpenter, musician, golfer, father and husband who was born to ride the wave of popular American culture — has died at the age of 81.

With a father who changed jobs every year or two, Jim’s family moved from town to town in Oklahoma and then Ohio during Jim’s childhood. Jim, born in 1940 and the oldest of two boys, learned along the way how to adapt quickly to his new surroundings knowing that being tall for his age meant the class bully was sure to start a fistfight. Even then, Jim wasn’t a fighter and would soon befriend the bully and bring him home along with every stray animal he found. Jim remained the champion of the downtrodden and under-privileged. By the time Jim reached his senior year in high school, his family had come west and settled just south of San Francisco in Sunnyvale, Calif. He found his way onto the school football team and also met his future wife Janice McKelheer there.

Following graduation, Jim headed to UC Davis where he majored in dramatic art and had the great good fortune to play the lead in 27 plays. He also was on the college football team for four years playing defensive end. Jim and Janice married in 1958 after his freshman year and had Mark in 1960 and Theresa the following year. Jim juggled classes, play rehearsals, fulltime work, football practices and being a husband and dad. As Jan said, “We married very young at 18 and 19, not fully realizing what marriage entailed and, unfortunately, divorced three years later.”

After a short stint in Los Angeles trying to find film roles but only managing to find a job at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, Jim moved north again ending up in San Francisco as the tech director of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, a raucous, very left-leaning group of actors who did pop-up performances in the parks and racked up big legal fees for performing without a permit and including bawdy material in their shows. Bill Graham was the group’s business manager and Bill and Jim put a concert together to raise enough money to pay the lawyers. It was a big success, featuring the new band the Jefferson Airplane. Bill Graham realized he’d make a lot more money doing rock concerts than community theater, so off he and Jim went to start the Fillmore in 1966.

Graham produced and Jim was the first stage manager of the venue, working with hundreds of big-name rock acts as well as blues musicians, Motown acts and folk singers. Jim started playing the Baby New Year to Bill Graham’s Father Time in 1967 at the Fillmore’s traditional New Year’s Eve concert with the Grateful Dead and he continued to play the notorious Baby New Year for the next 10 years.

After several years managing the Fillmore as it became a true rock palace, Jim led the FM Productions tour across the nation in 1969 and then became the road manager for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band for two years. Jim did lighting design and audio engineering for many big rock groups and later was the sound mixer at the Roy Chen Recording Studio in San Francisco in 1973.

It was in 1969 that Jim started reading everything he could about astrology. The LA Times did an article on Jim in 1986 about how he used astrology to help define the characters he played. He was in the play “Gillette” at the La Jolla Playhouse at the time and they quoted him as saying, “I’m a free-spirited son-of-a-gun and always have been … I hope to spark people’s realizations of themselves, not just the self that other people think they are, or even they might think they are … I’m looking to contact people on that spiritual level where they wake up. I say the spiritual life is really the only thing I care about. There is no other raison d’etre.” In later life, he would often forget people’s names but would always remember their astrological sign. For the record, Jim was an Aquarian with Aries rising.

After doing carpentry to pay the bills and organizing the Noe Valley Carpenters Co-op, Jim decided to go back to his original professional inclination — acting. Having been away from acting for 10 years, Jim began doing theater to get back in the game. He was cast in “Irma La Deuce” in 1975 and then started taking acting classes given by the director Robert Woodruff, who then cast Jim in “When you Coming Back, Red Ryder.” He did six more plays over the next few years and then, in 1980, was cast as Lee in the world premiere of the Sam Shepard play “True West” at the Magic Theatre, again directed by Robert Woodruff. It was a big hit and was moved to a much larger 650-seat house, Marines’ Memorial Theatre, for a long, successful run. During the course of the play, the famous San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote of Jim “A star is born!”

In a recent review of a new staging of “True West” in New York with Ethan Hawke playing Lee, reviewer Misha Berson wrote that of all the productions of the play “Jim Haynie’s volatile portrait of Lee burns most brightly in my memory. Perhaps unfairly, every other Lee I’ve seen gets measured against Haynie’s … Haynie was a primitive id oozing menace out of every sweaty pore — but a cunning one with pathetic dreams of glory.” Jim loved playing that part and working with Sam Shepard to hone his portrayal of Lee that stands to this day. Jim went on to be in many more plays in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. In 1982, at age 42 on the heels of his success in “True West,” Jim decided to come to Los Angeles to pursue a film career. As he wrote, “It’s been an interesting and rewarding ride. Hundreds of projects later I still love it.”

He appeared in many movies including “Bridges of Madison County,” “The Right Stuff,” “Country,” “Pretty in Pink,” “The Peacemaker,” “Bringing Down the House,” “Staying Together” and “Men Don’t Leave” among others as well as many TV movies and series. Jim was a professional actor for over 40 years and hated to retire.

In 1988, Jim got a wonderful gift. His agent forwarded a letter to him from Andrea Miller, a daughter whom he’d tried to track down earlier with no success. They adored each other from the moment they met and she became a vital part of his life. As Jim loved to say, he had 19 spawn (three kids, five grands, 11 great grands) and two step-fishies (Maggie’s son and granddaughter.) Though he didn’t get to spend as much time with his children as he’d liked till they were grown, he loved his family beyond words and was in turn treasured by each of them. All of his children were gifts as were his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

After 40 years of being single, Jim married Maggie Causey in 2007 in Malibu where they continued to live for the next decade. Jim once wrote “They saved the best for last for us! How spectacular that we’re crazy in love!” Maggie, who grew up in New Orleans, was a script supervisor in the film industry and they had much in common professionally as well as a love of family, cooking, dancing in the kitchen, and easy laughter. They moved to Whidbey Island, Wash., in 2017, a place which filled them with awe at its natural beauty and with the loving friends they made there.

The last four years of his life Jim was afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia which made life difficult, but rarely dampened his spirits and never diminished his personality. He continued to try to focus on the humor and love in each moment. He was a sweet and kind man, always with a twinkle in his eye. As one of his friends said the day after Jim’s death, “He was the coolest cat in town, moving effortlessly through life with a knack for being in the right place at the right time.”

What were his eccentricities, you ask? Railing at Donald Trump, driving fast, breaking into song at the drop of a hat, playing the sax, telling long stories, “organic” dancing and wearing colorful socks and funny hats — a funny man with an incredibly strong drive to live and love. He was truly one of a kind.

Jim is survived by his wife Maggie Causey, his children Theresa Burns, Mark Haynie, Andrea Moe and Jesse Causey, six grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

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