In case you missed it....

These are the positings from the old message board !!

Post Reply
Michael Kupersmith

In case you missed it....

Post by Michael Kupersmith »

The following is "re-printed" verbatim from last Sunday's New Yawk Times. For the next week or so you can use this link to go directly to the article.
<A HREF=" ... 0&emc=eta1" TARGET="_blank"> ... mc=eta1</A>

August 7, 2005
With Summer, a Faint Whiff of S'mores Past
ON a recent Sunday near Middlebury, Vt., Breck Eisner stepped into the 95-year-old dining hall at Camp Keewaydin. An old canoe and flags hung from the rafters, along with banners from elite Northeast colleges. The walls were cluttered with moldering plaques dating back to the camp's founding, almost 100 years ago. They listed campers, year by year by year, and their accomplishments.

"Here I am," Mr. Eisner said to his fianc?e, Georgina Irwin, pointing to his name on one plaque.

This fledging movie director, who happens to be a son of one of the camp's most devoted alumni, Michael D. Eisner, chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, had returned to what he says is the most important place of his own youth and, to observe him showing Ms. Irwin around, perhaps his entire life.

Over here was an old friend's name on a list of best campers, over there the name of his grandfather, another alumnus. "I told her we couldn't get married until she saw Keewaydin," Mr. Eisner said.

And his father? He's on the same page.

"I told her that there's no chance she's marrying my son," Michael Eisner said later in a phone interview from Los Angeles, "if she isn't planning on sending her kids to this camp."

She'd better take him seriously. As of this summer, Mr. Eisner has anointed himself the ambassador of Keewaydin and the traditional sleep-away experience with his new memoir, "Camp." In this "everything I needed to know I learned at camp" book, he depicts his days at his treasured institution for the elite - campers past and present have names like Rockefeller, Roosevelt, Straus (as in Roger, a founder of Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and John McPhee, the New Yorker writer - as the basis for his later successes.

Other than brief references to "a few people who could have used a few summers at camp," there is no analysis of the whitewater rapids that have more recently tipped Mr. Eisner's canoe. (He is stepping down from his job next month.)

The book reviews have been mixed at best.

But the legions of devoted sleep-away alumni, people who regularly cite their summer camp as their seminal experience, might have made the book a runaway best seller. Though this has not been the case, Mr. Eisner has still been hearing from plenty of other camp obsessives.

"They'll write one sentence about how they liked the book, if I'm lucky," he said, "and then three or four paragraphs about their own camp experiences."

It shouldn't surprise him. There has always been an almost pathological devotion to one's summer camp among adults. Diana Trilling found it necessary to introduce her husband, Lionel, to the director of her summer camp because it was the place where she had discovered herself through the arts.

Dan Zanes, the popular musician for kids, wrote in "Sleepaway," a collection of writings recently published by Riverhead Books, that camp introduced him to the revelatory experiences of communing musically with others. Mr. McPhee, in his introduction to Mr. Eisner's book, writes that Keewaydin, where he spent more than 10 summers in canoes and on overnight trips, was the institution that most influenced his career as a nature writer.

Nancy Lunney-Wheeler, the director of programming at the Esalen Institute in California, flew all the way across the country for a reunion of Camp Lenore in the Berkshires.

Laurence Kirshbaum, 61, the chief executive of Warner Books who signed Mr. Eisner to write "Camp," finds himself constantly repeating the story of how he got lost in the woods while sneaking out of his camp, Kawaga, in Wisconsin, to visit a girl.

"One friend still calls, and we start yelling the words to morning reveille," he said. " 'Roll out! Roll out! Every man a tiger!' Our wives hide. They'd like us to grow up, or at least move on to adolescence."

But then, what do wives know about it anyway?

"Camp was the best thing I ever did," said John Sternfield, a Keewaydin alumnus and investment banker. "Marriage in comparison was just a formality."

Some alumni go back to their camps to marry. Many attend reunions for camp more frequently than for boarding schools or colleges, institutions that may be too obviously elite to brag about. Alumni message boards are also popular features on camp Web sites, where job networking is common. Keewaydin has even gone so far as to photograph and post alumni merit boards dating back to 1930.

Perhaps the appeal of it all is a return to innocence: communal days of youth, free from academic rigors and the complexities of emerging sexuality.

Maybe it's the monumentality of a first experience away from home, made all the more vivid for urban and suburban children by a wilderness location, where timeworn rituals create comforting structure, and a kindly staff is trained to make sure all feelings of failure are kept at bay.

"As adults who are pounded with responsibilities and disappointments on a daily basis," said Peg Smith, the chief executive of the American Camp Association, with a master's degree in family development, "there's something poignant and inspiring about a community that is only about celebrating young people. It gives adults strength."

Whatever the reason, just a mention of camp, she observed, can turn solid men of affairs into camp-song-singing boys.

