Open Mic

June 2013

Writer Richard Matheson Influenced My Personal Twilight Zone in Frightful Ways, and I Wouldn't Have it Any Other Way

Chuck Ross Posted June 25, 2013 at 7:50 AM

A large part of the scariest, creepiest, most intensive part of my childhood can be traced to the TV shows and movies written by Richard Matheson, and I bet I’m not alone. While some of these experiences have had lifelong consequences, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I loved being scared by what Matheson wrote.

To this day I am deathly afraid of spiders, a fear that I trace to seeing a Saturday matinee showing of the original movie version of the Matheson-penned “The Incredible Shrinking Man” at the old Stadium theater on Pico Boulevard near Robertson Boulevard in West Los Angeles. In one horrifyingly frightening sequence, Scott Carey (played by Grant Williams), having shrunk to a size where he is smaller than a spider, battles one of the ugliest, scariest spiders I had ever seen.

To this day, if I’m surprised by a spider, or if it moves in a way I’m not expecting, I’ll scream like a banshee.

About 12 years ago I opened a cabinet in our living room and was surprised by a black widow spider just inches from my face. I screamed like a banshee and ran out of the house. Our oldest son, who was 5 years old at the time, was standing near me and started screaming with me as he followed me out of the house, though he had no idea why I was screaming and running out of the house. Today, at 17, he’s even more afraid of spiders than I am. And he’s never even seen “The Incredible Shrinking Man.” (Please email me later and I can share with you some of my other tips on great parenting…)

Another thing I’m scared to death of is turbulence. This one also comes from Matheson, circa 1963. The show was the classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode of “The Twilight Zone," starring a young, pre-“Star Trek” William Shatner. It was also one of the stories that made up the “Twilight Zone “ movie in 1983.

In the episode, Shatner’s character, Bob Wilson, while a passenger on an airliner, sees a monster on the wing, trying to make the airplane crash. Each time someone else looks out the window at the wing, the monster isn’t there.

So how bad is my fear of turbulence? Several years ago, when NATPE was still held in Las Vegas, I was on a plane to Vegas from L.A. It’s a very short flight. I was talking to the man next to me, who said he was also going to NATPE. The man turned away just as we hit a major patch of turbulence and a giant bump. I grabbed onto the arm of the man and squeezed for all I was worth. I’m sure I actually hurt him, as he quickly turned back to me and shouted, “My God, are you OK?” I sheepishly replied, “I am so sorry. I’m just scared to death of turbulence.”

All told, Matheson wrote 16 episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” I loved all of them, and fortunately, most have not led to lifelong phobias. He wrote another wonderful "Twilight Zone" episode that also starred Shatner, called “Nick of Time.” That’s the one with the fortune-telling machine in the local diner. Speaking of Shatner, Matheson wrote one of the best “Star Trek” episodes, called “The Enemy Within.” It’s the one where Shatner plays two Jim Kirks.

Getting back to “The Twilight Zone” for a moment, Matheson also wrote the episode where Agnes Moorehead, as an old lady in a cabin, fights off tiny aliens. And he wrote the one where the World War I fighter pilot lands in the future. And the list goes on.

Another Matheson project became one of the best TV movies ever made, directed by a then relatively unknown director named Steven Spielberg.

The year was 1971, and on Saturday night, Nov. 13, the “ABC Movie of the Week” was “Duel,” starring Dennis Weaver. The movie is about a tanker truck chasing a motorist. While that might sound like a poor TV version of “Smokey and the Bandit,” it’s actually almost as exciting as the feature film Spielberg was to direct several years later, “Jaws.”

Matheson died here in Los Angles on Sunday, June 23, 2013. He was 87.

Stephen King said Matheson was the “author who influenced me most as a writer." Ray Bradbury once said of Matheson that he was “one of the most important writers of the 20th century.”

Spielberg said in a statement: "Richard Matheson's ironic and iconic imagination created seminal science-fiction stories and gave me my first break when he wrote the short story and screenplay for ‘Duel.’ His ‘Twilight Zones’ were among my favorites, and he recently worked with us on 'Real Steel.' For me, he is in the same category as Bradbury and [writer Issac] Asimov."

