Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sleeping Dawgs

The title of today's blog has two meanings. The first refers to my friend Bev Sykes, who is up to her eyeballs in puppies. Bev is a canine caregiver these days. She had lots of practice for the job. After all, she did raise five kids. Bev has a good soul. The puppies are adorable. Go check out her website for a real heartwarming read.

The second sleeping dawg I'm referring to is someone I knew during a brief career, long, long ago.

I'm heading to Virginia on Tuesday to spend Thanksgiving with a very dear friend of long-standing. Jan and I are real soulmates in a lot of ways and different as night and day in others. But we've always enjoyed the hell out of each other's company. I always look forward to some quality time with Jan.

I first met Jan when we were both wet behind the ears writer-producers at HBO/CineMax back in the very early days of the networks. It was so far back that we actually attended something called the "Cable ACE Awards" in those days, because cable shows weren't eligible for Emmy's, then. We didn't win.

I remember one time when Jan, who was not exactly a sports afficianado had been handed the assignment to write a bunch of promos for an upcoming prize fight. With the deadline staring her in the face she started calling all the other WPs to run some copy past them. "How does this sound?", she asked. "HE'S BIG, HE'S BLACK, HE HITS PEOPLE." We all agreed, it needed some work.

I have a ton of funny stories about Jan, as I'm sure she has about me, and the handful of other young writer-producers at HBO back then, and about our exploits working for a real firecracker of a character named Ken Keefer, who headed up the on-air promotion department at HBO, virtually from its founding. In fact, the whole network owes its' "look" to Ken Keefer. It was he who came up with idea for the great swooping camera shot, starting in space and diving down into the model city and along the streets that preceeded the premiers of 1st-run flicks on the network.

In addition to being a wordsmith, Ken was also a jazz afficianado. He loved Bix Biederbeck, Herbie Hancock and everyone in-between. He had a great collection, not only of 33's, but also of some vintage 78's. But he loved wordplay. I once wrote an intro to a film clip, which was to be said by our on-screen hostess, the comic Anne Meara, which used the word "hectored." Boy, did I get called on the carpet for that! "HECTORED!?" he bellowed. He could be quite intimidating when he put his mind to it. I responded, "What's wrong with sending them to the dictionaries once a month?"

He agreed. It stayed.

Ken was also what was euphemistically referred to in those days as a "confirmed bachelor." Jan and I both suspect that Ken was gay, but that he was just close enough to the previous generation to want to remain closeted, even in more liberated times. If it was true, it was a real shame. I liked Ken a lot. Maybe even enough... Well, that hardly matters now. Ken died about 15 years ago. He was still a fairly young man, late 40's-early 50's at most.

I didn't know Ken for very long. Just a few years, really, before I was dragged down to Wall Street. In all that time he was always somewhat distant and, deep down, untouchable. He could be quite maddeningly vague and mysterious at times. But he had a wonderful laugh. Infectious. And he was very supportive and nurturing of "his kids" on the writing staff, few of whom had had any real training for the job. Like Bev, he liked taking in orphans and watching them grow and flourish.

One of the little regrets of my life is that I let that sleeping dawg lie. I wish I'd put a little more effort into waking him up.

Who knows what could've happened?

p.s. check this out. be sure you remember the tune to "SuperCaliFragilisticExpialidocious", though.


Bev Sykes said...

Yeah...a soft spot in my heart for babies, puppies, drunks....

JoyZeeBoy said...

Guilty, your Honor!