The Sunday Magazine: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

As I am now firmly in my mid-50’s it is surprising what things make me feel my age. I find more and more often it is pop culture things which really remind me how much time I’ve been kicking around. The one that has me looking way back is the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Mainly because through the industrious detective work of baseball writer Larry Granillo and a Chicago Cubs baseball game shown during the movie he was able to pinpoint the infamous skip day as June 5, 1985. Thirty years ago. Thirty years ago, how can that be? I used to give my parents grief for watching movies thirty years old and now that I am their age I’m doing the same thing. Yeah I’m feeling my age. The movie which is making me feel my age; that seems ageless.


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was the fourth movie directed by John Hughes. In his first four directorial efforts he was focused on the high school experience. Starting with Sixteen Candles, followed by The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science; he had delved into that world completely. In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off he was now placing his characters at the end of high school facing the uncertain future. The lead characters decide to take a “day off” because in Ferris’ words “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Over the next hour and a half Ferris, his best friend Cameron and his girlfriend Sloan have every student’s version of a skip day ever imagined.

ferris cast

(from l. to r.) Ferris (Matthew Broderick) Sloan (Mia Sara) Cameron (Alan Ruck)

The actor chosen to play Ferris is much of why this movie is still talked about so many years after its release. Matthew Broderick so inhabited the role I imagine many people would think Mr. Broderick was Ferris and want to participate in his charmed life. Mr. Hughes asked Ferris to break the fourth wall and throughout the movie he speaks directly to the audience. It is this one-sided conversation that provides the necessary insight into Ferris’ choices. This is about having fun but this is also the last time for him to get the attention of his two closest friends. This is Mr. Broderick’s breakout role on the movie screen. He was able to give some depth to what looks like something so shallow. That also has a lot to do with the words Mr. Hughes put into his mouth as he was also the writer for the film as well as the director.

Outside of the obvious 1980’s things like no cell phones Ferris Bueller’s Day Off still works today. I think it speaks to the timelessness of many of the themes explored in the film. I will admit that I have made sure to keep an eye on the life going on around me so that I don’t “miss it.” I believe it is that curiosity which has brought me to the place where I am in my life right now. Despite it being thirty years on there is still more than a little of Ferris in my heart and my head. While thirty years is a long time there has been a lot to see and I treasure all of it.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Early Summer 2015 Playlist


I’m not sure what it is about the summer but I want both my books and my music to be less challenging. I want books which are plot-driven page turners not necessarily full of intricate prose. Although those two aims are not mutually exclusive. For music I want things I can sing along to, pump my fist, play air guitar, and tickle the pretend keyboard. These are usually trifles but they find themselves on repeat on my playlist because they are full of infectious hooks and lyrics which are repetitive. There is also one thing I’ve noticed about my summer playlists is that there is an older song, or two, which re-surfaces in my consciousness and I want to hear it as much as I used to.

Top of the Colognoisseur pops is Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance”. It has been out for over a year but like the best summer songs it has caught fire just at the right time. Lead singer Nicholas Petricca was inspired by the 80’s acts The Cars and Pat Benatar. There is a very tangible first wave vibe to it that obviously appeals to one like me who lived through it. I suspect this is going to be the dance floor anthem this summer.

Another lyrical hook that I’ve been mumbling under my breath for the last month is from “Hold Back the River” by James Bay.

I am a sucker for a spectacular video which accompanies a great pop song. The new “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift is all of that in spades. The video is a cross between Kill Bill and Fifth Element featuring an array of some of the most recognizable women in entertainment playing badass assassins. This has only been out for a couple of weeks and I’m all over this.

The two older songs on my current summer playlist are “Sometime Around Midnight” by The Airborne Toxic Event and “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind. Sometime Around Midnight is one of the rawest break-up songs ever performed but despite the unhappy material I am compulsively playing the guitar riff on my fake Fender. I don’t think Semi-Charmed Life is ever far from being included on any summer playlist I’ve ever compiled because it might be my single favorite chorus to sing in the car at the top of my lungs.

The new single by Pitbull, “Time of Our Lives” is another one that gets me moving my feet to the beat.

“Hold My Hand” by Jess Glynne is exactly what I want from Pop-inclined R&B. With a killer keyboard riff perfect for playing on the steering wheel of the car.

