The realization that the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer is hard on me. I’ve never seen a movie in a theater more than this classic that I still love today.
I’m fine with growing older, yet, every once in a while, things crop up that make me wonder where all the years have gone. How can I possibly be that old when I sure don’t feel it and certainly don’t act it? Then I remember Paul Newman has, sadly, passed on and Robert Redford is about to turn 73.
Just out of Topeka High, I was totally enthralled with my new life at The Topeka Capital-Journal when the movie came out. There are lines in that movie that I can call up as though I was the one making them.
“You just keep thinking, Butch. That is what you are good at”
“I have vision while the rest of world wears bifocals.”
“You are riding on my bicycle. In some Arabian countries that is the same as being married.”
“Why you, crazy. The fall will probably kill you.”
Finally, the one that has summed up my financial life has Butch complaining about being out of money again. Etta Place replied, “Sundance says it is because you are a soft touch, always taking expensive vacations, buying drinks for everyone and you’re a rotten gambler.”
“Well, that might have something to do with it,” was Butch’s reply, and haven’t I made almost the same reply often in my life?
But my best real-life memory came one night as the photo staff was leaving a gathering held at Director of Photography Rich Clarkson’s duplex on 29th St. Terrace. The famed Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Lanker loved the movie nearly as much, and we had been talking about it throughout the evening.
In the days before cell phones, all photographers had two-way radios in our cars. Clarkson was an absolute stickler for proper FCC protocol in the use of those radios. As we all drove home, I heard a voice giggling through my car speaker.
“I work for Mr. E.H. Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad.” I knew it was Lanker and grabbed my mike.
“Hey, Woodcock! You OK?” The reply was instantaneous.
“Well Sort of.”
“Let’s open up and take a look at you.”
And, then we all heard another voice barking over the speaker that everyone knew was Clarkson’s.
“There will be two photographers having their radios removed from their cars tomorrow.”
Boom! We knew what was coming the next day. Standing in front of his desk, we both knew our radios would be safe. We wouldn’t. We also knew every other photographer was standing behind the red one-way mirror in the print lab watching with total glee as we were scorched.
We had been told been told that we’d never have been caught by anyone other than the FCC if Clarkson hadn’t gone out to move his car. What? Out of his garage? We knew what had happened (as you now do), but neither would say another thing about it. Safely in the back, Lanker just turned to me and said, “You just keep thinking, Butch. That is what you are good at.”
Everyone in the building had to hear us roaring with laughter. Here’s to Butch, Sundance and Brian Lanker. I’m still laughing 40 years later.