REMEMBERING HENRY GIBSON
Henry Gibson died on Monday, September 14, 2009, from cancer at the age of 73. Most remember Henry as a cast member of the 1960’s television comedy Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and an actor in movies like Nashville and The Blues Brothers. I personally and vividly remember him as a good father.
I attended high school with his sons. One of them, Jon, was a friend of mine. I lived in Santa Monica with my mother and sister. Jon lived with his family in Malibu. Like the children of other Hollywood celebrities who lived there, Jon was bussed each day (or driven) down the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Monica High School. At the end of the day he was bussed (or driven) up the PCH back to Malibu.
It isn’t easy being raised in the shadow of Hollywood and being buffeted far too early by media dreams. This is especially true for the children of people who are moderately successful at making a living being part of the Dream Machine.
I remember Jon making early plans to become part of that. His father encouraged him, but always made sure that Jon understood that making a living in front of or even behind the camera isn’t easy. Mr. Gibson told his son that there are good years, but there are also many lean years. He encouraged his son to follow his passions, but also encouraged him to formulate a back up plan just in case.
That plan was law school. First, UC Hastings. Then UCLA, where Jon studied copyright taught by the legendary David Nimmer. After that, De Laurentis Entertainment Group, Tri Star Pictures, and beyond.
I watched all of this happening from the side. While Jon was going to school, I was wandering from odd job to odd job. But I watched Jon struggle with the hard choices a young man faces when confronted by seductive and pragmatic competing futures. I watched as his father’s wisdom manifested itself, with the back up plan becoming the road traveled.
In time I was inspired by my friend’s example and took the advice his father gave him.
Over the years we’ve lost touch. The last time I saw Jon was when he was visiting Davis, where I was studying law, to see mutual friends. That was a long time ago. I don’t know if Jon is happy or content, but I remember him and, through him, I remember his father.
I remember you, Mr. Gibson. I remember you as a very good father. Rest in peace. Your children, and their children, prosper.