Giorgio Moroder has been behind so much of my favorite music and his recent renaissance shows he hasn’t stopped being relevant. His new album Déjà Vu sees him working with a roster of today’s stars. The title single featuring Sia was just released. It is full of synthesizers which dig into my head matched with Sia’s distinctive voice.

Shawn Mendes is the latest You Tube music star. He has crafted a four part story of a break-up. The third part is called “Stitches” and it is the one which has found the repeat button on my playlist.

Imagine Dragons have been a playlist fixture from their inception and the newest release “Shots” is more of the same fantastic style of music they have been producing.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Carl Hiaasen

As I mentioned in my first The Sunday Magazine this series was inspired by the magazine section that came with the Sunday paper. My love of this section came from my boyhood newspaper The Miami Herald or as we called it The Herald. The Sunday Magazine was called Tropic and inside the regular writers for the daily paper were allowed to do something different. Tropic was the birthplace of Dave Barry who will be a name familiar to many. My favorite writer I discovered in Tropic was a man with a savagely funny way of looking at South Florida and the tourist business which supports so many in that area. His name is Carl Hiaasen.


Carl Hiaasen

Mr. Hiaasen started writing for the newspaper in 1976 in the capacity of investigative reporter. His job most of the time was to dig deep and find out the truth behind the latest big lie being told by a politician. In South Florida that kind of work would lead you into a real-life theatre of the absurd. He is quoted as describing it this way, "The Sunshine State is a paradise of scandals teeming with drifters, deadbeats, and misfits drawn here by some dark primordial calling like demented trout. And you'd be surprised how many of them decide to run for public office." As a way of evening up the score with those who kept getting away with everything Mr. Hiaasen started to write novels. This time because he was in charge the forces for good would carry the day.


I was ay my favorite mystery bookstore in NYC, Murder Ink in 1986 when the owner told me she had an advance copy of a first novel by a reporter from The Herald. I remembered some funny columns by this Hiaasen guy in Tropic and I thought it had a chance to be pretty good. The novel’s name is “Tourist Season” and it tells of a small militant group who has the goal of starting so much mayhem the tourists will stop coming. When I read a book it is rare that I laugh out loud, usually a slight chuckle. Mr. Hiaasen tickles me into laughing so hard I close the book for a moment. Some of it is because growing up in the area the insanity just hits home with me. I was so sure this was only hysterical to someone who lived there I never thought anyone else would get it. Thankfully I was wrong.


Mr. Hiaasen has had an incredibly prolific career publishing thirteen novels and five young adult novels. All of them feature colorful villains and even more colorful protagonists. One who carries over through many of the books is ex-governor Clinton Tyree who after being forced into selling a wildlife preserve while in office to developers decided to resign. He disappears but re-surfaces as Skink through many of the novels. He is often the anti-development chorus to these novels delivering that message laced with humor. The latest novel released last year called “Skink-No Surrender” was the first to actually feature the usually supporting character.

All of Mr. Hiaasen’s books are full of everything insane about South Florida in general and he skewers all. For his take on Disney World 1991’s Native Tongue covers that ground. 2010’s Star Island takes on our celebrity obsessed pop culture.

As you start to assemble your beach reading for this summer Mr. Hiaasen is a good addition to your beach bag.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: St. Louis Cardinals

When people ask me why my favorite baseball team is they are usually surprised to hear me answer the St. Louis Cardinals. It would be easy to expect after living in Connecticut and Massachusetts that it would be one of the teams from the Northeast. That might have been true but what made the Cardinals my baseball team is easier to explain, they were my father’s favorite team.

Because they were my father’s favorite team we would always take trip up to St. Petersburg to watch Cardinals Spring Training. This was back on the 1960’s and when we went to spring training games we could stand just outside the foul lines. You could hear the players. They were accessible I was able to get autographs signed with a smile. Things have changed so dramatically from those times now. I wonder if I was a child now if I would be as big a baseball fan as I am. Those years were great as this was a cherished father-son tradition. It also turned into one of those times I disappointed my father in a deeply emotional way.


We had gone to spring training in March of 1967. Like every other spring training I had brought a new baseball to have all of the current Cardinal players autograph it. I was able by the end of our week to have a ball with all of the signatures on it. The Cardinals would go on to win the World Series that fall. My father would proudly look at that ball and remark that that is the entire Championship team there.

