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Entry date: 1-31-2022 - Bonus Blog - Howard Hesseman

Dear Friends,

Bonus blog time!

I was bummed this morning to see that Howard Hesseman had died. He was one of my first true TV heroes as Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati. I loved that show, still do, and he was my favorite character by far. He would always pop up in the strangest places, it seemed, and it was a delight to see him over the years in anything he did.

I remember when Steve helped me move to Berkeley in 1991 and we were in one of the cool shops on Haight Street looking around and they had a “Black Death” t-shirt on the wall like the one that Hesseman always wore on WKRP. Steve wanted it, as did I, but they didn’t have any in stork at the time. I think Steve eventually got one somewhere else (or maybe my memory is not as good as it once was) but I still want one. Thanks to the internet, I can probably make that happen.

Hesseman was great at being a sleezeball, too. I love his character in Dr. Detroit (1983), which is one of my all-time favorite movies. Any character named “Smooth” is one that Hesseman could have probably played to a T. I love the scenes where he is showing Dan Ackroyd’s character, Clifford Skridlow/Dr. Detroit, what his life could be like if he just took over his business. He was also an excellent douchebag in a brief but memorable role in Private Lessons (1981) as the blackmailing limo driver.

Most of all, though, I think it was Hesseman’s ability to inhabit the counter-culture characters that he played that stuck with me. He has a brief appearance as a hippie in the killer Warren Beatty/Julie Chrisite film, Shampoo (1973) and if you look at his filmography, many of his early roles are something akin to “Hippie” in the credits if he was credited at all.

When Ruben and Ed came out in 1991, I was all over that film and rented it plenty of times from the Tower Video on the outskirts of Christown. Such a cool, quirky film that didn’t make sense to most people but made me laugh out loud. I can only imagine how crazy the rehearsals got and now I wish I would have asked Crispin Glover about that film when Amy and I interviewed him.

I have to imagine that Hesseman was a cool motherfucker. I would have liked to have met or interviewed him and I kick myself for not pitching an interview with him to some magazine over the last decade.

Note to self: the worst thing they can say is “No” when you ask for an interview. See: Albert Brooks (he said no!)

Anyhow, here’s to Howard Hesseman. He made me laugh and best of all, he made me want to be part of the counterculture. Thanks man!




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