It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Gold Card Manager, Susan Bell.
Susan passed away on Friday, December 24, at home in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her beloved sister Irene by her side.
Susan came into ATPAM membership in 1974 as an Assistant Company Manager of THAT CHAMPION SEASON and went on to manage numerous shows including, THE WIZ, THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG, the revivals of OKLAHOMA and A CHORUS LINE, as well as serving as the manager of MISS SAIGON for nine years.
I first met Susan when she was the Manager of the Kennedy Center Opera House. Susan was the first ATPAM manager I’d had the chance to work with (well before I became an ATPAM member). She was so knowledgeable about the job. She was wickedly funny, had an incredible sense of style, and was as kind and patient as anyone I had ever known – but she also knew how to be firm with people when it was required. I am so happy that she became both a friend and a mentor.
For a generation of our members, Susan was “Ma Bell”.
Because Susan’s family has not yet been able to share an obituary with us, we would like to share the thoughts that some of our ATPAM family.
May her memory be a blessing.
This is hard to write because there is so much to say, nothing seems adequate and her loss looms so large personally and professionally. As Dave (Ehle) said to me, it was always so comforting to know she was in the world….
I first met Susan at the Kennedy Center in the early ‘80s when she, and Bob, moved from NY so Susan could become the House Manager at the Opera House. It was the beginning of a mentorship and friendship which has been one of the most important in my life. So many stories about Susan, but here are just a couple. Susan’s office backstage was the gathering place for everyone, and she always made time to talk, no matter how late she then had to stay and work. When I became her assistant, the first assignment she gave me was not payroll, house seats or writing checks. It was to run across the plaza to the Watergate complex so I could get Blue Curacao for the margarita machine. PHANTOM premiered at the Kennedy Center and was sold out months in advance. We had a new automated ticketing system and a row of tickets had been double printed. For every performance, Susan would put on her most beautiful outfit and her highest heels to stand in front of the theater, personally greeting every patron, some of whom who had driven hours to see the show, simply to tell them they wouldn’t be able to see PHANTOM that night. Extraordinarily, she almost always got flowers the next day from those same patrons even though they had left disappointed.
She and the crew threw legendary parties for staff and friends on the Opera House stage for Halloween and New Year’s eve - one of which was an ice skating party on the set of the John Curry Ice Dancers complete with ice cream and skates for all. Different times for sure.
She was beautiful, had a wicked and unexpected sense of humor, incredible smarts and a fierce determination to do what was right.
Susan taught me so many things – as she did for so many of us. She treated everyone on the team, from housekeeping to producers, from performers to crew, from ushers to management, with the exact same level of respect, interest, curiosity and kindness. Susan simply made the world a better place. I will be forever grateful to have known her.
"Robert (Nolan), I never thought that you sitting in our office, chatting with Susan, would be one of my most indelible memories." My time with Susan in San Francisco with A CHORUS LINE, in our windowless basement office, eating breakfast at her favorite restaurant, or taking a day trip to Sausalito, was another special time. I am sure we did work, too :). Susan was so supportive of my apprenticeship in ATPAM and always provided the greatest encouragement (and got me a ticket to a baseball game to celebrate taking the exam – which was proctored by Tiffini!).
Much love to you all. Susan’s legacy lives on in all of us and the many others that she impacted over her career and life.
Susan was the kindest person I’ve known in this business. I was her asst when she first returned to Broadway on MISS SAIGON. We were also two of the very few women in the Macintosh/Wasser universe so we used to have many conversations about that. I loved her. I admired her. We laughed and cried and rolled our eyes together. She was one of a kind. My heart is broken.
Not gonna lie, this hit me hard. As an intern at the Kennedy Center that wanted to be a company manager, she was the role model for who I strived to be as a CM. Always quick to laugh, compassionate when needed, but ultimately a strong manager that made it known she was in charge. I remember working at Wasser years later and she pulled me aside one morning and said, “Wasser is really happy with your work…and so am I.” I think I was happier knowing I made her happy than Wasser! I was fortunate to see Susan the last two times I toured Tulsa. After the show we were in the lobby, she had this look on pride on her face and commented how proud she was of me…I was able to tell her, “You are the reason I’m standing here. I’m the manager I am today because of you.” She was silent…teared a little and we hugged. Grateful that I was able to thank this incredible woman for instilling the qualities we all admired in her. RIP Ma Bell.
I guess if there had to be one word that pops into my mind regarding Susan it would have to be "kindness".
She was one of three people who were mentors to me early in my career. What adventures we had in Japan when she came out to temporarily take over on MY ONE AND ONLY! After that, I always loved playing the Opera House and headed right to the Manager's Office (complete with the Margarita Machine!) so that I could see Susan. At last, we were able to work together again when Alan brought her into Suite 800 at 1650 Broadway. Those were terrific years and Susan was simply a wonderful Manager and an extraordinary woman.
For me, Susan was one of those women who “I wanted to grow up to be like”. Haven’t nearly made it yet but always trying. She was a model Manager and all around great human - a strong, compassionate leader without any ego involved, hilarious and quick witted, and always, always leading with kindness. I was was so lucky that our theatre lives intersected many times, on SAIGON, while both working for a different office and catching up when she and Adam were doing a tryout in San Francisco. One of those people that everyone loved. What a legacy.