It was a beautiful day in Santa Monica, fitting for what ended up being a beautiful event at the Casa Del Mar Hotel. It was the “Celebration of Life” memorial for Robert “Bob” Kennedy, the publishing icon and New York Times best-selling author (who penned 55 books) who passed away from cancer in April.
I served as Master of Ceremonies, and got to share my many memories about Robert as well as bringing to the podium the special guest speakers, who did likewise. First to take to the podium, natch, was Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had a 40-plus year media relationship with Kennedy. Kennedy was too ill to make it to Columbus, Ohio this year to receive the “Lifetime Achievement Award”, but Arnold wanted to see Robert one last time before he died. So, he surprised Kennedy at his Caledon Hills, Ontario Canada home on Easter Sunday. Robert’s wife, Tosca Reno Kennedy, told of how Arnold’s visit brought back the twinkle in her husband’s eyes–they even hit a pose for her camera. Four days later Robert lost his battle with the dreaded disease.
Lou Ferrigno followed Arnold; then came Rachel McLish (still looking amazing at 50-something–oh my, those calves!), IRON MAN Publisher John Balik, author/consultant Bob Proctor, Elaine LaLanne, photog Irvin Gelb and last, but certainly not least, Tosca. After Tosca, who has taken over the reigns of Robert Kennedy Publishing, finished her tribute to the love of her life, the family presented Arnold with a canvas painting of Schwarzenegger, crafted by Robert, as a gesture of their lasting friendship. Kennedy, as I found out only a year or so ago, loved painting, and did his work under his father’s name, Wolfgang Kals.
In addition to the speakers, many of the industry icons flew in from all over to share in the celebration. There was the crew from MuscleMag International, including Group Editorial Director Bill Geiger. Shawn Ray, who was emceeing a contest in Omaha, Nebraska the previous evening, make sure he arranged his return trip in time to take part in the celebration. Tom Platz came to pay his respects, so did Samir Bannout, Franco Columbu, Eddie Guiliani, Sharon Bruneau, Victoria Pratt, Mandy Blank and Gene Mozee, among others.
After the painting dedication, there was a video presentation. Then a processional, with the playing of “Amazing Grace.”
I thanked everyone for being part of this affair, and concluded by saying “May Robert’s colorful spirit travel with you always.” A reception followed outside in the patio, where it was good to chat with some people I’ve known for years, others who I just met that day. At the Joe Gold Celebration of Life in 2004, Robert talked to me about honoring those who have passed. “Lonnie, we should do this while people are alive, instead of waiting until they die,” he quipped. I agreed. We blew it again, Robert, eh?. But I know you felt the warmth of the celebration as you watched from your publisher’s desk from above.
Hope we did you justice.