Entries Tagged as 'requiescat in pace'

Requiescat in Pace Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer

I still have the autographed golf ball, the staff umbrella pin and a fair number of cashed paychecks.

But that still doesn’t help me to not feel sad tonight.

Internationally famous golfer Arnold Palmer died tonight, he was 87.

He was a respected golfer, businessman and aviator. The sport of golf owes so much of its success to him that they could never repay him. Men like Hogan, Nicklaus and Woods may have arguably been better golfers.

They could never be Palmer. They never were Arnie. He was one of kind.

I only have the audacity to write this, having met the man once in 1972 (no I don’t think he would remember me). Then, some 30 years later, I went to work for him (sort of) as Area Sales and Marketing Director for Arnold Palmer Golf Management.

But that connection (to which he was rightly oblivious) is oddly sincere for me. I can’t explain it better than that and maybe if you were a fan also, I don’t have to.

Many people thought I would have met him them, but circumstances didn’t avail themselves and I was always, truly all right with that.

History has shown he wasn’t a perfect guy and that made him, in an peculiar way, all the more popular.

He was a decent guy, a normal guy, one of us. Well, that’s what we all like to imagine anyway.

He lived a fairly terrific life, I think he would say…actually in all the interviews in the past decade or so, I think he did say that.

But I just feel like I wanted to write this brief note to say how sorry I was that he had died and how much I enjoyed watching him while he was around.

And when you think about that for a minute, coming from me — among the millions he didn’t know — that alone is a sign of a life pretty well lived.

Thanks Arnie, and please give my regards to Winnie.

 

Requiescat in Pace Van Miller

 Buffalo Broadcasting Legend Van Miller Photo Courtesy Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Broadcasting Legend Van Miller Photo Courtesy Buffalo Bills

This weekend it was announced that another Buffalo broadcasting legend had died. Van Miller had worked at WBEN/WIVB-TV for over 4 decades. A local boy from Dunkirk, NY, he was a sportscaster’s sportscaster. Yet, it’s unfair to limit his talents solely to sports for, like many of his peers in the 50’s and 60’s, Van did everything including hosting a game show for area high-schoolers called “It’s Academic”.

It was through sports, though, that Van truly gained his fame. He had done everything in sports broadcasting from bowling shows and college play by play to becoming forever known as the “Voice of the Bills”.

I highlight that quote because some years ago, for no specific reason, I was at a local cemetery and talking with one of the managers there. He told me that when Van Miller died, Van had arranged that his tombstone would read: “Voice of The Bills”.

As it should.

Save for a few years where the Bills changed radio stations (at a time where radio station competition forbade using an announcer from a rival station), Van Miller was the radio voice of the Buffalo Bills. Beginning in 1960 when the Bills became a team, through two AFL Championships and 4 failed Super Bowl attempts, Van was the team’s uncontested radio voice until he retired from the Bills radio booth in 2003 (the longest tenured team radio voice in NFL history). All this is offered with no disrespect to our very fine current radio voice, John Murphy, who seamlessly worked along side Van as a color analyst during Bills games for many years.

As you can imagine with such a storied career, there were accolades and honors for Van Miller by the score, most of which are likely better reported elsewhere. To note just one significant testimonial, none other than the late Steve Sabol of NFL Films recognized Van as one of the best football play-by-play analysts in the history of the game. Here’s quick look (and listen) at Van’s remarkable career.

Van’s passing got me thinking about my one public interaction with him and what a great wit Van was. Van was always part MC, part comedian and part broadcaster – a perfect and winning combination. I’d like to tell you our podium work together on this one night was recorded someplace other than my brain but it wasn’t. It was the early 90’s, the Internet wasn’t quite the Internet yet and cell phone only made phone calls.

Some of you of a younger age are now staring blankly at the screen right now in astonishment but I’ll press on anyway.

I was working as Assistant General Manager of the Buffalo Blizzard of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). Our indoor soccer team was very involved in the community and especially youth soccer. So we would often participate in events and I was “the face” of a few of them.

My recollection of this particular event was what I believe was called the “News 4 Scholar Athlete” program, presented by Channel 4 (where Van was Sports Director) and sponsored in part by the Buffalo Blizzard (hence my involvement).

Part of my job that night was to join Van at the podium during a dinner at a local restaurant to honor some of the nominated athletes and present the award to the overall winner (I think that’s right but this is a story, not a deposition).

What you’d want me to tell you here would be the specifics of what I recall was mutually witty repartee between Van and myself at the podium. I’d love to.

As usual, however, when improvising I rarely recall what I said (cause at such a time my brain is intensely focused on immediately listening and coming up with the next line, not so much on retention). Nor do I remember what Van said. What I do remember was the laughs we got.

