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COLUMN: A Senior Moment with Barry ZeVan: Robin Williams's Passing; Iraq Horrors; Smokey, The Bear's Voice, i.e., Jackson Weaver

Updated: 08/12/2014 10:10 AM
Created: 08/12/2014 10:09 AM KSTP.com
By: Barry ZeVan

Robin Williams

His apparent suicide yesterday robbed us of more of his brilliance, but to realize people of his mega-success in that chosen profession have demons, and most us will never understand why they exist. While I was Entertainment Editor for Channel 11 and in later years for my syndicated Hollywood interview show (HOLLYWOOD UPDATE), I had the pleasure to interview Robin three times, FOR CADILLAC MAN, GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM and MRS. DOUBTFIRE. For the first two mentioned, he maintained a very serious composure, but let loose with his stream-of-consciousness, uninhibited humor for the MRS. DOUBTFIRE interview. I still have all the tapes. He will be missed, to say the least. A tragic shock.

Birthday Reminiscences

A week ago today, August 5, I reached my 77th birthday. For reasons I can't pinpoint, this particular birth anniversary has activated my thought processes like a ton of bricks. The thoughts have been mostly reflective about the countless unusually-blessed experiences I've lived in this life, but some of the memories and thoughts are not so pleasant, especially about the human race in general. 

What especially triggered these bleak thoughts is the newest crisis in Iraq. Atop Iraq's Mount Sinjar, 40,000 innocent and peace-loving people were being threatened with genocide because they wouldn't succumb to the extremist group's demands of "convert or be killed". The extremist's movements make one wonder if we're living in a revival of the barbaric Middle Ages, or worse, reverting to bullyism and terrorism at its most egregious and outrageous levels, beheading children and burying innocent people alive. There truly are no words to express the disgust nor to describe an evil from which even Al Qaeda has divorced itself.

Having been born in 1937 and living through all of World War Two...John Daly's radio bulletin announcing the bombing of Pearl Harbor is my first memory, of anything...I, along with millions of others, were reminded daily of Hitler's, Mussolini's and Tojo's barbarism, as well as their boastfulness. Today's terrorists should read more books about empires and how foolishly those who envisioned their eternal power lasted only a few years and some only a few months, so what does all their maniacy gain for them, or anyone? A very learned European friend here stated to me a few days ago, "They destroy things and people only to state if they, the terrorists, can't have a comfortable and happy life, they want to make sure no one does." Interesting analogy, in my opinion, and also, possibly sadly very true.

One recent example in memory was Hitler's maniacal "thousand-year" Third Reich. It lasted 12 years. As I scribed here several weeks ago, one of the most fascinating people I was ever blessed to know was Hitler's chief chronicler and photographer, the late Stefan Lorant. Mr. Lorant passed away at The Mayo Clinic in Rochester a few years ago. When he was a guest on my Las Vegas television talk show in early 1970, he gave me a book he had written (with hundreds of priceless photographs) entitled, "Sieg Heil". He told me he had been invited to be one of the six original members of the Nazi party, but a week after the invitation, he said he realized Hitler was deranged (but never let Hitler know his thoughts, for obvious reasons) and asked Hitler if he could just be "The Fuhrer's" photjournaist biographer without being a Nazi party member. Hitler agreed. Lorant told me he knew Hitler's thousand-year Third Reich would conclude the way it did, i.e., as a failed disaster, thus wanted to be able to chronicle it's existence and demise from the inside, which he did brilliantly. 

Today's Hitler-types don't care if they live or die, thus the equation has certainly turned an unimaginable corner which those who treasure the sanctity of life, and the credo to live and let live, must deal in these unprecedented times of unpredictability. The adage, "Man's inhumanity to man", has now reached epidemic status.

Smokey, The Bear

Last week, "Smokey, The Bear" celebrated 75 years of existence. Smokey's famous admonition, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires" was originally voiced by a Washington, D.C., morning radio show host named Jackson Weaver. I had the joy to know Jackson from 1974 through 1977 when we both worked for the same broadcasting ownership in D.C., occasionally appearing as a guest on his very popular radio show, called "Harden and Weaver", co-hosted by Jackson and his radio sidekick, Frank Harden. Jackson was the ultimate first-class broadcaster and the warmth of Smokey's voice truly emulated  the richness and dignity of Jackson's human persona. Wonderful to have heard his voice again during the 75th Smokey, The Bear tributes a few days ago. 

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read these geezer thoughts and memories.

Barry ZeVan is a columnist for KSTP.com


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