My father was a workaholic. Most school days he was out the door before I came down for breakfast. He would return home in the late afternoon right before dinner then often go right back to work while we cleared the dishes. Saturday mornings, he would go back to the office. He claimed he got more done on Saturdays because “nobody was there to bug him.” So, in short, I learned early that if I wanted to spend time with my dad, I had to go to work with him. It quickly became our most common father son activity in my childhood years.
My earliest memory of doing this was when I was 2 or 3 and living in West Lafayette, Indiana. Dad worked at the time as the business manager for Bill DeFouw Chevrolet while earning his Master’s degree at Purdue University.
After dinner, he and I would get into his two door purple 1965 Chevrolet Impala provided by the dealer. It had bucket seats in the front. Even though it was the “dangerous” 1960s, my father refused to let me ride in the front seat. Instead, I stood on the hump in the back seat with my arms resting on the two front seats. I loved it! It allowed me to peer over the dashboard and see the world coming at us. This lasted until the day the entire family was out for a ride. Dad slammed on the brakes and I went flying forward between the seats. Only my mother’s adroit arms saved me from flying into the gearshift. I wasn’t allowed to stand on the hump after that.
Once Dad and I arrived at DeFouw”s, he would disappear into his office in the back. And three year old me would have the run of the place. Specifically, I could run around the showroom floor, crawl into any car I liked, and sit there pretending to drive. I remember enjoying the imaginary handling of the Chevy Corvair and feeling pretty darn special behind the wheel of the Chevy Chevelle.
But, by far, my favorite car of choice was the red 1965 Corvette Sting Ray. Even sitting still it looked fast. No keys in the ignition (this was prior to the introduction of the steering column lock) but I could still operate the gearshift and put it into gear. Don’t worry, it didn’t go anywhere. Even though it was an automatic, I liked to pretend it was a stick. With my hands on the wheel I would saw my arms back and forth and imagine tearing down a fast highway out west like Elvis Presley in VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964). I did not pretend that ultra-sexy Ann-Margret was sitting on the bucket seat beside me. For now, my three year old self was content to just be behind the wheel of a fast car. The fast women would come MUCH later.
Amazingly in that pre-video game, pre-cell phone, pre-computer era, hours would pass in blissful imagination. When Dad was done, he walked out of his office and yelled, “Rich, let’s go home.” And I would crawl out of whatever car I was in and home we would go.
Dad said he would chuckle the next day at work when the maintenance workers would be washing down the car seats in the showroom and wondering how all those child-sized footprints got onto the seats.
My father passed away on December 21, 2014. This is my eulogy I gave at his funeral:
It was never very difficult to find something for Dad and I to do together on Father’s Day. Since we were both big fans of motor racing, there was almost always a race going on on that day: either a NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway or an Indycar race somewhere. In 1985, Father’s Day meant the Formula One grand prix on the streets of downtown Detroit. And, as usual, Dad had managed to get top row seats in the main grandstand by the start/finish line.
So he and I got up early on race morning and drove the half hour into downtown. Because the earlier you go, the easier it is to find a place to park. So we got down there. And we found a good place to park. And we’re walking to our seats. And we’re passing by these vendor stands and Dad says, “Are you hungry?“ And I said yes because I hadn’t had breakfast yet. So we bought two of those Italian sausage sandwiches with all the peppers and the relish and all the stuff on them. Then Dad said, “Are you thirsty?” and I said I was. So we bought these two large beers.
And we walked the rest of the way to our seats. And, of course, we were the first people in our grandstand. So we walked to the top of the stands, and we sat down with our Italian sausage sandwiches and our beers. And I happened to look at my watch and when I told Dad the time, we both just started laughing. Because it was 8 o’clock in the morning. And the race started at 1pm.
One of the many things my father taught me was get there early.
Well, we are here today to celebrate the life of Paul Dean Rothrock – a proud native of Goshen who managed to get out there and see the world. From Indiana to Michigan to West Virginia to Las Vegas – with stops along the way in all 50 states, Paris, London, Rome, and Mexico before coming back home again to Indiana. And along the way he managed to pass through each of our lives as father, husband, uncle, cousin, grandfather, in-law, or friend. Many times, he was a combination of all of these.
I could literally stand up here and talk for hours about my father – and I am sure most of you could too – which is why I’ve decided to limit my remarks today to this topic:
THE TOP 10 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT BEING A FATHER FROM MY DAD
10. SEE WHATEVER MOVIE YOUR CHILD WANTS TO SEE
The first movie I can remember seeing in a theater with my dad was “True Grit” in 1969 starring John Wayne (at the Grand Theater in Steubenville, OH). The last movie we saw together was “Into the Storm” this August with my son Ben (which, btw, wasn’t our idea to see. It was Ben’s). But in between those two movies, because I love epics, I dragged my father to see some of the longest movies you can possibly imagine. Although he went willingly. Just to give you an idea, here is a short list of the long movies Dad and I sat through together: A Bridge Too Far (3 hours), The Fall of the Roman Empire (3.5 hours), Doctor Zhivago (3.5 hours), Lawrence of Arabia (4 hours), Ben-Hur (4 hours), Once Upon a Time in America (4 hours), Heaven’s Gate (4 hours). Arguably the granddaddies of them all were: Napoleon (a 4.5 hour silent French film), 1900 (a 5.5 hour Italian film), and the 1968 version of War & Peace (6.5 hours in Russian with subtitles). My idea to see them. And my father happily sat through them all. Many of them we watched together more than once.
