“David Strathairn: I Want to See You Lose Your Shit,” by Michael Rodman

Oct 5th, 2016 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

I’m not exactly sure of the right way to go about this, David Strathairn, so I’m just going to come right out and say it. I would really like to see you, David Strathairn, lose your shit. There. It feels good to finally get it off my chest. I know what you must be thinking: Who the fuck is this guy, a guy who, out of the blue, wants to see me, David Strathairn, lose my shit? Wait—is “fuck” a word that you, David Strathairn, would use? Or even think? Not, I imagine, unless you lost your shit. Which is the whole point. So here we are.

I assure you, David Strathairn, I’m no nutjob or stalker. I wish you no malice or harm. Here’s the thing. I—we all—live in a world where David Strathairn, screen husband to Meryl Streep (The River Wild), Jessica Lange (Losing Isaiah), and Kathy Bates (Dolores Claiborne), is the very embodiment of not losing one’s shit. Whenever you pronounce “Strathairn” with that assured, confident placement of the accent on the second syllable, what could be further from anyone’s mind than the loss of your shit? Who else glides as effortlessly as you, David Strathairn, from leading man to ensemble player to quirky character role—all without losing one iota of shit? No one, that’s who.

Whether as cool, collected, chain-smoking TV journalist Edward R. Murrow in Good Night and Good Luck, mild-mannered, in-over-his-head Black Sox pitcher Eddie Cicotte in Eight Men Out, or even lecherous scumbag pimp Pierce Patchett in L.A. Confidential, you, David Strathairn, are not a man to lose his shit, onscreen or off. Amiable nuclear plant worker Wesley in Silkwood, blind electronics savant Irwin “Whistler” Emery in Sneakers, force for good Dr. Lee Rosen on Syfy’s Alphas: shit lost, zero.

Any run-of-the-mill, wet-behind-the-ears director can say, “Get me a David Strathairn type,” and settle for, say, William Fichtner. Maybe shit will be lost, and maybe not. Who knows? But it takes a real visionary, a John Sayles or a Sydney Pollack, to pound his fist on a desk and insist, “Get me David Strathairn!,” fully confident of one-hundred-percent shit retention. Steven Spielberg knew what he was doing when he cast you as Secretary of State William Seward in Lincoln. Come on—who’d’ve been more statesmanlike, more civil during the Civil War than David Freaking Strathairn?

I kind of picture you, David Strathairn, reading this with a thoughtful expression, your thumb beneath your chin and your index finger lightly crooked across your lips. Or maybe with the stem of your glasses gently clenched between your teeth. In either case, I imagine you reading this and thinking, with preternatural calm and unflappability, What a strange, unnatural request, which is to say, the loss of my shit. But then the notion of losing your shit gradually becomes an interesting thought experiment. Your imagination begins to roam and run wild with losing-your-shit scenarios, and it all starts to come together in your mind’s eye: shit-losing, David Strathairn–style.

Imagine yourself, David Strathairn, on parent-teacher conference night, standing off to the side, lightly leaning against the wall with that unmistakable, effortless, David Strathairn kind of dad-handsome. As anxiety-ridden parents walk by, you look up in that totally reassuring, non-threatening David Straithairn way, with a slightly raised eyebrow and crooked half-grin, as if to say, “I know, right?,” and somehow make them feel that, despite the fact that their kid is doing C-minus work, and possibly weed, everything is going to be all right.

That’s the David Strathairn whose shit I would like to see lost, by you. I want to see that self-possessed, never-not-chill David Strathairn, responsible, involved father, snap—and, with an ungodly howl, hurl his bake-sale blondie and Styrofoam cup of lukewarm coffee at the blackboard. I want to see the suddenly very unchill David Strathairn flip desks over and rip the “Reading Rocks” poster and handwritten haikus about pet hamsters from the bulletin board near the door and punch the pencil sharpener right off the wall. I want to see finally-lost-his-shit David Strathairn sweep his arm across the fucking table, sending art-class coil pots and baking soda–and-vinegar volcanoes and shoebox dioramas of the Cuban Missile Crisis, complete with pipe-cleaner Kennedy brothers, flying in all directions, moist crumbs and spittle at the corners of his mouth, his otherworldly banshee cries heard clear to the cafetorium. I want the vice-principal, all too eager to hand out the stack of demerits in her pocket, to stomp into the room to see what all the fuss is about, and to be confronted by a man—David Strathairn—who has, clearly, Lost. His. Shit.

Maybe, David Strathairn, the scenario you conjure for the hypothetical losing of your shit is simpler, earthier; something with more of a blue-collar, everyman touch. Maybe it begins with a string of unprintable obscenities served up in that well-modulated, slightly reedy David Strathairn tenor/baritone, eventually growing into a full-blown roar as you take a baseball bat to a neon-lit backbar in some divey neighborhood tavern, spraying broken glass and sticky green, never-asked-for Midori melon liqueur all over a cluster of barflies whose shock at finding David Strathairn in their midst is exceeded only by the sight of David Strathairn losing . . . well, you know.

Sometimes, when I hear you guest-host Selected Shorts on NPR—and of course you do, because is there a more Strathairn-y thing than Selected Shorts?—my own imagination starts to kick in. What if—what if?—you, David Strathairn, suddenly halted, mid-sentence, as you were introducing “a wry tale of love gone off the rails,” kind of cleared your throat, and began to lay waste to Symphony Space, yanking down velvet draperies, exiting stage left and returning with a fire extinguisher, spraying the first two rows of the audience with chilly foam, all the while cackling insanely, flinging chairs like a basketball coach and karate-kicking music stands and finally rolling the Steinway grand piano into the orchestra pit with a clangorous boom as you shriek and thump your chest and bob across the stage Angus Young–style? Great radio, sure. But I don’t think I’d be alone in thinking that would be some shit-losing worth seeing, because this is certainly not what 672 people anticipated when they plunked down their thirty dollars (twenty-seven dollars for members) for tickets to Selected Shorts. A shit-losing David Straithairn? Live? I know I’m not the only one who’d pay Hamilton prices to see that.

So many facets, so many IMDB credits, so many David Strathairns—yet shit-lost David Stratharin is a David Strathairn we’ve yet to see. And so, David Strathairn, competent, avuncular voice of reason and/or well-spoken love interest to the female lead, all I ask is that you give losing your shit some serious consideration. I have complete confidence that you’ll entertain the prospect of a shit-losing shitstorm with unfailing composure and imperturbability. Because you, David Strathairn, are David Strathairn, and David Strathairn, whether billed first or seventh, is the shit. And the shit is his to lose.


defenestration-michael-rodmanMichael Rodman is a doomed aesthete and rarely paid satirist whose work has appeared in MAD magazine, SPY magazine, Oddfellow magazine, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. A number of his blog posts as Japecake have been adapted for stage presentation by Lively Productions in New York City. He still has difficulty making a cursive capital X.

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