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Did you know Sylvester Stallone wanted to use the Queen song, “Another One Bites the Dust” as the theme for Rocky III? Queen wouldn’t give permission, so Stallone went with “Eye of the Tiger,” which kick-started that song on its way to becoming a rock anthem.
I learned this piece of trivia while checking something else.
A few weeks ago, when ArtPrize was in full swing in Grand Rapids, my wife and I were heading to a concert in downtown and arrived early so we’d have some time to check out some of the ArtPrize venues. There was a guy with blue hair that I spotted when I walked in the first venue. I assumed he was part of the ArtPrize world, maybe wearing a wig as performance art, but slowly realized he was just a guy with very bright blue hair. He looked like he was about 70 and was dressed like a rocker.
After a while we went in to the show, and at intermission I stood up and turned around. The guy with the blue hair was two rows behind me. At the end of the show, the featured artist announced he would be signing CDs in the lobby. We decided to get one. Wouldn’t you know it; the guy with the bright blue hair was standing in line right in front of me.
When he got to the front, the guy signing CDs looked at him with a sort of, “I think I should know you” look, and the guy with the blue hair said his name and then said, “My band was Survivor. I wrote ‘Eye of the Tiger.’”
I quickly looked this up on my phone to test the veracity of his claim. Sure enough, there was a picture of the guy with the blue hair. Crikey, that’s a significant piece of rock and roll history. (This is where I also saw the tidbit about Stallone’s initial song choice for Rocky III.)
The guy with the blue hair isn’t especially famous anymore, but he was once, and seeing him made me think of some significantly fun brushes with fame I’ve had. I once shook Jimmy Carter’s hand, danced in college with a woman who would win an Olympic medal, and rode on an elevator with Wilt Chamberlain.
My favorite brush with fame came in the late 70s when I was visiting my brother in Los Angeles. He got us tickets to see Andy Kaufman’s act. It was wild—if you’ve seen the move Man on the Moon with Jim Carrey you’ve seen the show we attended. Kaufman wrestled women from the audience, imitated Elvis, and sang along to a Mighty Mouse record.
At the end of the show, he took the entire audience out for milk and cookies. There were dozens of school buses in front of the theater, and we climbed into one. Before long, Robin Williams got onto our bus. Mork and Mindy was in its hey-day, and somebody cried out, “Mork, save us.” Robin Williams said, “Nanoo, Nanoo,” and we all roared with laughter, wondering how he could be so funny. We were taken to a restaurant where a blind man was playing the accordion and were given little bags of chocolate chip cookies and elementary-school-sized cartons of milk.
Robin Williams was sitting nearby, having his milk and cookies. Andy Kaufman came in, looking like a prize fighter in a robe with a towel around his neck. We talked with him for a few minutes, thanking him for the show and the milk and cookies. He said he was heading to San Francisco and we were welcome to come along. I have always wondered what might have happened if we said yes. He probably would have taken us to San Francisco, and who knows how our lives would have turned out from there? As it was, we rode back to the theater on one of the school buses.
Andy Kaufman was in Taxi with a brilliant cast including Judd Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, and Christopher Lloyd. Judd Hirsch was in Ordinary People, one of the past century’s truly great movies, and pops up from time to time these days as Leonard’s father on The Big Bang Theory. Christopher Lloyd played Doc in the Back to the Future movies and has the same name as one of the creators of Modern Family. Danny DeVito has been in a million things, including a big role in the aforementioned Andy Kaufman movie Man on the Moon. Tony Danza did Who’s the Boss, but more than that he’s just been Tony Danza, and he and Sylvester Stallone are forever linked by these immortal seconds from Family Guy. And Sylvester Stallone made Rocky III, featuring “Eye of the Tiger” by the guy with the blue hair.
My brain is one giant plate of spaghetti noodles. I can’t help it.
And what are these mental meanderings doing on The Twelve? Here’s the theology:
1. As Lady Gaga says, “I was born this way.”
2. We really should be paying more attention, because everything is connected.
3. This post may seem to be about random brushes with fame and fatuous pop culture connections, but it really is about joy, an endangered species of late. Joy is the antidote to the crushing anxiety, fear, and anger that not only surrounds us but is swallowing us from the left and right. Joy has a hard time coexisting with anxiety, fear, and anger. I think that’s why the angel said what he did about not being afraid because he was bringing good news of great joy. And more than that, I think joy is a choice. We can choose it. Every day. Joy is an act of resistance. Grab a bag of chocolate chip cookies and carton of milk and smile.