Ron Marinucci May Column: "Mettings of Minds"
by Ron Marinucci, May. 3, 2022
Some of you more mature runners might remember Steve Allen. I don’t know if he was a runner, but would doubt it. Yet, he was quite the Renaissance man in the world of entertainment from the 1950s through the next several decades.
He wrote thousands of songs, including advertising jingles, and dozens of books. He acted, even starring as Benny Goodman in the jazz legend’s bio-pic. He hosted many early television shows, serving as the first host of The Tonight Show and pioneered with The Today Show. And he was a deep thinker.
One of his ideas caught on as Meeting of Minds. It was a syndicated television show in which each episode he hosted four or five actors and actresses, often his wife actress Jayne Meadows, at a dinner. The dinner served as a backdrop for a round-table discussion of a variety of topics—religious toleration, women’s rights, war and peace, slavery, and more. The guests portrayed notable personalities from history such as Attila the Hun, Emily Dickinson, US Grant, Galileo, Cleopatra…..
Allen and the portrayers conducted research to put them in positions to discuss such topics in the contexts of the guests’ times. Just imagine dinner with Emily Dickinson seated next to Attila the Hun. How might the conversation go? One of my college buddies suggested this.
"Attila, would you mind passing the bread?"
"But of course Emily. Love your poetry by the way."
"Can I call you Atti? Or how about Hunny?"
Winston Churchill. Mark Twain. Theodora. George Washington. And, of course, Abraham Lincoln. What great fun! The show only ran four years or so in the 1970s, which I thought a shame considering all the tripe that was aired at the time (and now). I really enjoyed Meeting of Minds and still have a few books with transcribed episodes and photographs.
But while I blogged about this a month or so ago, I thought, “What about a Meeting of Minds with runners?” Suppose we could host such a dinner, inviting four or five notable personalities from the world of running to engage in a round-table discussion. Topics could range from women’s advances in running and the advent of PEDs to changes in training methods and Olympic and other memories. Any running topic would be on the table, along with the dinner of course.
Who would you invite? You would be limited to four, maybe five, invitees at a time so there would be ample opportunities for all to participate. But you could always host a second dinner or third or fourth or…..
Imagine the discussions as the running personalities spoke from their own time periods and perspectives! You could mix and match events and distances. Not all invitees would necessarily have to be world class athletes, but could come because of their writing or other contributions. Just playing around with this for a couple of weeks, I came up with myriad combinations of dinner partners. One of my favorites would include Roger Bannister, the first to break four minutes in the mile, and current world mile record holder Hicham El Guerrouj (3:43.13), maybe tossing in Jim Ryun and one or two others. Joan Benoit Samuelson (first women’s Olympic gold medal in the marathon, Wilma Rudolph (with all those track and Olympic medals and records), Uta Pippig (and her life behind and escape from the Iron Curtain), and Katherine Switzer (and the Boston Marathon) would be an interesting dinner group. How about writers such as Dr. George Sheehan, Hal Higdon, and Joe Henderson teaming with Don Kardong, sort of the Mark Twain of running? Going way back, let’s invite Pheidippides with Frank Shorter (who once said at mile 22 of one of his marathons, “Why couldn’t Pheidippides have died here?”) and add, from closer to home, Doug Kurtis with all those marathons under his belt and Waldemar Cierpinski (he of East German PED allegations).
I know the possibilities are seemingly endless. I’d probably have to buy another, bigger cookbook. For that matter, I’ll bet the discussions would be so engaging I’d forget to eat.