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2001-07-31

Jim Backus (b. James Gilmore)
B. 2.25.13 Cleveland, Ohio / D. 4.3.89 Santa Monica, California
Parkinson’s Disease

Oh to possess the sweet equanimity of Mister Magoo. I was going to say that whatever you do, don’t see Jurassic Park III (here visualize claw slashes) at Park Slope’s Pavilion Theater.
To be like that patient, uncomplaining, bat-blind gentleman of leisure. Because they’re showing it on one of those eight-by-twelve foot attic screens, completely out of focus.
Taking life as it comes— In the heat of the velociraptor attack I’m back in the stairwell, shrieking at the usher—
one illusion at a time. “Jurassic Park is STILL out of focus! Please get the manager up here! I am a paying customer! Do your job! Do your job!”
Should a banking errand bring me to the city zoo, I could tip my hat to the sea lions (“Good day, ladies!”) and proceed to seek assistance from the tellers in the panther cage. Then I’m back in the dark with the manager; she’s saying, “I think I can see what you mean.”
Just as the panthers’ diffidence has nearly circled to attention, an elephant’s trunk could whisk me upstairs to where my old friend the bank president is grunting into a banana phone. But despite my efforts nothing about the focus improves—in fact it appears to deteriorate. No one else seems to mind. Thinking, “Great, nine-fifty, for a radio play,” I resign myself to murk and bleary edges. People don’t know they have rights, beyond the right to bring infants and cell phones wherever they go. Eventually, out of the mist, creeps something utterly horrifying.
Of course, I can’t resist the little children who surround my friend in the shelter of his sunny office, as they chatter adorably in brown languages—they’re refugees, you say? Of course, a million dollars, say? Here’s my check (I sign an armadillo with a startled ibis; the armadillo rolls away.) Walking home after the show, I was ready to give Jurassic Park Threeeeargghh! at the Pavilion in Park Slope my very worst review, until I discovered to my great annoyance that the streets were somewhat out of focus, too, unless I held my head just SO.
Cap off the visit with a modest self-extrication from a python’s grateful embrace—all in a day’s work, madam, for Magoo, that legendary humanitarian. Maybe next episode he can help the poor adolescent staff of the Pavilion forget how they suffered from that crazy cartoon lady’s adjustment to her new bi-focals. They’re not actually bi-focals—they’re called “progressive” lenses.

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