As a spokesman and director of public relations for Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department, Chris Warren made his living with his voice.
So how curious that for nearly 15 years and for roles that numbered in the double digits, he never spoke or sang a note as a regular performer with the Florida Grand Opera.
But that didn’t stop the opera company from honoring Warren for his 14 years as captain of supernumeraries — opera’s fancy word for what movie folk term “extras” — in 2002.
During his time with the opera company Warren appeared on stages in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa in 30 operas and he played 50 parts. Among his roles: The Notary in The Barber of Seville and L’Elisir D’Amore (The Elixir of Love); the servant cook in Madama Butterfly and King Duncan in Macbeth.
“It was 14 glorious years and I enjoyed every moment,” Warren told the Miami Herald when he was honored.
Warren died at 88 on Nov. 5 during the end stages of Parkinson’s. Born Warren Christman on Sept. 1, 1927, in Jersey City, he joined the parks and recreation department in 1963 and would serve as its public relations and marketing director until his retirement — he preferred the term “graduation” — from the county in 1983.
Soon after, Warren, who lived in what is now Cutler Bay with his partner of 65 years, Graydon “Jim” Lunt, tapped into his love of the arts and acting. He served as the captain of the FGO’s super corps, a group of 100 men and women who were on call for various operas. He was a stand-in for principal roles during lighting and technical rehearsals. He played piano at local lounges, worked as a media manager for the South Florida Shakespeare Festival at Vizcaya, and had acting gigs on stage in Coconut Grove and on public television’s Jury Box series.
Sometimes, the two worlds — parks and performing — merged.
I turned everything into something positive. Like everything else in life, I let nature take its course.
Chris Warren on his philosophy post-Hurricane Andrew.
When Hurricane Andrew devastated large portions of South Miami-Dade in 1992, Warren observed the then-new normal and had a flash. “Army fellows were patrolling the neighborhood in their camouflage with rifles slung over their shoulders and I had this crazy thought. I wanted to get the accordion out of my closet and put on a USO show for them,” he said in a Herald column.
Made the best of the damage to his yard, too. When the budding botanist’s gumbo limbo snapped in two he simply planted the broken top and soon two trees sprouted.
“I turned everything into something positive,” the optimist said in the Herald. “Like everything else in life, I let nature take its course.”
In addition to his partner, Warren is survived by his brother Ronnie Christman. A memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 22, at The Court at Palm Aire, 2701 N. Course Dr., Pompano Beach. Donations in his name can be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research at 800-708-7644 or michaeljfox.org.