Thursday, November 11, 2010

Circles of Influence

Had lunch with Dwight Case yesterday. 

We met at one of those fabulous intimate, classy joints along Ventura Blvd. -- this one in Studio City -- on a perfect, sunny and mild Southern California autumn day.

Dwight knows everybody in the place, of course, including the owner, with whom he has established a warm relationship fostered over nearly 40 years of business/social events. 

I arrived first and was sipping a Heineken at the bar when I spotted Dwight through the window handing his keys to the valet. He came through the door and was greeted like Dolly Levi strutting through the entrance to Harmonia Gardens.

I gave him a bear hug and we were swept to our table by a doting proprietor and his staff, fairly singing the signature to Dwight's return and my unquestioned VIP status for merely being in his company.

We spent two hours over wine and one of the best lunches of my life. (Place is called The Wine Bistro, on Ventura just east of Laurel Canyon.) And while we shared a fair amount of warm, laughing reminiscence it wasn't one of those maudlin affairs where old men gather to bitch about the changing world. We talked a lot about the current state of media but Dwight, as always, has his sights firmly fixed on potential and possibilities and "what ifs?"

He walks slower now, though bears no cane. He wears a windbreaker on a warm day. 

Dwight Case at KROY 40+ years ago

But he'll still have three drinks with you and give you more great ideas in two hours than you've heard or dreamed up by yourself in two years. Now, for example, he is studying what type of music will soothe the nerves of dogs in the waiting room of a veterinary hospital. There's money to be made there, I kid you not.

We talked briefly about my situation. He knows I am out of work, flat broke and can scarcely afford the gas money to drive the 30+ miles to meet him.

Nevertheless, he suggested we split the check, and we did.

For those of you who don't know him, let me just explain that Dwight understands every nuance, consideration and emotion going through everybody else's mind, or so it has always seemed to me. By suggesting we split the check he wasn't being stingy, he was cutting away the uncomfortable pride and insistence dance that always comes delivered by a guy in a stained black jacket and bow tie.

He was also showing me the respect I have proudly earned over forty years of being his student and admirer. He has rewarded me for achieving a degree of equality.

It's not at all unlike a boy growing to become a man in his father's eyes.

And, you know what's really cool?

I have a couple of proteges who feel the same way about me.