It’s my birthday Sunday but it’s also Albert Einstein’s. (Not the physicist, the comedian, Albert Brooks, whose birth name is actually Albert Einstein.) Ever since I discovered that Brooks and I share a birthday, I’ve been waiting to write the following tale. Why? Because of Brooks I almost didn’t get married. Since, eventually I got divorced, the jury’s out if Brooks’ “influence” would have been a good or bad thing.
As we did almost every weekend, my fiancee and I were going to the movies, in this case, to see Brooks’ “Lost in America.” (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089504/) Meanwhile, as I will tie in later, my mother was planning an engagement party for us in a few weeks. That is until I loved “Lost in America,” and Kathy hated it.
It all started when, following one pivotal scene, I laughed so hard, I literally fell out of my chair. (Never happened before or since.) As I got up immediately, it felt like no big deal. It wasn’t as if I went down like Frazier against Foreman.
On the drive home, however, Kathy said she was humiliated. I should note that she and I had somewhat different views about money. I still believe the movie’s plot, which I found uproarious, just struck a raw nerve for her, especially as we had just gotten engaged.
The log-line for “Lost in America” reads, “ A husband and wife in their 30s quit their jobs, live as free spirits and cruise America in a Winnebago.” Unfortunately, when they stopped briefly in Las Vegas, Brooks’ seemingly perfect wife, Linda (played brilliantly by Julie Hagerty) revealed a latent gambling addiction as she wipes out their entire “nest egg.”
When I hit the floor laughing, it was right after Howard (Brooks) a former ad executive, tries to convince the casino manager (the late Garry Marshall) into giving back the money.
Still in his bathrobe, Howard desperately pitches an ad campaign that, in his desperate view, would yield PR that would bring in far more dollars in casino business than the return of the “nest egg.” Marshall’s annoyed reaction was so pitch-perfectly funny that (imagine Howard Cosell’s voice) “Down goes Jack! Down goes Jack!”
Meanwhile, on the drive home, “How could you possibly find that amusing?” Kathy asked angrily. I countered, “Sweetheart, it’s just a movie.” “All their money is gone! They’re ruined.” “Dear, trust me, Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty are going to be just fine.”
Despite my attempts at humor, when we got home the argument escalated. Soon our imminent marriage felt very much up in the air. Fuming, Kathy went to take a bath. I followed, gently trying to reason with her but this was beyond reason.
I could always joke her out of a bad mood so I tried another approach. “Just say you’re overreacting, you don’t even have to mean it.” “You would do that,” she replied indignantly. Ouch.
The heat lamp was on to keep the bathroom warm. Part in jest, I tried again, “C’mon, just admit you’re taking this too far or I’m turning the heat lamp off.” (Which, of course, was me taking it too far.) “Go right ahead,” Kathy said stubbornly. Having called my bluff, childishly, I flipped the heat lamp off.
Rattled, I called my mother, “Have you put the deposit down on the party yet?” She hadn’t so I cautioned her to maybe wait and delicately explained why. She was silent. And my mother was never silent.
Finally, she spoke up, “You’re not going to believe this,” she said reluctantly, “but when your father and I were engaged he took me to see a Marx Brothers movie and… he laughed so hard he fell out of his chair. I was so embarrassed, I thought to myself I couldn’t marry him.” As they say online, OMG!
I rushed into the bathroom, immediately turned the heat lamp back on and said, “Maybe it’s just in my DNA?” I proceeded to tell Kathy about my dad and, to her credit, she laughed heartily.
We had the engagement party and a wonderful outdoor wedding at my sister and brother-in-law’s beautiful Encino Hills home. But, alas, sadly, six years later we got divorced. Last August, however, Kathy and I had a great visit. http://www.smdp.com/surprise-visit-from-my-ex/162275. That said, I was careful not to bring up “Lost in America.”
Kathy’s happily remarried, moved up north and goes by Katherine now. I never got remarried and still go by Jack.
As for Brooks, he’s on Twitter and still so remarkably funny, definitely worth following. However, at 4640 characters, this tale is slightly more than the 280 Twitter allows. In fact, it’s already the 800 words the Daily Press allows me. So, I’ll just say, “Happy Birthday, Albert. We’re both one year closer to you know what.”
Albert Brooks is on Twitter @AlbertBrooks. If I don’t get a hernia from blowing out the sea of my birthday candles, I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.