Thanks, Alec, for the invitation to reveal “7 things that you probably don’t know about me.” Since you asked, I don’t have to feel self-conscious or self-indulgent! Here goes, in no particular order:
1. I was born two months prematurely at a whopping 4 lbs and a few ounces—and my parents were told I probably wouldn’t make it. I was sent home on Christmas Eve to die at home, but these folks hadn’t met my mother—easily the most determined person I ever knew. Since I’m writing this, you know the rest of the story.
2. When I was 18, I discovered social activism and civil rights. Bobby Kennedy was a hero of mine, and I joined his campaign. I was at a rally for him in downtown Indianapolis (it was drizzling rain and we were one of “those parts of town”, and I was determined to let my freak flag fly). When Kennedy took the microphone, he announced to the assembled crowd – heavily African-American–that Martin Luther King had been murdered in Memphis. I took off immediately, fearing for my own safety and thinking that the city might be burned to the ground. As a result, I missed the rest of what was one of Bobby’s most important speeches. He called for unity, peace and understanding, and not only calmed the crowd, but advanced the cause of civil rights. What courage he had – and I missed almost all of it because I was a frightened 18 year old. How I wish I could go back and stand my ground.
3. In every presidential election from 1968 until 1992, I filed a write-in vote for Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy. Clinton & Gore broke my tradition, but I used it again in 2004. Things came full circle in 2008.
4. My former mother-in-law wrote “I Love Lucy” and all of the sequels to the series—a fabulous person, and I still miss our long mornings over bagels and coffee.
5. My wife, kids and I wrote a book about farts that never got published. It was easily my best work ever.
6. My sister’s first husband tried to kill her, and years later took his own life. For me, violence against women isn’t just a social problem; it’s personal.
7. Leslie Stockton was the first girl I ever kissed, when we were14 at the Arlington Theater in Indianapolis, while watching “Beach Party Bingo” starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.