Personally, Matheson is the writer who’s had the most visceral impact in my life. I think of him with horrifying pleasure as I try and imagine what the hell I would do if I were on a bumpy airplane ride and I saw a big hairy spider crawling up the seat in front of me…

'I have to be the sad clown, laughing on the outside, crying on the inside.' A Farewell to James Gandolfini, Who Brought to Life One of the Greatest Characters Ever on TV

Chuck Ross Posted June 20, 2013 at 5:47 AM

I’m a baby boomer born 10 years after my favorite movie, “Casablanca,” had its premiere. The best movie that’s been made in my lifetime thus far is “The Godfather.”

And the TV show that I believe has had the most impact on TV in my lifetime is “The Sopranos.”

I don’t think it’s coincidental that both “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos” are so quintessentially American, and that they both deal so brilliantly with family and violence and the slang that makes up so much of our lives.

As dazzling as the writing is in “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos,” a lot of what sears these works into our memories is the acting.

And, as in most great works, it’s hard for us to imagine other players in the iconic parts. Ronald Reagan was considered to play Rick in “Casablanca,” before Bogart got the part. Give me a break. Richard Conte was considered to play Don Corleone before Brando got the part. I truly love Conte, but no.

And James Gandolfini, speaking of being cast as Tony Soprano, once told Vanity Fair, “I thought that they would hire some good-looking guy, not George Clooney, but some Italian George Clooney, and that would be that.”

Thank God they didn’t. In the last 12 hours since we first learned of Gandolfini’s unexpected death in the prime of his life at age 51, the outpouring of sadness and grief that I have heard from my friends -- both men and women -- has been unprecedented in my experience. Even those of us who didn’t really know Gandolfini the man sensed a hugely talented actor who didn’t crave the spotlight and projected an unassuming, unpretentious demeanor.

It was this everyman aspect that Gandolfini clearly incorporated into his portrayal of Tony Soprano that helped draw us to his character.

“The Sopranos” debuted four months after “Seinfeld” was last broadcast on NBC. The top-rated shows on TV when “The Sopranos” was first broadcast by HBO on Jan. 10, 1999, were “ER,” “Friends,” “Frasier,” “Veronica’s Closet,” “Jesse,” “Touched by an Angel” and “Home Improvement.” The most daring drama on TV at the time was “NYPD Blue,” which had debuted six years earlier.

“The Sopranos” made such a cultural impact that Bob Wright, then running NBC, sent out to various folks in Hollywood a tape of the show, accompanied by a note asking them whether NBC could air such material.

Wright later told me, “My point in sending out the ‘Sopranos’ [tape and memo] was that I just didn't believe that we could do that kind of a show. And people kept saying to me, ‘Why don't you do it?’ ... And I said OK, here, watch an episode and tell me where and how we put this on-air on NBC. How does this work? And they all wrote back and said, ‘Well, of course you can't use that episode -- or any of the others, for that matter. It is a great show [but] you can't use it. You’d have to clean up all the language, and you can't have any of the sex and the violence, but it's a great show so when are you doing it?’ I said, ‘I’ve just sent it to you.’”

But the success of “The Sopranos” gave a blueprint to HBO itself, as well as Showtime and Starz and basic cable networks, that quality dramas that might at first glance seem too daring or offbeat could work.

In a remembrance posted last night on the website of The New Yorker, that magazine’s editor, David Remnick, declared that “The Sopranos” was the best TV series ever. He continued, “Gandolfini was the focal point of ‘The Sopranos,’ the incendiary, sybaritic neurotic who must play the Godfather at home and at the Bada Bing but knows that everything -- his family, his racket, his way of life -- is collapsing all around him. ... In the dozens of hours he had on the screen, he made Tony Soprano -- lovable, repulsive, cunning, ignorant, brutal -- more ruthlessly alive than any character we’ve ever encountered in television.”

I want to close this column by reprinting an edited version of another column. The following was written by the superb, Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic Tom Shales, who we were fortunate to have as a TV columnist for us for a number of years here at TVWeek. Tom wrote this for us in March 2004, in the middle of the original run of "The Sopranos" on HBO.

By Tom Shales

“The Sopranos” teaches us many things: That it's bad to lose your temper and kill somebody. That food is life, and though carbs may be fattening and in disrepute right now, they are also delicious. And that where the federal government is involved, paranoia is the best policy, and not just if you're a crook, either.

[“Sopranos” creator David Chase has] given television one of its milestone shows, and cable its best drama series ever. ... There's appointment TV and must-see TV; “Sopranos” is, though it hardly sounds flattering, quicksand TV. I watched four new episodes in one day and then was cranky HBO hadn't sent more.