Sometime after that we were playing baseball in the street out in front of my house and it was a tie game when our game ball ended up on top of the warehouse roof. We didn’t have an extra. Except I remembered there was a perfectly good ball on my bookshelf. Yes this is going where you thinking it’s going. I went and got the autographed ball and we played with it. On an asphalt street. You can imagine what the ball looked like after we were done with it. I replaced the ball in its customary place and didn’t give it a second thought.

It would be a couple of days until my father was talking to me and his eyes drifted over to where he expected to see the autographed ball. Instead he was greeted with a chewed up ball where there was maybe a few lines of ink still visible. He looks at me and asks where the ball is. I point at it and say right there. I could see all of the dominos falling in my father’s mind as he put it all together. It was one of the rare times when he looked at me I could see the emotion in his eyes as he wondered if his son was a fool. I would say I was a child and he was an adult and leaving that ball in the hands of a child leads to poor decision making.

For many years afterward that ball would come up in conversation accompanied by my father’s shaking head. All of this made me a die-hard Cardinals fan because they were our team. Every year as another season begins I think of my father….and about that ball.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Farewell to David Letterman

I am the person late-night television talk shows were invented for. For most of my adult life I have ended my day by watching one of the late-night shows. It is my way of putting my mind into neutral prior to going to sleep. This habit began in graduate school for me. After working in the lab for 16-18 hours I desperately needed something to help me shut down. Back in 1982 that dose of necessary laughter came courtesy of a show called “Late Night with David Letterman”. For the last thirty-three years Dave has been a near constant in my daily life. In a few days that will all come to an end when he broadcasts his final show on May 20, 2015.


David Letterman

As I’ve watched the final shows I have been reminded of how many people got their start through being on Dave’s stage. Many of the biggest stars of the last thirty years have warmly reminded Dave of his importance to them. What is great about Dave is you can tell it makes him uncomfortable to hear the praise. He deflects and diminishes his role as talent scout but it exists. The emotion of the people who have shown up as the show winds down is testament to that. It is that reluctance to take credit for his influence which is what has always made Dave so appealing to me as a viewer. I always felt like he considered his whole career a mistake which someone would eventually become aware of and take it all away.

In the early days that attitude would allow him to go for unusual laughs when he was doing Late Night with David Letterman at 12:30 AM. He knew the audience awake at that time might want something different and he delivered that. For me I can pinpoint the exact moment Dave became important to me. It was December 19, 1984.


I was working hard to finish my degree and I wanted to head home for the Holidays with a key reaction done leaving me only the final steps. Instead because of my impatience I pushed too far, too fast, and lost weeks of work. Happy Freaking Holidays! I was mad at myself, mad at the world, mad at everything. I sat down sullenly on top of my bean-bag chair and switched on Dave. What I was greeted with was instead of the traditional Late Night opening a logo which said this was “Christmas with the Lettermans”. Over the course of the episode everything about the typical Christmas television special was destroyed via comedy.

We met Dave’s fake family including his wife, their three kids, and Dave’s older brother Darryl. The only girl in the family is the “princess” who gets everything she asks for. The youngest son in a running gag, per family tradition, has to go procure the family Christmas tree. In the middle of the cold December night in New York City. It doesn’t go well. There were two guests as well, Pat Boone and Brother Theodore. Pat Boone came on to promote his own Christmas special airing in a couple of days. For much of the time he was being interviewed it was difficult to figure out if Mr. Boone was in on the joke. It wasn’t until later when he sets Dave up by asking him what Christmas means to him that you knew he was in on it. Dave gets up and has an internal reverie with himself. The kind that usually leads to the star of the show discovering the true meaning of the holiday. Not here. Dave’s stream of consciousness leaves him standing under the office mistletoe hoping for someone to walk by. Dave’s bandleader Paul Shaffer has to remind him his “family” is back in the studio, in the dark. It was this that turned my mood around. I was standing under my own mistletoe hoping for some action while forgetting what was left behind in the dark. While laughing I was also getting much needed therapy.

