Wednesday, August 13, 2014

to have and have not

As baby boomers, we grew up in a time when television was still in it's infancy.  We didn't have oodles of channels.  We had a dial that had only thirteen channels and many had no stations broadcasting from the other end. Weekdays we'd watch the B movies rebroadcast on Tom York's 'Dialing for Dollars'. Friday night and Saturday night was when we'd watch those those A list film classics that our parents had gone to see at the cinemas of their youth.

Bogart was dead before I was born, yet I was introduced to his work via the small screen from our old black and white zenith. 
There were many actors and actresses from the silver screen that I first met on our family's little screen.  I became a fan of Clark Gable, John Garfield, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Maureen O'Hara, John Wayne, Alan Ladd, Ingrid Bergman ~ there are just too many to mention them all.  My generation was connected to all those old movies and all of those stars of preceding generations.

We are now experiencing the final curtain call, the last of that golden era taking leave of us.  I know of only a few of those old film greats still among the living.   Lauren Bacall is among the very last.  We lost Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney this year.  We no longer have them among us, but we will continue to have a part of them captured on celluloid.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Goodbye Jim

April 7, 1928 ~ July 19, 2014
James Garner is one of my all time favorite actors.  So much in fact that I kind of always dreaded seeing James Garner grow old.  I knew that that inevitable day would come, and never wanted it to.  How did a mere actor find his way into so many peoples hearts?   It's almost as if hearing of an uncle's death.

Funny thing, I tried to write this post last month, but simply couldn't pull my thoughts together to write about him. How did he manage to get into this heart like that? It's a month later, and I want to make note of his passing.  I still can't wrap my mind around it.
Perhaps a past post will suffice.

Monday, August 11, 2014

what Robin Williams taught me

July 21, 1951 ~ August 11, 2014

I am not a professional stand-up, but I am a funny fellow.  I know that's my lot in life is to laugh and make others laugh.  If I am not doing that, and in the dumps, I know that I am not doing what God meant me to do.  My purpose is joy, and the fight in my life is to keep the devil from stealing it.  I'm serious.

I was saddened to hear of Robin Williams death today.  I am purposely not going to linger on the tragedy of what they are saying is a suicide.  Instead I will linger on all the laughter in my life that he's directly responsible for.  I am going to thank God for that joy that shot out of his being like a fire hose.  I am sorry Robin, that you left before the end of the show. 
What an awesome fellow.
Robin Williams had a big influence on me down through the years.  I didn't care for all his movies, but the guy was fluent in comedy.  He was the greatest ad-libber of his generation, and perhaps anyone who has gone before.  Like Robin, I was influenced by his early influence, Jonathan Winters.  Both possessed the same comedic genius, as if they were father and son. 

I watched the Wacky World of Jonathan Winters as a kid from '72 - '74.  It was Winter's show that I started exercising that brand of wacky improvisational wit.  When Robin landed as Mork in '77, I enjoyed watching a younger and zanier version of Winters.  Like I started this post, I am not a stand-up, but I've always related and learned from those two nuts.

There was a time in the mid-eighties that I picked up some bad advise.  You see, ad-lib requires to be spontaneous and work without a net.  With this brand of comedy, you associate everything, pull funny out of nowhere, not knowing where you find the next bit.  It's all free association humor, and it's often not pretty.  The problem is, I was told by someone I loved and respected dearly that I should think through everything I say before I say it and say only the funny stuff.  I tried doing this for about three years and it made me feel as if I was tripping over myself ~ and I was!  A lot of the joy had gone from me, and I just wasn't myself.

In the early nineties, after I was married and living in Bowling Green, I was watching an interview with Robin Williams.  In his interview he expressed that he made mistakes all the time.  He said he works out his act while doing his act.  He said that he did have prepared material that he used only as a springboard, and just dives into the unknown.  The success of his act is that he was pulling the stuff out of nowhere with just a little memorized material.  He was like a wild and uninhibited comedic Tarzan swinging from vine to vine, with an oblivious hope of where the next line would be.

You'll never know what it meant for me to hear that conversation.  This fellow wasn't filtering every word, but the freedom came from just jumping in there and having fun with it.  It was God whispering in my ear to go out there and break a leg ~ have fun, bring the spirit of Joy with you...and don't look down.  

I also learned through that interview that I can have fun without necessarily being funny.  I've had plenty of moments when people have said, "That's not funny!"  I reply, "So?"   I fail less often these days, I don't apologize when I do.  I just get back up, laugh at myself and keep pitching.  The only failure is to lose the joy.

Robin, thank you!