By Ann Liguori
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The sports and film world lost one of their most gifted story tellers this Christmas – legendary Olympic filmmaker Bud Greenspan. Bud succumbed to complications from Parkinson’s Disease, according to companion Nancy Beffa. He was 84.
Throughout the 15-year run of my syndicated cable show, Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori, Bud Greenspan holds the record of being my guest on that series more than any of the 600-plus guests interviewed through the years. Bud’s insight and ability to tell the story-behind-the-story of Olympians was fascinating and special. I could not get enough of his stories about both the well known athletes – such as the film he made in 1964 about Jesse Owens returning to the scene of his gold-medal achievements in Berlin – to the more obscure ones, such as the gut wrenching story about Tanzanian marathoner John Stephen Ahkwari and his last place finish in Mexico City in 1968 or the quest of injured British distance runner David Moorcroft, who held the world record in the 5000 meters, but who ran in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics with a pelvic injury and avoided being lapped in the finals. And the fact that Bud encouraged me to use the footage from his films in my interview shows made these programs with Bud Greenspan even more special.
Bud’s ‘look’ was as distinct as his films. His black rimmed glasses sat atop his shaven head. His pipe was an extension of his look. And his trademark style included a turtleneck underneath a corduroy jacket.
Bud and his work were as much a part of the Olympic movement as the competitions themselves! He was the recipient of an Olympic Order, the highest award bestowed by the International Olympic Committee. Although Bud earned a Peabody Award and eight Emmy Awards, I never got the impression that Bud and his Cappy Productions team created these documentaries to impress any of the powers-to-be in television or cable or in the awards competition world. As an independent film maker, he simply told the stories as he saw and felt them, free of agendas that often complicate or distract from programs that are created by the networks. It took only a few seconds into a Bud Greenspan film before one knew that his work was superior to anything else out there.
Bud enjoyed the game of tennis and played regularly. I am proud to say that I stood across the net from him on several occasions and it was always a thrill to play tennis against such a legend. And no, the pipe was not a part of his tennis look.
I am delighted to hear that Universal Sports will air what they are calling ‘Nine Nights of Glory,’ a tribute to Bud Greenspan and his films, starting Saturday, January 1 and running through January 9. I’ve pasted the schedule of the films below.
I’ve also learned that the US Olympic Committee established a scholarship in 2007 at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts to honor Greenspan. His family asks that any donations be made to that fund. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A tribute to Bud Greenspan must also include special words for his long-time associate and companion Nancy Beffa. As the President of Cappy Productions, Nancy is the woman who put the business deals together that made it possible for Bud to continue creating excellent work and share them with world- wide audiences. As they say, ‘Behind every successful man is a great woman,’ and Nancy was that great woman behind Bud Greenspan.
Although the Olympic and film world lost a legend, his excellent work will endure forever.
Be sure to order your own DVD copy of Ann’s interviews with legendary film maker Bud Greenspan.
Visit her archives at www.annliguori.com.
Schedule of Universal Sports’ ‘Nine Nights of Glory:’
SATURDAY, JAN. 1, 9 P.M. ET – 1984 LOS ANGELES
The original epic “Sixteen Days of Glory” featuring Edwin Moses, Rowdy Gaines, Mary Lou Retton, Joan Benoit, Carl Lewis, Greg Louganis and others.
SUNDAY, JAN. 2, 9 P.M. ET – 1988 CALGARY
“Sixteen Days of Glory: Calgary ’88″ featuring Gaetan Boucher, Brian Boitano, Brian Orser, Katarina Witt and others.
MONDAY, JAN. 3, 9 P.M. ET — 1994 LILLEHAMMER
“Sixteen Days of Glory: Lillehammer ’94″ featuring Dan Jansen, Oksana Baiul, Bonnie Blair, Alberto Tomba and others.
TUESDAY, JAN. 4, 9 P.M. ET — 1996 ATLANTA
“Atlanta’s Olympic Glory” featuring Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, Steven Redgrave, Jeannie Longo and others.
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 5, 9 P.M. ET — 1998 NAGANO
“Nagano ’98: Stories of Honor and Glory” featuring Lu Chen, Bjorn Daehlie, Masahiko Harada, Deborah Compagnoni and others.
THURSDAY, JAN. 6, 9 P.M. ET — 2000 SYDNEY
“Sydney 2000: Stories of Olympic Glory” featuring Ian Thorpe, Chris Huffins, Tommy Lasorda, David O’Connor and others.
FRIDAY, JAN. 7, 9 P.M. ET — 2002 SALT LAKE
“Salt Lake 2002: Stories of Olympic Glory” featuring Jimmy Shea, Janica Kostelic, Alisa Camplin, Brian Shimer and others.
SATURDAY, JAN. 8, 9 P.M. ET — 2004 ATHENS
“Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory” featuring Mariel Zagunis, Lisa Fernandez, Pyrros Dimas, Otylia Jedrzejczak and others.
SUNDAY, JAN. 9, 9 P.M. ET — 2006 TORINO
“Torino 2006: Stories of Olympic Glory” featuring Joey Cheek, Shizuka Arakawa, Enrico Fabris, Kjetil Andre Aamodt and others.