It's a case, too, where critics and public agree -- a good example to refute the notion that critics are out of touch and only like snooty-fruity fare adapted from 18th-century novels. “Sopranos” must be HBO's best-reviewed series and its most-watched, averaging 11 million viewers. When “Sex and the City” said goodbye recently, in an episode that received torrents of hype, it pulled in its highest audience ever: 10.6 million viewers.

Normally “Sex” attracted about 6 million, which is very gratifying to HBO. But “Sopranos” is in a league of its own in terms of appeal as well as quality.

Chase recently said that one of the hardest things about writing “Sopranos” episodes is that “these people don't do anything,” by which he meant they don't travel, read or go to the movies or other things that characters normally do, so it's hard to keep them busy while the narrative marches on. Two things they do in abundance are eat and watch television. In some episodes, nearly every other scene is set around a table full of food -- a restaurant, a dining room, a country club terrace, a kitchen.

More unusual is that we actually see people watching TV, like people do in real life. They watch old movies, reruns of “The Honeymooners,” nature documentaries about furry, burrowing little creatures and the news. They're particularly riveted in [an upcoming episode] to a TV station's report on a whole gaggle of gangsters sent to the slammer in the 1980s who are now being let out -- a major catalyst for new story arcs.

It's doubtful “The Sopranos” will be held up as an offending culprit in the current uproar over sex and violence on TV and radio, even though there are extremes of both sex and violence in the series. The show's so good that even a congressman or an FCC commissioner can probably detect that the sex and violence are wholly justifiable within the milieu depicted.

And violence is handled in a way that gives it greater impact than it usually has on TV, without celebrating it the way modern-day crime shows and action movies do. It's deglamorized to the point, often, of true tragedy …

The commercial genius of “Sopranos” is that in concept it would appear to be a show with strong male appeal and of little interest to women. But by emphasizing Tony's home life, his wife's liberation and his relationship with his female shrink, Chase broadened the constituency (basically to include everybody). This upcoming season, with Tony's family already tearing asunder, his underworld empire is also splitting at the seams. He is a fascinating character, one moment to be reviled, the next to be pitied, occasionally even to be envied.

Admit it: There is a profane allure to the idea that if some moron cuts you off in traffic or rams your rear end and then drives away, you could have him killed.

James Gandolfini and Edie Falco have by now so assimilated their characters that it never seems like “acting,” though, of course, it's great acting.

“Sopranos” creator David Chase released a statement yesterday when he heard about Gandolfini’s death. Here’s how the statement ended: “[H]e was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can’t explain and never will be able to explain.”

I think millions of us who were not anywhere as close to Gandolfini as Chase was know exactly what Chase means.

Film Industry Women Sparkle at the Crystal + Lucy Awards

Hillary Atkin Posted June 17, 2013 at 1:09 PM

Although it is their male counterparts who get title billing, it was the women of "Mad Men" who took center stage at the Women in Film 2013 Crystal + Lucy Awards in Beverly Hills on June 12, which also marked the landmark occasion of WIF’s 40th anniversary.

Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Jessica Paré and Kiernan Shipka were honored with the Lucy Award for Excellence in Television, which since 1994 has been awarded to those whose creative works follow in the legendary footsteps of Lucille Ball. If Miss Blankenship had lived past Season 4, she might've been there too.

Moss, who has been nominated four times for a Primetime Emmy Award for her role as Peggy Olson (and earlier in the week won the Critics’ Choice for her part in The Sundance Channel’s “Top of the Lake”), said she was elected spokesperson of the group.

“The women are fully fleshed-out characters in stories filled with intrigue and romance," said Moss. "The show takes an unintentionally political stance by simply treating women like human beings.”

Hendricks was apparently off getting more clients for Sterling Cooper & Partners -- actually, she was shooting another project and couldn't be in attendance -- but her castmates took turns reading the names from a voluminous list of female department heads, writers and producers whom creator Mathew Weiner has installed. They also gave a shout-out to AMC’s head honcho Charlie Collier and Lionsgate Television’s Kevin Beggs and Sandra Stern, all of whom were beaming with pride from their table in the packed International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton.

Hosted by actress Jenna Elfman, the gala event honored Laura Linney with the prestigious Crystal Award for Excellence in Film and "The Bling Ring" director Sofia Coppola with the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award, presented to her by Nancy Meyers.

