Friday, July 30, 2010

The Bob T Collection

This is something that Bob T would have really appreciated knowing: .

Bob T, and his wife Fefee, were house parents at a group home where my wife
and I worked at in the mid '70s, a hodgepodge of largely decent, but DSHS dependent kids ranging in disposition from dangerous to merely bored. Mainly, they were just teenagers, a condition which is cruel enough without imposed legal custody, but we did the best we could to remind them it was temporary confinement and for the most part, generously benevolent.

Back to Bob T, though: one of the duties of the houseparents on duty was to arrange entertainment,
and while that budget was always a tight one, it occasionally meant the boys being treated to a night at the movies, selected by Bob T.

Bob T loved
disaster movies, or for that matter any movie that dealt with something involving large, calamitous special effects, the more ridiculous and unlikely the better. Bob T himself was large, a reference I make with due reverence to that term, as it applies to the male human physique.

But as for movies, Bob T had been blessed with the '70's being a very good place to land if you were looking
for bad action-disaster films. To name a few: The Towering Inferno,
Airport, Airport 1975, The Poseiden Adventure (in the '70's an "adventure" is what you called it when you are trapped in an inverted, sinking cruise ship with Shelly Winters), The Hindenburg, Hurricane, City on Fire, Avalanche, Skyjacked. At some point George Kennedy became linked, either by karma or an overly-abitious press agent, to almost every one of these. But I digress...

The ultimate in this furious spate, without doubt, was Earthquake, a film which
not only starred
Charlton Heston (and Geroge Kenendy) , but also one that featured Sensurround, an overly-hyped soundtrack gimmick which employed a bevy of single-story speakers and was billed to be "So real, you'll FEEL it!").

Needless to say, Bob T had finally come into his own. As I recall, he was so excited he'd have payed for the entire boys
home to see this film even if he'd had to pay out of his own pocket (which was not the case, then or ever).

Ok, now. Hoardes of people - normal people - flock to movies like this (and worse) and I have no problem with
that. I personally have an extensive list (in writing, yet) of my favorite "bad" movies, and to a degree I simply resign it to personal taste and the trends of the times - so what.

But the thing
with Bob T was, he would never admit to actually liking them. Not at all. No. Absolutely not. Bob T insisted that these films were "educational".

"Wouldn't YOU want to know what to do in a situation like
that? Well, wouldn't you? You don't admit it, but I know you would." He was that kind of guy.

And more. Bob T was not only large in substance, but multi-dimensional as well, having worked at a variety of jobs that would have been impressive had it spanned a half-dozen men over
their individual careers. A range which spanned the menial to the majestic, and beyond. He boasted of having been a window cleaner on the Sears Tower and with equal veracity insisted he had at one time also privately counseled deposed Heads of State. He worked, allegedly with a Top-Security Clearance, shredding documents at the Pentagon. lHe was a turnkey at an exclusive east coast facility that housed both the criminally insane and very famous (I know this to be a fact, as years later it was verified by a very impartial third party). He lived in an Ashram in India, and forsook it. Was an EMT, and saved the life of an over-dosed Govenor-who-shall-remain-nameless. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There were times I wished he was kidding, but knew he wasn't. Somehow, in some way, Bob T and George Kennedy had taken on similar roles, one in film and the other - however unlikely it seemed, and still does - in real life.

And the thing was, any one of these jobs you could look
at Bob T and think "Yeah, I can see him doing that."

Eventually the key ingredient seemed to be that, to Bob
T, the world was
Black and White. Totally. Right or wrong. Sane or insane. Correct or in need of correction. His logic was as intangible, defensive, and stubborn as it was iron-clad.

6 feet and just under 400lbs, Bob T clearly intended no slight when he once looked over to me and observed, in obvious and utter sincerity, "I was slender once, just like you. I looked just like you, I had a frame like yours. But you'll gain, you'll see, just like me." And then the capper "Geff, by thirty-nine you'll weigh exactly as much as I do now." Had there not been such a tone of kindness in his voice, I might have challenged him on it. But the truth is, it still worries me.

A devout (and morbidly devoted) Mormon, Bob T showed no shame in proselytizing to his workmates or friends, and did so frequently, often sweetening up his hopes of conversion with a dinner invitation or afternoon picnic. Truly, the word duplicity could never be applied to Bob T, as his intentions were always as conspicuously transparent as the windshield in a new Pontiac. Cleaner, even.

But Bob T could be persuasive, if need be. This was adroitly demonstrated (with no small degree of glee) with two of our then-closet friends, who worked
at the same group home. They were about the same age as us and had long-before established themselves to be - and quite joyfully so - died-in-wool hippies, replete with tandem 3-foot ponytails, a log cabin, hobo-patched jeans and equally strong Buddhist leanings. Surprised was not the word to describe our reaction when they both suddenly dropped out of site for several weeks, only to reemerge and reveal they had both converted to being
Latter Day Saints, under Bob Ts proud tutelage. Just like George Kennedy, landing that Jumbo jet in the last reel, and pardon me when I scream Christ O Mighty!

Bob T also had this thing for sugar.

That's a whole 'nother story...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

child bride

First off, I'm trying hard not to go on and on about this. I'd just like to make a certain point, which I think bears mentioning, if not just for the fun of it. Especially for those of us at a certain age.

There's also going to be a lot of numbers flying around here, too (I actually needed to pull up my desktop calculator to help keep track). But it's worth it, I think.

OK, now. So. The first time I watched The Bride of Frankenstein was in 1962, on a local TV late-show, I being eight at the time.

Fast forward to 1998. I'm watching another film, Gods and Monsters, a mildly fictionalized account of the last years of James Whale, the man who directed The Bride of Frankenstein. Seems as though by 1957 Whale was regarded - by Hollywood standards and popular culture both - not only as something of a virtual dinosaur, but an extinct dinosaur as well. This despite the fact that in '57 only 22 years had passed since the BOF had uttered her first beguiling hiss.

Well, all this talk of Hollywood dinosaurs gets me to thinking. About time in general. What is "old" as compared to "new", and how that perspective changes so very rapidly with each generation. At jet speed, really.

Consider this: Bride of Frankenstein was 31 years old when I first saw it back in 1962.

If you went looking for a film today, in 2010, that was the same age now as BOF was to me then, you'd be looking at films released in 1979. To refresh your memory, here is short list of notables from '79: Alien, Kramer vs Kramer (it won the Oscar for Best Picture that year, in addition to four other Academy Awards), Apocalypse Now, Rocky II.

To keep this in perspective, Sigourney Weaver - does she seem like a fossil to you? Interesting to note also that when she made Alien, Weaver was 30 years old, only three years younger than Elsa Lanchester herself when she became The Monster's bride in 1935.

So, just to wrap up on this theme, how about this one: a teenager today sitting down to watch a DVD of Easy Rider (released in 1969) is the same as if - using my earlier comparison of me in 1962 - instead of Bride of Frankenstein I'd tuned in to watch The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino, released in 1921. That's a silent film, of course.

It's odd: That Bride, she looks prettier every time I see her.

And so young.