FaithInterviews

MEN OF VALUE INTERVIEW : KEN GREEN by James Riordan

Ken Green’s story is inspiring because it demonstrates that no matter your age or circumstances, with God you can still achieve your dreams. He was a kid who was thrown out of high school with basically nothing to look forward to when he joined the army and was sent to Korea. Stuck in a foreign land with no opportunities on the horizon, most people would have despaired, but Ken Green began remaking his future, a future which saw him complete high school, get a college degree, become a teacher, become a lawyer, a public defender, the chief public defender of Los Angeles County supervising four hundred lawyers, a professor at UCLA, be admitted to the Box Hall of Fame and now an author.

Ken Green Book, Im From Division StreetKen’s book, I’m from Division Street, tells the story of a down, but not quite out Chicago kid who overcame the odds to become a huge success. “My father was the main person in my life.” Ken said. “He was an immigrant from Poland who managed to get out before Hitler arrived. He had no education and he spoke with a broken accent. When I came home from Korea he said to me, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ I said, ‘I want to do what you do.’ He was a house painter. He said to me, ‘You could do better than that. You don’t want to have a life coming home with paint in your eyes and fumes in your lungs. Why don’t you be a lawyer?’ I said, ‘Dad I can’t be a lawyer. I was thrown out of high school and I’ve never read a book.’ He said, ‘But you’re very, very smart. You can do it.’ And then he had me paint closets in the projects for three days. On the third day I came home and my face was covered with paint. I said, ‘I’m going to be a lawyer.’”

The family had no money and there were few educational loan opportunities in those days, especially for someone who’s been expelled from high school. “I said, ‘Dad it’s going to take me eleven years because I’ve got to get a job and work while I go to school.” He was a very smart man. He said, ‘Eleven years will come and eleven years will go, but if you do what I tell you and you become a lawyer, you’re going to walk into court and the judge is going to address you as counselor and your aunt and uncles who thought you would amount to nothing will be in the lobby waiting to see you and you’re going to tell them to see your secretary and make an appointment.’ So I got motivated. “

Green’s family left Chicago and relocated to Los Angeles in 1961. A year later he followed them to California. “I was living like a rat in Chicago, driving a cab and living in a very poor neighborhood. I had two jobs and I was going to Roosevelt University. After a year I went out to visit my family and I decided to stay because the weather was so beautiful. I finished my last year of undergraduate school at California State University and I became a high school teacher and went to law school in Los Angeles at night. After I graduated and passed the bar I joined the Los Angeles Public Defenders office and eventually worked my way up to chief.”

That alone is a near impossible feat. “I tried over a hundred jury trials. I don’t know how I did it,” Green admits. “I was only sleeping about three hours a night.”

Ken and Maureen GreenGreen’s book, I’m From Division Street not only discusses his life but the many other memorable stories that came from the same neighborhood. “After my mother died, I was looking through her diaries, and all her memorabilia and the newspaper clippings she had saved and I discovered, much to my surprise, how many great Jews lived on that street. These were families who came from Eastern Europe with no money and no education and rose to tremendous promi-nence. People like Benny Goodman, the renowned bandleader, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Studs Terkel and Saul Bellow, Jules Stein who established the Jules Stein Eye Clinic at UCLA. , Producers like Kyle Foreman and Mike Todd who

Ken and Maureen Green

was married actress Elizabeth Taylor. Just a huge plethora of people who achieved great success and they came from no money so I dedicated the book to them as well as my friends that I grew up with, most of whom, though they were all poor, are now multi-millionaires.”

Ken describes his values as old school. “I’m an old-school guy. I have never felt entitled. I never believed I was supposed to get things for nothing. I believe we live in a wonderful country where the opportunities are there, but you have to work hard.”

Green’s solid values are evident in everything he does, even where he takes his vacations. “This year my wife and I are planning on visiting Normandy and Iwo Jima. We want to pay our respects to the soldiers who fought and died there. I’ve had some friends who say, ‘Why don’t you go to Tahiti?’ And I say, ‘I’m not that kind of guy. It means the world to me to go to Nor-mandy and Iwo Jima. I respect men, in particular, men who are tough. They don’t whine, they work hard, they don’t lie and they don’t cheat. I’m old-school.”

