Many years ago I became acquainted with the colorful Jeff Wannberg. He was acting as supervisor on a film that was in post at a studio were I was a receptionist. We hit it off at once and became dear friends quickly after. While I was certainly his "type" we didn't really have that spark so I became his wing-girl, his backup date for fancy occasions and his all around girl Friday. And I adored him. He had the biggest heart and an eccentric world view. Jeff lived his life like a novel, not a movie. He was in it for the nuance and anticipated drama. And he ended it on his own terms.
But I remember Jeff daily. Not just because he was a close friend, but because he gave me 3 things that I cherish and attribute to him entirely.
1. Always be the first one to the party.
In a town like LA where everyone is fashionable late and desperate to make an entrance to only a full house, Jeff would show up on the dot. He told me he did this for a variety of reasons. The best booze was always full at the start of the party; one could game the room and situate oneself in the best spot to view all the lovely single ladies as they came in; and you should respect the host by showing up when they invited you to do so. But mostly it was to game the room for single ladies. However, this gave me permission to be on time, and to this day I'm annoyingly so. I don't think there has ever been a time when I didn't benefit from a early arrival.
2. Leave a mark.
Jeff loved to spent time in a good hotel. It didn't necessarily have to be expensive but it had to have charm. On one trip we took out to 29 Palms to relax and take photos, as we were packing up to leave, he removed a drawer from the desk, took out a sharpie, and wrote a little note with the date to remember the weekend. Like a journal entry for the universe, this secret note would remain to mark time and memory. My husband and I have adopted this habit and to this day won't abandon a hotel room without leaving a little note behind.
Shortly after his death, I mentioned this habit to his sister. She made a special trip out to one of his favorite places in search of these lost sentiments. Sure enough on that same desk drawer she found his words, and then words from a stranger that told him not to give up. It was an unexpected exchange and one Jeff never had opportunity to see but would have greatly enjoyed.
Frequently I am asked what the "5x5" means. It is an old radio term that denoted signal strength. The first number was the answer to "how are you receiving me?" (1-5), the second number the answer to "how is my signal strength" (1-5.) Therefore 5x5 meant everything was perfect, or good to go. You will sometimes catch this term in movies with fighter pilots reporting back to the tower. Jeff taught me this. He was fascinated with old movies, war films, historic documentaries. I absolutely fell in love with the idea of 5x5 and told him that I was stealing that and making it mine.
To this day all aspects of my life have a touch of 5x5. My website...obviously. I used to be in a punk rock band called Proximity 5x5. I used to have a store called Spider 5x5. My current art studio goes by Studio 5x5. And of course I have a 5x5 tattoo.
I don't know if Jeff ever really understood that I attributed all of these things to him directly and loved him all the more for each of them. There is not a day that goes by that I don't see a 5x5 and think of Jeff, with all his wit and wisdom. He touched a lot of lives but all I can honestly speak to is how he touched mine. RIP old friend. In typical fashion...you had to be the first one home.