June 22, 2003 by

Asa Baber


Categories: Writers/Editors

Asa Baber, columnist for Playboy, died on Monday. Cause of death was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 66.
Baber’s “Men” column launched in 1982 and covered a variety of issues — divorce, sexuality and male-bashing — from a man’s perspective. A collection of Baber’s columns, “Naked at the Gender Gap: A Man’s View of the War Between the Sexes,” was published in 1992 by Birch Lane Press.
His last Playboy column ran in the June issue.

17 Responses to Asa Baber

  1. Greg Scammell

    Asa was just a plain wonderful man. I will always remember him as a man of great wit and courage. I am very happy to have had the pleasure of knowing him and often thank him for all the good he did in the world.
    Asa, you’re the best! Thank you for introducing me to Armenian food in Chicago.
    Greg Scammell
    LaFayette, NY

  2. Ed Selby

    In 1992 I was going through a divorce and was worried about custody issues with my son. Asa had written a great column in Playboy that was actually very helpful to me. I wrote him a note thanking him for the article and explaining how the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
    Imagine my suprise when I received a *hand written* empathetic letter from him along with copies of other articles he had written about divorce and custody. His reaching out to me helped strengthen me as the rest of the divorce proceedings took place.
    Asa will always be one of my favorite Men, and his kindness to me, a complete stranger, will never be forgotten.

    • Steve McKenzie

      I had the same experience with the article and it saved me, changed how I acted and gave me patience when my kids rejected me for a time. I can’t remember the name of the column but I believe it had a picture of a teddy bear on it, I have been searching for it for years and can’t locate it. Do you have it or know where to see it?

  3. Alan Picard

    Asa was my academic advisor at the University of Hawai’i in the early ’70s. He taught me important basics about writing, encouraged me when I deserved it and saw through my excuses when I didn’t do the work. “If you want to be a writer,” he told me, “you write. You don’t think about writing, or talk about writing or dream about writing. You write.”
    He also was a friend, who taught me, by example, how to be a better person. Asa was a gentle man, but not a weak one. Playing touch football on the grass in front of his Paki Avenue house, he was Marine-tough, even on his two boys, if they tried to catch a pass in his area. But he was always a true sportsman, never mean or overly rough.
    When that house was destroyed in a fire, I was concerned over the loss of his manuscripts, and said it must have been like losing a son. He shook his head and said, “No way. My sons are more important to me than anything. I can always re-write.”
    I only kept in touch with Asa over the years by reading his work. I can honestly say that the first thing I turned to in Playboy every month was his “Men” column. It saddened me when I read about his ALS, but knew he would be strong to the end, and was glad to read he left this world with the dignity and pride I remembered. My life is richer for having known him.
    Aloha, Ace. See you over the rainbow.
    Alan Picard

  4. Cathy Arden

    I met Asa at the Fiction International Writer’s Conference in 1975. He had a great influence on me personally and professionally. He was tremendously encouraging, as I was then a writer starting out. I wrote a poem shortly after that conference and dedicated it to him. It’s called “Wrestling With The Asa.” My deepest condolences go out to his family. I will always remember him with fondness and gratitude.
    Cathy Arden

  5. Tom Leavens

    The following is a message I am sending to others in support of my efforts to raise money to fight ALS in Asa’s name. Please pass it along to those who you think might have an interest. Thanks for your support. Tom Leavens
    Dear Friends:
    Asa Baber was my friend. Perhaps he was your friend too, or you were one of the millions who knew him through his books, his Men column in Playboy magazine that he began in 1982, and his personal appearances. Asa was also a teacher, a Marine Corps veteran, and a leader and organizer. His words “Manhood is an honorable condition” brought strength, vision, and clarity to many, and he made a profound difference in people’s lives, including mine.
    Last year Asa died at age 67 after contracting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2001. Asa’s struggle against this disease was another of his lessons in courage for us – he wrote in his last Men column published in June of last year, “But I am here to urge you to be a little more brave, a tad more courageous and self controlled, and to take some private time to contemplate the mysteries of the universe and ask yourself how you plan to spend whatever time you have left. How can you avoid wasting your life? And how can you find the maturity to ask the deepest metaphysical questions about the nature of life and death – without distracting yourself immediately and taking a nice nap to forget it all?”
    On October 31 I will be participating in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., and will be dedicating my run to Asa for the purpose of raising funds in support of the ALS division of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. This is especially appropriate for two reasons. Asa was proud of his service as a Marine and the legacy of the Corps. Also, in the year before he died, Asa served as an elected volunteer national vice president of the MDA and was otherwise a strong supporter of the organization. The MDA, with the support of Asa

  6. Ruth Pratt

    It’s hard to reconcile Asa’s huge life force being swallowed by ALS. It’s harder still to know I won’t have a chance to laugh with him again. He seemed to live like he played football, laughing as he dodged blocks and found openings. When Asa focused on you, he looked like he was saying, “what can I do to make your life better.” Aloha oe Asa.

