Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nostalgia and Goodbye Bolton Eckert

Tonight, I attended the fourth dance party in the past year held by my good friend Cora Walters, who will be a freshman at Reed College in Portland, Oregon in the fall. Cora and I starred in countless productions together as Red Dragon Players at Austin High, from Alan Ayckbourn's Round and Round the Garden (as Norman and Sarah) to George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara (as Undershaft and Lady Britomart). She is an incredibly smart and well-read young woman who has no problem with being completely pretentious in taste, which is probably why we get along so well.

Among the many attendees were my beautiful girlfriend Anne Goode, countless theater buddies from Austin High, and four of my best male friends - Bolton Eckert, Matt Potter, Lucas Loredo and Austin Kingsbery.

On the midnight car ride home in my 1988 Ford Bronco II, Bolton and I had an unusually nostalgic conversation about our friendship, which began in fourth grade at Casis Elementary School, and the many tragedies and celebrations that have come our way in recent years - the death of my father in 2002, which exposed nearly one-hundred fifth-graders to their first real funeral service; the suicide of two classmates, Blake Theriot and Ian McCormick (both hangings), in 2007; a tragic car wreck killing classmates Audrey Ducote, a lovely human being and one of my past girlfriends, and Lauren Hoffman in 2008; and the suicide of our friend's father earlier this year.

Why were we discussing such depressing matters on the way back to his house after a cheery 1980s dance party? I believe the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia was weighing heavily on Bolton; he leaves in only one day for his first year at Texas Christian University. He is on the brink of leaving his life as he knows it behind, something I can avoid facing for another two weeks - something that, I should note, I do not want to face. But his sadness was a forewarning of what I will be experiencing very soon.

I believe there is something very powerful and profound about experiencing great joy and great pain with a certain person over a number of years - a bond develops separate from any preexisting friendship - and that is exactly the sort of bond Bolton and I share. From the aforementioned tragedies to the much brighter times - the advance screening for The Departed (2006), a film that would soon become our cinematic obsession; our stay at Harvard University, where we shot and edited short films at a summer camp with The New York Film Academy; trips to everywhere from New York to Colorado - he is a friend with whom I have shared many important experiences.

Before he leaves for TCU, we are holding a screening tomorrow at his house of A Family of Sharks, a forty-five minute film I directed my freshman year of high school starring, among others, Bolton and Matt. The film, which is actually quite impressive considering my age and the production equipment available at the time, is a testament to these better days. Also in attendance at the low-key screening will be my girlfriend Anne, who has never seen the movie, and Matt and his girlfriend, Rebekah Yurco. I am looking forward to watching the movie, but I am not looking forward to Bolton's departure.

I will be posting many more goodbyes in the coming days, as my best friends depart for their first, second, or third year in college. I will also write essays on my wonderful experiences with The Red Dragon Players and at Austin High School in general. Why? Nostalgia. Even someone as critical of cheap sentimentality in Hollywood movies as I am must admit to sometimes getting very emotional about the good ole days.

Incidentally, Bolton's relative is the legendary, Oscar-winning playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote, who sadly passed away at the age of 93 this past March. Because of the efforts of Bolton and his family, I had the chance to meet Mr. Foote on several occasions, including at his 90th birthday party in New York City in 2006, and talk to him in great detail about my ambitions in acting, writing, and directing. Mr. Foote, who won Oscars for writing To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Tender Mercies (1983) and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for The Young Man From Atlanta (1995), kindly wrote me a letter of recommendation last October that I was able to send to colleges. His incredible influence and support of young artists will be the topic of a later post.


  1. Jack there are just a handful of people in the world who are familiar with perhaps your cinematic debut - the infamous "Happy Birthday Bolton Eckert" VHS which has given us countless laughs overs the years. Jack I will never tire of following your artistic endeavors, and wish you the best as you take off for your grand NYC adventure. All the best. Wheel Eckert.

  2. Dear Jack, your writing causes me to pause and conjures up many, many wonderful memories. Much love and best of luck to you always. Love Leslie Eckert.