Rain Man

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Are there real-life “Rain Men” who actually walk among us? And just what is a Rain Man, anyway? If we can agree it is a generally hopeless person, who is still able to do one thing, and only one, superlatively well, then, yes, it can be said that there are real Rain Men. Let’s take a quick look at just, who, back in the 80s, might have served as inspiration for the now world-famous movie character that Barry Levinson created.

Greg Ginn–Plays guitar well. Has problems with “everything else.”

H. Ross Perot–Good at making money, not so good at making sense

Michael Richards–“Kramer” is apparently so golshdarn funny they paint oil portraits of him. It’s a shame the person who portrayed him is so maladroit in nearly every other phase of his existence, up to and including stand-up comedy.

Joe Piscopo–His Sinatra imitation was impeccable. When he’s not doing that, he’s about as charming as the guy slipping roofies to your sister on her L.A. vacation.

Oliver North–Had a sharp eye for picking attractive secretaries. Not entirely certain what other purpose he served.

J. Mascis–Plays guitar well. Has problems with “everything else.”

When original casting choice David Byrne dropped out of the project after only one week (citing “religious differences” with co-star Tom Cruise) Dustin Hoffman stepped in. And he ran with it–all the way to the Oscars, where, unable to break character, he dropped the statuette on his big toe and fell into the large Japanese Temple-shaped cake that had been baked to commemorate Akira Kurosawa’s Lifetime Achievement award. All whilst cawing “Don’t burn the baby!!!!” like a deranged mynah bird.

Of course not–what kind of person would scald an innocent baby??

Stupid, stupid Rain Man.

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Steff from Pretty In Pink

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If ever a movie character managed to seamlessly blend the ridiculous and the sublime, it would have to be Steff (no last name, please) from Pretty in Pink. The ridiculous? This is high school, yet James Spader was 26 at the time and looked about 32. He’s purportedly a rich “preppie” from Chicago but instead of wearing Polo Ralph Lauren with some Brooks Brothers thrown in as rich preppie kids from the midwest would have done back then, he prefers baggy silk/linen blend suits paired with sockless smoking slippers like some rent boy from South Beach. Most, if not all, high school students have classes to attend, but Steff wanders the hallways of the school at will, puffing on cigarettes and peeking in windows like some Versace-clad ghost who somehow never received his copy of the student rules and regulations handbook.

The sublime? All of the above! Spader plays this shuffling, slouching villain so over the top that it actually works. That breathtaking mad flow, that insufferable clipped diction, that bulletproof hands-in-jacket-pockets insouciance! Not to mention the relentless browbeating of his milquetoast buddy Blane, his vicious, tactless “wooing” of Andie, and of course he and Duckie going all handbags on each other in a deserted hallway. (Steff’s contemptuous “Nice, huh?” just before spitting on the school floor is the single best moment in the movie, in my book).

And the hits keep coming:

“What, are you shopping for records or something?” (A query directed towards a guy flipping through records while inside a record shop)

“If you got a hard-on for trash don’t take care of it around us, pal!”

“When Bill and Joyce are through with you, you won’t know whether to shit or go sailing.”

“You got a problem, friend??”

And of course his piece de resistance: “The girl was, is and will always be NADA.”

Is it really any surprise that after graduation, he moved out to LA, changed his name to Rip, and started slinging ‘caine?