America's movie critic is back and I didn't even know he'd been gone. As so frequently is the case, I get a great deal of information and even more inspiration from the CBS TV program, Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood. I tape it each week, just in case I'm not up at 9 AM and watch it sometime later. To my great surprise, shock and horror, I came to find out that Roger Ebert is not the man he once was. That is to say, as a consequence of thyroid and later salivary gland cancer, Rogert Ebert looks nothing like himself and he is non-verbal. Besides for having had a tracheotomy, half of his face has been removed. It is uncomfortable for me to admit this, but I found it difficult to look at him, perhaps because it was such a shock. I absolutely had no idea. Having said that, here is a quote that counters my immediate response. In April 2007, in an interview with WLS-TV in Chicago, he said, "I was told photos of me in this condition would attract the gossip papers — so what?" On April 23, the Sun-Times reported that, when asked about his decision to return to the limelight, Ebert remarked, "We spend too much time hiding illness." Fans at his website have remarked his public appearances have been inspirational to cancer victims and survivors around the country.
Roger Ebert and his wife of 18 years, a trial attorney, Charlie "Chaz" Hammel-Smith. Though he no longer can eat by mouth, he loves to cook. In the "Sunday Morning" interview, it was stated and evident that it is this relationship that has given Ebert the strength to go on.
I have been going to Ebert's website, rogerebert.com for a very long time, to get his review of movies before, and sometimes after, seeing them. In fact, just last Friday (New Years Eve), I was perusing his blog for a review of the movie, Black Swan. As for a review of Black Swan, that's for another entry (or not). I often agree with Ebert's reviews and just as often appreciate how he writes and what he chooses to discuss in them. Truth be told, when I went to this site, I though I was reading the film review column from the Chicago Sun-Times, not a blog. I can, of course remember watching Roger Ebert's TV program, "At the Movies" with Gene Siskel (I just found out that he co-hosted two programs with Siskel for a combined 23 years) and perhaps once or twice after Siskel's death, I may have watched Ebert co-host with Richard Roeper. But, I have known Roger Ebert best from reading his reviews. I was not completely aware that he had not been on television for over four years. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in early 2002. He had surgery and then in 2003, more surgery for salivary gland cancer, followed by radiation therapy, and in 2006 more surgery, which removed part of his jaw. He continued to have related health problems. But, he also continued reviewing movies and I continued to read them, knowing nothing about his health status and how this had affected his life.
Live and Learn!