Thursday, August 06, 2009

Sincerely, John Hughes


I was babysitting for my mom's friend Kathleen's daughter the night I wrote that first fan letter to John Hughes. I can literally remember the yellow grid paper, the blue ball point pen and sitting alone in the dim light in the living room, the baby having gone to bed.

I poured my heart out to John, told him about how much the movie mattered to me, how it made me feel like he got what it was like to be a teenager and to feel misunderstood.

(I felt misunderstood.)

I sent the letter and a month or so later I received a package in the mail with a form letter welcoming me as an "official" member of The Breakfast Club, my reward a strip of stickers with the cast in the now famous pose.

I was irate.

I wrote back to John, explaining in no uncertain terms that, excuse me, I just poured my fucking heart out to you and YOU SENT ME A FORM LETTER.

That was just not going to fly.

He wrote back.

"This is not a form letter. The other one was. Sorry. Lots of requests. You know what I mean. I did sign it."

He wrote back and told me that he was sorry, that he liked my letter and that it meant a great deal to him. He loved knowing that his words and images resonated with me and people my age. He told me he would say hi to everyone on my behalf.

"No, I really will. Judd will be pleased you think he's sexy. I don't."

I asked him if he would be my pen pal.

He said yes.

"I'd be honored to be your pen pal. You must understand at times I won't be able to get back to you as quickly as I might want to. If you'll agree to be patient, I'll be your pen pal."


For two years (1985-1987), John Hughes and I wrote letters back and forth. He told me - in long hand black felt tip pen on yellow legal paper - about life on a film set and about his family. I told him about boys, my relationship with my parents and things that happened to me in school. He laughed at my teenage slang and shared the 129 question Breakfast Club trivia test I wrote (with the help of my sister) with the cast, Ned Tanen (the film's producer) and DeDe Allen (the editor). He cheered me on when I found a way around the school administration's refusal to publish a "controversial" article I wrote for the school paper. And he consoled me when I complained that Mrs. Garstka didn't appreciate my writing.

"As for your English teacher…Do you like the way you write? Please yourself. I'm rather fond of writing. I actually regard it as fun. Do it frequently and see if you can't find the fun in it that I do."


He made me feel like what I said mattered.

"I can't tell you how much I like your comments about my movies. Nor can I tell you how helpful they are to me for future projects. I listen. Not to Hollywood. I listen to you. I make these movies for you. Really. No lie. There's a difference I think you understand."


"It's been a month of boring business stuff. Grown up, adult, big people meetings. Dull but necessary. But a letter from Alison always makes the mail a happening thing."


"I may be writing about young marriage. Or babies. Or Breakfast Club II or a woman's story. I have a million ideas and can't decide what's next. I guess I'll just have to dive into something. Maybe a play."

"You've already received more letters from me than any living relative of mine has received to date. Truly, hope all is well with you and high school isn't as painful as I portray it. Believe in yourself. Think about the future once a day and keep doing what you're doing. Because I'm impressed. My regards to the family. Don't let a day pass without a kind thought about them."


There were a few months in 1987 when I didn't hear from John. I missed his letters and the strength and power and confidence they gave me and so I sent a letter to Ned Tanen who, by that time, was the President of Paramount Pictures (he died earlier this year). In my letter I asked Mr. Tanen if he knew what was up with John, why he hadn't been writing and if he could perhaps give him a poke on my behalf.

He did.

I came home from school soon after to find an enormous box on my front porch filled with t-shirts and tapes and posters and scripts and my very own Ferris Bueller's Day Off watch.

And a note.

"I missed you too. Don't get me in trouble with my boss any more. Sincerely, John Hughes."


Fast forward.

1997. I was working in North Carolina on a diversity education project that partnered with colleges and universities around the country to implement a curriculum that used video production as an experiential education tool. On a whim, I sent John a video about the work we were doing. I was proud of it and, all these years later, I wanted him to be proud too.

Late one night I was in the office, scheduled to do an interview with a job candidate. Ten minutes or so into the call it was clear that he wasn't the right guy, but I planned to suffer through.

Then the phone rang.

1…2…3…4…a scream came from the other room and 1…2…3…my boss Tony was standing in my doorway yelling, "John Hughes is on the phone!!"

