Kemper Peacock and the overnight highlights

Kemper Peacock (second from left), Dick Snider standing

Topeka Capital Journal
Sept. 27, 1985

The College Football Highlights show that appeared on Sunday mornings for 15 years on ABC was one of the most unlikely offerings ever to find its way to television. For one thing, if you understood the logistics, you would say it was impossible.

For another, when it all started, the two men primarily responsible for getting it on the air were TV’s original Odd Couple. One was yours truly, who knew nothing about film or television, and the other was Kemper Peacock, who knew even less about football.

To eliminate confusion, let me say here that Kemper Peacock is not an advertising agency, a law firm, a London park or odd strain of strutting bird. He is a man – a remarkable man.

What we had to do each Saturday in the football season was film five or six games across the nation that would be on the show, plus up to 10 more that ABC needed footage on for future promotional use.

Then, all we had to do was get the film to our home base (first New York, later Chicago), process it, edit it, transfer it to videotape, add narration and sound effects, and deliver it to the network by 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time Sunday. It can’t be done.

Yet we never missed a show. It was my job to get the film to Kemper, and his job to stay up all night and supervise all the steps necessary to put the show together.

To help us, we hired the best we could find. We often hired helicopters to get the film from the stadium to the airport. We had off-duty policemen running the film around New York or Chicago all night, getting it where it had to go.

One of our editors in New York was Bob Forte, who now does the Andy Rooney segments on “60 Minutes.” Another was Adolphus Mekus, now head of the film department at Bard College. And another was Jack Drescher, now a New York bartender.

Our announcer when we were in New York was Bob Murphy. After we moved to Chicago, it was Bill Fleming. Both are great pros. They would check in at 5:00 a.m. to narrate film that was all new to them, and time always was critical. They had to get it right, and in a hurry, and they did.

The key man was Kemper. Absolutely unflappable, he took every problem in stride. From early Saturday night, when the film started coming in, until early Sunday morning, when we were in the last lap race against time, he exuded a calm confidence that I never felt.

I did all the screaming. Kemper’s look always told me we’d make it, but I never believed him. When we finally did make it, when the show was delivered and we were back in our hotel suite, we would silently shake hands and I would start worrying about next week.

Kemper, a native of East Orange, N.J., was a graduate of Bard College in drama in 1961. After serving in the Army in France, je wound up writing copy for a small public relations agency. “I wrote about the golden sands of Trinidad and Tobago, two places I still never have been,” he said.

He moved into industrial film editing. He did forgettable epics about cement, aluminum and cornstarch Then one day, he met a friend from a bank that was financing some “skin flicks.” He asked Kemper to oversee the project, and Kemper did that, too, until the company went broke. Talk about stupid bank loans.

He was editing auto racing film for a company working with ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” when our trails crossed. I was looking all over New York for a high-class editor and in Kemper I got not only that, but also a high-class guy who became producer and director of our show.

Our most enjoyable projects for ABC were one hour pre-season specials. In 1971, we did “Anatomy of a Bowl Game.” It was the Cotton Bowl game between Texas and Notre Dame. ABC said they would name as host one of their network series stars.

He turned out to be Burt Reynolds, who came over from Georgia, where he was filming his first hit feature, “Deliverance.” We paid him $500. The script was written by Dan Jenkins, who just a year later had a classic book called “Semi-Tough” published. In 1977, the book became a movie, and Reynolds played the lead.

For our show, it happened that we later needed to record a few extra lines from Reynolds. We found him in Chicago, where he was doing a play. He agreed to do the lines, but said, “You guys really stretched the hell out of $500.”

Kemper says of Reynolds that he never met a nicer guy. I agree, and I say the same thing about Kemper. Neither of us, however, has much nice to say about those Saturday nights in showbiz.


Uncle Bill, Mr. Braniff and the aviation bug

Topeka Capital Journal
July 10, 1987

Judge Roy Bulkley showed up at the Loafers lunch the other day wearing a new pair of suspenders. He said he’d gone to the Alco store in North Topeka to buy them, and they were such a bargain he bought two pairs.

The pair he had on were wide, and gaudy. But they were doing an admirable job of doing what they were designed to do, which is hold up his pants. He had such confidence in them, he wasn’t wearing a belt.

Still, some smart aleck at the table looked at them and asked, “if you bought two pairs, why are you wearing those?” He was implying, of course, that the other pair had to be better looking.

All this brought on a general discussion of suspenders, and some of the elderly in attendance recalled they once were called galluses. The dictionary says the word comes from gallows, and I suppose the idea there is that pants hang from the end of your suspenders.

Only a couple of us real experts, however, Remember that they also were known as braces. I qualify as an expert because my uncle, Bill Garthoeffner spent much of his life selling them. Continue reading

Fast food isn’t the part that changed

Topeka Capital Journal.
July 9, 1986

There is a popular notion that the great wide world of grease and salt, known as fast foods is something relatively new, But that is not so. Fast foods have been around a long, long time.

There are more of them now, and they are served in a variety of more attractive places, particularly if you like glitz, But most of them offer basically the same old fare. Fast foods have been around as long as I can remember. Continue reading

Boggs and Hentzen and stories of the game

Topeka Capital-Journal
July 26, 1991

Before Frank Boggs retired, every newspaper columnist in the country who knew of him envied him If for no other reason than the fact he wrote seven columns a week and usually was two or three weeks ahead. He could turn on the creative tap and write a week’s worth of stuff in one sitting.

Old timers here will remember him as a member of the Capital-Journal sports staff in the 1950s. He moved on to sports jobs in places like Dallas and San Diego, but then became a newspaper executive who wrote columns as sort of a hobby.