As anyone who lives in today’s compromised world knows, it’s not always easy to live life by such values. “There were lots of times that compromising on my values would’ve made things easier, but I just think you have to make your stand in those situations. As a trial lawyer I never lied, I never cheated. I never encouraged any form of perjury. When I trained lawyers I told them, ‘You do everything you can for your client but you never lie and you never cheat.” I was a very good lawyer and, when I was a young public defender, a number of lawyers I knew who were in private practice said, ‘Why don’t you come out with me? You’ll make a lot of money.’ But I didn’t do it. I was not a money man. I wanted to enjoy my work. I didn’t want to die of a heart attack and I didn’t want to make those kinds of compromises.”

Green is also a longtime boxer and was inducted to the California Boxing Hall of Fame. “I was a single parent and when my son was little he told me he wants to learn how to box. So I found an old gym in Los Angeles. It was right out of Rocky. One day, when my son was eight years old, I took him there. We met the owner whose name was Frankie Goodman and he had been a national lightweight champion. He taught my son how to box. He cut a hole in the ring and got down in the hole so that he was their size and he taught kids as young as six how to box. Then I got hooked and I started going. I used to spar with FBI agents and little-by-little I started getting more involved with boxing. Finally this great man had a stroke and he closed the gym. I had a friend who was a movie actor who had a small part in The Godfather and he knew I was a boxer. One day he said to me, ‘Ken I’m friends with a movie star who owns a boxing gym and I told him about you and he said I could bring you by.’ That night I went and met Mickey Rourke. I didn’t know who he was. He owned the gym and he was very nice to me. He told me I could come as often as I wanted with no charge. So I used to go twice a week and box and I started meeting many people. I also became very good friends with his trainer who was the greatest trainer in the world. His name is Freddie Roach. He trained Mike Tyson, De Le Hoya, Manny Pacquiao – lot of the greats. Eventually Freddie bought the gym. I still go to his gym. I’m almost 80 years old. I still box. I’ve helped the California Boxing with their legal needs for years. I’ve helped a lot of great boxers when I could. They inducted to me to show their appreciation for everything I’ve done for boxing.”

Green recently had another very memorable experience through that organization. “At our last induction ceremony, which was in October in Los Angeles, I was selected to induct post-humously, one of the greatest Jewish boxers that ever lived, Barney Ross. I inducted him in front of hundreds of people and when I finished they gave me his certificate of inclusion into the Hall of Fame as well as a scroll from the City of Los Angeles. Since none of his relatives were able to be present my wife and I did some research and we found his family lived in Chicago. I have a condo there and when we came back to visit, I located them and went to their house and gave them the certificate. They showed me his photographs and newspaper clippings. It was a big honor for me because he was a great Jew. Not only was he a great boxer, but he was also a war hero.”

The idea for Green’s book, I’m From Division Street came about when he was talking to his wife about his life/ “I told her I think I’m going to write a book. Maybe I could motivate young kids. And the other reason I wanted to write the book is because I want to hand it down to my son and my grandchildren. So I went to Starbucks and I did it the old-fashioned way. I brought a legal pad and a pen and I gave myself a 3-month lid and I put in a couple hours a day and I wrote the book. I have a good memory and I just wrote down my memories.”

Ken Green defines freedom as follows: “Be your own person. Take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to you in this wonderful country. Choose what you want to do to make a living and pick something that makes you happy. I guess that’s freedom but with it comes the responsibility to do right.

Green recognizes the sharp divisions in America these days, but he trusts the system to work out the right path. “Obviously we have a split in the country. We have liberals, we have conservatives, but that’s the way that it’s always been. I think the best advice I can give people is to just be patient. We have a great country and the foundation is there in our constitution. That’s the way the forefathers set it up. Things will work out. And just be a good citizen. Work hard and teach your children good values.”

It’s this kind of attitude that made America great and it’s one of the reasons we are proud to call Ken Green a man of value.

