Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Josh and I are up early. On the way to the airport to catch our flights home, Richard calls. He wants to come and have a coffee and say goodbye.

“When are you two going to see each other again?” he asks as we divide up the excess baggage.

“Oh probably not for a very a long time” I say, jokingly.

So he takes a hundred dollar bill from his wallet and rips it in two, handing us half each.

“This is so you can meet up sometime, and have a dinner on me”

It’s a nice touch.

We can’t quite believe this journey really is almost over, and the three of us wont be spending every waking moment together.

As we embrace and part ways Richard’s already on the phone. He’s heard Obama is in Vegas tonight and wants to hustle up some tickets.

It has been inspiring and frustrating and exhausting and remarkable and we’ve definitely got a film on our hands.

It has, as Richard would say, been real. And now we’re heading home.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The End?

Day 65 of the shoot. Richard is prevented from leaving Vegas by a burning car in the rental lot. It’s not over yet. He laughingly accepts the extra two days they will have to wait until the next Allegiant plane out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Proud to be an American

We drive back from Williams, dodging Memorial Day traffic cops the whole way. Quick pit stop beside the Colorado river for a picnic, which sounds a lot more idyllic than the jet-ski infested riverside dust bowl it turned out to be.

Recipe for an argument: lack of sleep, too many people sharing a room, large “unappreciated” financial outlay, family dinner (mostly meat).

Recipe for a make up (or temporary cease fire): more expensive Cirque du Soleil show tickets and ice cream.

The water show outside the Bellagio is impressive and inspiring when accompanied by Sinatra or Puccini, but plain nauseating when “Proud To Be An American” is playing.

The family walk together along the strip. There are smiles and laughter. Josh takes a quick break from filming to acquaint himself with some local ladies. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Grand Don't Come for Free

Amongst hordes of tourists, the troops are finally gathered.

“Next time you want to go on a family holiday why don’t you all come to mine and we can spend three days bitching on the front drive” says Greg.

Eventually everyone has used the bathroom, bought more water and/or a plastic poncho, eaten energy bars, changed socks, taken photos, run back to the car one last time, and we’re ready to head off. We hire a mule train to carry all of the camera gear:

As the morning mist lifts the Grand Canyon reveals itself to be every bit as spectacular as any photo we have ever seen. We hike down into its vastness. 

Richard yodels. The youngsters forge ahead. People talk. Bonds are formed. Richard lies down every 50 minutes, and makes friends with strangers. Scenes are shot. Amends with Lynn. Sweat and sunscreen and water flow. Previously unacknowledged muscles become vocal as the day unfolds.

Josh completes a full health and safety risk assessment, and then films the circling condors from an outcrop.

As we toil back up after a flash thunderstorm Richard and Barb spend some time alone together on the trail. “Is the going up worth the coming down?” Barb asks, refering to Richard favourite Kris Kristofferson song The Pilgrim. It’s the right question to ask on so many levels.

Barry Big B Brenner is playing in the bar at the top afterwards. A pint of Fat Tire never tasted so good.

Round the fire later the 3 siblings - Zac, Kelli, Greg - and the new kid on the block - JP - share stories about growing up with Richard. There are amazing tales of cars balancing off the edge of cliffs and guns and police and arguments and life.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Route 66

We saddle up and head out of town. We’re heading for the Grand Canyon via Williams, a small town on Route 66 where we’ve booked rooms.

We crawl across the Hoover Dam and pull in to the only gas station we’ve seen for hours. It’s impossible to make a quick pit stop. The coolers come out. Food is microwaved inside the store. Richard upsets the owners first by spilling last night’s doggy bag everywhere, and then by sitting in a ‘restricted area’. We finally manage to leave two hours later.

Opposite the Motel in Williams there’s a rowdy band playing in a bar that’s built around a Wild West-style courtyard with a bonfire roaring so we join the fun. Beers are a dollar and there’s a special on fish tacos. The news is all good.

Early Rising

I made the mistake last night of asking Richard to call when he wakes up. The phone rings at 5.20am. He’s just calling to say he’s shaving. This is not a good sign.

Josh grabs the camera and heads out. The sunrise is amazing behind the Vegas skyline. Richard makes for a 7am recovery meeting.

In the afternoon Lynn, Richard’s second wife, arrives. She’s come all the way from Vancouver. She’s the real reason we’re here - so that Richard can make amends. Everything else came later, when the plan expanded in a flurry of enthusiastic conversations and emails to become a reunion of all Richard’s significants.

She and Barb hit it off immediately. The dinner goes well. They compare notes, they both have horror stories.

Greg and Michelle arrive today too and meet the rest of the crowd outside the Cirque Du Soleil show Richard has bought everyone tickets to see. It’s a full house. Afterwards the family wander round the old part of Vegas. Spirits are high.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hustle Town

JP hasn’t slept. He was locked out of Richard’s room last night so ended up wandering around until 6am, via McDonalds, an illegal swim in the pool, Subway, and about 10 cups of coffee. He’s pretty wired, and very pissed off. He spends most of the day staring into space on various sofas around the hotel.

In the evening Josh and I head out of the city to try and film the skyline at night. A few miles out we climb a hill on foot to get a view. The earth is dusty and dry - this really is a desert. It brings home just how artificial the whole city is, shimmering gracefully in the distance.

Later, an epic dinner in an Asian restaurant at which Richard insists he wants to eat “the whole fish - head and eyeballs and all” and then spends an eternity immersed in a series of convoluted transactions involving discount coupons, new friends, and ordering entrees only instead of mains. Meanwhile he is also trying to hustle up someone local to book tickets to tomorrow night’s show at the MGM Grand. Locals get big discounts apparently.

This is a hustler’s town, and Richard is loving the hustle.

Son Zac and his girlfriend arrive later in the evening and the family catch a comedy show while we recce other locations on the strip for the family dinner tomorrow. We settle on the Mad Greek Cafe.