#016: Lucas Aragon

Updated: Jun 27



Lucas Aragon is currently the Executive Director of Branding & Design for ABC Entertainment Marketing. He also worked on the launch of the National Geographic channel and the launch of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.


Prior to the start of his career, Lucas studied Graphic Design and Television Production at Eastern New Mexico University, and has also worked for Lifetime Television, NBC affiliates WRC, WHDH & WESH, and FOX affiliate KDFW.


In this episode, Lucas talks about the tragic loss of his sister, and how her memorial service inspired him to create something that inspired millions of people from all over the world.


LUCAS' LINKS:

Lucas' LinkedIn

Lucas' Instagram

Lucas' Twitter

Pursuit Safety




Transcribed Episode: Ep16 Lucas Aragon


Voiceover:

You're listening to The Groove with Devin Pense.


Devin:

What is up, everyone? Welcome to another episode of The Groove Podcast, where we share people's stories from all walks of life who've experienced loss, challenges in their personal and professional lives, and as you'll hear today, the loss of a loved one. I'm Devin Pense, I'm a Director, Executive Producer, sometimes a street photographer, and the host of The Groove. I'm usually hanging out on Instagram @devinpense, and you can check out more of my work on my website at www.devinpense.com. My guest today is Lucas Aragon. Full disclosure, me and Lucas have been friends and coworkers at various times over the past 10 years. Lucas is currently the Executive Director of Branding and Design for ABC Entertainment Marketing. He also worked on the launch of the National Geographic Channel and the launch of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, which is where we met.


Devin:

Prior to the start of his career, Lucas studied graphic design and television production at Eastern New Mexico University, and has also worked for Lifetime Television, NBC affiliates WRC, WHDH, and WESH, and Fox affiliate KDFW. I'm super excited to have Lucas on the show today. He has an incredible story about dealing with great loss, and you'll hear how he manages to work through it on a daily basis while loving life in a big way. So without further ado, let's welcome Lucas! All right. Lucas Aragon, welcome to The Groove Podcast.


Lucas:

Hello! I'm happy to be here.


Devin:

I am so glad to have you. I know we've talked about this for a long time, and glad that we're finally able to connect and have you on the show.


Lucas:

Thank you.


Devin:

So real quick, before we get started, would you mind giving everybody a little bit of an intro of Lucas, and what you've been up to and that kind of thing?


Lucas:

Sure. My name is Lucas Aragon, and I am originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico. I studied graphic design and television production, and then actually ended up working in TV, which is kind of unusual. Seems like people a lot of times don't end up working in the field that they study.


Devin:

Congratulations on that.


Lucas:

Thank you. But I started off working in local news, doing graphics for newscasts and promotional graphics for promos to promote the local station and the local news, and I worked in a couple of different markets, and then I ended up in Washington DC. And when I was there, I had an opportunity to go work for the National Geographic Channel, and this was for the launch of the US domestic channel, which was in 2001. And like three, four years after being there, I got recruited to come out to Los Angeles to be the Design Director for the ABC Television Network.


Lucas:

I didn't stay. This is my second time at ABC. I'm currently there again. But in-between, I worked at Lifetime, and I also freelanced and consulted on the agency side, and then I worked on the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network, which is how I met you. And it was interesting, because the Nat Geo launch was in 2001 and the Oprah launch was in 2011, so there was something going on with numbers and me. So maybe this year something will happen, because this is 2021. And then after a couple of years, the network wasn't performing the way that Harpo and Discovery wanted it to, so unfortunately, I was laid off with a number of other employees, and that opened up an opportunity for me to go back to ABC. So now I'm the Executive Director of Branding and Design for the motion graphics of marketing for the ABC Television Network.


Devin:

Very cool. You were able to kind of get into the bigger networks quickly.


Lucas:

Yeah. Luckily, just over the course of my career, I've been able to meet with recruiters, and just established really good working relationships with people who have recommended me for other jobs. So I've actually never gotten a job by just applying randomly online or anything. It's always been through a recommendation by someone or a recruiter, so that's kind of how I've always just been able to move around and move up in my career.


Devin:

That's awesome, because sometimes I think that just applying for jobs straight online is just a black hole.


Lucas:

Totally. That's how I feel.


Devin:

You really almost have to have somebody walk you in to a network. I know that's how I've been able to get the jobs that I've had. You know somebody, they know your skillset, and they could use your help.


Lucas:

Yeah. I've always been told it's not who you know, but who knows you.


Devin:

Yes, that's very true. That is very true. So we met at OWN, and let me share my side of it and then you can share your side.


Lucas:

Sure.


