Recalling the name of the famous you-know-who

I just opened my email, and the first message at the top of the list was for a brain strengthener that is “Proven to double your IQ.”

Well, that could be useful. As a writer, it would be nice to be smart enough to be able to spell IQ correctly.

Still, a smart pill as strong as that probably comes with a long list of potential side effects, like: “CAUTION — You may recover memories of what really happened in the stairwell at that fraternity party.” Or: “If after four hours you can still remember all the items your wife asked you to pick up at the grocery store, consult a physician.”

Besides, there’s really nothing wrong with my memory. After all, as soon as I saw that smart pill ad, I remembered an old joke I hadn’t thought of in years.

It goes like this:

A little boy is sitting on the curb at a street corner, rattling something in his cupped palms. Next to him is a sign that says “Toothbrushes, $20.”

A man walking by says, “You’ll never sell a toothbrush for twenty bucks.”

The boy shrugs. He keeps rattling something in his hands.

“What have you got there, son?” the man asks.

“Smart pills,” the boy says, and he opens his hands to show four or five small green pills, each about the size of a pea. “Guaranteed to make you a genius. You can have them for free.”

He hands the pills to the man, who pops them into his mouth.

“Ga-a-a!” the man says as he chokes them down. “They taste like rabbit poop!”

“See?” says the boy. “You’re smarter already! Wanna buy a toothbrush?”

I haven’t thought of that joke in decades, but it’s still there, waiting to be called up at a moment’s notice when the time is right.

Still, sometimes the joke is on me when it comes to calling up memories or information that I know is rattling around somewhere in my skull.

For example, just last night I was watching an episode of the HBO series, “Westworld,” and I couldn’t remember the name of the famous actor who stars in one of the major roles.

I remember the name of the actor who played in the original “Westworld” movie that came out decades ago—Yul Brynner. I remember that the movie was based on a book written by Michael Crichton, who also (I remember) wrote “Andromeda Strain” and many other books.

But the famous actor in this version of the story? Nope. Couldn’t find it anywhere in my cranial data files.

Oh, I could turn to Google and have the answer in seconds, but I felt it was important to dredge up the goods without help. I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that my memory needed training wheels.

I decided to sleep on it, but this morning his name was still lost somewhere in the memory hole.

He’s the guy who played Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs,” which also starred Jodie Foster. That movie was based on a book written by Thomas Harris. I remember all that. But not the name of the actor.

I know, I know, you know exactly who I’m talking about, and you could tell me his name in a second. Now you’re shaking your head at how I could draw a blank on an actor that famous.

I remember that he also played Captain Bligh in the movie “The Bounty,” the one he made with Mel Gibson, a remake of “Mutiny on the Bounty” that starred Marlon Brando. I remember the names of all those actors, but not the name of…

Nope. Still not there.

He also played the lead role in a lesser-known movie called “The Edge,” opposite Alec Baldwin. The film was set in the wilds of Canada and had basically a two-man cast: just Baldwin and…

Dammit.

Sure, by now you’re probably yelling at the newspaper, screaming out the guy’s name. (It doesn’t help, believe me. I yell at the TV every Sunday through the fall, but the Chicago Bears keep running the wrong plays.)

I remember the guy is Welsh (like Richard Burton) and he was knighted by the Queen a while ago. You’d think it would be easy to recall the moniker of a guy as famous as Sir….

Son of a biscuit!

But I won’t do it. I won’t give in to the temptation. I won’t tap Google on the shoulder and ask for the name.

It’ll come to me in time, all by itself. It always does. I’ll be going about some mindless business—brushing my teeth, or driving to Walmart, or rolling the trash cans out to the curb—and suddenly the name will strike me and I’ll shout out…

Richard Harris!

No…wait…that was the Irish actor who thought he could sing, and recorded that horrible sappy song about MacArthur Park melting in the dark because someone left the cake out in the rain, and “I don’t think that I can take it, ‘cuz it took so long to make it, and I’ll never have that recipe again…”

Sigh.

Now, if those smart pills could promise that I’ll be able to call up the names of worthwhile actors on command—and also expunge the memory of horrible singers crooning lyrics that should never have been sung—I’ll send off for a bottle or two, no matter what kind of rodent they came from.

Anyway, even though we didn’t get there, thanks for trying to help me remember that guy’s name.

No need to thank me for putting that awful song in your head.

Wanna buy a brain brush?

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