Wheatley Alumni Monthly Newsletter
Number 6: September 15, 2016
Dear Wheatley Wildcats and Wildcat Supporters,
Welcome to the sixth issue of The Wheatley School Alumni Association (more-frequently-than-monthly-these-days) Newsletter. This issue contains Wheatley News (including the release of a movie made by two brothers who graduated in the 1970s); Wheatley Lives (including, by popular demand, more photographs); and Wheatley Deaths.
Meanwhile, as I write these lines, The Wheatley School 60th Anniversary Celebration is exactly one month away. Attendance should top 500, and you can see exactly who (so far): Expected Attendee List.. If you plan to attend, please register NOW; and if you do not plan to attend, please let me know NOW.
David Cooper (Wheatley 1975) and Matthew Cooper (Wheatley 1978) have been passionate filmmakers for the past 20 years.
They began their Hollywood careers in the mid-90s by co-producing the popular cult film “The Last Supper,” starring Cameron Diaz, and followed up that with the noted horror anthology “Campfire Tales,” for which Matt wrote and directed the film’s segment "The Honeymoon" and David executive produced. An ensemble romantic comedy titled “Perfect Opposites” followed, with the brothers playing the same roles.
The Cooper Brothers were involved in another half-dozen films and TV shows, but one script that they both loved, which Matt had written back in 1997, never got made. It promised to be an entertaining movie, but one that could also stir up political discussions about gun control in America. Then came Sandy Hook and the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. In 2014 they finally made “Is That A Gun in Your Pocket?...” The movie has already won several film festival awards this year. It will be released on September 16 in New York City and September 23 in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. The film depicts what happens when a small Texas town housewife decides to take a stand against guns after her young son is involved in a school shooting incident. You can view the trailer and learn more about the movie by visiting the film’s website: http://www.isthatagun.com/.
The September 16 screenings are at the Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street, New York, NY, www.cinemavillage.com, with shows at 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. [Editor’s note – The trailer is hilarious, IMHO. And Matthew hopes that you’ll come out and support Wheatley alumni).
(Note to everyone - please send us your autobiography before someone else sends us your obituary!)
1965 - Peter Altschuler
I arrived at the Leroy Sanitarium (before it became a real hospital) at the end of what was, at the time, the worst New York snow storm of the 20th Century. That didn’t strike me, years later, as being quite as auspicious as that my mother’s birthday was the first day of Winter. I still consider those facts fraught with psychological and mythological overtones.
My birthplace was chosen for a particular reason. It was right next door to The Colony, New York’s toniest restaurant, and my mother could have food delivered. She remembered that with far more detail than my birth. She was anesthetized for that.
We moved into an apartment at 89th and Lex (long before my later-famous father, Murray “the K” Kaufman, wouldn’t be caught dead in that neighborhood) and, in fairly short order, my parents, who’d been married three years by the time I was born, divorced; my mother remarried; her husband adopted me; and without my having any say in the matter, my last name was changed from “Kaufman” to “Altschuler.”
Before I was three, we had moved to Roslyn Heights, and I only remember two things about my years in elementary school — I was the lead in a first grade play, and I was pulled out of my fifth grade class for being disruptive and moved (because my teacher thought, rightly, that I wasn’t being challenged) into the smart kids’ class, Level 2 (Mrs. Smith had even smarter kids in her class).
By Junior High at Wheatley, I was still wearing “Husky” clothes; decided to put an end to that; and tried wrestling and, later, football. Yet, it was readily apparent that, while I might lose weight, I would not be in close contact with females. That fact moved me quickly into choir and drama where, respectively, I sang a lot of solos and played a lot of leads. I even sang as the opening act for Judy Collins when she performed at the school.
So, when I went to NYU, I spent all my free time — despite majoring in English — in the Drama Department. However, my future wife made it very clear that being hitched to a starving actor in New York was not among her dreams. So I switched to film, focused on editing, and began a post-graduate career in “the biz.”
By the time I made it into the editor’s union, I was the youngest person to be sworn in as a full editor. While earning my way, I also wrote scripts and designed animation and graphics (and got an Emmy nomination for both); the title animation at the end of the show opening that I did for The Electric Company ran for years. Gradually, I started doing more writing/producing/directing and, by the time I joined the first-season staff at ABC’s 20/20, I was doing w/p/d full time.
That did me absolutely no good. At least, not in New York. But a colleague offered me a chance to co-produce a syndicated documentary series and would pay my way to LA, so I moved to the town that put the chrome in chromosome, worked diligently, and quickly realized that the two coasts have little in common. In New York, chutzpah gets you in the door. In LA, it was all about who you knew, and who would be willing to vouch for you. The list of those people, I learned, was incredibly short.
From a 13-room, 1850 house in Park Slope, Brooklyn, we moved into a 6 room house in Santa Monica and converted two of the garages into office and production space. It was in that decidedly downscale environment that I did a special for HBO and began work on another that they decided to cancel, that being my introduction to show business lawyers.
After acquiring a new spouse and two more children, I needed a regular income; so I worked as an advertising manager at a tech firm. I parlayed that into a w/p/d spot at another tech firm that was launching an information-by-phone service (they handled the underlying software, I ran the team that created all the audio content). That was, in a sense, my first foray into radio…..shortly after my father died from, I’m convinced, too much interaction with sparkly teenage women.
After running the tech-firm's in-house ad agency, I worked at an artificial intelligence firm (whose chief executive’s intelligence was completely artificial, it turned out); a predictive analytics company, whose service I launched into a $190 million acquisition after only 90 days; an on-line collaboration service (whose founders couldn’t collaborate); and a mobile app development company. I then went back to acting (doing everything from Shakespeare to commercials, and discovered a talent for audiobooks (you can look me up on Amazon or Audible), winning several awards in the process and a couple of nominations for the Audies, which are the Oscars or Emmys of audiobooks.
Our four daughters are all grown and doing well, and their seven children (collectively) are ours to spoil. So far, we’ve taken four of the sub-children to Europe, and they think we’re gods. The younger three are a few years away, but we’re already planning the itinerary.------------------------
Mark Koenig - 1961
Mark died on September 5, 2016. He attended the University of Pittsburgh and received an MSW from San Francisco State University. He lived in Nova Scotia, Canada.
John Gonda - 1965
[Editor’s note- The last newsletter reported John’s death. John’s brother Robert, Wheatley 1970, here reports his life.] John attended Reed College in Portland, OR and graduated from SUNY Stony Brook in political science. This was followed by an MPA in health policy and management from NYU's Wagner School of Public Service. He spent the bulk of his career in healthcare related activities, particularly at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD while living in Falls Church, VA. In March 2015, at age 67, he passed away unexpectedly from a massive stroke. He is survived by his brother Bob and sister-in-law Debi, who reside in Orange County, CA; niece Lauren; and nephew Jeff.
Nancy Kirk – 1971
Nancy passed away on July 27, 2015. Her sister, Patricia Kirk Hefferan, graduated in 1961, and her brother, Robert Kirk, graduated in 1964. Nancy worked for the Parkoff Organization, a real estate acquisition and management company in Great Neck, NY.
It’s a wrap. Hope to see you next month. Comments, corrections, news and submissions welcome.