Although I’ve known a lot of authors and am fortunate enough to count many of them as friends, only one of my friends was famous for being in a huge best-seller: Richard Vogt, better known to fans of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love as Richard from Texas.
Alas, much too soon, the time has come to say adios to Richard. He passed away on March 4 unexpectedly and much too soon for his vast circle of friends and fans.
I first met Richard in November 2006, when a mutual friend introduced us, thinking I could help Richard position himself to take advantage of the EPL effect. At the time, Richard was in between appearances on Oprah –– well, actually, he’d already taped them but only one of the two shows had aired at that point. And you bet I remembered Richard from Texas, and it made perfect sense that he would live in Austin! When my pal Jill handed me EPL, she read me a couple of the choice gems from Richard –– I think it might have been the “Groceries, your problem is you’ve got a wishbone where your backbone should be” bit. And yes, Richard was one of my favorite parts of the book.
Richard had a life that was stranger than fiction. Richard survived a tough childhood and went on to be a juvenile delinquent, a Vietnam vet, an oil-field worker; a truck driver; the first dealer of Birkenstocks in the Dakotas; a construction worker; hippie farmer on a commune; radio voice-over announcer, etc. But for many years, he was a junkie and an alchoholic.
One night in a small Texas town, as he was casing a pharmacy to break into for drugs, something stopped him; he realized that he was on track to end up in prison or he could just stop and change his life. Richard said, “I ventured into the depths of hell. The hand of what I choose to call God pulled me from this ravage. It was not my own doing. Without a doubt, Divine Intervention interceded.”
With that, he sobered up and started a on the spiritual quest that eventually placed him at an ashram at the same time a wild-haired writer recovering from a divorce showed up. Richard took one look at her shoveling down her food and nicknamed her “Groceries.
And that’s how Richard entered Eat, Pray, Love and ended up on Oprah.
Most of my work with Richard consisted of trying to help him launch his career as a speaker. I immediately loved both his easygoing nature and his spiritual centeredness, not to mention his genuine interest in other people.