Aug 7, 2009

How Insulting John Hughes, And Maybe His Family, Made Me a Writer [Remembrances]

Richard Rushfield is still on vacation before joining Gawker, but he couldn't resist weighing in with another dispatch, involving dearly-departed director John Hughes, an LA-area deli, and some serious trash talk.

It was somewhere around 1985'ish...Sometime post-The Breakfast Club, but pre-Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I was in my senior year of high school with a head filled with contempt for anything that brought joy and solace to my fellow man, especially to my fellow teen man. MTV? Fascism unleashed. Live Aid? A sign we were entering the final days. Shoulder pads? Might as well be stapling patches of asbestos under your jackets with IVs sending it directly into your blood stream.

Yes, indeed. I wasn't in a mood to just sit quietly and go along with nothing. And least of all with John Hughes movies.

So one Saturday morning, when my friends Will, Joey and I took a table in the now-demolished Marjan's Deli in Brentwood, our jaws dropped to see our arch-nemesis sitting at the booth just across the tiny aisle from us. There we saw the destroyer of teendom himself, sitting with what appeared to be his wife and two young children.

While we stifled giggles and swallowed all the words we might have said to him, ("I guess this Breakfast Club will let anyone in") had we the guts, Joey peered closer and announced, that, in fact, although it looked almost like him, it was not the great auteur, just a guy who looked kinda like him. We all looked back and agreed, the man might be huge, but he was not Hughes.

With relief we settled in, relieve that we wouldn't have to confront on that morning any dangerous moral questions like, "Do you sell your soul if you eat lox, eggs and onions three feet away from a director whose work you despise?"

Getting comfortable again, we turned back to the work of le Hughes, talking over what bugged us so much about it. We discussed how he had ruined his brilliant subversive National Lampoon's Vacation short story, turning it into a mushy family film. We considered the racism of the Long Duk character in Sixteen Candles, Bender's laughable teen street talk in Sixteen Candles, the horrifying mock depth of the art gallery scene in Ferris Bueller. As we dug into the subject we grew more animated, more excited and, in the lovable manner of teen boys everywhere, incredibly loud

We were just diving into the "Twist and Shout" sequence when we glanced over at the next table. Two children looked at us, their eyes pools of sadness deep as infinite space itself. Across the table, their parents gaped at us, their faces frozen in horror and rage, as though saying, What kind of monsters are you? The neighboring tables, too, glared with hatred.

On closer inspection, taking a third look, perhaps, we realized, it was maybe John Hughes.

And at that moment I became a writer.

John Hughes made me realize then and there that if you were going to go around hating everything in the world, I needed to find away to express that that didn't shove it in the face of my target's children and just as important, didn't expose me to the risk of being tarred and feathered by an angry brunch mob in my neighborhood deli.

It occurred to me then and there, that of all the paths one could take in life, that of the written word, in the privacy of one's home, was calling out to me.

And in time, mellowed by the years, haunted by those children's eyes plaguing my sleep, I came to find myself laughing at part of Sixteen Candles. And the Randy Quaid scenes in the vacation movies.

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