A couple years ago I did a Q&A interview with Roger Ebert. Here it is if you want to read it:
I wanted to interview Roger because I was fascinated by the way he conducted himself after winding up with his new, startlingly different face when part of his jaw was removed in cancer surgery. He wrote about it eloquently in a piece entitled ”'I'm Not a Pretty-Boy Anymore.” It was in response to those who advised him not to attend the annual Ebertfest film festival. He wrote:
“I was told photos of me in this condition would attract the gossip papers. So what?... I have been very sick, am getting better and this is how it looks... We spend too much time hiding illness. There is an assumption that I must always look the same. I hope to look better than I look now. But I’m not going to miss my festival…”
And he found humor in the hard reality that he was no longer able to speak.
“Why do I want to go? Above all, to see the movies then to meet old friends and great directors and personally thank all the loyal audience members who continue to support the festival. At least, not being able to speak, I am spared the need to explain why every film is ‘overlooked,’ or why I wrote ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.’ Being sick is no fun. But you can have fun while you’re sick.”
That last sentence caught me most. That to me was the radical essence of the message about being crippled Roger put forth just by continuing to be himself in whatever form that took on: Cripples can still have a lot of fun.
Screw you, paparazzi!
So after I conducted the email interview I added Roger to my Smart Ass Cripple email blast list. I hoped to hell I wouldn’t receive a reply from him like, “Please remove me from your silly little list! Don’t you know I’m a big celebrity?” But instead, my blog viewer stats suddenly shot up as Roger tweeted and Facebooked some of my entries. He even wrote a way-too-flattering entry in his own blog about Smart Ass Cripple. Here it is if you want to read it:
I imagine just about all of you out there would never have heard of Smart Ass Cripple if not for Roger. Just about every good and positive development that has resulted from this goofy endeavor happened because of Roger.
I only met Roger in person once but I feel like he was my good friend. That’s because your most valued friends are those that offer you the most support, encouragement and kindness.
I’m not sure what I gave him in return. I hope it was that some of this Smart Ass Cripple stuff struck the same chord in him that his writings like the one above struck in me.
Anyway, I will always be grateful to my cripple comrade, Roger. So the next time you take a drink, whatever it is you drink, please offer up a toast to Roger.