Off topic: Repost, sort of
Back in 2008, I posted an entry on my old MySpace blog about Leonard Stern.
(Who the hell is that?)
Some of you may remember seeing the name in various TV credits, back in the day. He was a prolific writer and producer.
You may also recall that I had this photo posted in my old MySpace album, from a 1961 TV Guide article:
Hard to read the small print, but Leonard Stern is one of those bearded bards, sitting second from the left. (Oh, and the man on the far right, with his name taped off? My dad)
Anyway, this is part of what I’d written back then:
Mr. Stern has had quite the career, and happily, he’s still around to talk about it. He was executive producer of Get Smart. He was also the Stern of Price/Stern/Sloan, a publisher of children’s books. They also published Mad Libs. Who remembers Mad Libs? They were hugely popular when I was growing up. They were pads of various stories with several words removed, and in place of the missing words were blank lines, with noun, verb, adjective, etc. under them. You could play with one other person or several; one would hold the Mad Libs pad and ask for a noun, or whatever was called for, and the group would call out words to fill in. After everything was filled in, the pad holder would read the story back, with all the supplied words.
If you still have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read about them here.
Oh, one thing I forgot to mention. It was very common, especially with pre-adolescent kids, to use dirty words. Back to that later.
Anyway, since most of my father’s colleagues and peers in the industry have passed on, I was happy to find out Leonard Stern is still among us, and I Googled him, trying to find some way to contact him. Sure enough, after some searching and poking around, I found an email address. And I wrote to him, introducing myself.
Guess what? He wrote back, saying it was a delight to hear from me, that he and my dad had a “close acquaintanceship” and he had many funny stories. He gave me a phone number and urged me to call him.
I just did, this afternoon, and we had a lovely chat. He didn’t have much time to talk, as he was preparing to go out of town, but he said when he comes back, he’ll call me and we can have lunch.
But he did share one story with me. Apparently when my brother was young, he brought Mad Libs to school, and was caught with them, filled in with all sorts of bad words. Leonard told me he was in his car, and my dad was driving in the same direction. He pulled up next to Leonard at a red light, and motioned for him to roll down his window, which he did. My father then glared at him with mock anger and said, “Do you know where I’m going?”
“No,” Leonard replied, “where?”
And my father snapped, “I’m on my way to my son’s school, because of your fucking Mad Libs!”
I laughed my head off. I could just hear my father saying that.
Mr. Stern never did call me back for that lunch, though. And I forgot about it.
About a year ago, I thought of him and really wanted to meet him. I still had the phone number he’d given me… but I hate the phone. So I emailed him again. This time, he didn’t answer.
He passed away this week, at age 88. The obituary said he’d been ill for the past 15 months. I guess that’s why he didn’t write back. Now I wish I’d called.
Ah, this makes me sad. Damn stupid week. I’m so ready to say goodbye to it.
Next week will be much, much better. I know it.
Have a good weekend, y’all.