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See You On The Other Side, Dr. Spengler
2014 is already shaping up to be a rough year for celebrity deaths. First the raw acting talent of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, then the icon of Shirley Temple. Now we've lost another, and closer friend, Harold Ramis. If, like me, you grew up in the 70s and 80s, you knew this man from both sides of the camera. From his hysterical sidekick roles in Stripes and Ghostbusters, to his talented script writing in Meatballs and Animal House, Caddyshack and the aforementioned Stripes, to his deft direction of classics like Vacation and Groundhog Day. Harold Ramis was responsible quite literally for molding our generation.
Lets be honest here. Watching Stripes, (probably late at night on HBO when we were definitely NOT allowed to be watching something R rated) we all wanted to be Bill Murray. He was funny, glib, got the ladies and totally ruled as the de facto leader of that platoon. BUT underneath, we all knew we weren't as good, weren't as funny, weren't as off the cuff. The truth is while we all wanted to be Bill Murray, we all identified with Harold Ramis. It was as the sidekick he shone, supporting the leads, being funny and likable, and above all, relatable. No one really identifies with Murray's Winger, it's Russell Ziskey with real problems and worries-and who actually does the work-who we all latched on to.
But his biggest contribution may have been his portrayal of Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters. Egon made science cool long before Bill Nye and Mythbusters were on the scene.
Sure, Venkman got the jokes, but Egon got the deadpan one liners that just killed us. "Egon, this reminds me of the time you tried to drill a hole through your head. Remember that?" Sure, its funny. But it's Egon's next line that sells the scene: "That would have worked if you hadn't stopped me."
Or watch the subtle way Ramis played Egon during the Ghostbusters TV commercial. As each member of the team steps forward to talk into the camera, he looks down for a presumed mark on the floor first. He elevated straight man to a whole new level, and made geek sheik. Before Doc Brown, Egon was the scientist that we all strived to be.
I have Ernie Hudson's autograph hanging in a spot of honor on my wall, and I remember thinking, thats one. I am devastated to know that I will never be able to collect all four now from a purely selfish standpoint. But more devastating, is the fact that the world has lost a unique talent, a wonderful human being, and a role model to a generation.
Don't cross the streams, and we'll see you on the other side, Dr. Spengler.