April 7th, 2002

CameraGuy

Film Director Billy Wilder Passes On

I see by the papers, as late humorist Will Rogers used to say, that film director Billy Wilder passed away recently at the ripe old age of about a gazillion. I mean, who'd have believed that the guy who directed "Sunset Boulevard" was even still alive? I don't know a whole lot about Billy Wilder, except that I don't think he was related to Gene "Willy Wonka" Wilder or Billy "I'm a Midget" Barty, or Jack "HR PufnStuf" Wild, or Oscar "They Make Jokes About Me On MST3k" Wilde, or Marlin "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" Perkins; but when actor Jack Lemmon, who starred in Wilder's film "Some Like It Hot", died a few months ago, I sent the following as an e-mail to some of my friends. Now that I have so many NEW friends here on LiveJournal (as evidenced by the volume of comments to my posts), I thought this might be an opportunity to share my thoughts on Jack Lemmon, and some other dead people, with a wider and more appreciative audience.

[excerpt from an e-mail, August 19, 2001]

I'm sure you've all realized by now, but not found it worth mentioning, that Meathead's father died recently. No, not his real father, the methusalean Carl Reiner; rather, Meathead's TV father-in-law, Archie "Carroll O'Connor" Bunker. Or is it Carroll "Archie Bunker" O'Connor? Doesn't matter, he's dead now. Can't say that this one affected me much. I'd rate it a minor surprise, I suppose. Y'see, I kinda half though he was already gone, and I'd just missed it. Back when I worked for a while at TV station KEVU, we ran his cop show, "In The Heat of the Night." O'Connor ended up leaving the show. His own show! He was the star, and he was hardly ever in it the last season or so! When he did appear, to me he was looking very old and tired. I assumed he was out due to health problems. I just kind of expected to hear one day that ol' Archie'd kicked his last Spic. Kinda surprised me that he actually hung on another seven or eight years. Dunno what he was doing during that time. Despite media suggestions to the contrary, I suspect he spent his last few years as an ailing, drooling semi-vegetable. This should make me sad. If I think about it too much it might. So, I just won't think about it.

Oh, yeah, and, the other half of the 'original' Odd Couple died too. Jack Lemmon. This one didn't affect me much, either. Didn't surprise me that he outlived Matthau. Matthau always looked old. They both looked distractingly ancient and frail in those "Grumpy Old Men" films, to the extent that I had no interest in actually watching the movies. Kinda like watching somebody die right in front of you. Still, I always pictured, in my mind, Lemmon as being considerably younger than he was. Maybe not "Ensign Pulver" young, or as he looked in that movie with Marilyn Manson and Jamie Lee Curtis... er, Charles Manson and David Lee Roth... uh, no, wait, how 'bout Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis? Yeah, that's it, that gender-bender flick; I can't think of the name off hand (it's getting late), but it WASN'T 'Glen or Glenda,' I know that. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, yeah, I always tended to picture Jack Lemmon towing boats with his teeth while swimming and doing jumping jacks... no, wait, that was Jack LaLanne.... okay, so anyway, I guess I never was much of a Jack Lemmon fan, so while I noticed his passing on an intellectual level, I did not find myself particularly mourning his passing on an emotional basis.

Now, when Burl Ives died a few years ago, I was pretty broken up. Well, that might be an exaggeration. Perhaps I shed an itty bitty tear.

As we know, Charles "Sergeant" er, I mean "Peanuts" Schultz and Hank "Town-In-Idaho-Where-Hemingway-Committed-Suicide" Ketchum both left the building recently. I noticed last weekend, whilst checking out the important part of the Sunday newspaper, that your fave and mine, the "Family Circus," is now credited to Bil AND JEFF Keane. I suspect the beloved Bil is not yet dead, damn cryogenics anyway, but that he has passed on the quills to his equally capable and talented son, little Jeffie. I may have read in The New York Times that to earn the coveted mantle of "Creator of the Family Circus," Jeff had to defeat Billy and PJ in mortal hand-to-hand combat (Dolly perished in a crack-house fire some years back); then again, I may be misremembering some of the details. Anyway, the important thing to know here is that SOMEBODY FAILED!! A simple stake thru the heart, some garlic cloves in the mouth of the severed head, that's all it required. But no, no, that was too much to ask, and Bil Keane was allowed to reproduce his own kind. From this point, the contagion will spread like wildfire. Like a pony she named Wildfire. Wiiiiiiii--iiiiiiiii---iii--iiilldd-----Fiiiiiiiiire!

Pretty soon they'll be reading, at gunpoint no doubt, the "Famielski Circuitski" in Communist Russia. Which is fine, it should save us some money on nukes. Before that happens, though, I must know: how do you translate "Not Me" and "Ida Know" into Cyrillic? That's gonna be a challenge. My understanding is that puns don't translate well. And how do you say "Chrysler Building" in Russian? It doesn't matter, for after all, laughter is the Universal Language. Or was that Esperanto? Oh, what the heck, we'll just pretend that it's Japanese, and, in closing, send you here:

http://www2m.biglobe.ne.jp/~maccha/hair/contents.html

As you can tell, the hour here grows late, and my synapses are ready for napses. Again, please accept my condolences for the loss you must feel at the passing of Meadowlark Lemon and Sinead OConnor, and for the final "original eposode" of MisteRogers Neighborhood, which aired this past week. No, Fred is not dead, he's just moving on to other projects before McFeeley goes postal on him. PBS swears by the blood of all that is unholy that it will run the seven million existing episodes of the program until the last star in the heavens is a stone cold cinder. At least, we have that. Well, that and Paris. We'll always have Paris, and we'll always have the seven million existing episodes of MisteRogers Neighborhood.

--David
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