Sunday, March 1, 2009

R.I.P. Mr. Storyteller

I’ve gotten to that point in life where those who came before me are starting to move along. You know, those “adults” who inspire us. Even actors who came from a generation noted for style and class, not hounded by the paparazzi or willing to sell every detail of their soul for 15 minutes of fame. How many of you just envisioned Paul Newman? For me, it was Ricardo Montalban. Not the “Fantasy Island” version, but the man who danced in old musicals as the suave and debonair stranger. Okay, so as a teen I loved listening to him discuss the “Corinthian leather” car seats of the Chrysler cars he peddled. It was even funnier when he later admitted he’d made the "Corinthian" thing up because it sounded more exotic. I admired him for telling the truth and laughing at himself. And I could’ve listened to him read a phone book. For hours.

Most of the time when I learn of the passing of an adult I’ve admired for years, there’s a momentary sadness, accompanied by a heartfelt “Aw, so-and-so just died.” Of course in the case of Sr. Montalban, it was accompanied by a little girl sigh of, “Aw no, not Ricardo!” Today I learned of another death among the famous and the “Aw” was accompanied by….

“No more rest of the story.”

Paul Harvey passed away yesterday at the age of 90. For most people, living to 90 is a feat in itself. For the world of radio broadcasting, they lost a legend. Paul Harvey had been in radio for over 70 years. And for all his accomplishments, what he is best remembered for are three minute segments called, ”The Rest of the Story.” Harvey knew how to weave a story that hooked you from the first sentence. Stories like the one about a young boy in Cuba whose dream was to play baseball. His family was poor but if the boy could become a professional baseball player, he could take care of them. Harvey described how hard the boy practiced, how badly he just wanted to play the game he loved because the money would go to his family. But the boy failed to make that professional team. These stories always ended the same…with the name of the person.

In this case, the boy was Fidel Castro.

And thus, having announced the answer listeners had waited for with baited breath, Harvey would concluded with, “And now you know, the rest of the story.”

Most of the stories were motivational. All of the stories made you try to “guess who”. Sometimes the answers were even shocking. This may have been merely entertaining to most of the world but to me, those stories fed my insatiable curiosity. I’ve always felt this inexplicable need to know why people are the way they are and Harvey’s stories were like….chocolate for my addiction. They didn’t just create what is known as “driveway moments”, where you arrive home, but stay in the car to hear the rest of the story.

They shaped the way I tell stories.

G’night Mr. Harvey. Thanks for entertaining me. For educating and often enlightening me. But best of all, thank you for encouraging me to continue to seek the rest of the story.


Susan said...

Wow. I'm so glad I heard it from you, instead of reading the news tonight.

Paul Harvey! Not many of us are left who didn't grow up to the sound of his voice, he's been around (it seems) forever. He definitely shaped my story-telling, and I'll be blogging about him too, tomorrow.

Loved him.

Terence McDanger said...

Driveway moments, what a nice description. I've had a few of those!

No double entendre intended!