He wasn’t returning phone calls. He’d been missing from his favorite haunts for several days.
Very unlike him.
So we started calling. Other friends first, then – reluctantly – family. Nobody knew anything.
That’s when news broke in the media that he was in jail, reversing the flow of phone calls.
“Have you heard?” “Is it true?” “Should we be worried about him?”
Yes on all counts. He’s in jail, accused of having oral-genital sex with a three-year-old girl.
I’ve known James Michael Craig since I arrived in Greenville nearly five years ago, but he’s been a fixture of Greenville’s theatrical community since the 70’s. Quirky, friendly, easy-going, a pop culture maven … a devourer of biographies … always a book and a magzine in his bag. Sometimes a gift, some small thing or other he didn’t need or want anymore. Arriving with an expectant smile. Leaving with a promise to come back. “Absolutely!” he’d say.
He was lliving with his father and his father’s second wife when his father died last year. He’d had other living arrangements … a seven-year stint in New York City, cohabitations, actor’s quarters, wanderings. The eulogy he gave at his father’s funeral was genius.
Afterward, his father’s widow moved to an assisted living facility. She put the household furniture in storage and stopped the mail. This rendered him technically homeless, so I housed him during a six-week gap between gigs over the 2010 Christmas holidays. He was an excellent house guest. Quiet,tidy, appreciative and considerate.
During my stint at Centre Stage, J. Michael and I spent many a long afternoon watching the sun go down from the main lobby. And talking. And reading. He brought us news of the world … who had died, who’d been cast, what the grapevine was growing.
He was away for long stretches, too – Hilton Head and Raton, NM, for the most part – so my relationship with him was about his presence and his potential presence in roughly equal measure. He was there or he was coming back. Always one or the other. Absolutely.
Centre Stage has purged J. Michael from the theater’s website. A preemptive public relations move both coldly justifiable and troublingly turncoat. Gone are Moonlight and Magnolias, Our Leading Lady, I Am My Own Wife. Wait Until Dark and Bus Stop remain, but that may be an oversight. Also gone is presumption of innocence. Google “J. Michael Craig” in combination with “Centre Stage” today and you’ll get hits, but the links are dead.
Absent any useful information about the charges beyond what’s run on television, in The Greenville News and online, my thoughts stray to how easy it is for one’s life to be ruined in this way, how quickly one becomes an un-person. Un-archived. Un-cast in a show that began rehearsals two nights ago. Before the sky fell.
It’s so hair-trigger, this penal mechanism. Frighteningly so. God forbid some toddler takes a dim view of you. God forbid the toddler has a dim notion of where the red flags are stored. Or is confused. Or mistaken. Or coerced. Or manipulated.
And remind me, please … How did the Salem witch trials go down? Just asking.
You see where I’m going with this. And maybe I’ve already caused your head to explode, but so be it. Show me the evidence.