I reckon so, even after his awkward chat with the empty chair.
Isn't it peculiar how some events that from every possible angle seem completely insignificant when it comes to the overall scope of our lives for some reason stick in our brains for decades longer than they should? I'm not talking about some vague recollection, either; I'm talking about being able to recall every detail of what just about anyone would think is a minor occurrence from long ago.
It was a hot, sunny summer day and I was a kid. It was one of those days, which occurred countless times in those days, when my buddy from across the street and I engaged in a detailed conversation over the phone, one of those antiques with an attached cord.
Then we'd meet in the street and do...whatever.
On this particular day, we probably ventured on the wet side of the dike behind his house to goof around by the river, long enough so old lady Anderson down the street would come out of her house to tell us we were staring certain death in the face by playing so close to the water. Then maybe we knocked on a couple of doors and ran away. You know, ding-dong ditch. Then we probably smashed some old Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars on the sidewalk that we no longer cared about. Before, during and after these activities, I'm certain that we tortured my buddy's cocky little brother, too.
Then we probably got hungry and went to his house to eat something. On this day, though, it was clear my friend was extra stoked to go into his house. His family had just purchased a new "Betamax" machine, you see, and he wanted to show it off. His dad was kind of into the western genre – he routinely wore cowboy boots and had a couple of cowboy hats hanging on hooks – and one of the first Betamax movies they'd bought was "The Outlaw Josey Wales."
We started watching it while depositing potato chip crumbs all over their living room carpet, and I'll never forget how stupid I thought that movie was. I couldn't even pretend that I liked it, and was overjoyed when my friend's mom came home and told us to get our butts outside because it was a beautiful day and boys shouldn't be inside on beautiful days.
Then I grew up, and wised up. I stumbled across the classic Clint Eastwood flick on some movie channel many years later and decided to check it out for a few minutes, just to see if it was as pointless and campy as I remembered.
Turns out, I loved it. I still love it. It's probably in my all-time top 20.
Of course, that film essentially set the stage for Eastwood's career. More or less, he's been portraying the Josey Wales character in just about every film he's acted in or directed ever since...the snarling, growling, take-no-prisoners guy who always seems to stare death in the face and live, even against seemingly insurmountable odds, is a hit with the ladies, has a wry sense of humor, and maybe even a tiny soft spot inside, depending on the script. The Dirty Harry films, his William Money character in "Unforgiven," Walt Kowalski in "Gran Torino," it's basically Josey Wales repeatedly.
And it's a good thing. Nobody does Eastwood better than Eastwood.
No doubt, I dug him even more as an actor and director when, a couple years ago, his film company purchased the Gran Torino story, written in part by my good friend Dave Johannson, a Crookston native and overall stellar fellow.
A great flick, that Gran Torino, and a great decision by Eastwood to direct it and star in it.
But then he goes and tries to ruin it all by suddenly becoming one of the biggest Mitt man-fans around.
Sure, I'd stumbled across hints over the years that Eastwood was one of those rare Hollywood types that leaned to the right politically instead of the traditional left. But he kept a low profile about it; maybe he was wise to the fact that sometimes Hollywood doesn't treat right-leaning Hollywood types as good as it treats left-leaning Hollywood types.
But, in what must qualify as one of those freedoms that comes with age – to do and say pretty much whatever you feel like – the 82-year-old Eastwood delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention in Florida last week. Not just any speech, either. It was the speech that led into Romney's speech in which he formally accepted the Republican Party's nomination for president.
The audience, really thinking outside the box, chanted Dirty Harry's most famous line, "Make my day." During his remarks, Eastwood conducted an awkward conversation with a chair, where an invisible President Obama was purported to be seated. In awkward yet refreshing fashion, he freelanced without a teleprompter scrolling a prepared script in front of him, which, considering the predictable yawn-fests that are today’s national political conventions, is practically cause for a lifetime sentence of hourly waterboarding.
Even so, the reaction to Eastwood’s performance, whether positive or negative, was overblown. It was an old famous guy talking on a stage. It won’t win Romney the White House, or secure it for President Barack Obama for four more years, either.
I reckon so.