Saturday, August 24, 2013

My brush with greatness

I've had maybe five.

Ok, so I promised a couple of people my Fassbinder story, and here it is.

In the early 80's, I spent a couple of weeks at a friend's ranch outside of San Francisco. On the weekends, D filled the place with people -- mostly other rich guys and foreign film directors. The rich guys wanted to direct, and the directors wanted to be rich, which made for an intoxicating cocktail, three parts mutual admiration, one part envy, with a splash of bitters.

On the second weekend, Rainer Fassbinder joined the party. I assume my friend flew him over; this is just a guess on my part, but I doubt at this point Fassbinder ever had to spring for anything. In certain circles, the brilliance of Berlin Alexanderplatz and The Marriage of Maria Braun could serve as a form of currency.

Fassbinder was 30 something, and looked 50 something. From what I observed, he considered cocaine a competitive sport. But mainly, Fassbinder was high on Fassbinder, an enthusiasm everyone at this particular gathering happened to share.

While no one would dream of disturbing the great man as he went about fulfilling his various appetites, clearly, the guests were fairly panting for the moment when he finished -- when he, they could all share ideas on art, and film, the creative process, philosophy, aesthetics.

Finally, Fassbinder spoke:

"I can hop on my right foot, fifty times without stopping," And started to prove it. "Can you hop with me?"

He was already at hop 10 or 15 when a sizable crowd joined him. After they reached 50, Fassbinder kept going and said, "I can hop to 500."

Many fell victim along the way. By 400, only three were still hopping. When they reached 500, Fassbinder said, "And now, I will hop 500 times on my left foot."

I watched the full thousand; I guess I must have been rather in love with my friend at the time.

Fassbinder died later that year.

29 comments:

  1. Fantastic. This made me laugh that kind of head-shaking, throaty laugh.

    At least you weren't hopping along too, a little in love with D or not.

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  2. If he could hop and sing, he could have been a chef on Bonanza.

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  3. The beats by quite a bit any brush with greatness stories of mine, of which there are absolutely none.

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  4. I confess, I don't know who this person is...which probably has him turning over in his grave. Nevertheless, he sounds, um...interesting.

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  5. Such a short life. His vices finally caught up with him. "...which made for an intoxicating cocktail, three parts mutual admiration, one part envy, with a splash of bitters." Great!

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  6. I"m still waiting on my brush, and I'm with Carolyn. Nevah heard of him!

    A great story Hiker.
    V

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  7. Fassbinder aside, it sounds like you've moved in some interesting circles, Ms. Hiker.

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  8. 1,000 times? Too bad he didn't have an editor working with him on that.

    I wonder if people would have felt differently about him if his name had been John Smith instead of Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

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  9. Fascinating. Time to discover his films.

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  10. Achhh!!! I'm sort of with Carolyn and Virginia!!! I've heard of him...but had to google him to see who he was...I'm pretty sure I haven't seen anything of his...but who knows?!!!

    Growing up...we used to live on the same street as Joe Sauer (Sawyer was his stage name) who played Sgt. Biff O'Hara on Rin Tin Tin..does that count as a brush with fame???

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  11. Amazing story, Karin.
    He was a rebel and died so young... I only saw The Marriage of Maria Braun many times ago.

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  12. Never heard of the guy until I read yours of yesterday.

    Wonder what Beethoven would have been like at a party. Assuming you could get past the "Ehhh???" and the hand to the cupped ear.

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  13. Earl and Bandit, those are so ugh that they're good.

    Don't know FB, but it's a remarkable story--feels Gatsby-esque to me. This competitive thing . . . what the hell's the matter with people? Maybe Hollywood types are looser than poet types? On the other hand, I've never been in a corral with major poets for more than an hour or so. Who knows what dances I've missed?

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  14. All it takes is the first few minutes to realize how good he was. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yco4Ud_5lN8

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  15. I imagine the cocaine helped fuel his hopping.

    Had I not spent a few years with a German I would've missed out on FB's films. I need to check them out again.



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  16. I confused him with Werner Herzog, which is why the ending shocked me. He died??? Did Rainer have the same slightly crazy German accent as Werner?

    Saw Maria Braun at the Caltech German Film Society recently - it was GOOD!

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  17. I'm glad I'm not the only one who was in the dark as to who Fassbinder was. The only (future) famous person I ever knew was in high school, Peggy Hyra, who became Meg Ryan. She hated everyone.

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  18. Let me share something about Fassbinder's work. His films always had strong female characters, usually the main character. The story was their attempt to rise above circumstance, and how circumstance ultimately reveals both our strengths and imperfections. His stories are episodic but linear, and he treated his characters with a sharp yet tender irony.

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  19. Post WWII German artistry. I spent some time in Berlin and Koln chasing the plastic arts from that era of greats. Especially Anselm Kiefer and Gerhart Richter.

    Lucky you. Did you talk to him?

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  20. I once took acting classes with Nicholas Cage. Does that count for anything?

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  21. I've had many brushes with stardom, but brushes with stardom aren't necessarily brushes with greatness. And vice versa. I've had some of the latter as well.

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  22. Counts for me Margaret - how about a blog entry on the experience?

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  23. I try never to confuse art with the artist. Brilliance is like a seed, no telling where it will land and where it will grow.

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  24. This is a terrific story. I have nothing...but I will check out his movies, or at least The Marriage of Maria Braun. After your post on The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie I watched that movie [again after many years] and I understood the irony this time.

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  25. Sharon, that would be top of my list. I'm almost positive you'll like it.

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  26. That guy was clearly all "hopped" up on something...

    I'll check him out.

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