Charlton Heston Is Dead…

April 7, 2008

Charlton Heston, world class over-actor, is dead at age 84. The NRA will never be the same. The Planet of the Apes will have no one to throw feces at. Soylent Green will no longer be made of people. And the chariot races are history. As for the parting of The Red Sea? Forget it. Never again.

There’s a movie I remember; about a plane crash on a Kansas runway. Charlton Heston played the pilot. I never watched the movie. But I watched the “made for TV trailers” that ran on local stations during the commercials while I watched Fantasy Island or The Love Boat or something equally cool and fascinating. In the trailer, Heston looks at the camera and says in that tight-jawed, intense way of his, “Of all the places we could have landed, I thank God it was here.”

Yessirree. If I ever end up in a firey plane crash, I, too, hope it is in Kansas. Because nothing says “flammable” like acres and acres of dry wheat fields. And if you’re gonna die, burning up fast is probably preferable. That’s all I’m saying.

We watched The Ten Commandments every Easter when I was young…because there was no such thing as cable, it was all that was on, and my mom had a thing for Heston. I preferred Yule Brenner, so it all worked out. I can’t think of a single person in my family who hasn’t seen Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, or Ben Hur. I think some distant relatives, like in Kentucky or somewhere, may own rifles too, but I’d have to check on that.

I was in a commercial for Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska, once. (I lived in Nebraska for years, that’s how I know so much about Kansas.) The producer was a woman who wore sunglasses even though it was cloudy, and we were filming inside. She was pulling my hair over my shoulder to give me a sort of Lauren Bacall look-because everyone knows that sells spots at colleges- and she said, “I did this for Charlton Heston once.”

Her eyes got sort of misty back there behind her sunglasses when she mentioned his name. Ever since then, I’ve felt really sort of bonded to Heston, because he and I shared that same producer with the big sunglasses and the coffee breath. And now it’s gone. The tie is severed and I don’t even know where that producer is. I don’t even remember her name.

I like to think of her standing at the end of a runway in Kansas hoping that a 747 carrying talking apes in possession of great stone tablets pulled by a chariot will careen recklessly down the runway, coming to rest in the fields of non-flammable wheat as Heston staggers out, carrying apes and tablets and soylent snacks to safety, so she can be there to touch his hair one more time.

Good-bye, Charton Heston. I can honestly say that the world will be much less dramatic without you.

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