The End of Camelot

Complicating his often vague instructions, Oesterreicher also liked to surprise people, keeping things a little off balance. He achieved this often by accident as well. Occasionally, his grammar would lapse, or he would startle people with some curious misunderstanding or lack of knowledge.

For example, the chairman was going to speak at the Greater Lansing Chamber of Commerce and wanted to engage his audience with some reminiscences about Michigan State and the downtown Lansing Penney store. I was doing the speech and during the input session, he mentioned "Not believing my ears" when, driving across campus, his car radio program was interrupted with the news of President Kennedy's assassination. "That's it," I said.

"What?" asked the chairman.

"The way to build to the theme. After Kennedy, things were not as pleasant anymore. Things happened faster, were more cynical ."


We agreed (I thought) to base the speech on the age of accelerating change that began after the national tragedy. I then completed a draft, [3] tentatively titling the speech "The End of Camelot." But when Oesterreicher saw the work, he X'd out the title and the reference to "Camelot" in the text, which had been the heart of the build. Later, I reacted with dismay in a meeting with Kris Carlson, the chairman's able adjutant. Here was the passage:

It was suddenly, unthinkably, a nation in transition. As the President's body lay in state in the Capitol rotunda everyone on the State campus was reeling from a sense of great loss. It was the end of an age of innocence, the end of a time of grace. It was the end of Camelot.

Oesterreicher had slashed the last two sentences.

"Kris, that's good stuff," I pleaded.

"I know it, I agree."

"Then why the hell did he kill it?"

Carlson was loyal and conscientious but was burdened by the missing pages in her boss's onboard encyclopedia. She replied uneasily, "Because he didn't know what Camelot meant ."

"He what ?"

"I know. But he didn't. I explained, but he was still uncomfortable with it."

" Camelot? " I blurted. But it was true. The chairman had never heard of the myth, or the musical, or the name for the Kennedy years . And that was the end of Camelot.

[3] The first of many to come. Oesterreicher always kept changing or adding things with every draft, making coherent and structured presentations impossible .

Celebration of Fools. An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
Celebration of Fools: An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
ISBN: 0814471595
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 177
Authors: Bill Hare © 2008-2017.
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