|EACH YEAR, TCM CONVERTS THE SHORTEST MONTH (LEADING UP TO THE ACADEMY AWARDS CEREMONY), INTO A CLEVER GIMMICK CALLED, "31 DAYS OF OSCAR." THIS UNIQUE CELEBRATION FEATURES ONLY OSCAR-WORTHY FILMS.|
Oddly, during this fantastic span, there’s no guarantee that you’ll spot a tasty morsel. Last week, I fell into one of those lulls in the programming, until I scanned TCM's upcoming schedule. I saw that 1970’s, “LITTLE BIG MAN,” starring Dustin Hoffman was coming on that night.
|NEITHER THE FILM NOR HOFFMAN WON AN OSCAR BUT THEY SHOULD HAVE.|
Before show time, I referred to my colassal movie book and read the Little Big Man description. While I'm guilty of watching my favorites a gazillion times, I realized that this one had slipped through the cracks. I’m sure I never saw one frame of this flick, EVER! When it came on, I was enraptured immediately and hardly took my eyes off it for two and a quarter hours.
This film is a wild, rollicking adventure, set in the American west. If it was nothing else, it would stand on its own as an exciting fantasy featuring stunning, on-location photography. But once you peel away the rousing excitement, the humor, the sad commentary of the human condition and our unique sensitivity and spirituality that guides us through every day…the movie’s inner theme leaves us with one unfortunate notion…everyone’s full of shit!
In childhood, it is correctly instilled in us that the only true way to get from Point-A to Point-B in the game of life is…to treat everyone as you would expect to be treated. “Little Big Man,” teaches us that message too but also warns us to be prepared for the disappointment when the agenda of others prevents our idealism from materializing.
NO SPOILER ALERT NECESSARY…I won’t be giving away much.
The plot is framed by Dustin Hoffman’s character, (Jack Crabb), being a 121-year old man. A journalist comes to interview him because the old coot claims to be the sole-surviving white man from, “Custer’s Last Stand.”
Jack Crabb’s account is outlandish...so the reporter encourages him to stick to the facts. The fossil is insulted that his life history is being shrugged-off as an exaggeration. Nonetheless, he plows on and soon, sweeps away the interviewer (and the audience), in a series of flashback vignettes.
One of the times when my mind wandered off during the movie, I had my own flashback. I drifted back to when I worked at the Las Vegas Golden Nugget, (1982-1984). One of my craps supervisors was a boxman named, Dan. To typify the point that I will soon make, I don’t remember this great, yet mostly anonymous man’s last name.
In a sea of weasels with the same job, Dan “sat” like a gigantic, noble sovereign on his adjustable stool, (augmented even higher, by his ever-present hemorrhoid cushion), between the craps dealers. In addition to being funny and interesting, he was also talented in the technical aspects of his craft. Dan was so confident in his role that he easily deflected the regular flow of irate, frustrated and drunken dice players off his dealers.
Off duty with his hemorrhoid ring tucked under hs arm, Dan literally and figuratively shrunk. At five-foot-two, this forty-plus year old man was so heavy, he resembled a bowling ball. He was so caught-up (bashful?) in his physical shortcomings that he never accepted the sincere social invitations of my clique.
Dan was a lonely guy. He was always broke because he drank to excess and pissed the rest of his money away playing twenty-five cent craps, at the worst toilets downtown, (primarily at the Orbit Inn).
So it was sad when he refused our kindness because the job was his life. Beyond that, all he had to fall back on was a cheap efficiency (apartment), in a terrible part of town.
Dan was bright, articulate and funny while talking about his colorful experiences in the obscure casinos throughout the state as well as mining boon towns in rural Nevada and California.
At the Golden Nugget, Dan was so committed to his profession that while speaking like a gifted historian, he never stopped doing a great job or protecting his dealers.
It's too bad Dan was a victim of circumstance because into the 1980's, it was still rare that a female would become a craps a dealer. In private, my male friends and I hoped that a fledgling woman might get hired that Dan could take under his wing...because even in his old stories, he never mentioned any companionship. But no girl desperately in need of his help ever magically appeared.
