In Sweet Company

Sometime in the wee small hours of the morning, the world lost one of the best listeners it ever knew. Though Bill Jacobson had a successful career as a journalist and a comedy writer in the early days of television, one of his greatest successes came from his unique ability to be fully present to whomever he was talking with. Billy was so genuinely interested in your story talking with him made you feel like you were the only person in the world who mattered. This, coupled with his quick and outrageous sense of humor, endeared him to everyone who knew him.

There was plenty else to love about Billy: his fine mind, his political commentary, his endearing and constant love and admiration for his wife, Bobbi. Though he was a few months short of 93 when he passed, he had a boyish mischievousness and a twinkle in his eye that transcended years — yours as well as his.

Billy could tell a story like few others. It wasn’t just the words he chose or his dry sense of humor or his pitch perfect timing — skills he honed from his years as a Hollywood literati — but his voice; this low, rumbling, velvety baritone that began in his heart and ended in yours. Billy had great stories to tell about many of Hollywood’s early legends, about adventures he’d conjured, about ordinary life. He never boasted, never hogged the stage, always let others have their say. This more than the stories he told, impressed me. His emotional generosity ran deep.

In the weeks to come a lot will be said to praise him by those of us who loved and admired him. His family and friends will sit together and begin sentence after sentence after sentence with “Remember when Billy said this or that?” Though the stories themselves will make us laugh and think more deeply about life, ultimately they will reveal to us not what the man did, but who the man is. I think this is his greatest legacy to us.

Love to you, Billy.

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