Brad Keene - (Barney Kleinfeld) news CKXL Calgary; sports director/anchor CHAN-TV Vancouver 1960s; sports shorts and a.m. drive CHQM Vancouver until September/71. Died January 20, 1992 at age 66.







IT WAS AS amusing as it could be, given the funereal circumstances, that while Rabbi Wilfred Solomon was telling us that Brad Keene suffered the curse of insomnia in the last few years of his life, Keene himself was sleeping deeply, just a few feet away, boxed for shipment to restful eternity.


This was the first Jewish funeral I have attended and I hope it's not stretching the boundaries of taste to say that it was a pleasant affair. So many Christian rites are distressingly somber, with numbingly long laments that are totally out of context to the nature of the person being seen off.


But like the good radio man he had been, Keene's service started on time, it was upbeat and left us feeling we had heard a love song, not a dirge.


Rabbi Solomon clearly knew the man he spoke about, knew him well and fondly and his 20-minute discourse stoked up a bit of warmth for the 120 people who came out of a bitingly cold rain and into the Schara Tzedeck Chapel at West Broadway near Alma.


If there had been any thought that we were there to mourn, it was dispelled when clothier Murray Goldman - like Keene, a Winnipeg north-ender - came in and said business is so bad everywhere, a New York Mafia family had laid off two judges.


Keene (he was born Barney Kleinfeld but, like many broadcasters, adopted a more commercially viable name) died Monday at 66 after a long wrestle with Mr. Parkinson's cruel disease. He died on the last day of the Jewish celebration, the New Year of the Trees and I don't think he knew he was going because the last penciled entry on his calendar, at the Yaletown long-term care home, alerted him to "Super Bowl Sunday."


Rabbi Solomon mentioned the insomnia while suggesting that Keene fought the Parkinson's so long and so hard that "now he deserves an undisturbed sleep." It was surprising because one thing I remember clearly was Keene's ability to drop off to sleep, sitting up, in mid-sentence. I saw him do it at restaurant tables, in my living room, in steam rooms. We teased him about it (even when we had to shake him awake to tease him) and he always alibied it away as the curse of the radio morning-man, never enough sleep. In retrospect, it may have been an early warning sign of his disease.


We came off a racquetball court one day, maybe 25 years ago, and I said I must have really ground him down, the way he was dragging that right foot. Vain about his body - he worked out daily, clothed himself gorgeously - he said the hell he dragged his foot and challenged me to 20 laps around the running track. But it may have been another early sign.


Well, enough of that. Brad Keene was bright, witty company, a radio and television broadcaster with a tremendous voice. He was a star in the early days of Canadian Football League telecasts, but my favorite memory of him was a little bit of business he did as CHQM's morning host, urging the kids in the audience to get a move on, kiss Mom, get to school and study hard. It was as charming as Jim Robson's greetings to shut-ins on his hockey broadcasts.


Two stories before we let you and Keene go.


In the summer of 1967, Keene got an emergency call to fly to Toronto to do an Argos game. He arrived at the stadium just hours before kickoff and entered the broadcast booth to find he was working with Johnny Esaw. They said hello and both realized something. The Six Day War was raging in the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights and here, a Jew and an Arab were going to be working together for four hours in a room the size of a telephone booth. They were still snorting with laughter when they came on air.


Keene bought me my first sauna in the health club of a Calgary hotel, showed me how to rub in the damp rock salt to slough away dead skin and how he rubbed it into his bald head to promote new growth. When we were toweling off, he gave a yelp of delight on finding a complimentary bottle of genuine Bay Rum, 40 per cent alcohol. He rubbed that on his bald pate, too, right where the rock salt had opened a raw spot the size of a silver dollar.


We wondered for years if the attendant ever got over the shock, when he came to check out the God-awful noise, on finding one naked man leaping two feet in the air and another naked man collapsed on the floor with laughter.


Thanks to Denny Boyd Vancouver Sun 1992