Spacks Street


Painting by Jack Smith

Sunday, a memorial for the poet Barry Spacks took place. I arrived at Santa Barbara’s Museum of Contemporary Arts 10 minutes early for the service to find it mobbed. Wonderful! Seats went fast. I sat next to the poet Dan Gerber. The last time I saw Dan was at a “Moon” poetry reading at the art gallery Sullivan Goss  (Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara), which was the last time I saw Barry Spacks. Dan Gerber, Barry Spacks, poet/songwriter Will Jennings and I each read poems in honor of full moons and the art of Lockwood de Forest, whose “moon” paintings were featured in the SG gallery at that time. A bonifide full moon ringed its light through a heavily misted Santa Barbara. Twinkle lights twined every palm tree. On the gallery’s front balcony, artists sketched the moon and sketched the mist as guests mingled and admired Lockwood’s creations. And there was Barry with his moon poem, his eyes radiating his own trademark twinkle.

Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Chryss Yost started off the (standing room only) memorial by letting us know what a blessing it is to have many more friends than chairs, and then she turned the mic over to Barry’s family, close friends, musicians, artists—you could say Renaissance Man, absolutely, to describe Barry–poet, actor, musician, artist, teacher, mentor to so many, including me—he was a dedicated explorer of life.

Barry’s art will be featured at Sullivan Goss Thursday, April 8th. Each piece will cost $108, the money benefitting a charity he believed in. Spacks Street T-shirts will also be for sale. If you don’t know what Spacks Street is, go to and have a read. After visiting Spacks Street, if you didn’t know Barry, you will wish you had.

My little tribute to Barry was posted in the museum with other tributes. Here it is:

When I was 17 years old, I was cast in a production of Tartuffe’s, ‘The Miser’, at Santa Barbara City College. I played Marianne, the naif slated to marry the miser himself, who was played by Barry Spacks. In the make-up room, Barry sang. A lot. His eyes were constantly twinkling as he powdered up and he was full of a bubbly (yes, bubbly) energy that infected cast and crew. He walked around in his costume tights as though he wore them every day. He was unselfconscious, really friendly and always interested in what others in the cast were up to or their opinions on the works of Moliere and the play. Then he’d get on stage and be this nasty miser guy that scared the bejeezus out of me. One thing I remember so well is how, in the makeup room, powder and hairspray wafting everywhere, he would proclaim how excited he was that his Lady Love was either going to be in that night’s audience, or he was all excited to be joining her for some fun evening after the show. At 17, I had never heard a man call his woman a Lady Love before. I never forgot that. When I was 18, Barry was the first “real” poet to critique my weird fledgling poetry. He was very generous with his comments. He gave me words of advice I remember to this day (luckily). In the theatre, it’s so important to be able to trust your castmates. Everyone trusted Barry. He went for his ‘Miser’ role with major, humbling gusto. In the decades to come, whenever I saw Barry, we shared a giggle about ‘The Miser’. I am so very grateful to have known him. I always have and will continue to learn about poetry through his work.

Thank you, Barry.

About PB Rippey

7th generation Californian, thalassofile and writer living in the mountains near Los Angeles. I write fiction (contemporary women's), poetry, and middle grade eco-fiction. I'm an active member of SCBWI. Long live my mini-zoo of pets.
This entry was posted in books, Poetry, Santa Barbara, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Spacks Street

  1. VictoriaJoDean says:

    Lovely tribute.

  2. Susan says:

    Lovely tribute! I can totally see Barry in tights. Also, a shout out to the painter, Jack Smith who painted the portrait of Barry you have shown in the post.

    • PB Rippey says:

      Thanks for that–and the reminder to credit the exquisite painting that captures Barry so perfectly.

      • jacktaos says:

        Hi Pam, Thanks for the insightful take on Barry’s largess of spirit and his generosity. And yes that twinkle in his eyes. I painted that portrait in, I believe, 2005 while he was visiting here in Taos, NM where I live. Happy that you chose to use it in your piece on this remarkable soul. He is missed.
        All best, Jack

      • PB Rippey says:

        Jack, I love your poet portraits. In addition to Barry’s, I especially like Dan Gerber and Jane Hirschfield and Kim Addonizio–I am pretty partial to their work and I think you capture each poet’s poet-self beautifuly. What a treat to visit your site. I’m going to put a link in my Blogroll.

  3. Beth Hull says:

    He sounds wonderful, PB. I’m sorry he’s gone.

  4. Jennifer Plana says:

    Really nice, Pam!

    Jennifer Plana, Realtor®

    Broker Associate

    Coldwell Banker Previews International

    1290 Coast Village Road

    Montecito, CA 93108



    • PB Rippey says:

      Thanks, Jen–it really was a wonderful memorial and I’m so glad I went. I feel as if I’ve said goodbye, even though I don’t want to say goodbye.

Words do not escape you

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s