Abnormal Use and Wilford Brimley

Okay, dear readers.  It’s early January, and you are just now returning vacation, and unfortunately, you are probably not reading your favorite products liability law blog.  So, today, we’ll talk about something frivolous:  our recent attempt at a pop culture interview (although one somewhat related to the practice of law).

As you recall, last month, our fearless leader Mills Gallivan authored a post commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the great 1981 film, Absence of Malice.  Mills remarked upon the film’s greatest scene, the one featuring Wilford Brimley as the U.S. Attorney cleaning up the mess the other characters made throughout the film.  Mills rightly noted that the scene is the film’s best. He also explained why that scene continues to resonate with lawyer viewers even three decades later.

But, as you know, we here at Abnormal Use occasionally like to spice things up with interviews with our favorite pop culture figures, particularly when an anniversary is involved.  Way back in March of this year, we interviewed the writers and producer of the 1991 film Class Action (which you may remember starred Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as father/daughter lawyers on opposite sides of a products liability case).  In preparation for Mills’ Absence of Malice piece, we sought interviews with some folks associated with that film.  First, we contacted Kurt Luedtke,  the screenwriter, who declined our request.  (We should note for the record that Mr. Luedtke declined personally, not through his representation, and did so in perhaps the most polite fashion we have ever encountered here at Abnormal Use.)  Next, we requested an interview with Brimley himself through his representation.  We thought it might be fun to ask the actor who created the film’s most memorable role.  As sometimes happened, we sent several requests to his representation and heard nothing back – not a single response.  This is not unusual, and quite frankly, not unexpected, as we are just a two year old law blog on the East Coast and we doubt Hollywood agents and PR officials consider us of much value to their clients’ careers.  However, we have had some limited success in the past and thought we would give it the old college try.  But after a few unreturned attempts at contact, we gave up.

Then it happened.

You wouldn’t believe what happened.

One day I returned to my office from lunch and found a voicemail waiting for me.  There’s nothing quite like the feeling of walking into your office and seeing the red light on your phone lit, as that could mean many things, not all of them good.  But, at the end of the day, there’s nothing unusual about a voicemail, so we picked up the receiver and dialed our password.

And we listened to the one voicemail that was waiting for us.

From Wilford Brimley.

In his unmistakable voice.

And in the voicemail (now lost to history), Brimley related that he had gotten a “letter from you people” and was calling in response our request.

Although the voice was most certainly that of Brimley, we couldn’t believe it.  We thought that perhaps one of our colleagues or Abnormal Use writers was playing a joke on us and impersonating the actor.  (Prime suspect:  Steve Buckingham.)  However, our investigation led to the inescapable conclusion that the voicemail was in fact from Brimley himself.  Apparently, his representation or agent or whomever had forwarded our request to him, and he called us directly.

But he did not leave a number.

There was not a way to contact him back because he did not leave a number.

Attempts to reach him again through his agent were unsuccessful.

If only we had been at our desk on that particular day we could have done an impromptu interview with Brimley himself.

But it was not to be.