I was sorry to read about Ken Howard's passing today, five days from his 72nd birthday. I had a few tangential passings with him, only one in person.
The first was when I was visiting a friend at CBS Television City. As I was leaving, I was asked if I'd like to participate in viewing a proposed TV series and then offer comments. Sure, I said. I had the time.
The show was about a white basketball coach at an all-black high school. The series, as many of you have probably figured out at this time, was to be called The White Shadow. I really don't remember precisely what I said at this point, 35 years after the fact, but I do recall liking it, but having some qualms about certain aspects of it. Whether there was any later editing or recasting, I don't know. I don't believe the show went on the air soon after, but it took a little while. So, perhaps there was some additional work on it.
What I do remember clearly, though, is that I was the first person to be asked a question. And I answered it with such specificity and analysis -- more, I'm guessing, than they were used to -- that the CBS employee there asked me the second question. And the third, and the next one, and the one after. In fact, I can't swear that they asked anyone else any questions, though they probably did at the end. What I also recall is that as me left the room, one of the other visitors at the table,, who hadn't spoken, came up to me and said, "I'm glad you got asked those questions because you said everything I was thinking, but didn't know how to express it."
And the show eventually did get on the air.
The second time was actually in person. He had been one of the co-stars of a little movie we were releasing at Universal Studios when I was in the P.R. department. It was called Second Thoughts, with Lucie Arnaz in the lead and also a fellow named Craig Wasson. It was not terribly good, and wasn't successful, but was a passable romantic comedy. Ken was doing some promotion for the film, and I was assigned to be with him one day. He'd been playing a round of golf at the Rivera Country Club, and the interview would be held afterwards in one of the rooms there. I met him on the course, and we had a nice visit as we walked through the grounds. No real memories of any specifics what was said, but it was a pleasant conversation, which wasn't always the case under those circumstances . And he also seemed very tall, for good reason because he was. Standing 6'6".
And finally, my first path-crossing with Ken Howard was when I went to my very first Broadway musical on Broadway. It was 1776, and he played Thomas Jefferson. Not a bad start. (Oddly, he had previously just been in Promises, Promises, which I also saw on that same trip, playing a small role as, I believe, a bartender, but he left the show when he got hired for the far-better role in what became the Tony-winning and Pulitzer Prize-winning show. Very good choice.) And wonderful show -- and he was terrific in it. A role which he repeated in the film version.
Here he is with William Daniels as John Adams, and Howard DaSilva as Benjamin Franklin from 1776 with the song, "The Egg."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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