By Courtney Day
I went to Torrey Pines High School with Jimmy Gauntt in Del Mar, California. I graduated in 2001 and Jimmy in 2002. I met his parents, Casey and Hilary, six years later at his funeral. My friend Traci recently sent me the link to Write Me Something Beautiful, and I read Casey’s story and watched the short film The Letter. It brought me to tears. Because of that story, I was compelled to share with Hilary and Casey something that happened a couple of months earlier that made me think of Jimmy—or perhaps it was Jimmy that made me think of him—I don’t know for sure.
I work at a restaurant called Tavern in West Los Angeles, and I’ve been there almost two years now. I needed a place to live back in June and one of the waitresses, JJ, happened to need a roommate. I was hesitant to share a place with her because we worked together and, as a hostess, I would sometimes bump heads with her and the other waitresses. Long story short, I moved in with JJ and we have become great friends. It is the first time since I decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue acting that my living situation feels like a home—that I have a good home base.
A few months ago I was going through some things in my bedroom and came across the program from Jimmy’s funeral. Later that evening, JJ’s boyfriend was over and I was telling him about Jimmy and what had happened to him. JJ then walked into the living room—she had been in the kitchen and overheard our conversation. She just sort of stared at me and I finally asked “What is it?” Without saying a word, she walked over to her desk, opened a drawer and pulled out another program from Jimmy’s funeral. I thought “How do you have my program!?”
JJ said she had met Jimmy in an acting class shortly before his death and that she too attended his funeral in La Jolla in August of 2008. Of course, I didn’t know her back then. We both were just quiet for a little while. It was mind boggling that in that moment, in this region of almost ten million people, we had discovered that not only did we know Jimmy, but we both had attended his funeral, kept his program in our separate desks and not once mentioned his name.
JJ and I talked about Jimmy for quite awhile. He was so wonderful and nice and people were just drawn to him. I showed JJ the film The Letter and that prompted her recollection of a few stories about Jimmy. She was reminded of how Jimmy would get very excited when he tried to explain a scene they were doing in their acting class. “Jimmy would keep saying, ‘It’s like’, ‘I don’t know’, “It’s like,’ ‘How can I explain it’—he was so into it he couldn’t get the words out.” JJ was smiling ear to ear as she told it. JJ went back to her desk and brought out a binder that was full of scenes and brightly decorated. As she held it close to her she said “During one of our classes, Jimmy casually picked up my binder and asked me about it. I grabbed it from him and said ‘Oh, it’s just a bunch of scenes I like that I decorated and detailed—it’s stupid.’ I was a little embarrassed, I guess. Then Jimmy said ‘Yeah, that’s weird to keep things that you like in a binder and be artistic and decorate it—that is totally lame.’ He called me out with his inciteful sarcasm. He had a knack for doing that.”
The last time I saw Jimmy was a few months before he died. I had came home to San Diego and attended a fundraising party hosted by Jeffrey Strauss at his Pamplemousse restaurant benefiting After-School All-Stars. Most of the San Diego Chargers were there as well as many other football and baseball players from all over the country. I ran into Jimmy and his good friend John Dale [Read John Dale’s Story: “Jimmy and Me“]at the party and told Jimmy I was in LA, and he said he was too. We made plans to write together—but we never got the chance.
When I came up to him towards the end of the party to say goodbye, he looked right into my eyes and said, “I hope it works out for you in LA. You are such a nice person. I want your dream to come true.“ I laughed, hugged him and wished him the same.
I think about Jimmy and what he said to me, particularly when I feel that I’m on the wrong path or doubting what I’m doing with my life. Hopefully, I’m right where I need to be.