Friday, April 05, 2013

Roger and Me

Roger Ebert Blvd.
Roger Ebert Blvd. (Photo credit: rexb)
I've had the pleasure of meeting Roger Ebert, and like so many, I was terribly saddened by the news of his passing.

(Name-dropping disclaimer: The older I get, the more I catch myself name-dropping.  At first, I felt embarrassed that I seem to always have a story about someone well-known.  But the truth is, I've been "out in the world" working for over 30 years, almost half of them in the entertainment industry, so I've been fortunate to meet and work with a lot of celebrities and notable business folks along the way...)

Critical Mass

Just read the outpouring of love and adoration for Roger Ebert and you can sense what an amazing impact he has had on an industry and a culture.  His career, long and rich, is unrivaled and remarkable.  His grace, strength and determination when faced with incredible health challenges can only be viewed with awe and admiration.  When he lost his spoken voice, he embraced technology, the Internet, and Social Media and found a stronger, more resonant voice than ever before.  His wit, wisdom and way with words was perfect for a world of blogging and tweeting and texting.

Cannes Do

I met Roger Ebert sometime in the early 90's at a party in a villa in Cannes during the film festival. I know it sounds pretentious, but it is the truth. I was working for Troma at the time, and even us schlocky "B-movie" guys were occasionally invited to the right parties.  I was standing next to Mr. Ebert at the buffet, getting food, and we struck up a conversation.  He was there with his wife, Chaz (they may not yet have been married, I can't recall) and rather than movies, we started talking about food.

CompuServing Up Tofu

I mentioned that I had recently become a vegetarian, and that immediately sparked Ebert's interest.  He said that Chaz had been encouraging him to make more healthy eating choices and he was curious about variety in vegetarian cooking.  I told him, as we were fairly new vegetarians, my (then) wife and I had been experimenting with a wide range of interesting veggie dishes.  I mentioned one of my favorite meals, tofu "breaded" with yeast flakes, and promised to send him the recipe.  We corresponded a few times after Cannes via CompuServe (we were both active back then in CompuServe's "Showbiz Forum.") I shared the tofu recipe with him. He thanked me and said he and Chaz would try it. I like to think he gave it a "thumbs up..."

Rest In Peace Roger...  Like the great films you loved, your mark will be long-lasting.

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