For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.
Tonight I had dinner with my favorite film professor whom I haven’t seen in 16 years. He’s in town on business (the business of seeing Godspell for the second time! Zing!) and seeing him reminded me of two things.
The first thing is this: he used to leave a sign-up sheet on final exam day for anyone who wanted to know his grade ahead of time. You’d take his test and then leave your number. He’d call to let you know your grade, so that you wouldn’t have to sweat it for two weeks, waiting for it to come in the mail. The first time I left my number I came home to a paranoid and accusatory mom.
“A Dr. Wyatt called you about some test results…? Is there something you want to tell us?”
I laughed so hard and assured her that I wasn’t pregnant or in any sort of trouble–that the doctor was my teacher and that the test he referred to was my Film Analysis final. Then I explained that if I were to ever make a secret doctor’s office visit, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to give them my parents’ phone number. I got into college! I can at least figure that out.
The second thing is about what happened when I took that final. It is absolutely true.
Not Duk Dong
When I was in college I was in at least four classes with this guy Ben* who knew several of my close friends. He lived around the corner from me and he hung out with my roommate from time to time. And yet every time we ran into each other at a party or a show he would introduce himself.
“Hi, I’m Ben.”
At some point I started answering, “Yeah. Dude, I fucking know you.” But it didn’t make any difference. So after a while I just started introducing myself to him, pre-emptively.
Anyway, we were in a film analysis class with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Wyatt. For the final, we watched Slaves of New York and then were given a question about the film that we were to answer in essay form. That was our whole final, and a big part of our grade.
So after the film, before we started writing, Dr. Wyatt allowed us to ask him questions, about the movie, and about the test. All hands went up because it was a final exam and people were taking it pretty seriously.
Ben raises his hand and asks, “I was wondering, is that guy who played the doctor in that one scene – isn’t that the same actor who played Long Duk Dong?”
Dr. Wyatt paused for a second, I assume to consider two things:
- Really? That’s what you wanted to ask?
- The doctor in Slaves of New York was Indian. Long Duk Dong was not.
So his answer to Ben was, “Um, the Indian guy?”
And Ben said, “Yeah. He played Long Duk Dong, right?”
And Dr. Wyatt says, “The actor you’re thinking of is Asian.”
And Ben still wasn’t getting it. He was like, “It looks like the same guy, right?”
A visibly irritated Dr. Wyatt replied, “No. They’re not the same guy,” and moved on to the next student.
Ben was not convinced. After Dr. Wyatt wrapped up the Q&A session he let us take a bathroom break before beginning the exam. I went out into the hall to stretch my legs and get a drink of water. As I walked back toward the classroom I saw that Ben had Dr. Wyatt cornered by the bathroom door and was pressing him: “You don’t think it was the same guy…?”
A few years later Ben moved to New York and committed suicide.
I don’t know what actually happened, but I like to think that he was on a quest to find the actor that played the doctor in Slaves of New York, and the fact that it was not the same actor who played Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles was too much to bear.
*Not his real name.