Normally at the Nostalgia Corner we like to focus on some kitschy, lame, dated show or fad from the late 80s or early 90s, like ABC’s TGIF or snap bracelets, but today’s edition is a little different, a little more serious, and much more tragic.
I can still remember it vividly. Twelve years ago today, December 18, 1997, my mother was driving me and some friends home from swim practice in her newly leased maroon Oldsmobile Bravada. As we turned onto Truval Lane to drop off Kevin we heard the news come over the radio. Chris Farley had died. I was in 9th grade at the time, too young to realize that this sad outcome was probably inevitable, too naive to see the man slowly fall apart, even though I watched him huff and puff and barely make his way through his SNL hosting gig less than two months prior. I did recall hearing Farley mentioned on Howard Stern one morning, as the King of Media remarked that if Farley didn’t get himself together he was going to end up in “John Candyland.” Which was certainly alarming, but wasn’t actually a drastic enough statement, because it didn’t speak to Farley’s reckless drug problem. I just thought it meant that Farley might be having one too many polish sausages, not that he was going to go on a 48-hour cocaine, heroin and booze bender (or maybe in the nascent Internet days of 1997 the media wasn’t the all-seeing, all judging eye that is now. These days we watch Lindsey Lohan come apart at the seams before our eyes, descending further and further into oblivion, and if she never recovers it will be tragic, but no one will be surprised. So maybe I was so shocked about Farley because at that time the media didn’t cover celebrity self-destruction like it covers the Super Bowl).
Regardless, Farley was gone, and gone far too soon. At this time Tommy Boy was right up there with Wayne’s World, the movies that my friends and I watched over and over again, quoting endlessly. Farley seemed full of limitless energy, and everyone who knows him will say that we only began to scratch the surface of his comedy and his humanity. It’s been twelve years, but his death still feels fresh, and it still stings. Cause as a 14-year old Farley seemed to me larger than life, and not just because of his enormous physical size, but because he could make me laugh with the flick of an eyebrow or the gentlest of laughs.
It’s no use wondering anymore what could have been. The world has moved on and his SNL buddies found a new fat guy to star in their upcoming film, a seemingly paint by numbers tale of a bunch of middle age camp friends who reunite after many years and who will no doubt bond over being past their prime. Perhaps it’s better than we never saw Farley get to that point, get old, doing movies about how he used to be young. But things will never be the same without him, and, in more ways than one, he left a hole that cannot be filled, not by a little coat, not by a big coat, not by any coat.
Farley at his best, childlike and charming, a whirlwind of destruction and determination.
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