Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bob Hoskins and Joe Young -- two acquaintances gone

Bob Hoskins and Joe Young probably had nothing in common, except that they died within 24 hours of each other this week, they both worked in show business (neither at the center of it), and I interviewed both of them and found them to be unpretentious guys who loved what they did. I saw only one of them naked, however.

I interviewed Hoskins exactly one hour after that event, in fact, coming from a screening of "Mrs. Henderson Presents" at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006. He would go on to get a Golden Globe nomination for the supporting role of a theatrical impresario who encourages female artists to disrobe by showing his all.

"It's GREAT, innit?" he said of that scene. "I'm not a brave man. But the girls had stripped off, and they were complete tyrants: 'You just ACT in this film. We're artistes. We show everything!' I said, 'I'll just get us into this scene, don't worry about that!' "

The cockney actor, who accurately defined himself as "5-foot-6 and cubic," gave many memorable film performances, including an Oscar-nominated role as a low-level gangster who fell in love with an elegant call girl in the 1987 "Mona Lisa." Here's the trailer from his best-known outing, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

I met Joe Young more than 30 years ago, when Antiseen -- at the time, one of the most hardcore bands ever to play the region -- did its second concert, at an "entertainment center" in Gaston County. He was driving the band's van down Interstate 85 and changing lanes nonchalantly, despite having no rear-view mirror. When I pointed that out and said we'd be in trouble if a cop pulled us over, he laughed. "If we get pulled, I have bigger problems than that," he said. "I don't have a valid driver's license!"

I'd been told to locate the least musically accomplished group in Charlotte for an arts series The Charlotte Observer was running. I tried to find a friendlier way to express that idea, but Joe got the point. "I know only three chords on guitar," he said proudly. "I'm working up to a fourth." But they were power chords, and that bewildered group in Gastonia was responsive once it got the point: This band functioned purely on energy and wildness, rather than musical sophistication.
Guitarist Young and lead singer Jeff Clayton anchored the band for three decades and through many changes in personnel. For all the T-shirts with profane emblems and bottles smashed against the forehead (a Clayton specialty), the two leaders were quiet and pleasant on the rare occasions I ran into them over the years. Here's a sample of their sound, taken from a 20th-anniversary concert I attended in 2003.

Hoskins got rich; Young did not. Hoskins became famous in Hollywood and London; Young drew fans to smaller clubs in the Carolinas. (Though Antiseen also toured German and Japanese clubs in its heyday.) Hoskins died of pneumonia in his 70s after a battle with Parkinson's; Young succumbed to a heart attack in his 50s.

But maybe they had one more thing in common: They never stopped loving what they did. They found a way to combine work and play, and I bet we'd all be a little happier if we could do that.