Whoosh! Issue 67 - April 2002

HOW I ADMIRED AND STILL ADMIRE KEVIN SMITH
By Erica Li
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
3243 words


China (01-03)
New Zealand (04-05)
Looking Back (06-12)
Othello (13-19)
Post-Script (20-24)
The Loss (25-29)
Articles
Biography



HOW I ADMIRED AND STILL ADMIRE KEVIN SMITH



And in New Zealand, not only can you wear the sheep but they're good eatin' too!
Kevin Smith, 1963-2002

China

[01] China, should I love you or hate you? Should I curse you or bless you? You raised me as a child, you enriched my life with your culture, and you inspired me with your spirit. Yet, you also happen to be the place where the life of my hero was absurdly and untimely taken. Your foreign soil was the last thing he saw. How should I think of you?

[02] Kevin, your death was a sickening waste of talent, a criminal loss of an invaluable, irreplaceable life. How many in the world have a passion for rugby and painting at the same time? How many have your rapier wits as well as your humility? How many actors care about family and friends so much more than fame and glamour? How many seem so regal, so giant-like, so larger-than-life, and yet so funny, so approachable and friendly in manner? Hollywood may never know you as a great thespian and a wonderful man, but we know. You are gone, but your passions, your accomplishments, your supporters, your ambition, and the uncountable friendships you forged, they survive. They survive.

[03] Benjamin Franklin once said, "a long life may not be good enough, but a good life is long enough". You lived well in 38 years. I only wish to live with your passion, your brilliance. You have loved and inspired others. You brought out the best in many of us, and you are loved for as long as the spirits of your family, friends, and supporters live, in return.


New Zealand

[04] New Zealand, you are a democratic country, but you were blessed with a prince. Only those of us in America fortunate enough to have learned about Kevin's life, work, and attitude, know deeply about how he shone like a camellia against the desert. But you have nurtured him, celebrated him, and have become proud of him as an artist. I feel your pain at the loss of one of your most distinguishable sons.

[05] Suzy, Oscar, Tyrone, and Willard; Geoff and Yvonne; Mr. Bruce, Ms. Lawless, and Mr. Hurst; family and friends of Kevin: I do not know what to say to you. I resent all those "It's going to be okay", those "Oh, this is life and it's unfair and God knows why" cliché they throw around at painful times like this. I just do not know what to say, except thank you for having been the rocks and foundation for a great man. I can only hold out a sincere heart.


Looking Back

[06] I was fourteen when I first became interested in Kevin Smith's work, and by the time I write this, I just had my 19th birthday. For five years, I admired Kevin. For five years, his work and the friends I have made because of him enriched my life. Some of my best writings were done because Kevin inspired me.

[07] If you are a teenager, it is crucial for you to look up to someone, to have a hero who is both larger-than-life and down-to-earth at the same time. Kevin was exactly that to me, more so than any other famous figures in world history. Shakespeare, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mozart were all great men, but none of them lived in my lifetime. Kevin, in contrast, was so real, so accessible, and yet still so heroic.

[08] The death of Kevin Smith has been the most personal one that I have ever experienced. Thus far, I have been blessed with a loving nuclear family and a small circle of close friends. I do not ever recall feeling this hung-up, this upset, this depressed about any individual's death, not even those of extended family members. Kevin's life and disposition captivated me. Through his death, I have finally experienced, and not just intellectualized, the pain of losing someone. I hereby pay tribute to the man who, through his distinguished career and vibrant personality, had such tremendous influence over even strangers living half a world away.

[09] I wrote an essay in May 2000, published in Whoosh! #44, about why I admired Kevin so much ("Reflections: Why I Admire Kevin Smith"). I was seventeen at the time. The tone of my essay was so objective that it almost had an academic ring to it, and re-reading it just now, I feel that it betrayed my feelings. It downplayed the importance, the joy, and the satisfaction of having a hero.

