FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gone With Only 59 Candles

“Variety says I have more starts than MGM,” said John Hughes on the phone, a little baffled by Hollywood’s reflexive embrace of him as the next great director.

Being the Next Big Thing in Hollywood was not necessarily his plan.

But things weren’t zipping at the National Lampoon where some of the editors resented him shuttling from the north Chicago suburbs where he lived to New York City—like Goldman’s Hank Paulson would famously do a decade latter.

Wasn’t the Lamp supposed to skewer pretension not bestow it in the form of two residences?

He had resentments at the Lamp too: one editor who would “stink bomb” staff meetings with “deliberate b.o.” [body odor] in Belushi-style offense-as-wit. (See: “I’m a zit”)

“I mean, grow up,” Hughes said.

And another who published his “diary excerpts,” instead of satire and humor, Hughes complained–long before blogging made navel gazing popular.

Of course Hughes contributed his share of frat-boy sex jokes to the satirical magazine which served as a sacrilegious outlet for Baby Boomer rage over the Vietnam war, the establishment, racism and Tricky, Rocky and Kissy in the 1960 and 1970s.

There was his “kiddie porn” cartoon–stick figures seemingly drawn by kids, proclaiming “I Like Sex,” to make the mom and teacher mad (not that the kids knew what sex was yet.)

There was his sexist critique of women’s bodies which included description of the “all night salute,” “low slung butt” and observation–for both men and women–that “everything gets bigger, harrier and closer to the ground,” as we age.

(He also blamed Republicans’ inferiority feelings on their small “pee pees.”)

But Hughes was more proud of his nuanced and researched pieces like a categorization of politicians as different species of bird with their legislative excesses put in Audubon terminology.

“I spent hours in the library to get this accurate,” he told me.

Hughes “going script” in the 1980’s while other Lampoon editors were still thinking long form magazine article and book contract was as prescient as writers going online in the 1990s. His secret, he told me, was a…computer (!) which let him write scenes and try them out in different sequences. Quite a concept for Wite-Out/correction tape-ridden writers of the 1980s.

Chronicling the inner life of teenagers in the 1980’s while the “F” machine–Fame, Footloose and Flashdance–documented the outer, was not John Hughes’ only first.

Who can remember a movie about stay-at-home dads before Mr. Mom with Michael Keaton defensively answering the door with a chainsaw to offset the apron? Teri Garr, his working spouse, pitching a mom-concocted tuna fish campaign to ad executives while Martin Mull, her boss, rolls his eyes?

Hughes is credited with promoting soundtrack to storyline and having such a recognizable imprimatur he was the first writer to be promoted to an adjective as in “a John Hughes film.”

But he was also early to acknowledge the dysfunctional, one-parent and alcoholic families that have only grown since the 1980s.

And who had heard of email before Molly Ringwald sent her electronic gambit to her crush in school in one of his movies?

Though Hughes’ career began with Animal House-leavened movies like National Lampoon’s Class Reunion and National Lampoon’s Vacation, he was diffident and contemplative in person and not likely to use the F word.

Nor would he talk about himself.

The only thing Hughes loved more than asking you questions–and follow-up questions! and getting material for stories–was helping you.

While still a gleam in Hollywood’s eye and shuttling between New York and Chicago on the Red Eye, he told me how he was setting the young man who mowed his lawn up with his own landscaping business.

Over a toast and marmalade breakfast at Walker Bros Original Pancake House–the Wilmette, IL setting of the famous Timothy Hutton/Elizabeth McGovern date scene in Robert Redford’s Ordinary People–Hughes told me he was going to be spending a lot of time in Los Angeles.

But rather than talking about Breakfast Club and the fact that he was getting more famous than God, Hughes wanted my husband to explain to him…how to back up an 18 wheeler truck. “What do you do then?” he kept asking.

Who knows–maybe it ended up in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

MARTHA ROSENBERG can be reached at: martharosenberg@sbcglobal.net

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail