R.I.P. Jimmy Buffett

I met Jimmy Buffett in 2017 in the theatre lobby after a performance of Escape to Margaritaville, the Broadway musical centered around Jimmy Buffett songs, then in preview. (The script was written by Greg Garcia and my cousin Mike O’Malley!) The audience was a hilarious bunch, Buffett-heads, they showed up wearing Hawaiian shirts, draped in leis, many brought beach balls. They all had a ribald air. (At one point during the show, beach balls dropped from the ceiling, and over the course of the next song, the audience batted it around by hand. It was magical). During the intermission the audience jostled up belly to the bar, swilling back margaritas. This was not your average Broadway audience.

The show had this hilarious irreverent feel, the audience was encouraged to sing along with the well-known songs, and it was a total blast. I was standing with Mike and a couple other cousins (there are so many O’Malley cousins) in the lobby, and I clocked Jimmy Buffett approaching. He had this happy “wow, check out all these people” swagger, and his smile was instantly recognizable. Mike reached out to grab Jimmy as he walked by. He, too, was wearing beach clothes, grinning ear to ear. There was no standing on ceremony. We all were like, “Oh my God the show was so FUN” and he was gracious and happy, he looked like he was having so much fun. The feeling in that Broadway theatre was of a chaotic hilarious party and he seemed right at home. He had time to talk, even though I’m sure the night was crazy with everyone wanting to talk to him. He hung out and just enjoyed the vibes. Because of COURSE Jimmy Buffett hung out and enjoyed the vibes. What else would you expect?

That same night, in the little celebration held in a green room next to the theatre, I met Frank Marshall. The Other Side of the Wind hadn’t come out yet. In fact, it was barely more than a rumor at that point. No announcements yet, just gossip that it *might* be happening, whispers of the possibility along the lines of “I heard it’ll come next year”. If you knew the legend of this so-called “lost” final movie of Orson Welles then … it all seemed too good to be true. But Frank Marshall’s involvement seemed hopeful: it made it seem legit, like it really was going to happen. I saw Frank Marshall in that little crowded room, people drinking cocktails in plastic cups, and I said to Mike something like “Holy shit that’s Frank Marshall – he’s apparently doing the Orson Welles movie – ” So Mike dragged me over to Frank, saying, “This is my cousin Sheila. Talk to her about the Orson Welles movie right now.” before departing to talk to someone else. Bless Frank Marshall, he didn’t even question the command. He had no idea who I was but if Mike says to talk to this lady about the Orson Welles movie, then dammit he will. I think the only thing I said to him was, “I can’t even believe this Orson thing is happening. Walk me through it.” I didn’t even say “nice to meet you.” So he walked me through it. He was so nice, and so into it, and … so happy that I was so happy. I feel safe in saying that. If you’re working on a project like that, I’m sure it helps to meet some random woman who’s like “WHEN CAN I SEE IT OH MY GOD.” I was the opposite of “cool”. I was practically jumping up and down as he told me what was going on.

So that’s the night I met Jimmy Buffett and Frank Marshall in a span of 30 minutes.

Because sometimes life is weird like that.


I know how much Jimmy Buffett meant to people. He has one of the most passionate fan bases in the world. I can still see his riotous happy smile as he sauntered up to us in that Broadway theatre lobby. Soaking it all up.

For fans interested in a less anecdotal type of piece, for a piece written by someone more familiar with Jimmy Buffett’s catalog, a piece written by a true Floridian, let me point you towards my friend Larry Aydlette’s beautiful piece: Key West daze: My favorite Jimmy Buffett song.

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