[10] Although not expressed in that first essay, I was jubilantly celebrating back then. I grieve with a leaden heart now. Having a hero is a deeply subjective, personal experience. Reading the essay I wrote two years ago, I suddenly remember how I used to stand in the magazine section at Borders Bookstore, or sitting in front of the computer, searching for articles and websites on Kevin Smith.

[11] I was enthralled by not just his looks or career, but the way he treated his life, colleagues, friends, and fans. When people talked about Kevin, they always mentioned how respectful he was to every individual he meets. They say he always made the people he talked to feel as though they were his friends. What a rare quality for a star!

[12] I also remember that I used to communicate with Kevin's other fans through e-mail, exchanging tapes and information on his newest work. I was always so delighted to see the diversity of Kevin's talents. Being a single-faceted expert in one single field is so prevalent in the present-day workplace that seeing Kevin's diversity of interests and talents was so heartening, so enriching. He was like a cornucopia in the midst of a fallow field, with all his talent and vivacity amongst a nonchalant and dreary world. Seeing his loss feels hollow, void, and vacuous.


Othello

See Xena.  See Xena run from my wrath!  Run, Xena, run!
"…it is the cause, it is the cause, my soul…"

[13] Of all things, I remember meeting Kevin Smith in October 1999 at the San Francisco Creation Convention. I was in my sweet sixteen year, a junior in high school at the time. During Kevin's time on stage, I asked him to read the haunting "it is the cause, it is the cause, my soul" (Act 5 Scene 2) speech from Othello, which I brought along with me. Kevin actually wanted to do the war room scene where Othello explains to Desdemona's father how he and Desdemona fell in love, but neither of us could find that richly romantic passage. How we both wished Michael Hurst were there!

[14] Kevin was surprised that I went so well prepared with the book and all, and said, as I remember succinctly, "Aw, you just want to see me cry, don't you?" I was pleasantly amazed by the sensitivity of the man who was six feet three and three-quarters, a stalwart ex-rugby player. My cheeks were sore from smiling, both from excitement and from nervousness, as Kevin held my book and read from it.

[15] During autograph session that day, I showed Tim Omundson a photograph of Kevin at age 11 ("Pssst, Tim, this is Kevin!"). Tim's jaws dropped when he saw how differently Kevin looked as a child, chubby and a little girlish. Then I suddenly became aware that Kevin was right there next to Tim, about to sign the photograph I had ready for him. I remember my heart almost jumping out of my throat, but with smiles, I tried to camouflage my anxiety. I showed Kevin his photo at age 11, too. He laughed and said "I was eleven!" as he put down his signature "K" with a large circle around it on another picture I had for him, in gold. I gave him an amusing article I found that explains why men cannot dance, and Beth [Kevin Smith Fan Club President] helped put it in a box behind them. In retrospect, I was excited, hyper, and a little rash, but ultimately it was a sweet, short, and unforgettable moment.

Donny Osmond Wannabe
A proto-god of war

[16] I was the first to raise my hand to ask Kevin another question about Stanley Kowalski the next day. Kevin pointed at me and joked: "You're going to make me read another play!" He remembered me for 24 hours! This clearly demonstrates how much attention and respect he paid to even the most peripheral individuals in his life. Ah, memories, brief as they were. Ironically, those were genuinely good memories. Even in an incredibly sad time like this, these recollections always make me smile, even laugh a little. That was the power Kevin has. He was an incredibly funny, clever guy, so even in death, he is able to make us smile at the memories, until we return to the present and realize, over and over again with disbelief and horror, that he is gone.

[17] Every time I feel his loss, though, I cannot help but imagine how the grief is a hundred-fold for the family members and friends who truly knew him, who truly have memorable moments with him. If Kevin gave me, a mere fan, such memories by just appearing on TV and on stage, how much more was he to the people actually in his life? God, please help his family and friends and all the people who were touched by this extraordinary man.

