He’s an elderly guy, thin as a bunch of Slim Jims joined at the ends. Very polite, very affable. He shows up for the Saturday movie nights at the bookstore, buys a snack — usually an ice cream bar or a cup of coffee — heads into the TV room, and falls asleep for the next few hours.
A couple of weekends ago, I showed a double bill of The Wages of Fear and Diabolique — two of the most suspenseful films ever made. When I walked by the side entry to the TV room. All around the room, people were staring with big round eyes, mouths slightly agape, utterly spellbound as Yves Montand tried to get a truck full of nitro around a hellishly tight switchback road. In the middle of all those rapt faces was Sleepy Earl, chin resting on his chest.
I’ve shown a lot of great movies here since the store opened, and Earl has slept through some of the best. He’s slumbered through Murmur of the Heart and Lacombe, Lucien. He’s zizzed through The Conversation and The Rain People, napped through Memento and Proof, conked out for The Draughtsman’s Contract and The Pillow Book, and drowsed through The Chosen and My Son, the Fanatic.
Last night I showed House of Games and Homicide, with Earl staking out dreamland in his usual spot — corner of the viewing room, cloth-covered armchair. On his way out, Earl paused and said, “You really hit a home run with those two.” I managed not to ask how he could have known that. I’m going for epic romances next week: Out of Africa and The Way We Were. I expect that well before Robert Redford flashes his first crinkly smile, Earl will be out like a light.
Surely there’s a bluesman out there willing to immortalize Sleepy Earl in a song. If nobody steps forward, I might just have to do the job myself.