Pat Rupp: The older I get the better things were
Several years ago we took out a through-the-mail subscription to Netflix, the purpose being to be able to have a steady stream of movies at our disposal. It didn't cost much and gave us access to literally thousands of films both ancient and current.
One of my first selections was the 1971 Oscar-winning "The French Connection." Set in New York, the film followed the exploits of a loose-cannon narcotics detective named Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner Buddy "Cloudy" Russo (Roy Scheider).
The complicated plot featured underworld characters from home and abroad, a couple of 180 degree plot twists and dizzying chase scenes. Hackman was brilliant as the renegade Doyle and the film definitely seemed worth seeing again.
Unlike the song about love, however, the exploits of Popeye and Cloudy weren't better the second time around. By the halfway point of the second showing, boredom had set in.
Popeye's wisecracks weren't so funny. The story had more inconsistencies than the latest White House press release and the chase scenes looked like rush hour in Los Angeles compared to their fast and furious 21st century brethren.
A similar phenomenon occurred last week when my spouse and I attended the Hal Holbrook performance of "Mark Twain Tonight" at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
Mark Twain is and always will be revered as one of the greatest American authors and humorists. Holbrook started portraying the legendary Missourian in his one-man show way back in 1954.
Twain and Holbrook have a special place in my memory as I used the latter's 1967 record album of "Mark Twain Tonight" as a learning tool in my first year of teaching English in the northeastern Iowa village of Cresco.
I had wanted to see Holbrook play Twain in person ever since but the stars never quite aligned to accomplish that goal until about two months ago when I noticed he was scheduled for his May 19 gig in Minneapolis.
I immediately went online and was thrilled to find that all sorts of tickets remained for the show. Figuring this was a bucket list opportunity, I grabbed two aisle seats in the fourth row from the stage. This was going to be one for the memory bank.
On the drive into the city, we were trying to guess Holbrook's age and how long he had been playing Twain. A quick phone search found that the Deep Throat character from "All the President's Men" movie was 92 and 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the release of the album. Those numbers should have given a clue as to what to expect at Orchestra Hall.
Holbrook/Twain shuffled on to the stage to a rousing ovation but once he began to speak things went south in a hurry. He connected with a couple of one-liners about politicians but overall his voice wasn't up to the task and he often struggled to keep a coherent flow. Once he pulled out his notes and repeated a story he had told minutes earlier.
About 40 minutes into the evening, he called for a much-needed break for all in the building and the remarks from our neighbors in the audience were telling.
"Are you enjoying this?" asked the man to our left, a theater arts teacher at a local community college. "Because I certainly am not."
Another man farther down the row made a trip to the sound booth to see if there was something to be done from that angle. Most of the negative comments were clothed in Minnesota Nice terms although upon leaving I did hear one patron sigh "Well, that was the worst performance I have ever witnessed."
Holbrook did manage to rally a bit in the second hour, impressively reciting from memory a long passage from "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." But all in all, my trip down memory lane proved to be an unsatisfying one.
Disappointments aside, I don't regret going, but next time around I will think twice before trying to relive the good old days. Some things are better left as they were.