on the first day of this semester, i walked into my multicultural film class with high hopes of loving the professor, since i luckily loved my other 5. because, you see, the chances of loving 5 professors in a row is extremely rare. so by number 6, i was nervous...
and then i hated him.
this bald, round man with a slouchy rain jacket, khaki pants, and a fanny pack introduced himself in a monotone new york accent. without looking, i felt the vibe of my fellow students kind of slump down a notch with disappointment. he reminded me of an ex-cop with a superiority complex as he read over the syllabus and sternly repeated instructions over.and.over.again. i looked around at people's eyes rolling in the back of their heads and immediately imagined myself running home to my computer to drop the class. and that's what i intended to do, but of course, my schedule was so tight that i just couldn't.
and i'm glad i couldn't. because i was too quick to judge.
on the second day of the semester, his voice was lighter, his expression more relaxed, and the content was much more interesting. it's almost as if the way he was acting on the first day was just a ploy to scare students away (most professors love it when kids drop their class).
and then Mr. Mostel revealed that he is a writer, artist, and musician. he told tidbits of his life story, which has to be one of the most interesting i've ever heard. at least from a college professor.
first of all, his father was Zero Mostel, a Tony award-winning stage and movie actor. he starred in Fidler on the Roof, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and The Producers. here's a video of his father performing at the Tony Awards. i think it's just brilliant.
when he was a kid, his father was a part of the hollywood blacklist and suspected of being a Communist (though of course, he wasn't). my professor told stories about secret agents following him to and from school, and questioning his classmates. as a young adult, he was in a band, dabbled in drugs, and WENT TO WOODSTOCK. he went to Columbia University and became an artist and music teacher. he even belted out a few notes one day to prove it. the day after i watched city lights in one of my other film classes, Mr. Mostel told us that at a movie premiere, he once SHOOK CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S HAND! (which of course made me determined to shake his one day). the day before we had a screening for Sweeney Todd, he said, "Good luck with that movie. You'll need it. In fact, you should probably bring a flask." and every thursday, he would say, "Have a good weekend. Be safe. And be happy if you can. It's good for ya."
so, in short, i ended up absolutely adoring him. the lectures were always rich, and the discussions always hysterical.
which is why i'm glad that his class, last thursday, was my last official college class. the entire period, Mr. Mostel talked about art and beauty. he handed back 5 of my papers, all of which i got A's on. i shook his hand and told him how much i appreciated the class. when i walked outside, my heart was happy.
oh, and a little p.s.
i shook the hand that shook the hand of this genius man:
who also shook the hands of these genius men: