“Print is dead… I collect spores, molds, and fungus.” – Egon Spengler, Ghostbusters, 1984
Who would have guessed that a fictional character in a 1984 comedy about four scientists turned ghost catchers, could have predicted the fate of printed media just 30 years later. (Although not technically dead, it’s definitely on life support.) More importantly, who could have predicted a scrawny bifocal wearing young actor, writer & director could have made such a huge impact on pop culture as we know it.
If you’ve ever watched a movie Harold Ramis had a hand in, then no guessing or predictions were required; you just knew.
As most of Geek Outlaw’s four loyal followers know, I aim to keep the blog relatively light on drama and heavy on humor. With the passing of a comic legend, this is undeniably a sad time. Nonetheless, I will do my best to keep things as light as possible considering the circumstances. Mr. Ramis would have wanted it that way.
For those not familiar with the man outside of his onscreen role as the brainy Dr. Spengler in Ghostbusters, Ramis was born and raised in the windy city of Chicago, Illinois back in 1944. His career started off with SCTV (aka Second City Television), which was quite literally the Canadian version of Saturday Night Live, albeit colder and with an over use of the word “Eh”. It was the well-known comedy club where Ramis met John Belushi and Bill Murray. It was also the comedy talent pool where stars like John Candy and Rick Moranis emerged from.
Unbeknownst to those who don’t use Google, Ramis’ first noteworthy co-writing gig happened to be a current college cult classic, National Lampoon’s Animal House (starring Belushi) Coincidence, I think not. From there, he went on to co-write Meatballs, which was the first of many collaborations with friend and actor Bill Murray. Ramis wrote and produced another little title co-starring Murray that a few of you might have heard of called Caddyshack. In addition, he not only helped write, but also co-starred in their next project together, Stripes. A few other hardly known fun facts include Ramis’ voice work as Marty the Moose in National Lampoon’s Vacation, which he directed as well.
Ghostbusters followed suit right after those films, but Ramis also went on to write, direct, produce and act in several memorable films which include, but are not limited to; Back to School starring Rodney Dangerfield, and Analyze This (and That) featuring Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro. As a whole, many argue the crown jewel of his career is another Murrary classic, Groundhog Day, for which Ramis was a writer, producer, director and even worked himself in the small onscreen role of Punxsutawney’s only Neurologist. It’s the kind of hard work that makes the 40-hour week seem like a cruise to the Bahamas.
Nevertheless, even when taking into account the entirety of his career accomplishments, Ramis will always be remembered for Ghostbusters, and even more specifically, Egon Spengler. We often hear stories of actors and actresses whose panties get flustered at the thought of being remembered for one specific role they played. I never met the man in my life, but based on his continued work on trying to hammer out a script for a third Ghostbusters movie with co-writer Dan Aykroyd and his public interviews expressing hope a second film sequel was made, Ramis didn’t come across like one of those actors. Keeping on the slight tangent of another Ghostbusters film, all I will say is there is no Ghostbusters without Ramis, just as there is no Ghostbusters without Murray, Aykroyd, Ivan Reitman and yes, even Ernie Hudson. Ghostbusters is still a true classic today because it is the sum of all its working parts.
From the acting, to the writing, to the directing and the chemistry between good friends, the film will stand the test of time because all of those things came together in a way that can never be recaptured in another Ghostbusters film (as proved in part two). It was the equivalent to capturing a genie in a bottle. Without Ramis’ writing or portrayal of Egon, it wouldn’t have been the same. With his passing, maybe for once, Hollywood will leave this franchise’s genie alone. Hell, if anything, Ghostbusters 3 was already made in the form of the video game released back in 2009 for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Not only did Ramis and Aykroyd write the script, but they provided their likenesses and voices for the returning roles of their characters, as did Murray, Hudson, William Atherton and Annie Potts. Those like myself that played the game all the way through, should realize it was the third movie. It was for both the actors and the fans not satisfied with the sequel. In the end, it should and (for the love of everything, it better) serve as the Ghostbusters’ final chapter, and an excellent one at that.
“We eat gods for breakfast” = Classic Egon.
On an even more personal level, the passing of Ramis was tougher on me than I had expected. Yes, there have been other actors whom have passed whose work I have enjoyed immensely, and yes I can honestly say Ramis wasn’t my favorite actor or director of all-time. What he was however, was a comedic genius and from all accounts, a great person. He will be sorely missed.
To appreciate why this hit me harder than almost all other entertainment deaths before it, one must first understand where I’m coming from, and unfortunately there are probably few people outside of a psychiatric ward that would (and even they don’t get paid enough). You see, at the youthful age of 6-years-old, seeing Ghostbusters on the big-screen was one of the first things I remembered from my early childhood. It stuck with me like my love of Twinkies, growing exponentially with each passing year. If you measured that love of Ghostbusters by today’s standards, “it would be a Twinkie… thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds.”
Thus, when Ramis passed away at the relatively young age of 69, it was in essence like losing the very first piece of my childhood. If you grew up as a youngin during the 1980’s, you might be experiencing the type of grief this Outlaw is as well. In a weird geek pop-culture way, the loss of Mr. Ramis really hits home because when the people responsible for the entertainment you grew up with start to move on from this world, you start to think about your own mortality and the mortality of the ones you love around you. It’s also a solemn reminder that actors are people too. They aren’t invincible like the films and shows we love that freeze them in time indefinitely.
Despite my receding hairline, the increase in wrinkles, and the decrease of memory (mostly a male issue), it took the passing of a Ghostbuster for me to realize that I’m indeed getting older, and everything within the world around me is getting older as well. Instead of 36 going on 15, I now feel like 36 going on 21. With that in mind, even though I’m a self-proclaimed super geek for all things Ghostbusters, while I’m indeed extremely saddened by the loss of an actor that depicted one of my favorite fictional characters, this in no way compares to the devastating experience of losing my own family members, close friends or pets for that matter. On that note, my thoughts and prayers go out to Ramis’ family and friends.
For generations upon generations to come, Harold Ramis will be remembered for making people laugh and doing it well, be it in front of or behind the cameras. More importantly, in the hearts of many, Mr. Ramis will always be a Ghostbuster, he will always be Egon Spengler, and he will always be a reminder to never cross the streams… well, almost never.
When you get to where you’re going Mr. Ramis, don’t forget to tell them about the Twinkie.