[18] On my shelf now sits the copy of Folgers' hardcover Othello that Kevin held at around 4 PM, October 16, 1999, a date that is now frozen in time. After the convention, I "stole" this copy of the play from my high school, and repaid my school with a much shabbier paperback copy. It is true that my meeting with Kevin was extremely brief, but I had to get into a huge argument with my dad, work for my mom, rack my brain for ideas of raising money, get embarrassed by being chastised on a mailing list for asking for money, sell an anthology that published my poetry, give up junior prom, plead with my friend Lanna to pay for a big part of my tickets, and rush through the PSAT I had that October 16th morning, all in order to make it to the Creation Convention that starred Kevin Smith. It was all worth it.

[19] During one of the two autograph sessions, I told Kevin I would give up my prom to meet him, if I must. I still remember my dad, who ended up being open-minded enough to let me go to the convention, picking me up on top of Nob Hill Masonic Center at midnight, after Kevin and company's cabaret debut. I felt satisfied, rejuvenated, and happy, and I have that beautiful hardbound Folgers' copy of Othello to remind me of it all.


Post-Script

One!  Singular sensation...
Tim Omundsen, Joel Tobeck, Kevin Smith, and Danielle Cormack

[20] I am two years older now, yet I have not stopped admiring Kevin Smith. My admiration for Kevin was not some adolescent phase that I would grow out of, as some ignorant people might think. It is not some crush a teenage girl has on some TV heartthrob. It is a much more profound, much more heartfelt, much more sincere feeling. It is the feeling of being inspired, being touched by the radiance of a special human being, the light of a unique individual.

[21] Many things happened between the time when I met Kevin and today. I got into college. When I applied to Stanford, the application essay prompt was: "If you could live the life of anyone, real or fictional, who would it be and why?" I wanted to write that I wanted to be Kevin Smith, but I feared that the admissions officers would not have a good enough idea of who he was. I ended up being admitted into Stanford by writing about R.P. McMurphy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by the late Ken Kesey. Now that Kevin is gone, I regret that for the sake of getting into college, I had to be a little less honest than I could have been to the world.

[22] After reading about so many horrible events happening in today's world in the headlines, I can truly see that the world is indifferent, weak, pragmatic, and even downright absurdly violent. Kevin's passions, dreams, and grace were the antithesis of those worldly qualities. Having spent almost two quarters at Stanford, I have met few that are as colorful and passionate as Kevin, although intellectuals supposedly surround me. I am sorely disappointed at the level of nonchalance, the lack of passion, the immaturity, and the shallowness that pervade college students. Someone like Kevin, who thought that he was "never the golden child", who admitted that "things didn't come easily to [him] at school", who "never had a future before", has put many of us who have successfully entered the gates of the Ivory Tower to shame. Few of us can match Kevin's "rapier wit", his "staggering intellect", and his passion and talent for drama, humor, music, and life. The majority of the people in prestigious universities do not come close to having that spark, that gleam, that magical aura in their personality, despite their alleged intelligence. Kevin had it all.

[23] Many things happened since I met Kevin Smith, indeed. In my previous essay, I lauded Kevin for being a patriot to his country, and wrote that I wished I would learn to become as patriotic as he. Then came Black Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Every day following the horrendous attack, I would check the news for new progress of the war. I would wake up every day, and the first thing that came to my mind was: "Oh, d--- reality, America is at war!" My heart went out to the 3000 families that were shattered, but inside me, there was hope that America would do everything she could to protect her citizens, to bring the terrorists to justice. It seemed that there was something to be done.

