This is from Adam, the grieving husband of publicist Claire O’Connor:
“Thank you all for the wonderful messages. I know Claire would be so touched by your outpouring of love & support. She really did love all you so much and we know most of the people that left words of love on this heartfelt blog from Michael Musto.
“I am trying to find peace and sense of this tragedy so I am writing this blog I want to post only here, although I am receiving messages of condolence from all over the world because of my music career, here on Michael’s blog is where the actual people that really knew Claire seem to be drawn to.
“Claire was everything to me and my girls, she made my rock n roll life of touring the world possible and still managed to handle so many places, friends and clients while raising 2 of the most beautiful children to ever grow up in New York City.
“Everyone she knew she treated like a VIP whether it was a busboy or a movie star. She worked so hard for so many and she never cared if anyone she helped ever returned the favor. She did it because she had so much love inside of her. She was always the smartest person in the room. The New York City nightlife community was so privileged to have her and her efforts and she was honored to be a part of it. When she was in charge, you knew the event was gonna be great or at least you knew she would hook you up with a stack of drink tickets to make a dull party seem fabulous.
“If she wrote an item, most of the press would just just copy and paste it straight to print. She was the real deal, and old school hard knocks publicist that knew the press game, how to put on an event and how to get things done.
“She performed miracles on a daily basis. I can’t believe how many times she saved me from drowning in a sea of trouble, when I was on the road, thousands of miles away, All it took was one phone call and Claire could save the day. She always made things alright.
“Our two daughters, Darian who is 21 and in her senior year of college at RISD and Blaise just turned 11 last week are both so much like their mother.
“Claire died at NYU Hospital where Darian was born. She passed away at 11:21 pm on Thursday July 28. There was a circus outside her room but around 10 pm, I made everybody but Blaise & Darian get out, had the nurse remove all the tubes and needles that they stuck into her, and my two girls climbed onto the hospital bed and Claire held them in her arms while I stood by her side. Blaise told Claire how proud she was going to make her and how much she was going to miss her and how much she loved her and that she would think about her every day of her life, and she was so lucky to the best mommy in the world. Claire couldn’t speak but she could listen, and Claire shed tears as Blaise poured her heart out.
“I sang a song called ‘You’re A Part Of Me’ to Claire that I wrote for her and sang at our wedding. Blaise asked me to sing it a second time because she had never heard it before. Claire always use to sing Elvis songs like Treat Me Like A Fool to put Blaise to sleep. She had the prettiest most soothing singing voice. Blaise and I tried to sing it to Claire but the tears were so hard to fight, we could barely make it to Dear Only.The girls rested with and held their mother, kissed her 100 times each and we just kept saying that we love you so much. Claire continued to shed tears. At 11:10, we all told her that it was ok, she could go and stop fighting the pain and the stop suffering and at 11:21 with both girls quietly resting their heads on their mother’s shoulders with me by her side, Claire took her final breath.
“It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, It was also the saddest.
“I went out and told the people outside that Claire was gone. Their was a big cry of despair, they went inside and took my girls out of the room and they circus left the hospital and took my girls home.
“I spent the next hour by her alone in the room. Talking to her spirit, crying and joking. She was no longer in any pain. I put her arm around me, and I talked about what a great job we did with those two kids. I apologized for all the stupid things I’ve done and thanked her for loving me unconditionally for 24 years. She promised me that she was gonna stick around for our anniversary dinner at The Old Homestead on Sept 6. I forgave her for breaking her promise to me. I just wished so much that she would of been able to see Darian graduate next year and that was the goal we were hoping for.
“Claire didn’t want anyone to know she was sick. In late August she fell down playing with Blaise and hurt her back, she went to the emergency room and got an x-ray and was sent home being told it was nothing. About 7 days passed and she got a call that they thought they spotted something and wanted to do further tests. She was diagnosed in September with a lung tumour, planned a surgery to remove it and with the further testing and procrastination from her doctors in October, they cancelled the surgery and told her that it spread to a few small spots and she was now classified as having stage 4 lung cancer.
