Ken Kelley 1964 (deceased)

Ken Kelley 1964 yearbook photo Photo of Ken Kelley

Kenneth M. Kelley, age 58, activist, national journalist, and former San Francisco native, died January 13, 2008, in Pleasanton, CA, where he had been critically ill since January 7. Born September 24, 1949, in Ann Arbor, MI, he was the son of James Kenneth and Ann Bruce Kelley. Ken was blessed with enormous, diverse talent, immense curiosity, and limitless drive.

In the late 1960s, while attending the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, on a full academic scholarship, he joined the university's student newspaper, the Michigan Daily, and became a committed vocal opponent of the Vietnam War. At the tender age of 19, he founded his own newspaper, the Ann Arbor Argus, dedicated to providing the public with political information not available in the mainstream press. After moving to California in the early 1970s, Ken also co-founded SunDance, an innovative and incisive political and multicultural magazine.

Perhaps best known for his masterful interviewing skills, Ken devoted the majority of his career to conversing with a wide array of political leaders, literary giants, actors, musicians, sports heroes, and other notables. His extensive body of work, spanning more than three decades, appeared in a broad assortment of publications, from Playboy Magazine, Penthouse and People to Mother Jones and Parenting, among a host of others.

For those who loved him dearly, Ken's own unique spark will never diminish. His fierce intelligence, infectious enthusiasm, sharp wit, and radiant spirit will forever remain in our hearts. He is survived by his parents, four sisters, and five nephews. He was preceded in death by a brother. A private funeral was held in Monroe, MI, on Jan. 19, 2008. Memorial donations may be made to the Kenneth M. Kelley Memorial Fund, Monroe Bank & Trust, Monroe, MI.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 10, 2008


Ken achieved some measure of fame from an 8-day interview he conducted with former Miss Oklahoma and orange-juice spokesperson, Anita Bryant, which was published in Playboy magazine and which subsequently caused considerable controversy when it revealed her negative views on homosexuals. That famous interview has since been turned into a play, Anita Bryant's Playboy Interview.

Here's a link to a blurb about a film about Ken, License to Tell.

There's more about the end of Ken's life on SFGate in San Francisco.