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An encounter with Roy Scheider

Posted at 11:59 AM on February 12, 2008 by Euan Kerr

It's hard to overstate the impact that "Jaws" had on popular culture back in 1975. It catapulted Steven Spielberg to fame, and made mullions of people at least think twice about approaching open water just in case a big beastie with big teeth put the bite on you. I knew people who were nervous about even going to the bathroom because of "Jaws."

In the middle of this was Roy Scheider, who played Police Chief Martin Brody, the water-fearing guy who had to take on the Great White shark plaguing the shoreline of his little town.

The sad news that Scheider has passed away made me think back to a day in 1978 when I went for a walk on Central Park in New York. It was early, and I was killing time before meeting up with a friend. I was visiting NYC for the first time and had vague visions of Holden Caulfield and his ducks as I sat down on a bench by the boating pond.

There weren't many people around. it's one of the wonders of Central park that you can be in the middle of Manhattan and be quite alone. As I sat with my thoughts, enjoying the relative quiet I suddenly became aware of a man clad in gray sweats jogging on from one of the approach paths.

He passed by me and then began circling the pond. The first time he came by I don't think I looked at him. The second time I glanced up and thought he looked vaguely familiar. The third time he came by I realized it was Roy Scheider.

At that point in my life I had not met anyone with his global recognition. I immediately began wrestling as to what, if anything, I should say. Some sort of "Hi Roy?" Or "I love your work Mr Scheider!" Or how about "Seen any sharks in the boating pond?" It all seemed kind of lame.

He came by again and we did the traditional male acknowledgement grunt and nod. Then he took off, back into the metropolis.

Brushes with fame are oh-so-fleeting.

February 2008
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