Friday, November 17, 2006

Sleeping Lady Pt. 4: Ed Begley, Jr., our "Best In Show"

I love Ed Begley Jr.! And not just because he was one of my favorites in the movie "Best In Show" (Ed's the hotel manager who talks about the rock group that checked in and "apparently they didn't realize there was a toilet IN the room"). He's also been in other Christopher Guest films, a host of character roles in Hollywood, and had a starring role in the goofily offbeat TV series "Arrested Development." Anyway, Ed is a pioneering environmental activist who tells hilarious stories about Hollywood (on one set the director was scared to tell him they couldn't find an electric station wagon for the scene!) and is just plain funny in between making all-too-serious points about the future of our planet.

Here's Paul's notes from his keynote address (Ed was preceded and introduced, sort of, by Denis Hayes):

Denis is my hero. Through some manipulation or quirk I come up as if I'm the main act, but he's the main act in my book. Since Earth Day in 1970 he's been a guiding light.

My life ain't so simple any more. My trash does not fit in a glove compartment any more. Still simple by Hollywood standards, but I have a wife and kid now. Maybe I need 3 glove compartments, one for each.

I wanna talk about just....slowing...down. If I reach only one person with this notion and that person is me, I'll declare victory and say no more and sit down. We get to rushing around, I know I do, I have to often adhere to that wonderful ancient Chinese proverb: Don't just do something, stand there.

We're more effective if we do that, if we take that time to just slow down and gather our thoughts, recover from all the madness out there and all the work that has to be done. You try to accomplish great things, my friend Richard Stahl in the 1970s went thru something extraordinary. He was a very Type A personality, wanted to save the world, go go go and he'd heard that the Beatles had gone to visit the Maharishi, he thought that was pretty good. He couldn't get to Maharishi by then, he had a publicist, but found a place in Bali, a little river town, found this place with a temple of tranquility and was gonna get enlightenment from this guy. He had flght from LA to Hawaii, several hours layover, another flight to Philippines, then merchant marine vessel to Indonesia, then go to little village in Bali with Temple of Tranquility. He left and there was some problem with air travel and got to Hawaii pretty late, got there within minutes of his connection, but the flight to Philippines left without him, then he missed the merchant marine vessel, took him a week or two to get the next one, got to Indonesia, then monsoon season, couldn't get up river, was a month late. So he gets in jitney, gets in and says to the man, the Temple of Tranquility, and step on it! He started laughing because it was absurd. I always feel like I'm trying to get to the Temple of Tranquility and step on it.

I'm happy I made it tonight, it's not the facts that are true that get you into trouble but facts you think are true. I have to say it's alotta fun on the (Highway) 2 and the 97 if you haven't done it in the rain.

I was going to go back tonight but I'm gonna leave in the morning so I can see where I am maybe. That's the insanity we battle.

In 60s and 70s, you could see San Fernando Valley maybe 20 days, 30 days a year. You could not run to back of room without wheezing. That's a testimony how far we've come. We've cleaned up the air, 4X as many cars, half the ozone. Look at what's possible. Go back to LA Times archives, look at letters to editor. 'If you enact these smog controls, it will be end of Detroit, end of the car industry!' What a shockeroo, businesses didn't go broke, businesses thrived. Many thrived with clean technologies, now we can export to Beijing where they need clean air. So if you ever get depressed and I do on occasion, look at what we've done. Boy have we got a lot of work to do, but look at what we've done.

I started this business [Begley's Best]completely by accident a couple of years ago. Never thought I'd start a business, admired what Paul Newman did, I had a manager, not an agent, but this guy wore me down. Was a great guy and great manager, but he said, you should have a product line, But I wouldn't do endorsements, wouldn't do car commercials. I went to Whole Foods, said I'll prove him wrong, veggie hot dogs, non-toxic spray, so I decided if you want to do a line of Begley's Best, find things really sustainable, then I'll promote them. Then a year goes by and nothing. Then I go into Real Food Daily, a nice restaurant in LA, guy says omigod Ed Begley, I've got something in my car. Non-toxic cleaning product. Another year went by because it's Hollywood. Then I contacted guy, said what's the matter, did my manager ask for too much money or my face on the bottle, what's up? He said no the guy never called me back. So now I've got stuff in my garage, stacking it up and driving around. My distributor was me, the reason the business grew and thrived, not that it's a big thing but it's growing because I drove around in my electric car which cost me nothing to charge. To ship these cases around costs $20 or $30, costs a lot because it's liquid. So my environmental lifestyle proved to be good for business model, grew and grew, now in Whole Foods and other stores. Whole idea is to have sustainable business, good for environment, give to charity: Rainforest Action Network, Coalition for Clean Air, Humane Society, try to focus on environment, people and animal things.

[Ed has given away 1/4 of gross sales, says all profits go to charity but he's not making profit so he gives away revenues. With Paul Newman 5 percent of net sales go to Newman Foundation for distribution to other people. He has exercise bike, creates power, puts into solar battery.]

I simply want to have better place for my kids and grandkids, or just a world by itself. Some semblance of the web of life left. You'd think even the most selfish among us would want to stop this because how many rivets can you lose from an airplane before it stops flying.

Why would you put a flu sufferer in a sauna? Even if all experts are wrong and people are not the cause, why add to it. To continue to go down this path is kind of mad. We need to formulate a different path, embolden each other, assist each other in holding the line.

Before you rush out there tomorrow, make sure you take tomorrow and on regular basis take time for yourself. I feel like I live in an emergency room doing triage, rushing from one crisis to next.

I've always used electric cars. In 1970 it was a Taylor Dunn, a golf cart. In 1990 it was a used electric vehicle, a 1970 Subaru converted to electricity. It ran fine but wouldn't go on the freeway, I put another $2400 into it, and for $4500 had electric car to go on freeway. Associates take old cars, with blown engine, bad radio, no ignition system, heck, tires and windows are all you need. Most important part is how are you gonna charge 'em. Didn't want to use 60 pct coal and fair amount of natural gas, or hydro, nuclear. Didn't wanna do that so put solar on roof.

I drive a hybrid, actually it's my wife's Prius today. But I try to limit my miles, I walk, ride my bike, take public transit. People call me up and say come to an energy-efficiency conference in Dallas. I tell 'em my contribution to energy efficiency is to stay home!

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