Max experiences ‘Top Gun’
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.