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An Recollection of Bob and the NAB Wrap-up
Remembering Bob Turner

This column was originally published in the August 2005 issue of Video Systems, at which both Bob Turner and Jeff Sauer were colleagues and fellow Contributing Editors.

The last time I saw Bob Turner was shortly after NAB this past April at the local New England Chapter of SMPTE’s annual NAB Wrap-up.  That’s our local expert panel discussion about what was at NAB each year and while Bob wasn’t on ever panel over the last 15-plus years, it sure seemed like it. Although he’d have been horrified at the thought, it often just felt like his show.

That’s not a slight against Bob’s fellow panelists either, myself among them. Nor was Bob ever anything if not invariably gracious and courteous. But he always covered the show so thoroughly, and always spoke about it so gregariously.  As his readers know, Bob was The Guy in the industry when it came to understanding and analyzing anything post.  Each year at this humble, local event he inadvertently showed why.

Mention Bob Turner’s list of personal NAB pick hits to anyone who ever attended SMPTE New England’s NAB Wrap-up and you’ll probably get a smile.  The list was extensive, and was always delivered with passion.  You might think that reciting a long list of products toward the end of a two-hour panel discussion might push an audience past its collective attentiveness, but that was never the case. Bob’s list was like an old E.F. Hutton commercial moment  - with the audience completely enrapt.

I’ve heard more than one joke over the years that the whole meeting could easily have been just Bob and that list, except that no one would want to miss his banter about the rest of the show, both what was good and less good. (Bob could be critical, of course, but he was invariably positive in tone and spirit.) That’s because Bob Turner covered NAB and our industry like no one else.  As a 30-year veteran of editing, Bob was a storehouse of knowledge, but he was also inspired by newer digital and non-linear editing products and workflows, and followed industry changes with aplomb.

Bob was a good journalist because he was passionate about editing, and also because he worked smartly. He was regularly pre-briefed by scores of manufacturers and he had a network of colleagues that regularly visited his personal grapevine. That collection of relationships ultimately made NAB 2005 tolerable for Bob, because for the first time in roughly 25 years he didn’t actually go to NAB this year.  He’d had his doctor’s blessing and the plane tickets, but a last minute anomaly in his treatment ultimately canceled the trip.

Yet he still covered the show better than anyone I know.  Along with many others, I called him several times from Las Vegas and always learned about something I’d yet to see.  We called him from the Video Systems Pick Hits Judging, and he offered an insightful list and debated ours, although he often humbly qualified his comments with “but I wasn’t there.” And at the SMPTE New England NAB Wrap-up, after originally thinking Bob would participate from the audience, we decided to have Bob take his rightful place at the front on the panel.  Amazingly, even though he got the show buzz from the blogs and not the booths, and even though his conversations were long-distance and not local, he still proved why he was The Guy.

Still, if you ask me, that wasn’t the most amazing thing about that night, nor was his industry acumen the most amazing thing about Bob.  Bob Turner was large man and an industry luminary, granted, but he had a large heart that simply never stopped caring and giving of himself.  He had a large family pride that was the envy of any parent, and he had a large smile and joy of life that was just fun to be around.

Bob was well into his chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer by that night in April.  Yet amazingly, aside from his thinned hair and eyebrows and ever-so-slightly more deliberate manner, you would hardly have known the difference.  Even though he was living through the hell of cancer and chemotherapy, he still had his contagious smile, he still had that intoxicating belly laugh, and he still had that enviable generous and gentle spirit. Whatever he was feeling physically, he still was upbeat about technology and about life.

When someone passes away after a bout with a debilitating decease like cancer, it’s common enough to hear sentiments like “I want to remember him as he was before [the decease got the better of him].”  Cancer ultimately took Bob’s life, but it never got the best of him and that night in April was proof.

I have another favorite memory of Bob Turner, also from after he had been diagnosed. It was the first time I’d seen him since his diagnosis in December, and coincidentally at another SMPTE New England meeting in March. Bob walked in wearing his customary navy blue chamois shirt and blue Yale baseball cap for his daughter’s college and looking happy as ever.  We’d traded emails over the previous couple of months that said how well his treatment was going, but it was still a surprise to see him at a SMPTE meeting, let alone to see him looking so well.  Chemotherapy is a tough fight.

“Hey, Bob, it’s great to see you,” I said with a smile.  “It’s great you could come.”  He returned the greeting and added some humble words about getting back to normal. Bolstered by his apparent good humor, I pried, “so how are you doing."

Bob’s answer was classic. He leaned toward me a bit and in a slightly hushed tone, but with plenty of conviction answered, “I feel like crap.”  But even before he had straightened his back, there was that wonderfully disarming belly laugh, reminding me and everyone else around that life was good and that we should be enjoying it.

I suppose it’s easy to do that when all is well, in comfortable, healthy, and joyful times. Bob did it all the time. That’s the Bob Turner I’ll remember.

-Jeff Sauer

Posted: 20 July 2005
Bob Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor
blamm@cync.com