Devin:

I was recruited. I was in Nashville at the time, as most folks know, and I went out to OWN 2009. God, it seems like yesterday, but it's such a lifetime ago, right?


Lucas:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Devin:

The network was just launching. I mean, it wasn't even on air yet, and Oprah was still in Chicago doing her thing. But there was a team in LA putting things together, and we, the Marketing Promo department, our offices weren't ready at the main Wilshire building. So we were four-walling it, which basically means we were just at another random edit facility. Someone had rented us a space kind of upstairs, I don't know, in this little space, so we all just had random offices. There was two desks in my office, but one was empty. And one day, this guy that was running it, Greg Neil, comes in. He says, "Hey, I know this Lucas guy. We're going to try him out, whatever, and you guys are going to share an office." I'm like, "Oh, okay. Whatever." And then I'll never forget the day. It was like someone opened the doors and wind blew. Here appears Lucas into my world, and it's never been the same. So we shared an office, and I can remember you just playing Lady Gaga all day long, and-


Lucas:

I still do, Devin.


Devin:

Who doesn't, right?


Lucas:

Right?


Devin:

And that's how we met. And I think we became fast friends, and you were so cool and easy to get along with. I was so worried. I'm like, "Oh my God, I've never shared an office before. Is this going to be like sharing a prison cell with somebody?" And that's kind of how it started.


Lucas:

Yeah. That's how I remember it.


Devin:

I know the network kind of didn't go in the direction that we all thought it would, but what was your favorite part about working and helping with the launch at OWN?


Lucas:

I think it was just being able to form something that was completely brand new. It was really kind of like big, blue sky. Just come up with ideas. Come up with concepts. Pitch them. We would try things out. We would shoot little vignettes. We would reach out to our friends and make content, so it was really just a wide open door of creativity, like just come up with really inspiring and creative content. So for me, that was just like, wow. When do you ever get to do that? Right? So I feel like the first couple of years was a lot of experimentation and sort of proof of concept, like what's this network about? What voice is it being told from? How do you incorporate Oprah's voice into that? So for me, it was a really fun time. It was chaotic and busy, but also rewarding in the sense that we just were kind of told, "Just come up with cool stuff."


Devin:

Yeah, I can remember we had upfronts coming up. For those of you that don't really know what upfronts are, it's an industry thing where various networks put together the shows and things that they want to put on their network, and they bring them to a big show. Advertisers and people come based on what they see. It's a big hype show, really.


Lucas:

Yeah, it's a way to present upcoming programming to advertisers so that they can sell it upfront of the season.


Devin:

Yeah, and I remember, man, we shot so much stuff. And like you said, we would just kick around ideas, literally go outside, shoot something, come back inside, edit it. But also, because it was Oprah, it was kind of an open door to anyone. We had so many celebrities come through wanting to do their shows, and we would go out and interview all sorts of celebrities and come up with all these ideas and stuff. It was a fun time for me. I can just remember meeting a lot of good people that I still stay in contact today. And even though things, they took another direction, everybody went out, spread out to different places, but-


Lucas:

Right, and the thing about when you work on a marketing team, no matter where you are, a lot of times you're having to create content for something that doesn't exist yet. I always like to use the example of like the Oscars or the American Music Awards. Obviously, it's a live show, so we're tasked with what kind of shoot can we do? What kind of content can we create to let people know why they should watch this live event? So that's what our job is, is to come up with those ideas. And even shows, I've worked on shows where we have the script. Especially during COVID, we didn't have pilots, so we were left with, how do we come up with really cool, clever creative ways to start teasing out the concept of this show?


Lucas:

One that comes to mind is a show we did last fall called Big Sky. One of the really cool ideas we did was to shoot a tabletop inside of a diner. It's kind of like a murder mystery-type show, and we did a motion control camera over the table. As you go across the table, it reveals hints and clues and photos and newspaper clippings of what's the show's going to be about. So we're actually having to create that content before they've even shot the first frame of the first episode. That's kind of what we also did at OWN, is because these shows didn't exist yet and sales had to sell them, we had to create things that give advertisers and just anybody the feel and the tone and the intention behind what that programming was going to be. So it's great for us in marketing. We get to come up with all these really fun ideas of how to get people to watch these shows that don't exist yet.


Devin:

Yeah. Meanwhile, over in programming, they're sweating bullets trying to find good shows. But I can remember pre-selling. I think it was somewhere in $150 to $170 million worth of programming just on a lot of those things we kind of made up.


Lucas:

Yeah.


Devin:

You know? There were some shows that came in and we created. Like you said, you didn't really know what the show was going to be. I remember one time flying out to the island of Mystique, because Shania Twain had her own show and that's just where she lived, and that's off the coast of Barbados.


