THANK YOU, JUNE FORAY

If I hadn’t met June Foray there would have been no Search and Rescue Team project of the animation society. And, if there had been no Search and Rescue Team there would be no S/R Laboratories today. Here’s how it happened.

I was the radio/TV/film producer for the American Heart Association from 1976 until three months before the 1984 Olympics. Heart relied on a strong volunteer base to help accomplish its mission of saving lives. Part of that effort was teaching CPR to anybody and everybody who wanted to learn it. June Foray, one of Heart’s valuable volunteers, had taken and passed the CPR class.

IT WAS A CRAZY IDEA

It was part of my job to come up with ideas to further Heart’s programs. That year, inspired by the “Emergency,” one of the popular fire rescue shows on TV at the time, we decided we would stage a simulated heart attack emergency at the upcoming annual 1976-77 Volunteer Awards Luncheon. A VIP would come to the podium and feign a heart attack. Sirens would go off, red emergency lights would flash, and two fire department paramedics would miraculously appear and revive the speaker, who would get up restored and resume the program. It was intended to be dramatic, memorable, and underscore the importance of CPR, but it was a crazy idea. What were we thinking? The stricken VIP was to be, John C. Argue, the attorney who was instrumental in bringing the 1984 Olympic games to Los Angeles. He too was a volunteer. And, yes it was his real name and, yes, it always got comments.

HE FELL OVER PERFECTLY

I went to John’s offices a time or two to rehearse his heart emergency. He was enjoying the part he was to play and was practicing in earnest. His secretary said he was falling off his chair quite nicely several times a day.

On the day of the event, we all were at the grand ballroom of the Los Angeles Bonaventure Hotel early and everything was in order. The siren sound effects were appropriately loud, the red emergency lights were installed at just the right angle, the podium had been padded so that John wouldn’t injure himself in the fake fall, and the paramedics, who were quite real, were ready to react. It was a genuine Hollywood-style show, staged to perfection. But to June Foray it would be all too real.

“I COULDN’T SAVE HIM!” SHE CRIED

Once the event was smoothly underway, no one needed me, and I’d seen John fall so many times that I knew he would do fine. So, I stepped out into the foyer of the ballroom to have a cigarette and a glass of water.

The drama proceeded as planned. On cue, John clutched his chest and dropped to the floor. The lights dimmed, red light filled the slits in the door, and the sirens went off. The audience gasped.

I was standing just outside the doors when they suddenly swung open and a small woman ran out in near hysteria. She was crying uncontrollably, couldn’t catch her breath, and was frantic to leave the ballroom. It was June, though I didn’t know her at the time. She ran right into me. I asked if I could help her. She looked up, fell against my shoulder, and sobbed. “I couldn’t save him!” she cried. “I did CPR until they came, but they told me he died instantly. He died in my arms.” What I didn’t know then was that June’s husband, Hobart “Hobe” Donovan, had died in her arms only a few months before. The shock of the “show” was too much, too close. She finished my water and thanked me for rescuing her.

Of course, I had done nothing of the kind. I reacted in the moment as she had and was glad I had been there at the right moment.

When she had somewhat collected herself, she asked me, “Do you work for Heart?” I said I did. She then introduced herself, saying she was a volunteer. Hearing her name, I instantly knew who she was and tried to think of something to say that she could relate to. “I’m working with Frank and Caroline Morris to create an animation of the Heart logo,” I told her. The Morrises were Oscar-winning animators whom June knew well. She lit up. “Well, then,” she said, “you simply must come to the animation society meeting.” I said I would look forward to doing that some day.

“Oh no,” she said. “It’s next Wednesday and you must be there.” She gave me the time and location. By this time luncheon was being served and I suggested she rejoin her table. I assured her there would be no more emergency re-enactments.

COMMAND PERFORMANCE . . . SORT OF

When my boss, Carol Waters, heard of my encounter with June she told me I had an obligation to go to the meeting. People volunteer at Heart and Heart people should volunteer elsewhere, was how she put it. I had no choice.

When Wednesday came I dutifully went to the meeting. I knew nothing about the animation society, but I learned quickly. The board of directors was a who’s who in the animation industry. Along with June and many other well-known people was her partner in the famous Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Bill “Bullwinkle” Scott, who was to become an important figure in my future, and whom I will write about another time.

Cutting to the chase, when the meeting ended I thanked everyone for making me feel welcome. At the door Bill Scott turned to me and said enigmatically, “We’ll see you soon. You’ll be back next month.” Confused, I asked what he meant. “Why not? You’re on the board,” he said, smiling. When I said, “Isn’t there supposed to be an election or something?” he said he thought I would be a great asset and asked for agreement from the rest of the board members as they were collecting their things. “Well, there you go. Everyone voted. You’re in. Welcome to the animation society”.

And that is how it really happened; First the Search and Rescue Team project and later S/R Laboratories. Oh, there were a few details along the way I skipped over, but you’ll have to wait for them another time. What I wanted you to know is that it has all been because of June Foray, a valiant little lady.

Thanks, June. We’ll keep up the good work. Promise.

 

P.S. Yes, I did quite smoking. No, it wasn’t easy but I did it.