He wound up his career where it started, in Oklahoma City, and he seemed to run things with one hand and write columns with the other. While most columnists sweat blood and wring their hands in despair, Boggs would run them off the assembly line without even a furrowed brow. And, what really burned up his colleagues was that the columns not only were numerous, but also good.

Boggs was in town this week, visiting Bob Hentzen. We played golf Tuesday, and then young insurance mogul Matt McFarland chauffeured us to a Royals game. It was a nice, long day, really spoiled only by having to sit through a sloppy 8-7 contest that lasted more than three hours.

We swapped a lot of stories, and along the way Boggs talked about the fine art of writing a column. He said he actually studied the subject, and said one of the best tips came from Russell Baker, the outstanding humor columnist for the New York Times. Continue reading

Journalist Snidre in the Land of Blahs

(Editor’s Note: The March 24, 1992 Land of Blahs Charity Show in Topeka featured a collection of legislators, lobbyists, lawyers and the financially loaded in an evening of satirical musical performances, including “Gee Journalist Snidre,” which was sung to the tune of “Gee Officer Krupke” from the musical West Side Story.)

Dear friendly Mr. Snider, you gotta understand, your awful, ugly columns are getting out of hand. The citizens don’t like us, you’ve made them think we’re drunks. Back off, Dickie, where as pure as monks!

Gee journalist Snider, we’re very upset, we never get the praise that folks like us ought to get. We’re not just some dummies, we’re misunderstood. Deep down inside us there is good!

There is good! There is good! There is good! There is a world of good! Yes, inside of all of us is good!

We lobbyists really are good! So tell it to the man! Continue reading

Lawyer bashing? Blame the lawyers

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 27, 1998

As you well know, it is not my style to cast aspersions on any person or profession. I don’t resort to detraction, mock, invective, or vituperation. I avoid taking cheap shots at bureaucrats and politicians, and government at any level. I believe in the golden rule, so if I can’t say something nice about someone, I try to say something not too nasty.

I’ll admit that once in a while I point out, as gently as possible, blunders by governing bodies that are made, no doubt, because they work long hours under intense pressure. It also is my habit to chide, in a friendly manner, officials who have strayed from the fundamental principle that everything should be kept as simple as possible.

I see myself as a man burdened by the problems of parenting and grandparenting, barely able to take the time to look for wrongs and try to right them. But whatever I do, I do without rancor and in the spirit of making the world a better place. As anyone who knows me will tell you, there is not a bitter or hostile bone in my body.

Since all that is true beyond question, how does it happen that I suddenly find myself in the middle of a lawsuit?? Why is my name used in legal papers filed in the District Court of Shawnee County? (the honorable Richard M Smith, assigned.) Continue reading

The family Cushing: great neighbors and friends, no fences

(Editor’s Note: Marie Donnelly Cushing passed away peacefully this month at the age of 98. She and Dr. Vincent Cushing were married 73 years when Dr. Cushing passed in 2018. This is a tribute to the couple and their family, written for the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary.)

Congratulations from Barbara and Dick Snider

Barbara and I met Marie and Vin in 1961 when we moved to Maryland from Kansas. We rented a house on East Bexhill Drive, and our backyard was separated from the Cushing’s backyard only by a hedge. It took our four children only about an hour to discover the hedge, and the Cushing kids on the other side. Before the day was over, we met Marie and Vin.

We moved away in 1964, but returned a year later, and we were determined to buy a house in the neighborhood. Luckily, we found one on Old Spring Road just two blocks from the Cushings.

It took us — particularly me — some time to learn exactly how many children they had. It seemed to me that every time I was in their home, I would see a child I was sure I hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t until they had a family portrait taken in their living room and gave us a copy that I began to get them straightened out in my mind. The portrait is the only time I have ever seen them all together, sitting still.

We had some great times with the Cushings, and some perilous times, too. Continue reading

Cocktails and tales with Jack Dempsey

Topeka Capital-Journal
Jan. 10, 1959

It was at a cocktail party, and Jack Dempsey was sitting at a table, surrounded by a wide variety of boxing “fans.” Some, I am sure, we’re trying to remember when Dempsey was champion, if he ever was. They asked the questions he must have heard a million times.

“Could you have whipped Joe Lewis?”

“Did you dislike Tunney?”

“What was your toughest fight?”

“Were you ever scared?”

Dempsey said he was scared at least once, when he got into the ring with a huge Kansan named Jess Willard. Continue reading

One Man’s Kansas

Topeka Capital-Journal
Jan. 24, 1986.

Since Kansas Day is upon us again, since the state is 125 years old, and since it was many years ago that we offered our last review of Kansas history, it is time we went over it again and updated it where possible.

Needless to say, the Kansas native sons and daughters of, of whom I am not one, have not endorsed this account of the state’s history. But what do they know?

To begin at the beginning, Continue reading

Colliers, Brilliantine and Floyd: barbershop memories.

Topeka Capital-Journal
Nov. 3, 1986

One day recently I had a late-afternoon haircut and was the only customer in the place. I also was the only man in the place. My barber (barberess, beautician, hair stylist, coiffeuse, friseur, cosmetologist, clipper, cropper or whatever) was a woman.

Two or three more of the above were sitting around, waiting for the place to close. There also was a child – a little girl, naturally. I was at their mercy, but they didn’t take advantage of it. Maybe it was because the little girl was present.

Driving home, I thought about how times have changed. I remembered some of my first haircuts and the barbershop back in Britton, Okla., where I grew up. You don’t see anything like it these days. Continue reading