Monthly Archive: March 2015

Bad News and Lessons Learned

“Sometimes a little heartbreak is a lesson,

and the best thing to do is just learn the lesson.”

–John Voight (Academy Award winner)

In many ways, it’s a sad period we are living through. Opening today’s “paper” (i.e., the internet) I’m struck by all that is going on in the world, just in today’s news.

A pilot purposely slams an airliner into the side of a French mountain. Republican Governor Sandoval and the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce are at odds. And Harry Reid is calling it quits.

Conservatives, and even most moderate Republicans, are likely rejoicing at that last stunning announcement. Still, it represents the end of an era and is no doubt heartbreaking to Democrats, as well as to many Nevadans.

It’s Friday at the Nevada Legislature. And we will each have the weekend to reflect on the toll of human tragedies and political collapses. For me, in today’s “two cents” in Soup to Nuts, I choose to reflect on two figures who experienced their share of sadness along the way. I wrote about them in Tahoe Boy: A Journey Back Home. They are John Voight and Ronald Reagan, both of whom I met while living in L.A.

“…One Hollywood figure I ran into one night was another parent with his own cross to bear. Or so it seemed the evening I met Jon Voight, at the Bonaventure Hotel. Having dinner with my wife, I noticed the Academy Award-winning star of ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ ‘Deliverance,’ and ‘Coming Home,’ reading a tattered old book in a quiet corner of the restaurant.

Seeing him there conjured up the memory of the night I first saw ‘The Champ’ in Seoul, Korea, on one of my very first dates with Myung-Hee. The gut-wrenching account of little blond-haired Ricky Schroder losing his prize-fighting father to divorce and death was such a tear-jerker that Koreans (who love ridiculously passionate flicks) actually brought pillow cases to the cinema to cry into.

Somehow compelled to tell the story of his sobbing Asian fans, I sauntered over to the actor’s table with more than a little trepidation. After all, it is pretty damn presumptuous of anyone to invade the private space of a public figure, especially one apparently relishing his time alone.

To my surprise, Voight welcomed me to his table. Maybe he needed a break from the heavy reading material he was in to. It was some old Catholic book of ‘the miserable path the saints had trod,’ or so he explained. I discovered the actor was a bit of a mystic and seeker in his own right. The Hollywood elite today don’t seem too pleased with his newfound 21st century conservatism, but back in the 1980’s when I met him he was squarely in their ideological camp.

His interest in the painful travails of humanity may have been exacerbated by being the father of actress Angelina Jolie, who was a teenager at the time, and (as he described to me) had just moved in with a boyfriend during her self-described ‘black period’ when she aspired to become an undertaker.

If rumor of the two’s continued estrangement is still true, then John Voight has suffered as saints frequently do. The heart of a father, so evident that night on the actor’s face, is something even God must surely go through.

Another God-like figure in Hollywood at the time, at least to conservatives, was Ronald Reagan. I had the privilege of being seated at a head table with the President and Mrs. Reagan in 1990 at the Biltmore Hotel. The former president was speaking at a gala event honoring a filmmaker and friend of mine, Lee Shapiro. Lee had made a film ‘Nicaragua Was Our Home’ about the plight of the Miskito Indians under the Sandinista communists, that Regan praised.

Lee had been in the process of shooting a second documentary in Afghanistan when he was gunned down by a Soviet gunship. The former President was not yet showing signs of the Alzheimer’s that would later close the chapter on the man we all knew. That night he was vintage Gipper, giving a moving tribute to my slain friend whom I was there to receive an award for on behalf of his family.

The kind nobility of President Reagan made me wish for more of the same in the White House.”

Sorrow, as John Voight said, can and perhaps sometimes should result in a kind of lesson. Or, at least, in quiet reflection on life’s mysteries.

It seems to me that we here in Carson City may be in for a few of those before the end of the 78th session of the Nevada Legislature. When we turn the page or activate our iPads to find yet another political bomb or human disaster in the news, let us each endeavor to learn life’s lessons well–even when they stem from that toughest of all teachers, heartbreak.