Far worse, he got no Cupid-like support from the female blackjack dealers that I hung-out with. They didn’t see his qualities so they couldn't relate to how wonderful a person he was. To his chagrin, they called him, "Meat-Ball." The girls only saw a tiny, fat, bald guy who frequently smelled bad, alternated between two flimsy sports jackets and had destructive habits that left him penniless.
So while watching the movie, I was reminded that I nicknamed Dan, “Little Big Man,” and it stuck. Technically, I came up with name because he was short and heavy, (vertically challenged yet big horizontally) but he accepted it more in the vain of; good things come in small packages.
So considering I never saw the movie until now, I feel better knowing that I bestowed a short man with a big heart such a positive nickname.
When I mentioned to Dan that I wanted to take my wife Sue to Yosemite, Little Big Man was enthusiastic about mapping out a special route. He said he would include hidden places of interest along the way that most people don’t know.
More importantly, I wanted Sue to meet him and hoped that she could witness his guarded, yet infectious personality. I suggested we meet in the afternoon for drinks so he could give Sue and I the details together. He agreed but preferred we pick him up and take him for breakfast at Sambo’s.
There’s a strong possibility, Dan thought getting picked up and treated to a two-dollar breakfast meant he was taking advantage of me but he was completely wrong. The service he provided was worth more and Sue got to meet “Little Big Man,” at his best.
Thanks to Little Big Man, Sue and I made cool stops in ghost towns, Beatty and Tonopah Nevada as well as Independence, Bishop and Mammoth Lakes in California.
|COMPARED TO THE DOTS ON THE MAP DAN SENT US TO, BEATTY NEVADA WAS COMPARITIVELY BIG. IT HAD THE SAME AMOUNT OF STOP LIGHTS AS CASINOS...ONE. AND IF THAT WASN'T ENOUGH, "THE POT SHOP" (above) OFFERED CAT-HOUSE MAPS.|
Shortly after Sue and I returned from that vacation, Dan got lumped into a mass firing in which he was an innocent bystander. I wrote another short story, “A GUMMY CONSPIRACY” about that incident. Dan was originally named in it but he like many individuals, his name didn’t make the final cut.
Poor Dan, he loved being a boxman at the Golden Nugget. But he got caught-up in the colateral damage caused by an artificial shit storm when a couple of dopes panicked, while trying to keep an accident (perceived as an attempted casino theft...that never happened) above board.
I never saw or heard from Little Big Man again. But weeks later, it broke my heart to hear a female “friend” venomously say, “Roly-Poly, Onion Dan's hemorrhoids went away years ago, he only carries that stupid doughnut around because it's lighter than a couple of phone books.”
It’s just so annoying to respect a girl and find out she’s superficial without an ounce of compassion or willing to take a second to peel away exterior layers and discover that there’s more to a person than their scent…kind of makes you want to cry.
While recalling how I worried about Dan, two pivotal lines from the movie, “LITTLE BIG MAN,” came to mind. First, please note that the main tribe of Indians in the movie call them self; Human Beings. Also be aware, the chief considers black people as whites and refers to them as; “black, white men).”
The chief complains, “There are too many white men and too few Human Beings.” Like the point I made in my June 17, 2013 blog, "ONE PENGUIN, IN A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS," in this crazy, mixed-up world, great human beings like Dan, are out incredibly numbered.
The other key line, sums up the whole movie. On the day that the chief decides to die, after making the preparations, he goes through the sacred ceremony and lays on the ground waiting to be taken...and nothing happens. He stands up and says to Little Big Man, “The magic doesn’t always work.” To me, that translates to: whatever greatness we attribute to our mystics…in the end…we're all on our own.
And speaking about Oscar winning great movies as well as everyone being full of shit…the next time you see, “LITTLE BIG MAN,” please note how “FOREST GUMP,” shamelessly ripped off their format.
Instead, I prefer to think Dan'll live to 121-years old. I think it would be fitting that the story of his life would show that he was as pure of heart as the driven snow...and thusly, not full of shit. Maybe the movie version could be called, "SITTING PRETTY." Then he could be forever immortalized with an Academy Award...and featured every February during the "31 Days of Oscar."