Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mad Dog Buek Died!

I've been crying for almost the past four hours. No one in my family, animals included, has died, and my boyfriend didn't break up with me again. The cause of my sadness is a movie. It's the worst kind of movie where sadness occurs because it happened in real life pretty much the way it happened on screen.

The movie,   The Other Side of The Mountain, is the true story of Jill Kinmont, an American skier in the mid- 1950's who was almost a sure shot to make the 1956 Olympic slalom skiing team.  She was ultimate the victim  of what has come to be known as "The Sports Illustrated Cover Curse." It's become almost legendary that if an athlete's picture is featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated , the U. S.'s weekly preeminent sports news coverage and feature magazine, shortly before an important athletic event, having been pictured on the cover of the magazine will not bode well for the athlete.  Typical examples of the Sports Illustrated Cover Curse are of the nature of Sugar Ray Leonard's career-ending TKO  loss to Hector Camacho in his comeback bout the same week he appeared on the cover, the end of Pete Rose's 44-game hitting streak the same week he appeared on the cover, and Tim Tebow's appearance on the cover of the magazine after a six -game win streak of his team, The Denver Broncos, after which the Broncos immediately lost their next three games.  Jill Kinmont's encounter with the Sports Illustrated Cover Curse, however, was a bit more grim. Competing in The Snow Cup in Alta, Utah in 1955, in arguably unsafe conditions, Ms. Kinmont struck and icy bump and suffered a near-fatal accident that left her paralyzed from just beneath the shoulders.

Ms. Kinmont could have basically given up and watched soap operas and fixed game shows  for the rest of her life, but she didn't. She fought policy in different educational institutions for the right to enroll in programs and to earn a degree and a teaching credential. She was successful in both endeavors. She taught for somewhere around thirty years, mostly in and around Bishop, California, where she grew up.  She wrote an autobiography, A Long Way Up, on which The Other Side of the Mountain  was based.

For those who lived through and followed Jill Kinmont's career and life, the events of the movie came as no surprise. I think I saw a picture of her in a wheelchair somewhere on the DVD cover, so the skiing accident itself did not totally catch me by surprise. I had hopes that she would regain the ability to walk, though.  A particularly difficult-to-take scene in the movie came when her boyfriend at the time, Buddy Werner, also a champion skier, came to the hospital to visit her to see a surprise she had in store for him.  Expecting her to stand up from her wheelchair and walk across the room, he was shocked when the "surprise" was Jill's taking a potato chip from a bowl and eventually getting it into her mouth. Werner walked out, never to see her again.

That scene,  however, paled, in comparison to what was to come. Somehow Jill became hooked up with the wildly irreverent and politically-incorrect-long-before-the-term-was-ever-invented extreme athlete (again, before the term was invented) Dick "Mad Dog" Buek. He helped Jill through her rehabilitation and the two fell in love. One of my favorite scenes in the movie was his marriage proposal to Jill, where he tells her something to the effect that he's going to build a house with low sinks and other handicap-accessible features, and if she won't marry him, he'll find some other gimp (his word, not mine) to come live in it with him.

Buek was a pilot, and he flew frequently from his family's home in Colorado to Jill's home in  Bishop to visit her. On a planned visit not long before their marriage was to take place, his plane crashed and he was killed. This wasn't Hollywood. It was real life!  How could such a thing be allowed to happen? Why would anyone who controls our destiny allow such a thing to happen? And to Jill Kinmont, of all people, who had already been paralyzed and had her life as she knew it taken from her, and had her boyfriend Buddy Werner walk out on her because she ate a potato chip instead of walking across the room as he had anticipated.=?  And if it did have to happen, why in the world did my parents intentionally show me a movie about it?  Don't I see enough depressing sights in the world around me every day? Don't we all? Did they have to show me something from forty years ago that would make me this unhappy?

It's not as though I was sitting around, feeling sorry for myself, and in need of a cinematic kick in the pants to see that there was once someone else in the world who had it worse than I do. I know I've had my share of bad luck, but I get over it anytime it happens.  Furthermore, I've had my share of good luck as well. Myositis is nothing, and I know it. I'll be back in school in weeks. I'll be in law school or medical school in about eighteen months. I'm not feeling sorry for myself. In the grand scheme of things I have a great life. I was happy until about six hours ago when my parents put on this horrible movie.

For the record, Jill Kinmont went on to find another love of her life. She married him and was with him until she died last year of undisclosed causes. I'm happy that she found happiness with someone else and went on with her life, but in my Hollywood-jaded mind, her life with Mr. Boothe, the new guy, could never have  been what her life would have been with Mad Dog Buek. That's pure conjecture, I admit, but it's one more reason I did not need to watch this movie.

I know that tragedies of more epic proportions have occurred throughout history.  King Herod had babies killed. jesus dies on a cross.  I know all about the Titanic. There's even a movie about it, although if I watch it, I already know how the non-fictionalized parts will end. I know about the Holocaust and the Nazi death camps. I choose not to watch movies on the topic, but if I did watch them, I would know in advance that the ending would not be positive for the majority of the Jewish people incarcerated there. I know about the school shooting in Connecticut.  If anyone ever makes a movie about it, I won't watch it. But even if I did, if the movie were true to life, the tragic parts would not catch me by surprise.

