A Farewell Nod and Shrug to Richard Schickel

I saw the film critic Richard Schickel just once. It was by the fountain outside the Bing Theater at LACMA a few years ago, during the intermission of a screening. I had just come out of the same screening alone and recognized him at once. He was standing across from someone, smoking and listening intently to what the man was saying, giving an occasional nod. He seemed to be accommodating.

I don’t like approaching public figures — my Midwestern conscience chides me, what is there to say other that won’t make him think you want something? like some wise words? or some reference? or a job? or an editor?

Perhaps I could say just thank you.

With that piece of business resolved, I waited until the man walked away from Schickel and let him smoke in peace before I leaned in and said something like, “Excuse me, I just want to say I admire your work a great deal, Mr. Schickel.”

To which he gave a nod and a little comic shrug, as if to say, I do what I can, kid. I do what I can, before turning away toward the rushing water of the fountain. Today that fountain at LACMA runs dry, except in my memory.

And that’s my Richard Schickel story. His work speaks for itself.

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