Monday, February 25, 2013

My Experience with Dr. C. Everett Koop

C. Everett Koop is dead at age 96.

Back in the mid-90's I had an unusual experience with Dr. Koop.  It happened at Wheaton College in my hometown of Wheaton, Illinois.  A friend of mine, British film director Norman Stone, and I had been asked to be the principle participants at an ethics forum that was held each year on the college campus.  It was an honor to be asked.  The topic for that year was ethics in the entertainment industry.

The main activity was an all day event in which we participated in various seminars and discussion groups.  In attendance were academics, students and other interested people, both from the community and other parts of  the country.   Norman and I enjoyed ourselves immensely.  The evening dinner came and more people arrived.  Among them was Dr. Koop.  I discovered that he was a member of this ethics forum.  Needless to say, I was impressed.  However, shortly after the meal began, I experienced true horror.  While I was eating I was informed that, at the conclusion of the meal, we would be adjourning to an auditorium, where I would be giving a formal address. As was their custom, at the conclusion of my address, none other than Dr. Koop would give a formal response to what I had said.

There was only one problem.  No one had informed me that I was going to be giving a formal address.

Somehow that minor detail had slipped through their organizational cracks. I can tell you that I am a very experienced public speaker.  I majored in speech at Northern Illinois University. I have been speaking before groups of all sizes since I was in junior high.  I have worked on air in radio.  But as I sat there at dinner, none of that mattered. Cold terror swept straight through me. There was no getting out of this.  No excuses. No way to beg off.  If I didn't speak everyone was going to look really, really bad, especially me. Dr. Koop had flown in specifically to give his response to what I was going to say. BUT WHAT WAS I GOING TO SAY? I think for a moment I had an out-of-body experience.  I know I wanted to leave my body and go somewhere far, far away.

This wasn't some twiddling impromptu romp in front of a bunch of friends and colleagues. This was an audience of brilliant people and the former SURGEON GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES  was going to be listening to my every word AND THEN HE WAS GOING TO TALK ABOUT IT. I could imagine him saying, "Who brought this freaking idiot from California?  No intelligent person could respond to his gibberish, so I'm just going to sit down."

Needless to say for me, all eating stopped.  I didn't want to eat, I wanted to throw up. Instead, I picked up a napkin and a pen and went off by myself praying desperately.  I had precisely 20 minutes to create a "formal address."  Well, for better or worse, I did it.  Thankfully, the subject was one that I knew well...Hollywood and the ethics of the entertainment business.  I don't remember anything I said.  When I was finished Dr. Koop stood up and gave a response, which was thoughtful, gracious and made it sound as though I had actually said something worth considering.

That is how I remember Dr. Koop - kind, thoughtful, gracious, extremely intelligent and a powerful presence.
I'm thankful  that I had the opportunity to meet him. I just wish I had known that I was going to have the opportunity a day or so in advance.

Rest in peace in Jesus, Dr. Koop.  I know that's where you are.

The Silly Game of the Academy Awards

I have never been a member of the Film Academy, but years ago I was a member of the TV Academy.  I quit when I saw how voting was done.  During those years I was a writer and producer on the TV series, The Equalizer.  I think for three years in a row Edward Woodward, the star of our series and a wonderful actor, was nominated for best actor in a dramatic series by the TV Academy. Each year he was beaten by Bruce Willis for his work on Moonlighting.  Now Bruce Willis is a fine actor, but to win the dramatic acting category for his work on a comedy was ludicrous.

It was because of this that I came to some conclusions about the entire awards game in Hollywood.  Why didn't Woodward win?  His dramatic work was outstanding.  Very likely two reasons:  First, he wasn't part of the Hollywood club.  Second (and more importantly), during all the years we were in production, our series was constantly denigrated within the Hollywood community as just a "vigilante show."  I remember when I was first asked to join the staff, a woman writer friend of mine at Universal said, "You're not going to do it, are you?  How could you be part of a show like that?"  I found a way. When a production is not considered politically correct, forget awards.  (Do we hear Zero Dark Thirty?)

In recent years, The Equalizer has garnered much more respect even within Hollywood.  Too bad Woodward didn't get the respect he deserved when the awards were being given out.

The Film Academy Awards are just as much a snide little political game as the Emmys.  Argo was a fine film, I enjoyed it.  But really, did it come close to Lincoln or Life of Pi?  Certainly not. It wasn't as good as Zero Dark Thirty.  So why did it win?  Old Hollywood loves to stroke itself and Argo played straight into the decrepit fantasy of Hollywood heroism.  I have said in the past that Hollywood is just like junior high school in hell.  Remember all the immaturity, the politics, the cliques, the lock-step regimentation, the insecurity of junior high?  Now add billions of dollars into the mix.  Welcome to Hollywood.

What is amazing to me is that anyone takes these awards extravaganzas seriously. People make lists and project potential winners.  How many thought Argo would win best picture?  Only the people who know Hollywood. Of course, always there has to be some semblance that these contests are real and that the Academy voters care about quality over snide political games.  If Daniel Day Lewis hadn't won for his work in Lincoln the jig would be up. The fact that Ben Affleck didn't win best director for Argo spoke volumes.  How do you win best picture and not win best director?  Does that make any sense?

Welcome to junior high school in hell.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dagon's Illusion Kindle

It is out and available.

A supernatural thriller about the dark forces that brought hurricane Katrina to New Orleans.  As the storm approaches, one man knows the truth about its source.  He is Robert Arthur Dagon, the leading mentalist/magician of his generation and owner of the hottest magic nightclub in the city.  His club, called Dagon's Illusion, is in a huge old Garden District mansion once known as Maron House, a place listed for generations as one of the most haunted buildings in America. But Maron  House is much more than this.  It is a place where the past and present crash together and where dimensional doors will open. Time is speeding up.  The War of Eons is rushing toward the Final Conflict and a man who believes only in himself is about to face Dark Thrones.