Ok. So. One day years ago I had lunch with Norman Lear at his vacation home in Vermont, formerly owned by Robert Frost, and then the famous abstract artist Kenneth Noland (look him up if you don't know his work). It's a beautiful place adjacent to a state forest. The photo here is Norman standing at one of the doors. We ate outside on the porch. Sunny. Perfect temperature of about 70 degrees, with a light breeze. I think we had sandwiches and various picnic salads fixed by his chef and staff. I could hardly focus on what I was eating. Because, hey, it was Norman Lear. Sitting two feet away from me. Maybe three. Creator of All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Sons, Good Times, Maude, and on and on, while also funding and producing movies like This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, and Fried Green Tomatoes. And in his spare time founding People for the American Way, among other organizations. I later had lunch with him at a Las Vegas hotel dining room, and later still at the Biltmore Hotel in Montecito, California. The food was always good, I think, but it's the talk I remember. And one day, walking through the kitchen in his Brentwood Hills LA home, The kitchen staff was cooking up something really great, but I had to be somewhere else. You know philosophy. Always something. Busy, busy.
But back to the vacation house. We had a nice little lunch party. Norman and me, along with the then Dean of the Harvard Divinity School and his wife, and Tom and Kate Chappell, married founders of Tom's of Maine, the eco friendly personal care products company. The six of us laughed a lot. I was pretty funny. Norman wasn't bad, either. I remember that Fed Ex pulled up with a package about every fifteen minutes, and he got a phone message about every five minutes, all of which he waved off until somebody important was "calling from the plane" and he had to absent himself for a few minutes. Hollywood.
After lunch, Norman invited me to take a walk with him, just the two of us, to talk. We ended up lying in the grass in his huge front yard and pondering life and creativity and the spirit. He said, "It took me a long time to realize the importance of ethics and spirituality in life, and that if you don't get these two things right, you'll not likely get anything else right." That was pretty profound, and deeply true. He also asked me if being creative ever made me romantically frisky. But he used other words. I said, "Hmm. I never thought about it, but I guess so. How about you, Norman?" He said, "All the time, Tom. All the time."
Ethics. Spirituality. Creativity. And other stuff.
I've got many more stories from that and other lunches, but I should sign off now. I'm feeling creative.