The halls of the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville feel a little darker this week with the passing of one of its most beloved actors.
Rusty Salling died on Sunday, June 12th at the age of 67 after battling cancer for more than a year.
Salling, who is best known for his role as Ebenezer Scrooge in the annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” graced the stage of the Hippodrome State Theatre over the past four decades. It was one of the many roles he had at the Hipp, but there were several Salling handled the general public never even realized.
In November of 2010 Salling came in to the studios of WUFT to talk with Donna Green-Townsend about his longtime role as “Scrooge.”
Over the weekend this Hippodrome Facebook post appeared:
We are heartbroken to share that early this morning we lost our dear Rusty Salling after a courageous 14 month battle with cancer. Today the Hipp’s halls are dark… and hearts are heavy all over the world. The Hippodrome was Rusty’s home for over 40 years. Beloved by all who knew him, we know you join us in forever holding Rusty close in your heart. Farewell, Sweet Scrooge. You will live forever in the memories of thousands.
“When he shall die take him and cut him out into stars and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.” (William Shakespeare)
Here’s a beautiful tribute to Rusty Salling posted on Facebook by his friend and colleague Marilyn Wall:
Rusty my dear dear friend, did you think it was final dress rehearsal? You have left us to soon. We still have ten more years of stories to tell…..here is what I will carry in my heart forever…….we have been close friends since we were eighteen. We met at freshmen orientation . We used to meet after rehearsals and share our dreams and study our lines. Rusty played a Hand (really!). And Lenny in of Mice and Men..the theatre department took notice of him. I earned a lead in my senior year and Rusty was on in front row center to cheer me on. It was a glorious year for us. Rusty went to New York and I gathered with five other wild and passionate friends and rented an empty connivence store. We named it the Hippodrome Theatre. We traveled to New York a number of times in a beat up van with no air conditioner. We always invited Rusty to join us and star in The Caretaker. He was so good and Gainesville began their 40 year love affair with Rusty Warren Salling, a stunningly brilliant theatre talent. With insight beyond his comprehension, Rusty played young men with a cause, old men, princes and kings, children and wicked clowns, gay and straight couples, killers and Angels and Spirts, my husband twice, Nell’s husband three times, and caused us to all wet our pants laughing at his one man pig puppet show, while his wife ( me) dropped her Christmas roast on the floor and dumped the gravy all over them both! Oh God we had fun! Sara Morsey played a few of Rusty’s wives too, along with funny funny Dana Moser. Men, women,young and old, he just understood all of their souls, their tragedy, their redemption. His heart was steel and velvet. Rusty will truly be a legend……….. Once upon a time a golden prince walked among us. He carried hundreds of stories and in the wake of a million stars and a hundred voices, he promised to return and build another tower in the sky. May your flight be full of light and memories and more memories……….thank you Jessica Hereof and Dan Jesse and Lauren Warhol for holding him, and knowing when it was time to let go………….Marilyn
Salling appeared in nearly 100 productions at the Hippodrome over the years. The Hippodrome will host a celebration of Salling’s life in the summer.