John Hawkes as Mark O’Brien

Am I the only one who wants to hear Jessica Yu on “The Surrogate” a new Hollywood release about the life of writer Mark O’Brien. Jessica Yu won an Academy Award for her documentary on Mark O’Brien, “Breathing Lessons”.

The movie stars John Hawkes as Mark O’Brien. Well, I hope they pick Teddy Franco to play me some day. I had to avoid making a bad joke in the headline about the title that Hawkes was nominated for: “Winter’s Bone”. Also, he was in a band in Austin, I read, called Meat Joy.

Jessica Yu and I grew up about a half-mile from each other. She was a year behind me at Gunn High, and a features editor of the newspaper, before Yale. I knew her sister Jennifer Yu slightly better; I thought of Jen as a track athlete, but the true athletic prowess of all the Yus is fencing. Jennifer was National Champion collegiately for Stanford, while her cousin Elliot Shu was men’s champion. I wrote about them for Times Tribune in 1984. Jes was featured in U.S. Olympic team ads.

I was flattered when in the local Palo Alto papers, apropos of her school days, the Oscar winner recalled our spoof on Jim Harbaugh, who was at Paly.

Mark O’Brien had post-Polio syndrome and was a prolific writer. He lived in an Iron Lung, and on a gurney. While I doubt the therapist he worked with the wrote about looked like Helen Hunt, I think she should take a bow nonetheless. I recall being quite moved by Yu’s film, but did not recall the sex part. Slate excerpts O’Brien’s writing, which I cut and pasted thusly:
After she got off the mattress, she took a large mirror out of her tote bag. It was about two feet long and framed in wood. Holding it so that I could see myself, Cheryl asked what I thought of the man in the mirror. I said that I was surprised I looked so normal, that I wasn’t the horribly twisted and cadaverous figure I had always imagined myself to be. I hadn’t seen my genitals since I was six years old. That was when polio struck me, shriveling me below my diaphragm in such a way that my view of my lower body had been blocked by my chest. Since then, that part of me had seemed unreal.

I recall identifying with something Mark said about how we are co-creators of the world with a Higher Power. God bless.

The new film, which I heard about on Access Hollywood or somesuch — I had to rewind to see if I heard that right — is called “The Surrogate.”

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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