Don’t worry, Dad gave as good as he got and thanks to Dad I received a full education in Mel Brooks, Benny Hill, Frank Sinatra & the Rat Pack, John Wayne, World War II, the novels of Harold Robbins, and Steve McQueen.
One of the running jokes between Dad and I concerned the 1958 movie “The Big Country” starring Gregory Peck. We first watched it together on TV in the 1970s and we probably watched it together a half dozen times after. One of the recurring jokes between Dad and I over the years was, whenever we got in some large vista was to turn to the other and say one of the running lines from the movie, “Sure is a big country.” A decade ago, we all went down to see the Grand Canyon together and we were standing on the rim of the canyon taking it all in, and in that moment Dad leaned over to me and said, “Sure is a big country.”
9. SHARE WHAT YOU LOVE
My dad loved auto racing, model building, sports, history, and collecting beer cans. And he has passed his love of those down to me. I love 4 of the 5.
I don’t know when Dad started loving auto racing. He was in love with it long before I came along and particularly the Indianapolis 500. He first attended the race in 1964. He was in the stands for most of the 1960s races. And I loved to watch the home movies he brought home of them. When he couldn’t attend, we listened together to the race broadcast with Sid Collins on the radio and he would subscribe to the Indianapolis Star each May so we could get the lowdown on what was happening at the track.
The first time I saw the Indianapolis 500 was up on the big screen at a movie theater. Because Dad took us all down to a theater one Memorial Day in Wheeling, West Virginia to see the closed circuit broadcast of the 1970 race. And I was so entranced by the images of that big track up on the screen and those cars racing by that I actually walked off to sit with the wrong family. I guess you can say I have been entranced by racing ever since.
He took me to my first NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway in 1971. My first Indy 500 in 1977. We attended almost every race together at MIS from 1979 to 1995. I don’t think he ever understood what I found interesting about Formula One grand prix racing but he attended races with me at Detroit and Indianapolis. And he was very proud when Ben became old enough to attend the 2004 Indy 500 with us so we could sit there in the stands together as father, son, and grandson.
He was a huge lover of history. It took me years to figure out that most of our family vacations growing up were built around visiting historical homes, national parks, or Civil War battlefields. I thought that’s what everybody did on their vacations. Dad loved all that stuff and I love it as well.
One of the earliest things he taught me was how to build models. He obviously loved it as a kid because I still have models of the race cars and ships he built as a child here in Goshen. And some of my best childhood memories are Saturday afternoons down in the family room in Weirton building model cars & ships & planes while watching ABC’s Wide World of Sports with Jim McKay. I particularly remember one Christmas in Charleston when I was going through a rough time and he learned I was into World War II fighter planes that year so he ran out and bought me EVERY kind of WWII model plane out there.
He remained a lover of sports teams till the very end. Thanks to Dad, I got to see the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1970s with Willie Stargell & Roberto Clemente, the Pittsburgh Steelers with Terry Bradshaw & Mean Joe Greene. But probably my most favorite games shared with my dad were all the countless AAA baseball games we watched of the Charleston Charlies playing at Watt Powell Field.
He remained sentimental and hopeful about the Detroit Lions to the very end. If there are any betting people out there today, Dad put money on them at the beginning of this season to win the Super Bowl, and the Lions are in the playoffs. I’m just saying.
Now……beer cans………beer cans………..
8. IF YOU CAN’T FIND THE ROAD, MAKE YOUR OWN
One year coming out of the Daytona 500, traffic was backed up for miles. We weren’t advancing. We weren’t going anywhere. And Dad decided he’d had enough of that, so he took his big old white Cadillac Coupe DeVille and drove it up on the sidewalk. And here we are motoring along on the sidewalk passing all these cars until we got to the next cross street, then we bounced back onto the road and motored away. At the time, I was pretty embarrassed but that method has actually proven useful in other walks of life.
7. IF YOU ARE AT A WEDDING OR A CONCERT, ALWAYS REQUEST THEY PLAY “BAD BAD LEROY BROWN”
I don’t really have anything to add to that one………
6. STAY IN TOUCH WITH FRIENDS
My father had more friends than anybody I know. And he seemed to have this tremendous knack of hanging onto them even after he had moved away. For the longest time, I could never figure out how he did it. I still am not sure I know. But being a teacher I think I’ve gotten a clue to his secret – just remain interested in whatever that other person is interested in. It keeps the connection active. And then just stay in touch on a regular basis.
5. HELP YOUR CHILD FIND A CAREER
When I was around 10, Dad got it in his head that he was going to turn me into a NFL kicker. He thought I could make good money and I would not get bruised & tackled as often as a regular player. So he bought a football and we spent the next several weekends practicing kicking in our front yard in Weirton. Which is really funny for anyone who remembers how small our front yard was in Weirton. That lasted for a few weeks.
Next I was going to be a professional golfer. He bought me clubs and we were soon regularly playing on a Par 3 course in nearby Follansbee. The two things I remember about that course is that I always doffed my ball into the water hazard on the 2nd hole & that it was the only place I could get Bubble Up cola from the vending machine back at the clubhouse.
