Monthly Archives: July 2015

Enough already!!

Enough already with the death and dying I’m trying to work here!!

I cannot continue to wander off and watch old movies, or 30-year old NFL football playoff games, every time someone who marks a point in time during my life passes away. I realize that I’m at the point in time during my life when people do pass away, often, some more unexpected than others, but still, enough is enough.

I need to be writing, promoting my existing books—One Cried Murder, Exit Marks the Spot—while finishing the rewrites, and adding some sex(y) scenes to Dead Last. I am most definitely not supposed to be reliving David Lean’s oeuvre or the Oakland Raider’s first Super Bowl victory. But, then, how often do you get an entertainment duo like Omar Sharif and Kenny Stabler dying on the same weekend?

I can’t hep myself. I just can’t hep it.

I went to high school in south Georgia and football was a pretty big deal down there. Still is. It’s home to perennial state champs Valdosta and it’s not too far from Tuscaloosa, Alabama where Kenny Stabler took over at quarterback for Bear Bryant in 1968 after convincing the coach to let him back on the team. The Tide had just won consecutive national titles with Joe Namath and Steve Sloan under center and now it was his turn. Stabler led Bama to an 11-0 season but ended up 3rd in the national polls behind Michigan State and Notre Dame. It was a very big deal. Not unlike the Tide’s recent history with Nick Saban. Though, I don’t think Coach Bryant ever made $5 million a year.

I played football. It’s how I got to college. You watch, you follow, you imitate. Stabler was my hero and he was stitched pretty tightly into the fabric of my life. He was also a rebel, a renegade, and his off field behavior was probably the reason that year’s title went to some one else and not Alabama. After graduation, Stabler was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and he led them to a Super Bowl victory several years later. Now he’s dead. Colon cancer. He was only 67. And there’s a hole in my fabric that needs mending.

Omar Sharifimages-1

I also worked as an actor. The early films of Omar Sharif were a very big deal, too. You watch, you follow, you imitate.

Sharif was fabulous in the desert winds of Lawrence of Arabia. Later he starred on the frozen tundra of Russia as Doctor Zhivago—two of David Lean’s magnificent film trilogy that included  Bridge on the River Kwai. Sharif also played opposite Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl and was a big reason she garnered the Best Actress award that year.

In direct opposition to his star turns opposite Peter O’Toole and Alec Guinness, Sharif had a supporting role in one of my favorite movies, The 13th Warrior, with Antonia Banderas. And, he is absolutely wonderful in the French film Monsieur Ibrahim: calm, gentle, understanding.

Sharif was a notorious gambler and an acclaimed Bridge Master. He said he often turned down film roles because they conflicted with dates of major bridge tournaments. So, the calendar cost us some opportunities to see that “face which told a thousand tales,” on the silver screen. But what we have is a treasure trove of great entertainment. The best of his films are timeless and worth watching again, and again,  even if we already know who gets the girl or, for that matter, who won the National Championship in 1968.

All of that reflection does not solve my problem of needing to stay in the present. I need to stop wandering off point. I need to keep my eye on the future. But it’s hard when the past has been so important. I think it’s worth taking the time to remember just how big a deal it all was.

The Best of Friends

I am easily distracted.

Faced with deadlines, unfinished chores or the need for additional edited copy, I can find a thousand things to keep me otherwise engaged. Recently, the death of Christopher Lee has sent me off on a tangent that I’m having more than a little trouble returning from.

Mr. Lee, for those who aren’t familiar with his work, was a very good actor who set the early standards for characters like Sherlock Holmes and Dracula. In a career that spanned 70 years, he made lots and lots of movies. And in more than 20 of those films he worked with his best friend, Peter Cushing.

In 1957, Lee played the Monster in Frankenstein. Peter Cushing played the Baron. In 1959, Lee played Henry Baskerville to Cushing’s Holmes. And so it went for many years as they cranked out film after film for Hammer Studios. These were the guys I watched running through graveyards on Saturday afternoon matinees when the cost of admission was 4 RC bottle caps and it wasn’t mandatory to leave the theater at the end of the film. You could stay all day and watch it again, and again and again.

The two men were inseparable in my mind: Mutt and Jeff, Lewis and Martin, Penn and Teller. So, with Lee’s death last week at 93,  it was like having to relive Cushing’s passing as well. It was almost too much to take. I was driven to the couch. Thank God for streaming television! Horror Express was my choice with a featured role by Telly Savalas as the Cossack Captain.

This was just a year before the hit series Kojac and all of Telly’s shtick was on display: the snarky attitude, the bald head, the thin, black cigarettes held underhand with two fingers like a Gestapo interrogator. Combined with the stalwart duo of Cushing and Lee it made for marvelous genre cinema.

A special feature on the DVD release of The Hound of the Baskervilles is an interview with Lee in which he says of his friend, “At some point . . . everyone . . . will notice that you have in your life, one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is  so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. And when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again.”

Now we’ve lost them both.