New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - July 24, 1997, New Braunfels, Texas
Herald-Zeitung □ Thursday July 24, 1997 □ 7Al
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trntnfwTom Berenger rides high in TNT’s Rough RidersBy Luaine Lee
When actor Tom Berenger was 8 years old he visited Mount Rushmore. Teddy Roosevelt was one of the mammoth carvings on the face of that famous mountain. And bet been fascinated by the nations 26th president ever since.
“He was the only one from the 20th century,** says Berenger, “I don’t think there’ll be another one up there.”
For people who can’t visit Mount Rushmore, Berenger offered a little treat as he starred as the indefatigable Roosevelt in Rough Riders on TNT Friday at 7 p.m. And like the president before him, Berenger found that a bully pulpit.
The actor, who starred in The Substitute, Platoon and The Big Chill, read 17 books on the subject before he donned the young cavalry soldier^ woolly uniform and began the charge up San Juan Heights.
He studied film footage and tape recordings of Roosevelt^ voice to absorb the sound and posture. “I noticed that his right foot went Old a little bit. And if you practiced that, you found it changed your own gait,” says Berenger.
Berenger wasn’t always so gung-ho about what he does. When someone
on a train or in a bar would ask him what he did for a living, he would always lie.
“I wouldn’t say I was an actor. I’d say I was a teamster or one time I told a guy I was a grommet salesman. You know, those round plastic or metal holes that shoe laces go through. That ended THAT conversation.”
Ambivalent about his chosen profession, Berenger is something rare in Hollywood, a man* man. “A John Wayne-Clint Eastwood” kind of guy is the way Robert Mandel, director of Berenger % movie The Substitute describes him. But it* more than that.
You can see it in the roles he’s played. He personifies the steely soldier in The Dogs of War, Born on the Fourth of July and Rough Riders, in which he plays one of the true heroes of that famous battle.
It was his vicious, scarred sergeant in Platoon that people remember with a shudder. And even his private eye in The Big Chill or the seduced cop in Someone to Watch Over Me managed to vibrate with Berenger’s masculine undercurrent.
All of that sounds pretty smooth. But to Berenger it’s been a truly rough ride.
Married twice, the father of five kids, a lot of his professional life has been scrambling to stay afloat.
“I remember my partner said, sitting on the steps in a place he was reoUog.. IO. South Carolina, and he said, 'You’re not really grown up till
you’ve almost died, you’ve had close friends or a member of the family that died and raised children.”'
Berenger fits that formula. Bom to a blue-collar family in Chicago—his mom was an orphan and his father's father had deserted the family during the Depression—Berenger shocked his parents when he showed an interest in acting. fJ
“Life was about work,” he says, “you pay the rent and make sure your kids get a good education; simple goals. My mom still says, ‘Do you have another job? Is another job lined up?’ She still worries about that.” After school he traveled around the country working as a bell hop, an editor on 16mm film and selling memberships in a health club.
Five months after he ventured to New York he snagged an acting job. He did an off-Broadway play, some radio Voice-overs and a year on the soap One Life to Live. He also studied acting.
Things were going well. Then, in 1980, his career “went down” is how he puts it.
“I had one agent who was a coke-head sending me scripts that were already cast. He was in L.A. and I’m in New York. He* trying to keep me busy. My other agent was an alco-holic and couldn't get to the office in the morning and my manager was an alcoholic.” Crossing his legs at the ankle, his thin, faded Levi’s crinkling at the knee, he says, “I separated from my wife and fired all of them within the same week. — It was like a hat trick in hockey I and I got rid of all of them. It f was like the weight of the world U was off me.”
But it took him three years to recover, and it hasn't been exactly a seller’s market since.
“At that point I didn't have any naive opinions about the business anymore,” he says, shaking his head, “and the business had changed too, for the worst I think. So it’s almost like in someways I wish I'd lived in a different period, maybe in the '50s and ’60s when studios were ending
Sisters rely on each other for childhood memories
“Talking to the Dead” by Helen Dunmore: Little, Brown; 304 pages; $21.95.
What the reader knows for sure from the prologue of this novel is that the narrator’s sister has died and she is grieving for her. But early on, we begin to suspect dud career-woman Nina, who tells the story in first person and present tense, is more than a little jealous of her sister, Isabel, who has chosen the opposite life path of marriage and motherhood. Still the most beautiful of the sisters, Isabel lives with her husband, Richard, an internationally known economist, in the country, where she passes her time tending a lush walled garden.
The reason for Nina Is visit is that the birth of Isabel* first child has resulted in a ruptured uterus and a hysterectomy, and Richard has solicited Nina’s help in caring for his wife when business takes him away. In his absence the sisters have many hours during which to reminisce about their childhood, which at first appears to be carefree and happy - or was it? The sisters remember events differently, and Nina realizes that without parents to verify her memories, she is at the mercy of Isabel* stories.
Separately and together, they conjure up a picture of themselves as children of a distant, artistic mother and an absent father. Isabel, who is three years older than Nina, recalls what life was like before her sister was bom and then explains what it became once she defaulted into the role of being her younger sibling* caretaker. She char
acterizes herself as her sister’s protector - but was she?
