Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How many other men are driven to "show them"?

(From an interview with Dennis Hopper conducted by Terry Gross, host of the NPR radio program, Fresh Air, which was recently rebroadcast, in honour of Mr. Hopper, shortly following his death from metatasized prostate cancer at the age of 74.)
When the young Hopper worked first with James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause" he (Hopper) realized that Dean, only a few years older, was acting at a much superior level to his own. He asked Dean to teach him about acting.
"Are you angry at your parents and are you holding that anger inside to drive you to "show them" what you could become?" asked Dean in words similar to these.
"Yah, I am!" responded Hopper.
"Well, so am I and that is what drives me, as an actor, to show them what I can do!" from Dean. "Now, you are a very good technical actor and you need to forget about all that technique. When you hear a knock at the door, you go and answer the door, naturally, and only then do you react to the gun you see pointed at you. You need to be in each and every moment, and not in the next one."
Anger at their parents as the driving motivation/force behind their outstanding acting!! Imagine that!
I have been driven by a similar anger for nearly seven decades. And to some extent, I still am! Putting into words how I respond to various pieces of information, events, opinions and scholarship is my way of saying to anyone who might be listening (reading, blogging, reflecting):
This is who I am, and this is how I am and this matters to me!
I have no formal schooling, except the events of the last six decades, that informs this initiative. I have no formal 'title,' or authority or pulpit from which to utter these words. I represent no organization, no belief system, no social class and no affiliation. I am nobody!
But I certainly am not nothing, or no one, or without value.
I listened, for some twenty-plus years to a parent (female) who repeated in my face, as an echo on a daily basis, the words, "You are no good and you will never be any good! You are just like your father, no good!"
When I finished first year in university (U.W.O.), with a B average, I realized that I was so frightened of her, the B average was in response to my fear.
By second year, I formally and consciously decided, "I am doing this for me and not for her!" And, with final exams falling the week immediately following an auto accident, at midnight, after an eighteen-hour day of studying John Milton's Paradise Lost, I did not fare so well in my final report.
By third year, I had taken on the responsibility for the Arts and Science Ball, as co-convenor with Sheila Tweedie, since I wished to demonstrate to myself (and probably to that critical parent voice conceived and planted by my mother in my psyche)that I could do things and do them differently and creatively and with a certain panache.
We moved the dance from the traditional gym to the 'ballroom atmosphere' of the elegant campus dining room, after a formal audience to seek permission for the change with the then President of the University, Dr. G. Edward Hall. His only comment after the interview, "You two are very good salesmen." (It was 1961!)
We hired a no-name band then working at the CBC, directed by one Chico Valez, after decades of 'big-name' bands like Les and Larry Elgart, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman etc. And we used as our theme, in the first week of an Ontario February, "Flight to the Sun" with faux Air Canada tickets and cascanettes from the Caribbean hand painted with U.C. Ball '62 as favours. And we hosted the first faculty cocktail party at the home of the then Prefect of University College Council, John Schram, who later became Canada's Ambassador to Zimbabwe.
After missing a few Zoology classes of one Dr. Helen Battle, I was summoned to the office of the Dean of Arts, who had attended the festivities.
His only comment, while disciplining me: "You ran a helluva dance; now go make your peace with Dr. Battle!"
The dance fell on my twentieth birthday, and it was the best birthday present I could have given myself at that age! I was becoming a real person, independent of others, autonomous from my mother and proud of the collaborative accomplishment of many classmates.

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