In an article published in 2021, I wrote about the time I was fortunately seated beside his entertainment highness, the TV titan in the poplin fabric sport hat, Norman Lear, who sadly flew from us on Tuesday at 101.
And in the same article, I connected to another self-made nobleman, billionaire Richard Branson, right after he had taken his Virgin Galactic that year on an outer space test drive.
Actually, Lear and I saw mother earth’s awesome curvature long before Branson did! And sitting next to me on that inspiring flight over 40 years ago aboard the Concorde was Norman wearing that famous sport hat of his.
Here’s what I wrote in an article for CommPRO.biz on that same day in 2021 and next day on my MaddenMischief blog.
I titled it:
MY BRANSON MOMENT LOOKING DOWN FROM MY THEN ‘SPACECRAFT’ AT THE EARTH’S CURVATURE 41 YEARS AGO
Not too many of us have had their Norman Lear and Branson moments looking down at mother earth from near the edges of outer space.
I had mine one unforgettable day back in 1980. That’s right, 1980.
I was on a supersonic Concorde flight returning from Europe. We had reached a high enough altitude one day to behold the stunning, mind-boggling view of the curvature of the earth.
When I was blessed to have had that rare astronaut experience, it didn’t cost $200,000+ a ticket like it does today on Virgin Galactic.
But man did I get into a mess of trouble at NBC for what it did cost back then when I was vice president, assistant to the president. My illustrious boss, Fred Silverman, sadly is no longer with us, cranking out those winning sitcoms.
The CFO of NBC at the time one day called me on the carpet at 30 Rock.
He said how dare I spend my entire month’s expense allowance to fly on the Concorde back from my assignment in Europe where I was producing a promo reel, “The Making of SHOGUN,” to promote the miniseries based on James Clavell’s popular novel of Japan.
At a Friday wrap-up lunch with Clavell in London, he asked what was my hurry to get back?” He suggested I spend part of the weekend in Paris and then take the Concorde back from there on Sunday. In three hours, I’d be back in New York.
Hmmmmm. Sounded like a plan. So, on I went to one of my favorite cities.
On that auspicious return flight aboard the Concorde, I sat next to the famous writer/producer of All in the Family, Norman Lear. The series aired on CBS and then on ABC where I was writing Silverman’s speeches before he jumped ship to become CEO of NBC taking me with him.
That series was the first to bring reality to prime-time TV entertainment as the lead character, Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor, was a loudmouthed, uneducated bigot who believed in every stereotype he ever heard. His wife, Edith, played by Jean Stapleton, was sweet but not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
Lear and I were chatting about this and other TV series he created when the pilot interrupted with an announcement I’ll never forget.
The Concorde had just passed the continental shelf of Europe, when the captain said there would be another takeoff. What? Another takeoff? We’re already in the air!
The captain then said to sit back with our seatbelt on and to expect to feel some centrifugal force. And man, did we ever!
It was just like the first takeoff from the runway back on earth only this time we were way up in the air. It was five times more forceful, which threw you back into your seat and kept you pinned there for several seconds. It was exhilarating.
Norman and I looked down and could see the curvature of our beautiful mother earth. It was breathtaking!
It was my Branson/Lear moment!
And God bless Norman Lear. May the Concorde now have flown him straight to heaven at supersonic speed.