Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, October 1, 2007

Charles Durning: My hero

I love Charles Durning. Handsome and sweet, and in some of my favorite movies, such as The Sting, Tootsie, and The Muppet Movie, and the number one reason I kept tuning into one lovely TV show, Evening Shade. But I didn't know until last week that Durning was not only a veteran of World War II, but a genuine hero, awarded a Silver Star, three Purple Heart medals, and a Good Conduct Medal. And he was one of the few survivors of the infamous Malmedy massacre of American POWs. That massacre was discussed on tonight's edition of The War, though no mention was made of Durning's role. So I'm posting this just so's you know.

I wish I could get a photo of HIM holding my book!

By the way, Durning was in Duluth in the late 1980s filming Far North, which had one of the best movie soundtracks EVER in terms of bird songs. Of course, that's because the technical adviser for the bird songs in the soundtrack was Bill Evans, a noted night-sound authority and the man who created I have strange, tiny connections to both the movie and to Bill Evans. The film actor Donald Moffat honest to goodness went into KUMD to ask for a tape of MY PROGRAM!!!!! And he wrote the station a very kind letter about how much he enjoyed it.

And also in the late 80s, Bill Evans spent a few days keeping me company when I was doing "Dawn Dickey Duty" at the Lakewood Pumping Station. This was after I'd successfully fought US West's plan to build a 300-foot guyed, lighted cell phone tower on Moose Mountain, just north of Hawk Ridge, directly on the path where many of our raptors and nocturnal songbirds migrate. On the strength of my arguments about the potential for such a tower built precisely on the migration pathway, Lakewood Township's Zoning Board and Planning Board both voted unanimously to deny the permits to build the tower. After the 3-member Town Board reversed the vote (honest to goodness, one of them got right in my face and said "No damn bitch is gonna tell me a bird with eagle eyes is gonna fly into no guy wire!"), I filed in District Court and US West gave up and put up a 100-foot wooden pole cemented in the ground. The new "tower" is short enough to not need FAA lighting and lacking the guy wires which are so lethal to birds. I pointed out the wooden tower to Bill Evans, and it got him really interested in the issue. And boy did he run with it!