Archive for the ‘Reveries’ Category

For a Korean, Ken Paik was a very big guy…about six feet tall, I think.

I’m not sure about that. It’s possible that he was only, say, 5-9 and just seemed taller because of the way he filled the space around him.

Ken, who died a few years back after a long career in journalism, was one of the most outrageous personalities I’ve encountered in an industry that thrived on the outlandish.

Robert Butler and Ken Paik in Valdez, Alaska, 1974

He was already a staff photographer for the Kansas City Star when I started working there and over the years we were often teamed for big assignments. I always found these pairings…er, educational.

In those days newspaper photographers had a reputation for over-the-top behavior (it’s no coincidence that the photographer on the “Lou Grant” TV show was called “Animal”) and Ken lived up to the best traditions of his trade.


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…to open the Emmy logjam

Bryan Cranston won’t pick up a fourth Emmy this year for “Breaking Bad,”  but only because he wasn’t eligible. The show was on hiatus this season.

Hey, I like Cranston. Great performance in a great role.

But I hate the whole Emmy dynasty thing where a performer wins year after year.

I especially hate it because unlike films, where an actor plays a totally different character with each new project, TV actors find themselves winning Emmys for characters they may have created years earlier.

Granted, characters on TV can grow and change over time, but most of the hard work was done that first season.

Here’s my proposal:  Once an actor wins an Emmy for playing a particular character, he/she cannot be nominated for that same character for, say, three years.

It will open up the process, it will put fresh faces and characters into the running, it will spread around the honors and prevent the whole awards thing from becoming an excercise in deja vu.

Thank you for your consideration.

| Robert W. Butler

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The Kansas City Star, 18th and Grand, KCMO

On a sunny June day in 1969 I climbed the steps of the Kansas City Star building, passed the bronze relief portrait of founder William Rockhill Nelson that still watches over the front door, and began my career as a newspaperman.

Actually it was only a summer internship, but those three months at The Star provided a crash course in practical journalism, allowed me to show what I could do and paved the way for a full-time gig when I graduated from college a year later.

Up in the second floor newsroom I reported to Don T. Jones, the daytime assignment editor of The Times, then The Star’s morning edition (the two papers merged many years ago).

Don T., as he was universally known, is best described as a chain-smoking bantam rooster. (more…)

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Jim Fisher never looked to me like a newspaperman.

He looked like a Kansas rancher.

While most career journalists are prone to corpulence (too many donuts, too much time sitting at a keyboard), Jim was as lean as the Marlborough Man…with whom he shared a love of tobacco.

From the day I first met Jim in the city room of the Kansas City Star until my last sighting of him more than a decade ago, his looks hardly ever changed.

He always had a four-day growth of chin stubble (I never understood this…at some point wouldn’t it either turn into an actual beard or be cut back to baby-bottom smoothness?). His hair was trimmed close…not quite Marine D.I. close, but getting there.

His wardrobe never varied: Well-worn blue jeans, a wrinkled shirt (more…)

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(This piece has nothing to do with movies. Occasionally I feel the need to write about something different. Enjoy.)

Some years ago, my wife Ellen came home from her job at the Kansas City Art Institute with a wriggling bundle of joy.

It was a puppy given to her by one of the students (kids were always trying to balance their studies with pet ownership and failing), who said it was a black Lab.

Our daughter named him Josh.

Josh was loyal, loving, dumb and destructive in ways that only an energetic, tail-wagging Labrador retriever can be.  Also, it turned out that while there might have been a black Lab in his family tree, there was a lot more Great Dane. This was one big dog. (more…)

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