By Stephen Gentle
What I remember most about my week at SDSU as editor in 1992 - beyond the 6.5 hours of *total* sleep I had that week - was that it was the week that Hal Rather died.
You may know Hal Rather's name from the award that bears his name. Hal was from Tennessee, and he was a legendary character in SCL, even though he was barely out of his primary membership. He and his friend Tom Cheever from Massachusetts were hosts for That's Entertainment for a few years, and they were comedy gold. His recurring bit as Bob, the Generic JCL Candidate from Guam, was legendary in the early 90s.
When we arrived on the SDSU campus for Convention in August of 1992, Hal had been fighting cancer for almost a year. My recollection is that he was doing well enough, you know, for fighting cancer. In retrospect, that may just have been my youth believing that no one as young and vibrant as Hal could suddenly be gone.
And then he was.
We were in the Ear Office tossing around some ideas for That's Entertainment skits, when the Ear Office phone (a land line!) rang. It was either Mary or Geri from the JCL desk, asking with a very concerned voice, to talk to Cheever, his best friend. It was one of those moments of disbelief that slows everything around you, and you can't believe it's real.
I remember being numb.
I remember lots of tears.
I remember hugs with the only family that mattered to us at the moment.
I remember someone told Sister Jeanette Plante, who came immediately to the SCL dorm to support us. Sister Jeanette offered the sweetest words of comfort and a very moving prayer...all for "Al".
I remember the sobs becoming stifled guffaws because that's the kind of humor that Hal would have loved - a nun earnestly comforting his friends while getting his name wrong. We all knew Hal was laughing his ass off.
So how does this relate back to the Convention Ear? In two ways - both in Issue 4.
On page 6, there's an article recapping Bob, the Generic JCL Candidate. In a bit of serendipity, Cheever had written the article before Convention, and we were planning to run it on that day anyway.
More importantly, on pages 4-5, you will see a simple tribute to Hal, penned by Cheever, that still hits me in the feels when I read it.