Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hollywood House Hunting: Taking the "Day Off"

"I heard that you were feeling ill -
Headache, fever, and a chill.
I came to help restore your pluck;
Cause I'm the nurse who likes to...(SLAM)!!!"

Like a lot of guys, I'm kind of a weakling when it comes to being sick.  I'll never make my illness anyone else's problem but I will be the first to shut the door, curl up in a ball, and refuse to emerge from my room until the last trace of phlegm has left the building.  Sick days are meant to be used and, as the old saying goes, "If you don't use 'em, you lose 'em."  Indeed, I have no compunction about taking the day off so as to avoid publicly suffering through the day, spreading my infectious germs hither and yon all over the workplace (Attention potential employers: please ignore this).  Honestly, if you think I look bad at full capacity, trust me when I say that you certainly don't want the vision of me in ill health haunting your dreams.  Yes, the best thing to do when one is under the weather is to stay home.  On the rare occasion when a "mental health day" is in order, I fully endorse the exploitation of that opportunity as well.  When there is adventure to be had, make like Ferris Bueller and take the day off!  And what better way to enjoy a day off than to see the house where Ferris lived?

"Bueller, Bueller, Bueller..."
The Bueller Home from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off was kind of a cinematic anomaly in our house.  It was the first/only PG-13 movie we were allowed to see at a time when my parents took the "13" very seriously (I was well under thirteen when the film was released).  On a rare "date night," my parents actually saw the movie in the movie theater; so smitten were they by the last time Matthew Broderick exhibited any kind of onscreen charm, they made sure that, rather than continuously borrowing it from the library, we owned a copy of our very own.  With other movies (all other movies) my mom would launch her person in front of the screen like some kind of human shield/missile interceptor to protect us from questionable cinematic moments like passionate kissing, profane language, and even intimated intimacy.  I'll never forget a little library rental starring John Lithgow called Traveling Man.  Confused by the NR-rating, I think my mom earnestly believed that the dad from Harry and the Hendersons would never make a movie to challenge her parental guidelines.  That delusion was the exact reason she was just a few seconds too late to block the highly-motivating talents of a rather-buxom exotic dancer, working hard to motivate Lithgow and a conference room full of traveling salesmen.  I think my mom "lost her library card" after that incident.  With FBDO, she always remained in her seat; she must've figured that the references and words we understood weren't too bad and the rest went right over our little toe-heads.  After countless viewings, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a venerated title around our house, oft watched and oft quoted.

Most guys liked Sloane (Mia Sara) but Jennifer Grey was feisty, and foul-mouthed!!!
The nose may change but she'll always be Jeanie/Shawna to me.

If I could never have Jeanie, there was always Grace (Edie McClurg) - GENIUS!!!

So impactful has this movie been on my life that I have spent many years chasing the dream.  Everywhere I go, I try to capture the Bueller mystique, starting at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Sent to the city on business several years ago, I made my work pals (a woman, another fellow, and me) pose like the famous statue, Portrait of Balzac (à la Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron).  In a very un-Ferris fashion, I was unsuccessful in my attempt when the one person willing to take our photo didn't understand what we were trying to do and then got distracted/hassled by an aggressive female docent.  Infuriated, all I could manage to say was, "What if you need a favor someday from Ferris Bueller? Then where will you be, huh?  You heartless wench!"

This could have been us!

Knowing the important place this movie occupies in my heart and mind, I felt it was finally time to go find the Bueller homestead.  While John Hughes' films are well-known for their Chicago setting, I luckily didn't have to travel quite so far.  Instead of suburban Chicago, the Bueller home is actually in Bixby Knolls, an historically-ritzy enclave of Long Beach, CA (who knew Ferris and Snoop Dogg were neighbors???).

The shutters are now blue, the trees have grown, but that portico
and hedge-framed circular driveway are unmistakably Bueller.

Confession time.  As much as I like to pretend I am a "righteous dude" like Ferris, in the imaginary recasting of the film, there is no question that I am Cameron.  I have my moments; I've been known to join a parade, dance and sing in public, enjoy the occasional ditch day, lie to my parents, and make my sister's life miserable, but I am really just a tightly-wound bundle of nerves, neuroses, and insecurities - think lump of coal/diamond.  I think that is why, nearly thirty years later, the film continues to resonate so deeply with me.  Quelling my anxieties, the film's message is to take chances, to enjoy life, to adventure, and to live in the moment (even if the moment is simply a short drive on your day off to see the outside of a stranger's house).  As Ferris says, "Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it."  And so I say to you, just "take a stand" and take the car...but don't kill the car.

The Ferris Bueller House
4160 Country Club Dr
Long Beach, CA


Mr. Tiny


  1. This was near where I grew up. Only I was in the lower rent district of town. But I went to school with friends who called that neighborhood home. I was so JEALOUS!

    1. I was so JEALOUS too as I explored the neighborhood. I'd never had any reason to drive through Bixby Knolls as a tourist before; those stately homes are unbelievable!!

  2. As soon as I saw this on instagram, I knew what it was and I immediately wanted to run through the neighbors yard, hop on a trampoline and casually walk by sunbathers. I am really pissed because my brother lived in Long Beach years ago and I never went there! Seriously that is one of my favorite films. I can recite every word. In middle school at some point we learned a bunch of slave hymnals in history class (like all predominately white suburban schools do) and when we heard "go down moses" all I could sing was "Let me cameron go." Also, don't feel bad...I wish I was a sloan, but I am a cameron, too!

    1. Camerons of the world, unite! Now I can't get the music from the running sequence out of my head!!!!!