Lucas:

Yep.


Devin:

And just going out there interviewing her. Especially once we got over to Wilshire, as things were continuing to move forward, every day you'd walk through the lobby there would just be celebrities sitting there waiting to pitch their show.


Lucas:

Right.


Devin:

Do you remember that big, huge conference room?


Lucas:

Yep.


Devin:

And everybody would just come in. Oprah would come in. People, just pitch after pitch after pitch. That was one I was really disappointed it didn't go into the direction, but that's life.


Lucas:

Yeah. I think they pivoted. They obviously have to react to ratings, and at the end of the day, it's a business, so they have to deliver on the goods and the dollars. I think they pivoted in a way that makes sense for them, so I think that's good.


Devin:

Yes, and that's where we met, so that's how it all started. Let's get into what I want to talk about today. I mentioned briefly in my last podcast about the recent loss of my father, and on this show, I like to talk to people about the various challenges. It could be anything, people from all walks of life, the various challenges that they go through, because the longer you live, life happens, and it's not all good.


Lucas:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Devin:

That was a great time in our lives at OWN. Things changed. In the middle of having fun or in the middle of doing something you love, just out of the blue something hits, and immediately you're off on another course. Winston Churchill said, "When you're going through hell, keep going," and that's been one of my favorite quotes throughout my life, because I've certainly faced some challenges. During the time period that we were at OWN, you and your family suffered a great loss. Can you talk about that and tell us that story?


Lucas:

Sure. Yeah. My sister lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, not too far from where we grew up near Santa Fe. And she worked for the WIC program, which is the Women, Infant, and Children Program. They work with at-risk mothers to help them really with anything, getting financial support. She said they would have to teach them how to feed their children so that they are not malnutritioned, almost like how to be a Parent 101. And one day, her and a coworker were having a meeting, I believe with some doctors that were going to do some training with their staff, and she went to...that we're going to do some training with their staff. She went to a Walmart to pick up the food. They were going to serve some like Subway type sandwiches. They were literally sitting at a stoplight and meanwhile, there's a bank robbery that occurs across town and the bank robber goes to a 7/11 type store and then the cops find him. The thing I learned in the trial is when you rob a bank, and hopefully no one on this podcast ever does, they drop a GPS tracker in the money bag. When they pull that GPS tracker, it notifies police of what's happening. Because of that technology, the police were able to find him. I also learned that not every police car has that technology in the car, only a certain percentage of the cars do.


Lucas:

They chase him across town, like those police chases that you've seen ever since the OJ Simpson famous White Bronco chase, and he T-boned them and killed them both instantly. They both died of neck injuries. Then, he fled on foot and went into a neighborhood and like some good samaritans help track him down with the police. A guy from a UPS truck jumps out and a guy that was at the gas station. Yeah, it was very, very tragic and very unexpected. I remember you and I were at Best Buy because I wanted to look at the iPad, which I think had just come out, and my phone just started to like blow up.


Lucas:

My brother in law was calling me, my mom had her coworker calling me, and everyone was very frantic, I almost couldn't understand what they were saying. He ended up getting a life sentence in prison for it. It was very traumatic and obviously very unexpected, it wasn't like she was ill or anything like that. It was just like one day just boom, she was gone.


Devin:

Yeah. I think there's a couple of ways things like that happen. With my dad it drug out over time and it was a slow process and he was elderly. We didn't know for a fact that he was going to die, but it just turned out that way. And I've had some other friends this happened to, especially your sister, young friends, it just completely out of the blue. When that kind of news comes in, it's such a shock that it's almost like your brain kind of blocks kind of what's being heard. I remember being in the store and I was just kind of hanging out while you were doing your thing and I could see the look on your face and I knew something was wrong because you walked out of the store and you kind of stopped on the sidewalk and you just broke down and you were getting news so fast, so quickly, you were trying to process because I guess at that point, like you said, you knew she was in a bad car accident and all of that sort of stuff. I remember driving you back to the office and you left and you guys hopped a plane and went home.


Talk about that, that process of how that unfolded. I mean, it was so much information upfront and then you're on an airplane. How are you handling that emotionally through that period?


Lucas:

I mean, I think you're just kind of like in a state of shock. I remember driving and just bawling my eyes out the whole drive home and thinking like well maybe they didn't get it right or maybe she's okay. Kind of trying to almost negotiate with yourself that it's not as bad as they say it is. You're kind of hoping well maybe things aren't quite as bad as they're depicting it to be. At that point, I still didn't know that she had passed. Then, by the time we got to LAX and we were waiting to board the plane, I got the call and they said that she didn't make it. She actually died at the site of the accident. She actually never, they kind of made it seem like maybe she was alive and she was in the hospital and then you start thinking like, "Oh my God, is she going to be a vegetable? What's her quality of life going to be? What kind of shape is she going to be in?"