[24] In contrast, after hearing about Kevin, there was a feeling of paralysis. At whom could I have gotten angry this time? It was an accident, right? Or does this speak anything about the intrinsic evil and absurdity that exists in this world? After hearing the news about Kevin, my nights have been disturbed by insomnia. When I find myself drifting off, I would often shock myself back into full wakefulness by thinking of the ordeal that his wife and children are going through. I have tried as hard as I could to be in solidarity with them through my thoughts, although I know deep down that whatever I feel, his wife and children are feeling a hundred times more sharply. Even if I do fall asleep, I always wake up to the thought that someone who inspired my spirit is dead. My mind would race during the day, finding little solace in the beauty of the sunny Stanford campus. World, O world! To me, it is like the mornings in the weeks following September 11, happening all over again. D--- reality! That is the first thought every time I wake up. What on Earth could we do as a response this time round? What? WHAT?


The Loss

I'm glad you won the award, but did it have to be for a show that's absolute crap?
Kevin Smith about to win New Zealand's highest acting award for Best Supporting Actor 1995 for Marlin Bay

[25] Slowly, I have come to terms with Kevin Smith's death. Slowly, the shock wears off, but the sadness, the regret, and the void remain. As I sigh deeply at the egregious loss of a great talent who had so much promise, it came to me that we should celebrate friendships and human relationships in honor of Kevin. The friendships Kevin was responsible for creating are among the greatest monuments to his plethora of brilliant achievements. The cast members of Hercules and Xena are like a family. There exists such camaraderie among those who worked on the two incredible TV shows.

[26] Furthermore, Kevin Smith was the reason why many of the fans got together and became great friends. Because of Kevin, I met my friend Lanna, with whom I have had some of the most heartfelt conversations. Lanna and I have kept in touch for four years, and have talked about everything ranging from Kevin's life and work to politics to religion to our own hobbies. We even have traveled long distances to visit each other's family. The support that we offer each other is utterly invaluable at a horrible time like this. Kevin was not only an inspiration to me as an individual, but was responsible for creating friends out of utter strangers from all over the world.

[27] Kevin Smith's life may have been unjustly cut short, his theatrical career may have been untimely curtailed, but he has left behind legacies that only great men leave behind. He will always be known for his amazingly approachable and friendly attitude towards colleagues and fans. He will always be famous for being a great husband and father. He will always be celebrated for his talent and his cleverness. To anyone who has not known Kevin, all these must sound like tiresome cliches, but for those of us who have seen his radiance, his friendliness, his dream, his personality, his wit, his brilliance, and his potential, he was a hero who gave happiness to others.

[28] It is too difficult to sum up the past five years in an essay. Suffice to say that if I could be fourteen again, if I had known that the life of someone I was to admire would be untimely truncated, I would still choose to be a fan of Kevin Smith. Although I am deeply pained by his loss, I celebrate, albeit with a heavy heart, all the good that he has been responsible for during his short--but amazing--life.

[29] Requiem aeternam, Kevin. We love you. God bless your family and friends.


Articles

Erica Li, "Reflections: Why I Admire Kevin Smith." WHOOSH #44 (05/00)

Biography

Erica Li Erica Li
I'm currently a 19 year old freshman at Stanford University, hoping to major in Human Biology with an emphasis on environmental/conservation biology. I was born in Shanghai, China in 1983 and immigrated to America in 1993, at age 10. I have a dream that one day, I will go to New Zealand and live there for a period of time in order to study the unique wildlife and ecosystems there. Part of this dream comes from the fact that Kevin Smith introduced his country and culture to an American city girl like me. I'm sure that when I finally do it sometime in the future, it will be a pilgrimage for me, because it is the land that Kevin loved. I also have a goal of becoming versatile, like Kevin was. In addition to my studies in the sciences, I will continue to pursue literature and music, as well as interesting human relationships.


Favorite episodes: TEN LITTLE WARLORDS and TIES THAT BIND
Favorite line: Ares to Xena: "Action and power draw you like a moth to a flame. It burns inside you. I burn inside you. You can feel me there, like a fever." THE RECKONING
First episode seen: THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109)
Least favorite episodes: Pretty much the entire fourth season

 

 

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