Lastly, he was going to turn me into a major league baseball player. So he bought two gloves and a baseball and we started going out tossing the ball back and forth for hours at a time. And unlike the football, tossing the baseball back and forth became the thing he and I would regularly do for the rest of my childhood and even into college. I still have the glove.
4. SUPPORT THEM IN THEIR DREAMS BUT BE THERE WHEN THEY FAIL
Dad arranged and co-signed on my first loan to finance my movie company. He was the first investor in my feature film. He even rounded up several friends to invest as well. When times were tight, he would come visit me, buy me dinner, and I often found that that handshake goodbye contained a $50 or $100 dollar bill to help me get by.
And when things didn’t turn out as I had hoped and things went south financially for me, Dad was there to help me move back to Michigan and he and Betsi helped me find a job to get myself back on my feet again. Thank you for that.
3. HELP YOUR CHILDREN TO GROW UP
Dad bought me my first three cars. He furnished my first apartment. He co-signed on my first credit card. He taught me how to balance a checkbook and to budget for my monthly bills.
My father took me to my first PG movie (Big Jake starring John Wayne), my first R movie (The Gauntlet starring Clint Eastwood), and my first NC-17 movie (Showgirls in 1995). He did not, however, take me to my first X-rated movie – and I’m OK with that.
2. EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH MUSIC
It took me years to realize that there was always music playing around our house when I was growing up, that we always seemed to have a really good stereo system. So by osmosis I learned to love Andy Williams and Al Martino and Eddy Arnold and Dean Martin and Roger Whittaker and Perry Como and Ray Price and the New Christy Minstrels and on and on and on. If you took a look at my iPod, you would find several of those songs on it.
He loved music right down to the very end. His various hospital stays in later years were calmed by him listening to his ubiquitous iPod. He even passed away listening to music. And for the record, the song that was playing on his iPod when we took it off him was Wes Winters’ “The Love You Left Behind”.
1. KEEP GIVING GIFTS
The first gift I can remember my father giving me was on my 1st birthday and it was one his best gifts, Puppy, my constant companion through many years of a friendless childhood. The last gift he gave me was the day before his last operation: a history of World War I & II. Don’t worry, Dad, I will put it to very good use.
The best gift he gave me was the gift of himself.
More than anything, Dad liked spending time with you. He didn’t really care what you were doing. He didn’t care if you were talking or not. He just wanted to be with you.
Dad was a complex man. I admit there were times that I wasn’t quite sure what he was thinking. He could be impatient. He often seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere though I often could not figure out where that destination could be.
Dad wasn’t prone to deep theological discussions. Whenever I asked him things like what happens after we die, he would say, “I’m not going to worry about that stuff because I’m not going to die. I’m just going to live forever.” And when I would try and press him further he would just wave me off and give me the same reply. I do believe though that Dad demonstrated that a person could be Christian without going to church. One thing is for sure: he was a compassionate man who loved life, and wanted to live every second of it to its fullest.
We did manage to have a brief theological discussion this past June with Pam and I where he did admit that he believed there was a God but that he didn’t believe any of the major religions had gotten it all completely right.
But Dad was actually correct in his statement about mortality. He has not died. He IS going to live forever. Here on earth, he is going to live forever in the stories we share and the memories we keep and pass along down through the generations. But up there in heaven he also lives on as a spirit and a soul. And I am sure he has been having a great time these past two weeks reuniting with friends and family who have already moved on.
Now I admit that I am not in a big hurry to get up there soon but all I ask Dad is that when I do get there, is that you meet me with an Italian sausage sandwich and a beer. So we can sit there at the top of the grandstand together [and sorry you NASCAR fans out there but the track in Heaven is a carbon copy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway!] and watch a race together and look out over the expanse and beauty of Heaven spread out before us.
“Sure is a big country, isn’t it?”
On this week back in 1984, the entertainment world lost Jon-Erik Hexum, one of its fast rising stars, in an on set incident. At the time, his shocking death was as headline grabbing as the TWILIGHT ZONE set deaths of Vic Morrow, Myca Dinh Le, and Renee Shin-Yi Chen two years earlier or the death of Brandon Lee while filming THE CROW ten years later. These days, most people don't even know who he was.
It was such an unlikely end for such a promising guy. Two years before, Hexum had been an unknown actor working as a house cleaner in New York and auditioning for part after part. His break came when he found himself cleaning the home of John Travolta’s manager. The manager liked what he saw, signed Jon-Erik, and sent him out to L.A. Soon enough, Hexum was cast as swashbuckling Phineas Bogg on the NBC time travel series VOYAGERS! (1982-1983).
VOYAGERS! Opening credits (narrated by Hexum)
The show has become a cult classic in the decades since but in its time it was a ratings dud. Despite that, Hexum impressed. Raw and still developing as a performer, he proved to have that necessary star combination: stunning good looks, a natural ease before the camera, a great voice, and a self-deprecating good humor about himself. He was likeable and well liked and industry insiders tapped him for going far.
After VOYAGERS’s demise, Hexum starred opposite Joan Collins in THE MAKING OF A MALE MODEL (1983) one of the top rated TV movies of the year. He guest starred on the hit series HOTEL and his episode was one of the highest rated of the year. He landed a co-starring role in the Bear Bryant movie biopic THE BEAR (1984).
For the fall of 1984, he found himself back on TV starring with Jennifer O’Neill in the new CBS thriller series COVER UP playing secret agent Mac Harper, a part written specifically for him. The show proved an early season hit. More movie auditions lay ahead. The future was wide open. To put it in today’s terms, Jon-Erik Hexum was on his way to becoming the Channing Tatum of the 1980s.
