Where is D.B. Cooper?
Where is Jimmy Hoffa’s body?
How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?
These are the some of the enduring mysteries in life that are known around the country and perhaps around the globe.
But some mysteries can also be personal in nature and scope and I am not immune from these conundrums.
This is one such story.
Way, way back – in the summer of 1979 – I am spending part of my vacation at a Jewish summer camp. During this four-week session, one of the highlights was Visitor’s Weekend. For a day, our camp was besieged with parents, siblings, and other assorted relatives. This melange of humanity traipsed around our camp looking at our cabins, our pool, and our macaroni art.
It was during this specific 1979 version of Visitor’s Weekend that some random adult made a comment to that I have remembered nearly four decades later.
I’m sure science one day will be able to unravel the mystery of why we can recall certain trivial, one-off, non-traumatic events with such clarity years and years after it happened. Until that time comes, however, I will simply have to revel in the unknown as to why this comment from left field has stuck with me.
Back to 1979 and I am by our camp’s canteen, waiting in line, as my parents prepare to add more money to my account so that I can buy more candy during our free activity time. As we wait in the queue, the person behind me taps me on the shoulder and asks me if I am an actor. Now, I’ll say he was an adult because he was older than I was and to my young ten-year-old sensibilities anyone older than me was, ipso facto, an adult. For all I know, in reality, he could have been a teen sibling of one of my cabin mates.
Regardless of my questioner’s age, I respond to the gentleman in the negative and assert that I am not an actor, but I ask why he asks.
He tells me that I look exactly like a child actor he saw recently in an avalanche disaster movie. In fact, the tiny thespian (who I am a supposed dead ringer for) has two close-ups and one action scene where he dangles from a broken ski lift.
And that’s it.
That’s the extent of our entire conversation. It most likely lasted under two minutes but it has etched itself in my head. For years afterwards, in a pre-Internet era, I would research in vain for a copy of an avalanche-related disaster movie, but all to no avail.
After those years of fruitless searching, the memory of that canteen conversation fades but never goes away. Every once in a while over the decades, I would recall that I had a supposed cinematic doppelgänger out in the world but just as quickly my attention would become diverted and I would lose the thread.
It has been years since I have thought about my movie twin and if I had thought about him recently, I’m sure I could have found him via the Net, Web, and YouTube. As it was, it was serendipity that guided me to him in April of 2017.
I am a fan of the show Mystery Science Theater 3000, the program that lampoons horrible movies. I was beyond the Moon with excitement when I heard that the show was coming back and I was thrilled beyond overjoyed when all the episode were finally available on Netflix this month.
My heart truly missed a beat when I saw that the fourth episode of this newest incarnation of Mystery Science Theater 3000 would be the 1978 Rock Hudson – Mia Farrow (produced by Roger Corman) disaster film – Avalanche.
My mind snapped back to that 1979 summer by the canteen and the chance conversation with a random camp visitor. I wondered if this could be the film.
Short answer – yes.
At about thirty minutes into the MST3K showing of the film, during a party scene at the resort owned by Rock Hudson’s character, the camera pans to this shot…
Now, I have no pictures of me circa 1979 to show you to compare. I do have this snippet of a photo taken either 1980 or 1981 that – to my mind – shows a slight resemblance between myself and the young actor above.
I’ll let you be the judge.
As to who the young lad is in the rainbow-sleeved sweater, I have no idea. Later in the movie, the boy is identified as “Jason”. His character actually does hang from a broken ski lift. However, even though he does have a speaking role, his character is not given an end credit and even IMDB is no help.
I have had one mystery solved only to have another one opened up.
That’s my story.
P.S. As for the other questions that vex me…well, those are stories for another day.