I remember….Part I

I Remember….

…the night I met John Hughes.

I own a car that has a working radio, but no CD player. That means that unless I feel like driving in total silence, I have the radio on. I’ve only had the car for a few days, mind you, so I can’t say how long this comfortable relationship will last, but for now I don’t mind it. As I was puttering around this morning, fresh out of the water and rather cold, a news bulletin came on which included the announcement of the death of John Hughes, the American filmmaker. I was very sad to hear that, and turned the radio down after hearing the news. I had the pleasure of meeting him, and although he would not remember me from a flea on his dog I think of that night with fond thoughts during a very bitter and rough time in my life.

It was the Winter of 2005, which means that down under it would have been one of your glorious sun-kissed & beer-soaked summers, full of Big Days of Out, the beach, sunburns, and the general heat infused laziness that no one can fault. I, however, was in the Northern Hemisphere, and it was not any of those things. It was miserable. I was miserable. I will not elaborate on why, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.

The odd thing was that, for me, despite my personal shambolic state, that time also represents one of slight musical triumphs for me. I had the good fortune to be associated with an Atlanta musician by the name of Chris Case, and although we had worked together on a casual basis, I was shocked when he came into the bar where I was tending and asked me to drum for his group, Samadha. He had a previous association with Hefty Records in Chicago, and they had offered to put out the debut Samadha LP based on the strength of his talent, material, and vision. I had never been involved with anything that had any money behind it, and since I respected Chris and liked working with him I jumped at the chance to do something with meaning. Obviously my life had none.

I remember quite a few months of very intense rehearsals, getting the songs ready to record in the studio and all that jazz. We had the chance to play the Hefty Records showcase at SXSW, which was nice, I think. I was looking pretty worse for the wear by that point, so all I can recall is cracking open Bob Dylan’s Chronicles in the car, finishing it well before we got to Austin, and then staring out into space for the rest of the trip with nothing else to read. In the hotel lobby, I actually saw guys trying to look like rock stars, which was a real novelty for me. We played a showcase and then I passed out in the hotel room. I can’t recall the drive home, but I think we may have been feeling somewhat triumphant.

Sometime later, we took another road trip, this time to the offices of Hefty Records in Chicago. It was freezing. I was getting worse. We played a show at some trendy nightclub, which they recorded for a live release. I remember spending all the money I had on drinks, only to find out later that I should have been getting them for free. I don’t think I minded much, at the time I thought that was just how things went.

As I later found out, Hefty Records is owned and run by John Hughes III, who happens to be the son of John Hughes the filmmaker. At that point I became very excited, because I’ll be completely honest and say that I had very little interest in experimental electronica, etc., which is what Hefty Records mainly put out. I was, however, absolutely fascinated by the script of The Breakfast Club, thinking it brilliant in every way. For some strange reason, I had seen it about 10 times in the weeks before, and just kept putting the cassette in the VCR and watching it over and over, thinking about it and being fascinated by a story so simple.

It’s not Shakespeare, mind you, but there is something so vitally human about his characters that is very Shakespeare, if we are to believe Harold Bloom and his Shakespeare: Invention of the Human. I will leave it to others, and certainly my betters, to pontificate and articulate on his films, but for whatever it’s worth, I truly loved the way he represented youth. The kids were REAL, and so were the adults, for that matter. No one was any ONE thing, but rather, a collection of traits and contradictions. As in, HUMAN.

I remember thinking that it would make a great play, if adapted properly. In my head I saw it all without scene changes, just the kids at their desks, with the principal walking on for his occasional lines. I had the notion that the janitor was a metaphor for some omniscient being, and I wanted all of his lines spoken over a loudspeaker, as a character we couldn’t see but was definitely THERE. That was pretty much my brilliant idea.

All of this was simmering in my brain by the time I got to meet Mr. Hughes. I was probably drunk, or at least half-drunk, but not so much that I don’t recall spending perhaps half an hour with him near the entrance of the club, away from the music and the dancing. I was dumb enough to tell him my idea for doing The Breakfast Club as a play, and to my surprise he said that it was originally conceived as such. So much for that idea, but I had a small measure of pride in thinking I was not so much off target.

I recall his countenance, or at least my perception if it, and it seemed that he viewed this whole music endeavor (both our own and his son’s involvement in it), as something not that serious, but something to be humoured. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that his films bankrolled the label, but maybe that’s not how it was. I can’t be sure.

I’m not sure that I have any “heroes”, at least not in the storybook sense of the word. There are, however, a great many people whom I respect and who produce works which I admire for many reasons. John Hughes was one of them. He made some remarkable films, films that were subtle but still accessible, and were stamped with a sense of honesty (and the occasional flicker of absurdity) which reflected an intelligence and an actual sense of respect for the audience. There was no need to dumb it down, because he was just showing us life as it is lived. I’m glad I got to meet him and shake his hand, and tell him how much I enjoyed his work.

If there is a point to these recollections, I would not be the one to draw them for you, much less for myself. I’m just sad that he is gone, and I could not help but remember the night I got to meet John Hughes. It just happens that way.

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