If you don’t have a hero in your life, you at least have someone distant that you look up to. We hope that our heroes never grow old, that they stay strong, vibrant and important forever–just as they are in our minds. We want our icons to be forever iconic. We want our heroes to never fail–to never fail us. Sadly, it is an inevitable truth that all people will gray, they will lose a step, they will stumble, and the luster will chip. It is in those times that we can at least take solace in their great works left behind, and the inspiration they continue to bring. . .
Art Bell was an odd man, but he is an icon, and definitely hero to lots of people. As many kids do, Milhouse Van Houten enjoyed spooky nights alone, tuning into to warbling AM radio signals to hear Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM talk show, an radio program like no other, specializing in all manner of mystery.
When Art Bell passed away at age 72 this past weekend, he’d spent almost his entire career as a radio show host. As he’d retell the story many times over the years, one night in 1984 he just got bored with all the same interviews and fluff he’d been doing, and based on a personal itch opened the station’s call in phone lines to ask if any listeners had ever experienced anything unexplainable. The show caught on quick and for the next 20-odd years–very odd years— he hosted all manner of unique guests: “Experts” in UFOs, cryptids, time travel, parallel dimensions, ghosts, and anything else under the moon that legitimate broadcasters wouldn’t treat seriously–let alone give hours of airtime too. Bell was able to delicately thread the needle between giving his guests a platform on which to hang themselves, and endorsing the most outlandish ideas.
Most kids go through a phase where they’re obsessed with aliens, Bigfoot, the supernatural or other things that go bump in the night. Some kids will form tight friendships that last long after the obsession fades. Most kids grow up and grow out of these fascinations, while others, well… some critics cite Art Bell as a key influencer in the reason Americans have so much distrust for the government and the media today. In any case, Milhouse will probably pull out his collection of tape-recorded episodes, turn down the lights, and take a final ride with his hero.
Miloš Forman died having won two Oscars for Best Director, for the breathtaking historical drama “Amadeus” in 1983, and for the heartbreaking adaption of Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975. These films are sure to get a rewatching by noted film critic Jay Sherman, as he mourns the loss of such a huge talent.
Forman was a Czechoslovakian expatriate who was locked out of his home country in 1968 when Soviet tanks invaded, closing it off behind the iron curtain. As a perpetual outsider, Forman spent his career championing underdogs and flawed iconoclasts who rebelled for what they believed in. In addition to “Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus”, Sherman is likely to rewatch “Man On the Moon”, Forman’s overlooked but well-liked biopic about Andy Kaufman, as well as the director’s sympathetic look at the life and works of infamous pornographer Larry Flynt, “The People vs. Larry Flynt”.
Barney Gumble recreates the climactic scene from
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest“
That noted New York film Critic Jay Sherman would be an aficionado of such classics isn’t surprising. It’s worth noting though, that Springfield’s own award winning filmmaker Bernard Gumble also counts himself a fan of Miloš Forman. It doesn’t take a Pulitzer Prize winning critic to understand how the hard-drinking creative savant behind the autobiographical documentary “Pukahontas” would look at Forman’s oeuvre and find inspiration, and perhaps a bit of sympathy.
Finally, late today we learned of the passing of R. Lee Ermey. Ermey was a former Marine Sergeant who spent a decade in the service, including 14 months in Vietnam. Ermey later went on to a notable career in films playing the type of tough-as-nails character he’d lived his life as. His first role was in “Apocalypse Now”, where he also helped director Francis Ford Coppola get the maddeningly absurd details of life in country right. Ermey played military men nonstop, across a wide breathe of media, from the doomed asshole drill instructor in “Full Metal Jacket” to satirical versions of the same type in comedies and animated shows.
In 1995 he guest starred on The Simpsons as the steely but flummoxed Colonel Leslie “Hap” Hapablap against Kelsey Grammer in “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming,” and the rest of the cast. He returned to the role in 2015, in “Waiting for Duffman.”
Among the residents of Springfield who’ll be feeling this loss the most are the military-obsessed Herman, the delusional one-armed owner of Herman’s Military Antiques, as well as visiting out-of-town lawman Rex Banner who always appreciates a steely resolve and stiff lip.
We’ve just learned that former First Lady Barbara Bush has passed. Ms. Bush guest starred along with her husband, on Season Six’s episode, “Two Bad Neighbors“.
It may seem hard to believe now but there was a time when The Simpsons was a ferociously controversial tv show (wink). Republicans attacked the series, most FOX programming, MTV, rap music, and anything else they didn’t like. This debate came to be known as The Culture Wars. In 1990, an absurd war of words grew between the two families: first Barbara lashed out at the show in an interview with People Magazine, she called The Simpsons “The dumbest thing I had ever seen.” Upset by this The Simpsons fought back, graciously, through Marge who penned this polite letter to Ms. Bush . . .
Surprisingly, the First Lady replied:
How kind of you to write. I’m glad you spoke your mind; I foolishly didn’t know you had one.
I am looking at a picture of you, depicted on a plastic cup, with your blue hair filled with pink birds peeking out all over. Evidently, you and your charming family — Lisa, Homer, Bart and Maggie — are camping out. It is a nice family scene. Clearly you are setting a good example for the rest of the country.
Please forgive a loose tongue.
P.S. Homer looks like a handsome fella!
That’s amazing! Can you imagine if a member of the President’s family felt the need to directly respond to their critics these days?! All would have been well, if not for Ms. Bush’s husband needlessly rekindling the feude with some fiery words at the National Religious Broadcasters convention, “We are going to keep on trying to strengthen the American family, to make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons.“
Here’s a video that elaborates on the whole ugly affair . . .
That kept the back and forth going until Bush lost his reelection campaign, and the couple returned to private life. Which also would have been the end of it, had the Bush’s not decided to move to the part of the country with the lowest voter turnout. Although Marge and Mrs. Bush had patched up there differences, the same couldn’t be said for Homer and George W. whose egos erupted from cold to hot war in no time. Bar seemed to genuinely like Marge, and Springfield, but there’s nothing that could smooth over the hatred between their husbands. But for her efforts, Barbra will always be Marge’s favorite member of the Bush family.
Barbara Bush passed away April 17th 2018 at the age of 92.
2018 looks like it is going to be a long year, and as we wrote above, we will lose heroes–that is as inevitable as time itself. Maybe it won’t be through death, perhaps the person you love will just grow old, or fail, make a mistake, or turn out to be not as noble and thoughtful as we hoped. The best most we can expect–and it’s a lot if you get it–is that the art they’ve created in the past will continue to speak true, and prove useful and enriching to you.