Tag Archives: Connecticut

What Would Oliver Do?

In the summer of 1970 I met a man named Oliver Butterworth.  As school was off, I was just sort of hanging around the stores at the center of town.  Butterworth, a quasi famous children’s author was campaigning on the street for Joe Duffey, a very liberal anti-war Democrat who was running against Lowell Weicker for one of Connecticut’s Senate seats. It was during Vietnam and Oliver was handing out Duffey buttons and peace movement leaflets out of a VW Minivan. He had rigged a makeshift awning and had a card table with lemonade.  He was like a character out of  “Alice’s Restaurant.”  Kind of an old Hippie.

As I was just hanging around with nothing to do, (I realized later, he worked as a local teacher and was just hanging out during the summer too) he invited me to hand out buttons and leaflets.  He explained the anti war movement and how much was at stake in the coming election, and how it’s up to the people to change things.  I have a picture somewhere of me standing in front of that van with Duffey for Senate buttons all over my shirt trying to look informed and ready to fight for the people.  I wasn’t informed or ready to fight.  I was eleven, but I had a cause.

Butterworth had written a children’s book named ‘The Enormous Egg.’ It was about a New Hampshire farm kid (Nate) whose chicken predictably lays an enormous egg.  When the egg hatches, not a chicken emerges, but a Triceratops whom Timmy names Uncle Beazley.  As soon as this is discovered, all who had been laughing at the kid with the enormous egg develop their own agendas.  As the dinosaur grows amid media hoopla and opportunists trying to profit on the find, they need to ship Uncle Beazley off to the National Zoo in Washington DC, because he’s basically eating the farm.  Eventually, Congress, appalled at how much the Dinosaur is eating at the Zoo decides to declare it Un-American (Oliver wrote it in 1956 and was trying to turn 8 year olds everywhere against McCarthy.)  Timmy goes on TV and rallies the masses to petition Congress to “do the will of the people” and accept Uncle Beazley as a permanent resident at the Zoo.  They all live happily ever after.

During that summer and fall, Oliver would tell me where he was going to park the van and I would show up there, hand out stuff and get a civics lesson.  Did my Mom know I was out meeting an old guy with a van? Yes, and she didn’t think anything of it.  It was a different time and we didn’t assume everyone was out to molest us.  I’m sure she thought “well, it’s not like he’s a Catholic Priest or anything, so what the hell.”  Oliver only molested me with anti-war rhetoric and a far left liberalism (in retrospect socialism) that I think I still retain today. Actually, he was pretty cool.

Lowell Weicker sticking it to Nixon

At the end of it all, Joe Duffey lost the election by 90,000 votes.  Lowell Weicker went on to become the moderate Republican that swayed everyone against Nixon and forced his resignation.  In the end,  it pretty much worked out the way Oliver wanted it to. Oliver wasn’t a big Nixon fan.

After the election was lost, Oliver called me and told me we had stood for what we believed in and in taking a stand there are no regrets.  Not long after, he mailed me an autographed copy of the Enormous Egg which I still have.

Hollywood offers up many fights, competing agendas and deception so thick, Nixon would be proud.  Honor sometimes can be scarce.  The higher the stakes, the more ruthless people become.  Perhaps it’s just human nature.  I’m not complaining mind you.  By and large I find it fascinating, and those around me find my righteous indignation in the face of it a constant form of entertainment.

What I find myself fighting sometimes is the regret.  If I had only done this, or if only I had done that I would have gotten the result I wanted.  I always try to do the right thing and believe it or not, doing the right thing around here sometimes gets you screwed. I have a nasty habit of obsessing about that stuff long after the fight has ended.  I’m learning to let go.

For 2012 my main resolution is: WWOD (what would Oliver do.)  He had fought the good fight, done what he could, mentored where he could, spoke his truth in public, moved on from each fight with no regrets at the outcome.  He trusted that goodness would prevail, which it eventually does in one way or the other, and that setbacks are temporary.

It’s a funny thought. What WOULD Oliver do in Hollywood?  I guess I’m going to find out.  Stay tuned.

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Stoked

One winter when I was a kid the power went out for two days.  I grew up in Connecticut and every winter we would have several Ice Storms.  On these days, you would wake up to all the tree branches glistening with a coating of ice around everything.  It was most fantastic because school was always cancelled.  My sisters and I would sit around the kitchen table, ears stuck to the radio waiting to hear our town called out as closed. When there were Ice Storms they always closed school.

