I fully admit that I’m one of the people giving Roger Ebert more attention now than before his intimate and endearing Esquire interview. And while I could apologize for not appreciating him more before that, I’m just going to say that the interview did what it was supposed to do, and I’m glad for anyone else who is also now more aware of his presence. I adore him and would go considerably more fangirly over meeting him than just about any other of my personal celebrity icons.
Roger Ebert used to ‘just’ (read: meaning, to me) be this guy on TV who sat with another guy, and they used their thumbs to talk about TV (and I somewhat snottily thought their rating system should be more complicated). I was a teenager and I had Dawson’s Creek episodes to watch in-between taking on math homework I didn’t understand. I didn’t know that I wanted to be a writer or that I even could be a writer (not just technically, emotionally I felt like I needed to go join the Peace Corps or something that wasn’t selfish – ISSUES, yes), so I wasn’t consciously looking for writing role models (although I realize I had some, even then).
But now that I read Ebert’s words (which are equal parts witty, wise and wise-cracking) I am inspired by what a great writer that he is. He’s the greatest mentor that I’ll never have, but be aware of in the back of my mind when I am trying to do my best. He actually reminds me of the Grandpa that I lost far too many years ago. I think it has to do his gentle (but sometimes winking) eyes, patient demeanor, and the sense that he can be a real stickler about rules and honesty.
Anything you read about him (no matter how up-close the interview) gives you a real sense that Ebert is a genuinely good guy. He’s the kind other’s want to pat on the shoulder and call “pal” or “chap”. And I think that all Grandfather’s, like Roger Ebert, should have that sense of undefeated, unmitigated goodness. But I guess I’m making him even more personal to me than he ever could be. But that’s the magic of Roger Ebert. You feel like you know him. He’s your comrade. You trust him. Who wouldn’t want to sit down and watch a movie with him?
He was on Oprah yesterday. If you missed it, this is the best part: