Tragicomedy has been revealing humanity’s daily victories, defeats, foibles and humor since the time of Aristotle. For writer Ron Bloomberg, it’s a literary genre that literally mirrors his life.
The only child of Dan Bloomberg and Sarah Ornstein, he was born in Philadelphia in 1930.
“I had a miserable, depressed childhood. My parents divorced when I was 3, and we lived in a tough area in south Philly, where I was one of only two Jews. It wasn’t easy being an outsider,” Bloomberg said.
But he would find a different kind of family upon arriving in Hollywood in 1974 — one with which he had a lot in common.
“As I got to know other comedy writers, I found that we all had similar unhappy childhoods. But our backgrounds gave us the sensitivity to be funny. We had built-in defense mechanisms that we had used early on to survive. There’s a lot to be said about the line, ‘Comedy Kills.’ ”
Prior to making people laugh, Bloomberg had his own ad agency in Philadelphia, where he took on many serious issues. One of his first campaigns was targeted at cigarette companies and highlighted smoking health risks long before smokers became social pariahs. His agency also brought attention to Philadelphia’s gang violence, the hazards of lead paint poisoning, handicapped children’s need for loving, adoptive homes and the hunt for World War II Nazi war criminals.
But as successful as he was running his own agency, his childhood yearning to write comedy beckoned, and at the age of 37, he sold Ron Bloomberg Advertising and moved his family to Los Angeles.
Bloomberg has written episodes for some of television’s all-time great comedies, including All in the Family, Home Improvement and Three’s Company, as well as pilots for CBS, NBC and MTV.
During this wildly successful time, Bloomberg would be confronted with an unbearable tragedy. In 1980, his 16-year-old son, Seth, was killed by a drunk driver.
“I’ve never talked publicly about my son’s death. It’s taken me years, and I’m still not over it. Seth was a wonderful young man who had a great future ahead of him. His death impacted the entire family. My wife, Barbara, was the real hero in that tragedy. She went on to found the first chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers [MADD] in Los Angles, and for the next 20 years she mentored at-risk teenagers and helped to turn around many young lives,” Bloomberg said.
A few years later, Bloomberg also began to experience professional obstacles.
“An interesting thing happened when I turned 55. Suddenly, after a successful run as a comedy writer, I found that I, along with many of my colleagues of a similar age, couldn’t get the networks to read our scripts anymore,” Bloomberg said.
Ageism is an inherent fact of life in a town where youth and beauty are worshipped.
“There’s a belief in Hollywood that people over 50 can’t write about young characters because they’re no longer young. But I disagree. A good writer is able to write about anyone, regardless of age.
“Ten years ago, I joined a class-action suit brought against the networks on ageism. We recently won $70 million. It sounds like a major windfall, but there were 3,000 plaintiffs, so after the legal fees were paid it didn’t result in a lot of money.
“But the fact that we won was justification in itself,” said Bloomberg, now 82.
In 2004, Ron and Barbara Bloomberg moved to Santa Fe to be close to their daughter Kara, who lives in Albuquerque with her husband and two children.
Their son Josh is a singer/songwriter who still lives in Los Angeles.
Bloomberg remains involved with projects both locally and nationally. Last year, he hosted A Voice in the Crowd, the KSFR-FM public radio series with a satirical bent, and a number of his short plays have been produced by the Benchwarmers series at the Santa Fe Playhouse.
He’s currently working on an adventure comedy screenplay about a female Indiana Jones and is working to secure financial backing to move his Broadway play through the next phase of production.
In retrospect, Ron Bloomberg said, he is content with life.
“I used to say that I could be unhappy anywhere, including Philadelphia and Los Angeles. But now that I’m living in Santa Fe, I can say, for the first time in my life, that I’m happy — mostly because 90 percent of the population voted for Obama,” Bloomberg said.
Ana Pacheco’s weekly tribute to our community elders appears every Sunday. She can be reached at 505-474-2800.