Max ex­pe­ri­ences ‘Top Gun’

Record Observer - - Opinion -

All the hoopla about the 30th an­niver­sar y of the Tom Cruise movie “Top Gun” re­minds me not of Tom but of an 11-year-old English boy named Max.

It was the fall of 1986 in Paris when “Top Gun” was play­ing at a the­atre on the famed Champs-El­y­sees.

My friend and boss, Suzanne Low­ery, as­sis­tant fea­tures edi­tor at the In­ter­na­tional Her­ald Tri­bune, had in­vited me to go with her and an­other woman to a Satur­day mati­nee of the Ryan O’Neal movie “Barry L yn­don.”

Suzanne said to meet at her apart­ment and we would go from there to the mati­nee.

When I ar­rived at Suzanne’s, I was star­tled when she said her son Max would be ac­com­pa­ny­ing us.

“Barry Lyn­don” is not the sort of movie likely to en­ter­tain a child. It was one of those sweep­ing ro­man­tic pe­riod pieces.

I took one look at Max and could see that he was be­yond for­lorn. Poor kid.

Suzanne was a won­der­ful edi­tor, a lov­ing mom and a good-hu­mored soul.

Af­ter a few min­utes of us dis­cussing the lo­gis­tics for get­ting to the the­atre, I said to Suzanne that I had an al­ter­na­tive sug­ges­tion.

What would she think about me tak­ing Max to see “Top Gun” in­stead of mak­ing him sit through a movie that would bore a lit­tle boy?

She thought that was a fine idea. It was not a chal­lenge to con­vince Max either.

He had his coat on, was beam­ing and ready to get on the Metro. So off we went to see a movie that truth­fully I also pre­ferred to see­ing to “Barry Lyn­don.”

“Barry Lyn­don” was re­leased in 1975. It was the Stan­ley Kubrick ver­sion of a Wil­liam Make­peace Thack­eray novel. It tells the tale of a des­ti­tute young Ir­ish­man who works his way into 18th Cen­tury English no­bil­ity. I know. YAWN. Imag­ine how Max felt. He viewed the change in his af­ter­noon’s ac­tiv­i­ties as a great re­prieve.

Max was a pleas­ant, well­man­nered, bright boy, easy to get along with. Off we went to see “Top Gun.”

The movie’s plot was much more to Max’s lik­ing.

It is the story of the Top Gun Naval Fighter Weapons School where the elite pi­lots trained.

When Tom Cruise goes to the school his reck­less­ness and cocky at­ti­tude flash across the sky.

There are many scenes of jets twist­ing, turn­ing and fly­ing dan­ger­ously close to each other.

There is much loud, rau­cous rock and roll mu­sic such as “The Dan­ger Zone.”

There are dra­matic clashes among the Top Gun pi­lots and be­tween the Navy pi­lots and the evil Rus­sian fliers.

Max was suit­ably en­ter­tained.

Then I added to Max’s fun day.

Would Max like to have lunch at the Burger King also on the Champs-El­y­sees?

Would he? Of course. I guar­an­tee his proper English mum had never taken Max to a Burger King in Paris or Lon­don.

With de­light, Max downed a Whop­per with cheese, French fries and a Coke.

I was Max’s pal for the rest of my time in Paris.

It was a one-time ex­pe­ri­ence. I doubt that Max ever went to a Burger King again.

His mother took it all in her stride.

Twice while I was in Paris, Suzanne loaned me the lit­tle apart­ment she kept in Lon­don.

Once I spent a week­end in Lon­don, saw the sights, rode the dou­ble decker buses and at­tended two plays. It was a joy.

Then in Jan­uary 1987 Suzanne loaned her apart­ment so that Aunt Mar­garet and my cousin Bar­bara could stay for a few days in Lon­don. We did more sight­see­ing, in­clud­ing vis­it­ing Sher­lock Holmes’ apart­ment at 221B Baker Street.

Suzanne was one of the or­ga­niz­ers of a grand farewell party at a fash­ion­able Left Bank apart­ment for my hus­band Bill and me in late April 1987.

It was such a happy and bit­ter­sweet night. We had made so many good friends.

As a farewell gift, Suzanne gave us two big cafe au lait bowls. The bowls were sim­ple but they meant so much to us. They were a con­stant re­minder of Suzanne, Max, “Top Gun” and Paris.

The bowls were white. On the side in black let­ter­ing it said “Bon­jour.” Be­neath were two crossed branches laden with col­or­ful blos­soms.

We are down to one bowl now. It is chipped and has lost its han­dle. But that bowl is pre­cious to us.

Denise Ri­ley is edi­tor emer­i­tus of The Star Demo­crat.

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