The most horrifying local news in Walnut Creek is that our downtown Blockbuster Video is closing. The rent is too expensive, they said. This is puzzling. Most of Blockbuster’s aisles are crammed with popular horror DVDs like Saw (Saw I, II, III through Saw LXXVI), The Ring (Ring 1, Ring 2, Ring 3, Lord of the Ring), Friday the 13th (11 films), Drag Me to Hell, Drag Me Shopping, and Final Destination, in which a group of friends who narrowly missed being crushed by a falling Acme Company anvil are stalked by a psychopathic coyote.
Finding quality films at Blockbuster has never been a problem. The last time I was in Blockbuster, for example, I checked out three honored classic American films– Gigli, I Know Who Killed Me, and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.
Seeing “Zohan,” I was reminded that Andy, my 22 year old UCLA Theater School graduate, has been playing basketball at John Wooden Center for the past couple of years with Zohan’s director and lead actor, Adam Sandler. They do have several things in common—–both are actors, Jewish, and love basketball. Adam’s second daughter is named Sunny. Andy had a pet rat named Sunny. Both Adam and Andy have actually seen You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.
The two don’t talk much when they play. Andy’s been timid about schmoozing with Sandler. (“I don’t want to be an annoying fan.”) Recently, however, Andy became determined to break the ice.
Andy’s usual icebreaker is to describe how he injured his shoulders; how he acquired scar tissue from torn tendons in his legs; how many years he’s lived with chronic leg pain; how he may have fractured his nose recently when a player elbowed him in a game; and the number of times his throat has been scoped for vocal cord polyps. Andy can also graphically relate his history of having a major uni-brow.
A few days ago Andy returned to play basketball after a several weeks away from the UCLA Campus, including three weeks at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert where, to his delight, he acquired an interesting upper thigh rash following fecal contamination from the sand.
As Andy practiced shooting hoops, he saw Adam Sandler stroll into the Wooden Center gymnasium.
“Hey, Adam,” he said, approaching Sandler with a cool saunter. Andy put the saunter down because it was too cold. “Do you remember my big white ass?”
[Editor’s note: This is an actual quote and clearly an untested Andy Icebreaker.]
Sandler said he remembered Andy. He didn’t mention Andy’s big white ass. He continued dribbling and shooting.
“I just graduated UCLA’s Theater School,” Andy said cheerfully, “and I’m trying to find a manager or agent. Oh, and I’m looking for an apartment and a job. Also, I have plantar fascitis.”
“Well, I graduated from NYU’s Tisch School,” Sandler said, referring to the drama school that considers itself better than UCLA’s theater school. He looked up at the rim, aimed, and scored more points. “And as far as getting a job, I just hired my three nephews for my film company.” He did not disclose any personal physical defects.
When the basketball game ended, Sandler turned to Andy and said, “Danny, send me a resume and a headshot.” Andy thanked him profusely and then, anxious to prolong the conversation, described a troubling lower bowel disorder.
Andy didn’t mention that he has no current headshot. His resume lies buried within the computer stored in his weather-beaten 1996 Chevy Caprice, along with most of his worldly goods, as he drives around and around L.A. looking for an apartment that’s close to possible jobs and medical facility with a trauma unit.
Both Andy’s and his older brother Jordan’s interest in acting was sparked by the (pre-Blockbuster) films I showed when they were young. I carefully selected classic movies and avoided ones that might cause nightmares and permanent trauma. Then they’d go a neighbor’s home with its floor-to-ceiling screen along one wall and state-of-the-art Dolby sound system, and watch acclaimed children’s films like The Land Before Time in which a sadistic Tyrannosaurus attacks and kills a mother dinosaur.
Jordan, now a junior at San Francisco State University, enrolled in a Theater class this semester called “Movement I: Developing the actor’s free and responsive body.” Andy took a similar movement class at UCLA’s Theater School, and “the free and responsive body” he developed led to his lengthy nude performance in The Devils. Jordan was just bumped from the Movement I class because of class size limitations. This was good news. It is a well-established medical principle that a mother can have only one son appear nude on stage during her lifetime.
With Blockbuster now departing, and the boys generally living out of the house, I watch Netflix-rented movies with Alan and friends. Selecting movies for friends can more difficult than for children. Caryn refuses to watch westerns because “there’s too much dust.” Sylvia can’t stand violence, which eliminates 95% of films. Susan enjoys only romantic films or films about animals, particularly cats. This may be because as a child, Susan discovered a dead cat frozen stiff under her house. She laid it carefully on an aluminum foil-covered tray which she shoved into a preheated 325 degree oven in order to bring the cat back to life or to roast, depending on which occurred first.
Hollywood has already optioned that story to make “a classic children’s film.”