Dave has been my guy from the beginning. I disliked Jay Leno because, rightly or wrongly, I felt he stole The Tonight Show from Dave. I think we are in a golden era of late night television with the two Jimmys, Conan, Seth, and James all providing that final bit of distraction before closing your eyes. For the next few nights I’m going to enjoy the man who made those guys' shows possible. Thanks Dave, I’m really going to miss you.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Once Upon a Time in America

Back in 1984 I had started my first job and like many I was very excited to buy this new technological advance the VCR. For me it opened up an opportunity to see some movies I had not seen. What was also cool about that time was the stores that rented videos were often run by people who were also passionate about movies. I had one of those kind of stores I used in those early days of home video. When I would walk in after work the owner, Stephane, would happily show me what he thought was worth checking out from the new releases. This day he held up a title I recognized, “Once Upon a Time in America” by director Sergio Leone. I started waving my hand saying I had seen it in the theatre and it sucked. He smiled and said you haven’t seen this version. As I focused on the box I saw the words “extended cut”. Stephane told me that this was the real version of the movie and it was amazing. I trusted him so I took it home expecting to be ejecting it in a few minutes. Instead I was introduced to one of my all-time favorite movies and one I would place on a personal top 10 of best movies ever. How did it go from “sucked” to Top 10? That’s a story of moviemaking back in the 1980’s.


Sergio Leone is best known as the director of the so-called “Spaghetti Westerns” shot in Italy using the Mediterranean countryside as a stand-in for the American West. The movies starred Clint Eastwood and together form a version of the Western where our hero was as far removed from the upright honor of any Western character played by John Wayne as could be. What these movies did portray was a sort of rogue’s honor. These deeply flawed heroes had their own, verging on nihilistic, code that they adhered to. After his last release in 1971 he seemingly had stopped making movies. Then I had read he was doing a movie about Prohibition-era gangsters starring Robert De Niro and James Woods. I was there opening weekend. I walked out of the theatre wondering if Mr. Leone was losing his mind as the movie made no sense. Characters showed up out of nowhere. Others did things without seeming motivation. I just knew what I had hoped would be awesome, sucked.


Robert De Niro

Once Upon a Time in America premiered at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Once the lights came up it received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the festival goers. That version was 229 minutes long. The American distributor The Ladd Company was concerned that the length of the movie would limit its box office potential. Because they had the right to edit the film for American release they removed 90 minutes reducing the running length down to 139 minutes. Imagine any movie you like having a third of it removed by, in essence, accountants. Of course that version sucked.

By the time I was putting in the first of two cassettes in my VCR at home I had the 229-minute version. I had a cinematic marvel which drew me in and has never let go. The longer version takes you through the childhood of petty criminals Max (James Woods) and Noodles (Robert De Niro). The entire first act is played by child actors and shows how this rogue’s honor is formed. As Prohibition arrives these now young men, and played by Mr. Woods and Mr. De Niro, build an empire based on their speakeasy. They gain more and more influence and power but can never really attain the things they want most. When Prohibition ends, their empire starts to crumble and this time they are not quick enough to adapt. A tragedy happens causing Noodles to flee the country. He returns as an old man in 1968 because he received a letter which seemed to know more about him than anyone should. He returns to his old neighborhood to figure out what happened.


James Woods

This is a movie dense with visual motifs foreshadowing much of the movie’s plot. Many of the scenes which have the most impact are when these amoral men try to become what they perceive as civilized only to revert to their amorality. Mr. Leone was unflinching in the way he portrayed some of these scenes they are difficult to watch and brutal. Because the characters are portrayed so vividly you feel the attempt to reach out for something more only to fail. In the final act Noodles explains to the man who brought him back the code he lived his life by and why he wouldn’t do what was being asked of him. Even at the end the rogue’s honor code was the only way he could live his life.

I’ve been purposefully vague about the plot because there are a lot of wonderfully crafted plot turns which should be experienced upon viewing.

I would say the performances by Mr. Woods and Mr. De Niro rank among the very best of their career. In the longer version there is nothing out of place. Last year for the 30th Anniversary of the release of the film an additional 22-minutes were added and this was supposedly the version Mr. Leone had wanted to release. If you like great moviemaking “Once Upon a Time in America” should be in your video queue.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Summer Rum Cocktails

Now that I am actually spending some time on the back deck here in Poodlesville I am starting to realize I rotate my cocktail mixing cart the same way I do my perfumes. I realized this as I was shaking up my first Daiquiri of the year as I started bringing all the different bottles of rum I have to the front of the line. As I was doing that I was realizing I was already mentally reaching through my mental cocktail recipe book for the drinks I was looking forward to making. If you want some suggestions here are three summer rum cocktails for you to give a try.

I think a daiquiri might have been the first cocktail I ever tasted as a child. I don’t know if that is why I like it so much. I do know it is almost a ritual for me to drink a daiquiri on the first really warm day of the year usually while cooking something on the grill. A daiquri is one of the simplest drinks to make combining rum, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. I came across a variation which has become my current favorite called The Hemingway Martini.

