Memories of Michael
Longtime Editors Guild Magazine and website freelance contributor Michael Kunkes passed away suddenly of heart failure on March 4, 2010. Following is my remembrance of him:
Who am I gonna rely on to learn the latest trends—and gossip—in Hollywood?
Who am I gonna discuss obscure rock bands with, and try to name all the songs from their second album?
Who’s gonna quote a line from a Marx Brothers movie to me almost once a week?
Who’s gonna invite me to go out and see a hot new band he just discovered?
Who am I gonna talk to about sex, religion and politics—and almost always agree with?
Who’s gonna know not only exactly what film I’m talking about, but also its director, its actors, the year it came out and the studio that released it?
Who’s gonna commiserate with me over a couple of beers—about work, the world, women and whatever’s ailing us?
Who am I gonna speak on the phone to almost every day—even if we don’t really have that much to say?
Who am I gonna count on to come up with, and write, incisive stories for this magazine?
Who’s gonna make me look better as an editor by his hard work and dedication?
But enough about me. The answer to all of the above questions is Michael Kunkes. Or was Michael Kunkes, as he is, sadly, no longer part of my life. And it is a big part that’s missing. There’s an emptiness, a kind of incompleteness that remains…
I first met Michael five and a half years ago. Or 5.5 years. It’s interesting numerologically, as we are both 55 years old now. Or Michael was 55. I’m sorry, but I can’t get used to referring to him in the past tense. Anyway, he took me to lunch at an Indian restaurant to convince me to hire him as a freelance writer for Editors Guild Magazine, for which I had recently become editor. I got indigestion. And he got the job.
I very soon came to realize that Michael was an exceptionally versatile writer. He could pen a piece on the early use of sound in motion pictures as well as he could author an article about the latest technologies in digital filmmaking. He would conduct informative, revealing interviews with high-powered Guild members, and then draft technical, how-to tips about editing hardware and software tools. His knowledge of film history was as astounding as his awareness and understanding of the latest developments in the entertainment industry. It is no surprise that four out of our last six magazine cover stories were written by Michael, or that his byline was the most often seen on our website.
I honestly feel that Michael tapped into his true talent, and hit his stride creatively, while collaborating with me on the magazine and website as our chief freelance writer. And I think he would agree. He was happy doing the work, and I was happy with his work.
Over the years, Michael and I became good buddies, and found we had a lot in common. Aside from our ages, we were both California transplants from the East Coast—he from Brooklyn, New York, and I from Trenton, New Jersey. In fact, we both moved west in the early 1980s.
We also found that we shared other interests and attitudes, doubtlessly due to growing up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s: an abiding fascination with rock ‘n’ roll and the film industry, a free-thinking and progressive perspective on politics, an inherent distrust of authority figures, and an appreciation of a well-made craft beer, to name but a few.
Michael was an integral part of my life and work at the Editors Guild—a trusted colleague who was also a close personal friend. I feel as if I lost not only my right arm, but part of my soul.
Yet I am gladdened by my belief that he left us at the height of his creative prowess… “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”
Listen…you can hear Michael now…speaking from that great movie palace in the sky about my closing quote: “Spoken by Jimmy Cagney as Arthur ‘Cody’ Jarrett in the 1949 Warner Bros. picture directed by Raoul Walsh, White Heat—also partially the name of the Velvet Underground’s second album, released on the Verve label in 1968...”