The Important Life and Career of Brian LaTulip
BRIAN La TULIP
April 25, 1934 - October 18, 2023
Beloved spouse of Nancy (nee Kotaska) La Tulip; loving father of Colette (John) Badger, Yvette (Joe) Sullivan, Harold J. Cappell and Suzette R. Cappell; cherished grandfather of Emilie Rose, Victoria Ann (Joseph), Mary Caroline (Ben), Katherine Jo, Alexandria Nicole, Mark and Nicholas Anthony; devoted great-grandfather of Cole; dear brother of David (Nancy) Shannon, Kevin (Caroline) La Tulip, the late M. Diane (late Walter) Kohl and Harold S. La Tulip; also survived by many nieces and nephews. The family will be present this Friday, October 27, from 2-4 and 7-9 PM at the (Amherst Chapel) AMIGONE FUNERAL HOME, INC., 5200 Sheridan Drive (corner of Hopkins). A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday from Christ the King Church, 30 Lamarck Dr., Snyder at 9:30 a.m. Please assemble at church. Entombment to follow in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Flowers gratefully declined, donations can be made in Brian's name to Meals on Wheels or the SPCA Serving Erie County. Share condolences online at www.AMIGONE.com.
The Important Life and Career of Brian LaTulip
When actor / restauranteur Brian LaTulip died this week, we lost a link to a bygone era of Buffalo theater. Even back in September 1980, when M.L. Caprino interviewed LaTulip for the Buffalo News he had already been an actor for 22 years. At that time, he lamented the demise of a once robust dinner-theater scene that had sustained many actors in Western New York in the 1970s. In 1980, the Packet Inn was the last dinner theater standing after the demise of places like Mr. Anthony’s and Great Gatsby. LaTulip was a regular performer with the old Melic & Mime. He did Funny Girl with TableTop Players, a dinner theater run by Neal Radice that did musicals with dinner at One M&T Plaza and then at the Ramada Inn in Niagara Falls in the 1970s. LaTulip met with wife, Nancy, in that production.
He hit the requisite dinner theater fare, with a generous serving of Neil Simon: Come Blow Your Horn (1977); Plaza Suite (1977); California Suite (1980); The Odd Couple (1977, 1985); The Sunshine Boys (with Melic & Mime in 1978 and at Desiderio’s in 1986); God’s Favorite for Desiderio’s at Impaxx in 1991. Some of the same titles and names recur: John Buscaglia, Anne Gayley, Michael Galante, Mary Kate O’Connell, Claudia Catalano, Arlene Clement, Darlene Pickering Hummert, Jay Desiderio. Round that out with Marriage Go-Round (1977); 6 Rms Riv Vu opposite Anne Gayley at The Great Gatsby (1978). Harvey at Desiderio’s (1986).
Along the way, he had tried his luck in New York City, only to find that “there were probably three million of me down there!” He came back to Buffalo. In those days, Caprino wrote, “unfortunately, there’s little work for New York actors, let alone local talent on Buffalo’s sparce professional stages.”
That is certainly not true of Buffalo today. At any moment, we have more than twenty theaters describing themselves as “professional.”
In the 1970s LaTulip appeared at one dinner theater after another, often performing in one show, and then staying up late to rehearse for his next one. Like other dinner theater performers, LaTulip had worked his way into other aspects of the restaurant business and was at the time of the interview, working as the manager of Eagle House in Williamsville. Eventually he’d run LaTulip’s Klondike in Bowmansville, (no Lancaster)!
He had been transferred to Buffalo by the Huron Cement Company, which was part of National Gypsum. At first, theater was a diversion for LaTulip. Then, a star turn as Starbuck in a production of N. Richard Nash’s The Rainmaker hooked him. He skipped an important cement directors meeting, giving priority to his theater commitments. The die was cast.
A copy of LaTulip’s resume, provided by that perennial publicist, Darleen Pickering-Hummert, is also a window into Buffalo theater’s past. Here was a man walking the tightrope between striving to be a serious actor and making a living. In 1973 he appeared in Henrik Ibsen’s Little Eyolf at the Keenan Center in Lockport, directed by Liz Hiller with Joan Calkin, Theresa DePaulo, Gregory R. Maday, Tess Spangler, and Michael Wiltberger.
He lists his appearances at D’Youville Kavinoky Theatre as “University” shows, a designation that would surely startle the folks at the fully professional Kavinoky today. But remember, back in 1981 when LaTulip appeared opposite David Lamb in Anthony Shaeffer’s Sleuth, it was the very first production of the newly renovated college theater, which was still being called, “D’Youville College Center Stage.” He also appeared at the Kavinoky in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound, Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, and as Henry II Lion in Winter.
