A valentine to summer camp from recently deposed Disney CEO Eisner, who makes it clear why the camp reverberates for him to this very day.
Camp Keewaydin sits snuggly by a lake in mid-Vermont. It’s a venerable camp of the old school, keeping one eye on character building and emotional growth—with lots of challenges, from arts to sports to long camping trips—and the other on planned freedom, offering the camper a fistful of opportunities to get busy or lay back. It isn’t a tony establishment, but a rough and ready one, a place where you’ll glean a few experiences that will benefit you later in life (“risk is good, but survival is better”) or, as Eisner says, not without a hint of distaste, that will allow you to endure “Hollywood antics and boardroom politics.” The story he tells is a braided and generous one, of his own growth at the camp from ages 8 to 22, a span that brought many firsts—being away from home, pulling his own weight, learning the importance of tradition, taking on responsibilities he knew would test his abilities. It’s the story also of two boys Eisner later sponsored at the camp, Pepe and Q, from down-if-not-out Los Angeles. The two bring a very different quality to the camp than the regulars do. Their stories are interesting if not compelling—maybe because Eisner didn’t see the events when they happened but had an operative observe them and report back. But Eisner’s own recollections are smart and immediate: remembering the camp’s surroundings, the tents and halls and playing fields, the bite of not winning awards, his clowning as a staffman, finding himself once in charge of a bloodied camper miles from nowhere, or remembering the sachem qualities of the camp’s long-time director.
A well-told story of the raw ingredients of growing up, free of bluster but full of brio. (Eight-page photo insert, not seen)