Remains of Barry Move Up the East Coast
It’s a displacement thing, that NOLA.com can still get a spit take out of me before I read the story. “Five teens killed” was today’s story, but it was a recap from last summer. And “Remains of Barry Moving Up East Coast” was not about Barry Cowsill, found last winter in the Mississippi.
We watched Entertainment Tonight’s child star coverage when Barry first went missing, and tried to identify whether he was the blurred image from the Convention Center while evacuated to a stranger’s home in Milwaukee. We would have followed the search on CNN but the stranger offering her home for a month didn’t have cable. It saved us from staying glued to cable news which probably didn’t cover the story any more than Entertainment Tonight.
Found four months after the storm, Barry was brought up the East Coast to his family home in Rhode Island for a memorial. Accompanying him from New Orleans was his sister Susan Cowsill, Barry’s equal in turning any stage into a living room and making you want to get as close to that voice as possible. She describes the strong wind that blew just as they were scattering his ashes, and Barry blew back in everyone’s face. If you knew him, you would expect nothing less.
Barry has a Wikipedia entry and if I understood Wikipedia, I would add more about his humor to balance out the child star, sudden loss of fame, suicide attempts and pseudonyms. His occasional name change was the smartest thing any child star ever attempted and Barry Scott often pulled it off. It may have bought him a few more years on the planet.
The Partridge Family was originally going to be the Cowsill family but their father pulled the plug when Shirley Jones came on board instead of Mrs. Cowsill. So he sold the rights to their life story of a traveling band and Keith Partridge got Barry’s life. When David Cassidy came to town Barry had a head of steam and wanted to challenge Keith to a rumble. After all, “He thinks he’s me but he just played me on t.v.” A little more Danny than Keith, Barry challenged everyone who loved him. You had to work at it
Like most of the lost souls who find a landing in New Orleans, he would fade away when the town no longer offered a couch, and come back when it did. When it was your turn to put him up, you started to eye the next stopover wistfully. Anyone who has a larger than life Katrina friend on their couch knows what I’m talking about. My husband Jeff, Barry’s former bandmate from The Stragglers, heard the best of Barry if the stars aligned and he hadn’t partied his voice into dust the night before.
It was easy to forget Barry’s contribution to musical history until you saw him on stage, and he would jump any stage he got close enough to. “The Rain the Park and Other Things,” (or “I Love the Flower Girl” if you know it from the commercial), got to #2 on the Billboard charts. Sometimes when he needed money, Barry would sell family photos. One was of the Cowsills all walking up the Vatican steps in their matching outfits to meet the Pope. They are so young it’s heartbreaking. It was at about the time they were singing about long, beautiful hair.
Barry was trying to get sober when Katrina hit. I hoped that he was Barry Scott again, somewhere out on the road. He probably would have liked to fade away like that, but instead was found face down in the Mississippi. Sculptor Jimmy Descant made a beautiful rocketship urn and included things found in Barry’s pocket, like his peace dove. Barry’s death was ruled a drowning from the hurricane. A plaque was anonymously placed on the Tree of Life in New Orleans, “to a true legend who died on the levee.”
We’ve posted his song, “Old Timeless,” on myspace.com/nomrf, and a podcast on nomrf.org as a tribute as the remains of Barry move up the East Coast again.