Lucas:

I remember on the plane, it was this little tiny, one of those tiny commuter jets that hold like 50 people. It was like I had drunk all night. I was throwing up in the bathroom. I was going to the bathroom. Everything was just coming out of every side. It was like one of those things where you know when you have food poisoning and you just can't control it? It was like that. I just had no control over my body anymore. I was just sort of expelling everything, because I think I was just in such shock. I was super, super close to my sister. My parents were divorced and we were latchkey kids. We grew up together. We were two grades apart. We even had a lot of the same friends growing up. Then, I started thinking about her three children and what's their life going to look like? It was definitely a very, very dark hole that I had to pull myself out of and pull my family members out of as well.


Devin:

Just being there with you as things began to unfold, not knowing the entire story, but knowing something was terribly wrong, it was heartbreaking. It's something that has stuck with me to this day. As things began to unwind for you guys, you sort of became the spokesman for the family. From what I can remember around that time, there was a lot of debate around high-speed police chases. You became part of that movement at some point. Correct?


Lucas:

Yeah. A cousin of mine, well, let me start with the news coverage part. The next morning I stayed at my brother-in-law's and we were just all kind of like, oh no, actually, I'm sorry, I stayed with my mom. Then, the next morning we went to my brother-in-law's and we're just kind of sitting there, having, I don't know, trying to have some kind of breakfast and there's a knock at the door and it was a FBI agent, which is always kind of scary and weird, like whoever has an FBI agent knock on your door. She came and my family kind of just for whatever reason pushed me to the forefront. I'm having this conversation with her and they're kind of listening behind me and she kind of explained that they had her car as evidence.


Lucas:

She brought us the contents of her car and everything, but the food because obviously what are we going to do with the food? It was weird, because my partner Joe had bought her some serving dishes from Ikea and those were, I remember those were in there because she was going to use those to serve the food. We still have some of those. Every time I pull them out of the kitchen, it kind of makes me a little bit emotional because every time I see those Ikea serving dishes or bowls rather, I think of her. But it was weird. It was just kind of this surreal, like, okay, here's your sister's stuff from her car. It was so quick, they didn't even wait. It wasn't even 24 hours that that stuff showed up. Then, after her, we had a news reporter knocking on the door and none of my family wanted to go out.


Lucas:

Again, I kind of got pushed out the door to become like the spokesperson. They started asking me all these questions that I had never thought about. "What do you think about police chases? What's your point of view on them? When is a police chase necessary?" I was kind of, I don't remember exactly how I answered, but I didn't have time to formulate an opinion or even I had never thought about it, honestly. Then, shortly after that, a cousin of mine, she had found this organization called Pursuit Safety and she put me in touch with them and I've become very active with them over the years. Their mission is to, it's lots of different things, but the main one is to educate police departments and do training with them and try to pass regulations and bylaws and laws in general as to when is a police chase necessary because the majority of the time, they're not.


Lucas:

I think, and I may have the fact wrong, but I think everyday like three people die because of a police chase in this country. It's something high and crazy like that. I'd have to double check that, but so Candy Priano, who is the founder of that organization, she lost her daughter in a police chase in a car accident that she was in herself. She flew out to LA maybe four months after the accident, we had a fundraiser to raise money for the kids' college fund. Here's this woman who's never met me or my family, she lives in Northern California. She came out and she was such a source of support and kindness and someone who knew what we were going through. It was really, it was, I think, I don't know how I would've done it not having resources like that.


Lucas:

Ever since then, I've become a spokesperson, whether it's on the media or like I get called, I just got called honestly two weeks ago from one of the news stations in LA, because there's been an uptick again of police chases during COVID. That's how I help the organization. I've also helped them with some of their branding and their logos and websites and stuff like that. Lots of twists and turns.


Devin:

Yeah. It's so important and there are so many organizations out there that you'd never even think of. I know with my father, I had always heard the term hospice and I kind of knew what it was, but when you get in that situation, man, you really begin to learn stuff that, I mean, I don't even want to know about this necessarily, but you're just thrust into a situation like this. Then, you realize these organizations, they come around you, there's just so much support. Without them, it would be, we were lost anyways, but the support that they gave us, I know really helped us get through the process. I think there's a lot of support people and teams out there that you just don't think of until it comes up.


Devin:

If I can, if I recall, I think one of the things that, because we talked back and forth through that process and eventually you came back to work and that kind of thing and then would go back and forth to do some of these kinds of things. Didn't it become known that this guy already had a record and the police even knew where he lived?


