Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Moore surprises

Maybe there is something to this “six degrees of separation” stuff after all.

For instance, I found out recently that in a distant, roundabout, shirttail sort of way, I am related to a very well known person in the film business. And, no, I don’t mean Kevin Bacon.

I found out about this quasi-familial connection when and where I least expected. Late one evening I found myself, once again, surrounded by my in-laws at my father-in-law’s house. This time it was a gathering in honor of a prodigal brother-in-law back home for a brief visit from the U.S. I found myself sitting next to the Missus’s sister’s husband, Seamus. We were making chitchat when he asked me out of the blue, “Have you heard of a book called Silly White Men?”

I thought about this for a moment. “Do you mean Stupid White Men?”

“Yes, that’s it.”

“Yes, I’ve heard of it. In fact, I have a copy.”

“You know the guy who wrote it?”

“Yeah, Michael Moore.”

“That’s the fellow. He was in my house last night.”

Now, this wasn’t exactly the last thing I ever expected to hear out of Seamus’s lips, but it certainly was far down on the bottom half of the list. My brain tried to make sense of this. Seamus is a farmer, and he knows everything there is to know about farming and cows and milk. He even has some interesting views on the European Union and agricultural programs and the economy. We have even discussed movies once or twice. But nothing in my experience with Seamus ever prepared me for the possibility that he might have an Academy Award-winning filmmaker in his parlor on his farm in the middle of the west of Ireland. My first thought was, could he be mistaken about this?

Of course, it is easy enough to verify Michael Moore’s identity with a quick physical description. He is not easy to mistake for someone else. I think the politically correct way to describe is “petite clothing size challenged.” (Okay, the man is the size of Wal-Mart district warehouse.)

“He’s a big fella, right?”

“That’s him,” said Seamus.

Okay, Seamus, what in the name of heaven was Michael Moore doing in your house? It turns out that my wife’s sister’s husband (Seamus) is the son of a cousin of Michael Moore’s wife. As Seamus explained it, Moore was in Ireland to promote Stupid White Men, which for reasons nobody can explain is selling very briskly on the Emerald Isle. While here, they had taken the opportunity, like so many visitors from the States, to look into the wife’s roots. The funny thing is that Seamus and his missus, having not heard of the book before, had pegged Moore as some American “chancer” trying to hawk some hack book that probably had no prospects. When I pointed out that this was the same fellow who had caused a stir last March when he won an Oscar for Bowling for Columbine and gave an acceptance speech, heard by television audiences around the world, in which he chastised President Bush for invading Iraq. Suddenly, the lights came on in the pair’s eyes, as they realized they had had a real, live celebrity on their premises and not the usual Yank tourist that they had seen often enough before. A Lucy Ricardo kind of look came over the face of my sister-in-law, who has had something of a local acting career, as she realized the nature of the professional contact who had come and gone. (It emerged that, when they came knocking on her door, she had pretended not to be at home.)

Once I got over the shock of the idea of Michael Moore on Seamus’s farm, my mind starting analyzing the situation. It occurred to me that, once you get past the statistical probabilities of Seamus and Michael Moore meeting, it is not a huge leap farther to imagine that I could well been at Seamus’s and I could have bumped into Moore there. That raises the question of what would have said in that situation. The encounter would have been so totally unexpected that I probably would have stood there with my mouth hanging open, figuring the universe had gone crazy (which it has). Or I could have blurted out, “It’s very nice to meet you. My mother gets the dry heaves every time your name is brought up.”

Or I could have said, “Gee, I hope you weren’t too upset about what I wrote about you on my web site last spring.” Or I could have stood on my principles and told him that I meant every word of it—whatever it was that I wrote. Oh yeah, that he kind of blew the big opportunity that winning the Oscar had presented him, doing no good for himself or his cause, except that it made his fans love him even more. But I probably wouldn’t have dared to say that to his face.

Given the setting of that meeting that never happened, on Seamus’s farm, I guess I would have been, well, cowed.

-S.L., 28 August 2003

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