My friend died this week. We hadn’t spoken to each other in 20 years or had been in the same room together for even longer. If pressed, I wondered if he would have even remembered my name. I certainly knew his. As did most of you reading this. His name is Roy Scheider. He was an actor. And he left this world all too soon this week at the age of 75.
As a teenage fan of the film “JAWS” I wrote the usual gushing fan letters to the cast. I received a note from Richard Dreyfuss’ cousin, Arlene, who asked me if I would like to help her run Richard’s fan club. Good start. It took more than two years for my reply from Robert Shaw. On August 28, 1978 Robert Shaw passed away. That afternoon the mailman brought me an autographed 5”x7” photograph signed, simply, ‘Robert Shaw.’ I also received a note from a gentleman who told me he represented Roy Scheider and that “Roy is not interested in a fan club.” In September 1977 I learned that “Jaws 2” was filming in the Florida panhandle, several hours from my Tampa home. Some detective work revealed where the cast was staying and soon I was dropping a letter off at the front desk, asking that it be placed in Mr. Scheider’s mailbox. 10 days later I received a note from Roy’s publicist, as well as a handwritten message from Roy, authorizing me to start his official fan club. I was stunned.
For the next few years I was granted unbelievable access to a man who not only inspired me with his talent but with his generosity. Whether it was unexpected phone calls from locations (my favorite being the day Roy “killed” the shark in “Jaws 2,” with my stopping him in mid sentence each time he tried to tell me the method used), quick notes to let me know what he was working on or the countless handwritten answers to fan questions for the quarterly newsletter, he would ensure that his fans were treated well. Roy did not take his fans for granted. On the contrary, he often seemed surprised at his popularity. Anytime a fan would send a drawing or photo of Roy that they wanted autographed, he would take the time to not only sign it, but often personalize it. Some of his fan mail came from men that had served with him in the Air Force. When one of those letters arrived I made sure he saw it. Roy always sent his fellow servicemen a note, often sharing stories of their days in the service. In one of my written interviews I noted that he had worn the same watch in almost all of his films. I jokingly added that if he ever got tired of it I knew someone that would take it off his hands. He replied, “IF I ever get tired of it, it’s yours.”
I last saw Roy in January 1985. He was hosting “Saturday Night Live” and had arranged for me to sit in the audience for the dress rehearsal and then hang backstage in the wings during the live show. When I met him at NBC that afternoon I dropped off a pile of items that required his signature. Later that night, meeting up with him after the show, I was surprised that he had found the time to autograph everything. He invited me to the cast party but, as I had a three hour drive back to Baltimore and work on Sunday morning, I decided to say my goodbyes then. We shook hands and in the same motion Roy gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. He then made his way out into the New York City night. Sometime later I turned the fan club over to another longtime fan, but she didn’t have the enthusiasm or time needed to keep it running and the Roy Scheider Fan Club faded away.
I never saw Roy after that night. Of course, as a fan I continued to follow his career. In 1989 he remarried and started a family that includes son Christian and daughter Molly. As the kids grew Roy curtailed his workload, making sure he spent time at home. Sadly, Roy passed the day before his 19th wedding anniversary. This week I have received calls and emails from friends new and old, each of them expressing sincere sadness over Roy’s passing. It’s a testament to the man himself that these people knew how much of an impact Roy had on my life. And that they took the time to express their condolences is a great tribute to Roy’s spirit.
My friend died this week. And while he may have had trouble remembering me I will always remember him.
Hillary in Touble?
I realize I'm running a wee bit behind commenting on this one, but the big news last weekend was Barack Obama's 3-state sweep in the Democratic presidential primaries, handily beating Hillary Clinton, in what is seen as a fairly surprising upset. In fact, Obama has won all eight of the most recent eight contests.
Hillary, apparently furious at her lagging popularity, fired her campaign manager, and a few days later another top official in her organization resigned. I remember saying about a month ago, "what a difference a year makes." Now I feel like redacting that to "what a difference a month makes."
Last year at this time the election was forecast to be basically between Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani! The hottest political topic deemed to decide the winner was "obviously" going to be whose plan to withdraw troops from Iraq would be the fastest.
The tides have changed. John McCain lept from near-obscurity in the Republican ticket to top numbers. Giuliani dropped out. The next closest favorite, Mitt Romney, as well. Iraq, supposedly in an improving situation, is fading from constant headline territory, replaced by the fading economy instead, which is teetering on recession. Hillary is certainly far from out of the race (although it's been said if she doesn't win both the upcoming Texas and Ohio primaries, she's out), but rival Barack Obama's everyman, easygoing optimism, reminding many of John Kennedy at a similiar time in his career (but if I may paraphrase the late Senator Lloyd Benson, he's "no Jack Kennedy") has diverted the media from continuing to focus on his African-American ethnicity. Despite his never really setting any clear agendas (or maybe because of it), he's got an amazing shot at walking away with this.
It's generally acknowledged John McCain has the Republican nomination sewed up. He's nearing his delegate goals, far ahead of his only opponents, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul (sad to say).
As far as delegates for the Democrats, it's still a pretty close heat....so far. All eyes are on Texas and Ohio.