A Tribute To Roger King
1944 - 2007
July 30, 2008
Basically, I was just another lawyer doing litigation . . . and hating every minute of it. So one day I decided to become an entertainment lawyer. How did I do that? It was easy. I printed up new business cards that said "Entertainment Lawyer" and then started telling everyone that I was doing entertainment law. Pretty brilliant!
Then in the late 1990's I was in Las Vegas attending the NATPE Convention with my friend and partner Mike Pinera of Iron Butterfly. Mike had compiled a library of over 5000 hours of old vintage film footage of classic rock bands. He had this idea to form a classic rock network. Mike was a childhood friend of Roger King, president and CEO of King World Productions. He was sure that he could get us an audience with Roger at the King World booth. Admittedly, I figured it was a long shot. But we went to the King World station and after a lot of waiting and some careful maneuvering, we actually got in to see Roger King. We pitched him the idea. And to my utter shock, he liked the idea! Roger stuck his long arm out across the table and shook our hands.
Two weeks later Mike and I had offices at King World/CBS Los Angeles. We worked on launching the show for over a year. Mike's duties with his band took him away on the road most of the time playing tour dates across the country which basically left me alone at King World. The only real problem was... I had no idea what I was doing. I was constantly calling Roger asking him one question after another. But you know what? Roger seemed to be okay with my learning process. You see, unbeknownst to me, at the time Roger met me, he knew I didn't know what I was doing. And he was all right with that. The one thing that I did do right was NOT pretend that I was a hot shot producer who knew everything. What happened over that year was I learned how Roger liked to operate. I was slowly learning his process. You see the process was the craft.
As it turned out the classic rock network never launched for reasons beyond anyone's control. But something else did happen. I had found a new friend and mentor.
You have to understand that getting a guy like Roger King to take your phone call was a feat in and of itself. Not only would Roger take my calls, but he actually seemed happy to hear from me! I remember after I left King World about six months had gone by and I hadn't spoken to Roger since I left. When I finally called him to pitch him another idea, I honestly thought he had me confused with another guy named Steve who must have had a voice similar to mine. But he continued to take my calls. He'd always listen to my ideas. And if he didn't think the idea was a good fit for King World, he would tell me why and try to offer me some encouragement. It didn't matter if it was a well thought out, solid idea or something stupid that I came up with 20 minutes before I called him. And believe me I pitched him some pretty stupid ideas: "Hey Roger! How about a realty game show called Divorce Wars hosted by Joey Buttafuco and Amy Fisher?" Then there'd always be this long silence followed by the proverbial, "Steve . . ." It got to the point where Roger had become my sounding board. Even if I had an idea that I was planning on pitching to another network, I would always run it by Roger for his input. Needless to say, Roger made me look good; he was my friend. I had let my boundary down and allowed someone in this often cold industry to see my weaknesses, and was accepted. And his acceptance empowered me.
Roger is gone now. I no longer have his guidance, I no longer have his friendship, and I miss him dearly. He taught me that it was okay to just be myself, and I thank him for that. Roger King was truly a special person. I will never forget him.