And by we, if you were scoring at home, it was 60/40 in favor of Van. I’d have been happy if it was 90/10 (Van) just to have had the experience of very briefly working with him.

It was a joyous moment for me working with a fellow broadcaster, albeit a vastly more experienced one who had long ago perfected his comedic timing but was also willing to share the rhythm and fun of the presentation with someone else who could (kinda) keep up. It wasn’t planned but it flowed and for me it felt great. As you can imagine (as least I can) I doubt it left Van with as memorable an impression and I’m OK with that.

Anyone who saw Van perform outside of a studio or a broadcast booth at one of these kinds of functions (especially when he was honored into so many Halls of Fame) enjoyed watching a great performer from an era where you needed to be a performer to make it in radio and TV broadcasting. That versatility is sorely missing from many of today’s up and coming broadcast performers (especially on TV) where a tele-prompter is more of a crutch than a tool.

Van’s been out of the spotlight for many years but this city, his city, has never forgotten him. And with their remembrance comes a smile. And deep appreciation.

Requiescat in Pace Don Pardo

Legendary NBC Announcer Don Pardo

Legendary NBC Announcer Don Pardo

It’s unfortunate that two successive blog posts are remembrances of the dead. First Robin Williams and now legendary NBC announcer Don Pardo.

But the emotions for me surrounding the news regarding these two talented people could not be more different.

Of course when I woke up to the news this morning about Don’s death, I was startled but not shocked. For some reason (maybe I’m a long distance, harmless stalker who is just not that good at this stalking gig) I knew of Don’s age and that he had long been pre-recording his SNL intros. He was 96 years old when he died.

It’s a loss to be sure but that’s a great life run.

And he was STILL WORKING! I remember thinking at the beginning of each recent SNL season “how long can Don keeping doing this?” I got my answer: to the very end.

Awesome.

And kudos to Lorne Michaels for ensuring that as long as Don wanted the job, he had the job.

Yes, I’ve already been asked who I think they’d get to replace Don as the SNL announcer. I don’t know but I’m pretty sure the new person will be shaking in their boots for about a season and a half before feeling comfortable taking over for a voice-over legend.

“Legend”, you say? Oh yes, let me expound.

So let’s go back to early this morning. I learned the news of Don Pardo’s death by listening to an AM news radio station in Buffalo, NY. Not via their network feed, the local announcers read the news of Pardo’s passing.

Digest that for a second.

The local news radio station read a story about the death of an off-camera network announcer.

To be clear, I would not consider today to be a slow news day.

That told me one or two amazing things before I even got out of bed – this was going to be Don Pardo’s national day of respect and possibly a day of respect for the announcing / voice-over industry itself.

I was filled with joy, a much different emotion than I felt last week at this time.

As the day has progressed, I have seen my assumption become fact. I am so happy for Don right now and for everyone in our business. Everybody knows who Don Pardo is – and they should!!!!

He’s been a multi-generational announcer and been an active broadcaster throughout some of the most amazing transitions in broadcasting. Forget SNL for a second, Pardo was the booth announcer at WNBC in New York who broke the news about Kennedy having been shot in Dallas. Wow.

If you’ve never seen the series featuring an interview with Don at emmytvlegends.org (here’s that stalker thing again) there are some great stories from Don about his work in broadcasting. I’m hoping the YouTube views on that puppy skyrocket in the weeks and months ahead.

So today, I will pray for Don’s family and that they experience God’s healing power as they mourn Don’s loss. But I will also smile and enjoy for him (and us) the national tributes Don Pardo is justifiably receiving for his life’s work.

There are two great voice-over Dons in heaven now and I suppose both will have to either audition for the “voice of God” role or just split the week between them.

P.S.

The day after posting this I received notice of the tribute done last night to Don Pardo by NBC Nightly News Anchor and Managing Editor Brian Williams, who went so far to switch studios during the newscast and deliver the final segment of his broadcast from Studio 8H. Just one word to the Anchor and his co-workers: Classy. See for yourself.

Requiescat in Pace Robin Williams

Robin Williams_Courtesy AP

I need to write this now. Right now.

You don’t need to read this but I need to say this, not because it needs to be said but because I need to say it.

I need to get the words out at this moment because the conjecture has already started, speculation is rampant and the truth (which may or may not ever come out and is sincerely none of our business) may uncover things that are too sad, too hurtful or even hideous to conceive.

Suicide is like that. Depression is real and can be all consuming. Answers are rarely complete. And we are each only human.

At the moment, my remaining ignorance (save for the one truth that is still a bit unreal) is bliss.

In this moment – which is very much not about me – will be now arrogantly be made about me by me. You’ve been warned.

It was 1978 and the ridiculously silly TV Show “Mork and Mindy” was a first season hit, a new series that was born of an episode of “Happy Days” featuring a performer no one had heard of before but would never forget.