The galvanizing event in both of their lives was the death of their infant brother, Colin, a late, accidental baby who replaced both of the girls in their parents' limited capacity for attention and affection. Coling death 25 years ago is assumed to have been from crib death - but was it? The sisters’ memories are vastly different, and the reader ’s interpretation is clouded by the jealousy that warps and consumes both of them. To add to the confusion is Isabel* ongoing downward spiral from an eating disorder and agoraphobia into madness.
Dunmore1* prose is at once spare, almost to the point of being minimalist, and yet engorged with sensual imagery. A lump of butter melting in a pan becomes a prelude for one sexual encounter. Another takes place near a fermenting compost heap under a cherry tree.
In a relatively short novel, Dunmore manages to explore deeply hidden memories and emotions, and to do it from more than one point of view. There is not an extraneous paragraph, though the narrative is rich with language. And in the end, we think maybe we know what happened to baby Colin that changed everyone’s life forever -but do we?
• Glenda Winders
“What Makes Winners Win: Thoughts and Reflections From Successful Athletes” by Charlie Jones; Birch Lane Press; 176 pages;
At a time when athletes and their high demands have made countless fans cynical, Charlie Jones has written a book that provides a contrast, built around idealism and inspiration and told in the words of superstars. “What Makes Winners Win” gives fans of all ages a look at the philosophies of more than 150 athletes, coaches, managers -and author-compiler Charlie Jones.
The anecdote-packed volume is highlighted by some of Jones’ personal experiences taken from 50 years as a sportscaster at events ranging from Super Bowl I to the Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic Games. One of Jones’ most amusing stones is his recollection of seeking his first radio job at age 15 in Fort Smith, Ark. He walked into the small station, auditioned and was hired to start immediately.
At age 15. he had one problem with that: “I can’t nght now. Mother’s waiting for mc in the car.”
Two hours and two pean ut-butter sandwiches later, Jones was on the air for a shift that ran from I p.m. to midnight With that inimitable voice and his great knowledge of sports and its athletes, he has been broadcasting ever since.
A resident of La Jolla, Calif.. Jones is an icon. He is available for every assignment, from helping local chanties to being honorary Holiday Bowl chairman to starring in a spot in a film that helped bring Super Bowl XXXII to San Diego.
In his book, Jones quotes San Diego Padre Tony Gwynn on the philosophy
that helped build his winning attitude: “They can measure everything you do on the field but they cannot measure what’s inside of you and what dnves you. .
“It’s easy to cheat yourself and do just enough to get by, but that’s what everybody can do, just enough to get by. But those who want to be successful and maintain that level of success have got to push a little bit harder and do a little bit mort.”
Olympian Bruce Jenner says, “I determine my future. I don’t let anything on the outside of me determine my future. I’m in control. The crowd doesn't have anything to do with it, other competitors don’t have anything to do with it, the jet that* flying over doesn't have anything to do with it. lf I’m going to do well, it’s going to come from inside me. That's what’s going to determine it. So you just focus. Everything just goes ‘zip,’ nght inside.” Lee Trevino once explained to Jones
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and they started doing more films on location and actors were independent”
A year later Berenger was in a serious car accident. “I broke my hip, my knee cap and couldn’t get the door open. I crawled out the other side; I don’t know how I got 20 feet down the road in the rain, there was a blank in there. Then I remember looking up and this kid was saying, ‘Mister, don t move. Don’t get up.* I tried to get up and knew I’d broken my leg or something,” he says.
All that housecleaning he had done the year before left him alone and unemployed. So he did a tour in Japan, a play in Milwaukee, a movie in Italy. “It wasn’t very good. but I got to meet Marcello Mastroianni and learned Italian.”
Married 10 years to his second wife and the father of three small children, Berenger has begun producing his own projects, including the four-hour miniseries Rough Riders.
“It just made sense really, the next step,” he says of producing. “I’d be at home and reading dreck, a lotJa scripts I read are just temble. I don’t see many good ones. So I think this producing thing is really the ticket, the only way for me to get decent work. It’s no reflection on my agents, but I’m just not getting it, so I create it.”
Luaine Less w rites for Knight-RidderTribune.
his brand of talking while golfing for big stakes: “Five seconds before I execute the shot, I can concentrate on exactly what I want to do. I can shut it all out and then open it back up again.
“I think I was trained when I was younger. We never played in a twosome or a threesome, we always played eight guys, IO guys. 12 guys, we played in one large group, so there was always a lot of talking. You were joking and everything, and you’d say, ‘Wait a minute, let me hit this shot.’Then you’d go ahead and hit the shot ”
Bill Walton was a great collegiate and professional basketball player who suffered from numerous injunes. His advice was, “Use the crowd to feed your body the great pain-killers that allow you to push beyond the normal levels of pain.”
“What Makes Winners Win” is for all who look tow ard the better side of athletics.
- Herbert G. Klein
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