This week we air one of my favorite TV episodes, "Gene Autry and the Seven Champions."
I saw him live on stage when I was three years old, and like most Americans of my generation, I've been a fan ever since. But that was the public Gene. What I learned making this TV episode made me a fan of the private Gene.
He was not perfect, I know, and we don't sugarcoat anything in this piece. Still, I hope the audience can find as much to admire about the man as I did: his work ethic, his generosity, his loyalty, his patriotism, his business acumen, his musical talents.
At the same time, I hope the audience can forgive him his foibles, as I have. In one of his last conversations with his secretary, Maxine Hansen, Gene said of his life, "I tried to be good. I really tried." That's good enough for me.
Gene Autry died in 1998 at the age of 91. On February 8, 2009, he will receive a lifetime achievement award during the Grammy awards.