  7. Andy Bungay

    Having stopped buying Playboy when Asa and before
    him his sassy and non-misandrist opposite columnist Cynthia Heimel moved on, I have just
    learned of Asa’s passing three years on, googling around to see if he was doing something online.
    Ace was an existentialst and a military man who
    brought the hedonism and healthy scepticism of the
    true warrior spirit to bear on challenging times
    in gender relations. I had an encounter in one of my professional lives today for which I can almost hear his healthily robust counterblast.
    I am one of many who’ll continue to find his legacy helps us day to day to survive and prosper.
    Cheers, Ace

  8. kathy harvey

    It’s refreshing to read these recent comments about dear Asa. One could not find a more sincere, decent friend. When our mutual friend Ron Hering was killed, Asa took me under his wing even though we’d never met…we’d talked on the phone and felt I knew him well on some level…he was that sort of authentic person….no games or untruths, just uncomprimising integrity. Some of his communications to me after Ron died have just resurfaced and I appreciate having a format to share with others I don’t know. Asa’s kindness and warm words will remain a constant comfort. I have always thought of him as hero…and will continue to hear his thoughtful wisdom as time goes on. Blessings to his family and friends. Kathy Harvey

  9. Bob Petersen

    Wow! I’m stunned to find recent postings about Asa this long after his passing! Yet I shouldn’t be surprised, after all Asa was a man before his time and his vision about manhood, and especially fatherhood had a great impact on our culture. I know because Asa had a significant impact on my life.
    This man of integrity helped me learn what it really means to be a man and to embrace my gifts and my shortcomings. He was a true mentor and I miss him.

  10. Kirk Pittman

    It’s Thanksgiving and suddenly I felt the need to google Asa to see how he is doing. I read his last column with sorrow that ALS was robbing him of his ability to write which he loved to do. It was also robbing me and millions of others from doing what we loved to do. Reading Asa’s column was the first and only requirement for opening the magazine. He articulated many of the issues relevant and important in the lives of men in a way no one else could. His column made my subscription since 1983 more legitimate and important than any other magazine I’ve taken. I’m thankful for his column and the perspective he provided. He is missed.

  11. Phil Sanderson

    “Dear Lord,
    Please honor Asa Baber, wherever he is. Please let him know what a
    difference he has made in my life, and the lives of many others who
    knew him or simply knew of him. He was unselfish with his time; and
    he contributed to the greatness of others. He wrote a column that
    helped many men with their romantic struggles in life. Lord, it
    seems that he genuinely cared about others. Please forgive me, that
    all I ever did was use him. Please forgive me that I found out about
    his passing, because I was going to look him up again in order to
    seek his help once more. But this was the way Asa was. He was here
    to help. And I feel bad for never having told him “thanks” for what
    he did attempt to do for me. All this, I pray in your heavenly name,
    Lord. — Amen”

  12. Karl Jacobson

    When I was in Chicago in the early 80’s on business, I used to read Asa’s column and call him at the magazine. Imagine my surprise when he actually answered his phone and spoke to me at length on my thoughts and analysis of his column. What is more impressive and gratifying was that he remembered me each time I called even though he spoke to many people through the years.
    I must have made an impression on him, but he seemed very connected to what I was saying and even took critism well. After a time we became like old friends, even though I never met him, whenever I was in Chicago on business, I made it a point to call him. I was continually amazed how instantly it was like we would talk where we left off. A very unusual, unique person and man who could be called a true pioneer of the male point of view and male individuality.

  13. Bill Harrington

    I invited Asa to the White House in October of 1993 as one of 15 fathers to make our case to President Clinton about father friendly provisions in the upcoming welfare legislation. Asa asked me over and over if I was sure he was welcome and he would be helpful. He wrote a column afterward that continues to be a treasure. I am thinking of Asa again as we contemplate how to approcah President Obama.
    Bill Harrington, Former Commissioner, US Commissionon Child and Family Welfare from washington State

  14. Rich Grehalva

    When I went through the New Warrior Weekend It was Asa who helped me to discover the part of myself that got in my way of getting what I wanted.
    When I got home later that week Asa called to see how I was doing and that begin a friendship that lasted as long as he was here.
    I trully miss him but Asa you will always live within my heart.
    Rich Grehalva

  15. jorie nilson

    I hardly knew Asa at all, but my grandmother Warfield lived on the first floor where the Babers lived above (either 2nd, or 3rd – I can’t remember which!) and I used to play with his sister Dorothy (nickname Ducky). Does anyone know where she lives now? I’m talking about the south side of Chicago, Kenwood Avenue, in the 1950s! I JUST came across this name Asa Baber, and right away I knew who it was, and a flood of memories returned! I am SO SORRY I didn’t get to connect with him while he was alive – he was an amazing man! If anyone knows where his sister is, I’d really love to know! Thanks….

  16. Mike Logan

    I staffed my first Warrior Weekend with you, Asa, and all that I have now is a result of the Warrior work. Every once in awhile I think of you, and miss you. Happy trails to you. Mike Logan

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