Sunday, April 06, 2008

Heston and On and On and On

I've always had a place in my heart for Charlton Heston.

Back in 1994, I interviewed Heston for an arts and entertainment show I was producing in Miami. At the time, he hadn't yet assumed control of the NRA and was years away from making his painful declaration that his flintlock rifle could be pried "from my cold, dead hands." Although Heston had campaigned hard for Reagan and Bush Sr. and had taken up the somewhat silly cause of speaking out against Ice-T and Body Count's Cop Killer song, he was still best remembered for having stood alongside Dr. Martin Luther King and the Kennedys during the 60s and for publicly castigating McCarthyism. In other words, even at my young age, I understood that he was a fascinatingly well-rounded man -- as well as a Hollywood legend, obviously -- and someone I should feel honored to be given the opportunity to speak with.

Truth be told, I admit that going into the interview, I was nervous as hell to even be in the same room with such an imposing cultural figure.

The guy played both Moses and God at various points, after all.

But all his larger-than-life achievements aside -- the Oscar, the honors and the personal and professional triumphs and tragedies -- when you sat down with Charlton Heston and began to chat with him, he put you at ease and made you feel like you were the only person on Earth. He did this, apparently, whether you were a close friend, Edward R. Murrow or some 24 year old kid from South Florida whose name happened to come up in the interview rotation.

After spending an hour just talking to Charlton Heston about anything and everything -- from his career and his politics, to his personal life, to his thoughts on pop culture and his place in it (he and I threw our favorite lines from his movies back and forth to each other until we were both blue in the face from laughter), to his take on the romantic life of a legendary leading man (he offered some surprisingly simple yet sage advice to an impetuous boy like myself on the subject of making love work and last) -- I found myself starstruck not by his pomp and stateliness but by his warmth and charm.

At the end of our time together -- our lengthy, casual conversation -- he placed his hand on my shoulder and said something to me that, true or not, was exactly what I needed to hear and would wind up providing me with a genuinely memorable moment in my career: "Son, I've been doing this for a very long time, and that was honestly one of the best interviews I've ever had. Thank you." He then met my girlfriend at the time, who happened to work with me, and told her that she was a very lucky woman (which was completely false of course, but through no fault of his).

To this day, Heston's compliment stands among the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

And that's why, when I learned late last night that Charlton Heston had died, I had to force myself not to cry a little.

They really don't make them like him anymore, and I can't help thinking how unfortunate that is.


Anonymous said...

My mother was very fond of Heston when we were kids, so we saw A LOT of his movies, and I grew to be a fan. For my brother's sixth birthday my mother took a gang of tots to see THE HAWAIIANS, with Charlton and some lovely "native women" bathing naked in a hot tub. Lost her the most popular mother 1969 vote at the Women's Club! He not only never divorced his one and only wife, who was with him at the end, but Hollywood lore also has it that he never cheated on her either! We won't see the likes of him again! *raises glass*

Anonymous said...

Good story. I always liked Heston on screen and it's good to hear he was likable in person. I mostly disagreed with Heston's NRA stance, but I also felt Michael Moore's depiction of him was unkind.

Geetch said...

My dad sent me an e-mail this morning that included a quote from Ann Coulter and a missive to be the type of woman Charlton Heston would marry. I'm still not sure how to feel about that.

lakelady said...

Go ahead and cry a little. A man who had that kind of effect on you deserves a tear or two.

Anonymous said...

the man was a gun whacko. good riddance.

sparksinner said...

If he could, I expect he'd have similarly heartfelt comment about the piece you just wrote.

I don't need any other news coverage or obits, this is it.

Anonymous said...

Although I sometimes disagree with your political stances, I thoroughly enjoy your writings and appreciate your blog. This was a fantastic tribute to a man who will be missed. Thanks for surprising me again. You never cease to amaze me.

Blenderab said...

I too was sorry to hear of his passing, but...

Dear Anonymous (8:50 PM)

While some feel that some of his ideals or beliefs, especially his stance on things like Gun Control, etc. were jaded or even twisted, it is important to remember that he, like all of us, are simply human, and should be entitled to (be cut) a little slack.

Please remember, that besides giving us years of entertainment, he was also a (WWII) veteran and thus should garner some respect. Service to our country, like his, and many others like him, is what gives you the freedom to have just a twisted and jaded opinion as you feel his was, and thus, he allowed you to be, in essence, an ass hole.

Honestly, what kind of a jerk-off would say “Good Riddance,” especially to a veteran, after he dies?

On a lighter note, great post Chez, but I’ve got two questions...

Was the interview taped, or was it off camera, and if so, how hard would it be for you to get (a) hardcopy of it. It sounded like it would be very entertaining.

Also, I can’t wait till Tuesday’s release. I’m looking forward to it.

quantumLCD said...

Chez, not sure if this is the same interview you're talking about, but I saw him in the lobby of the Miami station we both worked at back in 94/95.

I didn't speak to him as I was running off to do something "important", but I do remember seeing him just standing there watching the TV monitor, no one made a fuss or big deal. He certainly didn't seem pompous or arrogant. I recall him being alone, but he may have had another person with him, but I remember the affect he had on people at the station. Everyone said he was a normal guy and your words prove that to be the case.

His legend will live on and your tribute to him says it all.

Stephen said...

My parents were far to permissive of the cable television I watched as a kid (see career choice). I was the only kid on the block who wanted to play "Omega Man."
The unit is out of town this weekend...I think I'm going to curl up on the couch for a Hest-fest starting with "Touch of Evil."

Anonymous said...

That was awesome. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Dear Blenderab,

He neither entertained me, fought for my country nor gained me any sort of freedom at all.

What kind of person says good riddance to him? One who is shocked that someone like him would take his "let's all have guns" road show into a town where a child had just been killed by another child with a gun.

Honestly, what kind of jerk-off does that to a grieving town?