I politely got off the phone with the job candidate who was no longer a candidate and

Hit. Line. Two.

"Hi, John."

"Hi, Alison."

We talked for an hour. It was the most wonderful phone call. It was the saddest phone call. It was a phone call I will never forget.


John told me about why he left Hollywood just a few years earlier. He was terrified of the impact it was having on his sons; he was scared it was going to cause them to lose perspective on what was important and what happiness meant. And he told me a sad story about how, a big reason behind his decision to give it all up was that "they" (Hollywood) had "killed" his friend, John Candy, by greedily working him too hard.


He also told me he was glad I had gotten in touch and that he was proud of me for what I was doing with my life. He told me, again, how important my letters had been to him all those years ago, how he often used the argument "I'm doing this for Alison" to justify decisions in meetings.

Tonight, when I heard the news that John had died, I cried. I cried hard. (And I'm crying again.) I cried for a man who loved his friends, who loved his family, who loved to write and for a man who took the time to make a little girl believe that, if she had something to say, someone would listen.

Thank you, John Hughes. I love you for what you did to make me who I am.

Sincerely, Alison Byrne Fields.

1,411 comments:

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filmgeek said...

Everyone and their mother is writing a post on Hughes after his death but yours is by far the most honest, open, heartfelt and sincere. I think he would be touched by how much you still care. This is a beautifully written and incredibly moving post and it's nice to know that there are filmmakers who care more about their fans than they do the studios. I hope there are more out there like him

nico said...

I loved the work of John Hughes and now I can appreciate him as a person.

He inspired me to write movies and now your recollection inspires me to live up to his ideal.

Thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I never post comments, but this was so touching I had to. Thank you for sharing this with the world!

Colleen said...

What a beautiful tribute to a man who touched so many with his too-true-to-life stories. You were lucky to have had such amazing exchanges with him and you must feel his loss that much more deeply than the rest of us who felt connected to him. Thank you for sharing with us what he shared with you.

La Linguetta said...

This is beautiful. Thank you, Alison.

Anonymous said...

Like Bunny, just a few short weeks ago, I was lamenting to my husband that John Hughes wasn't making films any longer. We had just watched a miserable film, full of morosity (that isn't a word, but I think it's a new film genre) ok, full of moroseness. My husband didn't know who he was and I tried to describe his art as somewhat akin to a punk Frank Capra. I wondered about Mr. Hughes, and thanks to this very sincere and authentic blog entry, I can see that he had made a courageous choice that is not too surprising, and that his friend's passing had a very moving impact on his life's direction. This short writing says much about both men. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful tribute: http://www.thismoment.com/moment/view/50634/remembering-john-hughes

Michael said...

What a beautiful story. And what determination you showed so early in life. You gave a gift and how lucky you are to have received so much in return.

richard laermer said...

What a tremendous story you've contributed--and fast too. I did not know he had left Hollywood for any reason....and the John Candy story he told you--that is just incredible. Thanks for doing it. Damn. Gawker should do more stories that elicit better emotions than cynicism.

ange ella said...

I absolutely fucking loved this.

Anonymous said...

I was blessed to know John most of my life. He IS who you say he IS and you've touched his family deeply with such a beautiful portrait of his character. I will miss him always and I thank all of you for the kindness in your words. John Hughes deserves the best! He will live on in the people that loved him.

Jeff said...

Alison, thanks for posting this beautiful message. John Hughes and his films helped me through those painful high school years a "neo maxi zoom dweebie." Your loving tribute to him was a real comfort as we all mourn a great loss. Keep the dream alive.

Julie @ The Mom Slant said...

Absolutely fucking amazing.

Thank you for sharing this. I'm going to pass it on.

jsd said...

That was a great tribute to a talented man. I'm glad you were able to connect with each other. Sounds like you had a mutually positive influence.

Michael Part said...

Alison --

Thank you for that moving tribute to John Hughes. His films affected me too and inspired me to write my own. It was wonderful reading about your relationship with him over the years and I love the way you wrote it up.

Yours,

Michael Part

kathi said...

There are so many stories now out there about how John Hughes' films influenced the lives of so many of us who were young (or even not quite that young) in the '80s. Your more personal tribute "for a man who took the time to make a little girl believe that, if she had something to say, someone would listen" truly moved me. Thank you.

katherine. said...

he will be greatly missed...I am truly honored you shared this with us.

