Kenneth Kahn: A Carny Kid's Tragic Demise
BY CRAIG STEPHENS
Lawyer, author, comedian and philanthropist Kenneth Kahn's accidental climbing death in May was as ironic as his surviving the constant adversity that challenged him throughout his 66 years. Kahn died from injuries sustained scaling a mountain by himself near Machu Picchu, Peru.
Born in 1942 to carnival-hustling, heroin-addicted parents who worked the Santa Monica Pier attractions, Kahn managed to progress through life, qualifying as a lawyer and then writing two books. He chronicled his childhood years through adolescence in his 2005 book, The Carny Kid: Survival of a Young Thief. A timeless tale of strength and inspiration, and imbued with uplifting humor and pathos, Carny Kid depicts the struggle Kahn faced as the eldest child of two small-time carnival thieves, living in a "shooting gallery" apartment while surviving a gang-dominated existence in one of East L.A.'s worst neighborhoods. His follow-up second book, tentatively titled Going Berzerkeley, an autobiographical novel about his adventures as a U.C. Berkeley law student during the tumultuous 1960s, was due for release in October.
Kahn was in negotiation to transform the Carny Kid into a film at the time of his death and perhaps the real tragedy of his demise stems from the negotiations for his film having stalled. With no one owning the story, backers are now hesitant to conclude a deal.
His former publicist, Brad Butler of Promotion in Motion confides, "The wheels were in motion when Ken was alive, but the situation is now muddied. With an executor now overseeing the project, the backer is worried about maintaining control and story rights."