I was inspired by my perception of friendship, adventure and romance, and dubbed myself... Jackie. The reason was simple, child-actor Jackie Cooper was my first celebrity idol.
In him, I saw cool leadership qualities and a stable of friends from the "OUR GANG," comedies. How incredible it seemed to me, to lead a "little rascals" lifestyle...full of exciting hi-jinx.
Cooper was most memorable in three short features from 1930, "SCHOOL'S OUT," "LOVE BUSINESS" and "TEACHER'S PET." I favored them because June Marlowe played his teacher, Miss Crabtree...and trust me, the hag-like meanies in my elementary school, acted and looked nothing like her. I still occasionally greet my friends with a Jackie Cooper influenced, "Hey-y-y-y Crabby."
Jackie Cooper's other big contribution to my childhood fantasies came from his heroic role as Jim Hawkins opposite Wallace Beery's, Long John Silver, in the 1934 movie, "TREASURE ISLAND."
|THIS ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON CLASSIC WAS THE WHOLE ENCHILADA. WHAT COULD BE BETTER THAN A KID MY AGE CONSORTING WITH PIRATES, SAILING THE HIGH SEAS AND A TREASURE HUNT.|
The idea of calling myself Jackie evaporated almost immediately but my appreciation for Cooper and those specific memories have lasted a lifetime. So in 2002, at a parents pow-wow during one of my son Andrew's Cub Scout meetings, I made the knee-jerk suggestion of a scavenger hunt. To my surprise, the others loved the idea and in unison put me in charge of making it happen.
Oops, I painted myself into a corner and got called on my "never" volunteer for anything mentality. Our eight-scout pack was relying on me to put something together for the year-end picnic. This huge event that encouraged friendly competition with other nearby Cub Scout packs would involve a couple of hundred kids...with each pack trying to outdo each other with a contribution to the festivities.
Over the next few weeks, my plan evolved into a scheme that was not only simple (easy to produce), elegant in its execution but exciting to the participants and the bigwigs.
The key factor in my success was that the picnic was held in Estell Manor Park...which for me was like a home game because I knew the layout well.
For the scout's scavenger hunt, I chose a large, isolated corridor set between a pond and a reedy marsh. I enlisted the help of the art teacher at my son's school and had similar stones painted, red, white and blue...plus a gold one.
On the big day, while the scouts were involved in other activities, I planted the stones and five other types of artifacts. These items were assigned point values...with the single golden rock being most valuable. However, the wild card was...the most unusual item not included in the list would have an even higher value(I gave the honor of deciding that winner to the scout master...which turned out to be a small, deer bone).
In retrospect, I wish my scavenger hunt could have included a homage to the 1963 movie, "IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD."
|"THE BIGGEST ENTERTAINMENT EVER TO ROCK THE SCREEN WITH LAUGHTER!" WAS EMBLAZONED ON THE MOVIE'S PROMOTIONAL POSTERS. ALTHOUGH IT WAS INCLUDED IN 2000 AS AFI's #40 COMEDY ALL-TIME, IT DOES TEND TO GET RATHER TEDIOUS.|
The theme of this zany movie was; adults acting like children. More importantly, it combined all the principals that Jackie Cooper represented, (friendship, adventure, romance and of course a treasure hunt). So it would have been fitting for me to have buried the scavenger hunt's gold rock under my own big "W."
|THE OPENING SCENE STARTS WITH A CAR ACCIDENT IN THE MOJAVE DESERT. THEN AN EVER-EXPANDING, ALL-STAR CAST RACE THROUGHOUT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FOR $350,000.00 BURIED IN MYTHICAL SANTA ROSITA STATE PARK, UNDER THE (above) BIG "W."|
If you're over eight years old, you might find this epic two-star movie overblown. By my standards, its length is exhausting and some of the performances are overbearing. That means that it is difficult to recommend this film. However, others swear by it.
My answer to the film's biggest fans is, there are several hilarious moments and some great lines but because they are so spaced apart and not enough of them, seeing the movie in its entirety is overwhelmingly tiresome.
Jimmy Durante has one of the countless cameos in the movie. In that first scene, after crashing his car and before dying, he "kicks-off" the madcap pursuit by telling five good Samaritan motorists (from four cars) about the fortune buried under the big "W." Durante's death provides one of my favorite moments, (It is probably the only thing my son Andrew would remember). Click on the link below to see this thirty-second masterpiece.
In addition to the main ensemble players, the producers cleverly injected dozens of Hollywood's finest into bit parts. Some of the *walk-ons included; Buster Keaton, ZaSu Pitts, Edward Everett Horton, Jack Benny, Don Knotts, Sterling Holloway and Peter Falk.
The biggest comic actors clambered to be included in this perceived blockbuster. There are pages of interesting story lines and trivial facts concerning those circumstances. Also there were tons of big names who was offered roles (Stan Laurel, Judy Garland, Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, Judy Holliday, Don Rickels and Red Skelton) but turned the casting department down. There is also a list of those that were insulted that they weren't included.
* PLEASE NOTE - The Three Stooges had the shortest cameo...five seconds and Leo Gorcey came out of a decade-long retirement, to make this one last appearance.
In my opinion, the oft edited-out Jerry Lewis cameo was one of the funniest ten-second segments in movie history. Apparently, Lewis was excluded from the original cast. When the movie was finished, to appease his wrath, the snippet (below) was produced and injected in. Then for some odd reason, it seems this gem gets edited-out...and I could find no explanation.
The slapstick plot has many layers but the kicker is a corrupt police chief (Spencer Tracy) is scheming to have the hoard of crazies lead him to the big "W" and steal the loot after they dig it up. The closing chase scene starts in Malibu along the Pacific Coast Highway and ends in Long Beach, (look for real NIXON FOR GOVERNOR signs that twice appear on buildings).
On January 6, 1994, "THE SIMPSON'S," honored the concept of the big "W" by incorporating a big "T" into several episodes.
|IN, "HOMER THE VIGILANTE," (SEASON 5, EPISODE 11), THE SIMPSON'S FIRST USE THE IDEA OF TREASURE BURIED UNDER A BIG "T."|
My first celebrity idol, Jackie Cooper resurfaced in the "SUPERMAN" movies, (1978, 1980 and 1983) as Clark Kent's boss, Perry White. He last appeared in a motion picture called, "SURRENDER," in 1987.
In my youth, Cooper opened my eyes to the boundlessness of imagination and helped give me the curiosity and courage to wonder what was beyond the horizon...and to go find out. Jackie Cooper came a long way from his first full-length movie, "THE CHAMP," in 1932 and because of his roles and persona, he'll always remain a champ to me.
Hey HJ, do you remember the fake name you chose?