ONE TIN SOLDIER
After I was out of the hospital from having brain surgery I was told not to go back to work for two weeks, and I couldn’t travel because the doctors wanted me around in case anything happened.
Nothing happened, but it didn’t take much time for me to get bored. I was relatively new to the Internet at that time and there was an Internet café of sorts right in town, so I would go there a lot and play around. I recalled having seen a website called www.billyjack.com and thought I would check it out, seeing as how I had been a fan of those movies way back when.
There was a chat room on the site and even though I was kind of a rookie with the computer, I had a pretty good idea what that would be and I clicked into it, and there was a couple of people chatting who welcomed me. They were serious about their fandom of Billy Jack and the philosophies and all, but they would also talk about other stuff and anything that would come up, really.
There were more people there at night and I got to know many of them and it was great fun. One night each month Tom Laughlin himself would join in and you could get on the list to talk with him a bit. Tom Laughlin, by the way, is the guy who made those films. He produced them and wrote them and acted in them and directed them. So it was a big deal when he came into the room, believe me.
I signed up one night because I wanted to ask him about a scene in Billy Jack, which, technically, is the second film in the series, the first one being The Born Losers.
Anyway, I asked him about the scene in the ice cream shop and if there were two dummies, mannequins, placed at a table to represent people. He said no, but I don’t believe him, maybe he forgot. “Watch that scene and you’ll see what I mean.”
There was a big gathering of chat room people in Los Angeles one weekend and I flew out there to meet some of them. We had one big room reserved for us to hang out in and we sat and talked and drank lots and lots of beer. I’d never been in California before and was fun to be in a place you have heard about but have never seen.
The second day was the big one. That was when Tom himself would be there, accompanied by his wife Delores Taylor, who played Jean in the movies.
We all settled into the big room and everyone expected to hear a lot of stories from him, but he was actually more interested in hearing about us. So we went one by one and told our stories and when my turn came I talked about how I came to discover the website and all because of this acromegaly illness. While I was talking one guy interrupted me and Delores said, “wait, I want to hear more about Mike.”
That was a proud moment for me.
She asked about the acro thing and I told her what I knew, which wasn’t much at that time. Tom said, “But the tumor is benign, right?” I told him it was and he said, “thank God.” And that was another proud moment for me.
It was neat to sit there and talk with the guy who made those movies, silly though that may seem. I don’t know what exactly he thought of us, but he did say he did not completely understand the chat room thing or how it worked. When he is in there a woman named Robin does the typing as she relates the questions to him and he answers.
A few months later I was back in the hospital for my second surgery of the transsphenoidal variety and as it happens that was a night where Tom was due to be in the chat room, which I did not know at the time. Later on somebody showed me a transcript of the beginning of the chat and a friend of mine was the first to address him and she told him that I could not be there because I was in surgery but I say hello. He immediately responded, “Our Mike? From Chicago?”
Do I need to say it? Proudest moment yet. He remembered me after all that time.
And now, of all things, there is a similar chat room, more of a support group of Acromegaly patients, with many lovely people who are there when you need them and even when you just want to say hello.
The Billy Jack room was fun. The Acromegaly room makes my life.