Next Stop... 


If your iPod was in a twist last week because I did a column on how my daughter will be turning 18 soon, you ain't gonna like this one either, Sonny Jim. As it happens, I have a birthday coming up before she does, and I saved mine for last. That's right, my birthday is in two days, and that's what I'm writing about this week. My birthday! If you don't like it, take your tutti-frutti Frappuccino and your goddam cell phone and get the hell out, Spandex boy! Who needs ya'? I didn't get here by counting on whippersnapper pukes like you! In my day, I'd eat your kind o' sissy f'r breakfast and then go on a brunch run with your momma! What d'ya' think o' them apples, Dippy?

So? What do you think of my new writing voice? A tad aggressive, maybe, but I'm practicing up for when I'm an old coot. Which will be in two days. I wasn't kidding about the birthday, and it'll be my 60th. Some people would say you can't be an authentic old coot until you're 70, but screw them. They ain't telling me when I can begin my old coot years! If they want to wait 'til their 70s to start acting like old coots, more power to 'em. But by the time I'm 70, I plan on being well into my doddering old fart phase. Yup, I'll have a 10-year head start, and the rest of ya'll will be eating my dust right on out to the finish line. Hah!

Oh, and about that finish line, that's sort of why I picked this subject today. As I am now (or will be in two days) a certifiable sexagenarian, there's no way I can not consider the reality that I'm getting short on time. It's not like I feel the Reaper drooling down my neck, no. But I can't ignore the likelihood that he's in the neighborhood. I could have another 30 years coming, or by Halloween, I could be just another pretty face in the obituaries. But even if I do have another 30 years coming, I'm not going to get everything done that I've been putting off for the last 30 years. For example, it's improbable that I will ever go snorkeling in the South China Sea. Get a black belt in kung fu. Learn to speak French. Don't feel bad for me. I had my chance.

There are other dreams I've deferred that I truly hate to see go undone, though. They are ideas for creative ventures that have pinballed around in my brain for years, and I always hoped one day I'd get around to doing something with them. But I didn't. I was either too busy, too lazy or too unsure of myself, and now it's too late. Even if I had nothing else to do, turned into a ball of energy and developed the confidence of a young bull, I wouldn't get them all done. So I'm giving them away. From now until I am either 1) no longer writing columns for BW, or 2) dead, I will (whenever events allow) dispense these ideas to whomever wants to expend the effort to use them.

Today, I'm going to hand out a couple of movie screenplay ideas, and they couldn't come at a better time, if you ask me. Anymore, if Hollywood isn't slopping out another inferior remake of some fine old movie or Americanizing a Japanese horror flick, they're cramming some infantile Adam Sandler crap into a wide-screen format. And let me tell you something. I spit on Adam Sandler! Ptew!

This first is the most urgent because it depends on the actor Cuba Gooding Jr. still being young enough to look like himself when he was younger. Years ago, I was flipping through a book about the early New Orleans jazz guys and came across a picture of Louis Armstrong in his 30s. I thought, Dang if he doesn't look like Cuba Gooding Jr. Then I thought, If they ever make a movie about Louie's life, that's who's gotta play him ... Cuba Gooding Jr. And then I thought, Hey wait a minute! Why haven't they ever made a movie about Louie Armstrong's life?

It's ridiculous they haven't. They've made movies about Glenn Miller's life, Billie Holiday's, Benny Goodman's. There are movies about Ray Charles, Charlie Parker ... even Hank Williams and Bobby Darrin. Why not Satch? After all, he is widely regarded as the most influential musician in the most American of musical forms. Without Louie, there may have never been a Glenn Miller, a Benny Goodman, a Ray Charles. He was the fount from which all others flow.

And how could you go wrong with a script about a boy who goes from a "Home for Colored Waifs" to be America's goodwill ambassador to the world? You'd have racial tension (squared, in fact, as many blacks thought of Louie as a Tom while whites still thought of him as black). There would be women troubles (he was married four times) and drugs (Armstrong claimed to have smoked marijuana every day of his adult life).

And best of all, there would be Louie—in my estimation, the most vibrant, soulful and appealing entertainer the 20th century produced. Truly, if God didn't want to see a movie made of Armstrong's life, He'd never have sent us Cuba Gooding Jr. How can you argue with that? So get to it, one of you hungry screenplay writers. And when you're done, send the script to Clint Eastwood. He'll know what to do with it.

Possibly the most poignant episode in the abysmal history of injustice to Native Americans is the saga of Chief Joseph and the NezPerce. A band of 700 men, women and children—200 of whom were actual warriors—frustrated an army of 2,000 over a 1,400-mile odyssey with a level of valor and ingenuity that left even the most racist impressed. But of the thousands of Westerns that have come out of Hollywood, this story has received only the dubious distinction of having been a made-for-TV movie (I Will Fight No More Forever, 1975, starring nobody you ever heard of). What? Do we have to bring Mel Gibson out of rehab to give it the treatment it deserves?

(I must note here that in two days—on my birthday, as a matter of coincidence, I'm sure—it will be the 130th anniversary of Joseph's surrender and his wrenching "From where the sun now stands ..." speech. Yet another reason to take the day off.)

Now if you don't think those ideas would make good movies, you can kiss my sagging ass. So why don't one o' you Gen-X screwballs with pretensions of being a movie-maker get a move on, huh? Napoleon Dynamite II can wait. Just be damn sure Adam Sandler doesn't show up in either movie.

And don't go thinking that just 'cause I'm handing out ideas that I'm not keeping a few f'r myself. I got me an opera to write, and a musical comedy, and ... and ... well, just a bunch o' stuff you'll never get y'r hands on, Bub. Not unless they ain't done by the time I'm 70. Then ... we'll see.

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