Jack said...

Alison,

Thanks for writing this. My mother was a casual friend of John Hughes. He shopped at the local bookstore where she works and came in fairly frequently. She texted me yesterday with the news that he'd died. Honestly I didn't think much of it, since my mother often sends me news of local gossip, especially when it's bad news. However, your post made me realize how sad my mother must actually be. I forwarded her the link. Thanks for posting.

-Jack

ZenMom said...

This was beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Alicia-Marie said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences with John Hughes. In a world where the insignificant (money, fame, power) is glorified, it's nice to really know that one of my childhood heroes was honest caring in real life and not just in the art he made.

Jack said...

Alison,

Thanks for writing this. My mother was a casual friend of John Hughes. He shopped at the local bookstore where she works and came in fairly frequently. She texted me yesterday with the news that he'd died. Honestly I didn't think much of it, since my mother often sends me news of local gossip, especially when it's bad news. However, your post made me realize how sad my mother must actually be. I forwarded her the link. Thanks for posting.

-Jack

Scott McAuley said...

Thanks, Alison -- John Hughes picked the right pen pal.

ms. u (lori ungemah) said...

alison,
one of the best blog posts i have read in ages. thanks for sharing your story with the world--it gives john hughes a human side that you were lucky to know.
warmly,
lori

Aaron said...

Alison thank you for your beautiful post.

Long live John Hughes.

Anonymous said...

I'm not one for posting on Blogs, however I'm a friend of one of Johns sons and I can honestly say that the apple doesn't fall to far from the tree. Thanks for sharing Alison.

A.P. Boynton said...

Best. Blogpost. Ever.

Laura said...

this was really lovely.

chasarumba said...

From yet another member of the generation that Hughes touched...thank you for sharing this story. It's beautiful.

j9kovac said...

Thank you, Alison. I feel like you wrote those letters for all of us. Sharing with him the things we would have liked to share, hearing the things we would have liked to hear. Finally, thanks for sharing your private correspondence with us.

j9kovac said...

Thank you, Alison. I feel like you wrote those letters for all of us. Sharing with him the things we would have liked to share, hearing the things we would have liked to hear. Finally, thanks for sharing your private correspondence with us.

TERI REES WANG said...

Letters with intention always push through and make a connection. Yours obviously held on to resonate.

This story, your story is great.

Be well.
Do good.
All ways.
All days.
Stay true.

Natalie D. said...

This was absolutely fantastic. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

WOW - that was SO powerful it brought me to tears! THANKS for sharing your VERY personal story!

Jason said...

thank you for your post and story - very moving. I will share this with others.

Oliveria said...

Wow what a wonderfull story. I also grew up with John H films and also wondered what happen to him. What a man that he chosed to put his family first. Thanks so much for sharing.

Arthur said...

Once again you have proven what a great friend a pen pal can be. I too had a famous pen pal and when he passed I felt the same way.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post & a wonderful insight! Thank you for sharing.

z.
NASCAR Race Mom

Barak said...

What a great story!

Amy said...

That is a beautiful and touching story. Thank you so mucn for sharing it.

EmilyAdele said...

From someone who always wanted to write a letter like you wrote to John Hughes, but never did, thank you so much for sharing it all here. Inspiring!

Emma Howard said...

This is an amazing story.

Thank you,

Emma

Graham said...

Just a remarkable story of integrity. Thank you! This will have a major impact on how I maneuver through my creative life. Thank you for sharing.

No Mother Earth said...

I've always loved his films - they have a special place in my heart. And now that I've seen what a kind person he is, I love him too.

Dave said...

Wow. See, I liked his movies, but when I saw that he'd died, I sort of shrugged and thought "huh, that's too bad."

You made him a person to me, and now I'm sad too. But thanks, all the same.

Dawn said...

Alison... Thank you for sharing your experience... You've helped restore my faith in the generosity of kind souls...

I posted about your post and your experience on my site with some links back to here.

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend...

Dawn

Katherine said...

What a crazy, fabulous story. Thank you so much for sharing this. It's a beautiful tribute to an amazing man.

Diane said...

