By Judith Salkin

More than 300 friends gathered on Monday, Aug. 19, at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Springs for a celebration of life memorial for artist Jason Altieri, who died Aug. 10.
Altieri’s life partner, Jim Casey, orchestrated an event that brought friends and performers to the museum to remember the man whom Casey called “the best corporate wife anyone ever had.”
Mourners included members of Palm Springs arts and entertainment communities such as Kim Waltrip (Casey’s partner in Kim and Jim Productions), Joey English, Larry and Laurie Weitz; philanthropists David Peet and Barbara and Jerry Keller; and friends from Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City.
The memorial was planned like a charity event that Casey and Altieri would have hosted starting with a cocktail reception, the memorial performance and remembrances, and finally, a party where guests joined sharing stories of Altieri’s sense of humor.
Many were still in shock that Altieri had taken his own life while in a residential treatment center in Palm Springs where he was being treated for depression and anxiety at the time of his death.
Long-time friend Vincent Cappa, of New York, called Altieri a “bon vivant with a great sense of humor.”
“I saw him earlier this year and you would never know that he was in such pain,” he said. “Jim protected him and did everything he could for him. I just wish I could have done more.”
Robert Yates and Skip Bue, of Palm Springs, were early friends of the couple in Palm Springs. “At first, they were coming down just on weekends,” Yates said. “But we loved them immediately.”
Altieri, who was an artist, will also be remembered by Cappa for his sense of style. “He had such an individual way of looking at things,” Yates said.
Casey and Barbara Keller both spoke during the memorial, held in the museum’s Annenberg Theater. Keller recalled meeting Altieri. “There is a misconception that I know every good looking gay man in the valley,” she said. “But seven years ago I was going to events and wondering ‘who is that handsome blond man?’”
After being teamed with Casey on a project, she found out at a meeting at Casey and Altieri’s home. “Jason strode into the room and I was staring at him,” she said, sighing with emotion.
She also called Altieri, who was known for his love of dancing, a dancer in spirit. “If you ever saw him dance, you know he could have been the inspiration for ‘So You Think You Can Dance’.”
And his hair. “You never touched the hair!” she said, which received a knowing laugh from the crowd. Ending, Keller noted, “If you put Jason in the spotlight, he was the quintessential artist and wit who will live on in our hearts forever.”
Casey’s emotional tribute to his lover of 26 year brought laughter and tears to the mourners, noting that he loved having the best seat in the house attending the charity events Casey was so involved with, “But he hated to wear a tux.”
Casey referred to Altieri’s favorite quote from the film “Steel Magnolias,” “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special,” many times in his tribute to his partner.
From their first meeting at a gay bar on their native Long Island, N.Y., where Casey felt “He was majestic and way above my pay grade,” to the simple act of coming home each night, “he always took my breath away,” he added. “He gave me many moments of wonderful in our years together.”
Rather than a string of speakers, Casey enlisted producer Trini Garza of Live It Productions and Troupe Productions, to bring together a group of performers to present a love note in the form of a concert dedicated to Altieri who Casey noted “hated long speeches.”
The songs included Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” a smash-up of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” and “What I Did for Love” from the musical, “A Chorus Line.”
Garza said the songs were chosen by Casey. “All the lyrics are the things that Jim wanted to tell Jason,” he said.
Following the performances, Casey asked everyone to return to the museum’s upper level to the party and to raise a toast and share stories about Altieri.
Aside from his wicked sense of humor, Waltrip noted that although Altieri was not a part of Kim and Jim Productions, he was an important advisor for both Waltrip and Casey.
“He was the supportive spouse we all wish we had,” she said. “I could send him clips and he would always give me his honest opinion. He was a sounding board we could count on and I will miss him.”

In lieu of other memorials, Casey requested that Altieri be remembered with a donation to Desert AIDS Project in his name at