On Friday, October 12, 1984, the cast and crew of COVER UP were on the 20th Century-Fox lot struggling to finish that week’s episode called “Golden Opportunity”. The complete episode can be found here:
It was past 5pm and they were in the middle of filming a minor scene on a motel room set. Hexum had to sit on a bed and load blanks into a Magnum handgun. It was not going well. After a few unsatisfying takes, the director called a break to adjust things. Exhausted from another long day at the end of another long week in the marathon that is making a network TV series, Jon-Erik placed the handgun on the side table, lay down on the bed, and dozed off. He napped for about ten minutes then suddenly startled awake. He sat up, grabbed the Magnum, and asked if they were ready to go again.
The crew said they were not. No one has ever exactly agreed on what Jon-Erik said next but it was along the lines of, “Can you believe this? It’s enough to make you want to –“ then before anyone could say or do anything, he put the Magnum to his right temple. Maybe he had forgotten the blanks were still in the gun or maybe he thought blanks were harmless. It was probably meant as a sight gag to break the tension on the set. Either way, he pulled the trigger and the gun fired.
The force of the explosion at close range was the same as if a real bullet had been in the chamber. The blank’s cotton wadding shattering his skull and drove a nickel sized piece of bone into the heart of his brain.
Jon-Erik slumped back on the bed, immediately unconscious. Not wanting to wait for an ambulance, the crew loaded the gravely injured Hexum into a station wagon, and drove him straight to the nearest hospital. He lingered in a coma for a week before he was declared brain dead and passed away on October 18. It was all over so fast. PEOPLE magazine’s article on the tragedy summed it up well: Jon-Erik Hexum had been “A Brief, Bright Star”.
Hexum’s death was ruled an accident. The handling of firearms on movie and TV sets was reviewed and reformed. Hollywood moved on. After a short hiatus, COVER UP returned with Antony Hamilton playing Hexum’s role. A clumsy (yet still touching) tribute scene was tacked onto the end of Hamilton’s first episode:
I became a Hexum fan after the fact. A 22-year-old film student at the time, I tended to ignore melodramas and network television. His death was the first time I had even heard of him. But by the end of 1984, VOYAGERS! went into syndication and I watched every episode. Two years later, his COVER UP episodes re-aired on Lifetime TV. The more I watched, the more I saw him grow as an actor, the more of a fan I became. The only drawback was that there would be no more. Jon-Erik Hexum’s career was over with only his promise left to make us wonder.
Since his death, there have been many many many chiseled, stunning leading men come and go on the big and small screen (including Channing Tatum!). And yet none of them have had the looks, voice, humor, and down to earth demeanor of Jon-Erik Hexum. If he’d lived he would be 57 this November.
While the COVER UP tribute famously spelled his name wrong, the rest of the wording was correct:
“When a star dies, its light shines across the universe for millenniums. Jon-Erik Hexum died in October of this year but the lives he touched will continue to be brightened by his light forever and ever.”
Thirty years on, Jon-Erik Hexum’s light has long since gone out but his memory remains and still brings a smile to those who remember.
Jon-Erik Hexum on Merv Griffin a month before his death:
Back in August, I had the good fortune of interviewing Dick Cavett and his wife Martha Rogers for Toledo Club Topics Magazine. It was one of the most enjoyable interviews I ever spent. The article came out today. Enjoy!
You would think having a birthday in early June would be a fun thing. And by and large it is, but when I was a boy, having my birthday in early June seemed more of an extra thing on the busy schedule than anything else. The school year was always wrapping up (we usually got out around June 8 then). And then, pretty much right away, my family would hit the road for the annual family vacation. How did that affect my birthday?
Well, one year, Mom decided there was no point in baking a cake for my birthday because we were just going to go out of town in a day or two anyway.
There would be no time to eat it all before we went on vacation, and what was left would just go rotten sitting in the refrigerator for the week or two that we were gone.
So Mom hit on the idea of buying me a Pepperidge Farms frozen cake for my birthday. I had my choice of chocolate or white. Whatever was in the freezer case. We did it in 1970 when we went on vacation to Washington DC. And again in 1971 when we went to Cedar Point. And in 1972 and 1973 when we went to Florida each year. And again in 1974 when we moved. By the time 1975 came around, it had become an unintended fun family tradition. Chocolate, White, German Chocolate, Cocoanut. It seems like we hit them all through the years. So even though we weren’t going off on vacations much anymore, the Pepperidge Farms cakes continued. I believe one year when I was grown up and it was just Mom and I we even had a carrot cake.
For the couple years in college when I spent the day away from home, I would go out and buy one for myself.
When I was a kid, I remember feeling somewhat shortchanged by the whole Pepperidge Farms thing. But, eventually, I came to see that it added a special wrinkle to an already special day. Even now, it brings a smile to my face and makes a fun story to tell.
So the next time you are wondering how to add some spice to your birthday, try a Pepperidge Farms cake. And add a large scoop of ice cream!
And thanks for the memory, Mom!