Hi Alison-

What a truly amazing, unique and special experience you had with Mr. Hughes... he clearly had a huge impact on so many generations by depicting the "cruelty" of being a teenager. How blessed you are to have his experience and guidance intertwined in the fabric of your life.

Blessings.

Diane

Wazoo said...

Alison,

It must've taken a lot of guts to post this entire history, but thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing it!

I hate to write something so cliched (so please excuse me) but they don't make movies like he did anymore.

It's almost 2010, and I can't think of anyone in this decade who was able to capture what John always did.

Anonymous said...

Alison, this was an incredibly poignant and sweet piece. Thank you for sharing your insight and a part of your relationship with JH and your self.

KnitStricken said...

Dear Alison:

Thank you for sharing this.

Thank you for reaching out and staying true to yourself- then and now.

Maybe I *am* "old skool", but I believe there is STILL a need for putting pen to paper, putting paper to envelope, putting envelope to mailbox.

Maybe, hopefully, your post has encouraged/will encourage others to share their insights and gratitude with others in the same way.

I hope the post office sells some stamps today to people with just this intent.


My best,
Erica

ModernGear TV said...

Alison,

What an amazing gift he gave you and a legacy he left that lives on in you, in addition to his family and his films. I am absolutely sure that you have paid it forward, and will continue to do so...

It was sad news to any of us who were so affected by his films. He was so young. I feel terrible for his family...there's not really a "but..." in this other than, but I am sure they and he were happier when he left Hollywood, and he must have had a great life.

A big e-hug to you. Thank you for sharing this story.

ljayzee said...

Thank you for sharing such a BEAUTIFUL story. I hope you write a book about this, I would love to read it. It is refreshing to learn and sort of confirms what I though about John Hughes, that he would be so down to earth to become pen-pal with his fan to take the time and listen. I loved the "The Breakfast Club", his film are apart of my youth.

Cafe Fashionista said...

I love you for sharing this with us...I truly love you for this. I am horribly sad for you today. John will be missed by all of his fans who admired him from afar, but you will miss him more than the rest of us who followed his work, as you had a special relationship with him.

This is a post that should be featured in a magazine. Perhaps in a tribute to the late John Hughes - I would buy many copies if I spotted it upon the newsstand. :)

Haddayr said...

Wow. Thank you for posting this.

From the O-Zone said...

Thank you for giving us the man, the human being, not the public image. You're in a unique position to give us something real. I feel that I know something of John Hughes through your words. I doubt that I'll find that anywhere else.

krista said...

just when i thought i couldn't be anymore affected...your story is so powerful and so inherently authentic. you just put a face to the mythology and i cannot thank you enough for that.
i feel a loss because of his stories. i am so sorry for the personal loss of a man who was your friend.

Cinema Du Meep said...

That was incredibly moving. THANK YOU so much for sharing it with everyone.

xo
CinemaDuMeep

R. Shane said...

If everyone in Hollywood were a tenth as classy as John Hughes was, "Hollywood" would no longer have that negative connotation to it.

Stephanie Palumbo said...

Wow, very moving. Thanks for sharing - good to hear you.

Alessia said...

Thanks so much for this. John Hughes and his films made me feel, growing up awkward in the 80s, that it was perfectly ok to be so and do so. I just wish Andy had stayed with Duckie in the end.

What a great experience you had. You are very lucky.

wrecklessgirl said...

the other day, i was saying how much i craved received a real, handwritten letter. then, via twitter-friend recommendation, i happened upon this story. you have defined the voice of a letter received by mail. it has closer voice than often digital mail has...and much more tangible.

Anonymous said...

I was in high school on Chicago's north shore from 1984 to 1987. In fact, I knew many of the extras and 'day players'. Those movies, like for every teenager in America, were my life. Those and Blues Brothers were what made me pursue a film career. I was lucky enough to even work on one of his projects.

Your tribute was moving. Thank you.

Shaina said...

Wow, Allison. I was sent over here from Crazy Days and Nights - as I'm sure many have been. I have always loved John Hughes' movies and this is such a special post - what a unique relationship you had with him, so special!

~ap said...

thank you for being a light in his life, as he was a light in ours. what a wonderful connection for us all!

SteveG said...

