I was channel surfing the other day and happened upon a station where the closing credits to the movie Urban Cowboy were rolling. Perhaps because I can be amused by something as simple as a piece of toast, I watched as the names scrolled across the screen. One caught my eye – Cooper Huckabee.
It was an unusual name and it was nowhere near the top of the cast, but it made me wonder about this fellow as I had never heard of him and Urban Cowboy was released in the early ’80s. Was this Mr. Huckabee’s fifteen minutes of fame?
I wondered what his life was like during the time the movie was filmed. Was he a struggling waiter/actor who had finally landed a role in a major motion picture? Did he make excited phone calls home (maybe some small town in the hinterlands of Iowa) telling family and friends that he had finally made it? Did his parents breathe a sigh of relief? Did their disappointment that young Cooper had abandoned a college scholarship or their plans for him to take over the family feed store to pursue an acting career turn to pride? Did his hometown newspaper do a feature story on him and the mayor give him the key to the city on “Cooper Huckabee Day” as most of the town’s 2,000 residents watched?
Did he believe that this would be the stepping stone to his becoming the next Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino? Does he regret abandoning the family business now that it is a quarter century later and his career hasn’t followed such a star-bound trajectory?
I also wonder about Don McManus. McManus has appeared in over 80 movies and television programs in mostly bit parts, including an episode of Seinfeld. He also had a role in The Shawshank Redemption, a movie that is one of the most critically acclaimed pictures of all time.
If you’ve seen the movie, he appears in one of the iconic scenes, one in which Tim Robbins’ character locks himself in the warden’s office and plays an opera recording over the prison loudspeaker. It’s a powerful scene and one in which McManus gets most of his screen time. Unfortunately, much of that screen time consists of him sitting on a toilet, reading a comic book as he, in his character’s words, “pinches a loaf.”
I wonder if he has mixed emotions about being in such a pivotal scene of such an acclaimed movie with his trousers around his ankles. I wonder if his grandchildren will brag about his cinematic career, pointing to that scene as the highlight of his work.
Maybe my musings concerning these two fellows are rooted in wondering what it’s like to get so close to your wildest dreams only to fall just short of it being everything for which you might have hoped. Maybe I wonder if Mr. Huckabee and Mr. McManus consider it a blessing or a cosmic tease – the cruel fulfillment of a wish they once made where they said, “I want to be in the movies,” without being more specific or reading the fine print.