They shared the spotlight with young actress Hailee Steinfeld, who received the MaxMara Face of the Future Award, and cinematographer Rachel Morrison, who took home the Kodak Vision Award.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the organization a procession of past honorees came to the stage, including Diahann Carroll, Cloris Leachman, Gale Anne Hurd, Debra Messing, Diane Warren, Holly Hunter and Martha Coolidge and a giant, multicolored cake was wheeled out at the end.

George Lucas was bestowed with Women in Film's Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award, presented to him by Kathleen Kennedy, who has worked with Lucas since Steven Spielberg directed "Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), for which Lucas is credited with the story.

"He's never seen women as sidekicks," she said. "George Lucas gave us a fast-talking, blaster-toting spitfire by the name of Princess Leia, who was as nuanced as any man. She was an inspiration, as was Marion Ravenwood. While his female characters are iconic, he has always advocated for women behind the camera. When he asked me to run Lucasfilm, it was exhilarating and terrifying."

Even as the night was one of celebration, the theme throughout was how women have yet to gain anything near employment equality in the entertainment industry. Stats like the fact that of the top 100 grossing films of the 2011-12 season, only 20% of them had a female producer and only 15% were directed by women were projected on large screens.

"There certainly is a wider diversity of roles available to women and careers don't instantly end at 29 anymore," said Linney. “But the progress in every other area has been very slow. So there's a long way to go, and not just in this industry, but in every industry."

"Women should control 50% of the world," Lucas said, after telling the crowd that he was schooled throughout his life about the power of women, first by his sisters and then by his daughters.

“We are the keepers of the planet's storytelling," said WIF president Cathy Schulman. "It's up to all of us to spin accurate pictures of our lives, our histories and our imaginations. Women need to hold gatekeeping positions on films and television because only gender equality can bring out nonbiased decision-making and thus nonbiased storytelling."

 

Breaking Down the Critics' Choice Awards

Hillary Atkin Posted June 12, 2013 at 11:11 AM

Critics are a notoriously picky lot, and members of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association are certainly no exception. That's why it was such a surprise -- and a testament to the quality of television programming over the past season -- that there were not one, not two, but three ties in highly contested categories whose winners were revealed at the 3rd annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards held June 10 at the Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom.

One thing most everyone would agree on is that the trophy for best drama series is a prestigious one, as it will be for the upcoming Primetime Emmy Awards, and a very difficult decision for voters.

Vying for the crown were "Breaking Bad" (AMC), "Game of Thrones (HBO), "Homeland" (Showtime), "The Americans" (FX), “Downton Abbey” (PBS) and “The Good Wife” (CBS). (Notably missing from the list: "Mad Men.")

Voters in equal measure felt that the Meth King of Albuquerque and the royalty warring to rule Westeros were both deserving of the drama prize, declaring a tie and awarding trophies to both “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones.”

The awards gala was hosted by Retta, known for her role on "Parks and Recreation" and also for humorously live tweeting some of her favorite shows, including "Scandal" and "The Walking Dead.”

The ceremony was not televised -- although we understand it is being shopped to various networks going forward, but it was streamed live on Ustream. Given all the unpredictable wins unveiled during two and a half hours -- and the number of comedians who either were honored or were presenters, it's surprising that there wasn't more bleep-worthy material emanating from the stage.

For the second year running, it was Bryan Cranston who was awarded best actor in a drama. Unable to attend the ceremony last year, Cranston gave a heartfelt speech explaining the origins of his starring role on “Breaking Bad.”

“Ten years ago, I won a part on ‘The X-Files.’ Vince Gilligan was one of the producers, and he remembered me from that episode,” Cranston said, and noted that Gilligan was tied up on a post-production deadline and could not break away to attend the gala. “He has been my champion, but you [the critics] were the conduit from us to the viewing public.”

For best actress in a drama, the name that was read when the envelope was opened came as a shocker. Tatiana Maslany, the star of BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” took the trophy for playing multiple clones of her character in the supernatural thriller, besting the much better-known nominees Claire Danes, Vera Farmiga, Elisabeth Moss, Julianna Margulies and Keri Russell.

Although HBO’s “Behind the Candelabra” scored the trophy for best movie or miniseries, and its star Michael Douglas won for lead actor, “American Horror Story: Asylum” nabbed trophies for its two supporting actors, Zachary Quinto and Sarah Paulson.

