ForeverMissed
Bring Your Stories (and Pictures, Songs) to the Stories Section!  As in any life, there are many many chapters- not all of them seen by each person whose lives are touched.  In the "life" section are some touchstones for those who knew him to "riff" on, as it were- though from one person's memory.  It is our great hope to bring a collaborative spirit to this remembrance, so let's fill the "stories" section to the rafters!
Les's love of the theatre expressed quite especially in his role as teacher.  His love for his students was unrivaled, and they have reciprocated his affections through "The Mutual Admiration Society" across the decades.  Students still remember him fondly for many reasons, which I'm sure they will share.  Among them are likely to be his fondness for flamingoes, a certain turkey named Gene, and the extra-credit points for celebrating Groucho Marx's birthday by donning the famous nose glasses during school hours.
This site will be accessible in perpetuity - so come around the sacred fire of remembrance and let the regaling begin!  Oh and for those wondering, yes the name Baird is derived from MacA'Bhaird, translating roughly as "of the Bard".  Ain't that a kick?  
In lieu of flowers, gifts in Les's name may be offered to the Theatre Department at St. Mark's Academy.  
25 Marlboro Road
Southborough, MA 01772
Posted by Geoff Cleveland on July 15, 2021
It is nearly impossible to write about Les Baird because it will be impossible to stop, but here goes. From 1978-81 Les Baird was "Mr. Baird", my teacher in drama, stagecraft, public speaking etc. and my mentor as the leader of a weird little high school clique known as The Drama Dept. Considering the average age of most of his students then and throughout Mr. Baird's career, combined with his uniquely enthusiastic care for his friends...er, pupils, it can be said without hyperbole that he saved lives, possibly mine. Those three years involved more than a book's worth of "work" and fun which I will share to a small extent in the 'stories' section, along with more recent episodes. I wound up being a performer in mostly instrumental music but the "Les-sons" of Mr. Baird have lasted my whole life, both offstage and onstage. As for the latter, Les attended the two most recent 'clutch cargo' shows I led and responded with his characteristic positively-affirming enthusiasm.
Posted by Karen Kohlhaas on July 8, 2021
Les is responsible for most of the things I've ended up doing with my life. My family moved to Colorado Springs from Los Angeles and I was so unhappy about leaving my friends that I planned to take extra classes to graduate early and go back to California. But then I found the drama department at Cheyenne, and Les. I stayed. Because of his teaching and passion for theater, and the file cabinet stuffed full of new plays he kept in the green room, I changed my plan from studying music in college to studying theater. Because of him, I knew to make sure I took a seminar with David Mamet, his favorite playwright, when I got to NYU, which eventually led to becoming part of the Atlantic Theater Company, still going 35+ years later. I teach through Atlantic and on my own, and am currently living in Mississippi to finish a documentary on Tennessee Williams. All of this stems from the intense respect for theater and playwrights instilled by Baird. I have no idea what I would be doing right now had I not met him. Thank you, thank you. I also will always remember the privilege of being in his advanced acting class, which along with the great classes meant trips to see Germinal Stage Denver, complete with giant deli sandwiches and Haagen Dazs ice cream.
Posted by Leigh Pomeroy on July 5, 2021
Les was an inspiration to me at Colorado College. He was our #1 comedic actor. #2 was his classmate David Sullivan, and when they needed a 3rd one, I came off the bench. It was such an honor to be in any theatrical presentation with him, to observe and learn from the quality of his craft. We finally reconnected after about a 50 year hiatus, and I was still in awe of him.
Posted by Tom Falgien on June 21, 2021
It was a time when Gene came to rule the universe from the green room at Cheyenne Mountain High School and the Bionic Child roamed the auditorium during rehearsals. There was a magical man there who bestowed gifts on insecure, clueless, hormonal, self-centered, sometimes adrift, adolescents. He gave us gifts of Belief, Confidence, Trust, and Responsibility. Some of these attributes became part of us as we lived on, but they indeed began as gifts from Les Baird. 
We learned from Les to find our feelings, perhaps tell ourselves the truth about them, and attempt to communicate these feelings to others; he called it acting. I believe it was therapy. We heard similar fears and feelings from fellow students and discovering these commonalities was revelation.