As a Disney executive 20 years ago Martin Kaplan noticed that whenever one movie in development, "Camp Reunion," came up at meetings, Jeffrey Katzenberg, then an executive at the company, and Mr. Eisner would be transformed.

"They'd start telling stories, waxing nostalgic about camp days," said Mr. Kaplan, now an associate dean at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, adding that an attachment to camp might be a way for Hollywood executives to show a more innocent side. "They seemed to be convinced that nothing in subsequent life was as great as it was then and that other people all over the country would feel just the same."

So why couldn't the movie get made? Why didn't the other films about summer camp made under Mr. Eisner's auspices - Mr. Kaplan recalled four - succeed? And why isn't Mr. Eisner's camp book selling better?

Perhaps if he still firmly held control at Disney, the book might have become a best seller, the way many C.E.O. books do. Instead, of the 100,000 copies printed, only 8,500 had been sold by the end of July, according to Nielsen BookScan, a new publishing tracker.

Is it possible that the happy days of summer camp are not suitably entertaining without a suitably talented writer attached?

"When you go to camp or participate in some other ritualistic aspect of life," said Karal Ann Marling, a professor at the University of Minnesota who has written books about debutantes and theme parks, "your experiences are your own, and you don't want somebody else interpreting them."

"If you write about a wilderness experience," she said, "you have to have something interesting happen to you, like in 'Deliverance.' Otherwise it's like having to watch your old Uncle Henry's slides of his trip to the Grand Canyon."

Perhaps that's why many devout summer camp alumni keep their camp experiences to themselves.

"It changed the way I think about things," Jack Viertel, a Broadway producer, said about his camp, Killooleet, in New Hampshire, where he has sent his own children. "But it's something I don't proselytize about. Maybe that's because there's no way to explain it adequately."

Although Mr. Viertel has created many shows, no camp musicals are pending.

Nor will Will Dana, the managing editor of Rolling Stone, be commissioning any camp articles, even though he is a devoted alumnus of his camp in Maine. "It's not interesting enough as a subject," he said, "unless someone was molested by counselors."

Such cynicism, of course, is totally absent from Mr. Eisner's book, as it is from Keewaydin itself, which remains at a poetic remove from the kinds of modernities now found in other summer camps. It remains a traditional experience, promoting respect for nature and other campers through wilderness trips, canoeing and campfires, and, despite all the specialty camps available, is still the predominant type of sleep-away camp today.

"People come to know who they are here," said Peter Ware, the camp's executive director, who has followed in the leadership footsteps of his father.

When Keewaydin had to become a nonprofit organization to survive, he said, the alumni rose to the cause quickly. Now, with an actual stake in the sylvan rosebuds of childhood, they remain fiercely protective of every detail.

"Each time we move a tent or take down a tree," said Phil Smith, a senior staff member, "the alumni get upset and complain that it isn't what it used to be."

On a recent Saturday evening a fierce love of tradition was as overwhelming as the mosquitoes. A burly and highly articulate staffman (Keewaydinese for counselor) was running a campfire for adolescent boys and their visiting parents. For more than an hour he extolled camp principles and talked about the meaningfulness of the ribbons being awarded for a list of virtues so complete it included both determination and fortitude.

For parents, even those who are alumni, it might have been a little overreaching.

To the staffman it seemed far more relevant than anything else going on in the world. (Never mind that he happens to be the son of a famous financier and unwilling to give his name here because he says the Ivy League school where he teaches might not give him tenure if it finds out how he spends his summers.) This evening was not about work, ambition or even competition, ultimately.

It was about storytelling, music making, teamwork and idealism.

After announcing somberly, "This is the official ending of the midseason campfire," the staffman asked the circle to draw near the embers. Then in reverent voices, many only recently lowered in register from boyhood, campers and parents alike sang "Here's to Keewaydin" with a combination of yearning and innocence.

It was the next day, Sunday, after a morning "Indian Circle" meeting, in which campers heard a speech about Keewaydin in the "narrative" of life, and then sang a camp hymn to the tune of "O Come All Ye Faithful," when Breck Eisner arrived. He was bringing 11 of the Eisner Foundation's scholarship children from Southern California for the second summer term (which costs $4,500, similar, on a per-week basis, to the cost of boarding school).

His fianc?e was smiling as he showed everyone around with delight.

"You can't argue with something that someone is so passionate about," she said. "Besides, he's not into watching sports on TV at all. So maybe I'm getting off easy."

[url=http:// ... 0&emc=eta1]http:// ... 0&emc=eta1[/url]
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 118
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2003 7:00 pm

Re: In case you missed it....

Post by DDD »

Yep. Just in case you think 'It was just something I did when I was a kid/young adult'.

No. Camp matters. It certainly mattered/matters to me. I am right now sitting in a house, built by a (succesful) friend of mine, 4 feet from a piece of log on which is incised "Camp Mitigwa" - a Camp which vanished from the face of the earth in what, 1983? But camp is _never_ over in our hearts. I believe even when I am not drunk.



Post Reply