Sunday, September 7, 2008

My Uncle Jack

Did I ever tell ya ‘bout my Uncle Jack?



(Did you catch the inflection in “well”? The inflection that says have a seat ‘cause this is gonna be good and take awhile?)

If you didn’t … do, because it is and will.

So here’s Uncle Jack – or at least the way he looked when one of the Disney artists sketched him. I always thought he looked very continental in this drawing. He thought he looked like a 1930’s Chicago gangster. And since I knew he’d lived a few years in Chicago, I would suspect he knew what he was talking about. But I don’t know that for a fact.

Uncle Jack had been a merchant seaman. I think. He told me that he had once climbed a mountain in the Himalayas. I was told that at one time he had been employed as a rodeo clown. At another time he had managed a New York modeling agency (briefly. It was owned by another relative, and Jack could have inherited it if he had liked the business. He didn’t.) He did own a few Texas oil wells, and knew by first name every man who worked for him.

And there are a whole SLEW of stories about the things Jack did for a living, and I believe all of them. For one thing, I never knew my uncle to lie (or brag, for that matter.) Most of the things I knew about him I learned from other people. Jack always had an abiding interest in a great variety of occupations and social activities, and tried “hands on” to as many of them as he could.

I not only found his life fascinating, but only later in life did I realize how much I had emulated it.

When I knew Uncle Jack he owned a real estate agency in Pasadena California. He was a truly gentle human being, open and soft spoken. Men felt very comfortable around him, and women … well, he outlived three wives.

I never met anyone who didn’t like him.

And the feeling was mutual. Jack loved people – all types and sizes. The picture above shows the corner of Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood, California. Uncle Jack lived in the building you see in the background. From the corner window at the 2nd floor level, Uncle Jack could comfortably sit in his living room and watch humanity traipse back and forth in front of him. (And I knew this to be a fact; I distinctly remember sitting there with him while we watched a quite attractive young lady in a bikini leading a purple French poodle down Vine Street at three in the morning. At another time we were sitting there when we heard a resounding “crash.” Looking out the window I saw what looked like a cannon ball imbedded in the side of a truck. Looking up Hollywood boulevard, we saw a man bowling in the middle of the street.)

Jack was involved with the movie business at the time. He didn’t participate in any way – he had absolutely no use for actors. But since he headed a most successful real estate agency, I think a number of producers wanted very much to be his friend.

Jack’s real friends were artists and still photographers, He was on such good terms that a few were so comfortable that they would simply walk in without even bothering to knock. (I personally found this a little unnerving, but Uncle Jack seemed to take pride in this lack of pretense regarding formality, so we never talked about it.) On one such occasion we were sitting there when the door opened and a – creature – whisked past me. Whoever (or whatever) it was headed straight for the bathroom, leaving a pungent odor in it’s wake. Jack and I looked at each other. Even for him this was something new.

A moment later we heard the shower running. Another moment passed, and a man entered that Uncle Jack obviously knew. This man also went into the bathroom, dropped off a large bag, and returned to the living room. Jack and the man talked for about twenty minutes before the bathroom door opened …

… and out stepped Sandra Dee. She had been shooting still pictures in the desert, and had stopped at Uncle Jack’s for a quick shower because she “smelled like a horse.” They left, to meet with the press in order to promote the movie she had just completed.

According to my Aunt, this sort of thing happened all the time.

I was in a movie shooting in a remote location the day Uncle Jack died. I didn’t even know about it until after the funeral. His ashes had been scattered over a park he loved and helped create. The day I went there it rained – hard. My uncle was reminding me of how he felt about actors.

It’s interesting, I think, about how profoundly you are influenced by some people and are unaware of it until years later. That’s how it was with Uncle Jack. I often wish I could talk to him one more time.

I guess if there’s a moral here, it’s that you should appreciate people when you have ‘em.
And how was your day?


Anonymous said...

What movie were you shooting when your Uncle Jack died?

Jack Bunny said...

The movie was TWO RODE TOGETHER, and I played the role of the 3rd dead indian from the left. Thanks for asking.


Anonymous said...

The Uncle Jack I remember was still alive a kicking when we all went to his wedding in the late 1970's. The movie you are referring to was made in the early 1960's. How many Uncle Jack's did you have?


Jack Bunny said...

Jack lived in Hollywood in the late 50's when I first met him. Most of what I wrote was from that period. He was retired and living near Palm Springs when you met him. And you are right - I was working in TV, not film, when he died. Thanks for keeping me straight here.

Julie Morrison said...

Oh, this must be where we get to split hares....I'd love to see a photo!!! And I need you to sign something so i have an official autograph!!

Q said...

wonderful story, Jack.