Other Famous People Born on June 6
Robert Englund (Freddie in Nightmare on Elm Street)
Thomas Mann (author)
Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter actor)
Paul Giamatti (actor)
Harvey Fierstein (actor)
Aaron Sorkin (writer/producer)
V.C. Andrews (author)
Lasse Hallstrom (director)
Aldo Costa (F1 designer)
These days, there are very few objects from my childhood that still get daily use but there is one object that has been in constant use since I first got it back in June, 1972. It is the first thing I see in the morning when I get out of bed. And it is usually the next to last thing I see before I turn out the lights at night. I am speaking, of course, about my Florida desktop date calendar.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t into keeping track of the days as they pass. Perhaps it comes from my Grandma Rothrock who always had a Flip Top Perpetual Date Calendar in her kitchen. And when we visited her, I always asked to flip it each morning. She usually agreed. But I got it in my head that I wanted one of my own.
So I saved up my allowance money and, when my family headed south to Florida for our 1972 family vacation, I had my money with me and I was looking for one. We travelled those days in our 1969 Pontiac Safari station wagon (that kid travelling with the luggage in THE WAY WAY BACK (2013)? That was me!). Our family usually stopped at many of the tourist traps along the road so that my sisters and I could buy many of the cheap novelty items sold (then and now) to us unsuspecting, gullible tourists so I figured there was a good chance that I’d find one.
Not long after crossing the Florida state line, my father pulled off I-75 just north of Gainesville and stopped at a place called Candyland. This was one of those Mom and Pop all in one restaurant, gas station, and gift shop sort of places that seemed so plentiful back then before national franchising seemed to do it all away. A contemporary postcard describes Candyland as a “One-stop service center for today's fast moving Interstate traveler; restaurant; candies; gifts; souvenirs; gasoline; towel & tog shop; towels; textiles; clothing; mill store prices.” Wow, what a neat sounding place!
We hustled inside. I really only remember two things about the place. First, were the bins of toys and souvenirs for kids to rifle through. The other is that they had music piped through and the song playing when we arrived was the current Sammy Davis Jr. hit, “Candyman” (from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory). I remember thinking that it seemed very apropos to have that song playing.
Of course, Mom wanted us to sit and have something to eat because we had just arrived in Florida from our long trip from West Virginia but, being a kid, I went straight for the souvenirs. And it didn’t take long to find the thing I was looking for, my date calendar. I remember being a little put off that it had a “Florida” plate on the front – its single bow to tourism – but other than that it was exactly what I wanted. I remember showing it to my father who scowled down and said (as he said about most of my purchases), “You really wanna buy THAT?” Well, of course, I did. I remember hurrying over to the check out and paying for it with my own money. I don’t remember at all what it cost.
That night, I set it up next to my roll away bed in our motel room (I always got the roll away). And when I got up in the morning, I advanced it to the new day. And I have been doing that every day since for 42 years. My date calendar has held pride of place on my chest of drawers in 13 places of residence in 4 different states. It has marked and shared every good and bad day I have ever had from the very high to the very low and back again.
It has been with me through first loves, high school graduation, college road trips, my parents’ divorce, graduate school, multiple jobs, one firing, death of pets, my marriage, fatherhood, my mother’s death, and on and on and on. You name the life event and it and I have marked it together. And for some strange reason, being able to get up each morning and turn those knobs helps me to get the proper perspective on the day. If yesterday was great, it helps me to smile at the memory but know that today is another day and I have to work today to make this one as good as yesterday. If yesterday was a bad day, it makes me realize that today is another day and, most likely, it won’t be as bad. In fact, it has a very good chance of being better.
Of course, many things have changed since 1972. I am a little grayer and a little heavier than I was when I was ten. Candyland has long since gone though the building still exists today:
Sammy Davis Jr. has moved on and is now performing daily with the rest of the Rat Pack up in Heaven (or maybe down below – it’s hard to say).
I did inherit Grandma Rothrock’s flip date calendar when she passed away and used it daily in my kitchens as well until it broke in the late 1980s.
But me and my Florida desktop date calendar keep motoring along. I turned it this morning as soon as I stumbled out of bed. I expect I will be using it until that day when I will be making my last move and unable to bring it (or anything else) along except my memories.
Do you have anything like this in your life?
Oh, and for the record, I prefer the original version of “Candyman” from the movie.
It has been too long since I posted anything so I decided to get back in the swing of things by telling you a little bit more about myself and my movie watching past. Thank you to the Roger Ebert site from whom I got the questionnaire.
THE MOVIE LOVER QUESTIONNAIRE
Where did you grow up, and what was it like?
I grew up in many places. I’d lived in 5 different cities in 3 different states by the time I was 18. The most memorable town I lived in was probably Weirton, WV. I lived there from age 6-12 and it has ended up being the setting for several movies including The Deer Hunter (1978) and Super 8 (2011).
Was anyone else in your family into movies? If so, what effect did they have on your movie-going tastes?
My cousin Terry had a big influence on my early tastes. He introduced me to James Bond, Marx Brothers, King Kong, W.C. Fields, Laurel & Hardy, Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca, and lots of classic Hollywood.
What's the first movie you remember seeing, and what impression did it make on you?
Bambi (1942). The forest fire scene really scared me. But it gave me my love of nature and my dislike of hunting.
What's the first movie that made you think, "Hey, some people made this. It didn't just exist. There's a human personality behind it"?
Oliver! (1968) The huge dance numbers by Onna White made me realize that someone thought that up and rehearsed it and made me appreciate how mass choreography can work to convey the different range of human emotions.
