Thursday, October 27, 2011

Daniel Burke - Rest in Peace

Even though I was a relatively (well, when I started I was a total inconsequential cog) inconsequential cog in the wheel at ABC, I had the good fortune to have a couple of brief encounters with the "big guys" of Cap Cities/ABC (Dan Burke and Tom Murphy). One of them has died at the age of 82. Dan Burke was a sophisticated, elegant and downright regal gentleman. I was honored that he knew of my existence, but there were a few moments in those years I was downright humbled to have him engage in conversation with me. Don't ask me why I would be humbled, but I was rarely impressed and he was an impressive man.

I have three vivid and memorable moments of sharing in ever so brief "chats" with Mr. Burke. We discussed books during two of those short chats and baseball in the third. I've been a voracious reader all of my life and I am being completely honest when I say that the greatest moment in my life, outside of personal moments, was the night the Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005.

It's interesting to reflect upon your own thoughts and memories of people you encountered along the path of life. I had no direct business dealings with these men of significant power at the company, but as peripheral as they are in the pages of my own life (and I was beyond peripheral in their lives - I am quite sure neither Burke or Murphy would ever remember me beyond those moments)I have intensely fond and warm thoughts of both of them.

I didn't even know Mr. Burke had passed until late this afternoon. I was attending a conference for most of the day and I saw nor heard one item of news. I was sharing a late lunch/early dinner with a fellow former ABCer and he informed me of the death. I suddenly was transported to a significantly younger version of me and thinking of the innocence of my early stages at ABC.

I encountered Mr. Burke's brother while serving as hostess for a charitable event at the company and he was determined to fix me up with a family member. I had one date with a Burke relative and it was a dud. I was so not his type and he was so not my type that near the end of an intensely awkward lunch I looked at him and laughed. I literally laughed out loud. He then looked at me and laughed right back. We both knew what the other one was thinking. Open and honest. I went back to work and never thought of him again. Of course, had it worked I would be retired and donating my waking hours to volunteering at the local animal shelter!!! Well, I did think of him today, but he only popped into my head because I thought of Dan Burke. I wouldn't recognize the one-time date in a crowd of one, but I have Mr. Burke's face embedded in the pathways of a long ago line of memory.

When I returned home tonight I read two bios on his death (while watching the Rangers and the Cardinals in Game 6 of the World Series) and the official obituary bios are cold and faceless.

He was a man with a dignified air and I trust a tremendous amount of integrity. Clearly, he had superb business skills, but more importantly, he led a full and respectable life. I always remember the 1994 Northridge quake and how Murphy and Burke authorized financial assistance to some employees who had been burdened down by the quake. It's a long story, but I remember thinking they were thoughtful and giving people.

Since I'm watching a baseball game I'll end on a change-up - Mr. Murphy borrowed my copy of "No Ordinary Time" and he never returned it. He's a multimillionaire and that is one of my favorite books of all time. I liked Mr. Murphy a great deal. I sat next to him at a Lakers game one night many, many years ago. I reminded him about the book. I still never got it back, but I did receive a note of thanks when I sat him next to Angie Dickinson at a dinner honoring another ABC exec back in November of '95. I was told by another ABC exec that she was a "great broad" and that's a quote. I most likely wouldn't have let anyone call someone a great broad (well, maybe I'd let Sinatra say it) without a disapproving look on my face, but this man was old enough to be my dad and in many ways he was like a dad, so I figured if Angie were a great broad she'd be an intriguing person to sit next to at a boring fundraiser (even though Bruce Hornsby played "The Valley Road" that night).

In a nutshell, these two men always seemed to be decent and loyal people.

Mr. Daniel Burke. I do indeed hope you will rest in peace.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Judith, I'm so pleased that you wrote this lovely tribute to Dan Burke. I thought we should do something, but didn't know what, but this is perfect.

My only connection with Mr. Burke is through his son Bill; I worked with him at Turner in various capacities and he was one of the smartest, nicest, funniest, and kindest people I've ever worked with. Clearly it ran in the family. What a heartfelt tribute and also a look back at a time when great men ran the TV networks, grown-ups with a sense of purpose and integrity that surely is often missing these days.

Wonderful, Judith, just wonderful...