Culturally speaking, nothing got to me good in the past year. Not even Lou Reed passing on over to the other world.
Can Lou Reed ever pass away to that other place? Doesn’t the power of his work allow him to live forever–and I’m a delusional moron for believing this?
It’s a surreal place for an artist to exist, in the place where they never die because of their work. Reed is there without a sense of sadness or wonder. Instead, it’s an overall feeling of melancholy that he blessed us with the amount of work he did. I believe Phillip Seymour Hoffman is there as well, though, with sadness and wonder.
Hoffman’s work is no different than Reed’s, however, he had so much more life work to give us. His command of physical emotions with words was often frightening and inviting over the course of one act. It didn’t matter whether he channeled the biographically calmer, introspective, side of Lester Bangs’ wild spirit while giving professional advice to a barely-entering-puberty-Cameron Crowe-klone in “Almost Famous”, or the innocence of a homesexual porn-production gaffer in “Boogie Nights“.
Then there’s my pop-culture favorite–the sloppy, gross, Californicated makeover of a mattress-store-by-day owner/phone-sex-pimp by night, Dean Trumbell, in “Punch Drunk Love“.
How about the eternal life he gave the characters Allen from “Happiness,” Brandt from “Big Lebowski”–and one of the most depressing movies that I can’t bring myself to watch again–Wilson from “Love Liza“. (The list never ends: The male nurse in “Magnolia,” ‘Capote,’ and the underrated mess of Caden in “Synecdoche, NY.” Jesus Christ, “The Master,” and there you have it. Hoffman’s artistic mercury is in forever motion.)
Hoffman always made love to words no matter which emotions he needed to tap into to convey them. The simplest words with his command–cruel or kind–seemed like bullets shooting from his mouth to our sensories. Therein lies the power of any artist at their very best.
I’ve been having a hard time with this one and the toilet bowl of news stories that has surrounded Hoffman’s passing.
There is a horrific warmth with heroin and the abuse that it takes on those we could never imagine falling prey to it. Not many artists who pass before our eyes in the blink of eye leave an impression of their life’s work that is as equally stark and warm as it is inviting and fearful. Heroin, cocaine–any drug for that matter–cannot diminish the work of those who are meant to leave their mark early, young, abruptly and without an answer. It’s not fair and it’s not worth immortalizing, but it is something to always fear.
Late 1997, Hoffman and I shook hands, the double hand over arm kind and exchanged pleasentries at a random concert featuring our favorite band–Wilco–because we were wearing the same shirt. A golden apple Wilco T, green neck and arm ringers on white, Being There era–pre Boogie Nights if I recall right. The pain was mutual is what I remembered the most despite our enthusiasm for music speak. We talked about “A.M.” and “Trace,” post-Uncle Tupelo, and the beauty of Tweedy and Company’s “Being There” with Jay Bennett on board full-time… every time I recall this era I get those shivers. His eyes listened it what I’ve never forgotten, and he spoke with purpose despite he and I being complete strangers. It’s an intent to communicate that I rarely recognize nor remember in strangers. I was convinced I knew him from somewhere.
I will never forget that moment because it hit me a few days later–the working actor in this, this, that, and that. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the actor. Nothing more, nothing less. That memory has never left me and it won’t.
Philli Seymour Hoffman, the listener, a fan, the actor.
– Andy Whorehall