Helping someone else realize the dreams of Jaclyn Linetsky
By BILL BROWNSTEIN, The GazetteMarch 26, 2009 4:06 AM
Montreal actress Jaclyn Linetsky was only 17 when she, along with promising local actor Vadim Schneider, was killed in a crash on the Eastern Townships Autoroute 5 1/2 years ago, but she had already accumulated a body of work that would be the envy of performers two or three times her age.
The English voice on the hit animated TV series Caillou and star of the sitcom 15/Love, Linetsky, by all accounts, was destined for greatness. More important, though, to her family, friends and colleagues, she was a sensitive, humble soul who had felt the measure of a person was much more than the press clippings they generated.
Her parents, Larry and Terry Linetsky, were left devastated by the loss of a daughter they had dubbed Muffin. But they also sought to honour her memory in a manner their daughter would have approved. So they established the Jaclyn Linetsky Performing Arts Program to benefit student actors and behind-the-scenes players as well as stage productions at St. George's School, from which their daughter had graduated a few months before her death. The fund will also provide scholarships to the school for aspiring performers who can't meet the tuition costs.
The goal is to raise $100,000, to be administered by the school. They have already raised more than $70,000 and hope to generate the balance in A Night of Stars, a fundraiser to be held April 23 at the Just for Laughs Museum. Among the singers to be showcased at this event will be jazz-crooning phenom
Nikki Yanofsky, one of many talents to have come from St. George's.
"Everyone grieves differently," Larry Linetsky says. "My wife is very spiritual. I am not. After Jacky died, I went off trekking to Mount Everest and placed photos of her everywhere. That's what helped me through at the time. But I felt something was missing.
"Jacky's goal had been to study at Juilliard in New York and to perform on Broadway. Now through this program, hopefully, someone else will be able to realize those dreams."
Their daughter's death touched people all over the world. Caillou was, and still is, seen in more than 100 countries, while 15/Love was sold to 72 countries.
"We received and still receive boxes and boxes of letters from fans," Terry Linetsky says. "It's hard to believe that someone so young could have had an impact on so many, but it's incredibly gratifying all the same. This was a kid with no ego. She had always pledged that she would give back to her school. Now we've decided to carry out her pledge."
Jaclyn had always credited her stage work at St. George's for giving her career a boost. The school annually stages four plays, with acting levels and production values to match almost any grown-up amateur theatre troupe in the city.
"Paolo Barzman, who directed Jacky in 15/Love, told me at the funeral that he had asked Jacky if she would remember him when she was a big star," Terry recalls. "Paolo said Jacky told him not to talk like that. She felt uncomfortable hearing that sort of stuff. She was a regular kid and didn't want to be treated any differently from anyone else."
"She was born with this natural talent," her dad adds. "She was good at everything she tried, from playing piano to basketball. I used to coach a kid's basketball team, and she was the only girl on it - and not because of nepotism, but because of merit."
And this was when she was all of 8. "She wanted to do everything then," her mom interjects. "Piano, acting, dancing, singing, basketball. I was running around like crazy, while trying to do my job. I also have another daughter and son who had their needs as well. So I told Jacky to choose one thing she wanted to pursue, and she chose acting.
"I told her that's not what I would have wished for her. I come from a show-biz family, and I know full well it can be a world of major disappointment and rejection. But I told her I would support her if that was her dream. She so impressed me when she would go for auditions. She was so appropriate and had such poise and no attitude. I would tell her that I wanted to be like her when I grew up."
Jaclyn was 10 when she landed her first major gig, a milk commercial. And she never looked back.
"The reward for her was simply the applause and pleasing people," Terry says.
Still haunting Terry is the fact that she had been slated to accompany Jaclyn in the van to the 15/Love set in St. Cesaire that fateful day in September 2003.
"She told me to take a break, that I didn't have to come that day," she says, trying to hold back her tears. "The night before she died, she told me and Larry how lucky she was to have lived such a great life with such a great family. We asked her why she was talking like that. She said she wanted to show her gratitude."
Adds Larry: "Our hearts will always be a little broken. What we are doing now is brutal for us and our kids, reliving the tragedy all over again in doing this benefit. What keeps us going is that we were the luckiest parents in the world to have shared the time we did with Jacky."
Typical teen, Jacky had been begging her mom to allow her to get a tattoo. Terry finally relented, saying she could as soon as shooting wrapped on 15/Love.
"It's not something that I ever imagined I would get," Terry notes. "But now I'm the one with the tattoo in memory of Jacky."
The Night of Stars, to benefit the Jaclyn Linetsky Performing Arts Program at St. George's School, April 23 at Just for Laughs Museum, 2111 St. Laurent Blvd. Info: www.anightofstars.com, or email [email protected] or call 514-772-0409.
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