Of course I knew Dave Kranz. You can’t be in the same line of work in the same town for over twenty years without a knowledge of each other. The truth is…and I base this on nothing he ever said or done..I didn’t think Dave thought much of me as a real journalist. He was right, of course. I didn’t have any formal education in journalism and leaned more toward feature stories while he relished working in the trenches digging up the hard news and political stuff. Other than a cordial greeting when our paths occasionally crossed, it wasn’t until my approaching retirement that I realized I’d been wrong about Dave. It was Kranz and an Argus photographer who asked to meet with me for lunch and an interview about my career and exit. He couldn’t have been nicer or more complimentary.
My friend and longtime Keloland colleague, Steve Hemmingsen, was a real friend with Kranz and I’ve asked Steve to share a few personal memories here. (The photo is a screen grab from the 2002 U.S. Senate debate. That’s Steve on the far left; Dave on the far right.)
Much has been said and written about the passing of the one-time Argus Leader political guru Dave Kranz. Deservedly so, and as far as I know, every bit of it has been so accurate Dave would have grunted his editorial approval.
Knowing that Dave and I were not only colleagues, but friends for half a century, almost to the year, since we were both novice journalists in Austin, Minnesota, Doug has asked me to share some personal reflections. Austin was a good place to start and a good place to get acquainted with fellow journeymen journalists. With a TV station, two radio stations and an old established newspaper it was small enough to become familiar with each other and big enough to have a journalism community. We spent a lot of time in a lot of bars. Austin had a lot of bars, although I don’t remember Dave drinking much, if at all, or smoking…anything. He was more serious than the rest of us, even in the tumultuous 60s.
I intend these reflections to be humorous, but as Dave himself would attest, accurate. We used to kid about his sartorial splendor. Dave wasn’t always the be-suited editor he became. I used to joke that he took the 1950s song “Tan Shoes and Pink Shoe Laces” as a dress code, like some guys view Esquire…or used to.
While in Austin, after I had headed west, Dave rented an apartment owned by the man many viewed as an “errant heir” to the Hormel “Spam” fortune, Hollywood composer and one-time husband of Leslie Caron, Geordie Hormel.
I never saw the place, but I understand it was posh, located above Geordies bar, the one with a fire house pole so you could slide from the mezzanine to the main floor. I doubt if Dave ever did the “pole dance.” But I have often wondered what the apartment looked like when Dave vacated for Mitchell and, ultimately, Sioux Falls.
Why this conjecture? Dave would buy a brand new car and within a year, it looked like he had had it detailed during a SCUD missile attack in downtown Baghdad. None of that mattered to Dave. His thing was good, accurate reporting and well-researched analysis and good conversation, usually about the previous two, or major league baseball.
Our parallel paths brought us to South Dakota, home to Dave (Dave was one of the Kranzburg Kranzes), the frontier to me at the time. Our friendship endured and grew to the point that he and my son shared a mania for baseball and baseball cards. I hope they’re both comparing notes someplace now.
When he was at the Mitchell Daily Republic, Dave would call me with the occasional news tip. Why? So that KXON, now KDLT, wouldn’t get the story first.
One time, Dave was at KELO. We were talking in the lobby as Captain Eleven puffed a cigarette. Dave was at his dress-code best. When he left, the Captain shook his head and said: “There goes one of the most powerful people in South Dakota.”
Indeed. I think David Kranz would have taken it as a compliment, and I think the Captain sort of meant it as one.
It was painful for me to witness Dave’s slide into the abyss of dementia. I don’t know if anybody has talked about that. A group of friends…Ted Muenster, former Argus publisher Randall Beck, Jimmy the Priest and I used to make the trip to Watertown to visit Dave. Finally, just to see him. The trip home, whether alone or individually, was always somber and maybe a little tearful as we watched a truly beautiful mind wither away, way too early. Dave was younger than all of us in years and maybe wiser than some of us in intellect.
By the way, in the name of accuracy, Dave would remind you that in Austin, the Spam capital…the one in the can, not the one in your computer…it’s pronounced “Hor’-mull”, not the hoity toity “Hor-mell’” of TV commercials.