For four long months we'd been searching for Barry Cowsill. Barry had been missing since just after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Four months of hoping that Barry would just miraculously show up. Then, on January 4th, the Cowsill family received confirmation that a body that was found in New Orleans was Barry. The search was over and Barry was dead. A piece of my childhood died on that day.
Back in the late 1960s, I was sure that I knew Barry and all of the Cowsills. After all, I read every teen magazine and memorized all the facts about The Cowsills - their favorite colors, what they were looking for in a girl, how they spent their spare time, their heights, weights, hair colors, eye colors, birthdays. You name it and I knew it.
And most of all I knew that I wanted to be a Cowsill. It's not that my family was bad but The Cowsills seemed perfect and happy all the time and man all those cute boys.
Time went by and The Cowsills disappeared off the radar and then in 1990 I found them again. I walked into a pub in the San Fernando Valley and there were Bob & Susan Cowsill. It was rather surreal to see my childhood idols are grown-up. Since that time I have had the opportunity to get to know some of The Cowsills and meet all of them. I learned that you can't always believe what you read. The facade of what was in the teen magazines was far from the reality of The Cowsills. But it wasn't all a facade, The Cowsills were still tremendously talented. And, the adult Cowsills were all intelligent, articulate, funny, amazing people.
Barry passed through my life probably less than a dozen times. The first time I met him was in 1990. My first impression was that I never, ever would have recognized him. He seemed to be hiding behind the beard and the glasses and the hat. He introduced himself and even autographed an album for me with the pseudonym of Elvis Franklin. But hiding or not, Barry was very charasmatic and funny and like all of The Cowsills still extremely talented.
I didn't really ever spend a lot of time with Barry. Part of that was because of me. Barry reminded me very much of my brother, Michael. Like Barry, Mike was diagnosed as bi-polar and like Barry, Mike had substance abuse problems. My brother committed suicide at a time in his life when we all thought he was finally getting it together. Everyone had been telling him how good he was doing and I think he just thought if that was good then life wasn't worth it. I saw in Barry so many of the same demons that seemed to plague my brother and it scared me. So, even though I met Barry and could have spent more time getting to know him, I didn't take that opportunity. I was afraid for Barry. And, now, Barry is dead. We may never know what really happened to Barry after his frantic phone calls to his sister Susan immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Officially, Barry drowned. I believe that Barry, like my brother, is now in a place where the demons no longer haunt him.