Sometimes we take a personal privilege prerogative, here, and note the passing of dear friends. One such friend is Bud Greenspan who became a steady friend of Alaska and this writer as our Anchorage Organizing Committee fought to become a venue for the Winter Olympics twenty years ago. Rick Mystrom (NGP Photo-r), Anchorage’s former Mayor, and advertising executive Rick Nerland led Anchorage’s effort. I served on the AOC Board and was the volunteer ‘Television Commissioner’. My role was to develop relationships with the potential network sponsors of Anchorage’s effort. All along the way, Bud gave gentle, valuable and consistent counsel and support. He and his dear associate, Nancy Beffa, were also great fun to be around. Aside from being pleasant, they were both so committed to documenting the Olympic Spirit that one always felt blessed to be in their presence, whether it was a coffee shop in Luzon, a laundrymat in Calgary or in their busy New York office, crowded and filled as it always was with films, magazines, books and correspondence. Once, when I had the honor of serving as interim publisher of Alaska Business Monthly, Bud agreed to write and editorial comment which I value to this day and will link here later. Be well, Nancy. Farewell, Bud. See you soon. -dh)
Greenspan died Christmas Day at his home in New York City, his companion Nancy Beffa said. He had Parkinson’s disease.
Easily recognizable by his trademarks — big, black-rimmed glasses pushed up on his shaven head, a pipe and, depending on the season, a beige corduroy sport coat over a black turtleneck or a safari jacket over a polo shirt — Greenspan earned eight Emmy awards, a Peabody and generally high praise for his Cappy Productions films, most of which were Olympic documentaries. He was the recipient of an Olympic Order, the International Olympic Committee‘s highest award, and in 2004 was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame as a special contributor.
Greenspan viewed the Games not necessarily as they were, more as he thought they should be. "They’re two weeks of love," he told ESPN in 2002. "It’s like Never Never Land. Like Robin Hood shooting his arrow through the other guy’s arrow. It’s a privilege to be associated with the best in the world. … They bring things forward that they don’t ordinarily do."
Starting with the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, Greenspan was the official Olympic filmmaker seven times, also recording Summer Games in 1996 in Atlanta and in 2000 in Sydney and Winter Olympics in 1988 at Calgary, 1994 at Lillehammer, 1998 at Nagano and 2002 at Salt Lake City. And when he wasn’t the official documentarian, he acted, with his crew, as an independent filmmaker, which suited Greenspan just fine. Because if there was one thing he reveled in, it was being independent.
Whatever else might be going on at any Olympic gathering — officiating scandals, cheating, doping, nationalistic and egotistic displays — Greenspan kept his lens focused on the athletes and the competition, looking for and presenting film stories that struck a chord with viewers, whether sports fans or casual watchers. He prided himself on skipping over what was being presented on network TV coverage in favor of tales of courage, valor and resilience, usually presented in stark simplicity.
"I’m a storyteller," he said often. "We like to hear people say, ‘Gee, I didn’t know that.’ "
Brushing aside criticism that his work was journalistically incomplete and politically naive, his usual response was, "I choose to concentrate 100% of my time on the 90% of the Olympics that is good. … I find the goodness in people, and I present them as people first and athletes second."