Family, friends and colleagues shared heartwarming stories and humorous tales about the late Hippodrome actor during a Celebration of Life on the stage where he performed for 43 years.
In 35 years at UF, Dr. Albert Wehlberg taught more than 45,000 students in the School of Theatre and Dance. One of those students, a wiry youngster from Jacksonville by the name of Rusty Salling, entered his Stagecraft 1 classroom in September 1969 and never truly left the building.
“He enjoyed class, but mostly when I dismissed class early,” Wehlberg said of his former pupil, who would go on to a long career in theatre.
“Technical theatre wasn’t his favorite subject,” Wehlberg said later. “In fact, he probably thought it was a pain in the ass because I made him work.”
But Wehlberg, now 79, came to admire his pupil’s work and said as much on Monday night during a Celebration of Life for Salling at the Hippodrome Theatre. About 200 people, including family, friends, fellow actors and admirers, attended the two-hour tribute on the mainstage where Salling performed for more than four decades.
“He did well,” Dr. Wehlberg said of Salling. “He always used to make a funny sound whenever I complimented him on a production. I don’t know where that sound came from!”
Wehlberg was one of more than a dozen speakers to share a story or two about Salling on a night that included some tears but mostly laughter for a man who was bigger than life on stage but otherwise a humble and private individual. Dan Jesse, a longtime friend of Salling, emceed the Celebration of Life.