Hundreds of our readers in the Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles tech communities continue to express shock over the death of Jody Sherman. LinkedIn executive Christina Allen — a good friend of Sherman’s — decided to put her feelings on paper. It spoke well to my grief, so I asked her if we could publish the post here. I hope it helps others in our community feel less alone during this time. -Sarah
The last time we spoke, Jody was pissed off about selecting paint colors for the new house. He’d proposed a color, and Kerri would counter with a different suggestion. I asked, “Is she making awful choices?” and he said, “No, her choices are much better than mine — she’s very good at this.”
When he suggested that maybe men just don’t care about this kind of thing, I told him that one of Craig’s retirement fantasies (competing with a power washing business or de-icing planes), was to name paint colors — sunset warbler, desert afterglow. Just about then, ATT dropped our connection. I didn’t call Jody back, because we were heading to Tahoe for the weekend, and I was an hour late getting home from work.
The point is not that I believe that if I’d called him back it would have changed anything. The point is that we were having a ridiculous conversation about gender and paint chips. So when I called Jody back on Monday afternoon, and Kerri answered his phone, I was really surprised. Jody is a very phone-oriented person.
I said, “Hey Kerri, how’s Las Vegas? How’s medical school?” And she said “Jody killed himself.”
I couldn’t process the verb for a full minute. We talked for a while. She asked me not to say anything until she made the announcement on Facebook. I went home, told Craig, and we waited until the news broke.
I still can’t process the verb. Since then, I’ve talked for untold hours to friends from around the world. No one can process the verb.
So imagine this. I’m signing off from dozens of conversations. I say, “if you ever feel despondent, like you might do something permanent, call me. We’ll get the hell out of here.” And the immediate response — across the board — is a moment of indignation that I could think they would ever. And in the next second, it hits home that no one, not a single person we know, or that we’ve talked to since, would ever have thought “Jody.”
So here’s my deal. For now, I’m going with denial and/or conspiracy theory. It’s a free world. I’ve paid my dues unstintingly to the reality union across decades of research, rigor, and existential exploration. It’s time for that strike fund to pay me back. Was Jody bushwhacked by an old grudge who followed him into the hills? Sounds probable. Dawn duel over some point of honor? Yeah, I can go with that. Self-inflicted gunshot wound? Not yet.
Because if I entertain the latter, I’m hit with a deluge of thoughts I need to discuss with the one person who is permanently out of reach.
I remember dawn-to-dusk days in New York, LA, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Mexico. Maybe it was a big fancy event, a cheap taco stand, Tony’s bus on Halloween and the aftermath. Or a night in Mexico so furnace-hot that we pulled lounge chairs into the shallow end of the pool to simulate air conditioning. We talked until Paige and Craig fell asleep, until we almost froze to death (the laws of thermodynamics operate even at a snail’s pace). We could talk with a degree of rigor and depth almost unparalleled in my experience.
Jody was smart. Sure, he could talk a line of bullshit with the best of them, but he had an exquisite mind, a strong moral compass, and oceans of experience and content. I’ll miss talking to him for the rest of my life. Maddeningly, he’s the person I most want to talk to about what’s just happened. But that’s an entirely personal grief.
Here’s what’s worse. I’m thinking about a low-speed chase by a Safeway security guard during a covert couch dumping operation at the Santa Monica Safeway dumpster on the weekend we helped him pack just before his move to Las Vegas. We enlisted our daughter because she had the biggest vehicle. Before that, Elle was going to crash with Jody and Kerri until she found permanent housing last summer. She and Kerri developed a fast friendship in New York at our 3 am dinner at The Blue Ribbon.
My daughter loved and admired Jody. The friends she made in Los Angeles last summer also loved and admired him. So I had to call her this morning and crush a whole strand of hope and connection. And so my grief expands from the very personal, to conveying such foundation-shaking vulnerability into the lives of my daughter and her friends.
Let’s keep going. Forget the Silicon Beach and Alley and Valley. Yes, we loved him and honor him. I’ve read every article, Tweet, and post about his generosity to people in our industry. But for 20 years, I’ve watched the finest minds of my generation competing to create new games or to running A/B tests or to tweak fractional metrics to drive the numbers.
Would Jody have built a gaming company back in the day? Absolutely. He was as ambitious and competitive as anyone who shows up in this industry trying to make it big. He had booms and busts, private jet travel and old jeeps, and multiple restarts. But as he matured, he became passionate about giving back.
Here’s my point: Jody fed children with every sale online. He was a vocal advocate for the parents on Ecomom. He jumped with both feet into the extraordinary experiment Tony and Fred are conducting to revitalize old downtown Las Vegas. He was generous with every shred of energy, intelligence and presence he possessed. He regularly kicked people in the ass to put them back on the right path, without judgement as to whether they were whining about high-class professional problems or tragic personal circumstances.
In Jody, we were lucky to have that most rare combination — a seasoned, value-saturated leader who nonetheless had the energy to dive back and create the next new thing.
So I think you should call the people you love and admire. Insert yourself into their lives and invite them into yours. Find out what’s going on, and probe until they tell you. Help them explore their shadows and fears with your full attention. And remember that Jody wasn’t just a crusader, coach, or confessor. He was also an instigator and a disruptor, the most fun, the most irreverent. He dragged you into ridiculous adventures until you simply could not remember what the hell you were going off about.
So whatever happened on Monday, I’m aiming to be more of a Jody from now on.