Lucas:

Yeah. He was a career criminal. He had been in and out of jail. He had done something, yeah. He had had some kind of violation and the judge let him go. He should have, at that point, well, I can't remember what it was like, he like was driving and he shouldn't have been or something along those lines and the judge or whoever said, "We're not going to arrest you or punish you or whatever." He was like, sadly, a career criminal, but learning his story through the trial was also very sad. I felt bad for him, which is such a weird thing to say.


But I learned that he was trying to pull his life together and he was going to school to be an EMT. And I was like, well, he's learning to be an EMT, why didn't he stop and help my sister and her coworker and her friend Janice? And he had borrowed a van. The van that he ultimately did the chase and the car accident in was a van that he borrowed from this friend of his that he was going to EMT school with. And she testified in court and she wrote us a letter. She had a lot of guilt because she loaned him her van, which ultimately killed my sister and Janice.


Lucas:

So I felt really... It's this weird thing. Here's this person who's killed your loved one, but I also feel bad for whatever happened to him in his life that put him in that position. I knew he came from a broken family. And of course, not that it makes what he did right by any means. But I try to understand the why and how it's not about me.


Lucas:

The example that I'll use is with my father. My parents are divorced and my father was an alcoholic. And I'm sure he'd be fine with me sharing that. He was adopted by his aunt and he was in the Vietnam War and his best friend was murdered when he was in school. So he had a lot of trauma, and I think that that led him to be the person that he was initially. And I always had to analyze that and be like, this is why he is the way he is. Again, not that it made some of his actions okay. But it explains to me the "why." And it's not about me. It's not because I'm a bad person or I'm a bad son or anything like that. And since, we have a great relationship and we're really close and I see him every time I go home. So I try to approach things that way because I feel like all of us are going through some kind of thing or trauma, and sometimes that leads people to make bad decisions, unfortunately.


Devin:

Yeah. And it's something that a lot of people, you don't think about, especially when you're younger, the things. Because when you're younger, your parents, whether they're together or not or what's happening, your parents are your parents, and you don't really know their true story.


Lucas:

Well, and I think your parents are your first heroes, and you don't ever...I think not until you're an adult do you realize, my parents are just humans who are also flawed, just as much as the next person.


Devin:

Yeah. And if their parents were flawed and something was passed on to them, it's a generational thing. We all are, in one way or another, a product of our upbringing. And some people are able to recognize that and try to course correct through life. I think that's how people improve. But it is. You really never know what the person was going through. I know your mom was so devastated, obviously, with this. How did you help her walk through this period?


Lucas:

I think just being...we started to talk a lot more. We would call each other. She went through therapy. I went to therapy. Because one of the things that I learned through the whole process, and this is partly through seeing a therapist, reading some books, is that we're never given skills on how to cope with death. And it's an American culture thing where no one likes to talk about death, right? Someone dies. It's very uncomfortable. You go to the wake or the service and you say your sorrys and your condolences, and then that's it. It's very uncomfortable for a week later, a month later, to bring it up. Because it's uncomfortable for you, it might be uncomfortable for that person.


Lucas:

And I read this really great book on coping with death and it talked about that. And it said try not to be angry at people. Because we're never told or taught as children, or even adults, how do you cope with death? And it talks about Italians wear black for a year, so when you see them, you know that they're mourning. There's a very visual sign that lets you know this person's mourning. Or other cultures will put something on a door or a tree. But American culture, it's all about, let's just get this over and done with in three days, and then it's very uncomfortable or taboo for people to talk about death. And reading that book really opened my eyes to that. Because I had people who I hadn't talked to in a million years reach out and pay their condolences. And then I had some that either didn't or did it in a very quiet way.


Lucas:

I also tried to understand, well, what's each person's comfort level on talking and dealing with death? And one of the things I had my nephew and niece do was go to this camp out in Malibu, this other great organization. Oh God, I'd have to look up the name of it. But they help young kids deal with death and coping with death. And I think I got just as much out of it as they did, because they give the parents a training course the day you drop them off and the day you pick them up. Obviously, it's not as long as the week that has the kids. But they teach you coping skills. They talk about it's hard enough for adults to conceptualize death.


Lucas:

Even I was like, well, is she really gone? Did she really die? Is she in Mexico and I don't know? These crazy things go through your head. So they're like, if you can't conceptualize it, how do you expect a child to conceptualize it? They don't have a fully developed thought process and brain. So that really helped a lot too, and also gave me permission to deal with it how I need to deal with it, and understand that other people deal with things the way that they deal with it.


