I never knew radio great Paul Harvey, but sometimes I can hear his voice.
I always wanted to do great things, which is probably why I started out as a reporter.
I had a good nose for news and was pretty good at finding the truth.
But, as it turns out, I was also blind as a bat at times, blinded by my ego, and nowhere near greatness.
In 1992-1993, I was a new consultant in Dallas with “the largest privately owned P.R. firm in the world.”
My biggest client, a real estate giant, had asked us to find a hotshot speaker for their Annual Meeting.
I wanted General Norman Schwarzkopf, one of the great military giants of the 20th century, and the Ultimate Alpha Male.
I just knew my real estate Big Dog clients would LOVE hanging out with Stormin’ Norman.
But my choice was not astute.
My boss, however, was astute, and recommended former long-time Reagan aide Michael Deaver.
This did not sit well with me.
Deaver left the White House in 1985 and had founded what I considered a slimy lobbying firm that served Big Oil and Big Tobacco.
In 1987, he was convicted on three counts of perjury for lying to a House subcommittee and a federal grand jury.
Five years after that, Deaver was named vice chairman of my global P.R. firm.
So when my boss recommended Deaver for the speech, he scored brownie points with his bosses and really pissed me off.
So, from the outset, I had a major attitude about Michael “White-House-Big-Dog-Turned-Uber-Influence-Peddler-Turned-My-Vice-Chairman Deaver.
And it only got worse.
Deaver made it absolutely clear that he was super urgently busy with very important stuff, and the last thing he really wanted to do was give a speech to some Yahoo Texas Real Estate Big Dogs.
Worse still, Deaver was in no way impressed by my suggestions for his speech — e.g., less Beltway crap, more testosterone, and try to be funny.
When his speech bombed it proved, at least in my mind, who the Big P.R. Dog really was.
Except, turns out, not so much.
I was made keenly aware of this recently as I reread When Character Was King, Peggy Noonan’s brilliant “story of Ronald Reagan”.
In 1993, my Big Dog credentials — in addition to having been right about the speech — included having worked 11 years for unimportant newspapers in Waco, Singapore, DFW and Washington, D.C., plus a Singapore P.R. firm, before rising to the heady heights of Senior Account Supervisor in Dallas of an international P.R. firm.
Deaver, on the other hand, had done a wee bit better.
He’d worked in one capacity or another for Ronald Reagan from 1967-1985, including two terms in the California Governor’s Mansion and five historic years in the White House.
Which is way more important than being a former police reporter in Waco, Texas.
But what REALLY rang my chimes about Deaver’s importance in the grand scheme of things had to do with the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981, just nine weeks into his presidency.
As Reagan and his team were leaving the Washington Hilton, a reporter cried out to the President, trying to ask a question about Lech Walesaa and Poland’s Solidarity movement.
Deaver put his hand on Press Secretary Jim Brady’s broad back and pushed him toward the reporter, like he’d done so many times before.
This time, if he had not done it, John Hinckley would have assassinated Ronald Reagan.
Weeks after the shooting, Brady’s neurosurgeon explained it this way to Deaver, who stood 5 foot 9.
“Jim Brady is six feet tall. If he’d stayed there where he had been, before you moved him, Ronald Reagan would be dead. Because Brady took the bullet that would have killed Reagan.”
As radio great Paul Harvey used to say, “and that’s the rest of the story.”
The Missus and I need a big house so we both can have our own space.
And in the land of semi-retirement, you watch your money pretty closely.
So, of course, we just bought a little camper van.
In our defense, it’s not really a camper van.
Certainly not like the big one that two families squished into 20 years ago to tour all of New Zealand.
That one had eight berths and a stove and fridge and pooper and shower.
That kind if serious camper van now rents for about $400 per day.
So, when you throw in insurance, diesel and campground fees, etc, it costs about $9,000 to get our of your driveway.
Which poses a dilemma.
How do you quityerbitchin’ about living in the most beautiful country in the world yet never actually seeing any of it?
The answer came last week from above. Or at least the internets.
I was looking for a cheap car, using my super-braniac search engine words “moving to Australia.”
There, among all the actual cars, popped up the cutest little camper van you ever saw.
I mean, it’s called a Mazda Bongo Friendee.
How could that not be a thing of happy destiny?
… Oh, we don’t know, there are so many things to choose from.
Probably the best thing about torrential rains is when the Missus dispatches the blog to our house’s slick metal roof, at night, when it is pitch freaking black, to clear out the gutters, because her bat-like sensors just KNOW they are clogged.
No, actually, the best part is when the Missus — being all kinds of helpful, as the blog was risking life and limb on the slick metal roof, at night, in a winter downpour — hits me right between the eyes with a 10,000-candlepower spotlight.
Because when you are soaking wet, and crouching on the very edge of the slick metal roof, at night, scooping crap out of the gutter by hand, you really want to be blinded by the light.
And get bonus points for retinal detachments and vertigo.
Yes, all were just awesome.
But, in retrospect, the best thing was — when the blog had shed his soaking wet blue jeans and goose-down puffer jacket, and was just about to climb into a hot bathtub — hearing a siren shriek from the basement.
One with a Singaporean accent; able to penetrate 12-inches of reinforced concrete and/or my forehead.
A siren song that meant that the basement was flooding, and that having a soggy, frostbitten butt was the very least of the blog’s worries.
