Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper broke down a bit as he read a eulogy for indie film executive Bingham Ray at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony tonight. The eulogy, written by Ray’s poker buddies Ben Barenholtz, Eamonn Bowles, Tom Prassis, and Arnie Sawyer is printed in its entirety below.
We are here to mourn, and honor, an icon of the film industry. And as we begin we can hear his voice whispering in our ears, “Don’t fuck it up, Kitty Kats!” Followed by a huge roar of sarcastic laughter.
This was Bingham Ray to a tee.
It sounds strange to talk about Bingham in the past tense. Even stranger to admit to ourselves that our dear friend is no longer with us.
We who knew him through the good and the bad years mourn the loss of a true friend, a bad poker player, a fierce competitor and a raconteur of the highest order.
Starting out as a projectionist at the Bleecker Street Cinema in New York City, he rose to become one of the handful of giants in our cozy corner of the film world, intimately involved with some of the figures whose images he used to project. He was loved by actors and directors in a way that few people on this side of the fence are. But as with everything else, he had no problem challenging them when he thought they were wrong. And they usually loved and respected him more for it.
He was incapable of not speaking his mind, almost to a tourette’s level. As you’d imagine, this led to many legendary beefs with many people. This is also reflected in the astounding number of companies at which he worked over his career, a career that almost perfectly paralleled the rise of independent film in America. But anyone who truly loved film could not really dislike Bingham. His knowledge was encyclopedic, fueled purely by enthusiasm, not some nerdy desire to impress and he could talk about directors or quote dialogue for hours.
If you were fortunate to be his friend or within spitting distance he could suck up the oxygen around you and beguile you with his tales in the trenches. When Bingham was in the room, it was like somebody had turned up the volume on the stereo. Tales of triumphs and tales of struggles, with incredible, sometimes excruciating, detail, bringing you into HIS world. All the highs and lows he experienced. Even as Bingham was telling the lamest story or singing one of the many silly ditties he would make up, stuff we’d heard so many times before, we’d break up seeing him rippling in laughter, tears in his eyes, paralyzed by his own punch line.
His mischievous smile will be forever seared in our memory and someday when we are together again after all the cards are dealt, Bingham will reveal to us the punch line of this joke he started telling so many years ago.
Our deepest thoughts go out to his incredible wife, Nancy, truly his rock through all the highs and lows, and their three wonderful children, Becca, Annabel and Nick.
The world lost some of its luster this week when Bingham passed away.
His laughter still echoes and we are laughing with him. A stupid thing like death cannot take that away from us.