Lucas:

So all of those things together really helped. And it was interesting. Because again, until something like this happens, you never think about, oh yeah, no one ever taught me, this is how you cope with death. This is what we do. You go to funerals and you do your thing. But it seems like in an American culture, there's no visual depiction of you're in mourning or how we're supposed to relate and interact with each other when it comes to death.


Devin:

I've found the exact same thing, Lucas. Because a lot of people just don't know what to say. I've had friends that I thought would reach out more and that kind of thing. But then the more I thought about it, it's like, well, what could they say? The fact of the matter is, is none of us know how to die. I had a couple of younger friends who died suddenly as well. Similar. Not in a car wreck, but just sudden heart attacks. But like your sister, just sitting at a red light and just boom. Gone. And that's one aspect of it.


Devin:

Another aspect of it is more long-term illnesses. And I could tell, my dad didn't want to die. He wanted to live. This was one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through in my life because, again, we don't know how to die. How do you die? Right? At some point, I read books too, and I was talking to my therapist and trying to get help and as much information as we could. And you just don't know until the person... because my dad, because the hospice folks, my dad was just holding on and holding on and holding on. They literally told us, "This is the first time this has happened, where he really should already be gone." And he just wasn't having it. They began to ask us, "Is there somebody you think that he needs to say goodbye to?" Just all of these questions of, well, I don't know. I don't know. Who could that be? Out of 20,000 people, who's the one person that he needs to say goodbye to? We had time to say everything that we could say. And it's just that thing in American society.


Devin:

And recently...you remember Kimi Culp? She was a producer at OWN with us, and she's got this great podcast called All the Wiser. And she produced this movie called Gleason. It's on Amazon Prime. It's about a friend of hers that got ALS and the care-taking process and that kind of thing. And on her podcast, All the Wiser, she had a guest on one day, his name is BJ Miller, and he runs this very special hospice hospital in San Francisco. He's famous for this TED Talk that he did. But he has a book out, and it's called A Beginner's Guide to the End. There's so much information that we, as you said, as Americans, we just don't talk about it. It's like, it happened, here's a casserole, let's have a funeral, and then let's move on with our lives. And there's just so much more to it than that.


Devin:

It's one of those things where it's never the same. That our loved one, and I know your sister will always be missed by your family, by you, all of her friends. And how long did it take you, though, to get back into life and feel any sort of normalcy?


Lucas:

I think that's an interesting question. I don't know that you ever do. I think you learn to cope and you learn to... I guess the only way I can describe it is it's a cut, and over time, the cut heals and it doesn't hurt as bad as it does the first day, but you still have the scar. The scar is still there. I think things can trigger you. I know sometimes I'll hear a song that my sister sang in karaoke, and it'll just make me cry in the car just driving to Target. Every time I see that damn Ikea casserole bowl, part of me wants to get rid of it and part of me doesn't. But every time I pull that out or I see Joe serve something in it, I think of that FBI agent bringing those to me. She always loved to go to Ikea, so her and Joe would always...I swear, they spent a whole darn day at Ikea.


Devin:

Which is possible, by the way.


Lucas:

I don't know. I think we also, you put on the... What is it? The tears of a clown. I think you go through life and you put on a smile. But I think, again, something happens or something reminds you. There's some days where it takes me right, right back to the way I felt exactly the first day.


Devin:

I think it's sometimes our brains. I know from a psychology standpoint, as humans, our brains are wired up for survival. I was reading this book about this girl, she was a journalist, and they were doing all these experiments about how the brain works through incidents like death and that kind of thing. And she did this experiment where she went to this abandoned prison and they put her in an isolation cell overnight. And at first, she was scared at every noise and all that kind of stuff. But over time, her brain began to almost rewire. Or like you said, negotiate with yourself and to find your way through it. Because the one thing that I've certainly realized over the years, the brain's a very scary thing.


Devin:

Again, not to keep bringing this back to my dad, but my dad, it started out everything, he was talking fine. But by the time it was over, he had literally lost his mind. He didn't know where he was, nothing. And it's just a very scary thing to see. And you're just sitting there going, how in the world am I going to deal with this? Because my dad and I were close. And I find myself, a piece of news will come in or something will happen or just throughout the day, I mechanically will reach over to grab my phone to text my dad. And that wave of, oh my God. He's gone. And it's just, like you said, it takes you right back to that feeling.


Lucas:

It can, yeah.


Devin:

I'm going to brag on you for a second. You really stepped in with your sister's kids and the family. I know that you've been such a wonderful, amazing influence on all of them. And they're moving on through life, largely, I would give you credit for that, for helping them find their way. And everybody needs somebody like that. So I'm sure, from a lifelong perspective, they'll always be grateful for that.