“We go to very dark places, but I’ve loved this more than any part I’ve had,” Paulson said.

Elisabeth Moss was the winner for best actress in a movie or miniseries for Sundance Channel’s “Top of the Lake.” “I’ve never won an award for acting before,” she noted, despite numerous nods for her role in “Mad Men.”

On the comedy side, “The Big Bang Theory” scored key wins as best comedy series, for supporting actor Simon Helberg and for supporting actress Kaley Cuoco, who tied for the trophy with Eden Sher of ABC’s “The Middle.”

“I’m used to laughing at Steve Levitan,” said “TBBT’s” co-creator Chuck Lorre, referring to “Modern Family’s” recent string of awards wins. “We feel so lucky -- truly blessed -- to be doing this show for six years.”

“[Helberg] is one of the funniest people I know,” said co-star Johnny Galecki, who accepted the award on his behalf with the show’s Kunal Nayyar, even as it appeared they might keep the trophy to themselves for awhile.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the critics’ choice as best actress in a comedy for HBO’s “Veep,” topping a field that included Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, Laura Dern, Zooey Deschanel and Sutton Foster. “I’ve changed my strategy,” she said in accepting the prize. “I used to ignore what the critics said. Now I find them charming.”

Louie C.K. extended his awards run by winning the statue for best actor in a comedy for his eponymous FX show, beating fellow funny men Jim Parsons, Don Cheadle, Jake Johnson, Adam Scott and Jeremy Sisto.

Another hotly contested category was best talk show, and perennial favorite “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” added another trophy to its case. Senior black correspondent Larry Wilmore accepted. “I can’t say ‘screw the critics’ anymore. They’re actual professionals recognizing a show with fake journalists,” he said.

In the reality categories, another tie was announced when both “Push Girls” and “Duck Dynasty” were announced as the critics’ choices for best reality series. In the reality series competition category, it was “The Voice” that got the most votes in the competition.

“It’s been a great ride,” said host Carson Daly, who raced over to the Beverly Hilton from a live show of “The Voice” shooting at Universal. “I’m a radio guy. I worked at MTV. I’m a music nut, and to be here with all of you celebrated people, I feel like I should say, ‘I’ll bring your car around.’”

“Archer” took the animated series prize. “I just want to thank Lorne Michaels,” said one of its voices, Chris Parnell (formerly of “SNL”), even as one of his castmates tried to use the trophy in a lewd and lascivious manner.

But the comedic king of the night crown belonged to Bob Newhart, who was feted with the Critics’ Choice Television Icon Award, presented by another television legend, Henry Winkler, who introduced a montage of Newhart’s comedic situations over the decades.

In a moving speech, which he first announced was the wrong one, Newhart paid tribute to his wife of 50 years, Ginny. “When we got married, she was an extra on ‘Ozzie and Harriet.’ She was the one who said ‘yeah’ when asked if they wanted to have Ricky sing another song,” he said, as a camera cutaway showed her wiping away tears.

And may there be many more songs for you to sing, Mr. Newhart.

Please click here to see the complete list of winners and nominees for the 2013 Critics’ Choice Awards.

 

For Many Attending This Week's NCTA Cable Show, It's a Good Time to Try and Spend Some Time With Cable's Most Charismatic Icon, a Genuinely Modest Person Who Is Retiring at the End of the Year. A Tribute

Chuck Ross Posted June 10, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Having covered the cable TV industry for almost three decades, I’ve known most of the industry’s heavy hitters, from John Malone, Michael Fuchs and Kay Koplovitz to Abby Raven, Italia Commisso Weinand and Glenn Britt. I’ve known some much better than others.

Over the years I’ve probably interviewed John Malone more than any other reporter, save Mark Robichaux, the talented editor in chief of Multichannel News, who also wrote an excellent book about Malone that has the wonderfully just-right title, “Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Modern Cable Business.”

Malone is the smartest person I’ve ever interviewed. I can -- and have -- spoken to him for hours at a time and have been mesmerized by his analytical abilities. One of the great pleasures of talking with John, who once ran TCI, then the biggest cable operator in the U.S., was listening to him expound about the future of cable TV.

For example, I recall one afternoon when he talked at length about why AMC -- then strictly a service showing old movies, and co-owned by TCI -- would always remain commercial-free. Several years later AMC was sold, and of course today its main claim to fame is its original programming, shown in an ad-supported framework.

