Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Tom, Originator of Tom-Hugs....

A trip to the cemetery always reminds me of what someone said about the ‘dash’ between the date born and died.  The dash being the most important item on headstone, it’s the time they lived a life - or as my mother would say, the tombstone.  

Yesterday our dear, dear friend, Tom Rickman, passed away. His step daughter, Casey Donohue called us to make sure people who knew her mom ( the loyal and colorful Beth, who we lost a few years ago) and his wife together as a couple. Here’s just a little about his ‘dash’ from Wikipedia.
with Beth and Tom (center top) and friends

Born and raised without television or indoor plumbing in the small mining country town of Sharpe, KY. Tom Rickman left his hometown to serve in the United States Marine Corps, then attended Murray State College as an English major with an interest in acting. While attending graduate school at the University of Illinois, Rickman adapted an O'Connor story for the short film Good Blood, which drew the attention of the American Film Institute. Rickman soon left Illinois to study at the AFI. His AFI experiences earned him work on the Raquel Welch film Kansas City Bomber (1972), and other films such as The Laughing Policeman (1973) and The White Dawn (1974). When action pictures featuring Southern good ol' boy heroes and plenty of car chases were in vogue so was he. The self-proclaimed "redneck writer" ended up as the scribe on a pair of financially successful Burt Reynolds vehicles, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975) and Hooper (1978).The Reynolds projects led to Rickman being hired to write the life story of country singer Loretta Lynn, based on her autobiography. Rickman's extensive research paid off with Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), and launched Sissy Spacek's career and earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Following Coal Miner's Daughter, Rickman was given the opportunity to make his long-time dream of directing come true. He cast Tommy Lee Jones, Martha Plimpton, and Brian Dennehy in The River Rat (1984), a film that he described as a cross between The Night of the Hunter and Huckleberry Finn.  Other notable projects included an Emmy-nominated adaptation of author David McCullough's Pulitzer Prize-winning Truman (1995) and the hit network version of the best-selling novel Tuesdays With Morrie (1999). The latter earned Rickman a Humanitas Prize and a WGA Award. Tom was also an active and well respected participant in the Sundance film festival as judge and teacher. 

That was his career in short, very short, but that does not begin to describe Tom as a friend and a warrior. He spent years battling alcohol addiction, deep depressions, and cancer.  In those battles he emerged victorious.  He was a brilliant writer, and director who had the courage to write a lovely musical theater piece (book and music) which was premiered at the New York Musical Theater Festival.  He was an avid political pundit and I feel honored to have been a recipient of his thoughts. His political views were based on his love for this country and his belief that government should be fair and treat people equally, regardless of color or culture, it should be kind and most of all, civil.  “When Justice Thomas was mistakenly confirmed to the Supreme Court, we watched the belittling of Anita Hill and the surprising ignorance of the man as a self loathing African American.”  That was a quote from the extraordinary Mr Rickman. 

A few years ago, he invited me to teach one of his theater classes at AFI. Just going to the AFI was intimidating, but Tom gave me a Tom hug and assured me I was as talented as any of his students, and besides I had published my work.  The times and the worst times when we really talked about life, friends, and Hollywood were when I kept him company as he was receiving his chemo.  He was complicated, fun loving, knowledgeable about absolutely everything,  and introspective.  In short, it was a joy to be in his presence as well as a joy to be his friend.  Rest in piece my darling Tom and I sure hope wherever you are they have indoor plumbing.  We’re just sayin’… Iris