The Boyfriend of the Week

May 4, 2004

Okay, I won't say I'm OVER the whole "Wonderfalls" debacle yet (see Tyron Leitso) -- besides, there remains some hope (see But, as they say in the theater world (or the theatre world, if you're snooty and/or foreign), "The show must go on." Or, as they say in the world of the Old West, "Ya gotta git right back on the horse, padnah." Or, as they say in the world of Olympic gymnastics, "What do you mean you broke your ankle? GET BACK OUT THERE!!"

Or, as they say in the world of love, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. So, suck it up already, you big fat loser."

Okay, so I paraphrased that last one a wee bit.

Anyway, I'm back. And I'd like to begin this week's write-up by taking you back. Back, back, back in time again. Back to 1996, when I started graduate school. Back in the salad days. Or, more accurately, the PB&J and rice-and-beans days (because who can afford salad when you've got $35K in student loans?).

In 1996, my twin sister and I moved into an apartment together as we both started our careers in even-higher education. Though we were working multiple part-time jobs between us (I had three for awhile on top of full-time school), we were just barely making ends meet. We were poor with a capital po'. And while we'd accumulated a good pile of crappola from four years of dorm livin' (hot pot, anyone?), we had pretty much zipsville in terms of furniture. But hey, we figured, how much do we really need? A couple of beds, a table or two, some bookshelves, and, say, a couch. Though, wait, make that couch thing optional, dependent upon price.

It took awhile, but we gradually managed to acquire, dirt-cheap, just about everything on the list, plus a few novelty items, like silverware and coffee mugs. But the couch -- the couch eluded us. Who can afford a couple of hundred bucks for what is essentially a big cloth-covered pillow with arms? We had pretty much resigned ourselves to sitting on the floor and the occasional donated folding chair until. . .

The thrift shop at the corner of Market and 15th had a 50% off sale.

This thrift shop was one we hadn't really explored yet, oddly enough. It was about 16 blocks from our apartment and we went by it twice a day on the bus, but we were new to the whole thrift shop scene and to be honest, it hadn't actually occurred to us that we could score a couch there. Yeah, I know. Sheltered existence, and whatnot.

But, hey, put up a huge, hand-painted, billowy banner advertising everything inside at 50% off, and no college student can NOT get off the bus early to check it out. My sister and I went together, thinking we might at least score a couple of tee shirts and a wine glass or two. We walked through the front doors, turned to the left, and there. we. saw. the. most. amazing. sight.

It was a full-length monstrosity, absolutely hideous in color and pattern, with saggy cushions and corners that looked like they'd been attacked by a grizzly instead of your usual upholstery-lovin' housecat. But it had the most beautiful thing we'd ever seen in all our long days of cheap furniture shopping. Seriously, it was just absolutely blowing our minds. Because there, safety-pinned to the leftmost seat cushion, was a small green sale tag that read:


Yes, that's right folks. Seven-oh-two. Not seven. Not seven-fifty. Seven-oh-two. For a COUCH.

"Behold!" I declared, "A thing of beauty shines before us!" My sister immediately fell to her knees in prayer, thanking profusely the Almighty Merciful God of Sofas for the generous gift He had bestowed upon us.

We marched up to the check-out counter like two majorettes in a parade, pumping our fists in the air to the invisible beat of triumph in our heads. We pulled out $7.02 in miscellaneous change, slapped it onto the counter, and declared in barely-contained unisonic glee, "We'll take THAT one!"

After we'd been rung up, we returned to the orange beast and its glorious tag of beatific numerals and stared, rapturously, for several long moments. And then, a pause. Followed by a longer pause. Followed by one of us slowly turning to the other and whispering, "Uhhhhhh. . . Just how are we getting this home, exactly?"


As neither one of us had a car, let alone the requisite flatbed truck, things looked dire. In a flail of knees and elbows, we immediately began tearing the cushions apart, looking to see if we might miraculously come upon $40 in nickels so we could rent a U-Haul. Alas, all we actually turned up was fluff. It quickly became clear to us that there was really only one option. We'd have to carry that big, orange, fluff-infested couch home ourselves. Sixteen blocks. UPHILL. With a couch.

It sounds bad, doesn't it? It did to us at first too. With mighty groans, we picked that puppy up and trotted out the front door into the bright sunlight. Gahhhhhh. We got about a block and a half when our arms started to burn. And then the light turned red and we were stuck for a moment at the intersection. Setting the couch down for a bit, we realized what a perfect gig this was. Dude, if you're carrying a couch home and you get tired, you just set the couch down and then set yourself ON the couch, and voila! You're resting your weary self on a saggy-cushioned sofa! In the middle of a city sidewalk! In broad daylight!

