Yesterday it was reported by Robert Simonson on Playbill.com that the longtime, beloved theater journalist Michael Buckley had passed away, age 66. Playbill initially reported that Buckley suffered a pulmonary embolism.
Actor-writer Walter Willison was the attributed source for the Playbill story. Willison has done a superlative job alerting Buckley’s friends and colleagues of the sad news.
Late yesterday, after the Playbill.com story first ran, question regarding the circumstances of Buckley’s death began to circulate across the industry. The lede of the Playbill story has now been updated thus:
Mr. Buckley underwent triple bypass surgery at St. Luke’s in late September. He remained at St. Luke’s after complications ensued and had been expected to recover. The exact cause of his death was unknown at press time.
In two communications with The Clyde Fitch Report last evening, Willison outlined the evolution of the situation. Graciously, Willison has allowed the CFR to publish part of these exchanges. In the first, he wrote:
…After a very odd day at the hospital it seems that there is something funny going on and that may not have been the case after all. There was so much miscommunication and so many mix-ups these past three weeks, that much is suspect at this point. So [Buckley’s wife] Marie is having an autopsy done and the new “official story” is that Michael died of “undisclosed causes.” Unfortunately, I did not know all this before [Simonson] called me.
In the second, he wrote:
…we can’t imply malpractice at this point [although that may well turn out to be the case], but Marie has requested that the hospital’s original “official” cause be retracted, so you can definitely say that it has since been decided that the early diagnosis was premature and that an autopsy is being done and as of now he died of “undisclosed causes.”
Our deepest condolences to Buckley’s family and friends. The theater has lost a great chronicler and contributor.