Sunday, April 7, 2013

Roger Ebert and me

       Back in the 1980s I wrote a book about homebuying. The publisher had just hired a new publicist, who sent me on a series of radio and tv book tours – through New England, all over Texas, New York, Philadelphia, around the Midwest -- famous stations I remembered from my childhood – KDKA in Pittsburg, WBZ in Boston.  It was downright exciting, and I felt as if I were in disguise playing with the grown-ups.   
       Two of the grown-ups I particularly remember.  One was Diane Rehm – can you believe? I actually found myself shut up in a little sound booth with the PBS talk show host.  She was impressive, and what’s more she’d actually read my book.  (Some other radio and tv hosts would greet me with a lazy “What would you like me to ask you?”)
        The other grown-up was Roger Ebert; it must have been in New York City.  An hour-long tv show had four 15-minute segments--my interview was one, and Roger Ebert’s was another.  Yes, my friends, I hung around in the greenroom with Roger Ebert. 
For some reason we started talking about the movie “Sounder”.  That was such a marvelous evocation of the life of Louisiana sharecroppers in the 1930s that, watching it, I had lost myself in that world, until, I told him, I was abruptly awakened.
       The scene was one the cinematographer must have been proud of – an early-morning meadow, mist rising, grazing cows, big white birds walking among the herd – wait a minute!  Those birds were cattle egrets, which couldn't have been there in the 1930s.  They were never seen on the North American continent until they established themselves in Florida in the early 1950s.  My sister and I had even photographed the first one ever identified in our area – and that was in the 1960s.
        Birders run into errors like that all the time, and Ebert had heard it before.  We compared notes on the scene in which Mary Poppins sings to the robin on the windowsill – and it’s an American Robin, never seen in England, no relation to the perky little British Robin.  Then Ebert was called to go on the set and that ended my brush with greatness.
        Back home when I told my sister about it, she had her own movie error to contribute. 
        “Everyone,” she said loftily, “knows that Shoeless Joe Jackson batted left-handed.”


  1. Edith -- you will have to tell that story on our next Nature Conservancy trip to Montezuma!
    So happy to have met you on our trip. Next year we will schedule the trip earlier in the year in hopes of more sightings. Good luck with the hot sauce! Jan Miller

  2. Was Esty a baseball fan?