I know. You didn’t ask. But I feel some explanation is necessary. If only to myself. Let’s see… It started with this morning’s crossword puzzle; 55 across: Actor, Herbert ( 3 letters, beginning with L for llama.) It was LOM, Herbert Lom; it worked out that way but I’d never heard of Herbert Lom. So, to check it out I looked him up on Yahoo.
According to Wikipedia, Lom who died in 2004, was born in 1917 to upper class parents in Prague, Czechoslovakia. His birth name was Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchacevich von Schluderbacheru which would never have permitted him entry into the crossword puzzle world. Nor would it have helped him become successful in the acting profession. Why he chose Lom to replace “Kuchacevich von Schluderbacheru” I don’t know. It was a good idea though. Lom became a very successful actor in Europe. He came to play the frustrated superior officer to the quirky detective played by Peter Sellers in Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther films.
The Wiki article displayed the following quote by Bom about Sellers:
“Peter [Sellers] was always a mixed-up guy, a childish fellow. But if you’re fond of children, you’re also fond of childish men. He was always very helpful to me. After he was famous, and when I was still in trouble with the US embassy, he wrote a letter in support of me which was magnificent. But it is true that he was very cruel to his children. He was so hurt by the way children treat you when you’re their father. I have been hurt by my children. But he was not in possession of a proper brain when it came to these things.”
I found the quote charming. He was honest and straightforward about Sellers and completely without malice. At the same time he commented on his fellow actor’s failings, he gave the devil his due. He just nailed the guy in a few words.
So I looked up Wiki’s reference to the quote’s source, an interview with Lom in the British newspaper The Independent, written in the year of his death:
Herbert Lom has packed a lot into his 87 years - from his childhood in Prague as an impoverished aristocrat to fame and friendship with Hollywood’s biggest stars
By Brian Viner.
The interview was even more captivating than the excerpt from it quoted above. Lom was indeed an “odd fellow,” but entirely comfortable being one. At 87, no less. For example, a day or two after the interview, he called the Viner to request he return for a second one.
"I have spent my life learning other people’s lines," … "Now I want to say some of my own," Lom said to the writer when he arrived. He then proceeded to defend Britain’s then Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom the British press was beating to a pulp (so to speak): “Tony Blair is a brilliant and brave prime minister. It must distress him that chopping off heads, which has become fashionable among those villains in the desert, is not considered as wicked as failing to find the so-called weapons of mass destruction.”
While I disagree with Lom about Blair’s Iraq policy, I do agree with him about the horror of chopping off heads. And Lom was an expert on head chopping, having written a 1992 novel about the inventor of the French guillotine called Dr. Guillotin: The Eccentric Exploits of an Early Scientist.
But back to the “How did I get here?” part… I was explaining how I happened to begin blogging on tumblr today. Well, I began by thinking about how I just couldn’t drop my interest in Herbert Lom, an actor who died in 2004, who turned up in this morning’s crossword. Then I thought of the phrase, “flotsam and jetsam,” which I felt sure I’d come upon in something written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The phrase became a metaphor for my stumbling upon Herbert Blom on the shore of time, sort of. Not that he is flotsam, in the sense of a vagrant or forgotten person, or jetsam (something washed ashore), but I encountered him by chance via the crossword puzzle via my curiosity via the internet. I found him on time’s shore and did not want to leave him there, not right away …
Well, I got stuck on that phrase “flotsam and jetsam.” It had become the crux of a metaphor that explained my fascination with a crossword clue. So, I set out online to find how and where Fitzgerald had used it. This led nowhere. I did learn that Somerset Maugham, another author, wrote a short story with that title. I decided to follow that line, hoping to pick up the Fitzgerald connection. That’s when I found the blog Flotsam and Jetsam. It’s another tumblr.com blog. The author Sandy Gautam seemed to have an attachment to the phrase similar to my own. I liked his blog which appears to consist of quotes from literature. So I clicked the Follow button thus entering the labyrinth that led me to create this blog. In order to follow his blog, I had to be a tumblr blogger, too.
The title, “On a lonely road, not long ago” is from the Arkansas state song. The rest of the line is “a traveler trod with fiddle and a bow.” It evokes a sense of traveling through time and the inevitable loneliness of the human journey. And the attempt to transcend the loneliness by reaching out, by telling stories to others and embracing the stories of others.
Besides, I used to live in Arkansas and I’ve always loved that song, “The Arkansas Traveler.”
By the way, Herbert Lom played the lead in one of the first Phantom of the Opera movies.