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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, June 2001

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

It is never an easy task to salute the passings, in each issue of ID, of so many dignified members of the documentary community. But when we lose members of our own IDA family, as we did one weekend in April, the task is onerous, indeed. In this issue, former IDA President Mel Stuart reflects on Jack Haley, Jr., and Gordon Hitchens, a longtime contributor to these pages, recalls his 20-year association with Timothy Lyons.

Jack Haley, Jr., was an IDA Trustee for many years, and was very generous and gracious with his time, emceeing many of the Oscars® receptions, IDA Galas and other events. In the community at large, Jack Haley was one of the first employees at David Wolper Productions. He later went on to produce and direct several documentaries about Hollywood, including That’s Entertainment! (1974), a tribute to the MGM musicals of the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s; That’s Dancing (1985), about dance on film; and The Wonderful World of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic (1989), which commemorated the 50th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, which starred his father, Jack Haley. He also produced several Academy Award ceremonies. “There was nobody better in putting together a Hollywood story than Jack,” David Wolper reflected in a phone interview. “He was the king of the Hollywood compilation film. His legacy is leaving a history of Hollywood on film.”

Timothy Lyons was one of my predecessors as editor of this magazine, and I worked directly with Tim as assistant editor for three years. During his tenure Tim worked to expand the scope and direction of the magazine; his many years as a professor of film helped lend an intellectual heft to the publication. Over time, Tim did it all, not only editing, but also designing International Documentary, in addition to overseeing the massive production of the Survival Guide and Directory. Though I played a relatively minor role in producing the magazine, he always looked out for my best interests, without my prompting. And, as with most colleagues who discover more common ground than simply the task at hand, we shared an affinity for the absurd vicissitudes of life, and we would spend valuable production time conjuring up wildly wacky scenarios. Humor is the best palliative when fate deals an unfavorable hand, and Tim had humor in abundance, not to mention zeal and passion—all essential to getting the job done.

We exchanged communiqués in the months following his departure from the magazine, but his Christmas 2000 letter brought it all home. Knowing that his time was nearly up, he had spent his final calendar year retracing his steps, reconnecting with old friends and family members, and taking his daughters to the places that defined his life. He had obviously reached a place of peace and wisdom—and even joy. In closing his letter, he wrote, “None of us needs any advice about what the holiday season should signify, but from me you’ll get the suggestion that it’s a time to reflect on what a magnificent journey this life has been and how important friends have been and continue to be.”

Goodbye, Jack and Tim.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White