Albert Finney: So Long, Love! [PHIL-OSOPHY]
The son of a bookmaker has died.
He was also one of the greatest actors of all time. The kids, who are now grown ups, may remember Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks in Annie. The world may flashback to his starring roles in Tom Jones, Erin Brockovich, Skyfall, Murder on the Orient Express, The Dresser, Under the Volcano, Big Fish, The Gathering Storm, or if you go way back to the early 1960s, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, a classic that received 100 percent from Rotten Tomatoes and helped launch his extraordinary journey.
Unlike most of you, I'll remember Albert Finney for horses and not his monumental film or stage work. In one of my most unforgettable national radio chats, we talked about the bookmaking profession of his father, Albert Sr., and some of the world-famous horses Albert Finney partnered in. Do you recall the 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew? Finney was Mickey and Karen Taylor's partner in bloodstock holdings in many great thoroughbreds, including Slew.
Talk about racing, it was my heart I could hear galloping in the moments just before our conversation. The night before, I had a prepared list of questions ready to go, but that was in the relaxed solitude of my home office. As I heard a pleasant woman's voice answer his phone, my mind went completely blank.
It was Diana Quick, a respected thespian in her own right and Albert Finney's housemate at the time, who kindly asked me to standby, as they were expecting my call to their home in Chelsea, England.
Then, like a curtain rising on the stage, this deep, loud, beautiful, mellifluous Lancashire baritone voice with British accent greeted me, "Hello, Love!"
I was momentarily knocked for six, like a boxer hitting the mat. With that opening, Albert Finney defused and rendered defenseless all my edgy apprehensiveness. We talked about his youth when he loved being by his dad's side, watching the bets being wagered on the "ponies."
I told him about my early morning high school days as a "hot walker" at Oaklawn Park race track in Hot Springs, Arkansas. A hot walker is a precocious title for someone who hand-walks the horses around the stable. He laughed so hard, saying he's never been interviewed by a hot walker before, and when I told him my first name, Philip, translated from the Greek meant "lover of horses," well that made stronger the laughter and the joy of a fascinating conversation about his "idolatry" for thoroughbred horses.
Do you know that euphoric feeling when a positive bond is formed the moment you first meet someone, and it's mutual? That's precisely how I'll remember Albert Finney.
So long, love.
Phil Paleologos is the host of the Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.