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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Do They Do in There?

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If your kid wants to join the drama club at school, you may or may not be enthusiastic. If you as a parent or a taxpayer have wondered how this supports an adolescent's educational goals, have I got a movie for you.

Let me be clear, I did not take drama classes in high school, college, junior high or summer camp. As an adult, you may have noticed, I am not a movie star nor a Tony nominee. In high school, my favorite classes were Physics and History. So all this drama coaching was about as pure a mystery and black box to me as it gets.

Then I wandered into a dark theatre on a beautiful spring morning and settled in to be taken on the journey of Florida high school kids working toward a statewide drama competition. Up until the moment the lights went out, my interest was, mmm, oh, theoretical?

It was the Phoenix Film Festival and, of course, I'm interested in the way cool movies by independents you get to discover before they get their distribution deals. "Thespians" was the first on the bill, so that's how I found myself in the audience.

Let me tell you, I wish I had heeded a Tallahassee newspaper's admonition to "be prepared to be moved."

It's a documentary and director Warren Skeels skillful story building brings us deep into the adolescent hearts before we even knew we were aiming for them. What the students--from four different Florida high schools in different parts of the state--learn through their drama classes is a revelation to a non-actress-wannabe like me.

In sports films, we usually learn about kids learning teamwork and persistence. We get that here, too. But from there on out, you might say the programs develop a set of reverse image skills. A sports movie typically has at least one gifted athlete being cradled through academic curricula. In "Thespians" we have one of the groups of kids as a set of ambiguously talented performers who off the stage are shown playing a highly sophisticated game used in colleges to teach international relations. Clearly, these boys are already smart. But what they learn on stage is to explore and grow comfortable with the life of emotions. In another school, a young lady eventually reveals she has recently gone through a horrible personal challenge. It is then easy to see how she is working out her healing and return to real life through her play-acting on stage.

One of the things that impressed me the most by watching "Thespians," was the relationship these drama and music teachers have to their kids. Since their curricula is so intensive into the life of the emotions, these teachers seem to create remarkable crucibles for the development of the adolescent character. If you want to see teachers doing a stunning job of nurturing good citizens who will one day be the presidents, senators and CEOs in charge of our world, find a venue that's playing "Thespians" and buy a ticket asap.

After the film, I was delighted when I was asked to pose for a photo with the film's director, Warren Skeels. That's us the in the lobby of the Harkin's Cine Capri above. I wish the best success for "Thespians"--and want to point out your school, PTA, community theatre troupe or any other type of group you may have that's interested in education, the arts, musical performance or drama, or adolescent development can arrange to host a screening. I would suggest you do it now, while you can stake a claim to major coolness, because the following for this fine film is sure to catch fire. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets snapped up for something big and the little venues can no longer get it.

I also look forward to the next film by Warren Skeels. He has a sharp eye for a story and a gift for subtle and light handed storytelling.

One last shoutout to Dan Harkins for hosting the Phoenix Film Festival. What a poorer place would Phoenix be without Dan Harkins' remarkable commitment to the arts and culture! His personal story, I've always thought, would make a great movie in and of itself. Maybe one day Warren Skeels will direct that. ;)

Pssst! Going to jail, buying documents, and everything else it takes to get this kind of info for the blog takes time and money! Every time you make a purchase here, it helps me be able to do more for you!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

World Class Tough Guys

ADD:  For the update on what happened in the case of Ramsen Dadesho (Story #8), please check this blog post! UpdateOnToughGuys

Having a blast reading the stories in this brand new anthology! From the Cold War (from Stalin to Brezhnev) to the British Invasion (rock-n-roll) to the Rumble in the Jungle (Ali and Foreman), this book has fascinating behind the scenes anecdotes and intriguing analysis.

The Mammoth Book of Tough Guys (Mammoth Books)

Sometimes you're not in the mood for a whole book, right? Enjoy the smaller "bites" of over two dozen true stories compiled in The Mammoth Book of Tough Guys. Available anywhere books are sold, including here.

(Ah! I almost forgot to mention I contributed story # 8 "Almost Out of Time!" It happened in Scottsdale, Arizona to a guy who really wished it hadn't happened at all!)

(click on a title below to buy)
Camille Kimball's books:
                 **A Sudden Shot** as seen on TV!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Mic Goes Silent

Vintage Radio Microphone with Vinyl Records Royalty Free Stock PhotoR

Rod Peterson passed away this week. He was a vivid presence in the media corps of Phoenix, Arizona. He was also a gracious man with a generous and principled heart.

