Most beloved actors

In a recent post about a question my daughter asked me, I mentioned that Daniel Stern has got to be on my list of “Most Beloved Actors.” It was just a passing thought at the time, but it got me thinking…

Who else is on that list?

So I started formulating my personal lineup of actors who have endeared themselves to me over the years because of the movie and television roles they have played. My only criteria is that they had to have at least two different and significant (funny and/or heart-warming) appearances. In other words, at least two movies, two television shows, or one of each.

Here, in no particular order, is my Top Ten.

  • Daniel Stern. Roles: Phil Berkowitz, City Slickers. Adult Kevin Arnold (Narrator), The Wonder Years. I could listen to him read the Greater Metro Atlanta phone book and would most likely find myself harkening back to a simpler time. A time when things were easier, a time when life made sense, a time when people actually used the phone book.
  • Michael Landon. Roles: Little Joe, Bonanza. Charles Ingalls, Little House on the Prairie. Jonathan Smith, Highway to Heaven. If you’re over 30, any list of beloved actors has to include Michael Landon. Those three credits are like the holy trinity of wholesome family programming. These shows are so packed with good morals and great memories, I can get emotional just hearing the theme songs.
  • Robin Wright. Roles: Princess Buttercup, The Princess Bride. Jenny Curran, Forrest Gump. Once, I was in Park City, Utah with a couple of my friends. We were there for the Sundance Film Festival. One of the two friends had a role in a movie that happened to star Robin Wright. We went to the premier of the film and then somehow ended up at the after-party with all of these important people. My friend who was in the movie went up to Robin Wright, introduced himself, and told her what part he played. Our other friend and I were standing right behind him, just waiting for him to introduce us. He never did. When we got back home, my wife got mad that I said Robin Wright was “flawless.” And I felt bad about that. But she was.
  • Meg Ryan. Roles: Carole, Top Gun. Sally Albright, When Harry Met Sally. Annie Reed, Sleepless in Seattle. Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail. Kate, French Kiss. Has there ever been a more adorable public figure than Meg Ryan? Seriously, how cute is she?
  • Fred Savage. Roles: Kevin Arnold, The Wonder Years. The Grandson, The Princess Bride. Really, any person who played in The Wonder Years could make my list of most beloved actors. (Even Josh Saviano, who played Kevin’s nerdy best friend Paul, and contrary to popular myth did not become goth rocker Marilyn Manson when he grew up.) The fact that he made a cameo as Peter Falk’s whiny, yet eager grandson in The Princess Bride is just icing on the cake.
  • Sean Astin. Roles: Mikey, The Goonies. Daniel E. “Rudy” Ruettiger, Rudy. Samwise “Sam” Gamgee, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Loyal, passionate, determined, and under-equipped to do what he needs to do. And still he overcomes all odds to succeed. That’s the story of all three of these roles. And Rudy has to be the most cheered for character in the history of film. “This one’s for Rudy, coach.”
  • Kevin Bacon. Roles: Jake Briggs, She’s Having a Baby. Jack Swigert, Apollo 13. Jack Morris, My Dog Skip. I know you’re tempted to play the “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game with everyone else on this list. I imagine the most difficult person to link to would be Michael Landon. But if you can do it, let me know.
  • Morgan Freeman. Roles: Various, The Electric Company. Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, The Shawshank Redemption. Azeem, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. God, Bruce Almighty. Hoke Colburn, Driving Miss Daisy. Come on, it’s Morgan Freeman. How can you not love him?
  • Val Kilmer. Roles: Chris Knight, Real Genius. Simon Templar, The Saint. Doc Holliday, Tombstone. Real Genius is one of the most underrated comedies, in my opinion. And Doc Holliday has to be my single favorite movie character of all time. I quote him more than I quote anyone else. Want to tell someone you’re game? “I’m your Huckleberry.” Like to encourage someone to give it their best shot? “You’re a daisy if you do.” Need to encourage a friend who’s down? “There’s no normal life. It’s just life. Now get on with it.” I could go on, but you’d stop reading faster than Doc draws a pistol.
  • Jodie Foster. Roles: Casey, Candleshoe. Annabelle Bransford, Maverick. Eleanor Arroway, Contact. Ever since I was a kid, there’s always been something about Jodie Foster.

Remember, this is my list, my opinions. So you can’t say I’m wrong. But feel free to disagree with my opinions.

Who’s on your list?

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Not a bad shot (at the PGA Championship, part 2)

(Previously, I wrote about my embarrassing experience at the 93rd PGA Championship last Friday with my son. So as soon as I resumed my role as in-control and well-dressed dad, we made our way throughout the course. This is a post about that experience.)

