Born on the Faux Pas of July

When I met Ron Kovic

This is one of my more embarrassing literary moments:

Eugene Ruggles, a lauded local poet who haunted the halls of the then-single-occupancy-residence Petaluma Hotel, was behind the wheelchair of his mustachioed literary cohort, famed anti-Vietnam War activist friend Ron Kovic.

Kovic’s memoir Born on the Fourth of July had just been adapted into the Academy Award–winning film of the same title directed by Oliver Stone. It starred Tom Cruise as Kovic, also with a mustache.

This was a lot of star wattage to unpack in front of Aram’s Cafe circa 1989.

I had a passing familiarity with Kovic thanks to Cruise’s film commercials which I saw on cable TV. This is where I also developed a passing familiarity with the work of Ernie Kovacs, the innovative 1950s counterculture television comedy pioneer whose shows were re-airing on cable’s Comedy Central. Like Kovic, Kovacs was similarly mustachioed.

You can see where this is going.

So, when I happened upon them near the cafe, Ruggles, always generous (and always drunk), introduced the Golden Globe award-winning Kovic to me with his usual slurry pronunciation.

I shook the man’s hand, looked him in the eye, and sincerely thanked him for his contributions to comedy.

They stared quizzically back at me.

Moments later, a few paces along my merry way, I realized why.

Happy 4th of July.

(And Happy Birthday, Mr. Kovic — with belated apologies).

About Daedalus Howell

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