Niagara Gazette


April 6, 2013

GUEST VIEW: Roger Ebert: A personal remembrance


Niagara Gazette — Over the years, we talked many times at different gatherings, at either movie junkets or film festivals. Of course, the onset of email made communicating with him ongoing.

I hadn’t seen Roger for quite a while, when I was able to chat with him and is wife Chaz after a morning press screening for the Chicago Film Festival at the Lake Avenue Screening room in Chicago in 2010. Chaz, as always, was charming and exuberant.

The cancer that would take Roger’s life had caused his vocal cords and jaw to be removed. I was saddened by his condition, but that morning he was as smart and as funny as ever. I had an old VHS tape to give him. It featured a one-hour cable TV show about movie junkets in which Roger gave some commentary. He had never seen the finished program. That autumn morning in Chicago, we “talked” for about a half-hour after the screening. Roger would write his responses and comments in a small notebook, and then he would hold it up for me to see what he wrote. Chaz filled in the blanks.

Last November, Roger helped make my life a media circus, which I enjoyed, when he published on his website a column I wrote about the new owner of a local weekly, the Niagara Falls Reporter, refusing to publish my movie reviews if I wrote about films that featured strong women characters. The column’s instant international celebrity amazed everyone. Within 24-hours it had reached 50,000 original hits and the attention went through the roof.

The column was shared all over the web and eventually became a Twitter and Facebook sensation. Hundreds of websites picked up the story. Roger was constantly in touch with me with updates. He was thrilled. And I was flown to New York City to appear live in-studio on the “CBS Saturday Morning” news program to discuss the censorship controversy. After I appeared on the show, Roger sent me an email that read: “You’re very good. Articulate. I’m tweeting and facebooking.” The column is still receiving hits on the web. Its worldwide success led to my writing movie reviews for this newspaper.

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