Friday, March 5, 2010

John Hughes is my homeboy!

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you might miss it. - Ferris Bueller

I have always loved three things: Music, Movies and Humor. One of my earliest memories is watching “Star Wars” in the two screen Multiplex in my little rural Louisiana town in 1978 at the tender age of 3. I can vividly remember the original Saturday Night Live: Not Ready for Primetime Players. I didn’t get the jokes, but it was my first exposure to sketch comedy. I even more vividly remember the second cast of SNL with Bill Crystal, Katherine O’Hara, Eddie Murphy and the lot. I remember SCTV, and those crazy Canadians. I was old enough to get the jokes, or so I thought. These were the early days of the VCR, the early days of the local video store. This was before PG-13 and before the Christian Coalition started taking issue with “racy” Hollywood movies. There were certain films I naturally gravitated toward, films that seemed to speak directly to me. This brings me to John Hughes.

I used to put my jambox to the speakers of our early “home theater” system (which was a Bose stereo receiver and two Bose stereo speakers connected to the TV via the AUX port) and tape the audio of some of my favorite movies. These tapes would typically become the soundtrack for my Griswoldian vacations that my family took every single year to far away fantasy places like Astroworld and Waterworld, Corpus Christi, or in a more exotic flight of fancy Matamoras, Mexico. In my mind, we were the Griswolds. Ironically, one of the films I taped was Vacation, and yet another was Mr. Mom. These I would much later discover were John Hughes’ babies. Hughes for a time in the 70’s split time between his Chicago ad agency job at Leo Burnett and writing quite prolifically for the National Lampoon. It was during this time when I was just cutting my permanent teeth, Hughes was cutting his teeth on the landscape of American culture. My story is probably virtually identical to tens of thousands and perhaps millions of Gen-Xers of whom Hughes’ films spoke directly. Collectively I’ve seen his films over 1000 times. A rough estimate but I’ll wager not too far off the true mark. Some films I got the privilege to viewing in the theater, Vacation, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (twice), and Curly Sue which coincidentally was the last movie playing at the Essanee theater near my house when it closed it’s doors in 1991. I wanted to say I watched the last movie that ever played at the Essanee, and it was a Hughes film… His least revered film and his last foray as a director. Fucking John Hughes…

Growing up in America in the 80’s, it was impossible for pop culture to not have an indelible influence on our lives. It was the dawn of the music video. Prince, Madonna, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson and the lot ruled the radio and this new fad of Hip Hop was affecting the landscape of my elementary school. As a white kid in Louisiana I related more to Gary and Wyatt than I did to my dad or my cousins. I was a world away from my musical idols Jam Master Jay or Adam Horowitz. It seemed each of his movies spoke directly to me. I don’t know how many countless other people I’ve encountered have said those exact words. His movies are just as much a part of my collective consciousness than all of my real life experiences. His characters have made me who I am.

So who am I?? Well I’d like to think I’m Ferris Bueller, but tragically I’ve never really been as cool or as in control. Although I did have a penchant taking a “Day Off” & faking sick to stay home and watch PBS, Ferris Bueller I was not. I always wanted to be as edgy and dangerously sharp witted as John Bender. Truth be told, I’m more Ducky, more Keith Nelson, more Wyatt than Gary.

As I grow older it seems they are still speaking to me. I no longer see the movies as teen pictures. They are representative of a time period, an ethos, a bygone American aesthetic. Each of the films are honest. I never feel as if Hughes is trying to sell me something. They are modern day fables. These films paved the way for directors like Kevin Smith & Judd Apatow. They have molded and shaped an entire generation of idealistic young people. I am part of the John Hughes Generation.

Much has been made about his disappearance from movies. Documentaries have been made, articles written, even Molly Ringwald made a plea during some award show. Well, I recently picked up the March 2010 issue of Vanity Fair and the piece on Hughes is just riveting. I wish I could have had the privilege of meeting John Hughes. I have come to identify more and more with him, and I owe just as much of who I am as a person to him than I do to my own parents. For a generation of latch-key kids who’s families scraped by trying to eek out a living in Reagan-era America, Some Kind of Wonderful is a parable for following your dreams and seizing the moment. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off reminds us to take risks and always look on the bright side. The Breakfast Club speaks of friendship, serendipity, and the importance of looking beyond the surface. Pretty in Pink is a commentary on remaining true to yourself, and being proud of who you are. This was my Bible. John Hughes was my Buddha, Jesus and Jehova.

It turns out that he was a frantic note taker. He was always writing, drawing and taking pictures. I hope that in those writings there is a screenplay, a magic screenplay that can turn me into a fifteen year old again.With wide eyed romantic optimism it will refill my cup. He left us with no instructions as to what to do once this world takes a hold of us. Possibly, some of these writings will reach the public, and it’ll provide us all with more insight. For now, all I can do is celebrate John Hughes. Learn not only from his movies, but from the way he lived his life.

So I know I’m a little late being that he passed away last fall, but the recent Vanity Fair article ignited the flame once again. In closing, “Mr. Hughes, I owe you a great debt. You have helped to guide me in the right direction and down the path I’m walking today. Over the years I’ve come to regard you as an old friend. It’s always hard losing a friend, and my generation misses you the most.”

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