Why So Sour, Martha?!- Dark Chocolate Cookies With Sour Cherries! -178 eggs, 137 1/4 cups of sugar, 129 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 165 cups of flour used so far- 78 recipes to go!

January 16, 2011


Martha's Dark Chocolate Cookies With Sour Cherries

André's Dark Chocolate Cookies With Sour Cherries

I was so excited to see how this photo turned out. It’d just snowed the night before and I thought the thin layer of frost would make a really terrific backdrop for these rich, dark cookies. I’m rarely pleased with my photography but this one turned out better than I could’ve expected and features a cookie of which I certainly could claim the same.

Dark Chocolate Cookies With Sour Cherries isn’t the best title for a cookie but I’m sure Martha wouldn’t publish a recipe named Damn Good Cookies. With over a cup of Dutch processed cocoa and an additional cup of semi sweet chocolate chunks, this cookie approaches criminal levels of chocolaty goodness. In addition to the soft, chewy chocolate cookie with bits of melted chocolate inside, this cookie also contains the hidden surprise of tart and sour dried cherries in every bite. Everyone who sampled this recipe immediately “Ooooo’d” and “Ahhhh’d” and mentioned that it was like eating a big slice of Black Forest cake in cookie form.

These cookies aren’t small, either. A fourth-of-a-cup of dough is rolled into a ball to make each one. This is certainly a rich treat where one is more than enough. That, however, didn’t stop many from enjoying two, or even three at a time.

And now for a really terrible segué.

I want to tell you about my friend, Danny.

Where do I start?

He was a teacher, although not mine. Then again, in a way, he was. He taught sixth grade science at a large Episcopal school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was tall and lanky with a full head of sandy brown hair and large blue eyes that twinkled with mischief. He had an impish smile and a quick wit that was often sardonic but paradoxically kind. His long and lank body moved with energy and a sort of comic grace. He was openly gay and advertised his sexuality with an unapologetic bravado that spoke volumes to my still-developing-sixteen-year-old sexual sense. He was a type of person that people in Reagan-era Baton Rouge had no experience in dealing with. He delighted in this on some level. Women adored him. Particularly his fellow teachers and many of the moms of his students. There were plenty of men that acknowledged him with an uncomfortable wave or a distant handshake. He relished their discomfort. He found it empowering and would always offer a sideways chuckle in those instances.

Danny lived his life by a simple motto- “Why be normal?”

Danny and I met through my early work with a local children’s theatre company. He often starred in the lead role in their productions and sometimes even stepped up as the director. He was a talented actor, singer, and dancer- a triple threat -although no one could ever feel threatened by Danny. He was always there with a quick-witted turn-of -phrase or a warm hug.

Danny recognized a sadness in me. A sadness he, at my age, experienced himself. He just seemed to know that I was struggling with finding my own identity, my own sexuality, my own sense of belonging. We became fast friends. His home was always open to me and I visited him often.

Many people have a tendency to think that older gay men can be predatory when it comes to dealing with younger gay men. I’ve met many older men through the years whose behavior would justify that notion, however, Danny was always a gentleman. This was a disappointment to me because I  had a bit of a crush on him. I was attracted to his optimism, his charisma, and his amazing charm.

Danny spent one Summer in Japan teaching English. Just before he left, he saw me perform in a production of Little Shop of Horrors, a silly musical that featured singing man-eating plants. When he returned from Japan, he presented me a gift. It was a black satin jacket with Little Shop of Horrors beautifully embroidered across the back, and my character’s name, Seymour, in gold threading stitched over the left breast. Danny was always doing stuff like that… random acts of generosity. He had a gift for making people feel special.

It’s been over ten years now since we lost Danny.

It was a Saturday night. I was in rehearsals and during a break, I  stepped out for a smoke on the front steps of the Music and Dramatic Arts building at Louisiana State University when I saw Danny running towards me from across the horseshoe drive.

He threw his arms around me and screamed, “André du Broc, you crazy, gay clown, how are ya, my friend?”. We chatted briefly then hugged each other goodbye. Danny was off to see a show playing inside the smaller theatre in the building. Danny always treated friends as though it was the last time he would ever see them. The irony of this was not lost on me.