 

__

 

 

 

 

The Author

James Riordan

James Riordan

Rare is it that any author will have one of his books described as the definitive work on a particular subject, but such a distinction has been bestowed by critics on no less than four books written by James Riordan. The New York Times Bestseller Break on Through, Riordan’s biography of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, has not only been called “the most objective, thorough and professional Morrison biography” by the Times Book Review but also named as one of the Ten All Time Best Rock Biographies by Amazon.com. Riordan’s The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco) was called “One of the best how-to books ever written” by the Los Angeles Daily News and “The ultimate career book on the music industry” by Recording, Engineer & Producer. Critics described Riordan’s The Bishop of Rwanda as “one of the most important books you’ll ever read.” and The Coming of the Walrus, Riordan’s novel about the 60s as “the definitive book on the era” and “a hilarious tale of a harrowing search for the greatest truth of all”. With the release of A Well Thought Out Scream and Madman in the Gate, Riordan pushed the boundaries again with poetry/song lyric books that contain hundreds of stunning, beautiful and poignant images from artists and photographers from all over the world. In the summer of 2013 a new edition of The Coming of the Walrus was released to rave reviews followed by The Kill Switch. The author of thirty-three books, James Riordan’s career began in the music industry where as a songwriter, manager, producer and concert promoter he worked with several well known artists. In 1976 he began writing a newspaper column, Rock-Pop, which he later syndicated. Riordan soon became one of America’s premier rock journalists with articles reaching millions of readers including those of Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Circus, Musician, and newspapers like The Chicago Daily News and The Kansas City Star. His reputation for relating on a one-to-one level soon led to interviews with George Harri-son, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Zappa, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Mandrell, Crosby, Stills & Nash and countless others. His first book, The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco in 1980) became the largest selling book ever written about the music business. The guide to “succeeding in the music business without selling your soul” was praised by Variety ,The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Las Vegas Sun, The Minneapolis Tribune, Billboard, Record World and many more. The Platinum Rainbow became an industry-wide phenomenon and interviews with James Riordan were aired on over 1200 radio stations and numerous television talk shows. Next Riordan collaborated with Pulitzer Prize winner Jason Miller on a mini-series for network television (The Irish) and a movie of the week for CBS (Bless Me Father). In June 1991, William Morrow & Co. published Break On Through to outstanding sales and reviews. Riordan worked as a consultant on Oliver Stone’s film of Morrison’s life, The Doors, which led to his writing Stone’s biography. Published by Hyperion /Disney in December 1995, Entertainment Weekly called STONE “an unflinching biography... enough spectacle to fill a month of daytime-TV talk shows.” The New York Post said reading the book was like “the sensory overload of watching all of Oliver Stone’s movies back to back.” Riordan was interviewed by Inside Edition, People Magazine, The Tom Snyder Show, and many others. From 1997-2000, Riordan created and co-starred in a local television program, Kankakee Valley Prime Time, which won six Crystal Communicators, three Tellys, and earned Riordan a Chicago/ Midwest Emmy Nomination for Writing the program. In the summer of 1999, James Riordan wrote, directed and starred in Maddance, an hour long dramatic project which won Crystal Communicators for Drama, Writing, Acting and Directing. On April 9, 2000, James’ 16 year old son, Jeremiah, was killed as a passenger in an accident that involved three drunk drivers. Shortly after this, James founded Make it Stick which works to warn teens of the dangers of substance abuse and publishes a magazine distributed to high school students. In 2001, he founded Jeremiah’s – A Place to be Yourself to give teens a place to hang out away from the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Force to close by its incredible growth rate, Jeremiah’s was recognized as one of the fastest growing and most successful teen centers in the United States. In 2004, Toastmasters International named Riordan Communicator of the Year for Central Illinois, the YMCA gave him their Service to Youth Award and the United Way named