You see, as the storm progressed, the roads would develop a half inch or so of solid ice.  I remember this particular time putting on ice skates and skating right down the middle of the road. That is until those beautiful tree branches began to break and fall on the equally coated power lines. Then, what was a lot of fun became something else. Downed lines flailing and sparking and a stupid kid in skates trying to run down the street.  I did manage to make it home.

After several hours of the power being out and phone calls to friends who still had power and reports from the radio, it became apparent that it would be a few days before we had heat again. So, my parents hatched a plan where after waiting for the roads to be sanded, my mother and sisters would head off to my Grandparents house in the next town to wait it out while my father and I stayed behind to drain the radiators (we had those old steam kind) and keep a fire going in the fireplace so that hopefully the whole plumbing system didn’t freeze up.

It was quite an adventure.  We had sleeping bags in the living room, a pile of wood and we took shifts staying up and keeping the fire going. I was only 12, we sat up for a long time talking.  He let me have a beer, I didn’t really like beer that much at the time, especially beer that had been sitting in 10 degree weather on the back porch and was more like a half frozen 7/11 beer slushy.  But we were two men braving the elements and surviving anything a  suburban living room could throw at them.

I remember keeping that fire going strong all night. I mean the house was freezing and I’m not sure the fire warmed the plumbing system that much (though it didn’t freeze) but we made it through the night. The following afternoon as we were preparing for another death defying night on Mt. Rumpus Room, the power unexpectedly came back on.

I think we all have experience sitting around a fire and tending it, keeping it going.  There’s something primal and satisfying about making a “roaring” fire and keeping it really big.

So what about your career’s fire?  Is it roaring? Is it fading?  I’ve seen plenty of careers that at one time were roaring but one day become barely glowing embers. They got that way simply because as they died down, the owner failed to stoke it and put more wood on.  There’s a misnomer that once you “make it” your career will just keep going on it’s own momentum.  But, it won’t.  It’s just like a fire that needs constant tending.

Some say, “that’s why I have an agent” but, as an agent myself I can tell you that isn’t enough.  If you rely solely on your agent’s contacts without making and maintaining contacts on your own, the day will come when you will realize that you don’t actually know many people in the business. You’ve worked with a lot of people, you’ve done a good job, but years after the fact, you don’t really know them well enough to suddenly reach out and start a work dialogue.  When you finally do reach out long after working together, it seems desperate because let’s face it, as a freelancer, if you wait until you need work to work on getting work, it is desperate.

On the other hand, if you maintain your contacts by regular casual ‘hey what’s up emails, birthday and holiday greetings, or even just using the Facebook ‘Like’ button daily, you are ahead of the game. Through constant contact you may even make some close friends and we all want more of that.  You have to see each contact you make as a stick of wood going on to the fire of your career.  The more sticks, the higher the fire may grow.  If you make contact with people infrequently, don’t expect too big of a fire. If not at all, you will find yourself blowing at the embers just trying to get a small flame started up.

It may be that you think that since people really like you when you’ve worked with them, and that’s enough for them to think of you next time.  It’s not.  People forget very quickly and need to be reminded that they really like you. And the best way to do that is to keep being likable. When you pay attention to people, it shows you like them. When people feel you like them, you in turn become likable.

It’s never too late to sleep in the living room and get that fire going again.  But once you do, make sure you keep an eye on it every day. And more than that, make sure that every day you keep throwing sticks on the fire.  More sticks = more fire. More contacts = longer career.

The math isn’t hard, but organizing a plan can be.  Try this: make a list of everyone you can ever remember working with.  Now go on Facebook and if you’re not Facebook friends already, FRIEND THEM.  In almost every person’s Facebook info is their birthday and their email address. Add this info to your contact list. Now the hard part: use the information. Put together a daily list of contacts that can be made and follow through.

This is a simple first step towards building a fire.  The casual contacts are sticks, so put them on the fire.  When you actually work together, those are logs so make them count.  After the job, make sure you keep throwing sticks on the fire until the next job.

And take my advice: don’t try to run in the street in ice skates. It’s very difficult.

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Want to share this idea with your own Twitter network? Here are handy tweetable bits.

More sticks = more fire. More contacts = longer career. http://bitly.com/lF4tfb @agentonloose

What about your career’s fire?  Is it roaring? Is it fading? http://bitly.com/lF4tfb @agentonloose

When you pay attention to people, it shows you like them. When people feel you like them, you in turn become likable. http://bitly.com/lF4tfb

Don’t try to run in the street in ice skates. It’s very difficult. http://bitly.com/lF4tfb @agentonloose