' Cinema Romantico: Forgotten Characters: the Pizza Man in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Forgotten Characters: the Pizza Man in Ferris Bueller's Day Off


The above moment is one of many comic interludes in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” The butt of this interlude’s joke is Edward R. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), Dean of Students, who is scoping out a suburban pizza joint for the three teens – the titular Ferris (Matthew Broderick), his paramour Sloane (Mia Sara), and his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) – on the lam. He stands near a small television set showing the Chicago Cubs game that the Pizza Man (Joey Vieira) is watching. And at the precise moment Rooney looks away, he misses the TV catch sight of none other than Ferris catching a foul ball. Curses! It’s funny all on its own, of course, but then John Hughes appends one more bit of funny.

Rooney: “What’s the score?”
Pizza Man: “Nothin’, nothin’.”
Rooney: “Who’s winning?”
Pizza Man: “The Bears.”

But here’s the thing I find myself wondering more and more: what if Edward R. Rooney, Dean of Students, isn’t the butt of this joke?

Once, many years ago, before moving to Chicago, I was working my desk job during a summer afternoon when I returned from some wholly unmemorable lunch to discover a voicemail waiting. I listened. It was not a client nor a customer but two friends of mine in Chicago at Wrigley Field where Max Weinberg, of my beloved Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, had just thrown out the first pitch. Cackling, hopped up on Budweiser I could imagine sloshing around in their plastic cups, “Glory Days” blaring in the background, they explained they just felt like they needed to let me know where they were and what had just happened. When the voicemail concluded, I seethed with envy. I seethed with more envy later in the kitchen when I caught sight of the very Cubs game my friends were at on the television. It looked nice there.

A perfect summer afternoon in Chicago, when the humidity is low, when a gentle breeze wafts in off the lake, when the sun is bright and accompanied by just a few picturesque, wispy clouds, when 80 degrees is entirely true to its number, Lord, that’s hard to beat. And while there are all manner of fine places to be in Chicago on such an afternoon, be it a porch, be it a beer garden, be it the lakefront, be it Parson’s Chicken and Fish (so long as you’re a hipster dufus), well, Wrigley Field, the Friendly Confines on Addison & Clark, even with all the bros gone rabid, might be peak Summer Afternoon Chicago. And that is naturally why Ferris, Sloane and Cameron have to end up there, at least briefly, during their infamous day off in 1985.

Movie literalists have determined this was a clash against the Atlanta Braves that the Cubs lost by a couple runs just as movie literalists have determined that there is no way Ferris, Sloane and Cameron could have visited all the places they did in the time allotted. What movie literalists incessantly miss, of course, is that the day is impossible to actually pull off because the day is an ideal, not unlike Ferris Bueller himself, living the dream and pulling the rest of us, we Cameron Fryes, along in his wake. And that’s why I always wondered what might happen if Ferris aged out of the ideal. Alas, the Honda CRV commercial for the 2012 Super Bowl in which Broderick reprised his famous role revealed that even in humdrum adulthood Ferris found a way to attain the unattainable.

And so, if we are all Cameron Frye when we are kids, the ongoing ideal of Ferris would suggest that we are all the Pizza Man when we are adults, trapped behind the counter, left to deal with never-ending orders and asinine Deans who don’t know how sports work, wistfully watching a faraway baseball game in a sunny paradise where some devil-may-care kid is catching a foul ball.

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