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‘Hoosiers’ actor and singer dies at 78


Robert Swan was a great man.

He was physically large, standing 6’4″ and weighing 220 pounds. His talent was great, producing and starring in all kinds of plays here and in Harbor Country in southwestern Michigan, often in theatrical productions, film roles, frequent lyrics, voiceover work, and as an impresario. successful real estate developer.

“Bob had a big voice and a bigger personality,” says his friend David Fink. “He sometimes hid his big heart, but he was a kind, loving, generous person and had a larger-than-life presence.”

Swan died in his sleep at his home in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, on the morning of August 9. He had been battling cancer for a long time. He was 78 years old.

“During her last weeks, I visited her several times, including at her home the evening before she died. “It was a relief to find him sharp to the end,” said former Tribune photographer Charles Osgood, who has long lived in the area. “He was a really good, talented guy, and the community has shrunk at that loss.”

The man everyone knows as “Bob” or affectionately as “Big Bobby Swan” was born on October 20, 1944, in Chicago. He grew up in Hyde Park, the son of college chemistry teacher Bryan and school psychologist Virginia. As a child St. He sang in the Paul & the Redeemer Church choir and with the Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony.

He met his future wife, Barbara, in 1970 while taking singing lessons. They would marry in 1978, and his career would be that of a medical researcher. Goodman began acting upstate in the summer before returning to Chicago, where she would perform at Northlight, Court, Drury Lane, and other venues, sharing the stage with people like Mickey Rooney, Shelley Berman, Barbara Rush, and all the local talent. scene.

Respected local actor, director, and writer Gary Houston first met him in the mid-1970s and says: “There is a fragile, confident side to Bob, physically large, strong, and very talented, that is often hidden about others’ views of his abilities. there was. But then, isn’t that true for many players?”

In 1975, Swan produced and starred in “The Lesson” with Barbara Gaines, who would later co-found the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. They were directed by Mike Nussbaum in production at Orphans, a Lincoln Avenue spot. The show would win a number of Joseph Jefferson Awards and also sparked the spark for Swan to create a new type of contract that would allow Equity actors to perform in new, unconventional theater spaces. It was called the Chicago Off Loop Theatre, and it has become one of the key building blocks for the city’s showcase theater boom.

Television and film work began to make its way in the late 1970s and subsequent decades. She took part in the cast of the soap opera “All My Children” in New York. As she often laments to her friends, “More people see me in a soap opera one day than in this whole singing career.”

He appeared in minor roles in several dozen films, most notably a Canadian Horseman in Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables” in 1987 and a bloody sidekick in Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” (1994). It was great to share the bench with Gene Hackman, who plays Rollin Butcher, the farmer who has two sons on the basketball team and is Hackman’s assistant coach, in 1986’s “Hoosiers.”

Swan has been able to balance his film and stage work with lucrative voiceover duties for companies like Busch Beer, Nine Lives, United Airlines, and Schlitz.

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After turning 50 and spending time with his wife, Barbara, in Harbor Country, he retreated completely into singing, particularly opera. Before there was a land boom in the area, he was able to purchase a large property near Herbert, Michigan, that would grow into a field of handsome homes known as Swans Way.

But his heart was in fun.

Fink was then co-owner of the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan, with the late Kim Clark. “I first met Bob in 2005 when he came to look after Acorn. She sang and although she didn’t use a microphone, I said her voice was too loud for the room. He was pleased and asked to do opera here. He had his first annual Christmas show at Acorn that December. The venue was packed, and that started a long series of chamber operas and concerts that he produced.”

Swan founded the Harbor Country Opera at the time and also did theatrical performances. He was dreaming big when he died. As her longtime friend Betty Hoeffner says, “Her dying wish was to hear about her award-winning screenplay ‘Saint and Vile’. He had an affinity for the plot of his screenplay with Samuel Johnson, the fierce and brilliant 18th-century English literary icon who created the first modern dictionary and suffered from Tourette’s syndrome. Bob thought Anthony Hopkins would be great for the lead role.”

Swan is survived by brothers David and Charles, in addition to his wife; sister-in-law Elizabeth; nephews Christopher, Bryan and Daniel.

A celebration of life is scheduled for October 8 at Acorn. It will include a reading of Swan’s script and will feature his friends as former “Hill Street Blues” star Daniel J. Travanti Johnson and Si Osborne as biographer.

“Bob was so humble about his achievements that he was reluctant to blow his own horn,” said his widow, Barbara. “Until recent years, he was always very enthusiastically energetic, both physically and mentally, until the end. In his final days, he talked about how much he wanted to play the narrator in his play.”


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