Being part of a play directed by Les provided a connection and community that forced growth and risks, as well as tolerance and collaboration. Yes, everyone had to perform; Les was not interested in directing robots to perform a soulless, ego driven, mise en scene.  Thank Gene we did not have to work constrained by the politically correct police, that said Les created an inclusive environment before anyone knew what that even meant. Society would be much improved if we all possessed Baird’s ability to include and gather people.
Les would laugh, cry, tease, pun, curse, and challenge—in the span of a minute or two. Hooray for Captain Spaulding. Hey keep up here. Come up with a spontaneous pun, ace your scene, really connect with the audience, recover from a blunder, get a laugh, make props out of something you found in a dumpster, “find” materials, build scenery and you were a star. As a community we learned a common language--Benches were measured by the number people they would hold and the unit of measurement was the number of buns. Place the six bun bench down left……We learned to move “gaboons of gradu” and understand the occasional cautionary remark “sois sage mon enfant” (be wise my child).
His infectious enthusiasm for almost everything attracted people; He welcomed us completely into his life and home. When talking with Les you had his complete interest and felt important; after reading his opening night note you went on to perform knowing you were significant. What a gift.  
I very much regret losing contact with Les and would like to tell him that I am eternally grateful for our magical time together and for his influence in my life.  For all of us who love Les, my condolences. Gene juice for all in his memory.
Et lux perpetua luceat ei
Posted by Payton Rylee on June 16, 2021
I did not like high school very much overall, but Mr. Baird always made my day. He took an interest in me and my success as well as happiness and I appreciated that so much. I took acting 1 and 2 with him and I still think about those classes sometimes, after nearly 10 years. He taught me a lot about how it feels to walk in another person's shoes and how to appreciate seemingly odd art forms like Einstein on the Beach (which really seems just random and weird). He was not afraid to push people out of their comfort zones. He was such a caring man. I still think about the quote he had on his board "Generality is the enemy of all art." He taught me how to make a fool of myself. When he retired from SM, he gave me, along with a few other students, a replicate moo mug (which he always had on his desk). Mr. Baird will live on with all of us in the silliness and fun he taught us to implement into every day life.
Posted by KELLY WALTERS on June 15, 2021
Les, I have never met anyone so kind, so enthused with life and theatre and life AS theatre. We read a play together and traded life tales; you quoted masked, clown-nosed Shakespeare for my birthday and we performed another masked commedia tribute together in another driveway, laughing at our shared absurdity. And I had dreams..... dreams of many more stories, dinners, wines, perhaps a play together, perhaps a tennis ball or two. I looked so forward to more time together, but your full commitment to a life lived joyfully will always shine on in my heart.
Posted by Wendy McPhee on June 15, 2021
Les was part of the wonderful theater group I belonged to at Colorado College. I have never forgotten his gentle and fun ways, and I find it hard to believe that he is gone. May he rest in peace.
Posted by Whitney Herndon on June 11, 2021
Les will always hold a special place in my heart. He and sue made me feel welcome here in CO when I first moved here…into their upstairs apartment. I never thought that I’d make lifelong friends with the sweetest most caring couple that lived downstairs. Forever remembered.
Posted by Saru Wade on June 11, 2021
Mr. Baird was my drama teacher at Elgin Academy many years ago. He was an incredible teacher who cared for his students beyond the classroom. He helped me build my confidence and find my voice during the hard teenage years. He cast me in Midsummer Night’s Dream, an epic production he had been working on for years, and it was a highlight of high school for me. Rest In Peace Mr. Baird.
Posted by Jenay Johnson on June 10, 2021
There’s so much I could say about Les. He and Sue totally changed my life. Les always reminded me to take big risk and live life to the fullest!
Posted by Kevin Tierney on June 10, 2021
Mr. Baird, you legend. Thank you for making space for me, for encouraging me, for challenging me. It was an honor to be your student. I will continue to remember you fondly and attempt to share your spirit with my own students.