What an amazing story.. I am sorry for the loss of John Hughes on so many levels.. Having grown up the same time you did his movies had a huge influence on me as well..

He will be missed..

Anonymous said...

Hi Alison,

Thank you for the most amazing tribute to John Hughes that I've read in the past day. I feel lucky that I came across it. He was so right about the business sucking the life right out of you -I hope he got to enjoy a real life in the years between Hollywood and this week. Best, FR

Hello there! My name is June said...

I cannot find words to express how much your post has touched me. I wish I had thought to have written him a letter...but I guess I thought he was too busy & too famous to really have time to talk to little girls like I was. I am glad to learn he 'really' understood us after all. My heart aches for his family, friends, and all of us...his fans forever. Thank you for sharing this.

czeltic girl said...

Thanks for sharing this with us, Alison. What a wonderful eulogy. And it's great to know he was a nice of a guy as I'd always hoped he was.

sean broom said...

That was just beautiful, thank you so much for sharing it.

Paul said...

This is sad and lovely and warm and wonderful. Thank you for sharing it.

Andrew said...

I was about to say something like "everybody's said what I wanted to say", but realized that would be disrespectful towards both you and Mr. Hughes. I'm so touched by Hughes' kindness and, though I'm a bit young to have seen all of his films (I'm nineteen), I definitely mourn his loss--and the world's. Great piece, Alison (though that adjective alone does not do it justice). Fight on.

Minx said...

what Bob said (comment #3).
seriously.

Stacie said...

Wow. This is just absolutely amazing!

Born in 1988, I was not lucky enough to live through the acid wash jeans, concert tees, leg warmers, big hair, and neon lycra. Instead, I faced baggy jeans, dark lipstick, the perm, and the likes of Nash Bridges and Doctor Quinn: Medicine Woman (and the classics that came later--Dawson's Creek, ER, Buffy, etc.) on TV--not to mention the explosion of boy bands and mostly talentless teens.

Then, I saw "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Ferris was a god. Much to my mother's disappointment, "The Breakfast Club" was next. That was my high school. Sure, the clothes were a bit different, but that was my life.

The wonderful thing about John Hughes was that every one of his movies were like that--you fit right in. You saw your classmates, your friends, yourself.

Thank you for sharing your story! It's amazing! He will be missed, but we will have his movies forever.

What I Think said...

What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing it.

Rick said...

I must have something in my eye...

Ron said...

Allison...this is a fabulous article about someone that really formed a generation with his movies...This makes me want to canel the plans for the weekend and start a movie marathon, starting with Ferris, my hero!!!

jyl (Mom It Forward/#gno) said...

In my heart, my oldest son's name will always be Jake Ryan... even though my SIL took it first (and she hadn't even seen 16 Candles)... and my fave band will always be Squeeze... because, how can you not like a band that Molly Ringwald loved in the 80s? LOL!

I LOVED JOHN HUGES and his amazing movies. This is an excellent post. What a fun and meaningful memory to share from your teenage years... that so many of us can relate to!

oakland heidi said...

So wonderful. You are lucky to have reached out into the world and had someone so nice squeeze your hand back.

Elliott Hurst said...

Fantastic blog. You inspired me to write my own on the effect John Hughes had on me and our generation. Thank you. http://www.supernova.com/Elliott/blog/2288

jfielek said...

Thank you for this.

Kimberly said...

Allison,

This is deeply touching. Thank you so much for sharing your story. My heart hurts for John...I feel like he sometimes understood our generation before we did ourselves.

thatguy542 said...

Thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

After a morning of being bogged down in irritating minutia, I read this and it was the most bittersweet, yet uplifting thing I've read it a long, long time.
As all the others have said, I too have been a huge John Hughes fan since I was a pre-teen. And then to hear that he was just as amazing as a human being as he was with his movies...well. He rises even father on my list of the best people in the world.
This reminds me how very important it is to acknowledge young people, no matter how busy or high-falutin' we think we are. Not only do we learn from them, but hopefully by taking the time, we can in some way make a positive impact on their lives. How proud he must have been of you.
All the best to you...Liz K.

sionnac said...

Truly sorry for the loss of your friend - the time it takes to write to someone with thoughtfulness and purpose is time well spent - the words remembered, and taken to heart. How wonderful to have had such a friendship.

