Show business is beyond notorious when it comes to slimy characters. Films like The Big Knife, All About Eve, or the more recent Mank are illustrative, and not altogether fictional. Despite all that, every now and then I reflect on the good guys in a business that has precious few.
Fess Parker always comes close to the top of any list I might conjure. Aaron Rosenberg is up there for me as is Oscar winner Nathan “Jerry” Juran, along with Cagney & Lacey’s Al Waxman, Sidney Clute, and Dick Rosenbloom. Tony Hope and Bill Allen are right up there as well. They both had to earn their good guy stripes despite having very famous fathers. Among the many Network chiefs I have known, only Jeff Sagansky and Harvey Shephard gained entry to this exclusive club.
None of the above were as successful as some of the best known in the business, but on any list of people in this life (or the next) you would want to lunch with, or trust in… “Trust me”… unless you are writing a tell all book with plenty of sleaze, you could not do better than to choose Mr. Parker or any one of the aforementioned.
All this is by way of remembering one of the “bestest” good guys of them all: Ed Asner.
Ed came into my life with a bit of a sneer, since it had been his belief for some time that it was Cagney & Lacey that was responsible for knocking Lou Grant off the air. That wasn’t strictly true, but Ed believed it nonetheless. His “proof” was that we did, in fact, replace his beloved show on the CBS Network.
The sneer did not last long and several years later, Ed came to work for me on The Trials of Rosie O’Neill. He did his usual great job without a ripple. It is something special…easily worthy of comment…when an actor merits such an accolade. The entire process of performing is so personal, so revealing, that it is truly remarkable (not to mention unusual) when a star of Ed Asner’s magnitude repeatedly proves to be an absolute pleasure to work with and to be around.
I was fortunate to see Ed quite a bit post Rosie: on Broadway, then as he toured the U.S. for some radio plays with my wife, then at some celebrations of his work… or his life… or his politics. They all blurred together but he was always the same good guy. Always strong in his beliefs, and always ready to give you his knowing smile of approval… provided you earned it.
If there is a heaven, Ed has earned a special place there. As I said… one of the very few good guys. And I was one of the lucky ones honored to know him.
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Ed Asner made every character he played authentic. He will be greatly missed by those who knew him personally, those who admired him professionally, and those who got pleasure watching him perform. Dena Stewart, an Ed Asner “fan”.