The Hemingway Martini

2 parts rum (use a really good white rum)

1 part fresh grapefruit juice

1 part lime juice

0.5 part Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

0.5 part Simple Syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker and serve straight up garnished with a grapefruit slice.

planter's punch

Planter’s Punch is one of the oldest cocktails known. It is also one of those cocktails which has been trampled to death over the years. It is the basis for all of those fruity rum punches you drink on tropical island vacations. What is sad is that the original version of the recipe which came from the very not tropical Planter’s Hotel in Saint Louis, Missouri is really good; especially if you make the effort to use fresh fruit juice. It still packs a kick but you don’t feel like there is sugar crystallizing on your teeth.

The Original Planter’s Punch

3 parts dark rum (I prefer Mt. Gay but any good one will do)

1 part Fresh squeezed orange juice

1 part fresh squeezed lime juice

1 part fresh pineapple juice

4 parts club soda.

Combine everything but the club soda in a shaker and shake over ice. Strain into a glass over ice. And add an equal volume of club soda. Garnish with a teaspoon of grenadine and a couple dashes of Angostura Bitters. Stir with a spoon.

As the summer goes on we get tremendous thunderstorms which pass through and if I need a cocktail to match Mother Nature’s furious grandeur I make a Dark and Stormy. This is another tropical inspired drink which has been made poorly by the addition of too many extraneous ingredients. It should only have two; rum and ginger beer. If you try that you will make sure to instruct any bartender about to add fruit juice to it to stop.

Dark and Stormy

2 parts dark rum (Gosling’s Black Seal is the original ingredient)

3 parts ginger beer

In a glass with ice add both ingredients and stir. Garnish with a slice of lime if you must have fruit but I won’t do it.

I hope you join me for cocktail hour on your deck or patio with one of these rum drinks.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: J.J. Abrams

I think you would have had to work really hard over the last few days to have missed seeing the new trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I think every geek in the world is hoping for something great with the continuation of the Star Wars saga begun in 1977 by George Lucas. I think that the reason most of us carry that hopeful outlook is because of one person, J.J. Abrams.


Mr. Abrams first jumped onto my radar with his television series “Alias” from 2001-2006. It was a loopy spy show with a crazy mythology around an inventor’s incredible artifacts which held amazing powers. There were times it was too complicated for its own good but it was always fun. For those of you who watch all of the new dramas which call themselves “twisty”; Alias was doing that well before those shows were ever a concept.

2014 NBCUniversal TCA Winter Press Tour Portraits

J.J. Abrams

Mr. Abrams would transition to the silver screen, directing 2006’s Mission: Impossible III. This seemed a natural progression from small screen spy shenanigan to big screen ones. It was one of the better movies in that franchise but it was what Mr. Abrams did next which really began his upward trajectory.


In 2009 he would take what is one of the two tentpole sci-fi franchises and attempt to reboot it. When it was announced he was named as the director of the new Star Trek movie I was very skeptical. On one hand Star Trek has been ridden into the ground and lumbered under the accumulated years of mythology. There wasn’t much left to screw up. On the other hand I read Mr. Abrams’ unproduced screenplay he wrote in 2002 for Superman. On another property which also suffered from a restrictive historical mythology he completely lost what it was that makes Superman the superhero he is. I worried if that approach was used he would drive the final nail in the Star Trek coffin.

What happened was he found a way to celebrate everything that made Star Trek so much fun while at the same time wiping the slate clean and allowing this cast and this story to essentially start over. It was reverential and revolutionary in respect to the source material and it was incredible. My life as a geek began in front of a television screen watching Star Trek and Mr. Abrams gave it back to me. He had been able to fully exercise his creativity within a universe which seemed impossible to work in. He would direct the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness and then he announced his next project.


If Star Trek is one sci-fi tentpole then Star Wars is the other. After Disney had acquired George Lucas’ Lucasfilm they announced there were going to be more Star Wars movies starting in 2015 with Episode VII. Then they announced Mr. Abrams would be writing and directing. This time there was no skepticism there was just relief that they were putting this in the hands of someone who I think gets it.

We are a few months away from the December release but this week the first full-length trailer was released. It starts with a voice over of Luke Skywalker and ends with Han Solo and Chewie. In between we get glimpses of our new trio of heroes and their new nemeses. If there is any chance of this being great Mr. Abrams might be the only person I would trust this to.

