My life changed when I met Peter Samuelson.
I had been married for only a few years when I first met Peter. He was a famous producer, and I was the son of an MGM dilettante who was itching to rub elbows. The non-profit that he founded, The Starlight Foundation, granted wishes for critically and terminally ill children. I was brought on to design a coloring book, and I got to hobnob with famous people while introducing my wife Nuala to guys like John James from The Colby's. Those were great days, and my admiration for Peter Samuelson, the guy who started it all, knew no bounds. To Peter, I was just some volunteer - but I 'got it'. They were marshaling a passion to help those less fortunate and changing the world. Certainly, the worlds of the children, their parents and families, the caregivers, and those in their orbit who were in on the assistance.
Many years later, I remembered Peter when we were desperate to find a solution to the impending closure of the Motion Picture Home. The elderly were literally being thrown to the dogs, and I was involved in a fight for not only their lives, but for the future of long term care. We had to give the elderly a voice. We had to communicate their needs to an indifferent and apathetic public, and we had to convince the multi-millionaire, A-list entertainment honchos, that our cause was a righteous one.
Now where did I put Peter's number?
I remember that meeting. Re-connecting with Peter in his home office was not unlike the scene in Quiz Show where John Turturrow fervently pitches his idea for a panel show to the NBC executive. Only this time, the executive was listening. Peter furrowed his brow, considering the impact of the situation, and thought for a moment. "You know..." he started, "I produced a film that we shot at The Motion Picture Home, called "Man In The Chair". Do you want it?" That question was rhetorical in every sense of the word. Peter not only put us in touch with the director, Michael Schroeder, but he helped to arrange an awareness screening for the industry, design a follow-through campaign, and pretty much hold our collective hands while we worked to win a decisive decision that kept the doors of The Motion Picture Home's Long Term Care unit open.
Giving someone the use of their movie is like loaning out a child, or giving someone the keys to their house, or writing your name into their will. To Peter, our cause was just and that's all he needed.
I've come to Peter many times since then to enlist his aid, his contacts, his Rolodex, his wisdom and wit - and in doing so got used to the feeling of winning. Peter Samuelson is one of my favorite people on the planet. When it came time to part ways with a non-profit that had more to do with promoting music than fighting anti-Semitism, Peter was my divorce attorney. When it came time to articulate my passion for connecting cultures, Peter clarified my voice. When it came time for me to legitimize our efforts via the resources afforded a proper non-profit, Peter made sure I didn't look like a schmuck.
My mentor, my rabbi, my friend. I love Peter Samuelson very much. He has changed the world for foster children, sick children, and me. God bless you my friend.
Please listen to Peter talk about Man/Kind and why we exist in the video at the top of this page. Nobody has articulated it better.