Still, overall, John was about 50% right about what would happen in cable three or four years down the road, which I think is not bad for looking into a crystal-ball to predict the future.

But as smart and powerful as John is, I don't think he's particularly charismatic. I've seen him be charming, but that's not charismatic.

For the last two-plus decades, the most charismatic , iconic person I’ve known in cable is set to retire at year’s end. That person is Char Beales, who has been the president and CEO of CTAM -- cable’s primary marketing trade organization, since 1992. Before that, as I wrote in a column several months ago, Char was one of three people most responsible for original cable programming finally getting its initial recognition.

After a conversation with Malone, most likely you would be struck by the thought that you had just been talking to one of the most clever thinkers about the business of cable, ever.

But after a conversation with Char, she would have most likely made you feel that YOU had made the most astute observations about the cable TV business, ever.

That’s the power of Char’s intelligence and charisma. (By the way, I wish I were clever enough to have thought of this distinction myself. In fact, I read about a similar analogy years ago. It was originally said by a woman who, the story goes, once sat at a dinner between two famous rival English politicians, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. Gladstone was the clever one, the woman said, and Disraeli was the charismatic one who had made her feel so clever.)

Char has always been about encouraging and empowering others. She has been a singular force within the industry, a tireless booster for more than two decades at CTAM -- and at NCTA before that. Char is one of the most insightful, quick-witted people I’ve ever met, and, with warmth and dignity she has had a diligent passion to help all of us succeed in ways we haven’t always believed that we could.

For many years the signature event of CTAM was its Summit, which has been discontinued. I’m on the record that the CTAM Summit was the best event in the TV industry. One of the reasons the Summit was such a refreshing event to attend was because of the relationship Char forged over the years with the Harvard Business School. That allowed her to connect with the Harvard faculty. A number of Harvard professors spoke at the CTAM Summit, bringing innovative thinking and unique perspectives to the conference.

Char and CTAM have been about cable TV’s relationship with the consumer. That’s been a tough proposition over the years, with many consumers complaining about their local cable operator. But the successes have been astounding as well, as cable experienced unprecedented growth over the past two decades. Cable’s triple play, for example, was wildly successful.

In a real sense Char and her fellow cable pioneers set out to change TV, and succeeded.

For all her success and accomplishments, Char is basically a genuinely modest person and shuns the spotlight. I know this personally because we’ve tried to honor her singular achievements. Twice.

The first time, in 2005, we wanted to name her our Cable TV Executive of the Year. Char objected. I tried to insist. She insisted that the only way she’d let us honor her at all was if we honored the entire CTAM Board. I tried to explain that the idea was to highlight the accomplishments of a single “Executive of the Year,” not a group of people. I lost the argument.

More recently, upon hearing that Char was retiring from CTAM at the end of this year, we wanted to give her a Lifetime Achievement Award to coincide with this week’s national Cable Show. We’ve only given out our Lifetime Achievement accolade a few times in our history -- honoring Oprah, Roger King, Roger Ebert and a few others. The idea, as we’ve done in the past, was to do it typical trade pub style, with tribute ads.

Knowing that Char was not keen on these kind of acknowledgements, we tried to do it as a surprise -- we had done that once before with Barbara York at NCTA, and that surprise had come off beautifully.

Unfortunately, quicker than ice cream melting in a microwave -- to borrow a Dan Ratherism -- Char caught wind of what we planned, and respectfully asked us not to move forward with our plans. So we didn’t.

But I don’t think Char will object too much to a fan singing her praises in his blog.

Over the years, I feel that Char is the best marketer I’ve ever met, because her most natural quality is empathy. She knows how to connect with people instinctively and in a heartfelt manner.

Years ago, one of my writer heroes, William Faulkner, said that what poets and writers should aspire to do is to write about the best of what people are about. To thus write about people’s spirit, Faulkner said, which is “capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”

One doesn't have to be a writer or a poet to aim for this higher road.

By spending a career inspiring those in the cable industry to bring out the best in themselves, Char has served Faulkner’s calling well.

Marketing can easily descend into the trickery of a flim-flam man or woman. But the best of marketing, as people such as Steve Jobs or Saul Bass knew, is an honorable pursuit that can be smart and fresh and invigorating and uplifting.

That’s the kind of marketing Char has always asked the members of CTAM to aspire to.

And we’re all richer for it.

Thank you, Char.

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Char Beales