I was reading up on the latest in Charlie Sheen’s exploits when my youngest son popped in.
“It’s Charlie Sheen, one of my favorite actors from back then.”
“Ohhh. He looks old!”
Yes. Yes, he does. And not necessarily wiser.
As a teenager, each time I heard the name “Charlie Sheen” I didn’t think of the actor. I thought of the roles he played.
Sheen was just one in a group of young actors (the Brat Pack, if you will) who starred in movies that helped shaped, I think, my growing up years. So when his/their names come up, I think of favorite movies and characters, of touching stories and well-loved lines. I think of my youth and all the memories that are connected to these movies.
See, back then, we didn’t have pin ups of these actors with their shirts off. We didn’t have internet and entertainment magazines that kept us up to date with their lives away from the movie set. I just knew that this name went with that face, and that face belonged to the actor who played the character of so-and-so. And I fell in love with those characters to whom the actors lent their faces and voices. And that was enough.
I remember watching Young Guns with my sister Shai and some friends. One of them thought Sheen was the best in the group and I can still remember how upset she was when he died first. I remember making fun of her. I preferred Billy the Kid, Emilio Estevez’s character. Yea, Billy!
And then there was 1984’s Red Dawn. I don’t care how implausible the story was, who couldn’t help but yell “Wolverines!” with the guys as they fought with sudden combat skills the invading Russian troops? Yea, Wolverines!
There’s a host of other movies with Sheen in them: Platoon. Major League. Courage Mountain. Navy Seals. Men At Work. Rookie. Hot Shots. Terminal Velocity. The Three Musketeers. And the list goes on.
I think it was around the time The Three Musketeers came out that I stopped watching Sheen. Or maybe it was more like I stopped watching so many movies.
I’m not quite sure, but I think part of the reason I did was because it got harder to separate the actor from the character. Thanks to the paparazzi,gossip mags and entertainment news, we know everything we could possibly want to know–and more–about these actors’ personal lives. Apart from Johnny Depp and a few others, it really takes a lot of effort to leave all that you know behind at the movie theater door and get lost in the story.
But I digress. So back to Sheen.
Why write a blog about him? Because, apart from the nostalgia that his face evokes, he was a part of my growing up years. The characters he played fall into the bigger story of my life, and they have left a mark on me. Good or bad, those movies became a part of the framework through which I view my youth and childhood.
It’s always sad when faces from your past, especially faces that played characters you loved, die or end up messed up like Sheen. I think of Corey Haim from The Lost Boys. And Patrick Swayze from a long list that you would know too–but especially from The Outsiders. As I was the eldest in the family, Darry Curtis was my dream “big brother.”
In many ways, because I saw these actors as characters and not eye candy, and because their portrayal of their roles made those movies real to me, I always feel bad when things turn out badly for them. It’s like hearing about a neighborhood kid you grew up with who landed in prison. The relationship isn’t personal, but the memories are.