Come December as a scroll of words with the heading Episode VII The Force Awakens begins to move up the screen we will all know if Mr. Abrams has succeeded in bringing home the geek Daily Double. I am betting he will.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Jimmy Fallon and The Roots with Classroom Instruments


Getting a different perspective on something you think you know well, something you think you know really well, is invaluable. Over the last three years there has been a recurring bit on American late night television which has taken the biggest pop hits, right at the point they have become intolerable, and given them a fresh new makeover.

In June of 2012 you could not escape hearing Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit song “Call Me Maybe”. Besides being on every device which played music there were multiple sports teams publishing YouTube videos lip synching to it. Just at the point I was ready to call “No mas!” I was tuning into Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He introduced us to the “music room” backstage and inside was Jimmy Fallon, Carly Rae Jepsen and The Roots. For the next 3 minutes and thirty seconds they did a version of “Call Me Maybe” using classroom instruments. Instruments we played while in primary school like recorders, triangles, kazoos, ukulele, toy xylophone, and melodica provided the music for Ms. Jepsen to sing what I think is the definitive final version of the song. How do I know that? You hardly saw another amateur lip synching video show up after this was seen.

Happily this wasn’t just a one-time event. Robin Thicke did “Blurred Lines” and the classroom instruments made it way less provocative. Meghan Trainor did “All About That Bass”. The Muppets joined in on the “Sesame Street Theme”.

The pinnacle moment was when Idina Menzel did “Let It Go”. Just as with “Call Me Maybe” “Let It Go” had reached critical mass and the gang in the “music room” turned it on its head.

Despite what is undeniably a simple concept this could not be accomplished without the incredibly talented musicians who make up The Roots. They have been Mr. Fallon’s house band from the beginning. If there is anything that makes these videos and versions so enjoyable it is the palpable sense of fun radiating off of everyone on screen. Watching these guys play these instruments with these huge smiles shows how much fun music can be. I’ve also heard it said that great singers can sing the phone book and be compelling. I am pretty sure I could challenge The Roots to make music with sticks and stones and they would create a joyful sound.

The current state of late night television in America is as good as it gets and if you need a reason to stay up late Jimmy Fallon and The Roots provide one of the happiest reasons to lose some sleep.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: 40 Years a Geek

I was doing some spring cleaning and I ran across an old memory box from my high school days. Inside I found a ticket to a Star Trek and comic convention in the Miami Springs holiday Inn dated March 15, 1975. As far as I can remember this was my first convention. I came to the realization that it is probably that date which was my coming out party as a geek and I was thinking how much things have changed over the past 40 years.

I was attracted to that convention because George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu, was the special guest. I would say there were maybe 250 people there all crammed into a hotel ballroom watching Star Trek episodes on an old reel-to-reel projector. For me just to know that there were 249 other people who felt the same as me was very powerful. In those days if you liked something that was a bit outside of the mainstream you were pretty much going it on your own. I remember walking away from that experience knowing I was not on my own. Also from that very first convention I became part of the South Florida geek community. That is something that has been very strong for people who consider themselves geeks. Forty years ago it was a necessity. Now there are specialized groups within the umbrella designation of geek. Just as back then there is nothing as important as not feeling alone.


What the Internet looked like in 1990

Certainly the Internet has been a big help for this for the last twenty-five years. Even from my early days of joining this online service called Prodigy I sought out others. It was so very cool to have special forums where I could chat with others who were just as invested in whatever subject I was interested in. As the Internet developed so did the community. It went from knowing there were 250 in your local area to knowing there were 250,000 all over the world. I not only didn’t feel alone, I felt like part of a vast worldwide community.

The growth of that community has no better barometer than the attendance at the biggest geek convention on the planet San Diego Comic-Con. In 1975 attendance was approximately 2, 500. Last year’s attendance was estimated at over 130,000. One other major thing that has changed is the demographics. Back in 1975 I am pretty sure there were only four or five women in the ballroom at the Holiday Inn. I remember standing on the mezzanine of this year’s New York Comic-Con and seeing so many women of all ages it made me smile.

Over forty years, geek has gone from being a sort of pejorative to now just being a mostly benign noun. What makes me happiest is to see how inclusive it has become. Even though we may never stop debating which is better, Star Trek or Star Wars, I love that there are more in the discussion.

Mark Behnke