If nothing else, you'll know who Del Close is when I say he was the Alderman in The Untouchables who says, "I will pay you the courtesy of being frank."
But of course he was so much more than that. He was a fire-eater and stand-up comedian who became one of the first members of the first modern improvisational theater company, The Compass, and went on to devote his life to exploring the possibilities of improv as an art form. Along the way he was a teacher and inspiration to a laundry list of actors and comedians: from the Second City and original cast of Saturday Night Live, to the cast of SCTV, and the Upright Citizens Brigade, and hundreds of students at the ImprovOlympic.
For the last two years of Del's life an improv actor named Jeff Griggs helped him with his weekly errands. Now Jeff has written a newly-published memoir, Guru: My Days with Del Close.
Guru covers Del's entire life and career in interspersed chapters, but focuses on the time Jeff spent with Del. So we get a very personal portrait of a larger-than-life character that many people only knew as an intimidating teacher and director. Del was brilliant but Jeff is not afraid to show us that he was also a little crazy, sometimes smelly, a mysoganist, and a child-hater. (That's one of my Del Stories(tm) -- at a festival in Austin, TX I overheard Del demanding that his driver be replaced because she was pregnant and he didn't want to be that close to a potential child.)
The improv website YesAnd.com has posted an excerpt from Guru.
(Full Disclosure: Jeff Griggs is a friend of mine and Del Close yelled at me one time in a workshop in Kansas City.)