By E.M. Fredric
HOLLYWOOD, CA (The Hollywood Times) 05/30/19 – Larry King was honored with the American Spirit Award at the 13th Annual American Spirit Awards ceremony and Luncheon on May 29th by The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors at the Taglyan Complex in Los Angeles. Charley Steiner, LA Dodgers Radio Announcer, accepted on King’s behalf who recently underwent heart surgery and is on the mend. Archival footage and clips of his diverse and impressive broadcast career were screened. For the man who has interviewed more than 50,000 of the world’s biggest newsmakers and has been honored with so many prestigious awards in journalism and television – the 85-year-old iconic Peabody and Emmy-Award-winning broadcaster – retired from CNN in 2010 and created Ora TV, his digital network and production studio, where he continues his work on the Emmy-nominated “Larry King Now” and “PoliticKING with Larry King.” Larry’s suspenders were missed but never his enigmatic essence.
I was fortunate to have interviewed the energetic King in his Beverly Hills home in 2015 – where he gleefully directed me to his trophy room – a very sizable space filled with accolades and each came with a unique story. He showed no signs of slowing down and with King’s work ethic won’t – it’s hard to believe he ever will. He’s a force to meet. King showed humility when he revealed that his mother was on welfare – for several years after his father died when he was a young boy – but his pride shot through unapologetically when he stated that he was a big believer in America’s welfare system and the people it helps.
Other honorees included, Henry Winkler, whose career earned him this year’s Caucus Legend Award. Known as “The Fonz” from the series Happy Days, he continues to be in demand as an actor, producer and director after four decades in his successful Hollywood career. He currently co-stars in the HBO dark comedy, Barry. The Emmy Award and Golden Glober winner bounded onto the stage with enthusiasm and gratitude as he told stories of how his career began. He said, “As an actor I get to play in the sand and I’ve been able to play in the sand for a very long time. My first professional job was in June 30th 1970 where I was a member of the Yale Repertory Theatre – (he graduated with a BA from Emerson) – I got $173/week, my dream was starting.” Who knew it would take two letters of the alphabet to make him a worldwide sensation: “AYYYYY” as only Henry as greaser The Fonz would say.
Winkler was teased relentlessly by other kids growing up for being slow. His own father called him dumb but Henry knew that acting would help him – relatable and intelligent. After his agent pushed him to write about his learning disability in 2003 Henry has collaborated with Lin Oliver on a series of children’s books about a 4th grade boy, Hank Zipzer, who is dyslexic. Winkler also has the learning disability, which was not diagnosed until he was 31 and his stepson Jed, who was in the third grade, was tested; the dyslexia was an unhappy part of his childhood. Winkler has published 17 books about his hero Zipzer, the “world’s greatest underachiever” – Wiki. His tireless work with children with disabilities at times when it wasn’t popular to step forward and say, “I have a disability.” – is more than commendable. Winkler went on to thank everyone for acknowledging him and said he was extremely humbled by the award.
The Caucus is leading the evolution of television by providing a creative forum for producers, writers and directors to explore the issues of the ever-changing landscape of content and exhibition. For over 40 years, The Caucus has provided an opportunity for the best and the brightest talent to network and voice the ‘creative conscience’ of the Television Industry. The Caucus continues to stand for better and meaningful content across all platforms.
The Humanitarian Award went to Professor Hildreth (Hal) Walker and Dr. Bettye Walker. Hal Walker is the man that fired the Laser to the moon successfully during the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Dr. Bettye Walker is a pioneer of STEM education and outreach. Having served as a university professor and school principal, she launched the A-MAN, Inc. STEM Center in Los Angeles for Inner City Youth. Hal and Bettye also initiated STEM in South Africa at the request of President Nelson Mandela in 1977. Their awards were accepted by their daughter, Allison Walker and granddaughter, Raishauna Wheatly. As Allison was introduced it was said, “Saying that Dr. Walker’s STEM cell research was ahead of its time was like saying the moonwalk was just another journey.” Allison graciously spoke in her parents’ absence of their appreciativeness for being honored with such prestigious recognition.
The Caucus Distinguished Veteran Award went to Chase Millsap, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army Special Forces, filmmaker, and Chief Content Officer at We are the Mighty – a military and veteran focused media company. In his acceptance speech, Millsap proudly announced he and his wife are expecting a girl in the Fall after thanking the Caucus for his award. Uniformed men were in attendance as well to support the country’s military.
The Special Achievement in Educating New Filmmakers was presented to Cristina Kotz Cornejo, Professor and Associate Chair of Production in the Department of Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College, Boston. Cornejo started with, “Let’s hear it for Emerson College!” to resounding applause. She went on to speak about her love of the students, the value of education and especially the critical thinking they bring to their filmmaking in order to convey meaningful and powerful messages. Her passion for what she loves was deeply heard and felt.
In addition to its professional membership, The Caucus is proud of its non-profit work through The Caucus Foundation. Established in 2000 to help launch the careers of future entertainment professionals in film, television and emerging media; The Foundation provides completion grants to student thesis productions from accredited universities and colleges. To date The Caucus Foundation Grant Program has given over $1.8 million dollars in cash and in-kind awards.
Current members of The Caucus also include: Chuck Fries, JJ Abrams, Tom Hanks, Kevin Bright, James Burrows, Vin Di Bona, Dennis Doty, Jim Hirsch, Bob Papazian, Tanya Hart, Loreen Arbus, Charles Floyd Johnson, Norman Powell, Herman Rush, Sharon Arnett, Michele Nasraway, Gary Smith, and other leading producers, writers and directors. For additional information on:
The Caucus visit: www.caucus.org
Media: Edna Sims – ESP Public Relations