In Memoriam: John Hotchkis, August 3, 1931 - December 14, 2017

Joan and John Hotchkis

John Hotchkis was, above all else, a man of energy – a perfect example of what Theodore Roosevelt meant when he talked about living “the strenuous life.” His daughter Sarah said that John had not only lived for 86 years, he had “lived them hard.” Whether it was in pursuing his investment management business (“hold the bluest of the blues!”), driving Porsches at high speeds at Le Mans with his friend Paul Newman, sledding headfirst down the notoriously dangerous Cresta Run at St Moritz, guest-conducting the LA Philharmonic or writing his quarterly semi-humorous Economic Notes, John never held back. In November 1986 he wrote: “Just remember the English definition of a gentleman as a man who does things no gentleman should do as only a gentleman can.”

He was a very good friend of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, an organization of which his father, Preston, was one of the original four founders. John had come to many LAWAC events, and served as chairman twice. The second time came in 2012, when the Council was struggling to regain its footing after a failed merger and a lack of direction. John stepped in fearlessly and guided the Council to a new lease of life, an act of governance which earned him the admiration and gratitude of all the LAWAC staff and directors and Council members. He simply had no time for the downside. In December 2013 he inveighed against the overwhelming pessimism in the media: “America has lost its mojo, they blast. We are no longer the world’s most energetic, creative and innovative nation. As usual, it's pure hogwash…”

John sledding Cresta Run at St. Moritz; John conducting the LA Phil.

He will be missed for his generosity, his business acumen, his irrepressible sense of fun, and even for his notorious jokes, (can anyone ever forget the “spaghetti with meatballs” punchline?) which he delighted in telling over and over, garnering laughter each time. His breezy outlook on life was infectious, and he loved to quote Mae West: “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”

Above all, John was an incurable American optimist: “Nobody ever made money betting against the US” was a mantra that he repeated over and over, and it still holds. When Reagan was elected and the economy turned round, he said: “Yes, there are serious problems out there, but for a moment it seems we all just wanted to listen to the Star Spangled Banner and smile a lot.” He had a wise voice and a long view that was never perturbed by the hysteria of the “worrywarts” among economists and the media whom he magisterially dismissed as plain un-American. “The US is an awesome country. We amaze (and frustrate) the world. We will continue to do so.”

Even mortality he dismissed with characteristic panache: “Warren Buffet says he plans to retire five years after he dies. Sounds about right.” John Hotchkis will be terribly missed, but he will live on in the memories of all those who were fortunate enough to have known him. Our thoughts are with Joan and his entire family, and we would say rest in peace, but assuredly wherever John is now is far from peaceful, as he continues to be the life and soul of the party.

John and Joan Hotchkis with Billy Friedkin