Mad Dog Buek died, and I'm in absolute mourning. It happened about fifty years ago, and I don't care. It's like it happened this afternoon.





15 comments:

  1. That sounds like a good movie. I might have to see it myself.

    That Sports Illustrated curse is interesting. You're too young to know about Kristie Phillips... I mean, you probably have heard of her, but you weren't around when she was competing. She's my age and when she was 14, everyone thought she was the next Mary Lou Retton. She was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and then promptly went down the tubes. She missed the 1988 Olympic team by a very slim margin. They named her a "second alternate", which meant she would only get to Seoul if one of the other athletes got hurt... and none of them did.

    She later came back in her late 20s, early 30s and competed... She served as a stunt double for a horrible made for TV movie called "Perfect Body". then she opened her own gym.

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  2. dear you,
    I was 12 in 1975 and saw the movie; The Other Side of The Mountain. I too, felt deeply for Jill, that she went through so much and then to have Mad Dog die. But when I saw the second movie, I was consoled a bit that she went on and became a teacher, and I too, grew up and carried on with my life.... Tonight I went on youtube and pulled up The Other Side of the Mountain again....and then thought, I have never 'googled' her...........which I did, only to find out she passed away last year. Condolences to the family and her friends and past students. I know she was an inspiration to me and can only imagine the inspiration she was to others close to her. Rest in Peace Jill, and thankyou. I hope you are teaching many in the beyond....and flying down your mountains again!!!

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    1. I saw both movies back when I was 14. I cried my eyes out at the passing of Dick Buek. I was thinking about Jill Kinmont Boothe,and I too googled her and was in shock to read that she had died last in 2012. I can't believe this didn't make our news. I am still in mourning =(

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    2. Belated thanks for both replies and any others that I have missed.

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  3. Yes, she did pull herself together, and she went onto do amazing things with her life. She was a great woman.

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  4. Audra Jo's paralysis sucked, too. This movie always hitches my breath, even just thinking about it. We visit Donner Lake often, where Dick died...always think of him. Sob. Great post! 🎿

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    1. There was so much incredible sadness from so many angles in the whole story. thanks for reading and commenting.

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  5. That was the saddest movie I ever have seen. Gut wrenching! I just couldn't stop crying through it. That was horrible how Buddy walked out on her, then when Dick was killed, I just completely lost it. Everyone in the Cinema burst into tears. She was a remarkable woman up until her death.

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    1. Yes, she was remarkable. I think that has to be the saddest story ever, though, even if the ending worked out OK.

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  6. I'm right there with you!! I'm still not over Dick Buek dying!! I had never, and have never since, seen people filing out of a movie theater with tears rolling down their faces! I saw the movie as an 11 year old when it first came out, and still can't explain the hold it had over me. I saw it at least six times in the theater, and that's quite a feat for a child! Then I read the book which inspired me anew, and I've read it countless times since! What an inspiration Jill and her story continue to be!

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    1. Did you read the follow-up or see the sequel movie, Les? I'm so glad Jill went on to have a happy and fulfilling life, but still, I will not get over Mad Dog Buek's death. That's not how things are supposed to happen in real life. If someone had written this as a novel and had written it with Mad Dog Buek dying, the movie screenwriters would have just reversed it, as they did at the end of "My Sister's Keeper" which, I thought, was a lousy reversal, but that's beside the point. Since it happened in real life, however, the film-makers were stuck with the story as it really went down.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  7. My dad knew Dick and Jill back in the day. Mad Dog really earned his name. My dad told stories of how he broke his arm and Dick and his sister drove from Sun Valley to Soda Springs to stay at the Octagon House with my dad while his arm healed. How Dick would fly his airplane under Rainbow Bridge on the 40 (now Donner Summit or Donner Pass Rd). Or his plane under lift cables banking around the towers (I would give my left nut to see video of that). Or the time he flew his airplane so high he passed out. Or the time Dick learned Sign Language, Dad was deaf, after the two met for the first time. Then Dick proceeded to teach all the employees at the lodge the two were staying at but refused to teach the bosses just so the employees can talk smack without the bosses knowing.

    Dick was also a motorcyclist and broke bones while riding. Winning first after breaking half his bones in San Francisco and third while wearing a metal back brace.

    Dad never talked about Jill much. I didn't even know about her, or the movie, until I saw a photo of Jill and Dick hanging in a lodge, Sun Valley I think, and asked about it. He seemed sad when we talked about her that day.

    I'm not sure, but I suspect I have photos of my dad and Dick together, probably at Sugar Bowl where they had houses at the time or wherever they competed like Chili or Germany.

    Dick, Jill and my dad and alot of others like Schroll sported balls of tempered steel, my dad was still competing on the slopes at 36 in 1957.

    If you want to know more about Buek, Jill or Earl, Norm Sayler is still alive and runs the museum near Sugar Bowl (at the flashing light) at Donner Summit. Norm personally knew them.

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    1. The stories are marvelous. It's an amazing piece of history of which your father was a part. Thanks so much. I would love to know more.

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  8. I understand how you feel but I hope you went on to watch :The Other Side of the Mountain Part 2
    It is a beautiful love story, too.

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    1. I watched it. i'd already read her book, so I knew in advance that it had a happy ending, but it was nice to watch nonetheless. i hope her life was every bit as nice as was portrayed in the movie if not better.

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