In that ageless actorly way, LaTulip’s resume does not provide dates. Sleuth and Hound (which paired LaTulip with John Buscaglia) were ’81, Scandal was ‘82; Lion in Winter, was ’83.
Directed by Derek Campbell, School for Scandal paired LaTulip with David Lamb again, as brothers Joseph and Charles Surface. Jim DeMunn (father of actor Jeff DeMunn) was their uncle, Sir Oliver, while the legendary Betty Lutes DeMunn played Mrs. Candour. Continuing the litany of stars from yesteryear, Jim Mohr was Sir Peter Teazle. Husband and wife Christopher Wilson and the late Toni Smith Wilson did the set and costumes.
Lion in Winter also featured Anne Gayley, Tom Martin, Jon Sommers, and Tim Joyce.
The emerging Buffalo theater scene is reflected in LaTulip’s roles. While appearing in the inevitable dinner theater titles, he also asserted himself by touring with Samuel Beckett’s one-person tour de force, Krapp’s Last Tape (1975). In 1982 he appeared as the short-lived Playhouse on Main Street in Boucicault’s melodrama, The Streets of New York, before he began his run of Kavinoky Shows.
Then, the gig that was considered hitting the big time in Buffalo in those days -- Studio Arena. There he did Witness for the Prosecution (1982), Stalin in Weapons of Happiness (1983), Wait Until Dark (1983), Children of a Lesser God (1985), The Beaux Stratagem (1989), and played opposite Barbara Link LaRou in Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear (1990).
As Studio Arena entered its years of decline and small independent professional theaters were on the rise, LaTulip pivoted into that world. He did Harold Pinter’s The Lover at Erica Wohl’s Cabaret 650 (1982). He performed at the old Buffalo Entertainment Theatre, as Hitler in Gary Fisher’s production of The Fuehrer Bunker, (1982) a cycle of poems by WD Snograss that also featured Fred Keller, Sr.; and then he channeled critic Walter Kerr in Terrence McDonald’s Questions for a Civilized Man (1983). Also at BET, he did Voyage Round My Father (1992) directed by Robert Waterhouse with Peter Palmisano, Sue Toomey, Sydney Bernard Smith, Geoffrey Golden, Holly Golden, Jay Yeagle, Arlene Clement, Caitlin Baeumler (before she was Coleman), Kate Cody, Loren Keller, Michael Mirand, and Christopher Dragem.
He did a local satire of Buffalo politics called A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Polls with a cast that included John Buscaglia, Gail Golden, Mary Kate O’Connell, and Anne Gayley, with music direction by Jim Deiotte and Grant Golden.
He performed at Alleyway, in Manny Fried’s Brothers for a’ That opposite Barbara Link LaRou and Keith Elkins (1988); he did Joseph Ritz's play Acts of Contrition with Claudia Catalano and Fred Keller Sr. (1989); and he appeared in a highly regarded production of Stuart Flack’s American Life and Casualty (1991), in which he portrayed modernist poet Wallace Stevens opposite Roz Cramer and Tim Denesha, who played modenist composer Charles Ives.
In 1993 he was Eilert Loveborg opposite Christina Rausa’s Hedda Gabler at Fred Keller’s Café in the Square.
He did a run of impressive shows at the Irish Classical Theatre Company, then in the Calumet Building on Chippewa: Desire Under the Elms with Bess Brown Kregel, Richard Wesp, and Greg Stuhr (1994); Old Mahon in Playboy of the Western World (1994); Da (1995), directed by Chris O’Neill, with Paul McGrane, Chris Kelly, Arlene Clement, Manny Fried, Paul O’Hern, Roz Kramer, and Kamala Boeck ; Juno and the Paycock (1997) as Captain Boyle with Jerry Finnegan as Joxer, Josephine Hogan as Juno, and Arlene Clement as Mrs. Tancred; and in Michael Frayn’s Mr. Foot, again with Hogan, directed by Vincent O’Neill.
He performed at Theatre of Youth in Swiss Family Robinson with Christina Rausa in 2000.
The career of Brian LaTulip encapsulates the history of the Buffalo theater from the 1970s through the 1990s. He was a major player in our theater scene and we are richer for his vast contributions.
To hear Peter Palmisano's "Off-Road" interview with Brian at the age of 89, first broadcast in July 2023, click this button: