John Boston | Hey VIA! Can I Change My Vote For Best Movie?

John Boston
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Dear Valley Industry Association,

Before I offer a sincere thanks for your most kind hosting of The Mighty Signal luncheon last week, I must apologize for past remarks I’ve made about the abbreviation of your most esteemed bastion of American capitalism, patriotism and free enterprise, VIA.

It was just a silly and immature me years ago referring to VIA as “an exciting new dishwashing liquid that both softens hands and gums, but gets out the greasiest of greasy stains, including Kathy and Harold Wiener!!”

Remember our own Kate & Harry? Local perps of the biggest real estate fraud in California history?

Hey. Are those guys out on bail yet?

Secondly, sorry about noting that “VIA is not to be confused with Acura’s exciting new sub-sub-sub-sub-addendum 2.5-wheeled compact of the same name that has the horsepower of a dim flashlight.” It was wrong of me. I was just lashing out at Don and Cheri Fleming for selling me two (one for each foot) VIAs in 1968 which, let the record state, have yet to start.

That aside, truly — thank you for that wonderful luncheon over at the Hyatt and the tipping of the community Stetson for this newspaper’s 100th anniversary. I was a little disappointed that you didn’t at least mention Bruce Fortine, who was The Signal’s first delivery boy and this was before the bicycle or the shoe had been invented. Not only that, consider the arm strength it takes to Frisbee-toss stone tablets.

It’s great to be in this wonderful, confusing, inspiring and frustrating Ball of Life we share here in the Santa Clarita Valley. Gracias, VIA.

After all you’ve done, I hope I don’t come across as greedy. But, may I ask a small favor?

I’d like a Mulligan. A do-over.

While up on stage with my dear and beloved boss, Richard Budman and three other journalists whose names escape me, I was asked a pretty good question by host Ed “Bat” Masterson. Eduardo queried each of us about which motion picture on the theme of journalism elicits our strongest emotional response.

I answered the original “King Kong.” It’s got that great scene where 50 reporters are gathered around the giant ape while he’s chained to a New York stage. One reporter gruffly barks: “Hey! Help us out here, Denham! What’s the angle here!!??”

Oh. I don’t know. Ten-ton ape? Former world record was a quarter-ton ape? Tore a T-Rex in half? In love with the over-acting Fay Wray? Maybe try the Winter-Spring, Ape-Human approach? 

It hit me an hour after your lovely banquet: I gave the wrong movie.

The absolute No. 1 movie that has had the most effect on my creative writing has been “Sullivan’s Travels.”

It’s the 1941 Preston Sturges’ classic with Joel McCrae starring as Hollywood’s top comedy writer, John L. Sullivan. As Sullivan, he’s sick and tired of all the tinseltown glitter and wants to write a serious epoch about Real Life. The studio humors Sullivan and sends him on a well-padded trek to discover America. Sullivan escapes his handlers and be careful what you wish for.

The movie shifts from a cozy romantic comedy into a gritty and dark drama. Sullivan loses his ID and money. He’s mistaken for a wanted murderer. He gets thrown onto a chain gang where he gets to experience not the American Dream, but the American Nightmare — a life sentence of endless, backbreaking work with no hope of escape, getting ahead or happiness.

Months into this living hell, Sullivan and his fellow convicts are bussed to a little chapel. In the pews sit some of the blankety-blank toughest mugs ever to grace a movie screen. Sullivan has no idea what they’re doing there until the lights dim. A projector whirs. On a wrinkled little screen a Mickey Mouse cartoon magically starts.

All these hardened faces, like so many miles of bad road, slowly melt. Smiles crease. Laughter erupts. Sullivan looks around the room and has his epiphany. Life is so damn, cryingly hard and unfair at times. We don’t need to be constantly reminded of our ills, shortcomings, lack, losses and failings. It is nothing short of a gift from God to be grabbed by the back of your shirt and be vaulted to Heaven, where laughter lives.

This film has been a profound inspiration in my life.

I’m well aware the tax code is imbecilic, made worse by generation after generation of do-nothing elected officials. I can recite, scripture and verse, all the bullying, heartbreak, lies, betrayal, tragedies and disappointment in my life and on the front pages.

But, I have been given a gift to — sometimes — make some people laugh.

Well. Not the dumb ones.

Just the smart and cute ones.

I am so, profoundly happy and filled with gratitude that the editors and publishers of this Mighty Signal and this community of Santa Clarita, so eclectic and big-hearted, has allowed me to share, for so many years, a simple and divine gift — laughter.

Thanks for the dear hospitality, Valley Industry Association. You guys are good company, good medicine…

John Boston is a local writer.

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