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We are who we are; we all live on the ‘if onlys’

Jan Hearne • Feb 10, 2014 at 9:24 AM

Today is the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on Ed Sullivan. That’s what I planned to write about and then Philip Seymour Hoffman died.He was a fine actor, a darned fine actor. As much as I hated “Boogie Nights,” I loved Philip Seymour Hoffman in it. Then came “State and Main” and “Almost Famous.” I was a fan. His character Freddie Miles in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” was so venomously true. I knew that guy. If Hoffman were in a film, I knew he would be good even if the movie wasn’t. A lot of us who liked him are angry. Not at Hoffman. He didn’t mean to die, though every junkie knows he’s playing Russian roulette each time he sticks a needle in his arm. I am angry because Hoffman is another example of everything not being enough.Jim Carrey has said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see it’s not the answer.” Where does that leave us when our dreams are not enough?Hoffman admitted in a “60 Minutes” interview he was addicted to alcohol and drugs in his youth. “I was 22 and panicked for my life,” he said. So he went into rehab and was clean and sober for more than two decades. In May, however, he checked into rehab because he had begun snorting heroin.Perhaps it isn’t the everything that is the problem, perhaps it’s the fear of going back to nothing. “Being unemployed is not good for any actor no matter how successful you are. You always remember what it feels like to go to the unemployment office, what it feels like to be fired from all those restaurants,” he said.So we are who we are, fame and money don’t change that. But don’t we live on the “if onlys”? If only I had a million dollars, a husband, a big house, an Oscar? See Carrey’s quote above. Who really wants to find that out?Hoffman appears to have had everything, except he didn’t have movie star good looks or a chiseled body. God help him, that’s why I loved him so. In an industry full of plasticized people, Hoffman was real in the same way John Goodman and Jeff Bridges are real.“I’m never described in attractive ways,” Hoffman said. “I’m waiting for someone to say I’m at least cute. But nobody has.”Though it’s too late, I’ll say it: Hoffman was cute. I thought so all along. Should it matter that much? To an artist who flays his soul to deliver a character, maybe it does.I’m sad and I’m angry, and I feel cheated of the films he won’t make and I won’t get to see. And I’m sad for the brevity of his life.Fifty years ago, when The Beatles took the stage on the Ed Sullivan Show, Hoffman wasn’t born. He wouldn’t join our world until July 1967.Those of us who remember Feb. 9, 1964, know how short a time it’s been.There’s been a lot of finger pointing and unkind words posted over the manner of Hoffman’s death. How do we let him go with kind hearts?A gentle man said on Facebook, “I, as a recovering addict, wish him peace, mercy and grace. All the things that seemingly eluded him in his current life.”So be it.Jan Hearne can be reached at jhearne@johnsoncitypress.com.

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