What's the first movie you ever walked out of?
Ishtar (1987). But only because I was on a date and my date wasn’t enjoying it. (Neither was I). I knew if we didn’t leave, the date was ruined. Plus the auditorium was freezing and the staff wouldn’t turn the air conditioning down.
What's the funniest film you've ever seen?
Too many to name: Airplane! (1980), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Also Murder By Death (1976), Animal House (1978), The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966), The Lady Eve (1941).
What's the saddest film you've ever seen?
The saddest film I’ve seen lately is Prisoners. It made me despair for our society and made me wonder why so many people these days think it is OK to work through their grief by hurting other people.
What's the scariest film you've ever seen?
The Changeling (1980), The Legend of Hell House (1973), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) gave me nightmares when I was a kid.
What's the most romantic film you've ever seen?
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Casablanca (1943), Notting Hill (1999), Silver Streak (1976), Out of Africa (1985), The Way We Were (1973).
What's the first television show you ever saw that made you think television could be more than entertainment?
What book do you think about or revisit the most?
The Great Gatsby.
What album or recording artist have you listened to the most, and why?
The Beatles because they are brilliant and seem to have packed all range of human emotion and music into their career.
Is there a movie that you think is great, or powerful, or perfect, but that you never especially want to see again, and why?
Several. Requiem for a Dream (2000), Persona (1966), Passion of the Christ (2004).
What movie have you seen more times than any other?
What was your first R-rated movie, and did you like it?
The Gauntlet (1977). I remember the violence being way over the top to the point of absurd. But Sondra Locke’s naked breasts introduced me to a brave new world that I liked. I felt more of an adult after that.
What's the most visually beautiful film you've ever seen?
Days of Heaven (1978), Heaven’s Gate (1980), Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Who are your favorite leading men, past and present?
Past: John Wayne, Orson Welles, George Sanders, Walter Huston, Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Jack Nicholson, James Dean, Robert Redford, James Stewart, Sean Connery
Present: Viggo Mortensen, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Patrick Wilson, Robert De Niro, Kevin Costner, Bruce Dern, John Hurt, Jeff Bridges, Bill Murray, Ethan Hawke, Daniel Craig
Who are your favorite leading ladies, past and present?
Past: Bette Davis, Joan Fontaine, Donna Reed, Vivien Leigh, Teresa Wright, Lillian Gish
Present: Isabelle Huppert, Kate Winslet, Emily Mortimer, Eva Green, Miranda Otto, Kristen Bell, Kirsten Dunst, Natalie Portman, Kristen Stewart (There! I said it!)
Who's your favorite modern filmmaker?
Terrence Malick. David Lynch, if he’d ever work again. Also Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater.
Who's your least favorite modern filmmaker?
Michael Bay or Zack Snyder. I can’t decide.
What film do you love that most people seem to hate?
Heaven’s Gate. It is not a perfect film but most of it is beautiful and brilliant.
What film do you hate that most people love?
I don’t hate superhero movies but I don’t understand the attraction either. It seems to be the same story over and over. CGI violence bores me to tears.
Tell me about a movie going experience you will never forget—not just because of the movie, but because of the circumstances in which you saw it.
Two come to mind:
1981: I got to see the reconstruction of Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927) in a sold out screening at Ford Auditorium in Detroit. Carmine Coppola conducted the orchestra. It showed me how powerful and sweeping and entertaining a silent film can be.
2008: I saw Sergei Bondarchuk’s masterful 6 ½ hour version of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1968) in one marathon Sunday showing at the Detroit Film Theatre. It started at 12:30 pm and ended around 10 pm. The ticket included a Russian themed dinner in their cafeteria at intermission. It truly is one of the great epics of cinema.
What aspect of modern theatrical movie going do you like least?
The non-stop commercials before the movie. When did sitting quietly in the dark become such a bad thing?
What aspect of movie-going during your childhood do you miss the most?
Movies with overtures, intermissions, and exit music. Animated shorts before the feature. The General Cinema theme song.
Have you ever damaged a friendship, or thought twice about a relationship, because you disagreed about whether a movie was good or bad?
No. To quote Alfred Hitchcock, “It’s just a movie……..”
What movies have you dreamed about?
Heaven’s Gate. Every couple months I dream I am on location during the filming. I also sometimes dream of being at the prom in Carrie which is a real bummer because I never went to the prom.
What concession stand item can you not live without?
Popcorn and Sno-Caps
Hello, everyone. My name is Richard, and (heavy sigh) I am a Thanksgiving fanatic. I don’t know if that makes me a Thanksgiving-aholic or a Pilgrim-phile but I am a Thanksgiving fanatic from the top of my bucket hat to the tips of my black buckle shoes. My family knows it. My friends know it. Now you do too.
I have been in love with Thanksgiving since I was a child. I love everything about the day: the story behind it, the menu, the smell of the house as the turkey cooks, the camaraderie of family and friends coming together around the dining room table. If I had to rank the day on my list of favorite days of the year, Thanksgiving would slot in easily at #3 behind Christmas and the Indianapolis 500.
Why Thanksgiving? The story of the Pilgrims has always appealed to me. How they chose to leave Europe for America in search of religious freedom. Their perilous voyage across the storm tossed Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower. How they survived a brutal New England winter that killed almost half their number. How they forged a peaceful alliance with the area Native American tribe that lasted for 50 years. How they all came together (immigrant and native alike) to celebrate their first successful harvest in the New World. And how their spirit and ideals laid the foundation for what became the United States of America.