It sent shock waves through the radio listening community when he left KTAR in March of 1998. At the time, I was a columnist for the Arizona Republic. As soon as I heard the news, I rushed to do the story on Rod, a legend to those who knew him as well as those who listened to him on their radios, and his abrupt departure from what was also a legendary news radio station.

This week I was very sorry to hear of his passing and am posting here my column originally published in the Arizona Republic on March 21, 1998.

Rod Peterson was beloved and honored by his peers and by his fans. He leaves a hole in our hearts the size of a great big microphone. R.I.P.
Radio Rod.


(originally published in The Arizona Republic March 21, 1998)


CAMILLE KIMBALL, Special to The Republic

Radio Rod is what we, the press corps, call him. You can tune in to him Monday morning - but for the first time in 26 years, it won't be on KTAR's morning show where you find him. It will be the younger skewing show of Beth and Bill on KESZ-FM (99.99).
Rod Petersen, the highly distinctive police reporter, will be joining Beth and Bill at 7 a.m. for a guest appearance.

''I've known Beth for 16 or 17 years,'' the 70-year-old veteran (in both the professional and military sense) said. ''She wants to talk about some of the funny stories I've collected over the years.''

Petersen left KTAR on March 13 after a run-in with news director Andy Friedman. My phone couldn't stop ringing this week with calls about a man Valley broadcasters consider a treasure.

Petersen's own personality seemed to merge with the very essence of radio.
Wherever reporters gathered - courtrooms, press conferences, crime scenes - you'd get a poke in the ribs, ''Hey, there's Radio Rod.'' You'd swivel your head and there he'd be: thick white hair bobbing in the distance, attention coiled up into a peculiar intensity, shoulders hunched to cradle his microphone.

Petersen confirms that he quit KTAR during a furious confrontation with Friedman.
''It was probably my Korean War flashback - I heard the Chinese bugles. I dumped the news and threw the carts (tape cartridges) in the trash. Enough is enough,'' he recounted.

It won't be long before Petersen is able to deliver his specialty cop stories again. Local TV stations are taking a look at him. There's not a Valley TV newsroom that hasn't started a morning editorial meeting with the sentence ''Hey, Rod Petersen is reporting . . .'' and then scrambled to try to catch up.

The most obvious new home for Radio Rod would be KFYI-AM.

''Rod Petersen's reputation is of legendary status,'' Ed Walsh said. ''His credentials and his contacts are peerless.''

Walsh, morning personality at KFYI, also does the hiring. Insiders say Petersen rates very high in market research - ''right up there with Paul Harvey'' is how they put it. He also ranks high with police - who've been known to feed him stories before they even report to their supervisors after a shift.

Petersen and wife Shirley have two grown children, Bill and Ann. After Petersen's stint in Korea ended in 1952, he went to radio school on the GI Bill. Health troubles prompted him to trade his native Nebraska for the dry air of Phoenix, where he found work at KRUX-AM, which no longer exists.

''It was 1963, and Al McCoy hired me full time. He said, 'Here's the keys to the station wagon. Go down and get me some police stories.' ''

Reporter Stephanie Snowden has also given KTAR her notice.

''But I'm not leaving because I'm disgruntled,'' she says. ''I have an opportunity to move back East, where my family is, and work in television, which is also a good move.''

Snowden says she'll be joining WBTV in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Has working at KTAR been a 100 percent sunny day?

''No. But work is not supposed to be an adult day-care center. I have nothing but praise for KTAR and Andy Friedman,'' Snowden said.

On the flip side, Bill Heywood, another Valley legend, is returning to KTAR beginning Monday.

''With the Diamondbacks season starting, it was the right time to move in a new direction,'' says station program director Laurie Parsons. ''The word I always hear associated with Bill is 'warmth.' '' Even the competition can't find anything bad to say about this gracious gentleman.

''It's impossible not to like Bill,'' says Walsh, who until about 14 months ago was partnered with Heywood at KFYI. ''I wish him well, but not too well!''

Heywood replaces Bruce Kirk, who was let go Tuesday.

''I kept dreaming about the day when I'd get to sleep in the morning - but this was so sudden. I need to figure things out,'' says Kirk, who has logged 23 years in broadcast news, six in radio, the rest on TV. He had been KTAR's morning host for four years.
''Had I seen this coming, I'd be better prepared,'' he said.

Kirk had been working without a contract for several months. He said severance issues with KTAR have not been worked out.

This column originally published in The Arizona Republic March 21, 1998

From KTAR upon his passing. http://ktar.com/?sid=1400242&nid=6

ADD: There's a very sad addendum to this post. The newspaper column about Rod Peterson wraps up with a mention of Bill Heywood. Tragically, Bill made his own news as 2012 dawned. Please click here.