The Kid Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down With a Hit

I was born in Iowa.

Stay with me, the story gets better, I promise.

I was born in Iowa. Iowa is really, really flat. You can place a marble on any surface in Iowa and it won’t roll. When I was seven we moved to upstate New York. New York has hills. Big ones.

Our street (in NYS) was shaped like a U. The turn in the U was on a hill. At the top of the hill was our driveway, which went farther up the hill. Two hundred feet up. This sucked, because you had to push your bike all the way up. And when it was icy, it was almost impossible to get a car up it. Sometimes it would backslide. I learned to swear from my dad trying to get the car up that hill.

My best friend Gordy learned to swear from his dad, who apparently would swear simply because the day ended in a Y. Nasty mouth on that man.

This is headed somewhere, honest.

The fun thing about that driveway was that when it was icy, it was balls for sledding. Remember those sleds that were just a sheet of blue plastic? Balls on that driveway. Blue balls. Except that we weren’t allowed to sled down it. My mother had some strange notion that we’d slide into the street and get hit by a car. Stupid parents. Don’t know nuthin’.

So Gordy and I used to play at the bottom of the hill, near his house. Our favorite game (next to The Ginger and Maryann Club) was to play Partridge Family in the woods. There was a clearing that we made the stage. We used sticks for guitars. Gordy was always Danny. Stupid Doug was always Keith. I always got stuck playing Reuben. I hated it. And it was always hard getting a Chris. We’d usually kidnap some little kid and force him to pretend to play air drums. He’d usually run away in tears, crying “I don’t wanna!” Usually the kid was Gordy’s little brother Phil. Red-headed little brat. Obviously had no interest in the entertainment arts. Phil would rather just ride his Big Wheel. Remember those? They were the Lamboghinis of tricycles.

I guarantee, I’m going somewhere with this.

A few years later, Gordy and I had a falling out. We even got into a fistfight. We rarely spoke. My sister no longer spoke to his sister. My mother no longer spoke to his mother. It was sad, really. Our families used to be so close. Drifted apart, I guess.

But every now and then we’d still see Phil. He’d walk his Big Wheel up our long driveway, then ride it, pedal-free, down our driveway, then turn right onto the street and ride all the way down the hill to his house. I’m sure it was a sweet ride, but by this time I realized what folly it was. He could have been hit by a car! And he’d do this over and over again.

My mother used to worry about him a lot. “That kid’s going to get hit by a car and die!”, she say.

And he did. He got hit by a car and died. Or maybe not. I forget. Either he got hit by a car and died, or he went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Silly me, I can never remember which it was. :wink:

Good on yer, Phil.

Great story! for someone from Iowa.

I’ve never gone sledding with an Oscar winner.

Me neither, actually. When mom put a kibosh on our sledding, Phil was way too young to go out of the house alone. We did, however, go to the pool and the movies together a lot. I remember that we saw Disney’s Now You See Him, Now You Don’t. It was about a guy who could turn himself invisible. All the way home in the car, Phil would sing “Iiiiiiiiiii! Ain’t got no body! See?” and point to his butt. Body = bottom, get it? And he was invisible. So no body, hence no butt. Get it?

Hey, he was like five.

That was a great story, tdn. You had me going right up to the end. Who’dathunk Philip Seymour Hoffman started life as a bratty little redhead who refused to play Chris to his brother’s Danny?

Me’dathunk! Me’dathunk! In fact, I have more memories of him as a kid than as an actor.

I liked his acceptance speech, but I think it was not entirely factual. He thanked his mother who was always there for him, and raised four children by herself. In fact (according to my sister), it was the oldest sister who raised them. She stressed about it quite a bit, in fact. The mom was always off studying law. The dad was around, at least in the early years. He could be really nice, but I was always scared of him. He was a big, scary, swearing man.

And the fights in that house – hoo boy!

Reminds me of me. I was born in Illinois, moved to NYS, and lived on a hilly street shaped like a U. The turn in our U was at the bottom of the hills, though, and we had a short driveway.

Where in NYS?

Iowa is not that flat, at least the NE portion isn’t. If you want to mention a flat state Kansas is probably a better choice.


Looks like Gordy did ok for himself too:

from here

Brewster (Putnam County).

Come to think of it, our street was more of a circle that turned in itself.

Thanks for that.

What it didn’t mention (from what I saw) is that Gordy wrote the screenplay for Love, Liza, starring Phil. (It probably does say that in there somewhere, but it’s not clear from your quote.)

Gordy would probably be mighty ashamed if the world were to know his very first writing credits. Man, they were bad. And I share those credits. We put on a show in my garage. We were a big hit with exactly two audience members, who parroted Gordy’s lyrics and my music throughout our show, and for weeks afterwords. Those fans were siblings Phil and Emily. Gordy’s and my older sisters had a somewhat different reaction, pretty much just laughing at us.

That article paints a nice picture of the Hoffman family life. I remember it as somewhat rockier, but maybe that was just my perception. Marilyn, the mom, was always mad at me. Could be because I was a smartass. Jill, the older sister, was hospitalized for stress, according to my sister.

And apparently Marilyn said something to my mother that caused an unforgivable, unhealable rift. Mom still won’t tell us what it was. But it must have been since then that we ran into her at a movie house (And Justice For All), and everyone was really cordial.

Excuse me for waxing nostalgic. But maybe this will give you all some insight into this brilliant actor.

Both of our families were pretty involved in politics. The Hoffmans fully supported my mother when she ran for office (and lost). My sister and Jill used to make up anti-Nixon posters. This was while they weren’t busy either dieting or binge-eating, or so it seemed.

And Gordy and I had a “club” for everything. We couldn’t do anything without making a club for it. The Ginger and Maryann Club. The Snack Club. The Drawing Club. The Sleepover Club. And of course the Partridge Family Club. We had close to a score of clubs.

I’m sure more memories will surface soon…

You’re a rotten bar-steward, tdn - I was getting all SAD about the death of poor Phil. :smack:

Great story! :smiley:

OK, I’m curious enough to ask. What exactly would transpire during meetings of The Ginger and Maryann Club?

Oh, come on, don’t be naive – the first rule of the Ginger and Mary Ann Club is … don’t talk about the Ginger and Mary Ann Club! :rolleyes:

Very very neat story! You know, we never think about how most of these famous people were once kids, grew up going to school, etc. etc., just like the rest of us. Pick many a favorite actor and realize that somewhere out there some regular Joe can say that they sat next to him in first grade or that she was their first kiss or whatever!

“So, let’s have the Ginger and Maryann Club, OK?”

“OK. Who do you like better, Ginger or Maryann?”

“Um… Maryann.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Meeting adjourned.

I really loved that story about Phil. I have always wondered about his relationship with his father. Sometimes he said he had one with him, but most of the time there was zip about him. It leads me to believe there was a lot of pain there.

I’m aware I’m nitpicking a zombie, but…

No way – Green Machine was the lambourghini. Big Wheel was more like a standard-size minivan.

To throw a little spice in, they would admit as a member the kid who liked Ginger’s nerdy doppleganger over both Mary Ann and Ginger. And the kid who only preferred Mary Ann when she thought she was Ginger…however that weird girl, Lee Ann, who preferred Mrs. Howell, was right out.

Um, not even close. The Wild Action Bike was the lambourghini. I always wanted one but they were too expensive.