Izzy said...

just as I was about to post my comment, the local news started a small segment about Hughes... *tear*

no one else is making iconic films for a generation like his... intelligent without being pretentious, hilarious without being pandering... just downright human...

your story is fantastic. I'm so very jealous, but even though I never met him, he still knew me.

JTinAtlanta said...

Came here from a link on aintitcool.com and I must say, I'm glad I did.

As a child of the seventies/eighties, I always enjoyed him as a director/writer. After reading this post, I can truly appreciate him as a human being.

Darth Rachel said...

this... THIS is why John Hughes was so great.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

Natasha said...

This was a great tribute to John Hughes, thank you for sharing it with us!

Deborah said...

My condolences on the loss of your friend. Thank you for sharing this with us.

KJ said...

It feels as though you were speaking to him for all of us who shared the same 80s. Thank you for it. I'm sorry we all lost John Hughes, the writer and director, but I'm especially sorry you lost your friend.

Anonymous said...

Okay. Third time's the charm. And I am not computer illiterate but for the life of me... I'll send it as anonymous but my e mail is jknopq@aol.com.

I had written a pour-my-heart-out note twice, and I think the third recap, this one, will be a bit colder, hopefully not. I had to tell you your story left me brimming with tears -- only b/c I'm a guy, and not about to start bawling on my own. And that not only I thought this is a movie I'd love to see (others share that thought, I see) but is one I'd love to write into a script myself. But don't take it as me not really getting the true meaning of your story but take it as the power of your tale. This is how much it moved me. I guess all that is left is to thank you immensely for this opportunity, and to share a hug through cyberspace, and sadly a poor substitute. All my very best wishes to you, I hope you recover your smile now, and please have a wonderful heart-fulfilling life, for you and your loved ones. Again, all the very best. Sincerely. ML

Julia said...

A friend posted your blog post on Facebook. Thanks for sharing this more personal side of John Hughes with us. I love your frank response to receiving the official fan stuff inspired him to start writing to you. Makes me wish I'd written to my teenage hero.

artdude said...

Amazing! A guy like him is rare in Hollywood. If the love and tutelage he gave you was passed on by older folks to our youth the world would be a better place.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your wonderful post Alison. It reconfirmed one of the reasons I loved John Hughes films.

Run DMT said...

I wish I had the courage as a teenager to write John Hughes and tell him how much his work meant to me. I absolutely LOVED your story. Thank you for sharing your years with John Hughes.

This story HAS to be made into a movie. Hell, if "they" can make a movie about about a woman inspired by Julia Child than the powers that be need to make this into a film. I would see it opening night.

AT said...

This is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Anonymous said...

This story is amazing in so many levels... Thanks for sharing this... makes me smile to think of a talented and well known movie maker who took the time to be the pen pal of a teenager who needed of needed of someone to believe in her. What a tribute to the guy srsly.

Congratulations on what you're doing now. And thanks again for sharing this with the world.

Jasper said...

What a great post.

John Hughes made films like no-one else. He seemed to have a unique empathy with teens; their hopes, fears, anxieties, and dreams and expressed them in a raw, honest way. They meant a lot to me when I was growing up in the eighties and have stood the test of time in that they are still great today.

Mr. Hughes has been taken from us far too soon. But his humour, warmth, talent, and his insightful voice will live forever through his films.

There could not have been a more thoughtful or appropriate tribute to him than yours. Thank you for sharing it.

R x
http://jasper-thedogsblog.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing this piece of John Hughes which you have taken with you, now that he has gone away.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this.

Loved his films as well even though I was out of my teen years his movies provided me with a lot of laughs during the eighties.

I really related to the character in Sixteen candles. It is to this day one of the best films with a lot of great lines.

I always wondered what happened to him. Thank you for the post.

stacy

Amanda By Night said...

I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said, but just wanted you to know that was a beautiful story you just told. Thank you.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Oh my goodness. What a great tribute. What a life story you will hold in your heart forever.

Steph

chris said...

Just wanted to be one of 500 (and more very soon, I'm sure) to thank you for sharing such an incredible story.

Jen said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I wouldn't have thought it was possible to like him anymore than I already did, but this post managed to elevate him even further in my eyes.

