Uncle Jerry and Joe Turkel at Fromin’s Deli

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And now a funny story from L.A.

For his birthday, I decided to take my 91 year-old Uncle Jerry out for lunch to his favorite spot, Fromin’s Deli in Santa Monica. It’s a pretty traditional deli with lots of character: salty waitresses, corned beef sandwiches, black and white cookies at the register. We were sitting at a table near the front, despite the fact that Uncle Jerry would’ve preferred a booth (there was a wait), and chatting about Craig’s movie and, later, Uncle Jerry’s experiences in World War II. As we were getting up to go, the man next to us said, “You’re leaving? I feel like I know you guys. You’re talking about the film industry, and you, you’re talking about the war.”

After he and Uncle Jerry connected about serving in the second world war, I confessed to the man that I wasn’t in the film industry. “Were you?” I asked.

“Was I in the film industry?” he said, puffing up his chest, “I was in three Kubrick pictures.”

I looked at him more carefully. “Really,” I said. “Which ones?”

“Have you ever seen ‘The Shining’?”

“Yes….”

“I was Lloyd the Bartender.”

Immediately it clicked. “Oh my God,” I said. “Wow! What was it like working with Kubrick? Was he difficult?”

“He wasn’t difficult at all,” he said. “He was a sweetheart.”

“I hear he did a lot of takes.”

“He did a million takes.” His other two Kubrick films were “Paths of Glory” and “The Killing”; he was also Dr. Tyrell in “Blade Runner.” (Warning: this scene is graphic! I’m glad to see he still has his eyes.)

Uncle Jerry hadn’t seen any of these movies but was excited nonetheless. The man introduced himself as Joe Turkel and I said it was an honor to meet him. We said our goodbyes; he returned to his crossword puzzle.

L.A.’s a funny place. You can be eating lunch (and for the record, I had a half a tuna sandwich and chicken soup)…

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…sitting next to a demonic bartender from a classic work of cinema without realizing it. It was a real thrill meeting him; though as I got up, he put his hand on my shoulder and asked, “How are things going, Mr. Torrance?”

I ran back to my car screaming.

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