Sunday, June 06, 2010

My Art Director, The Inglourious Basterd

I present this in honor of D-Day, a tribute to a man who was there.

It was Peter Masters (aka Peter Arany) who brought me to Washington thirty years ago this December, an overture which changed my life forever. In the three years I worked for him before his retirement, I had the privilege of listening to his war stories, which eventually made it into his memoirs. He died five years ago this summer, of a heart attack while playing tennis. He would have had it no other way, as this was the third time it had happened.

Last year, author and public radio commentator Kim Masters wrote of him thus:

[F]or my father, this fight was very personal. A native of Vienna, he belonged to a secret unit made up of refugees from the Nazis. They went on reconnaissance missions in enemy territory; they stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day; they shot at, blew up, captured, and interrogated German soldiers.

They didn’t take scalps or carve swastikas into anybody’s forehead.

Those fanciful elements are present in Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s cartoonish tale of an American death squad made up of Jewish soldiers. Their commander (Brad Pitt) exhorts them to bring him the scalps at least 100 Nazis each. Soon after, the Tarantino violence-porn begins.

The real story is better ...

Those three years would have almost faded into memory. I still remember his friends calling my office years later to get his phone number, people about whom I otherwise would only have read (founding Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver, and possibly CBS television anchorman Walter Cronkite, to name two).

We may never see the like of his generation again. May they rest in peace.

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