Ed Asner: A funny storyteller with a charming soul

Angus McSwan and Lou Grant. Photo: Angus McSwan.
By Angus McSwan

Angus McSwan, Scottish origin, was a correspondent for the Reuters agency in El Salvador since 1986 at the beginning of 1989. He was very sorry for the death of Ed Asner, whom he considered "a great American". In this short story he tells us the time 1990 shared time in Cambodia.

See it as “Lou Grant” on television in his day awakened my youthful aspirations to become a journalist. Later, it was a great pleasure for me to spend a few days with him in Cambodia in 1990.

We are on the baggage conveyor at Saigon airport, Vietnam. I was on a trip supporting a project to help landmine victims in Cambodia, where I was heading to a Reuters mission.

Ed was active in opposing US policy in El Salvador, where I had spent the previous three years (1986-1989). That's why we had a lot to share. During dinner at the Continental hotel, we agreed to share a taxi through the Mekong Delta to Phnom Penh. This was one of the few ways to enter the country, when traveling was difficult then due to ongoing conflicts.

The photo is on the ferry that crosses the Mekong River at Neak Loeung on the border between Vietnam and Cambodia. It was an extremely entertaining trip, even though the Khmer Rouge were active in the area.

He gifted me stories of Hollywood and its political battles. He had a special disdain for Charlton Heston, a predecessor as president of the Screen Actors' Guild and who had turned stridently right-wing in his later years.

Ed didn't brag, he was just a funny storyteller and a lovely soul. That time in Phnom Penh coincided with the first repatriation of US military remains from Cambodia., a tense process given Cambodia's predicaments. While they loaded the coffins on the transporter plane, Ed, a veteran of the U.S. Army, He stood with the honor guard and solemnly saluted. Patriotism comes in many forms.