Daily Distraction: Dive into a classic long-read by the late Robert Sam Anson

Andy Downing

Magazine write Robert Sam Anson, who was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and cut his teeth covering conflicts in Vietnam and Cambodia for Time at age 24, recently died at age 75 following a long battle with dementia. 

Over the course of Anson's career, he served as a contributing editor at Manhattan, Inc.Esquire and Vanity Fairran Los Angeles magazine and penned a column for The New York Observer. At his core, though, Anson was a journalist, penning a trove of deeply reported, long-form magazine features. A 1995 profile in the L.A. Times described Anson as "the last of a breed of broad-shouldered, bare-knuckled, ’70s magazine journalists who will chopper into any hellhole on Earth and come back with an epic story."

Among the best of those stories is his 1981 Esquire cover feature on the life and death of Doug Kenney of the National Lampoon, which opens:

THE SIGN GUARDING the approach to Hanapepe lookout, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, is explicit. Stay back, it warns, the drop beyond is sheer.

It was here, on the twenty-eighth of August last year, that Douglas C. Kenney, thirty-three, a founder of the National Lampoon, coauthor of National Lampoon’s Animal House, and graduate of Harvard College, Class of ’68, parked his rented Jeep, climbed down, and, ignoring the signpost, walked through a field of low brambles toward the cliff’s edge.

A cool wind was blowing in from the sea. Temperatures were in the seventies. It was the perfect Polynesian day.

As he neared his destination, Kenney turned left and struck out on his own path. In fact, it was a crumbling precipice. He walked on. The view from the ridge was awesome. Another step, then, all at once, he was there. In his hotel room was a note he had written to himself. A part of it read: “These are some of the happiest days I’ve ever ignored.”

Click here to continue reading at Esquire.