Adios John Hughes

August 9, 2009

Last Thursday night, checking the news before going to bed, I read the headline that filmmaker John Hughes was dead. As I am of the age I am, it’s a passing of someone that had a rather measurable impact on my childhood.

In 1983, it was pretty much every line from Hughes screenplay for National Lampoon’s Vacation that my friends and I were quoting (especially on any road trip).

Years later, those quotes provided some comic relief when traveling through Thailand.

“I think you’re all fucked in the head. We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out.”

“Roy, could you imagine if you had driven all the way to Florida and it was closed?”

“Perhaps you don’t want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?

The next thing from Hughes to catch my attention was The Breakfast Club which he wrote and directed.

(Yes, I’m skipping Sixteen Candles – didn’t see it in 1984 and have never seen it all in one sitting)

So, it was The Breakfast Club. And I have no doubt that if I came across the movie on cable tonight I’d be quoting most of – unedited, of course – almost involuntarily.

Like Bender, my friends and I would mouth off to people to “eat my shorts” years before Bart Simpson. Like Bender, we knew that “screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”

Later in 1985, Hughes’ Weird Science introduced us to Oingo Boingo, Robert Downey, Jr., and Kelly LaBrock. Bill Paxton as an obnoxious, psychotic older brother Chet who had the lines we were spouting indiscriminately.

“How ’bout a nice greasy pork sandwich served in a dirty ashtray?”

“Chet. My name is Chet.”

“Do you think they’re having a good time being catatonic in the closet?”

The last movie of John Hughes that would really take up space in my world was Pretty In Pink in 1986. During the remainder of the ‘80s, I’d see most of his movies. Though I’ll stop channel-surfing immediately if I come across Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, Some Kind Of Wonderful, or She’s Having A Baby, none were as dear to me as those earlier movies.

I had gone off to college and saw less and less of the friends with whom I had shared those earlier films.

Pretty In Pink served as the transition. I saw it with a girlfriend at a midnight showing on a Tuesday night. The dialogue didn’t become a part of my daily conversations, but some of the music on the soundtrack became future staples.

I didn’t follow Hughes into the ‘90s, but movies made from his screenplays – the Home Alone flicks – must have made him a few ducats.

The guy made a pile of money, created characters and images that dominated the pop culture landscape, and was, based on the reactions I’ve read from actors with whom he worked, apparently a good egg.

Some songs from the movies of John Hughes…

Lindsey Buckingham – Holiday Road
from National Lampoon’s Vacation

I can’t hear Holiday Road and not want to cruise through a desert in the American Southwest in a station wagon with a dead aunt strapped to the roof on the way to a theme park thousands of miles from home.

Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)
from The Breakfast Club

If I’m a betting man, my money is on The Breakfast Club to be remade (I think it’s been rumored of such a thing).

My friends and I were the perfect age for The Breakfast Club in ’85 and Judd Nelson’s John Bender was one of our first anti-heros. It helped that the movie was eminently quotable.

As for Don’t You (Forget About Me) – it’s still catchier than bird, swine, or ring-tailed lemur flu.

General Public – Tenderness
from Weird Science

Some songs just make me smile when I hear them and Tenderness is one of them. The melody is irresistible.

Of course, the lyric is pretty angst-riddled.

Kate Bush – This Woman’s Work
from She’s Having A Baby

1988’s She’s Having A Baby had a slew of great acts on the soundtrack including Kirsty MacColl, Everything But The Girl and the great Kate Bush. Bush hadn’t released an album in three years and her next one, The Sensual World, wouldn’t arrive ’til the following year.

But the movie made fine use of her lovely This Woman’s Work and the song is arguably her best known song to the mainstream public.

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