Lucas:

Oh, yeah. I'm super, super close to them. I take them on vacations, they come and stay with us. I feel like I'm closer to them more so than if she hadn't died, which is a weird thing to say. But because I felt like I had to fill up a little bit of a void of my sister being gone, and I feel like my mom and I are obviously the two closest people that they can know or ask questions about my sister. So sometimes I'll tell them, "Oh, let me tell you about this time your mom got in trouble!" And they love it, right? I'm super close to them and we talk all the time, and I love being able to take them to see something that they couldn't do on their own. Like I've taken them to New York City, I've taken them to Washington DC, we've gone on some fun cruises. So we have lots and lots of memories and I know we'll continue to do that. But yeah, they're pretty special to me.


Devin:

Yeah. And that's so important. And they'll be eternally grateful for that because you just end up lost. I was a kid, I remember losing my grandfather, but I was a kid and I just knew my grandfather died. I knew he was older. It didn't impact me the same. But if you don't have people like yourself, that can step in at times, so many people fall through the cracks and spiral out. But anyway, so as tragic as all that was, and it was, I find a lot of times, out of tragedy, beauty is born. And what would you say some of that would be? And maybe that's what it is. Maybe it is the relationship you now have with your nephews and nieces.


Lucas:

Yeah. It's definitely the relationships that I have with both of my parents. You know, I think it brought me closer, not only to my mom, but to my dad. I never ever saw my father cry until my sister died. Brought me closer to her children, brought me closer to my partner who really stepped in to help. You know, he stayed with them a couple of weeks after I left and went back to work and cooked meals and tried to get them off to school. And he helped us plan the memorial service and helped us navigate meeting with the mortuary. And that's something you never do, no one ever teaches you one day you might have to deal with a mortuary and you have to make a decision on casket or not, or cremation or not. Like these things that you never thought you'd have to think about.


Lucas:

But in addition to all of that, I think it just made me appreciate life more and know that our time is a gift and nothing is guaranteed. So I try to do as many things as I can. I love to travel. I love to see different cultures and try different foods. And I love being able to do that with my family. Like, whenever I do something, my first thought is like, oh my God, I can't wait to just show this to my mom. Or I can't wait to bring the kids here. Because I like to not just experience it myself, but to be able to experience it with my loved ones and my family.


Devin:

Do you find that this experience, did it affect your creativity? Did it zap it for a while?


Lucas:

Oh, absolutely.


Devin:

If so, how?


Lucas:

I mean, all the way back to the Oprah launch spot, I don't know if you remember when we were working on the initial launch spot, we went to, I swear, every agency in town. We had 10 pitches and we still weren't coming to a creative solution that Oprah felt was really going to be the thing that was going to launch this network. And she had done the flash mob for one of the last, I think it was like the second to the last season of her show, and that flash mob kind of like opened up that, I think it was the 24th season of her show. So she kept referencing back to that flash mob. And she wanted it to be as epic and have that same feel and tone. I was like, well, we can't do a flash mob because you've already done that.


Lucas:

So during the time, going back to sitting in a mortuary and planning a memorial service, they offered up doing a balloon release. So I thought, oh, that'd be really cool. I like that. Let's get, I think we got like 250, not knowing that a thousand people were going to show up to my sister's memorial service. But we had purple and white balloons. And after the service we went outside and we gave balloons to different people. As many as we could, obviously we didn't have enough for everybody. And the minister said some really beautiful words, and then everybody let these balloons go and it was really beautiful. And it was very like that feeling that something's lifted off your shoulders. You probably couldn't do it today because it's not good for the environment. But when we were working on concepts for the shoot, I remembered that event and that image.


Lucas:

And luckily people took photos of it and then texted them to me. Because I wasn't thinking to pull out my phone and take pictures during this kind of very emotional thing. So I worked with Jean Kopek at Mrs. K. and I told her like, what if we had like all these people across the country and they're like interacting with each other and they all have these balloons and you see them in Santa Monica Pier, and you see them in Times Square, you see them near a barn in Nebraska. You see them in the suburbs. And then at the end, all these balloons become the logo. So if everyone at the end releases these balloons, and then the balloons form the logo, and the whole sentiment of the spot was how does she pull together the feel and tone and intention of 25 years of her show and put that into a network?


Lucas:

So Jean took that and worked with some brilliant writers and did some beautiful storyboards. And then that's what we did for the launch spot. And we pitched it to Oprah and she was like, "That's it, that's the spot." And that was the spot that we did. And it really, I don't even know if you knew that story, but that came from the memorial service of my sister when we released those balloons.


Devin:

I didn't know that story. I mean, I obviously remember the promo, but I did not know that that was part of that. That's actually awesome. And that was a great, what a great spot that was too.


