Remembering My Mother, Elinor Hager, 1939-2013

 

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My mother, Elinor Hager, on the set of Adam at 6 A.M. in 1969, one of her earliest screenwriting credits

My mother, Elinor Hager, passed away on October 21, 2013. A screenwriter for nearly 30 years, she was my teacher in communication, creativity and critical thinking. She always told me how proud she was of my teaching career. Everything I am and aspire to be comes from her.

Proverbs 6:20 (NIV)

My son, keep your fathers command and do not forsake your mothers teaching.

I study under my Heavenly Father, working to uphold his commandments. And I studied under my mother, Elinor Hager. I will never forsake her teaching.

Life with Mom was an education, an eccentric, delightful state of constant learning. No subject was off limits. No person or situation was insulated from her outrageous humor. Mom consumed the raw material of the world around her, fueling the imagination that generated a livelihood for her family, an identify for herself, a legacy for all of us who remember her.

My mother’s teaching…

As her eldest child, I became her apprentice. Mom’s love of science fiction became mine as we watched first-run episodes of Star Trek. I acquired her taste in music when she excitedly returned from the record store in 1967 and sat us down hear to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Her respect for history and human events became clear when she woke me late one June night, led me to the television, and told me Bobby Kennedy had been shot. I needed to see. I needed to listen. I needed to learn. And I did, with Mom at my side.

My mother’s teaching…

As I sought my own voice as a writer and musician, I sought her counsel and approval. The critiques were pure if sometimes painful. Mom said that she cared for me too much to lie. The lessons and the love were just as pure.

The apprentice became a partner in screenwriting. It was the era of electric typewriters and stove-top popcorn. I contributed an action scene here, a plot twist there. Eventually I moved to the higher levels of character development, longterm story arcs and dialog.

My mother’s teaching…

To me, everything is a script. It is the framework Mom used to think, to write, to entertain, to achieve. It has been my guiding premise, the approach I take in everything I create today from a press release to a syllabus. I ask myself: Do we have authentic dialog? Will people believe in what I’m saying? Will they come back for more?

That’s why Mom’s passing is so hard. It constitutes lousy screenwriting by my standards–poorly structured, poorly timed, no dramatic farewell. But it’s not up to me. The Lord called my mother home is His good way and His good time. Fade out.

FADE IN:

AERIAL VIEW: HOLLYWOOD HILLS

Clouds part as we glide over the Hollywood Hills. PAN myriad houses clinging to the slopes until one small, perfect split-level home fills the screen.

POV: FRONT STEPS

The camera’s view ascends the stairway leading to the split-level. Someone is coming home.

INT. SPLIT-LEVEL HOME

JESUS CHRIST AND ELINOR HAGER

Jesus opens the front door and ushers Ellie inside.

TRACKING SHOT, HOME INTERIOR

The shag rug is deep. Captain Kirk issues commands from the console TV. A crowd murmurs and an orchestra tunes up before the Lonely Hearts Club Band begins its fanfare. 

RETURN TO JESUS AND ELINOR

Ellie gives her special, knowing laugh, reserved for the rare moments when someone has actually figured her out. Jesus leads her to the dining room table. 

CLOSER SHOT: TABLE

A Smith Corona thrums against the wooden tabletop. Eternal stocks of Jiffy-Pop popcorn and Eaton’s Corrasable Bond typing paper wait by the machine. Ellie takes her seat and launches into her next story. She looks back at the front door and smiles. 

JESUS AND SON AT FRONT DOOR

Jesus ushers in a newcomer, the son, just a boy in bangs and bellbottoms. Jesus steps away as the son runs toward his mother. 

                             SON

                    Mom, I didn’t get to say goodbye.

                             ELINOR

                    Say hello instead.

The son hugs his mother.

                             ELINOR

                    Get the door.

The son reopens the door for the children, grandchildren and loved ones coming to see Ellie, to hear the stories and learn the lessons, all per the script.

                                               FADE TO BLACK:

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Voice of America, Voice of Russia

The New York Times presents Russia’s “New Theory of War” centering on information. News bureaus RT and Sputnik advance the Kremlin’s agenda and support viewpoints of both the extreme right and left around the world with the identified purpose of undermining the opinions and authority of moderates. Adding to these overt outlets, Russia makes heavy use of Internet “trolls” and proxies to advance fake news and other content supporting strategies of disinformation and destabilization of leadership considered hostile to the Putin regime.

In 2004, I wrote an article for AdWeek about the need for a Department of Communications, establishing a cabinet-level presence to centralize and intensify America’s communication efforts. Some may argue that such a department could become a propaganda machine at odds with independent media. One thing is clear: Russia is waging an information war and they are winning.

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The Atomic Press Release

August 6 marks the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Official announcement came through a press release issued by President Harry Truman:

Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T.N.T. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British “Grand Slam” which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.

The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet. With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present form these bombs are now in production and even more powerful forms are in development.

It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East…

Arthur W. Page, a legendary figure in public relations, wrote the release. Son of the co-founder of the Doubleday, Page & Co. publishing house, Mr. Page served as AT&T’s VP of Public Relations. During World War II, he oversaw the Joint Army and Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation and was responsible for numerous communications and morale programs.

Noel L. Griese is the author of a definitive biography on Mr. Page. According to his account, Secretary of War Henry Stimson summoned Mr. Page to full-time duty in April 1945 and briefed him soon after on the Manhattan Project. The Trinity test blast would take place in the desert of Alamogordo, NM, on July 16. Mr. Page was asked to write the release that ultimately would be read to reporters at the White House on the day of the Hiroshima bombing while President Truman was at sea returning from the Potsdam Conference.

Arthur W. Page is credited with writing the most momentous press release in history. Whereas the 1969 moon landing–the 20th century’s other signature event–was beamed live to television audiences, Page’s release alone was the public’s introduction to the atomic age. It is likely the last time a sheaf of paper would change the world.

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