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From the Publisher's Desk:Happy birthday, Rob, wherever you are

I woke up from a dream Saturday morning wondering if it was real. The scene in my mind left me feeling comforted and I didn’t want to let it go.

I dreamed I was at a college reunion and everyone looked like they did 40 years ago.  Rob sat on the floor next to the stereo holding the jacket of an album — Santana’s Abraxas — and I was walking toward him when I awoke.

Rob appeared in my life as mysteriously as he did in my dream. I was sitting at my desk in my dorm room and turned around and saw him standing in the doorway. Ladies, if you remember the movie “Dr. Zhivago,” then you remember Omar Sharif! Rob was a spitting image of a 20-year-old Omar Sharif, with a New Jersey accent.

Rob was from Newark, the oldest son of a congressman and his wife. He was on track to go to law school when he announced he was moving to San Francisco to become a disc jockey.  His parents insisted he finish college first so he enrolled in USF and that is when we met.

I introduced Rob to my friends and instantly he became part of our group. In fact, his charisma soon elevated him to pack leader. He took us to our first candlelight peace vigil, and it was Rob who insisted we all board a bus at midnight to attend an earthquake celebration on the steps of city hall. Rob led us to the beach at dawn and to the top of Mount Tamalpais at sunset.

When I flew to Connecticut to visit my best friend Denise at the University of Hartford during winter break we took the bus to New York City and called Rob, who was home in Newark visiting his folks. He met us at the McAlpin Hotel and walked us to the Empire State Building. Then we rode up and down the escalators of the new General Motors Building. Rob bought pretzels from a sidewalk vendor and the three of us strolled arm in arm into Tiffany’s but were promptly thrown out because food is not allowed in Tiffany’s.

Back in San Francisco, Rob joined the College Players, the campus acting group. Soon he had the lead in “Othello.” We saw each other less frequently his senior year as he became more involved in rehearsals and performances.

Rob loved San Francisco, but went back east to try his luck on Broadway. In New York he landed a role on the daytime soap “All My Children” and after that gave “Charlie’s Angel” Cheryl Ladd her first onscreen kiss. Rob and I still kept in touch then and he would call or write to tell me when he was going to be on TV or in a movie.  He played Natalie Wood’s twin brother in a TV movie and, he told me, Natalie liked him so well she got him a walk-on part in “The Last Married Couple in America,” starring her and George Segal. The last time I talked to Rob he was on his way to that movie’s cast party in L.A.

The last movie Rob made was “Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter,” in 1987. Someone told me he died in San Francisco. His birthday was July 31. He would be 64 Saturday.

In my dream he was young and handsome, doing what he loved: spinning records at a party. I guess my youngest son’s upcoming 10th high school reunion set the stage for my reunion dream. I’m grateful for the chance to look back and see that my old friend’s doing fine.

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