Why would I expect to have some inkling that Roger Ebert's death was so near? I didn't know him personally. I had no way of being privy to how sick he was, and yet, like many Americans of my era, having encountered his work and appreciated his shining intellect, I thought that somehow I knew him well.
I watched his show with Gene Siskel, Sneak Previews on PBS, and then, when the pair went to commercial television, I watched At the Movies and later Siskel & Ebert At the Movies. I tuned in religiously for a time and supported their decision to leave PBS. I liked watching the rivalry between the two, and yes, I always favored Roger over Gene. For some reason I suspected that if ever met Roger, he and I would get along well.
Even after I married and began running about with a child in tow and my trips to the movies became fewer, I still followed Siskel & Ebert. I remember when other movie critics popped up to get in on their action, I resented these interlopers. And later, as I became too busy to catch Siskel & Ebert on television and as the Internet became easier to use, I'd look up their reviews online if I thought I might escape to see a show. After Gene Siskel died, I continued to looked up Ebert's take on new films. As I said, Roger was always my favorite.
I recall when he showed up on Twitter. As soon as I saw he had an account and was actually tweeting himself, I followed him. It as as though I had spotted an old friend. This is when I discovered that he had opinions about more than movies, and I often agreed with him on political matters as well.
When I learned of his death, I immediately thought of society's loss and then of his wife, Chaz (with him in the picture up top), a woman of whom I have been secretly envious at times because she lived with a mate who loved movies, art, and literature and who, though ill, still had a keen mind and retained his sharp wit. Now I see that there was something else appealing about him: he did not feel threatened by strong women. The Chicago Tribune reports:
An enthusiastic and self-proclaimed aficionado of beautiful and accomplished women—he had a bit of a crush and a friendship with Oprah Winfrey for a short time—Ebert married trial attorney Charlie “Chaz” Hammel-Smith on July 18, 1993.A talented critic, a gifted writer, and apparently a romantic as well, Ebert will be missed. We have lost a treasure.
His affection for her and her extended family peppers the book, and his love for her is palpable: “My life as an independent adult began after I met Chaz.”
So is his gratitude for her indefatigable devotion during his operations and rehabilitations, writing: “I was very sick. ... This woman never lost her love, and when it was necessary she forced me to want to live. ... Her love was like a wind pushing me from the grave.”
- Roger Ebert dies after battle with Cancer, Chicago Sun Times
- Roger Ebert dead: Film critic had the soul of a poet, Chicago Tribune
- Roger Ebert wins the New Yorker caption contest, The New Yorker
- Roger Ebert, RIP, Whatever.
- Thirteen things Roger Ebert said better than anyone else, Buzzfeed H/T @ le0pard13
- Some of his funniest quotes and best take-downs, the Huffington Post