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Former swimmer goes to Hollywood

BY MITCH SMITH | APRIL 16, 2010 7:30 AM

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Bob Stein can swim. He can fly and write.

And in the near future, the 76-year-old Iowa City resident’s name will scroll across the silver screen with the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Abigail Breslin.

So… what’s he doing this weekend?

Beginning at noon on Saturday, the Duluth, Minn., native will call the final event at the historic 83-year-old Field House pool — one for which he has served as the swimming announcer for 34 years, and one for which he has a lasting passion. After all, Stein used to compete there himself.

The former Hawkeye swimmer from 1953-55 and Hawkeye Athletics Hall of Fame member, will join more than 80 former swimmers expected to participate in the alumni swim meet, which will include former Olympians, All-Americans, and Big Ten champions.

“You can’t find anybody more loyal than Bob has been to this program,” Iowa head swimming coach Marc Long said. “I think Bob really feels like he fills that role as our ambassador for swimming and diving and for our program.”

Add that to his list of accomplishments.

An All-American swimmer in high school, Stein swam for Iowa and became the first man to swim across Lake Superior in 1953.

Rather than go to the UCLA actors studio for graduate school, Stein chose the Air Force, where he flew jets in France and Vietnam and eventually retired as a colonel after 21 years. After the Air Force, he returned to Iowa City, and traded the fighter jet for a pen and paper.

Since earning an M.F.A. from the Writers’ Workshop in 1986, he has published four novels in six editions.

His writing process is a fairly simple one. He just begins writing on his computer with the mindset that he needs to fill a page.

“Your page is blank, and you need come up with something,” he said. “You need to put words on a page that create a window for your readers to see through.”

Stein isn’t slowing down.

Stein, along with friend and fellow writer Patrick Hoeft, is a script adviser for Two Lives to Save, a screenplay that’s being made into a major motion picture.

Set to begin filming in midsummer, Stein said, the movie is partially based on true events. It follows a mother who resorts to prostitution to support her drug and alcohol habits. After losing her daughter to California’s childcare system, she must go through pain to regain custody.

Zeta-Jones and Breslin will star in the film, and Zeta-Jones’ husband, Michael Douglas, will produce the picture. Stein, who will be on set when filming begins, said another Oscar-winning actor would be joining the cast, but he declined to disclose who the star is.

Screenwriting didn’t become a passion for Stein until later in life, though, mostly because he was busy living a life that could be made into a movie.

“He has had an amazing life,” said friend and collaborator Hoeft. “I think you could take any single accomplishment and turn it into something.”

And Stein has another screenplay is in the works.

While he couldn’t fully disclose the details, he said it will involve Hawkeye athletics with a “Tom Brokaw ‘Greatest Generation’ theme.”

Through all that has occurred in Stein’s life, being a Hawkeye and donning the Black and Gold has always and will always remain a lifelong love affair.

“To swim for Iowa is at the very basis of all that has happened to me in life,” Stein said. “I remain grateful and honored to have been a part of Hawkeye swimming.”

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