Yesterday, many of us learned, by social media, of the death of Tribe/PLAY co-owner Keith Blaydes. For many months, he had been battling late-stage pancreatic cancer. Keith fought hard, significantly outliving the prognosis that came with his diagnosis, remaining active, traveling, and continuing to work as long as he could. Keith is survived by his partner, the love of his life, his partner and husband of over 30 years, Bob Riedel.
The outpouring of thoughts, prayers, and memories on social media speaks volumes about Keith’s importance to this community, and even more so to those close to him. His partners at Tribe/PLAY have organized an event, Keith Blaydes: A Celebration of Life, on February 29, 2020.
In the meantime, Out & About Nashville asked some of his friends to share some thoughts and memories about Keith, in his memory.
Mark Nowlan and Joseph Flynn:
To know Keith Blaydes was to love him. Brave, smart, fun and full of grace.
We met Keith and Bob shortly after moving to Nashville in 1993 and became instant friends. Soon, watching Star Trek Voyager together over dinner was a weekly event for the four of us. We became travel buddies, too, eating and drinking and laughing our way from Key West, to Bermuda, France, and Greece – often with a huge group of amazing guys in their circle of friends. Keith’s warmth (and Bob’s gusto) brought a lot of good people together for lasting relationships.
Keith’s determination and energy have always been an inspiration. Not just in facing down the illness that took him from us, although he certainly did, but also in taking the leap from the corporate world to start Tribe, then Play, with his business partners.
It’s been more than 20 years since our careers took us away from Nashville to Ann Arbor, New York, and now, Seattle. Friends we’ve made along the way know the special place in our heart that Nashville occupies, Keith and Bob most of all. We’re so happy to have had the last year to spend some time with them at their second place in Southern California and our weekend place on the Hood Canal. We are devastated that Keith isn’t here anymore, but we will always remember his smile, his vision, and most of all, his love for Bob.
Remembering my sweet friend Keith Blaydes, who passed away this morning… Scott and I met Keith and his husband Bob in 2002 on a festive night at a brilliant newly opened Nashville gay bar, Tribe, that Keith had co-created. Tribe became our spot, and Keith and Bob became our friends. Thanks to them our brief time in Nashville were magical years, so many high times on Valhalla Drive, on Church St., in Fort Lauderdale—the details of which I’ll leave to the shorthand of Keith’s unforgettable boyish giggle, which I can hear as I write this.
Keith brought a lot of joy to our lives. Last April, not long after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, the four of us met in New York City, a wonderful reunion, delicious old times damn the circumstances, on an absolutely gorgeous day. As we strolled through Central Park that afternoon, I tried to bask in Keith, hoping to save the spring warmth of his company, his friendship, those memories, for the winter day ahead. And I feel him now.
My heart’s with Bob today, and I’m feeling very grateful for the two decades I enjoyed the gift of knowing the love of his life.
Keith and I had been friends since the early 90’s and worked in the same building (for different companies.) We’d often go to lunch together, and one day realized we both needed a professional change. After almost 2 years of planning, the result was Tribe.
Tribe was successful beyond our greatest expectations. I certainly owe my career path to Keith. We would never have done this venture on our own, and quite simply, there’d be no Tribe or Play had Keith and I not gone to lunch that day. Keith brought a wealth of business experience to our partnership, and his eye for detail, task-orientation, and negotiation skills were keys to our success.
Two years after Tribe opened, Todd Roman and Joe Brown joined our partnership and the four of us opened Play together, and also Play Louisville six years ago.
We made our partnership work for more than 19 years, and we will always be grateful for his taking the leap of faith with us to start our businesses and for putting up with us for all that time. He is truly missed.
Keith and David both took a chance on going into business with me. I was only 25 when we started planning Play together. I had a lot of energy and was very enthusiastic about the future. Keith was cautious at first but quickly warmed up to me, and we worked really well together. We became great friends over the years and I consider him family. I looked up to Keith and I am grateful for everything I learned from him. I love you Keith
Keith has been a huge part of my life for the last 18 years and will be profoundly missed. He fought his pancreatic cancer bravely and courageously. He continued to work throughout this battle and never once complained. I admire his steadfastness to press on, and hope I find that strength.
Although many did not see Keith as the face of our businesses, he had a critical role in our success, and the community has lost a tireless advocate.
Keith and I shared many things including our common nature of being intensely private. This bond allowed both of us comfort in sharing moments of joy and struggle. I will forever miss my confidant, my friend. I am truly blessed to of had Keith in my life.
Celebration of Life Planned:
While many of the memories we share today are of gratitude and sorrow, there are many more happy memories of Keith than sad. The Tribe/Play community is planning a Celebration of Life for Saturday, February 29, 2020 from 4-6 p.m. at Tribe for his friends, family, co-workers, and anyone else who would like to celebrate Keith and share happy memories of our time together with him. Food and drink will provided.
If you are moved to make a gift in Keith ‘s memory, please consider the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research at www.pancreatic.org.