Friday, August 07, 2009

Fate for Breakfast (Club)

God. I just got in from a movie and dinner with friends and saw an e-mail from my boss that the "death watch" has begun for Ted Kennedy and his sister Eunice Shriver (newspapers frequently have obituaries for prominent people written well in advance, so it's important to know just how ready they are when the time is getting near). I paused and thought how sad for their family (two at once is rough) then clicked over to my news home page and found no sign of a Kennedy but instead an obituary for John Hughes The guy was only 59 and died of a heart attack on a morning walk while visiting Manhattan. (That's way too young.) Talk about a kick in the stomach. If you're anywhere around my age -- and based on the comments and correspondence I get from you guys you're ALL around my age -- then I don't need to remind you that this is the man who brought us every one of our favorite movies of our youth. To be honest, until I read his obituary I didn't even realize he'd become known as somewhat of a recluse since directing "Curly Sue" back in 1991 (his seeming disappearance inspired a 2009 documentary, “Don’t You Forget About Me,” by four young filmmakers who went in search of a man who was by then being compared to J. D. Salinger because of his reclusiveness. It became a tribute to Mr. Hughes’ influence on youth culture, The Times reported) because without fail, at least once a month one of his films comes on and I'll find myself glued to the television reliving my youth (only TOTALLY loving it now!) and marveling at the work of a man who remains very much a part of my life. (If I had a dime for every time I recited a line from a John Hughes film to blank stares from the people around me!)

I'll never forget going to the AMC Fiesta Village (where I later got a job) with Greg, Deanna, Tina and Yuki to see "Sixteen Candles." Although Greg and I had long been friends and were always there for each other, this was the first time I really felt like I was part of "the gang" in high school (you may recall what happened in junior high), and it felt really great. That the characters on the screen were as awkward as we were -- but with equally great taste in music and disdain for stupidity -- was the little taste of mainstream acceptance I needed back then to soldier on. (To imagine that a guy like Jake really existed somewhere in the world helped a little, too.)

My brother Terence and I saw "Breakfast Club" together, which I LOVED but is the one I'm least likely to watch over and over again now, whereas "Weird Science" wasn't my favorite when it came out, but I'll watch it on TV a hundred times. (I'm sorry, but Anthony Michael Hall is a genius in that one -- especially his timing when the Icee lands on his head!)

He may not have directed "Pretty in Pink," but his writing is all over it. (Ditto for "Vacation," which I believe is one of the funniest movies of all time. "Fuck that -- you don't wanna go there.") And in many ways "Pretty in Pink" is the one I loved the most. (Working at a record store with Annie Potts!) I swear Greg and I (and our various friends) went to see that one at the movies at least a dozen times. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was every bit as wonderful as I'd been warned (Jennifer Grey steals the show and Charlie Sheen was still "Lucas" HOT back then!), and "She's Having a Baby" was SOOOO underrated that I wouldn't have blamed Hughes for quitting the business right then after that one failed to ignite the box office (how could people be so stupid as to NOT love that one?).

I'm really sad. I feel like I lost the really cool uncle I always wished for but never had. (Oh, have I mentioned where my REAL uncle is?) You will be missed Uncle John. You made my adolescence a little less painful -- and that's saying a lot. Oh, and thanks again for Jake.


Steve said...

I felt the same shock when I read of his death. I related to the stories of his films as you did. Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago where his movies were filmed added a special closeness for me and my friends. What we were seeing on the screen was just outside the doors of the theater.

Frank Anthony Polito said...

Yes, my heart sank to the pit of my stomach when I first got word of John Hughes' passing yesterday, via Twitter of all places!

Moments before, I was working on a script in which one character mentioned John Hughes, and a list of his brilliant credits... Then BAM!

Admittedly, I wasn't a fan of the "Home Alone" trilogy, nor did I see many of his later films. For me, the focus was really the Molly Ringwald trilogy ("Pretty in Pink" was my fave), and of course, "Vacation" with Imogene Coca as "Aunt Edna" ("You're driving me to Phoenix!")

I also didn't realize he was born in my (and Kenneth's) native Michigan.

Secretly, I was hoping John would somehow get wind of the awesome quote Dennis Hensley gave me for BAND FAGS!: "Like the gay teen flick John Hughes never got around to making," and then one day actually make it!

Now I know how my dramatic writing teacher, Milan Stitt, felt on the day Arthur Miller died. "The end of an era."

nojarama said...