Yes, I know most of the Thanksgiving story is a myth. I know turkey wasn’t the main course on the menu. I know it wasn’t held on the 4th Thursday of November. I know the Native Americans weren’t invited; they just showed up. I know the Pilgrims didn’t even call it Thanksgiving. I know that they didn’t even call themselves Pilgrims. But you know, I don’t care.
Maybe it was that Rankin/Bass animated chestnut The Mouse On the Mayflower (1968) that got me hooked (even if it is arguably the least factual of the holiday specials). Its songs by Tennessee Ernie Ford perfectly captured the twilight time of year between Autumn and Winter that Thanksgiving occupies. Or maybe it was A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973) with its more modern take on this traditional holiday: “What blockhead cooked all this?????”
Maybe it was the classic children’s book If You Sailed On the Mayflower (1969) by Ann McGovern, or the American Heritage book The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony (1961) by Feenie Ziner. Or even The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I have always found the early settling of America fascinating.
Even when I was a kid, I would try and make the day special. I would get up in the morning and read If You Sailed On the Mayflower. It was the only day of the year I allowed myself to read it. In the afternoon I would catch a showing of Mouse on the Mayflower or Plymouth Adventure (1952) starring Spencer Tracy and Gene Tierney. (Football never has played a part in the day for me). Then in late afternoon my family would gather together around the table. It was the only meal of the year we ate by candlelight. And my family would humor me as I stood up and did a brief speech very similar to what Linus says in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. We would eat. We would have fun. We would clean up. And finish the day by watching Miracle on 34th Street (1947), that classic movie linking Turkey Day with Christmas.
The day has changed some through the years. Football has a greater part than it used to. My wife’s family added chocolate turkeys and turkey butter and chocolate mousse to the mix (yum! yum!). Not to mention the three different kinds of cranberry sauce on the table (each someone’s family tradition).
Thanksgiving is the only holiday on the calendar where all Americans unplug for the day and sit down with family to share a common meal. It is a day about connecting with the past both as a family and as a nation. Whether we gather around the table at home or away, the important thing is that we gather together. Not alone but as friends or family or community. By doing so, we bridge the differences between us and discover the commonalities we share and which bind us together. The food is less important than the people we eat it with.
The words spoken by William Brewster at that first Thanksgiving still applies today: 'We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice." Pass the cranberry sauce, please.
One of several ghostly encounters I have had in my life. Happy Halloween, Everyone!
I’LL BE BACK
By Richard Rothrock
In 1989 I lived in a one-bedroom apartment that occupied the second floor of a two-story house. One night shortly after moving in I woke to the sound of someone walking down the hallway outside my bedroom. At first I thought it was my cat. The hallway’s old wooden floor creaked loudly regardless of the weight of the walker. But then I saw my cat asleep next to me. I also noticed that the footsteps came not from the direction of my living room, but from the other direction, which dead-ended at my bathroom.
Before I could think more about it, a tall, slender man walked into the room. He paused in front of my bookcase, turned, and stared at me. He wore a blue windbreaker and a red baseball cap and looked to be in his early sixties. He just starred. I wondered whether this was only my imagination, but a quick glance at my cat revealed that he was staring at the visitor, too. I turned my attention back to the man.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
The man shook his head. “No. I was just looking around. I’ll be back later to talk.”
Without another word, he walked out of the room and back down the hall. When the footsteps reached the bathroom, they stopped. I pondered checking the bathroom but decided against it. I was too damn scared. Going back to sleep seemed the best recourse.
The next day I called my friend who had lived in the apartment before I moved in. I asked whether anything strange had occurred while she lived here.
“Blue windbreaker? Red baseball cap?” she asked.
She said he came into the bedroom one night shortly after she moved in. He told her he would be back later to talk but never returned.
And he never returned for me either.
Published in I Never Believed In Ghosts Until…. (1992)
Postscript: I had several other encounters while living in that apartment. There was a black and white tabby ghost cat who regularly strolled around the place. My cat Taffy passed away while living there. I managed to see him several times after that including one instance where an invisible cat batted and knocked decorations off my Christmas tree. When I yelled at him to stop, it did.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERTS BELOW!!!!!!
INT. EXECUTIVE OFFICE, HOLLYWOOD STUDIO - DAY
PRODUCTION EXECUTIVE (mid-30s but looking older) leans back in his chair. His eyes blurry from surfing the web looking for the next big thing. Door opens.
SEASONED SCREENWRITER (mid-40s but trying to look a lot younger) strolls in exuding either false confidence or an exaggerated ego. It’s hard to tell which.
Exec leaps out of chair.
EXEC: There you are! Thanks for coming in.
(hurries over to shake his hand.)
SCREENWRITER: No problem. No problem. I was glad to get the text. It’s an interesting conundrum you have here.
EXEC: I knew we could count on you.
(Gestures for him to sit)
SCREENWRITER: Come on! Impossible sequels are my specialty. Who gave you WATERWORLD 2: BACK TO THE BEACH or TITANIC 2: THAT OLD SINKING FEELING?
EXEC: Exactly! Exactly! I loved those scripts. Too bad they didn’t get made.
SCREENWRITER (sad): I know, I know. I still have hopes for KING’S SPEECH 2 though.
