Harold Ramis died the other day. I never knew the man personally, never had the privilege of meeting him, and knew nothing about his private life. I only know him through his impressive body of work, as a director, writer and actor.
And I write largely because of him.
I couldn’t tell you the first time I saw Ghostbusters. It seems like it’s always been a part of my life. I know I didn’t see it in the theaters, so logically it had to be on home video, sometime in in the first or second grade. And I don’t think I could properly impress upon you the impact that it had on my life.
It was the first film that I could quote, leading to my life-long love of cursing. (The playground aides were none to happy when my 7-year-old friends and I spouted gems like “Let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown!”) It was the first movie I watched over and over, repeatedly. And it was the source of the first fiction I’ve ever written.
The above image is a picture of the script to a routine performed by Tony Ruggerio, Jim Mento and myself in the Stars of ’86 Talent Show at Hammonton Elementary School. In the interests of full disclosure, I didn’t write the whole thing myself; I was seven, after all. My mom acted as typist and had some input, but it was largely mine. It is, as far as I can remember, the very first piece of fiction I ever created.
Why Ghostbusters? Besides the fact that EVERYONE my age loved the movie – and most of us still do – there was one particular character that really resonated with me: Egon Spengler. He was really smart. He had funny hair. And he had glasses. I could totally relate. He built amazing equipment, got to shoot a laser, and chased ghosts for a living. He was living my seven-year-old dream life.
Spengler of course was played by Ramis, who also co-wrote Ghostbusters. So, not only did he play my favorite character in the film, but he also helped create the whole thing. (And, as I’ve learned later in life, was largely responsible for taking the original script and molding it into the classic film that I’ve loved for three decades.)
Writing that script woke something up in me. When we performed the routine, the reception was tremendous. People laughed where they were supposed to, and cheered where I wanted them to cheer. Something that I had written (with mom’s help, of course) had a very real, very positive effect on my entire school. Those of you who write know exactly what feeling I mean. Those of you who don’t write, well… I’m at a loss to describe it.
It put me on the writing track when I was very young. I’ve stumbled a bit along the way, got side-tracked more than once, and have flat-out given up a few times. But I always come back to writing. Because the feeling it gives me, the satisfaction, the joy… there’s nothing like it.
It was a feeling I first had when I was seven.
Because of Ghostbusters.
Because of Harold Ramis.