When you go to a golf tournament, you’re not really going to follow the results. It’s difficult to keep track of all of that. On some holes, you can’t even see what’s going on because the fans are packed in so tight around the greens. You just try to peek through and see who’s actually putting and then listen to the reaction of the crowd to find out if the putt was successful or not. Unless you’re this guy…

He’s using something much like a periscope on a submarine. This way he can see what’s happening on the course no matter who’s standing in front of him. Which is a cool concept, I guess. I just hope this guy doesn’t live in my neighborhood. Too many creepy uses of this instrument to feel safe living near him.

As I was saying, unless you’re submarine guy, you don’t go to follow the results. You go for the experience. It’s not often you have the opportunity to be that close to competition that involves the greatest athletes in the world in their particular sport. And at a golf tournament, you’ve got basically three types of fans.

  1. The sitter. This fan finds a set of bleachers and stays there all day. The benefit is that all of the golfers come to you at some point. They have to. The downside is that you become like the person who tries to describe what an elephant looks like after having only seen one section of his body. You don’t really get a feel for the big picture.
  2. The stalker. This fan fixates and one pro golfer and follows him around all day. The benefit is that you get to have what feels like a personal experience with one of your favorite pro athletes. It’s like you and he are just out for a 4-hour stroll (well, and a few hundred others). The downside is that this level of “devotion,” outside of golf tournaments, is illegal in almost all fifty states.
  3. The stroller. As in, one who strolls (not the baby transport). This fan just wanders the golf course and takes in the sights. They are not focused on seeing one particular golfer, but rather desire to see as much variety as possible. The benefit is that, like the sitter, you get to see a lot of different golfers while getting some exercise at the same time. The downside is that your legs get really tired.
My son and I operated as strollers (not the baby transport). We wandered the golf course checking out as many holes and golfers as we could. Along the way, I made some observations…
  • The “no cell phone use beyond this point” is the most ignored sign in the rather distinguished history of signs. The only one I can think of that even comes close are the “Enter” and “Exit” signs at the local Walmart. Nobody pays attention to those. If people could walk any faster, say even 10 miles an hour faster, the doors at Walmart would be one of the most bloody places in America. At the PGA tournament, there were so many people taking pictures with their cell devices you would have thought the sign read, “please, honor us, and the spirit of golf, by kindly using your cell phone at all times.”
  • People have gadgets that make golf tournament viewing much easier to experience. I’ve already mentioned the guy with the periscope. But I also saw this lady…
She has an umbrella that apparently has a cushion on the handle end so it can double as a seat. At least I hope it has a seat cushion on it.
  • On one hole, I saw a golfer hit a shot out of a deep sand bunker. The ball dropped onto the green and rolled to within about 12 feet of the hole. When it came to a stop, I overheard an older gentleman near me say, “Not a bad shot.” Really? Not a bad shot? Don’t get too effusive with your praise there, sir. We’re only watching one of the best golfers in the world making one of the most difficult golf shots there is.

This little experience made me wonder how often this has happened over the course of history. I bet some amateur artist walked into the Sistine Chapel as Michelangelo was laying upside down working away and said, “not a bad painting.” Or some rookie architect sauntered by Frank Lloyd Wright’s desk as he was laying out Fallingwater and said, “not a bad house design.”

It’s like it doesn’t matter how skilled someone is in their field, somehow in our ego we convince ourselves we can do it just as good or better.

But we probably can’t.

And that’s okay. We all have our own gifts and abilities. And God gave them to us for a reason. There’s no need to begrudge someone else their gifts and abilities. Recognize the beauty in the artist’s work, the skill in the athlete’s game, the cleverness in the author’s writing, and the power in the singer’s performance. But understand that your contribution to the world is significant and needed, too.

Chances are, you mean more to someone than all of the professional artists, athletes, writers, and singers in the world combined.

And that’s not a bad truth. Not a bad truth at all.

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Inside out (at the PGA Championship, part 1)

On Friday, through the kindness and generosity of a friend, my 11-year old son and I got to experience Day 2 of the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. There are four major championships in a professional golf season. This was the last one for 2011. I’ve been to a major championship once before, at Augusta National for the Masters in 2004, so I was really excited for my boy to have this experience.

I came home after I acquired the tickets, changed into a golf shirt, got back in the car and headed up to check him out of school. I went into the school and chatted with the lady at the desk, a woman who appeared to be about my age and had the slightest bit of a curious look on her face. It was almost imperceptible, but it was there. I shook off the thought and let her know why I was there. I sat down on one of the couches and awaited my son’s arrival. After about 10 minutes, he showed up and we walked out the front door of the school. I said, “normally I wouldn’t check you out of school, but I thought this was a good enough reason.” And I showed him the passes. His eyes got real big. He was excited. We hopped in the car and headed to the parking area. It was a good 20 minutes from the golf course. We parked and jumped on the charter bus that would shuttle us to the event. After about 10 minutes, the bus filled up and we took off in the direction of the tournament.

