Aug. 10--When Tony Long Jr. was 10 years old, he saw the movie "Airport 1975" and enjoyed the performance of Karen Black as a stewardess so much that he would later become a flight attendant himself.
Years later, Long spent almost a year recruiting Black to attend the Macon Film Festival in 2009, where she was a guest of honor.
"I was always interested in her movies," Long said of the actress who died this week.
One night while having dinner with his father, Tony Long Sr. -- one of the founders of the film festival -- the elder Long was talking about trying to make the film festival bigger.
"I suggested bringing in Karen Black," Long Jr. said. "He said, 'Have at it.' "
Long tried getting in touch with her through her My Space account and later traveled to New York, where she was performing a one-woman stage show.
His perseverance paid off. Not only did Black attend the 2009 festival, but she also later returned for the festival the next year, plus filmed the independent movie "Stuck!" in Macon and mounted a self-written play at Cox Capitol Theatre, which the younger Long produced.
When news broke Thursday of the 74-year-old actress' death from cancer, Long was one of several locals who was hit hard by the news. Long developed a long-term relationship with the actress and her family, and had been on the phone with her husband and son on Thursday.
"Someone on Facebook called me her publicist," said Long, who added that he's planning to go to the memorial service for the actress once details are finalized.
Black was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1971 for her role in "Five Easy Pieces," for which she won a Golden Globe. Black also won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in 1974 for her work in "The Great Gatsby."
Terrell Sandefur, one of the Macon film festival's organizers, said Black's appearance in 2009 helped vault what largely had been a local event into something that now draws a much broader audience.
"I just think that she lent us real credibility when we needed it," he said. "She really spoiled us with how brilliant she was. She really appreciated being part of the film festival. She couldn't have been a more gracious guest."
Black enjoyed her experience so much that she conducted acting workshops during the festival and screened the movie "Firecracker" with its director, Steve Balderson.
Sandefur said Balderson and Black so enjoyed the look of Macon that they chose to shoot "Stuck!" here later in 2009.
That same year, Black returned to Macon to perform at Capitol Theatre a play she had written, "Missouri Waltz." It ran for a week in September of that year. Long produced the play, and local theater director Sylvia Haynie directed the production and co-starred in it with Black.
"There was no pretense about her," Haynie said. "She was witty and funny and probably one of the smartest people I've ever met. She was incredibly perceptive."
Information from The Telegraph's archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.
(c)2013 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.)
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