Hey, it’s Mike again–I promise I’ll fill you in on Montreal eventually, but the sad event of yesterday — the death of Roger Ebert — changed my plans. My longtime and dear friend, Brand Fortner, was without question Roger Ebert’s biggest fan. FYI: I met Brand back in 1990. He was a co-founder of Spyglass, a then tiny startup software company in Champaign, Ill., that was spun off from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois. And he hired me. It remains the best and most fulfilling job I’ve ever had — it led to an unforgettable ride during the dot.com days, and the success of Spyglass changed my, Beth’s and our son Gus’s life for the better. Best of all, Brand and I have remained friends.
I’m like a lot of people — I fully enjoyed Roger Ebert, even when I didn’t agree with him. But no one loved or respected Ebert more than Brand, who has also always attended and supported Ebertfest, a terrific film festival held in Champaign’s historic Virginia Theater each year.
After yesterday’s news, Brand was good enough to share a little essay his daughter Paula had written in college about what it was like to grow up with someone who worshipped at the altar of Roger. Paula—-now an accomplished adult (yikes) in her own right — was good enough to let me share it here on Beth’s blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
My dad idolizes Roger Ebert. He has Ebert posters hanging on his walls and Ebert movie yearbooks filling his bookcases. Every year, my dad attends Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival and comes back laden with souvenir hats, bags and t-shirts. Above my dad’s desk hangs a signed, framed photo of Roger Ebert shaking his hand. “To Brand, on the occasion of HAL 9000′s birthday,” Roger wrote, adding a quote from HAL’s demise in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey… “Daisy … daisy …”.