We arrived, retrieved a map, and began to plot our strategy for seeing the best golfers play. We set out in search of the first professional we wanted to follow. About 10 minutes into our walk, 20 minutes after we arrived at the golf course, 1 hour after we had hopped on the shuttle, 90 minutes since I picked him up from school, and 2 full hours since I left the house, I went to unbutton one of the buttons on my shirt and it didn’t feel right. I looked down and noticed something peculiar.

My golf shirt was on inside-out.

It had been that way for at least 2 hours. It was inside-out when I talked to my wife before leaving the house. It was inside-out when I was chatting with the lady at my son’s school and noticed the subtle look of curiosity on her face. It was inside-out when we got on the shuttle at the parking area with 60 other passengers. And now it was still inside-out as I was walking along a path near thousands of other patrons, network television cameras, and some of the most well-known professional athletes in the world.

All I do is win.

Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. It led to several immediate questions in my mind…

  • Do I just leave it this way and pretend I meant to wear it inside-out? Like maybe I’m making some sort of political statement, or I’m boycotting Nike (it was a Nike golf shirt) until Tiger and his estranged caddie, Steve Williams, kiss and make up. Or maybe I’m just a wild card, a rebel, a bucker of trends. No way society is going to make me wear my shirt right side out like everyone else. I will not stand for that kind of oppression in my fashion choices!
  • If I do decide to forgo the fashion revolution route, where in the world am I going to change it back to the right side? I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a golf tournament of this scale, but they don’t have changing rooms stationed around the course. They don’t even have real bathrooms, just rows of porta-potties behind discreet green fencing. If I decide to change in one of those things, what if I accidentally drop my shirt into the hole? There’s no way I’m even going in there to try to get it out. It might as well have slipped into another dimension at that point. Then what would I do? I have no shirt back-up plan.
  • How could I be this unobservant? When a shirt is inside-out, the buttons are not visible, there is a clear seam running along both shoulders and down the sides, and a huge white tag sticking out around my left hip area. I don’t see how I could have missed all of those warning signs for the better part of 2 hours. It makes me really grateful that I didn’t have more embarrassing moments when I was growing up. Think about it. Remember that dream, that nightmare, we all had a lot when we were school-age kids? The dream where we show up for class with little or no clothing on? Apparently, I had within me the capacity to actually experience that kind of humiliation. We’re talking about disturbingly low levels of self-observance here. If only there was a tool that I could use that would reflect my image back to me so that I could see how I look before I go outside.
  • How is my son feeling about all of this? He’s laughing on the outside, but how is he really processing this? Did he notice way back when I picked him up from school and was too timid to bring it up? Did he think Dad had lost his mind and started dressing like a mental patient? And did that make him a little bit fearful to confront me if he did notice it? Did I undo years of building this image that I’m a Dad who is intelligent and always in control of things with one wardrobe malfunction?

After about another 10 minutes of walking and deliberating all of these things in my head, I spotted a wooded area to the right side of a fairway that I could walk into and flip my shirt over before I made it out the other side. So I deviated off the path, went into the woods, and made the conversion. It felt a little bit like a super hero moment. I went in the trees the mentally challenged dude who can’t dress himself and came out strong, confident, well-dressed, and in-control dad on the other side. I could almost hear theme music. Or maybe that was the buzz of the Met-Life Blimp.

When I got home that night, I naturally blamed my wife for the whole embarrassing scenario. She must have put the shirt on the hanger inside-out. And how could she let me walk out of the house like that? It was like I was Andy Dufresne making his final walk through Shawshank prison wearing Warden Norton’s shiny black dress shoes and she was Red, looking me up and down but missing this glaring incongruence in my attire. How could she not notice? I count on her to help me in matters of fashion. She’s the last quality control checkpoint before this product hits the shelves.

But it was me who put the shirt on. I’m the one who didn’t look in the mirror. I’m the one who paraded around like a clown for 2 hours. Ultimately, I had no one to blame but myself.

As I was thinking about all of this, it made me realize how this type of thing probably happens more often that we’d like to admit. We do something foolish or unwise and it leads to some type of embarrassment or negative consequences. Often, everyone else notices before we ever catch on. And when we do finally realize it, we wonder how on earth we could have been that stupid.  Then we look around trying to find anyone else to blame but ourselves. We can become defiant, pretend we wanted it that way, or mope around in our own self-defeating thoughts. We can worry and try to figure out what anyone or everyone must be thinking about us. And we can try to shift the responsibility to someone else.

But the only thing that’s going to make any difference is to change it.

Flip it.

Make it right.

And you’re the only one who can do it.

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