Saturday, December 01, 2007

"And Leon's getting LAAAAARRRRRGERRR!"

On this day--World AIDS Day--I've been thinking about my favorite movie of all time, Airplane! I know what you're thinking: "Okay, Truffle. Isn't this kind of a non sequitur?"

Let me explain.

Sometimes, a film has one actor who steals every scene he's in. In Airplane! that actor was Stephen Stucker, who played Johnny the flight controller. Everyone in that movie had great lines ("I am serious, and don't call me Shirley!"). But Stucker? He had the best ones.

"How about Mr. Rogers?"

"Johnny, what can you make of this?"
"Well, I can make a hat. Or a brooch! Or a pterodactyl.."

"The fog's getting thicker!"
"And Leon's getting laaaaaaaarrrrrrger!"

"The tower? Rapunzel! Rapunzel!"

"Oh, it's a big, pretty white plane with red stripes and curtains in the windows and wheels and it looks like a really big Tylenol."

Years later, I looked up Stucker's IMDB entry. I hoped to find that he was, at the very least, doing TV guest spots or maybe appearing stage or teaching drama at a university. Instead? He was one of the first actors to announce his HIV status, and he died of AIDS in 1986. Aside from his stint on Airplane! and its not-so-hot sequel, his screen credits were fairly small and insignificant.

My first thought? "Wah! No fair!" I laugh my ass off every time I watch Airplane! Especially Johnny.

I can't find much information about the guy. There's his Wikipedia entry and very little else. (Airplane's directors remember him as a scene-stealer even when he was an extra. Oh yeah, and those one-liners? He improvised a lot of them.)

I think Stucker is one of those actors who deserved a higher profile, a stronger career, and, of course, a longer life.

Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Stucker. Rest in peace.