● By Brandi Barnett
Q97 SnapshotApril 2015
By Billy Pilgrim
We were best friends in elementary school, Los Feliz School, on the corner of New Hampshire and Hollywood Boulevard, one block off of Vermont in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles in the ‘60s. It was a wonderful time and place for a kid to grow up. Griffith Park and the hills below the Hollywood sign were our playgrounds. But after sixth grade, my family moved to San Marino, 10 miles away. To an 11-year-old kid, 10 miles seemed like the other side of the world, and I lost track of my best friend Andy.
Have you ever had someone who you loved, who was so influential and special, but lost your connection for no apparent reason? And you said to yourself, “Where is this person? How come we are not still friends? And is this special being even alive on this Earth?” Those were my thoughts for many years. “Where is my old buddy Andy Schneider... my best buddy from elementary school?”
Every once in a while, I would Google the name of the kid I hung out with most every day... the guy with the buzz cut who loved movies, the Dodgers, TV, and Mad Magazine. Andy Schneider! He was my playground pal. And we played with those wonderful Los Feliz kids—Hugo Cianculli, Henry Cuaz, Jimmy Gobo, and String Bean Luine. I would put Andy’s name into the digital universe, found hundreds of results, but ultimately I was unsuccessful in my search for my old friend.
I put the idea of locating Andy away for a number of years until one day, two years ago, the thought randomly popped into my head to search for him one more time. I remembered the street he lived on growing up, plugged his name and street address into the search bar, and with some perseverance and patience, I found Andy!
He didn’t grow up to be a doctor like his father, like I had always assumed. He grew up to be first, an actor, and eventually a writer and producer of wonderful shows like Northern Exposure (Andy and his wife Diane Frolov won an Emmy for one episode), Alien Nation, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire. Andy and Diane’s most recent collaboration is the show Bosch on Amazon. I was amazed and proud of my old pal, and through his agent, I sent a letter to him telling him I had been thinking about him, and hoped he would respond. And he did, and was equally amazed. He said he thought of our friendship many times over the years and had wondered what happened to me.
We were delighted to learn we had both gone into the entertainment industries. Andy remarked we been living parallel lives without knowing it. And this is almost crazy and certainly cosmic—Andy and Diane live now live one block from where I used to live in a Southern California beach community.
To me, our story is a great affirmation of a higher power at work, all part of a greater plan. Finding Andy alive, happy and healthy has been a great joy—the greatest of joys.
We’ve gotten together a couple of times in the last two years, and communicate frequently. I think there are some implied understandings that have carried over from our childhood. We both know how lucky and blessed we have been, and what a gift it is to reconnect with one another. Some wonders are just understood and appreciated. Except for a few relatives, I have known Andy longer than anyone else in my life. We just took a long and unintentional break from one another. I found Andy.