Kellie was born in Columbus, Ohio on July 27, 1967. When her parents split up she stayed with her mother, but after some rough times as teenager, she went to live with her her dad, Jack Waymire, in Houston. She attended Southern Methodist University under full scholarship and in 1990 graduated with a BA in acting. In 1993 she took an MFA in acting from the University of California - San Diego, and thus began her journeyman career as a professional actor.
Landing in New York, she did a stint on One Life to Live for a few months in '94, then began going out on the regional theatre circuit. It was while appearing in She Stoops to Conquer at the Seattle Repertory Theatre that she met her love, and my very dear friend, Gary Smoot.
Kellie got picked up by an LA agent after she played the title role of the dog in A.R. Gurney's Sylvia at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. The Los Angeles Times called her performance "irresistible" and it won her a Drama-Logue award for Outstanding Performance.
Soon Kellie was doing guest star spots on shows like Seinfeld, The X Files, Star Trek Voyager, Friends, NYPD Blue, Judging Amy, The Practice and Ally McBeal. Then, right around 2000, her career stepped up a notch and she began scoring recurring roles, like Ensign Elizabeth Cutler, ship's entomologist on Enterprise, Miranda Devereaux on the ill-fated Wolf Lake, and then Melissa the prostitute on the much more successful Six Feet Under. Finally, about a year ago she landed that most coveted spot on a TV show, star, playing Liz the mom, opposite Dylan Baker in The Pitts, produced by The Simpsons' Mike Scully. The show went belly up after maybe three airings, but her undying and utterly endearing enthusiasm lent it an otherwise unwarranted buoyancy.
All the time Kellie was scoring these remarkable successes in mainstream Hollywood, she was also staying true to her first love, theatre, appearing in low-paying waiver productions with Antaeus Theatre, Circle X Theatre, and 24th Street Playhouse, just to name a few. In my own play An American Book of the Dead - The Game Show, she originated the roles of Surge, The Salted Wife, Jacqui Potts, Microsoft, and Keelly Smith each one uniquely crafted like exquisite jewels on a tennis bracelet from Tiffany's. And what's more, Kellie didn't just act in the show, she helped her designer boyfriend build it. I remember finding her backstage one very late tech night grommetting curtains for the game show set when the rest of the cast was long gone hours ago.
On November 14 my phone rang at about 3 in morning. I ignored it of course. I can't be bothered to get up for every drunk who misdials. It rang again a few minutes later. This time I stumbled out of bed and into the living room to answer it. I knew from the timbre of my friend Gary's first words, "Paul, I'm sorry to call you so late ..." that something terrible had happened. And so it had. Having pulled one of his infamously late nights putting the finishing touches on the set of Circle X's Christmas show in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Gary drove home to Venice at about 1:45 in the morning. He found Kellie dead on the kitchen floor. She'd been there since the previous morning, cereal and milk splattered around her where she fell. "I never want to see anything like that again, Paul. I can't get it out of my head. It wasn't her. All I could think was 'That's not her.'" And of course, it wasn't. Kellie was never anything but alive, brilliantly, eagerly, entirely.
I went down that weekend to be with Gary, though of course his many other friends instintually swarmed around him in a cocoon of protection, and I only got a few cigarette-smoking walks in with him, shattered but surprisingly clear in his grief. The next weekend, while I went back East for Thanksgiving, Gary went to Ohio for Kellie's family service. He asked her friends from LA (myself included even though I actually live in Seattle) to send him letters there about Kellie so the family would have some sense of how her professional colleagues viewed her. Gary tells me my letter was read aloud by Kellie's somewhat stiff and nerdy engineer brother-in-law. Somehow that's perfect.
When it came time for Kellie's very public memorial back in LA the weekend before last, Gary asked me to read the same letter to the audience of some four or five hundred friends, family and fans that showed up at the UCLA auditorium to pay their respects.
Here it is, as I read it:
One phrase keeps running through my mind. "We can't afford this loss."
We can't afford it as friends, or family, but in the longest run, we can't afford this loss as human beings. Kellie was an artist of the first caliber, and we human beings need as many of those as we can get.
There's a lot of jealousy in Hollywood-a lot of carping: "Why does so-and-so have such a great career and I'm still temping?" It's only natural. So much of what happens in Hollywood seems like a crapshoot. But I never heard anyone-and I mean not a single actor who knew her-ever express jealousy for Kellie's career, and believe me, she was very successful among her core of friends and colleagues. So why no carping? Well, it wasn't because she was so nice-- she was, but that's not it. And it wasn't because we, her friends and colleagues, are so nice-- 'cuz frankly, we're not. It's because everyone one of us knew how hard Kellie worked to take her god-given talent and make a career out of it. And we also saw how she took that same talent and gave it back to us so openly and so generously in 99-seat theatres where the money she made wasn't enough to cover her gas. If Kellie's vast and consistently excellent body of work in the theatre wasn't a gigantic act of love, I defy you to define the word adequately for me.
I'm a playwright. And, man oh man, I cannot afford this loss. Kellie was the kind of multi-faceted, strong, dedicated and enjoyable actor that actually gets plays written. Such actors operate as siphons on the end of the very long pipe of development. Without knowing someone is out there good enough to handle certain roles, certain plays just never even get started. I'm writing one of those plays right now, with Kellie in mind for the lead. I don't know how to go on. When I told Gary this, he said I have to. When I told Jack, he said the same thing. Neither doubted for a moment that this is what Kellie would have wanted. I just don't know where I'm gonna find her strength, talent, and fortitude.
We can't afford this loss. The best we can do is try to make it up some how, hoping wildly in our grief that Kellie left behind some of her huge wells of generosity, talent and painstaking determination for us to draw from. And maybe, just maybe, we can give ourselves some solace by hoping, praying, that we bring Kellie nearer by invoking her spirit of excellence. We have to work harder. We have to do better. It's obviously a gamble, but it's one we have to take. How meaningless is our grief if we don't? With that in mind, we can't afford not to.