Friday, April 5, 2013

Viva Roger Ebert!

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.


  1. I also come to you via Roger Ebert. He mentioned your blog at the end of his appearance on TED talks, I believe it was, on Netflix. I didn't find his face off-putting at all. Actually, it looked to me like a huge cartoonish grin, and body language being what it I, it made him seem more personable, to me. I felt strange because I knew I was misreading him but I couldn't help it. Anyway, he impressed me, and when he said to check out Smart Ass Cripple "He WILL make you laugh", well, how could I not? He was SO right.

  2. I hope you're doing okay. Ebert really was a good person, and so kind.

  3. Hello! I came here after watching Roger Ebert's TED talk just a few minutes ago. I am so sorry that I am only getting to know him after he's gone. But, that is the beauty of living the life he did, his legacy will live on eternally.

    I think you will have a similar legacy. You are funny, honest, and willing to share your experiences with us so we can see more clearly what life is really about. I am definitely a fan. Keep on keeping on, my friend. Can't wait to read more!!

  4. I found you through a blog I read regularly. Like you she finds humor in life, she has ALS. I guess if we don't laugh or find irony in life we would cry. I'm disabled but still upright. Roger Ebert will be missed.

  5. It's wonderful to feel camaraderie with a couple guys I've never met. We're all in the same boat, crippled or not, we all either carry or bury our anxieties. He carried, even OWNED his anxiety, reshaped it and made it part of his public self. So frigging brave!

  6. Just toasted Roger Ebert with my morning coffee. Glad I found you.

  7. I too am here because of Roger. His Twitter feed sent me here. I met Roger once. We were both in the waiting room of a major Chicago hospital to get MRIs. We were both clad in those lovely hospital gowns we all know and love so much. His disease was in full swing and you could tell by looking at him he was very ill. He was feeling terribly yet he still managed a smile when he realized I had recognized him. He even spoke a kind word as they wheled me off for my imaging. Roger Ebert is responsible for much of what is good about Chicago. I have moved away and I miss it. I will miss him also.

  8. Roger's first mention of the SAC drew me to your blog and I've been visiting ever since.

  9. Good Afternoon - I am here via Roger Ebert as well and you have truly made me smile. Please email me, would like to have a private chat with you.

    Keep us smiling...............

  10. Hey Mike, great to meet another smart ass. Check my post here.

  11. Hi Mike, I agree with you that with Mr Ebert's strive for life, accepting that he was just in the next stage of life, he went forward and did not hide out in the balcony. Mr Ebert quickly understood and accepted being part of the disability community. May the final curtain bring peace and a thumbs up for Roger Ebert...

  12. I think he loved you. He didn't just mention you once; he loved your topics and your outlook. I'll miss him.

    You better write for a good long time, buddy.

  13. I didn't know he had died. Very sorry to hear that.

  14. Ben May 10,2013 I have chronic leg pain and your and Roger's writing bring me relief every time I go to your blog. THANK YOU!
    Plus as a retired professional speaker I now more than ever realize the healing power of talking.

  15. I watched Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel as a teenager, then went on with life and ignored them for a few years. By the time I got back around to them, Gene Siskel had died.

    Roger went on with life and shows and all seemed fine. Then he sort of seemed to drop off the face of the earth. When I eventually discovered what had happened to him, I was amazed and shocked by his changes.

    I think in his later years,he became more of a reading and listening person than he ever had been before and his public experience made it possible for him to present disabling conditions in a way that would make people aware of their own frailties.

    I would think your writing was an inspiration that made him want to do more than live out the remainder of his life surrendering to depression. I think he recognized in you an ability to inspire others and he wanted to help you all he could. I guess he left you his legacy in a way. In your own way, you are pleading the cause of many without voices of their own, who have suffered hopelessness and loss of human rights and dignity.

  16. I am in the middle of spring cleaning and Roger Ebert is to blame if I don't ever finish. I sat down and listened to his TED talk while I was waiting for my floor to dry. He mentioned this blog so I thought I would take a quick look at it. My floor is long since dry, the scrub water is ice cold and it is getting dark outside. My room is only half cleaned but you are so funny that cleaning will have to wait until tomorrow.