John Bernard Martin

For­mer Tow­son res­i­dent served as a per­sonal as­sis­tant to the stars, driver for Ori­oles owner

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Jac­ques Kelly

John Bernard Martin, a for­mer Tow­son res­i­dent who be­came a driver and per­sonal as­sis­tant within the New York City film in­dus­try, died Oct. 1 at his Man­hat­tan home. He was 61.

His sis­ter, Bridgid Martin Nes­bit of Bel Air, said he died of a sus­pected blood clot.

Born in Bal­ti­more and raised on Ridge Av­enue in Tow­son, he was the son of Ed­ward Joseph Martin, a Bal­ti­more County pub­lic schools build­ing su­per­vi­sor, and Pa­tri­cia Kelly Martin, a sec­re­tary at the school sys­tem’s head­quar­ters at Green­wood.

He at­tended Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion and Dum­bar­ton Mid­dle School and was a 1975 grad­u­ate of Tow­son High School.

As a child he played for the neigh­bor­hood foot­ball team.

“He was thick-limbed with legs that looked like cannons, and we quickly nick­named him ‘Beefy,’” re­called a friend, Ram­sey Flynn, a for­mer Bal­ti­more mag­a­zine ed­i­tor. “We weren’t even sure he could catch the ball and made him the cen­ter. All of us wore white foot­ball pants with neatly tucked pads but Bernie wore dis­tinc­tively rust-col­ored pants and his shoul­der pads seemed to for­ever es­cape out­side his jersey, bounc­ing wildly as he ran and giv­ing him the vague ap­pear­ance of the Pig Pen char­ac­ter from Char­lie Brown.

“We were the world’s most in­ef­fec­tive foot­ball team and rarely ever scored,” Mr. Flynn said. “But on one bun­gled play — I was the quar­ter­back — we fum­bled the ball and Bernie mag­i­cally came up with it…. In the con­fu­sion Bernie just started angling to­ward the op­po­nent’s goal on the fields of Rodgers Forge. We were stunned that Bernie Martin scored one of our only touch­downs of the sea­son, and car­ried him away on our lit­tle shoul­ders.”

Af­ter high school, he worked for the Rade­baugh Florists in Tow­son. He later joined the Ma­rine Corps and be­came a lo­gis­tics of­fi­cer as­signed to posts in the North Sea and the Panama Canal.

“In the Marines he some­how mi­grated into du­ties that saw him as the per­sonal driver of se­nior of­fi­cers,” said Mr. Flynn.

Af­ter his mil­i­tary ser­vice he worked for then-State Sen. John A. Pica. He was also a Bal­ti­more City Liquor Board In­spec­tor and, in the late 1980s, worked for Dance Auc­tion­eers in Tow­son.

Mr. Flynn said Mr. Martin served as a driver for Bal­ti­more Ori­oles owner Peter G. An­ge­los and later found sim­i­lar work in New York City.

“Bernie was a nat­u­ral at this line of work, be­cause he had ex­cep­tional peo­ple skills,” said Phil Fed­erico, a long­time friend. “Dur­ing his time with the Ori­oles, Bernie was ex­posed to and in­volved in the lo­gis­tics of en­ter­tain­ing many dig­ni­taries, in­clud­ing pres­i­dents Bush and Clin­ton and celebri­ties such as Tom Clancy, Jimmy Fal­lon and Fred­die Prinze Jr.on be­half of Mr. An­ge­los and the Ori­oles or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

In 1995, af­ter mov­ing to New York, Mr. Martin drove for en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try fig­ures as a mem­ber of the The­atri­cal Team­sters Lo­cal 187.

“Bernie’s rep­u­ta­tion as a per­sonal as­sis­tant soared in the movie in­dus­try, as he was be­ing sought af­ter by Hol­ly­wood’s elite,” Sen. Pica said.

“Bernie mostly squired Hol­ly­wood big shots,” said Mr. Flynn. “Bernie’s con­sid­er­able unas­sum­ing charm found fa­vor with folks that in­cluded Sarah Michelle Gel­lar of ‘Buffy the Vam­pire Slayer’ fame, and he even won a sup­port­ing film role in ‘Wolf of Wall Street,’ star­ring Leonardo DiCaprio.”

Mr. Martin was a mem­ber of the Screen Ac­tors Guild, and also ap­peared in the 1997 film “Wash­ing­ton Square” with Al­bert Fin­ney and Mag­gie Smith.

He be­came a per­sonal as­sis­tant to Gene Hack­man dur­ing the film­ing of “The Re­place­ments,” a foot­ball movie that was par­tially shot in Bal­ti­more at Ravens Sta­dium. Ac­cord­ing to Sen. Pica, he also served as a per­sonal as­sis­tant to Ms. Gel­lar, Matt Da­mon and Cameron Diaz.

In a state­ment on Face­book, Ms. Gel­lar said, “I con­sid­ered him fam­ily. My kids called him Un­cle Bernie.”

For the past five years he had been the per­sonal as­sis­tant to film di­rec­tor and pro­ducer Martin Scors­ese.

“Over the years, pretty quickly, he be­came a part of our lives, some­one we con­fided in, some­one we cared about deeply and who cared about us, some­one we truly loved,” said Mr. Scors­ese in an email.

“I loved Bernie’s com­pany, I loved his sense of hu­mor, and his loy­alty meant the world to me — when­ever we needed him, no mat­ter what, he was there. And I loved his pres­ence,” said Mr. Scors­ese. “In fact, I cast him in my new pic­ture, ‘The Ir­ish­man.’”

Mr. Martin was a 30-year mem­ber of Al­co­holics Anony­mous and had men­tored oth­ers in the re­cov­ery pro­gram. Friends said he en­joyed sweets, cof­fee and trips to Mary­land, Delaware and Flor­ida beaches.

“In our fam­ily, Bernie took care of all of us af­ter our mom died at a very young age,” said Ms. Nes­bit, his sis­ter. “He al­ways put fam­ily first.”

“Bernie was one of my first child­hood pals to show up at the an­nounce­ment of my father’s death in July of 2010,” re­called Mr. Flynn. "He self­lessly of­fered to take on ev­ery unloved sup­port func­tion for the fu­neral. One of my last im­ages of Bernie found him pound­ing stakes in the hard­ened July turf out at the Mercy Ridge com­mu­nity, hop­ing to guide traf­fic into the chapel. I asked him to come join us in­side the church, but Bernie de­murred.”

A fu­neral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Tues­day at Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion Ro­man Catholic Church, Ware Av­enue in Tow­son.

In ad­di­tion to his sis­ter, sur­vivors in­clude two brothers, Tim­o­thy Kelly Martin of Ocean City and Robert Locke of Maine; an­other sis­ter, Stacey Du­gan of Abing­don; and nieces and neph­ews. An­other brother, Michael Joseph Martin, died in 1990.

Film di­rec­tor Martin Scors­ese said of John Bernard Martin, “I loved Bernie’s com­pany.”

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