Entertainment

Artist Profile: Bellingham’s Bob Simmons reads from his late friend’s memoir at Village Books

At 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov 9, at Village Books, Bellingham’s Bob Simmons will read from the late Greg Palmer’s wonderful memoir, “Cheese Deluxe,” written in 2008.

Here is what Simmons says about the event:

“If you were a KING 5 watcher in the grieved-and-gone heyday of TV news, you might remember Greg as their witty, creative essayist and theater and movie critic. He and I worked together for a dozen years in the KING 5 newsroom and later on some of Palmer’s documentary projects for PBS-TV.

“He died five years ago at age 62, from lung cancer — just at the peak of his productivity in books, plays, TV films and documentaries,” Simmons says. “Losing him was an awful blow.”

“Cheese Deluxe” is a collection of some of Palmer’s favorite memories working at the (now-gone) Samoa Drive In on Mercer Island, where he was “chief cook” the summer after his high school graduation in 1965. When the second edition of “Cheese Deluxe” arrived, along with an audiobook version (read by Seattle actor Jeff Steitzer), Greg’s widow, Cathy, asked Simmons to do the reading at Village Books.

Although the event will highlight Palmer’s book, here’s more about Simmons, a local celebrity in his own right.

Q: What were your growing-up years like?

A: I grew up in a backwoods farm in southern Iowa hill country. Went to Pleasant Plain School, a combination grade and high school that still had horse-drawn school buses in the mud season. Total enrollment 28, eight in my graduating class in 1947. It closed in the early 1950s and the students were bused (motorized) to the county seat, Fairfield.

Q: And your subsequent years?

A: I attended Iowa State University, received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism in 1954. I went to work as a part-time news writer an the local radio station in 1952, worked seasonally at daily and weekly newspapers all through college in Amherst, Mass.; Hartford, Conn; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Los Angeles; and Seattle, back and forth between the coasts and in the middle. Meanwhile I picked up an master’s degree in political science at Trinity College, Hartford; did two post-grad fellowships, at Columbia (in earth sciences) and Stanford (creative writing).

Q: So your career in journalism is pretty significant?

A: If you count part-time work in the college years, I’ve been committing journalism in one way or another for more than 60 years. Currently I’m an off-and-on contributing writer for Crosscut.com and the Cascadia Weekly.

Q: And you enjoy acting as well?

A: I did occasional community theater roles in Cedar Rapids, Hartford and the Los Angeles area. Following a brief recovery period of 40 years, I got to play Henry Drummond in “Inherit the Wind” at the Bellingham Theatre Guild in 2010, realized how much fun I’d been missing and did six plays in three years in Bellingham — “Our Town,” On Golden Pond,” “Into the Woods,” “M. Butterfly,” “Wutcraker” and “The Producers.”

Q: What’s the Sunday’s event going to be like?

A: I can’t wait. It’s funny, poignant material centered on Mercer Island teenagers in the 1960s. There are hanky sections, but the chapter I’ll be concentrating on is fine situational and dialogue humor. Small-town kids venturing into what is for them Sin City (Seattle), just across the bridge. Their under-age attempt at appearing mature in their true-life encounter with a lady of the evening in a gay bar in Pioneer Square breaks me up every time.

Q: What are you up to now?

A: My wife, Dee, and I live in a little house on Toledo Hill, garden a lot, love Bellingham and love watching our grandkids grow into truly interesting people.

  Comments