him the Outstanding Volunteer of Kankakee County. Returning to writing, Riordan went to Africa to write The Bishop of Rwanda, (with an intro by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren). In November of 2006, Harper Collins released a new edition of Break On Through followed by The Coming of the Walrus (Image Workshop) in December and The Bishop of Rwanda (Thomas Nelson, Inc.) to rave reviews (“Powerful …plumbs the depths of God’s forgiveness and finds no bottom – Publisher’s Weekly). In 2011, he won the Pledge For Life Harold Award for his work with area youth. In the summer of 2012, Lee and Shane Stanley (Gridiron Gang) optioned Maddance as a feature film followed by Apothecary Films optioning The Kill Switch in 2013 and Omni Films optioning Final Service to film in May. Riordan joined the staff of the Mancow Syndicated Television and Radio show in January of 2014 and is now seen and heard across America on a weekly basis. His biography is included in Who’s Who in Entertainment , Who’s Who in Poetry and Contemporary Authors of America. James Riordan – Works Books The Kill Switch, novel with Andrew Dahlmaine, Stonegate Ink, 2013 The Coming of the Walrus, Trade Paperback Editn, Image Workshop 2012 Springboard To Heaven ( Jojo Sayson Adventure), Image Workshop, 2012 The Elijah Collection, novel collection with Bill Myers, Zondervan, 2011 The Well Thought Out Scream (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 Madman in the Gate (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 The Deadly Loyalty Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Ancient Forces Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Enemy Strikes with Bill Myers (Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 Deception with Bill Myers (Book 2 Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 The Bishop of Rwanda (Finding Forgiveness) Thomas Nelson, March 2007 Paperback Edition May, 2012 The Coming of the Walrus (What Really Happened in the '60s) IW, 2006 Break on Through (The Life & Death of Jim Morrison), Morrow, 1991. (New York Times Bestseller, Published in 5 languages, Hardcover, 5 Paperback Editions, Harper Trade Paperback November, 2006) Stone (The Controversies, Excesses & Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker), Disney/Hyperion,1995. (Published in 3 languages, Hardcover, Paperback Edition). Making It in the New Music Business, Writers Digest Books, 1987, (Second Edition, Revised and Updated 1991, Two Hardcover Editions) The Platinum Rainbow (How to Succeed in the Music Business Without Selling Your Soul) 250,000 copies with Bob Monaco, Swordsman Press, 1980, Twenty-Three Editions, Revised 1988) 25 Year Anniversary Edition, 2005 Capture the Wind (Microphones) w.Tom Lubin, Literary Mouse Press,1989 Private Biography of Russ Kalvin, founder of Kalvin Corp., 1990 Private Biography of Steve Stefano, founder of Joico Hair Products, 1993. Mystery of the Invisible Knight (Book 2 in the BloodHounds Series) with Bill Myers, Bethany House,1997. Matters of the Heart (The Life & Times of Edgar Cullman), Culbro, 1997. The Curse (Book 7 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1997. The Undead (Book 8 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1996. The Scream (Book 9 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1998 The Ancients (Book 10 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1999. The Cards (Book 11 Forbidden Doors Series) with Bill Myers, Tyndale,2000 Films Final Service, co-written with Gary Moore and based on his book, Omni Productions, to be filmed in May, 2014. Maddance, Writer/Director/Lead Actor, Search Engine Films, Simmcomm, 1999. (Winner of 4 Crystal Communicators including Best Drama, Screenplay, Director, Male Actor – Austin, TX.1999) Performance (The Life of Ingrid Bergman), Screenplay, Lancit Productions 1998. Returned to Author when film division closed)Rewritten2009 Shadowdancers, Story & Screenplay, Story with Bill Myers, 1997 Dr. Babylon, Story 1996. Air Guitar, Story & Screenplay, 1994 The Platinum Rainbow, Story & Screenplay, 1993 Television/Video Kankakee Valley Prime Time, Writer, Director, Producer, 1997-2000. (Nominated for Midwest/Chicago Emmy for Writing, 1998, 3 Telly Awards, 4 Crystal Communicators 1998-2000). Angels Among Us (The Amtrak City of New Orleans Train Disaster, Co- Producer, (Telly Award, 2000). River Valley Sports Authority, Producer, 1999-2003. I Hate The World (Hypnoises Music Video), Writer/Director/Producer, Crystal Communicator for Best Music Video Concept, 1998). The United Way (Video) Crystal Communicator for Best Video for a Charitable Organization, 1998.

If it isn't money and it isn't fame and it isn't sex... then what... God?

— James Riordan, 2000

No Comment

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *