By David Templeton
Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to interesting movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. This time out, he sees the star-studded Sleepers with marketing executive Jack Nao, the determined fellow who earned a day out at the movies by bidding high at a fundraiser the Carousel Fund, a children's charity.
JACK NAO is bubbling with enthusiasm. He arrives at the theater bearing gifts: a book of photos of the Grateful Dead, posters and sample prints of a painting of the late Jerry Garcia, and examples of his work as a national marketing executive specializing in rock-'n'-roll collectibles. Beaming, he says, "I've had so much fun talking about seeing this movie today that it's already been well worth the money I paid for it!"
An explanation: Nao was the winning bidder among several charitable movie fans who competed in early October to win a featured role in this column. The event was a black-tie auction for the very worthy Carousel Fund, an organization that raises money to assist families in which a child is suffering a devastating illness. Carousel not only provides financial support so that parents can remain home with the child, but also helps with medical costs and other vital needs. Nao, national marketing manager for the Petaluma-based Global Internet Inc. is a longtime supporter of the fund. For no particular reason, he bid the film in the contest.
"Let me show you what I've been working on lately," he says, as we wait for the matinee to begin. He unveils a photograph of a bronze bust of Garcia, glasses perched on his nose, hair flying. "Isn't this beautiful? There were only 50 of these made, and I've been designing the marketing campaign. I wanted you to know what I'm playing hooky from," he laughs.
And speaking of marketing . . . Sleepers, starring Brad Pitt, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Kevin Bacon, has made excellent use of its A-grade cast in selling this bleak, often horrific tale of four boys brutally abused at a Hell's Kitchen reformatory, and the astoundingly complex revenge that, years later, they take on their perpetrators. Though the "revenge is OK if you can get away with it" message is suspect, the film is compelling and well acted.
After the movie, as we take our seats in a nearby restaurant, the topic of discussion is the depictions of sexual abuse the young men suffered, and how it affected them as adults.
"Remember when the former girlfriend kind of made an overture," Nao recalls. "You could see that he was totally uncomfortable with that intimacy. I don't think the scar ever heals. That's what I got from this."
"But it can heal," I counter. "People have experienced even worse things and have gotten on with their lives. I kept wanting them to go out and find a good therapist."
Nao nods. "That's one thing that the movie did really well," he says, "it showed what happens if you don't talk about your damage. Here they're saying, 'Let's not talk about it. Let's never bring it up.' They're doing just the opposite of what they should be doing. 'Let's suppress it. Let's not worry about it.' And that's what I think fosters revenge and hatred and all that stuff that comes up after that.
"I don't know if we're going to change anything," he shrugs. "That's the thing you gotta recognize. I was a hippie in '65, and I really believed it. I thought peace and love and understanding were going to happen. And then from '73 to '79, I watched the whole thing just disintegrate. We went from trying to get a higher level of consciousness to just getting high. Our society is now so locked into feeling good, we're not happy unless we have a nice family, a nice shirt, a nice car.
"America is so bloated. The reason that so many countries hate us is that we are really selfish. We're less than 7 percent of the world's population and we use 90 percent of the world's goods.
"My newest pet peeve right now is Bill Gates," he laughs, "because I think, 'Bill, you're worth about a zillion, billion dollars, and you're doing nothing.' Even Andrew Carnegie in his day, when he was a world-famous billionaire deluxe, he gave each one of the cities a library. So I say, 'Bill, how do you sleep at night? You're making lots of dough, but you're not giving any of it back.' I mean, what are we here for? There's no reason why we can't share."
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From the October 31-November 6, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent
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