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Celebrity Slam - Remembering Ed Asner

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I’m as susceptible to sentimentality as anyone.

Sure, the vast majority of what happens in this space is scornful cynicism. Mockery and derision abound. And don’t get me wrong, there’s something deeply satisfying of poking fun at the various missteps and misdeeds of the rich and famous. Most weeks, that’s exactly what we do.

Hell, last week there was enough material for multiple Slams courtesy of Kanye alone.

However, sometimes, it’s important to recognize the truly great humans in the Hollywood sphere – particularly when the time comes for us to bid them a fond farewell.

The great Ed Asner passed away recently at the age of 91. And when I say “great,” I don’t mean as an actor – although he definitely was. I mean as a human being; all one has to do is look at the outpouring of affection that followed in the wake of his passing, story after story after story of Asner generally being a good dude.

And let’s be real – there aren’t enough good dudes in the world.

This is a guy who worked his tail off at his craft, always striving to get better even long after he had achieved what many would consider a pinnacle-type level of success. Ed Asner won seven Emmys – five of them for playing the character of gruff, grizzled newsman Lou Grant. Three of those were supporting actor nods for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (a comedy) and two were lead actor wins for the eponymous “Lou Grant” (a drama).

Think about that. This is someone who managed to win multiple Emmys (back when that really meant something) playing the same character in both a comedic and dramatic setting. The sheer talent involved in something like that – staggering.

His career would extend decades beyond Lou Grant – younger audiences likely remember him best as the voice of Carl in Pixar’s beautiful and heartbreaking masterpiece “Up.” He did television and movies and plenty of stage work, all of it focused solely on doing the best work possible, no matter the gig.

And yet … ask anyone who ever encountered Ed Asner in the wild about him and you’ll learn who he REALLY was.

Ed (and yes, I’m going to call him Ed from here on out) turned up in our area a couple of times in recent years. He brought his delightful one-man show “A Man and His Prostate” to Husson University’s Gracie Theatre a couple of years back, making time to appear on Danny Cashman’s “The Nite Show” while he was there.

Now, I didn’t have the chance to see him when he was in Bangor, but it wasn’t long after that that I was presented with a very different – and very exciting – opportunity.

Ed also toured a show titled “God Only Knows,” wherein he played, well … God. But the deal with that show was that the production often pulled in a pair of local performers in each town and city in which the show ran to play the other two roles. So Rich Kimball made arrangements with Ed to produce “God Only Knows” at the Brewer Performing Arts Center – and I would play one of the parts.

I was going to be onstage with Ed Asner! I was going to play opposite a legend! I had the script in hand and was already starting to work my way through it. I couldn’t wait for the show to open … in April of 2020.

Obviously, the production was a no-go, but even then, it was easy to see why everyone who ever worked with him thought the world of Ed. Turns out that he and his people stayed in contact, wanting to give everyone involved a chance to make it happen.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

There are a million stories out there – all you have to do is take a quick peek at social media to see a tale of how impossibly wonderful a human being Ed was. He was a consummate professional and a passionate believer in justice – what an experience it would have been to share the stage with him.

To know Ed Asner was to love him. Even those people around here who were only briefly touched by his warmth and passion carry that experience with them still today. That says a lot about a person.

RIP Ed. You had spunk. I love spunk.

Last modified on Wednesday, 01 September 2021 08:07

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