I was saddened to read this past weekend of the sudden death of actor Bill Paxton. Paxton, sixty-one, died apparently due to complications following a recent surgery. He had a solid career, both in television and the movies, which spanned almost four decades. He was in a number of movies that I still enjoy watching, including "Apollo 13", "Twister", and "A Simple Plan" and a film that he directed as well, 2001's "Frailty". Whether his role was a starring or supporting role, he was consistently good.
My favorite Bill Paxton role was his turn as Chet Donnelly, big brother and principal torturer of high school nerd Wyatt Donnelly, in John Hughes' "Weird Science". If you are someone who grew up as a boy in a family with an older brother who was sufficiently older than you that he had the ability to make or break your day-to-day, then you appreciated Paxton's portrayal of the quintessential big brother. On the surface, it appeared as if his purpose in life was solely to antagonize and to marginalize his little brother.
However, as is the case in the typical big brother/little brother relationship, at day's end Chet never inflicted any permanent harm on Wyatt - or on Wyatt's pal Gary. He simply dispensed some "fraternal advice" that undoubtedly served young Wyatt well long after the cameras stopped rolling while ensuring that Wyatt was exquisitely well-prepared to tackle whatever awaited him outside of the four walls of his suburban home.
Trust me, I know of which I speak. One cannot grow up in a household where "Charlie Horse" is the answer - for several years running - to the question, "Who won the Kentucky Derby?" without developing expertise in this area. And four decades or so after Charlie Horse ran his last race on my arm or on my leg, the lessons learned then continue to serve me well presently.