DONNA COE - 1952-1998

Donna Coe, an entertainment writer and reviewer, died at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan on Saturday morning, June 13, after a prolonged illness. On Thursday, she married her fiance, Jim Tatum, in her hospital room.

Ms. Coe was the comedy and cabaret reviewer at the NEW YORK POST from 1991 through 1995 and was the comedy columnist for the N.Y. DAILY NEWS from 1995 through March of this year. She also reviewed comedy and cabaret and contributed features to the News, in addition to her column. From 1994 until the time of her death she was also a comedy columnist for the trade publication BACK STAGE.

Raised in South Florida (born November 12, 1952) she graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelors Degree in Theater. She later received her Masters in Theater from Florida State University in Tallahassee. Before coming to New York she performed with an improv group in Miami entitled "Intensive Care Unit" and after arriving here she performed standup comedy in Manhattan at such clubs as the IMPROV and the COMIC STRIP before turning to writing.

In addition to the publications mentioned above she was also a contributing writer to PLAYBOY, US MAGAZINE, TV GUIDE, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, BILLBOARD, INSIDE HOLLYWOOD, and AGENT AND MANAGER, among others. From 1995 to 1997 she was the nightlife editor for CITY GUIDE magazine and the comedy editor for METROBEAT (an internet guide now called CITY SEARCH).

In the mid 90s she also was a talent consultant for Gallin-Morey Management and Sandollar Television Productions; sold a sit-com pilot "It's Beverly" to the FOX Network; and was a writer for "Comedy Buzz" on Showtime.

She is survived by her husband (Jim Tatum), who resides in Manhattan, and by a half brother, Arthur Schaefer of Brooklyn, NY. A funeral service, open to the public, was held at Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, 1076 Madison Avenue at 11:30 AM on Tuesday, June 16, followed by a burial service in upstate New York. A memorial service was held on July 12 in Manhattan.

Meeting Donna Coe...

Report on the Memorial Service held at CAROLINES COMEDY CLUB, New York City, on Sunday, July 12, by Stu Hamstra.

I never knew Donna Coe, until today.

Of course, I knew who she was. I had seen her dozens of times. We saw many of the same cabaret shows, and I often sat just one table over from her. But we never actually met - at least we never had a chance to speak to each other.

Until today.

This afternoon about a hundred or so of her friends gathered at CAROLINES COMEDY CLUB to hold a memorial service for Donna Coe. She had been the comedy and cabaret reviewer at the NEW YORK POST from 1991 through 1995, and the comedy columnist for the NY DAILY NEWS from 1995 through March of 1998. From 1994 until her death a few weeks ago, she was a comedy columnist for the trade publication BACK STAGE. I read her various columns faithfully - everyone who reviews shows reads what other write. Keeps us alert, and lets us see what others think about what we have seen. But I never really met this lady.

Until today.

My dad once told me that it didn't matter what we have inscribed on our tombstones. It is what people remember us for that lives on after we die. About a dozen of Donna's friends spoke today about their memories of her, and through them I met Donna Coe, because through them she lives on. Her untimely death really didn't affect me too much. Until today.

Her husband, Jim Tatum, spoke briefly, reading an obituary written by a member of an improv group that Donna encouraged. Donna and Jim were married just a few days before she died. Comic Jane Stroll also spoke about the ways that Donna was a friend and a critic, encouraging her in her career. BACK STAGE Editor-in-Chief Sherry Eaker spoke about Donna's keen insight and writing skills, and how her reviews were nearly always constructive. She spoke of Donna's passion for comedy and her love for the performers she wrote about.

Singer Keith Crescente, who knew Donna from their college days together at the University of Miami, sang a song that they had written together - "Please Come Out of the Bathroom Blues," a delightful comic number. Joe Dougherty, a friend for over 20 years, spoke of his collaboration with Donna in writing a TV sit-com pilot. And MAC President Jamie deRoy talked about the love for cats that she and Donna shared, as well as the many late night conversations.

Comic Jeffrey Ross spoke of Donna's encouragement as well, and how every comedian in the city turned to the DAILY NEWS each Friday to check her comedy picks. Another long-time friend, Adrianne Tolsch, first read notes from Angela LaGreca and Julie Halston, two more people that Donna touched with her kindness and encouragement, following with stories of her own experiences. Lisa Asher sang "Let the Mystery Be" (with Jeff Waxman at the piano) and recalled how even though she was a cabaret performer, Donna managed to plug her shows in her comedy columns.

John Fugelsang, currently a V-Jay on cable channel VH-1 and co-host of ABC-TV's FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS show, told a touching tale of how Donna spent an entire day with him, building his courage after he "bombed" on opening night at the Aspen Comedy Festival, giving him the strength to try again. And finally, another dear friend of 22 years, Beverly Mickins, gave us some wonderful insights on how much Donna meant to the people whose lives she touched.

Through these folks I got to meet Donna Coe. I learned about her passion for dark chocolate ice cream, her cats, her late night phone calls and e-mails. I learned the she was a member of MENSA, a stand-up comic when there were just 3 comedy clubs in NYC, and her faithfulness to friends. I found out, for the very first time, that the uniqueness of her personality extended even to the physical - her eyes were of different colors! I learned about her adiction to coffee, her habit of arriving late, and her mastery of the art of conversation.

And I saw a brief video of Donna being Donna, having fun in a shopping mall, at an amusement park, and even feeding a family of squirrels and hugging her cats.

I finally got to meet Donna Coe today, and I found that I like her very much. So now I share the grief of all those who have known her far longer than I - but maybe more so, since I never had the joy to know her when she was alive.

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