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Jun 17, 2024

Paging My Inner Larry! Come in, Please!

Sociopathy made fun!

By Ed Goldman

Do you have an Inner Larry? I call upon mine whenever I’m driving and get a bit complacent—which is to say, I half-forget I’m driving and as a result, I stop paying close attention to the freeway chaos surrounding me. Passivity sets in. (“Sure, cut me off in the fast lane without even signaling. I’m okay with that. No road rage here, mate.”)

That’s when I summon up the character played by actor Skipp Sudduth in my favorite action movie, John Frankenheimer’s “Ronin.” Skipp plays Larry, the getaway driver of a small band of mercenaries led by Robert De Niro. With total self-confidence and a suitably cinematic heavy foot, he drives a black Audi S8 away from many a skirmish, usually caused by the band itself.

Edgy Cartoon

Here’s looking at you, kid

Adding to the fun, the film’s notes indicate the actor did most of his own driving rather than yield the wheel to one of the corps of stunt drivers standing at the ready. (Don’t worry. They’d soon earn their pay by staging a spectacular car chase on a Paris freeway in which the pursued and pursuer drive on the wrong side of the road—i.e., into the oncoming rush-hour traffic. If Larry hadn’t already been shot dead by that point, I’m sure he’d have joined the mayhem.)

Since childhood, I’ve always tried to summon up Inner Whomevers whenever a task seemed well beyond my actual, limited skill set.

When I played the title role in “The Music Man,” first as a high school senior and then as a young professional actor—”professional” in this usage meaning only that I was being paid, not that I was especially good at it—I summoned my Inner Robert Preston merged with my Inner Burt Lancaster. For while Preston originated the role of Howard Hill on Broadway and in the 1962 movie, Lancaster memorably played conmen in both “The Rainmaker” and “Elmer Gantry.” I figured two scam artists were better than one. 

Had the Outer Me been anything like the Inner Those Guys, I might have tried for a career in the theatre. But no matter what part I played during my years of dabbling in the performing arts, every character came across as the Inner Me, a Jewish boy from New York City. Envision the Music Man doing his famous rap-like number “Ya Got Trouble” and its coming out like “Trouble? Is that what you got? Oy!” 

How many of you, especially guys, like to call on your Inner Jack Nicholson (in “Five Easy Pieces”) when you’re having trouble making a substitution in your order at a diner? I’m sure you remember the dialogue, which I’ve excerpted here. Jack is playing Bobby:

BOBBY: I’d like a plain omelet, no potatoes, tomatoes instead, a cup of coffee and wheat toast.

WAITRESS [pointing at his menu]:  No substitutions.

BOBBY: What do you mean? You don’t have any tomatoes?

WAITRESS: Only what’s on the menu. You can have a number two, a plain omelet, it comes with cottage fries and rolls.

BOBBY: Yeah, I know what it comes with, but it’s not what I want … Wait a minute, I have made up my mind. I’d like a plain omelet, no potatoes on the plate, a cup of coffee and a side order of wheat toast.

WAITRESS: I’m sorry, we don’t have any side orders of toast. I’ll give you an English muffin or a coffee roll.

BOBBY:…OK, I’ll make it as easy for you as I can. I’d like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce, and a cup of coffee.

WAITRESS: A number two, a chicken salad sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, and the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?

BOBBY: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast (and) give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich.

—Yeah, that’s how I wish I could handle a situation like that. But before I try this, I’d better make sure my Inner Larry is waiting for me in the car. With a full tank of gas.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).