UPDATED Most of the 500 people who filed into historic St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue today were still in shock after losing beloved friend, husband, father Doug McGrath. Last week just before he was supposed to go on stage to perform his one man show, “Everything’s Fine,” McGrath died suddenly of a heart attack. He was 64.
His beautiful service at St. Thomas and reception next door at the University Club were attended by his wife Jane Martin, their son Henry, Doug’s brother and sisters, as well as an array of grieving showbizzers including his Princeton classmate writer producer David E. Kelley (who also served as an usher) and wife Michelle Pfeiffer, Sigourney Weaver and husband Jim Simpson, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, humorist and former “SNL” creator Alan Zweibel, famed talent agent Boaty Boatwright, a very shocked John Lithgow– who directed “Everything’s Fine,” plus even Billy Bush of “Extra.” He was one of a group of students Doug tutored years ago during high school, and they all came to pay their respects.
Some flew in for the occasion. “Schitt’s Creek” star Catherine O’Hara made it in from Los Angeles. Woody Allen and Soon Yi Previn flew in over night from shooting Woody’s latest movie in Paris. They sat quietly in the back row. O’Hara told me she knew Doug from his one year at “SNL” in 1980-81. (She came with friend Robin Duke, another “SNL” cast member from that era.) “I was in the cast for a month and never got on air,” O’Hara revealed. Luckily, she’s had a stellar 40 year career since then and always stayed in touch with McGrath.
Doug’s brother and sister each spoke of their brother growing up in Midland, Texas. He had a habit of rocking back and forth so he got a job in a hospital rocking newborn babies to sleep. As an adult, he remained unpretentious, the opposite of anything Hollywood. He was known for helping groups of homeless people with cash and clothing, and inspired his young son to do the same. Does this sound too good to be true? It wasn’t. Doug McGrath was incredibly successful but also completely self-effacing. That’s why 500 people showed up today, out of respect.
“Everything is Fine,” of course, has ended its run with Doug’s death. It was not filmed because as Lithgow said, “We thought we had all the time in the world.” The hope is it will be published in book form, and one day another actor can reproduce the magic that McGrath and Lithgow made on stage. It would be a shame if it were lost to the ages.
RIP Doug. You must have been smiling in heaven today.