Leslie Neilsen

Monday November 29th, 2010 – Somewhere At Sea

I read today that Leslie Neilsen died at age 84. I was a big fan of his both onscreen and off, and I regret I never got a chance to meet him. All the articles I read about him said he was extremely friendly and approachable, and he even had a connection to Milwaukee.

I loved his work in “Airplane!”, and I remember seeing it when I was in high school. It was one of the rare times I was together with my family and I don’t recall any fighting or harsh words. As I remember, my siblings, cousins and aunt and uncle went to see it at the theatre on some holiday weekend. We all loved it, except my kook bag Aunt Charlene.

She thought it was a serious movie, and kept trying to figure out the plot. Really. I kind of felt sorry for my uncle to have to be married to her wackiness, but he could have gotten out of it. He just chose not to, and she was a sore spot for us all. Thankfully, she’s dead.

That movie sure had a big impact at the time though. It hit us at exactly the right time to crack us all up, and it totally did. It was fresh and different, and we all saw Leslie Nielsen in a whole new light. He found his stride in comedy and went on to a Hall of Fame career.

What really impressed me was an article I read about him and his father, who worked as a Canadian Mountie. Apparently, his father was a raging alcoholic and beat Leslie and his brothers and mother often. Leslie had a one on one meeting with him and never got any of the apology he wanted, so he got up and left. For that reason alone, I wanted to meet him.

People with a father tweak bond very quickly. I’ve had many near strangers come up to me and tell me their in depth stories of meetings they had with their fathers, and came out with results far less than they’d hoped for. That’s not a happy ending, but in a strange way there’s something comforting about being able to tell it to someone who truly grasps it.

Unfortunately, I wish I didn’t. I wish Leslie Neilsen didn’t. I wish nobody did. A father is supposed to be a family leader and nurture and encourage everyone to have a better life. Too many never come close to that, and their trail of damage is left behind like a tornado.

Leslie Neilsen was the ultimate example of a dented can who made good. I wonder if he was able to forgive his father, or just buried that part of his life away and went on to give the gift of laughter to so many millions who ended up loving his work. I sure hope he was at peace with the world, but by all accounts of everything I read, he died the perfect way.

Supposedly, he just went to sleep and passed away. Good for him. Not a slow or painful process, just lie down and drift away. Steve Allen apparently died exactly the same way. I think that’s a sign of a peaceful soul, and I’d love to follow suit. But I know my history.

I’ll probably get some unpronounceable tropical butt fungus from a toilet seat and have to spend years in a plastic bubble getting castor oil enemas six times a day from a 300 lb. Samoan nurse with the hots for me. Even if I do, I’ll still be a big fan of Leslie Nielsen.

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