“We checked out Beth Isreal which was a client of Claire’s so she wasn’t comfortable going there for treatment. Sloan Kettering was very negative to Claire & gave her little hope. We have a good friend name Evelyn Gonzales that worked at the NYU cancer center for the past 4 years. I’ve known Evelyn even before I knew Claire, and Evelyn is a Puerto Rican thunderstorm. She can move mountains so everyone around her will do what she says and for Claire and myself, we had a friend in the cancer business so Claire went with NYU as Evelyn could make the staff there care more because it was her close friend for 24 years. Claire’s cancer doctor was designated, his name Abraham Chachoua. He met Claire & Blaise, shook my daughters hand and promised her that he could make her mommy all better.
“They started to give her chemo & radiation, even telling her that she might set off bomb detectors in the city while Obama was in town as she was “radioactive”. She was managing it and was determined to beat it and carry on working. Claire had continual back pain, and they found out that she was walking around with a broken back for 2 months. They did a surgery at NYU, and found a small tumour in her back, removed it, filled in the bone with cement and she was doing ok
“On February 12th while I was touring in England, she went into our kitchen late at night to get a drink of water and tripped over a Fresh Direct box that was in the middle of our floor and broke her right arm between her elbow and her shoulder. She was home alone with Blaise. She was hospitalized at NYU and instead of doing a surgery to bind her arm, they just set it and sent her home after 2 days and told her it would heal on it’s own. A follow up 2 weeks later, her surgeon just said to wait a few more weeks and the swelling should go down.
“I took her to Mount Sinai in taxi cab, she walked into the ER on her own two feet.They admitted her, and they eased her pain.
“After a month, her arm became so swollen and painful it was frightening, and we thought it was infected. She was told by her cancer doctor at NYU, Abraham Chachoua that the guy who treated her arm at NYU was not doing the right thing and he sent her to a different doctor at Mount Sinai, James Wittig, even though Mount Sinai would not take our insurance. He advised us to get it covered by going into the ER at Mount Sinai and they would admit Claire that way and then insurance would have to cover it. By this time she was also having trouble walking as the cancer spread to her hip and the doctor described it like a cavity in your tooth, a small thing but so painful it can stop you from functioning.
“Dr Wittig was like a rock star to me. If I discovered him before I discovered Van Halen, I might of been a cancer fighter instead of a rock guitarist. He did the surgery on Claire’s arm, told me that it wasn’t an infection but a tumour and that they pulled out that grew to the size of an orange within a month and that they should of put in a metal rod in her arm when she broke it instead of a month later but he was confident that they got it and with physical therapy, Claire’s arm could come back.
“This broken arm was the beginning of the end for her, and it stopped her from sleeping, lying on her side, and from getting treatment on her cancer for nearly 3 months and it put her in a never ending pain that you or I will never begin to know. She was right handed and now life had become impossible for her to function on her own.
“She was at Mount Sinai for 3 weeks and then the social workers had her sent to NYU because they no longer wanted to accept Claire’s insurance. She was transferred to NYU for cancer treatment and they kept her there for a week before they treated her with chemo again. After a month, Claire had been bed ridden, crippled and only had the use of her left arm and hand.
“The social worker at NYU called me and threatened that they were going to dismiss her and send her home, yet she was unable to walk or even sit up on her own. She had now been in the hospital for nearly 10 weeks. Claire stayed another week at NYU and then they arranged for her to come back home with hospice care.
“Claire was still determined to beat it, and just wanted time to heal. Hospice provided a nurse from 9 to 5. We hired a nurse for 8 pm to 8 am. The nurse charged us 25 dollars an hour, and slept for 10 of the 12 hours she was here. We got rid of her after 3 weeks, We found out later hospice would send someone over during the night during certain emergencies. I also liked our weekday nurse and she offered to come in at night anytime for an hour or 3 and she only charged 9 dollars an hour which is what hospice pays their workers.