My boyfriend at the time was Tim, a redheaded actor from Oklahoma with strong Southern Baptist tendencies and an uncanny resemblance to Opie Taylor, if Opie Taylor grew up to look like Opie Taylor and not Ron Howard.

It was Tuesday evening. Tim had been in rehearsals for a show at the local community theatre. He came home and asked me if I knew someone named Danny in the theatre community. I told him I did. Tim couldn’t remember Danny’s last name but said everyone at the theatre was in shock. Danny was apparently found dead on the side of road in one of the small towns outside of Baton Rouge. He had been shot.

I panicked. It couldn’t be my Danny. I’d just seen him a few nights ago. I turned to the local news. My heart sank as they reported on my dear friend’s death. Not just his death, his murder.

Over the next few days before the memorial service friends called friends to piece together what happened. I spoke with investigators since I was one of the last people to see Danny alive. His life had been taken less than six hours after I saw him that night at the theatre.

This is what I understand had happened that evening. Danny went to see the play at LSU with a friend. After the show they went their separate ways. Danny had plans on spending the evening at home with a new fellow he’d been dating. They planned on watching a movie. The investigators found rental videos and popcorn in Danny’s living room. Apparently his new romance showed up with two other friends. All three had conspired to rob and abduct Danny.

Danny was taken from his home in the trunk of his car. He was driven to a remote location outside of the Baton Rouge city limits and shot. His body was left on the side of the road.

Danny was killed for a few trinkets and a minimal amount of money. The three assailants were apprehended a few days later and went to court. All three were given reduced prison sentences since the trigger-man never confessed. Their attorney argued that they, being African American were predisposed to targeting Danny since he was openly homosexual. Homosexuality was such a taboo in the African American community that the defendants’ judgement was clouded.

This line of defense is no longer admissible under the Matthew Shepard act. In fact, this line of defense today would increase their sentence because by targeting Danny because of his homosexuality, classifies the murder as a hate crime.

I attended the memorial. It was held on the front lawn of Danny’s school. There were around a thousand people in attendance. Danny’s twin sister sat surrounded by some of Danny’s closest friends. I stood under a tree as far back in the crowd as I could. I wanted to look out at all the people Danny had touched. There was music. Danny had terrific musicians for friends. They played beautiful hymns and the crowd sang along. There were many funny stories shared and many tears shed.

The service lasted over an hour and the outpouring of love and grief was move than I could bear. I wept quietly. A young man stood near. He took my hand and I could see his eyes were also filled with tears. After the memorial he introduced himself as one of Danny’s students from many years ago. He was a spry, wiry fellow with auburn hair and a pronounced lisp. Both of us knew Danny helped mold us. He was our role model in a world where very few role models for men like us existed. He saw the good in us and with a generous heart opened our eyes wide enough to see it, too.

On the way home I listened to a tape I had of Danny singing in a little musical he’d done at the children’s theatre. It was a musical version of The Ugly Duckling. Danny, of course, played the lead. The lyrics of the song resonate with me to this day.

Maybe someday I’ll turn around and say

Hey duck, it’s not worth it to cry.

Someday that may be. We’ll just wait and see.

Right now all I want to do is fly.


I think the recent violence in Arizona prompting me to think about Danny.

My thoughts are with the victims’ families and friends…

Not just those victims but all the victims of senseless and random acts of violence…

and, as always…

with Danny.

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4 Responses to “Why So Sour, Martha?!- Dark Chocolate Cookies With Sour Cherries! -178 eggs, 137 1/4 cups of sugar, 129 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 165 cups of flour used so far- 78 recipes to go!”

  1. Chelsea Says:

    Thanks for the cry, Andre. xx

  2. Carol Says:

    Thanks for sharing memories of Danny, Andre. We’ve lost so many beautiful people…

  3. Shawn Pavey Says:

    André,

    I helped you carry your stuff to the car after the benefit at The Writers Place, where you were amazing. Anyway, I lost a dear friend to murder, too, back in ’91. The anniversary of his death is next month. It still hurts. His killer was never brought to justice, but that hardly matters now. We miss the people taken from us. Thank you for giving voice to that.


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