Michael J. Fox.
His name is entwined inextricably with the 80s, and our hearts.
He has also shown up a lot recently in my life, not the man himself, but his presence. I’ve been rewatching Family Ties, I’m working my way through season 2 even now, and loving every minute of it, and I’ve also recently rewatched my Back To The Future Trilogy.
What was even more interesting is that he was a big influence on two of the people we’ve had interviews with.
Both Rick Howland and Tim Doiron speak to the fact that Michael J. Fox was a huge influence on them, he also had a huge impact on me.
His character Alex P Keaton was just a few years older than me, when they started to broadcast Family Ties on Bermuda’s lone channel (at the time) ZBM, and I immediately identified with him, so much so, that I may have been in danger of becoming a republican, though I’m sure it never would’ve taken a permanent hold on me. I even remember quoting his character to my friends.
Then of course there was the awesomeness that was the first Back To The Future movie, I played my cassette tape of the soundtrack OVER AND OVER AND OVER, the ink that had been the track listing was completely worn away from the white plastic shell of the cassette itself.
It wasn’t long after that myself, my friends Sean and Kerri all came into possession of our skateboards. I was terrible on mine, but it still didn’t stop me from donning my headphones, pressing play on my clunky cassette walkman, and trying to motor about to Huey Lewis’ Power of Love, or Alan Silvestri’s orchestral pieces from the score included on the soundtrack.
He was one of the first actors that I would watch him in anything just to watch his performance. Until that time the only other person I would do that for was Harrison Ford, who hadn’t made a bad movie at that time yet.
I, though I am loathe to admit it, even tried to emulate Marty’s bow-legged amble, hands in pockets, shoulders up… Even when I throw on my jean jacket now, I do the same. Some things just stay with you.
I was nowhere near as smart as Alex, nor anywhere near as cool as Marty, Michael J. Fox was just awesome. And when I learned he was Canadian, to me that proved we were indeed the most awesome nation in the world. National Pride was really big when you lived abroad, at least for me it was.
I followed him avidly during the 80s, from Family Ties back to 1955 to a werewolf in Teen Wolf to being in a rock band in Light Of Day, to big business in The Secret Of My Success, and to Vietnam in Casualties of War and then in the early 90s, romancing a small town girl in Doc Hollywood and going toe to toe with James Woods in The Hard Way, voicing a dog for Homeward Bound, and a mouse for Stuart Little .
When my life started getting too hectic, a lot of film and television went by the wayside, and I didn’t get to spend as much time with them as I wanted, though I am sure there are people who would testify differently to that.
Then by the time I was settlling into my life, Michael was back on tv in Spin City, but it and I could never meet, as I was working a lot of nights, and PVRs didn’t exist yet, and the only show I really watched was The X-Files. But I would always go back to Back To The Future.
Michael brings an earnestness and honesty to all his performances, that made his trademark nice-guy image what it is.
So I was dumbfounded when I first heard he had been diagnosed with Parkinsons. To me it was the same kind of kick in the balls that I felt when Jim Henson passed.
It didn’t make any sense to me.
I know I know… bad things, good people, blah, blah, blah… I have people in my own life who can testify to that.
But, I’m not about to get all maudlin about it.
Because to this day, though he doesn’t act as often, he’s still out there doing his thing, and just as important, he’s served as inspiration to countless people.
And to this day he inspires me to be the nice guy, the funny guy, the smart guy, the awestruck guy, all of whom have learned to wonder at the world around them, revel in being a part of it, to hope and aim for the best, and to dream big.
For that, I thank you Mr. Fox.
We’ve never met, but you will always be a part of my life.
And anytime you wanna hang out or go for a beer… you just call, I know a bunch of us who would love to treat you and to thank you for all that you’ve done, not just acting, but for your charity work, for putting a face on Parkinsons, and for just being you.