Why, what could be more comfortable or, for that matter, more wholly entertaining! We ended up stopping for rest breaks far more often than we needed to, just because it was so fun watching the people around us respond to the image of two college girls sprawled out on a sofa in the middle of the sidewalk in the middle of the afternoon. It was a blast! In fact, to this day, I think that if I ever have to go on a long hike, I will carry a couch along with me. Because when it comes to the rest breaks, you just can't go wrong.

Where the HELL was I going with all this, and just what does it have to do with Ben Kingsley? Hold tight, I'm getting to it.

Okay, so, we were broke, right? So, of course, there were a few amenities we lacked in our apartment. Like throw pillows, or good knives, or curtains, or easy chairs, or, most importantly (and most importantly, most relevantly), a television set. Yes, you heard that correctly -- the first eighteen months we lived in that apartment, we had NO TV. Now, back then, of course, this really wasn't such a big deal. We'd just lived for four years in the dorms, after all, and while they had a TV lounge on every floor, only dorks actually sat in there and used it. The rest of us were too busy flirting and sneaking beer into our rooms (sorry, Mom!).

But now that I was in graduate school, removed from the social nexus that was Lander Hall's fourth floor, I felt the need for something to keep me entertained while I was doing homework. And what I turned to was the local library and its collection of books on tape. The greatest find that year, and the only set of tapes I even remember, was this incredible collection of Sherlock Holmes stories read by none other than this week's Boyfriend, Sir Ben Kingsley.

At the time, I knew Ben only from "Ghandi," and even then, I'm not sure I could've picked him out of a lineup of other bald men. But after a few hours of his voice circulating around my ears, I was madly in love. That is a voice that I just never tire of. Next to Peter Coyote (future Boyfriend), it's my favorite narrative voice in the world.

Now, of course, since then, I've graduated to a real TV and a DVD player and even occasionally shell out the million-and-one bucks it costs to go see a real movie in a real movie theater. And it was in a theater that I next experienced Ben, coincidentally enough. That movie was "Schindler's List." And those of you who are old enough to have seen that movie in the theater probably remember that at the time, it was one of the first "realistically" violent Hollywood movies to hit it big with the critics. The starkness of the killings in that film was just overpowering -- at one point, I almost had to walk out (during the scene in which the Jewish architect lady is shot pointblank in the head for trying to tell a German officer that the building she was building based on faulty German designs was going to collapse). I had never seen anything like it before. Even now, over ten years later, I can vividly remember just about every scene from that movie, and the only word I can come up with to describe most of them is "stark." Next to "Schindler's List," Schwartzenegger films are Care Bear cartoons. It's a movie I will probably never watch again -- I'll never need to and I probably couldn't sit through it again anyway. But I can't help but think it ought to be required viewing for everyone in the world. It's one of the few movies out there that I think has the potential to leave a lasting impact on everybody who sees it. Whether you think the plot is good or the acting is good or the film itself is good, some of those scenes were scenes we'd never seen before -- and which we all pray to some God or another we'll never see again.

Anyway, my real point here is that Ben Kingsley is one of the stars of "Schindler's List" (he plays Itzhak Stern, the Jewish man who serves as Schindler's secretary, or, more importantly, his conscience). And boy, was he incredible. That man can do anything -- he can play any part. And he takes every role and just by standing in its shoes, imparts to it such a level of dignity and intensity that it will never fail to affect you.

And also, did I mention that he's damn handsome? Whoever said "bald is beautiful" was just so unbelievably right about that. This man is just plain gorgeous, shiny pate and all! He's right on up there in the world of bald hotties with Yul Brenner and Captain Picard. And, of course, with my Dad.

Of course, Ben's been in gazillions and gazillions of films over the years. And I've seen far too many of them to be able to describe them all here. So, before I get carried away and end up writing fifty pages on what I think of every one, here's a briefly annotated list, roughly in order of when the movies came out:

Ghandi -- peaceful man refuses to eat, peaceful man inspires millions.

Turtle Diary -- this movie is a big joke in my family, primarily because when we flew to Japan when I was in the sixth grade, this was the movie on the plane and it was so gag-inducingly boring to us at age 12 that we have never forgotten it OR its partner feature, "Amadeus." On the flight back, we were subjected to "A Room with a View," which I also haven't ever been able to watch again. Anyone who thinks movies don't have a lasting effect on children should know that to this day, I can't see a turtle cross a road without snickering, I think Mozart was a freakish oversexed girly-man, and Helena Bonham Carter makes me want to shoot someone.

