Apologies for the repetition, but as I've previously occasionally referenced in this space, the late Chet Huntley told me, on camera, during one of my three SKI SCENE interviews with him on Channel 5 in 1973, he was happy to be out of the news business because it was coming in such "big chunks". In my opinion, this has been one of the weeks Chet would have put in the "big chunks" category, from the possible problems in Sochi, to worsening crises in Syria and The Sudan and so much more, globally. The domestic news hasn't been that uplifting either. The deaths of Joan Mondale and Philip Seymour Hoffman resonated, disparately, on the down side.
JOAN MONDALE - I spent only one significant time with Mrs. Mondale. Backstory: It was when The Minnesota State Society kindly chose me to emcee Vice President-elect Mondale's pre-inaugural banquet at The Washington Hilton in January, 1977. It was an honor and night I'll never forget and for which I'll always be grateful. All the U.S. Supreme Court justices were in attendance, as well as Senators and Congresspeople from both sides of the aisle, and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who had become a true and supportive friend to me from the time we first met, in Seattle, eleven years previously. It was a special honor to introduce him to the audience that night, as a treasured friend to me and also as the decades-long mentor he was to soon-to-be-sworn-in Vice President-elect Mondale. The Vice President-elect and Mrs, Mondale were seated to my right. We enjoyed dinner conversation, including the remembrance that Senator Mondale had told me a few months earlier on a SKI SCENE interview (this time for my D.C. TV show) that Joan's prerequisite for him and her getting married was he had to learn how to downhill ski. Obviously, that was a good-natured prerequisite, but I have a feeling Joan and he may have tried the boards on Observatory Hill, their Vice Presidential residence, at least once during his tenure as Veep, and hers as Second Lady.
There was nothing "Second" about Mrs. Mondale. She was first-class in every way. I often thought of her as Minnesota's Jacqueline Kennedy. (Ironically, they shared the same Leo birth sign). Joan Mondale was, as everyone knows, gracious, kind, caring, an artist and champion for the arts, with the demeanor of a FIRST Lady. Because he and I maintained a friendship through the years, I sent Vice President/Ambassador Mondale an email two days ago, not knowing it would be only a few hours before Joan's passing, expressing sadness regarding her having to be put into hospice care. He responded kindly a few minutes later, with part of his message to me stating, "Joan had been truly gallant through it all." Deepest sympathy prevails for all who had the privilege to know her, but especially to Vice President/Ambassador Mondale and sons Ted and William.
RENEE FLEMING - "I have never heard it sung better". That's what Super Bowl play-by-play commentator Joe Buck said after hearing Metropolitan Opera soprano Renee Fleming's awe-inspiring rendition of The Star Spangled Banner prior to kickoff this past Sunday at Met Life Stadium. Who could argue with Buck's assessment? Her rendition was stirring enough to evoke unabashed tears in the eyes of some of the Seahawks and Broncos players, evidenced as the cameras panned the teams' lineups. Goosebumps and tears of inspiration, in my opinion, must have been rampant, not only at the stadium, but everywhere anyone was fortunate enough to hear it sung by Ms. Fleming. In my opinion, and not to be jingoistic, I think a recording of her rendition of our national anthem this past Sunday night should be played and heard at every possible opportunity, from school events to post-reveille on U.S. military bases everywhere, or maybe once a day on television and radio, instilling even more pride, daily, in and for a nation that could use amplified pride, quality, inspiration and dignity. Brava, Ms. Fleming.
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN - At age 46, the death of this mega-talent is not only tragic, but also, to those of us who've never used mind-altering drugs, incomprehensible. One of Mark Twain's observations was, "Each of us is a moon. We all have a dark side." Indeed, Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman's dark side was obviously his addiction to drugs and alcohol, One of the saddest chapters in his life was his recent re-emergence into drugs and alcohol after he'd kicked them successfully for a very long time. Many people wonder how some of those with professional success and enough monetary wealth to carry them through ten lifetimes can embrace the need to live life so recklessly, when they could easily live carefree, inspirational and productive lives as exemplars for so many. Sadly, premature drug-overdose-related deaths in the entertainment industry, such as Mr. Hoffman's, have made some of us shake our heads in disbelief in years past. John Belushi is one name that comes to mind. Mr. Hoffman's passing is a truly mammoth loss to those of us who marveled at his unlimited capacity to portray every sort of conceivable character with ultimate depth and believability and would have had so much more to give in subsequent years. His demons are gone, but, sadly, he went with them.
DELMER DAVES - WILL get to memorable times with him, the only Director Jack Warner kept under contract for life, next time, and closer to Oscar-time. The events of this past few days, and understandable space limitations here, necessitate another delay, but to film aficionados, I think (hopefully) the wait will be worth it.
Thank you, as always, for taking and making the time to read these geezer thoughts and observations.