I didn't know you, but I'll really miss you, P.S.H.
Friday, February 07, 2014 5:52 AM
If there's a rock n' roll heaven, you know they've got one hell of a band."
The older I get, the more often I find that old Climax/Righteous Brothers song creeping into my consciousness, whenever I hear of the loss of one of the world's great entertainers.
This week we lost another gem, with the untimely death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.
One of my favorite actors, the sad news has hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. The realization that he is gone has rendered me somewhat melancholy, and I've been randomly questioning those I run into on the street - querying them as to their personal favorite P.S.H. role.
It's hard to say when exactly I first became aware of P.S.H. as an actor, but I'm fairly sure it was more than 20 years ago. Following his early days as a bit actor on TV shows like Law and Order, Hoffman consistently wowed theater audiences, cranking out an impressive 60-plus films in just two decades.
Of the titles that ring a bell, I'm sure I watched more than 20 of those - my favorites being some of his lesser-known flicks.
Whether he was playing the foil to Robin Williams' Patch Adams character or coping with the pain of his wife's suicide by sniffing airplane fuel in "Love, Liza," Hoffman was, if nothing else, believable.
In Magnolia, as nurse Phil Parma, he became the guy I wish I had had on speed dial to take care of my dad on his deathbed. In The Savages, I watched that all-too-familiar dysfunctional dance a family negotiates as they prepare to lose a loved one to illness and age. Even as a priest being accused of sexual impropriety in Doubt, he was still able to craft a character with which we could empathize.
As Dusty in Twister, he was a dead ringer for my childhood friend, Dwayne - the upbeat, life of the party, who was loved by all.
As music journalist Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, he delivered the timeless advice: "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool."
Think on it. I sure have.
I must admit, there was something about him that made me feel a connection that went beyond just favorite-actor status.
And even though I was not a fan of all the movies he placed himself in - i.e. The Master -- I have to say he delivered a top-notch performance every time.
"He liked films that were difficult," said Ben the barista as I was buying coffee this morning. I suppose he did, and that was what appealed to people like myself, who enjoy edgy movies that sometimes make me uncomfortable.
On my imaginary list of "Famous people I'd like to have a Coke with," he was right near the top.
He was a master at his craft, but like so many others who had gone before him, he was also familiar with the depths to which one can fall in a hurry. He was not the first, nor likely the last, to be snuffed out by addiction.
A friend of mine, who just finished rehab, shared his thoughts about P.S.H on Facebook, and I asked his permission to reprint his comments here.
"Rest in Peace, Philip Seymour Hoffman. It's a tragedy when any addict dies from this disease. It's a greater tragedy when the cautionary tale is lost on those who still suffer. Today, I will take inventory. Today, I will practice my recovery in all my affairs. Today, I am vigilant. Today, I will go to a meeting, call my Sponsors, and pause when I am the least bit disturbed. Today, I will step over yet another corpse, be grateful it wasn't me, and remember that it could be."