The unforgettable stammer. His email address, [email protected] Taking something that most would simply carry as a handicap and making it into a brand. Take a problem and treat it like a game. Long time community leader Steve Rose lost the struggle with leukemia this past Monday, and Wednesday, the community turned out to lay him to rest.
The line of traffic waiting to turn into the Hillside Memorial Park was even longer than I had thought it would be, and I had thought it would be pretty long. While thousands of people in Culver City were saddened to hear to the death of Steve Rose, it seemed that the hundreds who came to his funeral all came in separate cars.
Hillside was prepared for the crowd, but of course, we all knew who had done the preparation. Rose was a man for who the word ‘meticulous’ was really an understatement. Words like ‘fanatical’ and ‘obsessive’ almost capture his attention to detail, but he really went above and beyond even that. Which was a great part of his success.
In the game of chess, you are considered a good player if you can think three moves ahead. Really good if you can project five moves ahead.
Steve was probably nine moves ahead, not just on the game board, but ahead of everyone else thinking about Culver City. Many of his strategies paid off. We certainly would not have our current configuration of downtown or the redesigned Fox Hills/Westfield mall without his careful crafting of policy, investment and development.
He was a man of clear-cut, black and white decisions. The idea of ‘maybe’ didn’t seem to exist for him. Yes or no, that was it.
He was also a man of habit. His morning ‘coffee crew,’ the calendar of luncheons and meeting at the Chamber of Commerce, as regular as the tide, as dependable as the clock.
If you disagreed with him on anything, you were ridiculed, dismissed or both. Opposition was not tolerated.
He deserves to be remembered for all that he did to reshape and recreate Culver City. Truly, this would be a very different place if Steve Rose had not decided what he wanted it to be, and then made that happen.
He was a man embraced by his community. He had thousands of friends.
I was not one of them.
When I launched CulverCityCrossroads.com, Steve summoned me to a meeting, and then addressed me with such aggressive disdain I was slightly shocked. I had been a member of the Chamber of Commerce through my position at the CC News, so I had been to the monthly breakfasts and the evening cocktail parties. When I was working for someone else, he’d been supportive, most likely as the CC News was the direct competitor of the Observer, a publication that Steve was openly contemptuous of on a regular basis. So I was both surprised and confused at this verbal assault. I had thought the President of the Chamber would be supportive of my entrepreneurial efforts.
Looking back, I realize that my chess move had created a situation for him that he had not foreseen, and that made him angry. I had changed from being a reliable quantity to an unknown factor, and Steve did not tolerate unknown factors in Culver City.
But he was a daily reader, or should I say a daily proofreader. Any post that I published, Steve would email me within minutes if there was a typo, someone misidentified in a photo, an unclear detail. Nothing would raise his ire faster than an unclear detail. That led to grey areas, and Steve needed to live in a world completely black and white.
So, we were not friends, but not really enemies. (Steve would say, one or the other! Make up your mind!) There were a lot of things I liked about Steve. If there was anything he liked about me, I never heard about it.
There was an occasion when I was asking questions about a proposed development, and Steve offered that he had something all written out and ready to publish. I said, great, I’ll add that to my research. He said, it’s all here, you don’t need to research anything else. I said Steve, I’m trying to commit journalism over here. He said, loud and exasperated, What do you want do that for?
The last time I saw him was in the parking lot in front of Pavilions just a few weeks ago. It was almost dawn, and Steve was dapper as ever, and I was in my yoga pants and sweatshirt. I think we were both carrying cups of coffee (for ourselves) and bags of bagels (for other people.) I was still working on the re-launch, and I joked, “Hey, Steve, don’t die, I’m not ready.” He said “Yeah, I’m not ready either.” But the look on his face was anything but amused. Illness was something he could not out-strategize. He could not think nine moves ahead on this.
So, the memorial at Hillside, the reception at the Doubletree, Steve had curated every detail. His way of expressing himself was to plan things down to a granular, perhaps even a cellular level. And then, make sure they were executed flawlessly.
Everyone in Culver City has seen and felt the changes that he imagined for us, and many have benefitted.
I’m knowing that his friend Scott Wyant has probably had the chance to explain things to him, get him up to speed on how it all works, and perhaps there’s even an overview of the chess board.
Well played, Steve. Game over.