Down Memory Lane: Remembering Terry Helgesen

July 30 marks the 15th anniversary of the death of legendary THS founding member Terry Helgesen. It was an odd coincidence that this week President Karen Noonan had an email about Terry which she forwarded to HQ for an answer.

The question was from Patricia Leo, in the Everett, Washington area, who wanted to know if her uncle Paul Rivard’s partner was the same Terry Helgesen associated with THS. She wrote “I had an Uncle Aubrey (Paul Rivard) whose life partner was Terry Helgesen. I used to go to their house in Hollywood, California years ago and Terry had photos of theatres and opera houses all around. I thought I knew him as a pianist to opera singers. He and Uncle Aubrey died several years ago as well as my mother (who was Aubrey’s twin sister).”

Executive Director Richard Sklenar provided this reply, which is very timely as we remember Terry for his vast contribution to THS on the anniversary if his passing.  “Yes, this is the same Terry Helgesen who was a founding member of this group. Upon his death his collection of 26 scrapbooks with 1200 theatre photos and notes gratefully came here. We use them for reference, in Marquee and provide them to researchers all the time. The collection is a wonderful resource. Also received was a great oil portrait of Terry when he was young and looking like Alan Ladd, which is peering over my shoulder right now.  Terry accompanied vaudeville and pop singers, not opera divas.  He and Paul lived a very comfortable life in high style as you could tell from the house. The big piano in the house was a gift from Cole Porter. Terry was larger than life, always held court over dinner or cocktails and had wonderful stories to tell about Hollywood. You might have heard some of them but they were probably the expurgated version. The real stories would have been fodder for “Hollywood Babylon”.  Terry’s anniversary is coming up — he died July 30, 1995 — but he lives on at THS through his thoughtful gift and in the hearts of the many whose lives he touched.


Cigarette at the ready, Terry Helgesen at home in Hollywood, 1971, about to hold court. Just add a cocktail. A double.

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  1. Greg Davis

    Terry and Paul were wonderful friends. As they were neighbors, we frequently enjoyed their company at dinner and other occasions. I spent many wonderful hours with Terry’s theatre books.

    I remember one memorable afternoon at their house when they hosted a reception for one of Terry’s early partners, Dick Smart, owner of the enormous Parker Ranch on the island of Hawaii. Dick was visiting the mainland to introduce to his newest partner.

    Terry and Paul visited Dick at the ranch annually, at Dick’s request, but they didn’t completely enjoy the visit since their bedroom was in the historic ranch house which had become a public museum opening at an early hour each day requiring them to vacate their room.

    From time to time Terry spoke fondly of his friend, Beverly Sills. It’s quite possible that he worked with her.

    At the end when Terry became quite frail he lived in a nursing home near San Diego close to Paul’s other sister, Mary. I understand that he remained charming and was a bit confused in that he assumed that he was living in a comfortable hotel.

  2. We realize that the photo of Terry is not visible to some subscribers. It is because of the file format and we will post a corrected photo on Monday when Richard is able to scan to a different format. Our apologies for the inconvenience.

  3. What wonderful memories – Terry would always visit us – Don Sturdivant and Joel Ensana as we had a large collection of theater photos, drawings and Don was a friend of Mr. Priteca and Mr. Landsburg – both theater architects. Terry was very witty and did have many great stories. He was fascinated by theater curtains.

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