Bob McCloskey


For years, Bob McCloskey pooh-poohed the suggestion that he take his deep, resonant voice to the stage. As he rose through the sales and management ranks of Kimberly-Clark, his colleagues would tell him that he should act.

“In my 32 years, guys would say ‘McCloskey, for goodness sake, you should have been on stage,’ whether it was following a sales presentation or an address to the group,” he said. “And anytime the boss said that, you’re wondering, wait, you’re saying I should be on stage because I’m a lousy sales manager?”

He’d laugh, shake his head and move on to the next project, he said, ultimately becoming the company’s retail sales manager for the Southeast region out of Tampa.

It wasn’t until he moved to Sun City Hilton Head in 2003 that McCloskey finally gave acting a shot, joining the Sun City Community Theatre.

It started in Sun City with a small skit called “Lily, the Felon’s Daughter.” The theater held monthly membership meetings that covered both business and short entertainment. McCloskey said his neighbor Elaine Ragland kept saying, “You ought to do this, you ought to do this.”

Prior to performing in Sun City, his last acting gig was in 1961 at age 17 as a walk-on in an all-male school production of “Stalag 17.”

“I went down and it went all right. I figured whatever the monthly (performance) was, was a once-and-done and you go back to whatever you were,” he recalled.

Not so fast. His neighbor came to him with another proposal.

“Elaine told me ‘Guys and Dolls’ opens with a Damon Runyon street scene with every possible character you can imagine. Now they’re looking for someone to play a drunk and just stagger across the stage,” said McCloskey. “I said, ‘Well, I’ve been preparing for this role all my life. I can do that.’

“So I staggered across the stage and people are saying ‘Who is this guy? He did a pretty good drunk.’ I did my part and said, ‘Thank you very much, good seeing you,’ to Anne and Carl Nusbaum, who were directing,” McCloskey said.

They asked him where he was going and McCloskey said he was finished. They said no, he was in the chorus, much to his surprise.

“They said, ‘You go in this room back here and go see Art Hansen. You’ll recognize him. He’s got a stick in his hand and his wife pays the piano.’ ”

Hansen, the show’s musical director, was working with the ensemble.

“My last performance as a vocalist was in eighth grade, when I was a member of the world-famous St. James Boys Choir of Lakewood, Ohio,” he said with a laugh. “So I go walking in with a couple of guys and one says ‘What are you?’ ‘Irish?’ I answered. ‘No, what range are you?’ he replied. I didn’t know. He said, ‘You’re a bass, sit over here with me’.”

McCloskey sat and the group began going over “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.” When the song got to the chorus part “Sit down, sit down,” Hansen tapped his baton, stopping the music. Looking around he said, “I don’t know who it is but somebody is singing an octave too low.”

McCloskey said he was looking around like everyone else and turn back to find the director looking at him.

“He says, ‘Instead of singing down here, can you sing it up here?’ I said I could give it a shot. And here we are,” McCloskey said. “And that evidently was enough to get me involved.”

Since that time, McCloskey has played several major roles in Sun City productions, including Sheridan Whiteside in “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” King Henry II in “Lion in Winter” and most recently as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Thespian is a far cry from McCloskey’s original career plans involving law school and politics. His political science degree, however, turned into teaching when he fell in love.

“Linda became more important than law school,” McCloskey said. “I became a teacher for a while, and then I recognized the fact that I would not be able to support a family satisfactorily on a teacher’s salary.”

A chance meeting with a grade-school friend while heading for an employment agency turned the teacher into a sales executive who finally became an actor.

McCloskey’s next performance will be as half of the 22 on-stage characters in the two-man show “A Tuna Christmas,” sharing the spotlight with Bob Taylor, another well-known local actor. The play runs Dec. 12-15 at Sun City’s Magnolia Hall.