Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.

Friday, March 13, 2015


It’s strange what stays in the mental files and what gets shredded.  I happened to read today that Steve Martin had signed up to appear in the Ang Lee movie of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk  based on the novel by Ben Fountain. "The Catch-22 of the Iraq War" according to at least one source. 

It’s not a walking novel per se but as I understand it the hero and the surviving members of his Bravo Squad who’ve seen a few minutes of spectacular victory in Iraq, are sent on a publicity tour, which among other things requires them to walk out onto the filed at Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.

I don’t know what part Steve Martin plays in the movie, but by free association I remembered a paragraph in his memoir Born Standing Up, about the time he was dating Mitzi Trumbo, the daughter of Dalton, the great screenwriter, and one of the Hollywood Ten who was blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Martin writes, “My first glimpse of Dalton Trumbo revealed an engrossed intellect--not finessing his latest screenplay but sorting the seeds and stems from a brick of pot. ‘Pop smokes marijuana,’ Mitzi explained, ‘with the wishful thought of cutting down on his drinking.’  Sometimes, from their balcony, I would see Trumbo walking laps around the perimeter of the pool. He held a small counter in one hand and clicked it every time he passed the diving board. These health walks were compromised by the cigarette he constantly held in his other hand.”

It’s not easy to find a picture of Trumbo walking, and certainly not one of him walking circuits of his pool.  In fact an awful lot of pictures show him in his bath, working.

And then I remembered the introduction to Steve Martin’s 1977 Cruel Shoes, his collection of “short stories.”  

It runs like this:  “You are walking down a country road. It is a quiet afternoon. You look up and far, far down the road you see someone walking toward you. You are surprised to have noticed someone so far away. But you keep walking, expecting nothing more than a friendly nod as you pass. He gets closer. You see he has bright orange hair. He is closer- a white satin suit spotted with colored dots. Closer - a painted white face and red lips. You and he are fifty yards apart. You, and a full-fledged clown holding a bicycle horn are twenty yards apart. You approach on the lonely country road. You nod. He honks and passes.”

And then I remembered this photograph of Steve Martin walking, ad you know I don't think this is digitally enhanced.  I think some assistant had to put those banana skins there, and then had to clear them up afterwards:

And then finally this:

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