EXEC: Yeah, that scene where the king and queen skydive into Berlin and capture Hitler. Then they have to shoot their way out of town. "I'll be b-b-b-back!" Beautiful, man!
Exec gets comfy in his chair.
EXEC: So what have you got for me?
Screenwriter pauses to build up the suspense then spreads his arms wide.
SCREENWRITER: GRAVITY 2: UNDER PRESSURE.
SCREENWRITER: Sandra Bullock is back on earth. There’s no friggin’ way she’s ever going up in space again.
EXEC: Yeah, yeah. She hates space.
SCREENWRITER: That’s her new catchphrase, btw. “I hate space.” Plus, there is no way for her to go back in space anyway, seeing as how she single-handedly destroyed the USA, Russian, and Chinese space programs. All in 90 minutes!
EXEC: That’s a woman for you!
SCREENWRITER: So what does she do next? Well, she’s a scientist, right? Forget outer space. Think inner space. So she joins this super secret deep-sea mission. Kind of like VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.
EXEC: What's that?
SCREENWRITER (ignoring him): They’re going down to the deepest part of the ocean. Wherever that may be. It’s called the Mariola Trench or something like that.
EXEC: Good, good. Keep it going.
SCREENWRITER: So they get on this submarine and they dive down. Way deep. Down to the farthest reaches. Where there is no light.
EXEC (laughing): “Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission.” What are they diving for?
SCREENWRITER: I don’t know. Something. Does it matter? We didn’t know why they were up in space, did we?
EXEC: Something to do with the Hubble.
SCREENWRITER: Right. And who cares about the Hubble? So maybe, I don’t know, I’m riffing here. How about they go down because there is some new sensors or something that will detect earthquakes? It’s going to prevent tsunamis like what happened in that IMPOSSIBLE movie and that Eastwood flick too.
EXEC: Cool. Btw, how is that sequel to THE IMPOSSIBLE coming?
SCREENWRITER: Let’s just say IMPOSSIBLE 2 is the perfect name for it. Anyway, so they are down at the bottom of the ocean. And she is out in this diving suit. It’s like the latest diving bell thing.
EXEC: Do those exist?
SCREENWRITER: Does it matter?
SCREENWRITER: So she’s down at the bottom of the ocean and there’s an earthquake or something and the submarine implodes. So everybody’s dead except Sandra. She’s alone at the bottom of the ocean. It’s the same situation as before. She can’t go up to the surface because it is too far. And she’ll get the bends. But she’s also only got so much oxygen. What’s she going to do? She’s stuck. Under Pressure. [starts humming the Queen song].
EXEC: Is she alone down there?
SCREENWRITER: I suppose we could have somebody there. Ryan Reynolds, maybe?
EXEC: What about Clooney? We could have him back.
SCREENWRITER: Clooney died.
EXEC: Did he? He just kind of floated off. Then he came back.
SCREENWRITER: That was a dream.
EXEC: Or was it? (raised eyebrows)
SCREENWRITER: OK, no problem. I can figure out how to get Clooney back. Maybe he’s a guardian angel now or something. Need to get Ed Harris back too. It kind of works as a homage. He was in APOLLO 13 and he was also in THE ABYSS. So he is back again too.
EXEC: OK. That’s a start. But then what? I know! She could run into Atlantis or something down there.
SCREENWRITER: The Mariola Trench is in the Pacific.
EXEC: So? We’ll call it Pacificatis or something. But, yeah, aliens would be cool too. Or better yet aqua zombies. We need the younger market as well.
SCREENWRITER: Which is why I’m thinking that our big twist at the halfway point is Sandra meets her daughter. Maybe she was part of the dive team all along. She didn’t really die as a kid.
EXEC: It was a medical mix-up and she’s been living in this orphanage or something down south.
SCREENWRITER: And now she’s grown up and played by Miley Cyrus. (makes wrecking ball motions)
EXEC: I love it! I love it! Only Sandra doesn’t know it’s her daughter.
SCREENWRITER: And then they could have this kind of Darth Vader moment. “My daughter’s dead.”
EXEC: And Miley says, “I AM your daughter!”
They break out in fits of self-congratulatory laughter.
SCREENWRITER: Then it turns out these aqua zombies live in the ruins of Pacificatis. And they like come for Miley. And Sandra gets all Sigourney Weaver on them. “Stay away from her, you bitch!”
EXEC: This is gold! Gold! But how are they going to get to the surface?
SCREENWRITER: Good question. Um, maybe there’s a wreck of a Russian sub nearby. And they break inside and some of the missiles are still good. So they can drink some of the liquid oxygen when they are just about to run out of air. And then use another missile to crawl inside and blast themselves to the surface. Happy Ending. It's a movie!
EXEC: Will that work?
SCREENWRITER: Sure. Spielberg made us believe Indiana Jones could survive an atomic blast in an empty fridge.
EXEC: True. Try and work in something Chinese too. Every movie has to have something Chinese these days.
SCREENWRITER: Agreed. Well, what do you think?
EXEC (standing up): I think you’ve got something here.
SCREENWRITER: Do you think we can talk Sandra into this?
EXEC: We talked her into SPEED 2, didn’t we? Now go do that voodoo that you do so well!
They shake hands.
SCREENWRITER: Call me.
They laugh but there is worry in the Screenwriter’s eyes as he heads the door.