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Would you believe the green carpet?
Would you believe the rhododendron bush
across the street?

No, that is not a turtle, you silly.
That is Tom Hanks
playing a turtle
Yertle: the Motion Picture

Heigh-ho, 'tis I, Tom Turtle, your favorite little green round person, back from a weekend shellshine at a hedonistic retreat that will remain nameless here. While I was on the table (so to speak), getting my belly waxed and my beak sharpened, I had time to reminisce again about Tom Hanks' AFI Lifetime Achievement Award from a few years ago (as I so often do). I just feel so lucky, so really fortunate and gifted, to have been able to witness it in my own short lifetime. Well, not personally. I mean I wasn't actually present. But I was there in spirit, cheering him on. Of course everyone knows that Tom was the first to win back-to-back best actor Oscars, for My Favorite Martian (where he played the role of Bugs Bunny) and for Gidget Goes Hawaiian Again (where he played the role of Sally Field battling the onset of homosexuality). I was touched and moved by the spectacle (meaning, there was a touching incident and a movement incident). Tom has been a favorite of mine since I first saw him in Bignitude, where he proved to naysayers that he could indeed play the piano with his feet while eating very small ears of midget corn. He was also a huge success in DeForrest Kelly, the Motion Picture, where, playing the retarded starship's doctor, he dove through a time machine and ended up fondling his own mother in drag, played by Sally Field. But perhaps his greatest performance, memorialized on postage stamps in the Deep South, was in Miss Daisy: Driving, Chipping, and Putting, where he played Miss Daisy Duke, both before and after her winning the Masters by thirteen strokes; the black chauffeur, both before and after the skin-blanching incident at Neverland; and the 1948 Hudson roadster, both before and after its transmogrification into a Delorean by Christopher Lloyd. Not since Dick van Dyke played Christopher Plummer, Julie Andrews, and all six children (including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) in the 1965 extravaganza The Sound of the Brady Bunch, have we seen such a masterful technique from a man with no natural legs. Some might say that Eddie Murphy attempted a similar coup in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Barbershops part 4, where he played Cedric the Entertainer (as an elf), Chevy Chase (as a dwarf), and Rosie O'Donnell (as Frodo Baggins). If the directors hadn't tried to use flubber to express the rage of Treebeard and the other ents, I think history would have looked more kindly on the effort, and on Eddie's courageous and nearly nominated feat.

Of course you can't really taste the flavor of such a night of feting and feasting without being privy to the comments of other luminaries of the stage and screen, all present that evening after receiving a large check and a cache of pills and booze from George Lucas. One of the hosts of festivities, Steve Martin, bemused the stars attending when he said that he wished he had been the one chosen for
Castaway, since he had always had a secret wish to get very tan, live in a cave, and have extended relations with a volleyball. What most in the audience apparently forgot was headlines in 1978, when Steve, coked to the gills after the failed premiere of Dead Men Don't Wear (Their Own) Underwear, had been found doing just that in a cave outside of Laramie, Wyoming. He claimed to police arriving at the scene that he thought “Wilson” was his own wife, Rita Wilson, but the authorities reminded him that Rita Wilson was the wife of Tom Hanks (or would be, in 1988). Martin's own wife at the time, Jerry Lewis, looked nothing like a volleyball, and wouldn't until around 1999.

Meg Ryan was also on hand to honor Hanks, with whom she appeared in
When Hairy met Sally Field. Meg is famous for that restaurant scene, where she played Sally Field choking on a lobster, before becoming a mermaid and being installed on the shore of Copenhagen, Denmark. Meg said she would always remember her time fondly with Hanks, as they sleeplessly got mail in various cities and adopted various children named Miss Daisy (in honor of Morgan Freeman). She said with tears in her eyes that she would walk the green mile with Hanks anytime, although she didn't know what that meant, but hoped it didn't have anything to do with eating at Chili's.

Peter Scolari then took the stage to reminisce about
Bosom Buddies, a TV show from the late 50's where he and Jack Lemmon took turns dressing up like Marilyn Monroe, only to be viciously sodomized by the Kennedys. The director of this series, Billy Wilder, later worked with Scolari again, on Sabrina, the Teenaged Witch, in which Hanks, playing Audrey Hepburn, infiltrates a coed dorm and convinces the janitor (Matt Damon, played by Humphrey Bogart) to run away to Paris with him. Of course it is in Paris where Hanks gets his big break, being sodomized by Tawny Kitaen and thus winning the lead in Animal House.

