Friday, January 02, 2009

Who's the Master? A Rememberance of Julius J. Carry III (March 12, 1952 - August 19, 2008)

The end of one year, and the beginning of a new one, is a time for reflecting upon the memories of our past and the people who mentored, inspired, and/or entertained us. Over the next few days, I will be writing short remembrances of those among my favorite entertainers who died this year. I can think of no better person to begin with than Julius J. Carry III. Every geek/nerd has a list of actors that the geek/nerd will watch everything that actor stars in, no matter how bad. Typically, this list begins with Bruce Campbell, but not mine. Bruce Campbell is on my list, to be sure, but the top of my list -- and a very warm place in my heart -- has always belonged to Julius J. Carry III.

To understand my love for this character, one must look back in time to our pastel and neon colored past. I am, of course, referring to the 1980s. In this particular case, I am referring to the summer of 1986 and I had an obsession with Barry Gordy's film The Last Dragon starring Taimak and Julius J. Carry III, or -- as my obsession would have it -- starring Julius J. Carry III and Taimak. I absolutely loved the movie, much to the annoyance of my best friend Sean McPhail. You see, Sean had the movie on VHS and every time I visited his house I always wanted to watch The Last Dragon. Okay, either The Last Dragon or Hawk the Slayer, but the point here is that I would ask Sean to the point of nagging. His patience regarding this request, even granting that his answer was usually a sighing, eye-rolling NO, was really quite remarkable. I was pretty obsessed, and I am certain a little less than reasonable in the regularity and desperation with which I requested this film. My family didn't have a VCR at the time and Sean had to endure my bizarre movie cravings. Then again, it's his fault. He did introduce me to the film.

In The Last Dragon, Carry plays a character who is a fusion of what you would get if you merged Superfly with all the martial arts villains from the classic Shaw Brothers kung fu flix. In a word, Carry was the BADDEST thing I had ever seen on the screen. While, The Last Dragon is a Motown centric spoof of kung fu films, the film also beautifully satirizes MTV and it's a rip-roaring good time. Taimak makes a pretty good kung fu hero, if a bit limited in range, but it is Carry who steals the show. From the first moment Carry appeared on screen, to his fight scene with "Bruce Leroy" where he makes his hands glow -- you see he's a highly skilled fighter who can through intense focus make his hands glow -- I fell in love with this villain. The villain made the movie, and that movie made me a Carry fan.

Here's the fight between ShoNuff (Carry's character) and Bruce Leroy (Taimak), so you can get a glimpse of what hypnotized me as a teen.

There is no way that Samuel L. Jackson will be anything other than a caricature of this performance, if he actually plays the role in a possible remake of the film.

From The Last Dragon, I followed Carry to a couple of excellent television shows. First was the unforgettable geek extravaganza that was The Adventure's of Brisco County Jr.. This show had the geek irresistible combination of Bruce Campbell and Julius Carry. Dave Simkins, who worked with Carry on The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., has a short -- and kind -- remembrance. The show was quirky, fun, and set the stage for later Fox shows like Buffy and Firefly and USA's Burn Notice. Don't believe me? Watch an episode of Brisco, then watch one of the others. The "rhythms" of the shows are very similar. The combination of action and comedy, etc. I cannot imagine any of those shows being made were it not for Brisco -- though I doubt there would be a Brisco without a Wild, Wild, West, but that is another post entirely.

Then I followed Carry to a little sitcom called Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place. Carry was excellent on the show, as was Richard Ruccolo, and this show expanded my crush on the very entertaining Traylor Howard. It also introduced me to Nathan Fillion...What's that? Another Firefly connection? Sadly, the show became Two Guys and a Girl after only 13 episodes as the Pizza place was shifted to the side. After that, Carry got steady work as a guest star, but no regular lead/support roles.

Julius J. Carry III entertained me and conversations about the characters he played have turned acquaintances into friends. He died last August of pancreatic cancer at the -- to young -- age of 56.

I will miss him in the selfish way that all fans miss those who entertain them.

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