You may find today’s column about Jack Nicholson a bit too ornate, elaborate, extravagant and overblown, but two days ago was the birthday of Peter Mark Roget, who compiled Roget’s Thesaurus of Words and Phrases, an amazingly impressive, splendiferous, wondrous, marvelous and extraordinary work, which has dug many a journalist out of a hole, so to you Peter, I doff my cap, chapeau and fedora. Happy Birthday.
Shock, surprise and alarm was Hollywood’s reaction to hearing the news that Jack Nicholson, the baddest of Hollywood’s wicked, debauched, womanizing, bad boys, is to eschew acting, to quit, withdraw abandon and resign from making movies because of his inability, incapacity and powerlessness to recollect, remember, retain or recall his lines.
Roget, was born in Switzerland, in 1779. By the age of eight, he was already a compulsive list maker. He studied to be a doctor at Edinburgh University and he worked mostly between Manchester and Bristol. In 1808, he moved to London and continued to lecture on medical topics. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society and from 1827 to 1848 served as its secretary.
The astonishing, amazing, staggering, astounding disclosure by Jack of his problem, his difficulty and his dilemma, sent a shockwave that continues to, resonate and resound through Tinseltown, which for so long has promulgated, promoted and propagated the image of Jack The Jumper, as an icon, a totem and a symbol of the old fashioned movie star, a pose carried off with, aplomb, elan, flair and style. Nicholson’s natural aptitude for wickedness was a gift and he also had a talent for hell-raising and causing social carnage.
Compiling the Thesaurus was one of the ways Roget, used his creativity, inventiveness, originality and enterprise, to cope with depression. The roots of his misery, sadness despair and downheartedness, sprang from the early deaths of his father, his wife and his favourite uncle, Samuel Romilly, who committed suicide in Roget’s presence.
As a young doctor, Roget had achieved eminence via several papers he wrote during his medical career. He published works on tuberculosis and Nitrous Oxygen, also known as “laughing gas” but he didn’t have enough wit to inhale some himself to chase away the blues..
Jack could use some laughing gas also. As far back as three years ago, he was already doleful, depressed, distraught and disappointed, especially because his once vibrant, pulsating libido had been neutered by a remnant of decency lurking beneath the surface.
”I’m definitely still wild at heart. But I’ve struck bio-gravity. I can’t hit on women in public any more. I didn’t decide this; it just doesn’t feel right at my age … If men are honest, everything they do and everywhere they go is for a chance to see women. There were points in my life where I felt oddly irresistible to women. I’m not in that state now and that makes me sad.”
Roget was not a one trick pony. In 1815 he invented the slide rule, which was used for all sorts of mathematical calculating of amongst other things, algebra and finding the square roots of numbers and, logarithms, which effectively makes him one of the fathers of the internet. The slide rule slipped a bit when the first Pocket Calculator was introduced in 1975.
Coincidentally, 1975 was also the year when Jack burst his way out of the pack, emerged from his prison of supporting roles and established himself as one of the great actors of his days by winning an Oscar for his performance in the role of the rebellious and rambunctious McMurphy, in the fabulous movie “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. He cemented his budding , burgeoning, escalating, mushrooming reputation, by picking up two further Oscars, one for Best Actor in a supporting role in Terms of Endearment and another Best Actor Oscar for the delightful middle- aged Autumnal love story.
Genius that he was, Roget also had a say, a role an involvement in film and animation. He wrote a paper entitled: Explanation of an optical deception in the appearance of the spokes of a wheel when seen through vertical apertures. This paper contributed the development of the zoetrope, a piece of equipment that is still used in producing the illusion of motion.
Jack hasn’t made a movie since 2010, but he’s still a regular at courtside to watch his basketball team the L.A Lakers. He’s a passionate fan, who has run foul of officialdom several times as a consequence of his boisterous delivery of instructions directed at his team and at the umpires.But even f he is out and about, there is a melancholy that that has cept into hi view of life.
“One of the toughest parts of ageing is losing your friends. At first it starts quietly, then pretty soon it’s every month, and you can’t help but think, ‘When is that bell going to go off for me?’ And on top of that you feel this constant loss”, loneliness. The last three times I’ve been in New York filming, I didn’t leave my hotel room for one single night.”
At sixty one, Roget, like Jack, retreated from the world and from 1842 until the first edition was printed in 1852, he devoted his time to assembling his thesaurus. He survived to be ninety and he died, expired, passed over, kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil and croaked in 1870.Shay Healy’s latest eBook ‘The Danny Boy Triangle’ is Out Now on Kindle 2.99 Free Kindle Reader – download app