Aug 11, 2009

Here's Yet Another Nauseatingly Touching John Hughes Story [Memories]

The John Hughes remembrances keep rolling in! Tonight the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog brings us the story of the guy who lived in the house next door to Molly Ringwald's house in Sixteen Candles. Seriously, this is getting ridiculous.

The essay published on Speakeasy, written by a WSJ graphics editor named Jovi Juan and titled "John Hughes, 'Sixteen Candles' and Me," is actually quite endearing once you get rein in your "oh not another one of these" reflex and actually read it, particularly Juan's passage about having his family's lawn mowed by Gedde Watanabe, the actor who portrayed Long Duk Dong.

I wasn't too happy about Long Duk Dong. I mean, he was the only guy in the cast who kinda looked like me. Did he have to talk like a boat person? Couldn't he be a contender for a better-looking babe? He was, incidentally, the only one in the cast I met. I was mowing my front yard, no doubt ruining another shot. And he came over and asked if he could mow for awhile. I said sure and watched him walk back and forth, cutting my grass, smiling as if this was a great way to spend an afternoon. He stopped after a bit, and, laughing, shook my hand and went back to the set.

Being the angry, disaffected teenager that many of us were, Juan says that when the film was being shot at the house next door he was ambivalent, even dismissive, towards the events taking place a few feet away from his childhood bedroom, so much so that he didn't actually see the film until long after its theatrical release when he watched a VHS copy of Sixteen Candles with some friends. Understandably, Juan now expresses regret over having that attitude toward the film.

Its opening scene is a truck delivering newspapers. It passes under a canopy of trees, a cathedral of great green boughs. By the time I saw it, most of those trees were gone, struck down by Dutch Elm disease, even the ones in front of my house. It also makes me sad that I didn't find any real joy in its filming. There I was with a front row seat to an American classic, and what did I do with it? I turned away, yawning, leaving the show just as it was getting good. It took me years and many more mistakes to learn to grasp the singularity of moments, the importance of saying goodbye, of glancing back as you leave a place forever, of letting yourself be star struck.

Kinda touching, no? Now with that said, can we go ahead institute a 48-hour rule on these sort of tribute essays or whatever you call them, as in any and all such remembrances must be published on the internet within 48-hours of the death of the person being fondly remembered? Such stories being run in print media outlets will be granted extra time (A week? Two?) to compensate for print being the tortoise to the internet's hare. Can we get a vote on this?

Now, on a somewhat unrelated note, have you ever wondered whatever happened to the guy who played Jake in Sixteen Candles? Did he get fed-up with losing every available job for his type to Matt Dillion and give up acting? Well tonight my curiosity about Jake's fate got the best of me so I did some digging around.

As it turns out, the actor who played Jake Ryan, Michael Schoeffling, had roles in eight other films after Sixteen Candles (One of which was in the film Belizaire the Cajun, which was, ironically, filmed in the swamps near where I grew up). Schoeffling, who's now 48 years old, gave up acting in 1991 and lives in rural northeastern Pennsylvania with his wife and family, where he makes his living as a carpenter and woodworker. In 2002, GQ termed him the "Salinger of male models/actors." Maybe he'll emerge to make an appearance at Hughes' funeral?

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