Lucas:

Yeah, I still have it on my reel and on my collection of spots. And the other interesting thing that happened, and I'm not super religious or superstitious or anything like that, but a few months after the funeral, my brother-in-law came to stay with Joe and I, and we were sitting on the balcony of our house and we were just talking about death, and different cultures believe different things. Like some people believe in reincarnation and some people believe in heaven and hell and everyone has their beliefs on what happens to you when you die. And this one purple balloon flew over our house right in front of us, and then just drifted away. The back of my house faced Pasadena, like the Rose Bowl, we lived up in the hills. And it just blew away, and the three of us were in shock. Like I'd never seen it before, never saw it after. And of course you start saying like, oh, some kids probably having a birthday party across the street or down the street, but it was just wild that it was a purple balloon. If it had been green, it might not be as impactful. So that whole balloon thing has been kind of like a thing for me ever since we did that balloon release at her memorial service.


Devin:

I remember you telling me that story, and it still gives me chills. There's no explanation, hardly, for that.


As we kind of wrap up here, what advice, do you have any advice for anyone that has just suffered a loss like this? Or maybe that's just found out about something like this? Because I know right now, thankfully things are getting a lot better, but we've just gone through this crazy pandemic thing with a lot of loss, and not only physical, but a lot of mental struggles and things are different. Do you have any advice for anybody? That's just on the front end of something like this?


Lucas:

Yeah. I think when I tell... I'm going to sort of relate this to how I work with my team, is to allow yourself to have bad days and bad years. I think a lot of times we're super hard on ourselves and we have high expectations, whether it's your career or your relationships or whatever. And I always tell people, you know what, you're going to have great years and you're going to have some bad years and that's okay. And you have to be able to be ready to accept that and to forgive yourself and to forgive others and to give yourself a break. So not every year is going to be a great year. We all just went through a really shitty year in 2020, but maybe the roaring twenties are around the corner, you know? Who knows. But I think knowing that life is sort of a roller coaster and it has its ups and downs. There's a new Pink song that came out, and there's a really great lyric in it where she says something to that effect, like, no one told her that this life was ours to choose and that there was going to be moments of light and darkness. And I think that that's really important, because when you go through something tragic like that, and you suffer from depression or you kind of go to a dark place, I think that's okay. That's a very natural and valid feeling and thing to experience. And I think allowing yourself to go through that pain and work through that pain and not beat yourself up. I remember just always thinking like, wait, this isn't me. Like, I'm always successful. I'm always the strong one. I'm always the person who brings everyone together. And I think sometimes you have to allow yourself to fall, and let others help pick you up. So I guess that would be sort of my takeaway, is that life isn't like this perfect linear, straight line. Things are going to go up and things are going to go down and that's okay. And that's just life. That's what life is.


Devin:

Wow, that's great, man. And I think we'll leave it there, because I've always admired your ability to push through this, knowing you. We've known each other over 10 years, and I've stayed in contact. You've been a good friend to me and given me a lot of good advice over the years, and I always admire how you're able to work with your creative team like you have. I mean managing creatives are like herding cats, you know? But you have an art about it. And that was a beautiful way to put it. So where can people find you? Are you on Instagram or Facebook? Are you a social media person?


Lucas:

Yeah, just mostly fun stuff. I'm on Facebook, I'm on Instagram, I'm on TikTok, but I don't really create a lot of videos for TikTok, mostly because I have to follow all of these things for work, just to kind of see the content that we create and produce and see how it plays out online, but I'm on there. I have a small presence on there, but it's not... I'm always fascinated by these people who have just like lots of posts. I'm like, are these folks just waking up and doing a photo shoot? And they just have photo after photo of them on the beach in Mexico. So for me, it's exhausting. I'm like, oh my God, I just can't keep up. Yeah. I'm also on LinkedIn, too.


Devin:

Okay. Well, Lucas, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. Who knows? Maybe we'll have you back again soon.


Lucas:

Sure. Anytime. Thank you for having me!


Devin:

Thanks. I hope you enjoyed this episode. It's always inspiring to hear how people manage to find life, love and beauty out of such tragedy. And Lucas certainly is a great example of that. To learn more about Lucas and his story and what he's up to, head over to thegroovepodcast.com for the show notes, and to see some pictures of Lucas and his sister. I'm also going to include a special bonus video that we talked about in this episode as well. So be sure to go over and check that out. Again, you can find me on Instagram @drevinpense, and on my website, www.devinpense.com. And don't forget to like, and subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts. It helps us out a lot. And if you'd like to support the show, you can do so by going to thegroovepodcast.com and click on Support Us, and you can find ways to help us out there. Thanks again for listening and stay tuned for more episodes.

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