Don’t mind my 26-year-old musician son as he grumpily digs through the mall trash bin.
He is not foraging for food, like many starving musicians.
He is looking for the plastic packaging that he shredded about 30 minutes ago to get to his new headphones.
Because we have just had the following Father-Son chat at the mall coffee shop, after Junior strolled up holding new headphones .
Dad: “Heh, I bought some of those headphones. The look cool, but they really suck.”
Grumpy Son: “They so do!”
Dad: “Take them back. Just put them inside the packaging, and take them back.”
Grumpy Son: “I threw it away.”
Dad: <Rolling eyes> “Seriously? If I had a dollar for every time we have had this conversation about packaging. And receipts…”
I love eccentric people, especially if they have chickens.
And don’t live next door.
Hence, I love going to the physiotherapist, to have my head rotated and get an update on the Titirangi Chicken Situation.
(Yes, I shot that seven-second video last year!)
It seems that the Council — after six months of meetings and complaints and strategies and tactics and skulduggery and general Titirangi weirdness — finally hauled away approximately 28 chickens.
Now, before all you pinko-lefty-chicken-pluckers get all moisty-eyed about the poor, dear chickens, you need to understand that:
The older you get, the more you understand how hard it is to find a “good man” in this life.
The outpouring of emotion this week in Oklahoma, following the premature death of TV sportscaster Bob Barry, Jr., proved that in spades.
I honestly encourage you to have a look at “BBJ’s” memorial service, which was televised live. It is compelling, heart-rending and enlightening viewing.
Loving husband? Check.
Doting father? Check.
All round good guy? Check.
Even so, I’ve heard of many men who checked all these boxes.
But in my 35 years of working in or with (frequently “precious”) media types, I have never seen such a tidal wave of love from friends, colleagues, competitors and “plain, old, everyday people.”
Obviously, BBJ was a “chip off the old block,” the son of legendary Oklahoma sportscaster Bob Barry, Sr. (a.k.a. Big Bob).
He obviously had his Dad’s DNA, and was even mentored by the old man.
But BBJ also had a lot of Will Rogers in him. Seems like he never met a man he didn’t like, or wasn’t really interested in.
This week, Oklahoma media have been inundated with stories from John and Jane Q. Public, and their kids.
Stories about BBJ’s authentic kindness, goodness, curiosity, support, generosity, and his unique ability to “make everybody feel like they were the most important thing in the universe.”
As one of his own loving kids wrote, “He really didn’t know how big of a deal he was.”
For three decades, literally hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans got their sports fix from BBJ on radio (The Sports Animal) and television (KFOR).
Even though he was a Big Dog, turns out that he never acted like one, if you can imagine such a thing in this day and age.
He was the last guy to leave work, always trying to improve a story, always making sure everyone got a fair shake.
Personally, I have been so impressed by his positive outlook on life, and his relentless efforts to promote young athletes, right across the Sooner State.
Unless you have lived in a small town, you simply cannot imagine what it would’ve been like on a Football Friday Night for KFOR’s chopper to fly BBJ into Podunk, Oklahoma.
And then for him to interview your local hometown heroes with as much enthusiasm as if they were the Selmon Brothers.
Never Saw It
Even though I grew up in Norman and went to school with “Bobby” for a long time, I never had an inkling of what he’d turn out to be; as a man, I mean.
He was a year younger than me, so it’s not like we were close friends or anything. Plus, I was a football player, and he was a round-baller.
Even so, I’ve rediscovered more than a few vivid memories of him, which sort of bubbled to the surface after his tragic death. (He was riding his motorcycle when a driver did a U-turn and killed him).
My abiding memory of Bobby is that he was a real character; skinny, thick glasses, and pretty much always up to something.
At the memorial service, one of his oldest friends said, “We had Robin Williams before there was a Robin Williams.”
At Norman High, Bobby was always worth the price of admission.
He could mimic anyone — teachers, vice principals … pretty much everyone in authority.
He could be funny doing anything, especially if it was sports related, which makes perfect sense.
Countless times when we were messing around in the gym, Bobby would show off his patented, goofball, basketball move.
He’d jack a one-handed jumpshot from half-court, his face all contorted, staring at the ground, stiff-legged, with his feet spread about four-feet apart, and making an annoying noise like “uh-beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
Seems like about half those ridiculous shots were swishes. Or maybe they were all air balls.
I just remember that he made me laugh. Every time.
Just like when he’d hold court outside the Senior Center, making a comedy routine out of simply saying his name.
“Uh-beee- beeeee-beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” he’d stammer for about 5 seconds, then pound his chest and spit out “Bob Baaaarreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
I must have heard him do that bit 50 times. It killed me every single time, especially the time he actually knocked the wind out of himself. You should have been there.
That’s really all I have on Bobby in my memory banks.
(Well, there’s that one NHS party memory that didn’t end very well, when his Dad came charging up like John Wayne. Whoa.)
Funny, I never had an inkling that little, skinny, always-entertaining Bobby had “greatness” in him; like what was so evident during yesterday’s memorial service.
Great kindness. Great love. Great friendship. Great humility. Great manhood. Great humanity.
I wish I’d know him better and for longer. The last time I saw him was probably in 1974.
In many ways, I wish I was more like him now.
I’m honestly going to try. Maybe we all should.
Rest in Peace, Bobeeeee Baaaarreeeeeeeeeeeee.
Blessings from an old Norman Tiger in New Zealand.