“It’s funny seeing that we all call him Randy and not Dr. Rissman,” says Cindy Cashdollar, the Grammy award winning steel guitar and dobro player. “I think that says a lot right there, because to me, he was not only my doctor but he was a friend and a confidant. None of us will ever have a doctor like Randy Rissman again. He’s probably one of the last of those kind of doctors. I don’t think that this health care system allows for Randy Rissmans anymore. We were all very blessed to have Randy in our lives.”
Rissman retired last December after serving Woodstock for 36 years. Now, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, there will be a Retirement Party/Concert for the doc at the Bearsville Theater, with all proceeds going to the Woodstock Rescue Squad. Performers will include Happy Traum, Cindy Cashdollar, Harvey Citron; The Beki Brindle Blues Band with Ralph Legnini, Eric Parker and Frank Ganci; Marc Black, Ralph Scala, Nancy Kame, Victoria Levy and more.
Luthier and musician Harvey Citron knows Rissman a long time. “I sent Randy a text and I said I feel like a man without a country. For some reason or other in all these years no matter what, I was always able to get to see him. Randy has always been there when we needed him so now it’s time to give back to this selfless member of our community.”
Rissman told of how it all came about. “The initial idea was built around people asking me well are you going to have a retirement party? I got the idea that if I am going to do this, then I don’t want anything for myself. I’m a caretaker of other people, my role in life is to help other people and to get them to believe in themselves and get them through their own problems. That’s what I have done all these years in Woodstock. I just decided why don’t I have a party and make it a Fund Raiser for the Woodstock Volunteer Rescue Squad who every single week of my life are there for me and the patients?” he says
Rissman contacted Sam Magarelli to make it all happen. Magarelli recalls getting a call from the good Doctor. “Randy called me and asked for help to make this happen. He wasn’t sure who to talk to. He knew that there were other layers as how to make this happen so he asked me to help him. Plus he’s known that I’ve been involved with the Woodstock Volunteers Day project and Randy said, ‘look this is a great fit to use your organization to put on this fund raiser.” Rissman and Magarelli agreed that this was indeed the perfect fit. “The Rescue Squad was thrilled that Randy was going to use this personal event of retiring to have them have a benefit for their program. Randy was my doctor for many years and we’ve been friends for quite a long time. He’s a wonderful community person that has always thought about how he could help the community and always valued the community, and here in this significant part of his life, moving from his active part of his medical career and life into his retirement, I thought that it was very generous of him to provide an opportunity for the Rescue squad,” Magarelli says.
The show is going to be broken down into two parts. Excited about the event Ralph Legnini, the musical director of the project explains, “I was one of his first patients. He was on Rick’s Road then; we go way back. Aside from being my doctor for so many years, like he was for so many others in the community, we were friends. The first half of the show is going to be an esoteric mix of bunch of different flavors of music, so we are going to have some opera, jazz, country, a blend of four or five different styles of music. The second half will be your rocking and grooving band playing.” The second set will also include some guest artists and of course a few surprises.
The “rocking and grooving band” that will open the second set will be The Becki Brindle Blues Band consisting of Ralph Legnini, Frank Ganci and drummer extraordinaire Eric Parker. Becki has just released her new CD All Kinds of Becki on Random Chance Records, so she’s sure to play a few bluesy tunes from her new release. Some of the guest artists include Harvey Citron, Marc Black, Nancy Kamen, Charles Lyonhart, Victoria Levy, Ralph Scala and Woodstock’s own Happy Traum, who remembers recently getting a call from Rissman. “When Randy Rissman called to ask me to play in a special retirement celebration concert I said Yes! without hesitation. Randy has been an important and beloved part of our community for decades, and I believe I was among his first patients here. The best part is that the proceeds are going to the Rescue Squad, our invaluable helpers in times of need. Leave it to Randy to do the right thing on all counts.”
Rissman has been so much more than a doctor to all of us. I also have had him as my doctor until his retirement last December. I knew about Dr. Rissman long before he ever treated me, since he was my friend John Herald’s doctor for many years. What is apparent is that Randy is interested in the individual, not only as a patient but as a person. “I get involved with people’s personal lives, it matters who the patient is. On so many levels it’s very important to know who the patient is and who the families are, what’s going on in their lives, where do they come from? Where are they at philosophically, spiritually? Who is this person that I am treating? Because it matters how you treat them,” Rissman explains.
The Woodstock Rescue Squad (Woodstock Fire Department Company No. 5) consists of about 60 volunteers who are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. “These people save people’s lives and put out fires, they rescue cat’s out of tree’s, calm people down in the middle of the night who are having a panic attack. They don’t have to do this, yet they do. Our money could mean somebody’s life or death,” Becki Brindle says.
Rissman has a vision for the evening. “I imagined this is something we can do as a yearly event,” he says. “You never know if it’s you that’s going to be calling the Rescue Squad and they will be there for you.
“Here’s an organization in small town America and they work together for the common good of all people. I am really looking forward to shout out to the community, hey let’s recognize these people. Let’s do something for them now and let’s have fun doing it.”
The Randy Rissman Retirement Party/Concert will be at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7:30 p.m.) Saturday, June 25 at the Bearsville Theater, 291 Tinker Street, Woodstock. General Admission is $20, preferred seating is $35 and VIP seating (including a Champagne Reception at 7 p.m.) is $75. All proceeds will be to support the Woodstock Rescue Squad. See bearsvilletheater.com for information, or call 679-4406.