I’ve been getting hit with little nostalgia tsunamis over the past few weeks. Being 40, I’m sure this is just going to become a more regular event as I get older, but for now it’s still a rare enough occurrence that I find it remarkable.

On the whole, I’m not a big fan of nostalgia. Ian Shoales once described nostalgia as a sucker’s bet, “just a memory that’s made in Japan,” and I think he’s right. Nostalgia is irrational emotional detritus; the psychological equivalent of bubble-wrap. But today’s walk down memory lane is mild enough that I’m happy to sit and metaphorically pop the bubbles for a while.

A few weeks ago, Gary Gygax died. For those of you who played sports in school, Gygax was the guy who essentially created Dungeons & Dragons. And if you’re at all curious as to how big a force D&D was in my life, I still have my dice (a lot of them) and all my character sheets.

Once, in the early 80s, I actually played in a game that Gygax was running at GenCon. It was one of the more frustrating experiences of my life. No dungeon master in the history of D&D ever tried to apply all the rules, all the time. Except Gary.

In nine hours of play, I think we got through two encounters. He was surly, short-tempered and socially inept. In retrospect, I’m tinking Asperger’s might have been a likely diagnosis.

But it’s difficult to gauge the inflence Gygax had, not just on my life, but on our culture as a whole. Would we have had the resurgence in fantasy as a genre, or online RPGs like WoW without Gary Gygax and Chainmail, his tabletop minatures rules that spawned an entire empire he got almost no income from? I doubt it.

Also, Charlton Heston died today. I know he was a right-wing whacko, but Chuck Heston was a big part of my childhood. Like most kids, I thought I wanted to watch epics like The Ten Commandments (which is a horrible film) and Ben Hur(which is actually great until Jesus makes his way into the story at the end and the thing gets all sappy) when they came on around the holidays. But Heston also starred in a ton of the movies that passed for action and genre films in the 70s, and which played repeatedly on my local television station in the Saturday T.V. wasteland after cartoons went off.

I loved Heston as Richelieu in the Salkind Musketeer movies, not to mention the dozens of square-jawed heroes he played in numerous middling-to-bad movies Ialways watched if they came on, but never sought out; Soylent GreenThe Omega ManEarthquakeGray Lady DownTwo-Minute WarningAirport ’75

But, of course, the jewel in the crown (for me) will always be Heston as George Taylor in Planet of the Apes. I can’t even realistically guess how many times I’ve seen that movie. 50? More? How much of my childhood was spent watching Chuck Heston enunciate around those false teeth?

Ironically, last week I watched all five of the Apes movies back-to-back. I’ve never done that before, and it was… interesting. Obviously, I’d seen all of them (I even saw Battle in the theater), but I hadn’t paid attention to any of them for a long time, the way you don’t with something that you know well; it becomes background noise.

So I’d forgotten that Planet was actually a quite good, interesting movie. I’d forgotten that Franklin Schaffner directed it. I’d forgotten that Taylor is a complete counter-culture hippie, and I found it curious to think that Heston probably regretted that role in his later years.

I’d also never realized that Roddy McDowall isn’t in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Granted, Cornelius has maybe three lines in Beneath, and I suppose that’s why. And I’d forgotten how incredibly cheap the last three sequels are. They aren’t as bad as I remembered (though they certainly stink) but they really look like TV movies.

So, in honor of Chuck Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, and all the other deceased actors from the Apes saga, I’d just like to say:

Damn you! God damn you all to hell!

Whatcha think?

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