Thursday, May 04, 2006

Curtis Armstrong, American Hero

I've sometimes used this blog space to tell stories of personal interactions with celebrities in the last year, and I've also used it to proclaim the greatness of actor Curtis Armstrong, who probably is most famous for his work as Booger in "Revenge of the Nerds." But never before have I written about an interaction with Mr. Armstrong.

Until today.

Granted, it was an interaction between Armstrong and one of my best friends, Jeff. But Jeff has given me credit for inspiring the exchange.

A little background: Armstrong, who also made quality cameos in "Risky Business" and "Ray," has always been one of those people I would celebrate with my college friends Jeff, Mark and Nate. You see, "Nerds" has a special place in our hearts, perhaps due to themes to which we can relate a little too much. At one point about five years ago, Mark and I were half-joking, half-serious about writing a movie screenplay, and if it were picked up, strong-arming the studio into casting Armstrong in a prominent role. Anything else, we figured, would be a dealbreaker.

On May 1, CNN picked up on a Hollywood Reporter story that progress had been made on a "Nerds" remake, slated for release next year. Disappointed by the news, I forwarded the CNN link the next day to Mark, Jeff and Nate. In the e-mails that followed, we expressed pessimism:

Jeff: "It will undoubtedly be weak. That said, I credit [the Hollywood Reporter writer] for being the first person, present company excluded, who I have ever heard describe 'Nerds' as 'seminal.' Somebody else understands, boys."

Mark: "Wait a minute. I've got a bad feeling about this... wait... this sucks...."

Nate: "They should just re-release the original in the theater like the 'Star Wars' special edition. It cannot be remade; the casting was too perfect."

Scattered among these comments were "Nerds" quotes that reference Omega Mu's presentation, poker terminology and Booger's etymology.

As much fun as this was, Jeff wanted a more authoritative ruling. So, yesterday, he went a step or nine further, reaching out to the only person who could set the record straight on whether remaking this American classic would be cool. My edits in red are for the sake of clarity, but according to Jeff, "The discussion below is absolutely, 100% real. You can all bow before me. I think this makes my decade."


From: Chamberlin, Jeffrey D.
Sent: Wednesday, May 03, 2006 12:22 PM
Curtis Armstrong
Subject: New Nerds?

Hi Curtis,

Thanks for all of the great work you've done over the years -- I am a huge fan!!

As one who regards "Revenge of the Nerds" as one of the seminal works of the 1980s, I was a bit dismayed to here that they are remaking "Nerds" in 2007. Seems to me that the magic of the original "Nerds" is truly irreplaceable. How do you feel about this?

Also, I've always been curious to ask you if Charles Demar
[Armstrong's character in "Better Off Dead"] was an offshoot of Dudley "Booger"
Dawson -- the two characters are obviously quite similar. What elements of Booger did you conciously bring to the Charles Demar character, and which elements of Booger do you regard as unique only to Booger?

Many thanks,
Jeff Chamberlin


Sent: Wednesday, May 03, 2006 3:28 PM
To: Chamberlin, Jeffrey D.
Subject: Re: New Nerds?


Thanks for your note. I guess I have to with hold judgement on the new Nerds. I honestly don't have passionate feelings about it one way or the other, it having been so long ago.

Charles De Mar was sort of an offshoot of Booger.
["Better Off Dead" director]
Savage Steve Holland was a great fan of both Nerds and Risky Business, so De Mar was like a bastard son of Booger and Miles Dalby [Armstrong's character in "Risky Business"], if such a thing were possible.

Best wishes,

Curtis Armstrong

Now this, my friends, deserves quite a bit of commentary.

1. For the e-mail to inform Mark, Nate and me of this life-changing, earth-shattering exchange, Jeff simply titled the message "CURTIS ARMSTRONG." In his next e-mail to me, Jeff said, "[It] was the discussion that you initiated that inspired me to revisit the Curtis fan webpage" and send the e-mail to Armstrong. (Note that Jeff said "revisit." 'Nuff said.)

2. Note how Jeff cleverly integrates "seminal" into his e-mail to Armstrong. Seamless.


4. Armstrong's turn-around time to reply to Jeff's e-mail? Three hours and six minutes. I'm guessing this a combination of fan loyalty, genuine generosity and general availabilty.

5. In expressing polite indifference about the "Nerds" remake, Armstrong seems to strike the ideal balance between appreciation for his contribution to fine cinema and moving on from a milestone that happened 22 years ago.

6. I like that Armstrong corrected Jeff on the construction of Charles De Mar's last name, but didn't make an issue of it in his response. Between this and his explanation of character development, Armstrong shows pride in his characters and exhibits extreme dedication to detail.


8. I love that for Internet Movie Database's biography of Savage Steve Holland, there are only two pieces of information. One's about Holland's junior high school. Then there's this nugget.

9. More commentary from Jeff: "I love the Booger/Demar analysis. Classic. I'm considering asking him some more Nerds questions without [ticking] him off. This is a gold mine -- I could ask him if Ted McGinley is really a jerk in real life, if he ad-libbed the poker conversation with Takashi ... . I mean, the bounds are limitless. I reiterate: I now have email contact with Curtis Armstrong."


So, although he certainly didn't ask Jeff or me for it, I'm going to give Armstrong a few plugs for his gracious reply and his overall awesomeness. Check him out in theaters in the critically acclaimed "Akeelah and the Bee," and on television as recurring characters on "American Dad!" and "Grey's Anatomy."