I was in eighth grade and my hidden, inner performer was intrigued. Hmmmm.

But it was his comedy album that captivated me…”Reality, What a Concept” along with the HBO special of the same time. Just this weekend I watched a clip of it on YouTube. He gave me another moment of joy while in his life at that moment he might have been hurting.

The birth of a comedy legend. What creativity, what energy.

What was this thing called improvisation?

How does one think so quickly with such humor?

Where do those voices come from?

And who else? Jonathan Winters? Red Skelton? Unknowingly, he was their student. I was his.

I memorized the album, I recited it for friends, I created new ideas from it and I let free form ideas flow out of my mouth (sometimes with success and sometimes not so much). But the tightrope walk was exhilarating…people laughed…better yet girls laughed. I was on to something.

As he went on he took chances in his career. He dared. He moved forward. I was not so brave.

I found shelter from such public daring, more often than not, behind a microphone or behind a desk. A toe in the water, maybe a foot, but never full immersion.

Timid, scared, unsure? Probably. Shy and introverted? Without question, yes.

But I watched him, learned and took to the stage when I felt sure enough that I could cause some enjoyment but little damage.

My words and ideas became less like him and more like me. That was good at least. And I couldn’t tell you from where in my brain the ideas came from – then or now. But that well would have remained untapped, I think, without him.

I was not an actor, I was barely a performer but I did my best when my time came. WWRD?

All this while, unto this moment, I laughed, I took mental notes, I listened, I observed his performance. I marveled still at this simple, human performance machine.

Now, he has created a void within me he didn’t know he had been responsible for filling all this time. So empty, yet paling in comparison to the void felt by his true family and friends. And maybe it was an unbearable painful void within himself that brought him down. Conjecture…shame on me.

Why?!!! Still I wonder.

Well, we people of good conscientious know the answer to that really isn’t our business. Can we ever again show some respect in a day when gossip passes for news?

Some matters shouldn’t be a Movie of The Week or some kind of hit film. Probably because we lack his creativity, it will be anyway, because of our society’s over-developed fascination with celebrity. It shouldn’t be that way.

Much in the same way one person shouldn’t make the tragic and unfathomable death of a kind of a long-distance teacher about him.

But he did anyway. And he meant it with all the respect and admiration he had banked in his heart for someone he never met and didn’t know. A poor man’s tribute.

With thanks and many prayers, good-bye and God bless.

requiescat in pace jonathan winters


A friend of mine died Thursday…a friend I never met.

He was someone I watched on TV and whose creativity I wished I had (even a little bit of it).

When I was young, the up and coming comedian was a fellow named Robin Williams who used to do a lot of improvisation in his comedy routine. I thought it was daring, creative and lots of fun.

As his career took off, Williams was interviewed often and when he was asked who were the performers he looked up to…always one name: Jonathan Winters.

Me too. Very much, me too. He was funny, imperfect, he spent time in Dayton, OH. The similarities are there, somewhere.

When asked “what famous person would you like to meet?”, people often say somebody historic – a religious person, maybe a political figure or sports legend.

My choice died today. I think we might have enjoyed each others company.

requiescat in pace neil armstrong

It was a nice break last Saturday to take all the audio’connells to the beach up in Canada for a party. The weather was great and it was a real treat to see everyone.

Around dinner time, I heard my oldest mention that her Aunt had told her that a famous hero had died earlier in the day and that my oldest “should blow a kiss to the moon tonight and say thanks”.

I was startled on many fronts when she said that in response to the news that was later clarified for me: Commander Neil Armstrong had died.

I was five years old on that July night when Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their lunar module on the surface of the moon. And I vaguely remember being awoken that night and brought downstairs into our living room to watch it on TV. My Dad was pretty excited and I didn’t quite understand why.

This past Saturday, I fully understood what Armstrong’s passing meant and I wondered if others did…especially younger people for whom Shuttle travel had become more or less taken for granted, with some tragic exceptions.

So when I found this blog post about the graphic tributes to Armstrong that had been posted online from various artists, I was just so heartened. I hope you enjoy each of them as much as I did (and still do, looking at them for this post).

These artists understood (maybe some remembered…not all artists are young afterall) who this man and his fellow team members were and what they meant to science, the United States and the world.

Their appreciation may have sparked greater appreciation by those who previously hadn’t been as thoughtful. That’s my hope, anyway.

I know there was a lot of Facebook tribute art when Steve Jobs died but, for all he accomplished, Jobs was not a hero. He was not in my opinion, a true pioneer. Those artists were sincere in their tributes but their subject did not have “the right stuff”.

That hero category is a lean one that people like Michael Collins, Sally Ride, John Glenn and their ilk deserve.

They had everything to lose…and because of how their work could help others, they did it anyway.