PHOENIX – After two decades of sustained sobriety, Kurt Kammerdiener leapt off the proverbial wagon last week with a vengeance, landing with a resounding and tempestuous thud. Once a rising star in the upper echelons of the Arizona business and social communities, today Kurt is more like a tragic comet, plummeting to earth in a blaze of intoxication, most likely annihilating himself in a violent, fiery crash. Family, friends and co-workers all agree that Conan O’Brien commercials are to blame.
Kurt Kammerdiener Jr. was living a life filled with contentment, gratitude, love and prosperity. With a lovely wife of fifteen years and two healthy children, Kurt was a respected executive at a successful Savings and Loan in downtown Phoenix. The Kammerdiener family lived in a four bedroom split-level home in a gated community, spending summer vacations in the Caribbean. With overwhelming support from his community, Kurt was preparing to run for city council this year. Everything good that could happen seemed to be happening for a man who, twenty years ago, was on the brink of despair, bankruptcy, and possible prison time. A man whose doctors told him he had a liver the size of a small dog.
Twenty years ago Kurt Kammerdiener was drinking a quart of whiskey a day. He had a crack cocaine addiction and he popped pills. He’d been fired from his factory job and had arrest warrants for burglary, indecent exposure and writing bad checks. His first wife left after she caught him having sex with a one armed prostitute in the courtyard of their apartment complex at ten in the morning. He was twenty-eight years old going on sixty-six and a half. His court appointed lawyer told him if he didn’t straighten up he was sure to do prison time. His doctors told him to refrain from any long term plans and suggested he begin looking into nursing home care.
Then Kurt awoke one morning naked, hungover and embracing a ceramic duck in the front yard of a strange house several miles from his apartment building. Children were laughing and throwing rocks at him as Phoenix police officers snickered and snapped photographs. After his Mom bailed him out of jail, Kurt went to an AA meeting and never got loaded again.
According to friends and family, when TBS began running round-the-clock commercials for the Conan O’Brien show last year, Kurt’s life began to deteriorate at a remarkable rate.
“We’d be watching TV and it seemed like a new Conan O’Brien commercial came on every ten minutes,” offered Kammerdiener’s son, Ken. “My dad was annoyed because he doesn’t think people with red hair should grow beards or wear tight clothes.”
“He said that Conan O’Brien looked like he stinks,” added daughter Kaily.
“That was probably Kurt’s biggest problem, that whole thing about Conan looking like he stinks,” co-worker Dave Pimploski said. “He was convinced that he smelled bad. But it also irritated him when Conan danced. Kurt said that men with long skinny legs shouldn’t spread them too wide or do any kind of chicken walk dance. Those commercials were really eating at him. He came into work one day looking haggard and when I asked what was wrong he snapped, Conan O’Brien won’t get out of my face! He was trembling and sweating really bad. He was obviously in agonizing pain.”
Kurt’s wife Karen recalled the last time she saw her husband.
“He came home after work and went straight to the basement and he didn’t answer when we called him for dinner,” she remembered. “I went downstairs and found him sitting in a chair in the dark with a wet towel wrapped around his eyes. He said that he was afraid that if he took the towel off his face that Conan O’Brien would be staring at him. He said we needed to move to another country that didn’t have electricity. That we would learn to hunt, churn butter and make our own clothes. Then he crawled behind a chair and started whimpering. Poor Kurt, he was really suffering.”
Co-worker Clarisse Knob saw Kurt the last time he was at work.
“He asked me if I’d ever dreamed of Conan O’Brien. I told him that I hadn’t and he called me a liar. Then he began to do a weird dance with his fingers sticking up above his head. While he danced he stared at me wide-eyed. When he asked me to smell him I became uneasy and left his office. A few minutes later he was running through the hallways screaming hysterically. We haven’t seen him since, but we heard he was drinking again.”
TBS has refused requests from the Kammerdiener family to take Conan O’Brien commercials off the air.