“On July 15, we got Claire out of bed, dressed up and in a wheelchair and took her across the the street to Blaise’s recital at Rosie’s Theater Kids camp. Blaise got a summer scholarship by auditioning and saying her hobby was falling down for no particular reason, and then she fell down. It was beautiful. Claire looked so good and she had a doctors appointment that day with Chachoua, who said he expected her to look a lot worse since Evelyn said she had been bed ridden, and that her arm looked like it was getting better and the treatments were working so he scheduled her for another treatment for next Friday. I asked him if he could give us a time frame as Claire really wanted to be around for Darian’s graduation next June. He said that was a good goal. But complications or infections could arise but he said she’s in no danger of dying this week or they wouldn’t make an appointment for treatment. He said I could go to Europe & do my summer shows for a week and that it should be ok.
“When she went next Friday, her blood numbers were too low and they refused her treatment and said they’ll do it next week.
“Although Claire didn’t want anyone outside of her circle to know, I called a few of her friends and told them Claire was sick, they came to visit and I am so glad I did that. I’m so sorry I didn’t tell a few more of her close friends so they could’ve said goodbye. I also called her brother and I told him the severity and he asked me what I wanted him to do. I just told him to be a brother. He came to visit every day after that. Bringing sushi or a lobster roll, food that Claire could get down. She was on so many pills and she lost so much weight from the 10 weeks in the hospital, and I knew that people on heavy drugs don’t really wanna chow down so I thought sashimi was the answer. It worked because it slid down her throat and then in a few hours she had energy to yell at me, give me the finger and do her business. I so wanted her to get out of that bed and smack me in the head like a typical wife.
“The house was a circus, Darian told me to go back on tour, we need the cash, and the house was too crowded with visitors, nurses, social workers and me, and she wanted mommy’s room because her room has no windows or air conditioning. On July 27 I was in Nice and I called Darian, everything was fine but there were 30 people at the apartment yesterday and Claire’s sister called a priest in to do last rights but Claire didn’t want it. She was having a breathing issue but the aide said it was ok and normal. Five hours later I saw a missed call from Blaise. I called Darian back, she said “Daddy, a nurse came, said Mommy’s blood pressure is low and they are taking her to the ER, I’m so scared. Mommy asked us to lie down with her.” She was crying, I was lucky to be at a place with a computer, I got a flight on Expedia from Torino, Italy that could get me into JFK for 12:45 in the afternoon. I drove the van 250 kilometers to my bass players parent’s house in Torino from Nice, getting pulled over twice along the way (Another signature for my police only guestbook, I have over a 100 signatures, Claire gave the guestbook for xmas in 2009) and his father drove me to the airport and I caught a 6:40 am flight.
“I got to the hospital at 3 pm, Claire was hanging on for me. We got her moved into a private room and my daughters were informed that their mommy was going to die within a few hours.
“I know this is a long ramble. I feel it’s therapy for me. I’m sorry for typos or bad grammar (Claire always hates typos & bad grammar but I’m nowhere near the writer that she was).
“Again here are the service details.
The Wake is on Monday, August 1st at Campbell Funeral Home 81st & Madison from 2pm to 5pm & 7pm to 9pm
The Funeral is on Tuesday August 2nd at 10 am St Thomas More Church 65 East 89th Street at Madison Avenue
“Following the funeral the burial will at Gate Of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla, Sleepy Hollow, Westchester County
The address is 10 West Stevens Ave Hawthorne, New York it is 28 miles from New York City
“Please bring or send flowers for Claire to Campbell Funeral Home 1076 Madison Ave NY NY 10028
“On behalf of Claire, our daughters Darian & Blaise, and myself, thank you for being part of lives.”
–Adam Bomb Brenner, a/k/a Claire O’Connor’s husband
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 31, 2011