High Strangeness: This Means Something...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

This Means Something...

Here it is, the day before the big 40th anniversary re-release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the greatest UFO movie ever made, and I don't have a ticket...

But I have good reason. I'll ba making a road trip with my two daughters, delivering the younger of the two to school in Connecticut. When I get back I immediately have to shift gears and prep for the beginning of my Autumn teaching gig at DePaul in Chicago -- I'm teaching "Writing the TV Spec' Script" to a group of 14 young writers, so I have to be prepped and psyched -- can't take time off for a movie screening, no matter how historic!

That leaves me with one day, next Thursday, September 7 -- the last day of its seven-day run -- to catch the movie. So I will be among the last people in the world to see the movie, and so help me God, nobody better spoil it for me!

A couple of cool notes about the movie premiere, though:

I read this week that the character of Roy Neary could have been portrayed by Steve McQueen, but McQueen didn't think he'd be able to cry on cue. Imagine Steve McQueen sculpting that plate of mashed potatoes... The mind boggles!

Paul Hynek, the second-youngest of Dr. J. Allen Hynek's sons, invited me to a screening party in L.A. on Friday, but I had to pass. Still, I'll be there in spirit, as my publisher is shipping a bunch of books to Paul to pass out to his party guests!

Dr. Hynek's long-time friend, colleague and confidant, Jennie Zeidman, who has become my favorite pen-pal, told me that her son surprised her with tickets to a screening this weekend, and she's over the moon: "I have been chortling ever since," she wrote to me. "I first read the script at the Hynek Ridge Avenue house in Evanston. If that version had prevailed, the film wold have needed an R rating!"

Then she ended her note with this tantalizing tease: "If you send me a mailing address, I will send you something I found in an old file folder..."

Wow... I sent her my mailing address immediately, and now I'm consumed with curiosity and anticipation... What could she be sending me??

On a related note, I just did a really fun podcast the other night, and I hope you'll give it a listen when it's posted. It's the Binnal of America podcast, hosted by Tim Binnall. Tim is a great host, and we had a totally entertaining two-hour talk about Dr. Hynek and UFOs -- well, I was totally entertained anyway. But one thing that struck me about the conversation was the way Tim described how he had reacted to my book. He said he learned a lot about UFO cases that he thought he was pretty familiar with, and with cases he hadn't read up on before. He said the book was full of surprises and drama, as though I had written it as a screenplay (I had!). And he said that by the end of the book he really loved Allen Hynek as a person. In other words, he reacted to the book on a both an intellectual and an emotional level, which was music to my ears. Thanks for the ego strokes, Tim!

Finally, a bit more good news. Over the weekend I got my best write-up so far, from the Los Angeles Review. "O’Connell provides a sweeping look at all things UFO, skillfully weaving Hynek’s investigative role throughout the various touched-upon cases." the reviewer wrote. "In the end, readers are left with a book that smartly refuses to simplify anything." 

Yep... as a great mashed potato sculptor once said, "This means something."
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