Saturday, March 2, 2013

R.I.P. Ric Menello

Yesterday I lost a good friend, Ric Menello. I only ever met up with him three times, in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but we'd been obsessive email pals for years, ever since my first book came out in 2005. He read it and reached out to me, and I will be forever in his debt; the guy was a walking film encyclopedia, and I learned enough from him to cover several film history courses. He was a rare friend, a wonderful guy.

Ric initially made his name in the 80s, directing influential videos for Def Jam artists such as the Beastie Boys (You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party), LL Cool J (Going Back to Cali) and Danzig (Mother). More recently he collaborated with James Gray on the scripts for We Own the Night and Two Lovers (Gray was so gracious as to give him a writing credit for the latter film). As so often happens, things were looking up for Ric; 2013 was to be his year. But a dickie ticker said otherwise.

Ric and I really bonded over Japanese film. He knew everything about classic Hollywood and Eurofilm, but Japan was his particular passion. He was a big Hideo Gosha booster, and was forever enthralled by Masaki Kobayashi. I recall pining with him for the lost Kobayashi film I Will Buy You (about corruption in professional baseball), and how excited we were when we learned that Criterion will be releasing it on disk in April. We shared so many obscure yet passionate fascinations in the realm of Japanese cinema. We both were big fans of character actors like Makoto Sato and Kei Sato (no relation). We gossiped about what really went on between Hibari Misora and Kinnosuke Nakamura. We beamed with joy at the success of Tatsuya Nakadai's protegee, Koji Yakusho. It was a fucking two-man Japanese film nerd convention!

BTW, I was sitting next to Ric when I saw Tatsuya Nakadai live at the Film Forum -- one of the best nights of my life. I'll never forget it: Ric was at the head of the line outside when we got there, in front of Vernon Dobtcheff (I inadvertently insulted him by assuming he was John Neville). We got in first and sat in the front row, just a few feet from the venerable Nakadai. Ric told me to go say hi to Teruyo Nogami, Akira Kurosawa's script girl, which I did. What a night.
Anyhow, what do you say when you lose someone? You can never put into words what you feel and felt, all the thoughts and interactions you shared. So I'll throw it to someone else, someone I never met but who seems to have a handle on late-era Menello. Long live the Mayor of Flatbush!

1 comment:

Peter Nellhaus said...

I was offline for a week and didn't find out about Ric's death until yesterday. Everybody who knew him has stories. Last time I saw Ric was in 1986, when I was in NYC for a Buddhist convention. I was back in Weinstein Hall, my first dorm at NYU, and Ric was at the front desk.