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Geoff Cleveland on July 15, 2021
It is nearly impossible to write about Les Baird because it will be impossible to stop, but here goes. From 1978-81 Les Baird was "Mr. Baird", my teacher in drama, stagecraft, public speaking etc. and my mentor as the leader of a weird little high school clique known as The Drama Dept. Considering the average age of most of his students then and throughout Mr. Baird's career, combined with his uniquely enthusiastic care for his friends...er, pupils, it can be said without hyperbole that he saved lives, possibly mine. Those three years involved more than a book's worth of "work" and fun which I will share to a small extent in the 'stories' section, along with more recent episodes. I wound up being a performer in mostly instrumental music but the "Les-sons" of Mr. Baird have lasted my whole life, both offstage and onstage. As for the latter, Les attended the two most recent 'clutch cargo' shows I led and responded with his characteristic positively-affirming enthusiasm.
Posted by Karen Kohlhaas on July 8, 2021
Les is responsible for most of the things I've ended up doing with my life. My family moved to Colorado Springs from Los Angeles and I was so unhappy about leaving my friends that I planned to take extra classes to graduate early and go back to California. But then I found the drama department at Cheyenne, and Les. I stayed. Because of his teaching and passion for theater, and the file cabinet stuffed full of new plays he kept in the green room, I changed my plan from studying music in college to studying theater. Because of him, I knew to make sure I took a seminar with David Mamet, his favorite playwright, when I got to NYU, which eventually led to becoming part of the Atlantic Theater Company, still going 35+ years later. I teach through Atlantic and on my own, and am currently living in Mississippi to finish a documentary on Tennessee Williams. All of this stems from the intense respect for theater and playwrights instilled by Baird. I have no idea what I would be doing right now had I not met him. Thank you, thank you. I also will always remember the privilege of being in his advanced acting class, which along with the great classes meant trips to see Germinal Stage Denver, complete with giant deli sandwiches and Haagen Dazs ice cream.
Posted by Leigh Pomeroy on July 5, 2021
Les was an inspiration to me at Colorado College. He was our #1 comedic actor. #2 was his classmate David Sullivan, and when they needed a 3rd one, I came off the bench. It was such an honor to be in any theatrical presentation with him, to observe and learn from the quality of his craft. We finally reconnected after about a 50 year hiatus, and I was still in awe of him.
his Life

