My mother Frieda Caplan with my uncle Paul Steffen and cousin Michael Silver
“What a big, big life he had. And how he loved life, loved living, loved people. Never have I seen anyone come close to his excitement about being alive.”
This is what was written about my Uncle Paul. My “Crazy Uncle Paul” (as we lovingly referred to him) passed away this week at the ripe age of 88. My mother’s brother has lived in Rome, Italy, since the 1960s. Over the years, many of us in our family have trekked to Italy to visit him.
When Paul’s lifelong friend and caregiver (Pancho) wrote the line above, I had to pause. Wow – what an amazing statement to make about someone. “Never have I seen anyone come close to his excitement about being alive.”
Can I say that about my life? Can you say that about your life?
I want that. And frankly, I’ve made it my mission to have that life.
My Uncle Paul was a world-renowned choreographer and dancer. He invented Jazzercise, BEFORE Jazzercise was a word/concept/business. He worked as a choreographer in Las Vegas, and Judy Garland (yes, THAT Judy Garland) claimed him to be her exclusive choreographer. He dated Yvonne De Carlo (of the original Munster’s fame).
His apartment was in the heart of ancient Rome, on Vicolo dei Modelli, just down the street from the famous Trevi Fountains (where people from all over the world come to throw their pennies and make wishes).
A few years ago, he moved to Calcata, Italy – a renaissance town about 45 minutes from Rome. He took daily walks with his dog Jack Daniel, and until a few years ago, conducted regular movement classes (that’s like tai chi crossed with dance). He was a true artiste. You can read about him and his amazing Grotta Restaurant in Calcata here.
Paul always told you what he thought. He was an incessant TV watcher – frequently staying up all night in Rome to watch U.S. TV shows…and he loved politics. He always watched our Presidential elections and often sent us a politically charged email if he didn’t think things were going right.
But mostly, Paul was passionate, full of energy and had a childlike joie de vivre!
I hope you will pause for a moment and think. “What will people say about me when I am gone? Will I have any regrets? Did I live my life to the fullest, experiencing everything I wanted to?” If not – you can make that change now!
Ciao Uncle Paul…Your legacy to me and our family is your crazy and wonderful way of doing everything you wanted to!
P.S. Here are some interesting links about Paul Steffen:
Interview with Paul (he speaks in English)
Inside Paul’s Calcata home (You’ve got to see this!)
Paul Steffen’s choreography in the “Thief of Baghdad” (1961)
Website dedicated to Paul (in Italian) with beautiful vintage photos of his choreography and some old Hollywood greats.