Teddy graduates from Willamette with an BA in Chinese and BS in Environmental Engineering
At her eightieth birthday celebration, in 2001, at KC’s Leawood-South Country Club, the entire family gathered to celebrate my mother’s endless good spirits and hospitality. Dancing and telling jokes and winking, she reigned over the event like the dowager empress she’d become, wearing her signature red dress. and looking for all the world like Betty White on a good day.
My mother was a force larger than life.
Oddly enough, I met Betty White because of Mom.
An aspiring novelist and former Mormon bishop named James Michael Pratt sent me a copy of his self-published book, The Last Valentine. I read the description on the back cover and thought it was maybe too romantic even for “Mr. Romance,” as I’d been dubbed during my years in Montreal producing Shades of Love.
But the concept nagged at me, so I sent the book to Mom and asked her to read it.
She called me two days later.
“You must get involved in this book,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”
I asked her for details. Her response was sketchy—she was already becoming forgetful, especially of things she’d read, which is why I’d learned to return her call the minute she reached out to me after a read. But it was clear emotionally: Mom didn’t use must loosely. This was beyond should!
Long story short, I did get involved. My Writers Lifeline company helped Jim perfect the story and my management company sold it, at auction, for a bunch of money to St. Martin’s Press. It became a New York Times bestseller, and led to four or five further bestselling books for Jim.
At one point in his book tour, we converged in KC where Jim was being hosted by Barnes and Noble—and he insisted on meeting Mom. “She’s the one who got this book published,” he said. I certainly wasn’t going to argue with that.
You’d think a New York Times bestseller would have an easy route to the screen. But I knew one lesson by heart: nothing is easy in Hollywood. It took over ten years before Valentine was picked up by Hallmark Hall of Fame. Their president, meeting me over breakfast at the Alameda Plaza overlooking KC’s Country Club Plaza, brought up a ticklish subject. “You know this company will never call a movie ‘The Last Valentine,’” he told me—then tipped his orange juice in a toast.
I laughed, at what I thought was a joke. But it wasn’t. The movie was retitled, “The Lost Valentine,” and starred Jennifer Love Hewitt and Betty.
It was one thing to meet the voluptuous Jennifer Love Hewitt—“Don’t avoid these,” she scolded our Director of Photography, having checked the replay of a wedding moment where the camera discreetly hovered above her cleavage line, “I built my career on these beauties.” Unleashing the camera, they did a more revealing take.
But it was meeting Betty White on the set in Atlanta that truly thrilled me, for two reasons. In her red dress, white hair, and feisty countenance, she looked exactly like Mom. And I was given the chance to tell Betty the story of how my mother had gotten this book published and this movie made.
“At the prompting of a marketing friend, I was advised to title this book, My Intensely Madcap, Lebanese/Cajun, Jesuit-Schizoid, Terminally Narcissistic, Food-Focused, East Coast/West Coast, Georgetown/Yale, Career-Changing, Cross-Dressing, Runaway Catholic Italophile, Paradoxically Dramatic, Linguistically Neurotic, Hollywood Academic, ADD-Overcompensating, Niche-Abhorring, Jocoserious Obit. But when my designer pointed out that title wouldn’t fit on the spine, much less on any public display list, I changed my mind. Again! The story of my life.
If you ran into Ed in his last four years wearing a bright purple polo shirt, chances are it was mine. He almost took it right off me at the first of our several lunches on Ventura Boulevard. I resisted, but went to the internet and ordered three identical ones for him. He called me to say thanks and to invite me to the next lunch. We had in common that we were from Kansas City, that we were both liberals (though he went closer to the wall on that score than I did, and that we both admired the longevity of his irascible humor. It was a pleasure getting to know him personally and I’m sorry to see him go before we could get him into one of our films. Ed, you rocked!
Good afternoon, Members of the Committee. I’m Vincent Atchity, President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado. Mental Health Colorado is a non-profit organization working to achieve healthier minds across the lifespan for all Coloradans. Since 1953, we have represented consumer interests in our efforts to promote well-being, increase access to quality care and services, and end the shame and discrimination persistently associated with mental health and substance use conditions.
Mental Health Colorado fully supports HB21-1258 and a Rapid Mental Health Response for Colorado Youth. We know that early intervention is highly effective in promoting good health outcomes.
Many children are facing the steepest climb of their lives as we try as a state to come up out of this. They will not all be able to thrive with their peers who’ve experienced greater fortune if we do not act now, with all our intelligence and love, to bring every player on our team along.
Some children have done better than others during prolonged periods of remote education. Some children have had the support and encouragement of stably employed parents who were able to work from homes where a productive routine could be maintained. Some have benefited from teachers who excelled at adapting to remote learning.
But those who have managed to thrive through all of this are not enough. Just some of Colorado’s children…is not enough.
Right now is the time to focus our intelligent efforts and resources on identifying the young people who are facing the hardest challenges. We know who many of them are already. And we definitely know what they have experienced since March of 2020. While many of our children have mercifully been spared the worst of the pandemic, there are brave and heroic Colorado children whose parents became unemployed due to the economic shutdown. There are heroic Colorado children who have lost the support of family financial stability, who have lost their homes. And there are heroic Colorado children who have lost the lives of their parents and grandparents, and their aunts and uncles. The brave and heroic children of Colorado need the support of their big team as they face the challenges of the months ahead.
We Coloradans pride ourselves on our wealth and resources, on our intelligence.Colorado should not have to rank in the bottom third of the nation for mental health needs versus access to care.
Most of us have children in our lives. As we implement this, we will be able to make it known to them that we are vigilant for their well-being, that we need them to be well, and that we, as a state, are investing in them with urgency.
We are grateful to the bipartisan bill sponsors, Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D) and Kevin Van Winkle (R), and Senators Janet Buckner (D) and Rob Woodward (R) for recognizing that now is the time and for issuing this call to action. And we are grateful to the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health for expediting a plan for implementing this statewide crisis intervention for Colorado’s children. And we will celebrate the brigade of professional care providers who will step into this next breach in our pandemic defense effort for the sake of our children, and dedicate the extra hours in the day it may take to ensure that we are properly safeguarding the most valuable and essential assets we have as a community of humans.
Thank you for your support of this bill and of a strong recovery for all Colorado’s children.