Denver Direct: Aim for the Middle

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Aim for the Middle

My good friend George McKelvey (1936 – 2009) passed away in March and I’ve been contemplating writing a bit about him since then – but death brings a new perspective and sometimes you have to let that settle for a while.

I first met George back in the mid-seventies through Linda Byers and John McClure III. Linda was a film student in a class I was teaching at the Western States Film Institute. Linda made a great short film, and John, a musician, played the main role.

George was always thinking – and constantly coming up with new ideas. The first project we worked on together was a film about the Kennedy assassination (but that story, involving John McClure II (John III’s father), John Denver and Dick Gregory, will have to wait for a while, because it’s too long for this occasion). We also went to Hollywood to shoot a pilot (I was the cameraman, George the producer) starring Jonathan Moore, an English comedian who also became a good friend. We shot scenes which included Pat Paulson and Rory Flynn, and a guy from Mash, whose name I can’t remember. After a month in L.A., we returned to Denver, frazzled and fried.

George was always making “moves”. Building a gigantic log lodge in Evergreen himself, and then selling it. Selling his RV, buying a boat. Selling that boat, and buying another. Starting Denver’s first comedy shop, “The Comedy Works” on Larimer, second floor, and then pulling out and starting another, and another. He ran many improv classes which turned into acts, including one which my then-wife Bonita joined called “Spur of the Moment”. I think he was also instrumental in starting “Chicken Lips”. which earned a life of its own.

And George was a maniac joke teller. He always made sure that you had heard the “latest”, and they were always funny. When he moved to Albuquerque where his wife Carole had gotten a job, he continued to call me to discuss current events, and would always start with a great joke. In fact, I have to admit, that it was George who saw to it that our friendship continued, with his periodic phone calls, after he left Denver.

Years of hard living took its toll on George, and his health began to decline in Albuquerque. He lost a lot of weight due to a misdiagnosed bout of diverticulitis, which he had correctly suggested was the problem all along. Boy did he carp about that one.

Although George always contended that a black cloud hovered above him all the time, he was actually an eternal optimist, plotting against the fates to continue his routine. I was amazed to learn that he had moved once again, to Hemet, CA, to be closer to L.A., still thinking about potential movie parts and comedy routines.

Over the years, I shot a lot of footage of George, some of which is now so old I don’t even have the hardware to play it on. But I’ve got a lot of good stuff, one of the best of which is his original “Aim for the Middle”, which I present here. Thanks for all the laughs and friendship George, you were one of a kind.

Also check out the tribute to George on YouTube created by his son Ian, and his Scopitone music video.