Next up was Steven Spielberg, who everyone knows directed Hanks in several movies, including
Airplane, Poltergiest, and Joe versus the Pooch. Who can forget that moving scene in the latter where Private Joe Ryan fights his way across the killing fields of Belgium to reach the lunar module? And who could misremember those now legendary words, “Houston, have a box of chocolates!” And who could have failed to be genuinely touched by honest human feeling when Ed Harris in a beret admits to him that the Moon is really a big metal beachball? And who among us could have left the theater dry-eyed when Meg Ryan, playing Matt Damon, had to shoot "Pooch" after his heroic fight with a rabid Nazi coyote? I myself felt positively sick with remorse until I saw one of Sally Field's puppies steal some cornbread from Colonel Klink, at which point I understood that man was not meant to land on a big metal beachball over a plastic ocean. No, he was meant to escape through a sidedoor painted like fake clouds, where he could rendezvous with Kate Winslet. Anyway, Spielberg had some very poignant words for Hanks, whom he had always treated as a sort of challenged stepson. Pointing at Billy Crystal (sitting in a highchair nearby), Spielberg recommended that Hanks study his career closely: Billy, who had been presented not one but two Lifetime Achievement Awards before he hit the age of 40. Billy, who, if he followed the pattern of George Burns, could win as many as seven Lifetime Achievement Awards in one lifetime. Billy, who had not even needed to be in Bruce Almighty or Sleeping with Men in Philadelphia to cop Academy Awards for them. Billy, who, at some point in the late 90's, had, by silent acclamation, been given the entire oeuvre of Alan Arkin, and any lifetime achievement awards that might produce in the future. Summing up, Spielberg admitted that he and George Lucas were really the same person, one on flubber and one not.

At last, Hanks himself took the podium to thank his peers, those of the Institute, and all those around him who deserved as much as himself to be institutionalized. He said he wished to thank his wife first of all, for if she hadn't had the last name Wilson, he would never have been able to get it up for a volleyball. Pointing to astronaut Jim Lovell (seated nearby in a stalled lunar rover), Hanks said he wished to thank him and all the astronauts for making his role in
My Favorite Martian so much more rewarding and lifelike. Without their help he would never have known how to chase the Sleestak through the underground caverns. He admitted that before his secret briefing from NASA, he hadn't even known what a “Fraggle” was. With a nod to Sally Field, Hanks bowed and doffed his hat, honoring the grand dame of Hollywood, an actress who had made three generations of audiences long for the return of vaudeville and silent pictures. To fellow funnyman Steve Martin, Hanks offered his hand, showing him the precise method for leaving the volleyball without any fingerprints or forced points of entry. To Meg Ryan (now reseated in a vat of peroxide) he blew a heartfelt kiss. He said that to him she would always be pretty much indistinguishable from Calista Flockhart, Nicole Kidman, Daryl Hannah, and so many others: just someone else who never got a Lifetime Achievement Award or even a Dean Martin Roast. To Billy Crystal he shot a wicked glance, one that seemed to whisper, “We will see who has the least hair or the most chins at the end my friend! Sure, Dick van Dyke has drunk oceans more than we could ever hope to drink, but we already look far more red and bloated. Give me a few more years, and I won't need flubber to look like Jerry Lewis. In fact, just look at Jon Lovitz (seated nearby in a child's pool of vanilla pudding): Jon has managed to look flubberized since the age of 23, with very little liquor or prescription meds.” But the end of the show was signaled by Hanks inviting Spielberg back up to the stage for another round of self-gratulations. Each man presented himself with another award, thanked the Academy, eachother, and the cleaning staff before retiring from stage.

As the ballroom cleared and everyone returned to Robert Downey, Jr.'s mansion to update their facebook pages, have a Creatine shake, and do a second thousand sit-ups for the day, I led myself through a short but very sweet montage of Hanks' storied career: playing (and drawing) himself in
The Simpson's Movie, where no one noticed he was not the same character as Homer, Crusty, and background guy #11; playing Leonardo DiCaprio in The DaVinci Code, where he painted those famous lines “catch me if you can” in backwards script under the Fibonacci Altar; playing Woody Boyd in Toy Story, in the part of “Coach” after Nicholas Colasanto dies mid-season; playing Kevin Bacon in Splashdance, with Jennifer Beals playing the part of Sally Field; reprising his role from Joe versus the Pooch as Joe “NY 152” Fox in You've Got to be a Male (or You're Wearing your Pants Wrong), where Hanks utters those immortal words “Sorry, I thought you were Harvey Milk”; playing Walter Matthau in 20,000 Leagues of Their Own Under the Sea, where he battles a giant octopus which is threatening the Bears' dugout; playing Charlie Sheen in Saving Private Meg Ryan, in which Sandra Bullock plays Meg Ryan, Ryan Reynolds plays the part of Willem Dafoe, and Goldie Hawn plays the wacky cadet who can't keep her mitts off Armand Assante's volleyballs; as Josh Baskin-Robbins in Bignitude, also starring Ricky Gervais as Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who seduces her 12 year old officemate, is sentenced to life on Alcatraz as a birdman, but who uses the miracle of flubber to escape; and finally, as Mr. Wilson in Charlie Wilson's War, with Neil Patrick Harris as Dennis the Menace and John Candy as Sally Field (notable since John reportedly had to lose 350 pounds for the part, seven times what Sally Field actually weighs).

Yes, with such a filmography, it is no wonder that Tom Hanks is the number one box office draw of all time. Oh the memories!

In a pile
Upon a log
Over the water
Third from the bottom
Secreting my own hard shell
Tom Turtle

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