I liked Gene Wilder. A lot.
I liked him because Blazing Saddles is probably my favorite comedy of all time. It came out in 1974, but I didn’t see it until the early 1980’s right about the time I most appreciated a movie with cowboys and farts.
I liked him because he was in Young Frankenstein, which I didn’t know as well, but any Mel Brooks film made me laugh.
I liked him because he was in Stir Crazy, with Richard Pryor. Their screen chemistry was fantastic. You could feel Gene playing off the craziness of Pryor’s personality.
And of course I liked him because he was Willy Wonka. There wasn’t a kid who couldn’t love Willy Wonka. And if, like most kids you read the Roald Dahl original in elementary school your mind formed an image of what Willy Wonka looked and felt like. Gene Wilder was true to that image, and only supplemented it.
So yes, I liked Gene Wilder for all his characters. And his contribution to many of the comedies that became the cultural context on which I grew up.
And the movies I still come back to, even to this day.
Here’s the real reason I liked Gene Wilder…
He made compassionate something cool to be.
Be a preteen kid for a moment. Or be a full blown teenager.
You want to be cool. And you want to be funny.
And often times the way to be either is to be mean. To put down the other guy.
Certainly not to be vulnerable.
For me, Gene Wilder broke that mold. He was hip. He hung out with Richard Pryor, and Sheriff Bart. He got cozy with Madeline Khan and Teri Garr, among others.
And in real life he married Gilda Radner, one of the funniest women of the 1970’s. He stayed with her through the cancer, until she died.
Gene Wilder became cool by being funny, but not mean.
It’s something I carry to this day…as a counselor and a coach, and even a marketer.
You can be good and gentle, and make people laugh at the same time.
You can lift people up without being a wimp.
That’s a distinction a lot of adults still have trouble making.
The ones who do have unlimited potential, especially if they work (and play) in the home business or Internet marketing space.
That’s my memory of Gene Wilder.
Next chance I get, I’m spending a few hours with him, Sheriff Bart and the rest of the Blazing Saddles crew.
Do you have any favorite memories of Gene Wilder? Anyone else in the other Mel Brooks crew?
Comment below. Like, share and Tweet above. Help someone take a fun trip down Memory Lane.