The Hoosiers Nation: Elaine, Dennis and Iby Michael Moriarty
A sports film that is almost entirely about losers?!
About that oft forgotten and abandoned piece of real estate called Indiana?!
It’s shot in a landscape-portrait, documentary style that memorializes a smaller than small town high school, basketball team?!
A movie suspended in a repeatedly evangelical universe that counts prayer as the major source of miracles?!
That set of profoundly un-Hollywood ideas had me thanking God for them as I watched ‘Hoosiers’ today.
Hadn’t I seen it before?
Well, portions of it.
That, however, was when I was merely on my way to one of the great fast-tracks for losers, full-blown alcoholism.
At that time, I was in too much of a hurry to contemplate even the possibility of being a loser.
The ultimate message of ‘Hoosiers,’ delivered with fully committed reverence from all involved, declares that losers, when joined in teamwork with fellow losers, can help make each other winners.
Of course, that is the underlying message of Alcoholics Anonymous: let go let God … and He will find you your “team”!
That initially preposterous premise has been miraculously affirmed in my life and those of countless other fellow boozers.
My life can be roughly sketched as a trip from being the haunted character played by Gene Hackman to that fall down bum of a drunk so irresistibly embodied by the late, one-of-a-kind, legendary child of the Sixties, Dennis Hopper.
My passionate commitment to having “range” as an actor spilled over into my life and … well, I was never one to live by half measures.
There’s a conundrum posed by Hoosiers, a mystical challenge that echoes in repeated contradictions!
One never gives up on human beings, even though they defy every ounce of your good advice.
Every human being, including those slaughtered in the womb by abortion, are Ordinary Miracles.
The Liberal opposition to capital punishment is based on that … but these PEDS, Progressive Enlightened Despots, still want abortion.
Abortion is the ultimately homicidal pedophilia!
Recently I learned that many people don’t acknowledge their own contradictions about life.
Progressives, like their favorite President Barack Obama, trot out their sympathy for criminals and Gaza terrorists and butcher their own infants with legalized abortion while they do it.
Then again, they haven’t had the mysterious privilege of having attended regular meetings with a bunch of fellow alcoholics.
The ravages of multiple heart by-pass surgery make my voice now sound like I still drink.
I haven’t had a drink for over six years.
The scars of the booze and cigarettes on my voice I now wear with pride.
You can actually hear it in the voice quality of a number of exceptional actors and actresses.
Yup, they’re either heavy drinkers … or have been.
My favorite ex in the world of wine and whiskey is Elaine Stritch.
I adore that woman!
NO ONE could sing ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ with the torn genius of Elaine Stritch!
Ethel Merman could possibly get close.
The difference between Stritch and Merman, the better singer, was the profoundly piercing acting genius Elaine has that Merman could never approach.
Check this out to see what self-flagellating but excruciatingly hilarious pain exists in Elaine’s Unsurpassable Public Rendition of Ladies Who Lunch:
There she is!
After hearing it, replay it to hear her voice on the word “laugh” when she says “everybody laugh” … or “hat” when she says “does anyone … still wear … a hat?”
There’s the kind of tragic insight you’d expect watching the star of Euripides’ Medea!
Or the terrified look on her face when she says, following one of her pain-soaked rages, “I’ll drink to that!”
Does that tell us anything about the infinite and painfully earned wisdom of Elaine Stritch?
And when she hollers, “DIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS”!!
Only surpassed by the drunken and desperately belligerent but heart-stopping noise of “Riiise! Riiise! Riiiiiise! … NINE OF THEM!
My favorite Shakespearean actor, William Hutt of Canada, performed King Lear and, upon dealing with the death of his beloved daughter, Cordelia, did much the same thing with the seemingly infinite repetitions of the word “never … never … never … “
In Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY, Elaine Stritch was a veritable, standing, desert dry martini itself singing to her own demise!!
A female King Lear!!
Every syllable, sound and silence is such nakedly sublime self-loathing … “One For Mahler!”
For the fashionable prejudices against Mahler – shared I think by Sondheim himself – shared by more than those who can look down on The Ladies Who Lunch, read this.
When an audience is faced with such TRUTH!!!!!!
Here that applause???!!!!
That audience had heard from a Divinity only reached when you’ve passed through Hell!
What inspiration does it come from?
Infinite knowledge of the problems of addiction … and work, work, work … just agonizingly hard, excruciating work!
That particular recording nightmare may have occurred because of … perhaps … one too many?!
Everyone in the studio – from Sondheim to the Conductor and many of the musicians – had heard Elaine AT HER BEST!
They and she were not going to settle for anything less.