Youth

Frederic Leslie (Les) Baird was born in Pittsburgh PA October 22, 1946.
He moved with his father Julius and stepmother Barbara to Colorado Springs in1954, where his family grew to include sisters Ann and Kathy.  
Les was active in the theatre from a very young age, beginning with the title role in Amahl and the Night Visitors.

High School

Les attended Fountain Valley School, followed by Palmer High School (graduated 1964), where his love of the theatre deepened. This passion accompanied him throughout his life, expressing onstage, backstage, and in the director's chair across many stages, campuses, and states. 



College and Fatherhood

From Palmer he went on to attend Colorado College, where he majored in Theatre and Art, graduating in 1969. 

In 1967 he married Pamela Stephenson and in 1968 became father to Julia Baird (and yes, it's true, during this phase of young parenthood he became the first Ronald McDonald in Colorado- and he would delight the neighborhood children by returning home from gigs in full regalia... see photo gallery). 

While a great lover of clownery, spoofing, puns, and broad physical comedy, Les was steeped in more "serious" theatre as well - as is illustrated in the next chapter.
Recent stories

David Sullivan sent this note to me about Les…

Shared by Leigh Pomeroy on July 16, 2021
I shall miss Les. What a wonderful guy! He and I had tons of fun at CC. We were in some art classes together and were constantly making fools of ourselves. Les loved theater so deeply. He got me into acting in some of the plays.
Lynn Morris and I performed as a brother and sister act called Dave & Lynn Seed. Les talked us into doing a second billing to him when did Ronald MacDonald appearances..
Together we three misfits did gigs all over Colorado Springs and Pueblo in 1968/69. We performed at elementary schools, MacDonald's restaurants, and on the back of a flatbed trailer - - - anywhere we could find permission. A local ad agency paid us absurdly handsomely. Lynn was terrific on the banjo while I backed her up on guitar. We sang a boatload of silly kid's songs after Les told ridiculous jokes and did tricks.
Les was the only one of us who could drive, so he had to ferry Lynn and me to all the shows. He was frequently late - - - probably because he hated putting on all that Ronald McD makeup.
Back then it was such a hoot hearing him curse at other drivers on the way to the gigs. Nothing like being yelled at and getting the finger from a raging clown with red hair who thinks you're going too slow.
— David Sullivan, CC '69
Shared by Geoff Cleveland on July 15, 2021
LES TIME SPENT WAS BETTER  
1st meeting, a couple hrs. before 1st class. I'm coming out of music class holding a copy of Frank Zappa 'Lumpy Gravy'. Les comments favorably toward the album, winning me over instantly. 1st play I was in, "Enter Laughing" with one or two lines, yet I see the first of five opening-night letters I received, full of positive reinforcement and at least twice as long as my part. I probably still have that note along with the other four. 5th and final play, "Whose Life Is It, Anyway?", I get the lead. I think his name was Ken Harrison but the cover of my script says "Veg Boy". Meanwhile, many trips to Denver to see Germinal Stage productions, as well as David Bowie testing his skills as "The Elephant Man", and the equally memorable hangs at the NY Deli and Haagen Dazs. Also, I performed with Les, though never in the same scene, in the Star Bar Players' production of "The Shadow Box". Fast forward three and a half decades and I'm back in Les' Colo. Spgs. house having a wonderful reunion, then he's watching my band a couple months later, then three years after that. Two days after that, I get a post on Facebook that is the essence of the old opening-night letters. Les Baird's love and encouragement will never be replaced but will also never go away.
Shared by james bohnen on June 22, 2021
Les and I met in January of 1973 when we were both cast in a production of The Crucible. From that happy accident a crucial friendship grew. We were in our mid-twenties, and each in the process of assembling the adult we hoped to be. Because we shared strong mutual interests in theater, movies, politics, books, teaching, and laughter, easy connectives all, (oh, and we were both quite verbal and loved the silliness and beauty of language) we, in some way, grew into each other. We became, for each other, a part of our foundational selves. Without him now, my life feels a little less stable. He lived completely in the moment. Sometimes this was frustrating, of course, if you were waiting for him to stop over as he said he was going to, and then something else caught his attention. But he was always easily forgiven. Les was brave in large and small ways. I always admired that. He helped me to be so too. Here is an example of a tiny act of bravery on his part that we laughed about for years. We were sitting in his kitchen in the house on Columbia one afternoon, it must have been in 1977 or so. I had stopped over and Les had poured me a large glass of water. We were talking intently about something, who knows what, when I suddenly looked at the full glass of water and then up to his face. I said, "You know, I have always wanted to throw a glass of water in someone's face." Les looked at me, skeptically at first, but then his great smile took over his face and he said, "Do it!" We looked at each other, both laughing, for a few seconds, and then, I did it. It was remarkable, explosive, and (the part we had not thought of) extremely messy. Most of the water went to either side of his face and hit the wall creating a huge mess. We spent the next twenty minutes laughing and cleaning. It never happened again. It didn't need to. I'll miss him the rest of my life. More later about theater and much else, including some pictures, if I can figure out how to do that. Be well everyone.  james