Jay Curtis, known to his PromaxBDA colleagues as “The Creative Lifeguard,” became a vital part of BPME/BDA — now PromaxBDA — in 1987. As member services director, he ran the association’s resource center and award competition, contributed to Image Magazine, and wrote, produced and hosted the monthly BPME Videomagazine.
Later, he became marketing director. Jay left the association in 1991, but he continued his involvement, judging the awards and producing many prominent sessions at the annual conference. He produced over a dozen State of Our Art sessions as well as many Siskel & Ebert at the Promos presentations.
Moving on to the CBS Television Network, Jay Curtis, creative lifeguard, managed the on-air network brand for over 20 years, helping launch and nurture such hits as Everybody Loves Raymond, the CSI franchises, NCIS, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. During that time, Jay produced and wrote IDs, promos and marketing pieces that won over 40 PromaxBDA Awards. In 2004, Jay received a Writers Guild of America Award.
In 2015, after many tests for numbness creeping up his writing hand, he received a diagnosis of ALS. This fatal disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, continues to destroy the nerves and muscles in his body, so far affecting his mobility and speech.
Resolved to continue his journey in life with passion, grace, and purpose, Jay has authored a book of poems chronicling and reflecting on his experience with ALS: In and Out of Dreaming, published by Lexingford Publishing LLC (2017).
In his preface, Jay writes: “It is the same disease that afflicts Stephen Hawking. I have asked my neurologists if I will be able to hit baseballs like Gehrig and think like Hawking. Hey, you have to laugh. These poems may help others understand that life is more precious when something imminent threatens to take it away.”
He believes there is a connection between writing promos and poems, “over the years, along with promo copy, I have also written a lot of poetry, sometimes while waiting in edit bays and on show sets. To be successful in either discipline, you need to be able to whittle down precise, powerful phrases with a keen sense of rhythm and voice.”
“Jay touches your soul as he takes you on his poetic journey of living with ALS. There is humor, sorrow and enlightenment. But mostly it is human. I urge everyone to take this journey with Jay -– It is an emotional reminder to all to embrace life and humanity regardless of the challenges that may come your way. Bravo,” said John Douglas Miller, CMO, NBC Olympics Chair, NBC Universal Marketing Council
“Jay’s poetry is rich and deep and beautiful. He paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to live with ALS and proves that the most challenging of circumstances can be sources of great insight and greater inspiration,” said Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO, The ALS Association.
Here’s a sample from Jay’s book:
Life in Reverse
Dreams bring on the freedom to dance.
Waking brings increasing limitations.
Progressing de-nerving has me devolving,
in reverse gear undoing growing pains.
Sometimes I laugh at my ineptitude
unable to accomplish the simple things
zipping, buttoning, gripping, holding.
There is hope in finding new habits
and joy in remembering the old ones.
My grandfather taught me to sign my name.
My mother taught me to tie my shoes.
My father taught me to throw a knuckle ball.
Skills gone like a seeded lawn under spring snow.
I imagine traveling back to innocence,
ignoring the strangling bracelets of thorns.
Even now, I find new roses blooming,
brightening my once traveled return path.
As precious as muscle memory may be
other learning is not ruled by nerve fibers.
I will spark the remaining fuel of the fire within
using any communication method possible
to file reports from the battlefield front.
No matter how much my shell deteriorates
both wide-eyed innocence and experience
will surround me like night bloom.
Look for me in your rearview mirror
as I live the rest of my life in reverse.
Jay has committed a portion of royalties from every sale of the book to the ALS Association for continued, intense research toward a cure for ALS. You can be a part of Jay’s effort and also experience poems that inspire courage and allow tears.
Jay will be on hand at PromaxBDA: The Conference during the State of Our Art session on Thursday afternoon, June 8, at the JW Marriott at LA Live.