End of Childhood

This hasn’t been a great year to be a celebrity icon, especially if you were big in the 80s. First Farrah Fawcett, then Michael Jackson, then Walter Cronkite and now John Hughes. As N’Gai Croal puts it “Why does 2009 hate my childhood?” or as Street Boners put it, more succinctly, “STARMAGEDDON!

Of all these deaths, though, I’ve been most affected – disproportionately so – by the death of John Hughes. I guess it’s because his movies not only reflected my childhood and teenage experiences, but in a large part also helped define them. And this sadness isn’t helped by the outpouring of love and tributes for the man. The more I read written both by and about him, the sadder I get – he seemed like a genuinely nice person. I mean, he was married to his high school sweetheart until his death. Also, he left the movie business behind and became a farmer because he blamed Hollywood for the death of his friend, John Candy. Think about this: he left the job that gave him fame and allowed him to, I’m assuming, live very comfortably, because of his beliefs. These are all tremendously rare

Anyway, here are some of the articles I’ve been highlighting in my Google Reader shared items that I think people should check out.

First, there’s Vacation ‘58, the hilarious short story that kicked off his career and also served as the basis for National Lampoon’s Vacation. But there’s also Foreword ‘08, in which Hughes talks about the process of writing Vacation ‘58 and the melee around getting it published.

There’s also the tremendous blog post by Alison Byrne Fields who describes her experience with John Hughes as her pen pal.

“You’ve already received more letters from me than any living relative of mine has received to date. Truly, hope all is well with you and high school isn’t as painful as I portray it. Believe in yourself. Think about the future once a day and keep doing what you’re doing. Because I’m impressed. My regards to the family. Don’t let a day pass without a kind thought about them.”

In the New York Times, A. O. Scott does a tremendous job of describing why I’m having trouble with all the recent deaths.

It’s a little eerie that Mr. Hughes died so soon after Michael Jackson, another fixture of ’80s popular culture locked in perpetual youth.

Their deaths make me feel old, but more than that, they make me aware of belonging to a generation that has yet to figure out adulthood, for whom life can feel like a long John Hughes movie. You know the one. That Spandau Ballet song is playing at the big dance. You remember the lyrics, even if it’s been years since you heard them last. This is the sound of my soul. I bought a ticket to the world, but now I’ve come back again. Why do I find it hard to write the next line?

On that note, someone made a montage of scenes from John Hughes’ movies put to the tune of The Who’s Baba O’Riley, and it fits perfectly.

Speaking of montages… okay, this isn’t exactly new, but since John Hughes understood that all the best movies have at least one montage sequence (though two is always better), someone took the dance montages from his movies (and, uh… Footloose and Mannequin, but you can ignore those bits) and put them to the tune of Phoenix’s Lisztomania and, again, a perfect fit.

RIP John Hughes.