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Al Martinez

Morning coffee jogs memories of long-ago movies

September 10, 2007|Al Martinez

My favorite time of day, other than the cocktail hour, is the hour spent over coffee after breakfast, during which Cinelli and I discuss matters of enduring importance. For instance, what was the name of what's her name's father?

"First of all," Cinelli says, "who was what's her name?"

"The actress with big lips who adopts kids and is currently in the Middle East saving the world."

"Oh, yes, she's married to Matt Damon," she says.

"No," I say, "she's married to the other pretty one."

"Brad Pitt."


We sip our coffee in silence for a moment, the cat Ernie in my lap and the good dog Sophie at Cinelli's feet. The sunlight of another hot L.A. day slices through our whatchamacallits, the windows on the roof. Right. The skylights.

"But who was the actress," she says, not willing to let it go.

"Her father's an actor too. Jolly something?"

"Angelina Jolie!" she says with relief.

"That's her," I say grudgingly.

"Don't sound p.o.'d just because I came up with the answer first."

"You're always doing that. Wives shouldn't be competitive."

"Who tries to beat me out when we watch 'Jeopardy!'?" she says, adding quietly, ". . . and is usually wrong?"

"Let's just drink our coffee," I say, then, snapping my fingers, "Dustin Hoffman!"

"He wasn't Angelina's father."

"I know that, woman!"

"Don't call me woman in that tone," she says.

"Dustin Hoffman was in that famous movie with Angelina's father."

"Can you believe Hoffman is 70?" she says. "Only yesterday he was the kid in. . . . "

She looks off, thinking. I look at her thinking. This time I must be first or I will lose my breakfast standing.

" 'Rhinestone Cowboy'!" she says suddenly, smiling with contentment.

I have lost track of where we were. Then it comes to me. "That was the other pretty one," I say, avoiding the fact that I didn't know his name either, just that he was in "Out of Africa" and worked to be cuter than, you know, the blond actress who was in the movie about a bridge with the guy who was the mayor of Carmel.

"Not that pretty one," she says. "I'm talking about where Dustin played the part of 'Ratso.' That was 'Rhinestone Cowboy.' You're talking about the movie in which Hoffman has an affair with what's her name, Mrs. Robinson."

"What a great song," I say, singing a little of it. "God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson, heaven holds a place for those who pray, hey, hey, hey. . . .' "

"Hoffman was a great actor," she says.

"He still is. He's not dead. I remember him in that scene where the guy tells him what his future should be with that one word: 'Plastics.' "

" 'The Graduate'!" she says, jumping in, with a triumphant wave of her hand.

"Damn, woman, you did it again! If you want this marriage to last, you're going to have to quit this business of one-upmanship!"

"The marriage has lasted 58 years," she says, "and it will survive breakfast." She sighs wistfully. "Fifty-eight years. It seems longer."

"Longer than breakfast?"

"Longer than eternity."

"What in the hell was that movie?"

"I'm telling you, it was 'Rhinestone Cowboy.' "

"The actor who was with Dustin Hoffman in whatever the movie was wasn't in 'Rhinestone Cowboy'! That was the pretty one who is old now but has never gotten over being pretty."

"Richard Gere?"

"No, the other pretty one." It comes to me suddenly. "Robert Redford!"

"You know, maybe you're right."

It is a statement of such monumental importance that it causes the dog to look up, which causes the cat to reach down and give him a swat. The dog yelps and moves. The cat settles back on my lap.

"I am right," I say. "No question."

"We can't be here all day," she says. "I'm going to look it up."

She leaves for a moment and returns with a movie book.

"This is crazy," she says. "You can't find the actors in a movie unless you know the title, and this book doesn't list titles, which is what we don't know. It does say 'Rhinestone Cowboy' was a song, though. Period."

"I've lost track of the whole argument. What was it we were trying to remember?"

"Who Angelina Jolie's father is. You said it was Dustin Hoffman."

"I did not! I said he was in a famous movie with Dustin Hoffman!"

"It wasn't 'The Graduate'?"

"No. Angelina's father was a cowboy in New York who tried to become a male prostitute in desperation, and Hoffman, who was Ratso, died at the end of consumption." I sing, "Goin' where the sun keeps shinin' in the pouring rain. . . . "

Her lips are beginning to form a name. I can't let her be first again. Titles flash through my brain, and then it comes to me in a burst of light and bells and maybe trumpets, " 'Midnight Cowboy!' "

"Brenda Vaccaro!" she says.


"The woman he tries to charge for sex." Then: "Jon Voight!"

She's right, of course. I finish my coffee without saying another word while she goes about her work humming with contentment. It is a tune from the movie about the woman who uses an umbrella to fly. What's her name was in it.


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