Without a Clue -- great Sherlock Holmes comedy-mystery costarring future Boyfriend Michael Caine.

Bugsy -- eh.

Sneakers -- truly divine spy thriller featuring ex-Boyfriends Robert Redford and David Strathairn. RENT THIS!

Dave -- extremely entertaining presidential-swap movie starring ex-Boyfriend Kevin Kline. Wouldn't it be cool if this movie happened in real life? If President Bush fell into a coma and was replaced by Kevin Kline? I know I'd be a lot happier!

Searching for Bobby Fischer -- cute kid likes chess. Who can blame him?

Death and the Maiden -- seriously disturbed woman takes her revenge on potentially seriously disturbed Ben Kingsley.

The Confession -- Ben Kingsley kills 3 (or was it 4?) people he blames for his son's death. Alec Baldwin defends him in court. Amy Irving cries a lot and sleeps around.

Rules of Engagement -- Ben Kingsley is rescued by Samuel L. Jackson. There is no talk of a Royale with Cheese. (Note: "Pulp Fiction" joke)

Sexy Beast -- I loved this movie when I saw it, but I cannot for the life of me remember anything about it now, except that there is a nice swimming pool in Ben Kingsley's backyard.

AI -- TERRIBLE movie. Just unbearably awful. Horrible, horrible, horrible. But Ben narrates, and that makes it worth a rental right there.

House of Sand and Fog -- having a great day? Wish you were so depressed you just wanted to curl up and die? Rent this movie!

So, there you have it, in a nutshell. Also in a nutshell, Ben's biography: he was born Krishna Bhanji on December 31, 1943 in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England. His father, a doctor, was of Gujarat (Indian) descent and his mother was an English-born fashion model/actress.

Originally, Ben had planned to become a doctor like his Dad. But when, at age 19, he saw a stage performance of Richard III with Ian Holm, he became a man with a mission, deciding to follow in his mother's footsteps and pursue the stage instead. His family, very supportive of his dream, encouraged him to change his name to something a little more marketable. The name he chose pays homage to both his father, who was nicknamed "Ben" in school, and his paternal grandfather, a spice trader in Zanzibar known as the "Clove King."

For the next several years, Ben worked steadily in theater, becoming a successful actor with remarkable speed. His first London performance was as the singing narrator in 1966's "A Smashing Day," produced by the manager of the Beatles. One night after a performance, John Lennon and Ringo Starr came backstage to try to encourage Ben to ditch acting and become a musician. But while he thought about it for a time, ultimately, he decided his true love was the stage. And thank all that is holy for that, because I never would have loved him had he ended up a pop star.

Ben's film career began in 1972 with a part in the thriller"Fear is the Key." But it wasn't until "Gandhi" in 1982 that Ben truly became a Hollywood star. After that role, which earned him an Academy Award, Ben has had steady work in films and television, creating a lengthy filmography of predominantly wonderful and successful movies.

Up next for Ben, who, by the way, is married with four children, and who, also by the way, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001, are no fewer than 8 promising projects. It starts out with "A Sound of Thunder," a sci-fi adventure based on a Ray Bradbury story, due out later this year. After that will come "Mrs. Harris," about the famed cardiologist Herman Tarnower and his brutal murder at the hands of his jilted lover, followed by "Valiant," which looks like it's going to be a somewhat comic WWII movie. In 2005, we'll have another film version of "Oliver Twist," this time directed by Roman Polanski, and "Oskur Fishman," described as "a surreal fairy tale, reminiscent of 'The Wizard of Oz'." Hmmmmm. I know not what to think. 2006 brings "Gambit," a crime comedy, and then, finally, the big budget, big cast, Ridley Scott epic "Tripoli."


MacGyver Factor Score: 97.433%. Yes, this is a man so busy actually scoring a date with him might be beyond possible. However, I can forgive him for being a workaholic, because aside from being busy, he's also gorgeous. And smart. And talented. And bald. And beautiful. And inspiring. And. . my virtual Boyfriend of the Week! Man, life as me just totally rules sometimes. All the glory, none of the dirty socks on the living room floor!

Boyfriend-Related Links
Sir Ben's Official Web Site
Ben's IMDB Page

A Ben Kingsley Fan Page

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