That's Jess Cooper, way back in the 1960's when he was working for Senator Quentin Burdick in Washington, D.C. Prior to that Jess had been my competition in Bismarck, North Dakota, a town with two t.v. stations. Jess was the anchorman and news director at one of them, I held the same positions at the other. In spite of our nose-to-nose competiveness, off the job we became drinking buddies and great friends. I hadn't seen Jess since sometime back in the 1980's when I stopped off in Bismarck on a lengthy trip.
Yesterday, I received an email from a mutual friend of both of us, the great Danny Bananas, of whom you've heard. Jess had died. He was 75 and his family found him in his back yard. Jess had heart bypass surgery a couple of years ago but had seemed on the mend, according to Danny. But then . .
He was a great guy and I'll miss him, even if it is only through rare emails and jokes.
Another friend of years is Karl Kindberg. Here's a picture of the two of us with his lovely wife, Cathy. This is a more recent picture but still probably 10 or 15 years old.
Karl was from Massachusetts but when he turned 18 or graduated from high school he announced he was going "out West" to become a cowboy. He landed in Montana and satisfied that dream, then got into rodeo for a few years. At some point he was a trapeze artist in a circus in Hawaii. Later on he was in Hollywood, working on the Ozzie and Harriet show as both a character named Biff and as a double for David Nelson, the brother of Rick. (Someone once said "who knew David Nelson NEEDED a double.") Somehow Karl found himself in Tucson and then Phoenix, working in television. He and I shared a station for a number of years.
Karl never really injured himself in his checkered past. But now, at an "advanced age", he has had two hip replacements and the other day a knee replacement. He's home from the hospital already and when I spoke to him on the phone this afternoon he was back to his rare form of humor. He asked me if I'd heard of the Senior Senior Golf group. I confessed I had not. He said they play three holes and the one who can remember the score is the winner!
And then there's my buddy Lew Ruggiero. We had lunch today after not seeing each other for a long time so I got a CURRENT picture.
I don't really know how Lew got started in broadcasting but I know he was once a top disc jockey at a radio station in San Diego. Somehow he came to our t.v. station, probably back in the late 1970's, as an assignment editor. And somehow he graduated from that to being a reporter. (I have always had a great appreciation for street reporting, having done a lot of that in my prime, and think of anyone who has gone from the administrative side of the business back to the street as having "graduated.")
Lew was not just an ordinary reporter. He was an exemplary reporter, tops in his field. But, he told me today, when he was running out a contract and was 57 years old, he decided he had outlived the business and it was time to move on. Lew had been taking classes at Arizona State University and (in his 50's!) he earned a Master's degree. He thought he was going to teach but that didn't work out and instead he became a private investigator, working for another broadcast veteran. He quit last June but still does occasional work for the same firm while he figures out what he wants to do when he grows up.
So. Those are some of my friends. I hope I haven't bored you with talking about them because, you see, I love them all.