The rewards are dripping from one of the most complete five minutes of music and theater I will have EVER seen in my 69 years — for I had seen Sondheim’s Company live and … well … my own, incomparably bitter and alcoholic mother was all over that stage.
Little did I know at that time I would surrender to the same addiction.
Elaine and I met on a Law and Order episode, during which she asked me, “Michael, what is the most erotic thing in the world?”
I quoted Kissinger and said, “Power?”
“No”, she said.
In that respect, Elaine Stritch is still one of the most erotically dramatic stars I have or will ever have seen.
I don’t fall in love again when I view her Ladies Who Lunch performance.
I drop into awe!!
An aging theater GODDESS … “IN ONE” as they say … ALL BY HERSELF!!
It’s not just the naked power of her voice but the shamelessly nude honesty of its unforced and unpremeditated pianissimos … and its pauses … its bold and merciless silence.
And of course, the mesmerizing, hypnotic rhythms of Sondheim’s accompaniment, all underpinning the suspense over what Elaine Stritch’s Joanne can come up with next?!
It is, I think, Sondheim at his greatest and no one could serve that genius as unstintingly as Elaine Stritch did with Ladies Who Lunch.
Elaine and I are both from Detroit, Michigan … and, as Lily Tomlin once said, “I left Detroit when I found out where I was!”
Detroit, when Elaine and I lived in it, was just the biggest Hoosier-like small town in the world!
I’m 69 now and she’s 84 … and we haven’t seen each other for years.
But then again, I’ll never see Dennis Hopper … ever again!
Unless, of course, we’re actually allowed to meet on “the other side!”
Dennis and I worked together in a film called Reborn so this little tribute to him came too late.
God willing, Elaine, like hopefully Sidney Poitier as well, can sense my gratitude to God for having had the privilege to have worked with both of them and to have known them both as friends, if only for a short while.
As for Dennis Hopper, we both only had one brief scene together which went with unexpected simplicity and ease within only a few takes.
Other, much bigger stars have actually pushed the envelope of self-indulgence to vastly higher levels than Dennis did with me.
The only inconvenience he ever caused me was a late night impulse to hear his favorite rock musicians at about 3 a.m.
We were shooting Reborn in Galveston, Texas and the motel we were all housed in had paper-thin walls.
I and my wife Anne sat bolt upright in bed!
I finally got up amidst all the noise and went into the hall, knocked on Dennis’ door.
He opened it and immediately began his apologies, “Hey, man, I’m sorry, man … really sorry but I just had to hear my music, ya know? And when ya gotta hear yer music, ya know …. “
“Right, Dennis,” I said, “But could you turn it down, please … low enough so we can sleep?”
“Yeah, sure, man … sorry, no problem!”
Dennis was never a major problem for me during the brief time we worked together.
As for Elaine, the last time we spoke, she knew I’d begun drinking and she had finally overcome her own addiction and … well … I got the firm suggestions I deserved.
I didn’t really listen, of course.
Alcoholism is a dark tunnel only the addict would understand. Its initial welcome is heaven itself.
The exit from the tunnel, if there is one, is filled with the hell of many cold turkeys and pitch black despair about everything.
Only God, as far as I’m concerned, can get us out of it.
If you don’t believe in God?
You’ll die from the addiction to alcohol.
The saving grace, however, is that you learn how eternally blissful an addiction to God can be.
If you don’t believe me, check this out!
yes I live five miles or so from that basketball gymnasium now, but I was an Anderson Indian and if you are one of those, you are for life. but you guys know that feeling.
And from the comments section....
"Indiana is the land of God. We still believe in God here for the most part and most of us still have those midwestern values that were portrayed in Hoosiers. Hard work, friends and helping one another. Still happens here. I think REAL life is only lived in towns like Knightstown, Miland*,Friendship, Middletown and the like all across the nation. LA and other large towns do not have the same attitude. WE are America. Not Chicago and NY. Those are the fancy ladies and we are the pioneers who made the country and keep it from turning completely into a whore".
* This is a misspeling, the Indiana village he refers to here is actually called 'Milan". Yes, the town whose 1954 boys basketball team brought Real America one of its great triumphs against urban harlotry is itself named after a commie European megawhore. Nonetheless this commenter (Nine Cats) still earns congratulations for winning Mr. Heartlands First Annual William Faulkner Memorial "Bigotry as Paranoid Sexual Neurosis" Award.
In addition to the trophy, "Nine Cats" is now free to call the police on his neighbors for not mowing their yard whenever he likes, as well as a lifetime supply of rumors about just what it is those queers like to do to each other anyway.