He was one of a kind and I'm truly, truly sad that he's passed away.

Brooke said...

What an incredible story. It's wonderful to know that you became the voice for all of us in the audience. Thank you for sharing this story and for connecting us all a little bit more to John Hughes.

serena said...

This is an incredible & beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

the bowel movement said...

this was such a wonderful read. it is so much better to celebrate the good in people when they're gone than to be sad. thank you for sharing your story with the rest of us.

Amelia Sprout said...

I'm too young to have seen many of his movies in theaters, but dreaming of having the movie ending he created kept me going when high school sucked. It is incredibly nice to know that he had a very real connection to what he did. I'm sorry for your loss.

Jill said...

This is an incredible story. Thank you for sharing it. My heart goes out to you and everyone who knew him. He sounds like a truly wonderful, giving person. As big a loss his death will be to the film industry and movie fans, it sounds like it will be a hundredfold for his friends and family.

Anonymous said...

So, here I am at 39, a director in a multi-billion dollar corporation, shutting the door to my office so my staff cannot see me sitting at my desk with tears streaming down my face.

And to think I was just taking a minute at lunch to check on the GI Joe movie review (prior to taking my young sons...)

I didn't expect to find this article but I'm glad that I did. I hope that my sons, when they are old enough, can appreciate John's movies the same way that I did as a teenager.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Best regards from California

catalina said...

I live on the other side of the world and i'm probably a lot younger than you...but I was a teenager too and The breakfast club is still my favorite movie...
your story is completly amasing, it's wonderfull that you shared it with us

Mike said...

Thanks for sharing, Alison.

Sorry for your/our loss.

Lindsay said...

Thanks for sharing this. I knew his son James in high school. His parents were always so sweet. And Mr. Hughes always seemed so down-to-earth, funny, and kind.

Sean said...

thanks for sharing this. John Hughes was such an amazing guy, it's hard to believe that he's gone. I spent a good deal of my childhood watching Home Alone, its sequel, and Christmas Vacation over and over. It's awesome to see that one of Hollywood's most gifted muses had such a huge heart!

Eileen said...

That was really truly special. Thank you for sharing those exchanges with the rest of us. I think you've been able to offer more insight into the man he was than I've seen anywhere else.

I hope his family is able to see this someday.

Julie said...

Alison, thank you for sharing. This brought tears to my eyes as well.

Stepho said...

Thank you so much for sharing. I grew up watching all his movies, too. I always knew he was a great movie maker, but now I know he was a truly good human being, too. I am so sorry for your loss. The refrain of "Don't You Forget About Me" keeps circling in my head from the Breakfast Club. No, we all can never forget you, John. You spoke to our generation. You will be greatly missed but your movies will live on.

Anonymous said...

That was an AMAZING story. You were so lucky to have had the opportunity to have that kind of dialogue with the one, the only John Hughes. I just did a write up of your wonderful post for the website babble. Check it out here if you'd like. Again...I really loved that you shared your story.

http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2009/08/07/a-teenage-dream-john-hughes-was-her-penpal

Shannon P., Brooklyn, NY said...

Alison --

Thank you for sharing this with us. John Hughes' work was a huge reason I chose to study media/film in college. I wrote many papers about him and his works. He will be deeply missed.

mysecondjournal said...

Allison, found your blog posted on facebook today. OMG... Thank you! Thank you! You were able to tell John Hughes what the rest of us were all thinking and feeling. His movies were inspirational to us as teens..the first one that HIT me was Some Kind of Wonderful.
Thank you again, keep writing!!

yeomanpip said...

A brilliant post, Thank You for sharing!

e said...

Amazing. Thanks for sharing.

never.odd.or.even said...

Made me cry --- well written, Alison.

anamchara said...

This is one of the most beautiful things I've read, and a most glorious tribute to John Hughes. I was so saddened to hear of his passing, as I like many teenagers at the time, connected with his movies in so many ways. I still consider them to be favorites and treasures.

But the connection you shared with him sounds phenomenal. Thank you for sharing your personal relationship and the wonderfully human way that he connected with you.

Mr. Hughes will be missed, but this was one of the loveliest tributes to anyone I've ever read. Thank you.

Heather said...

What an amazing and beautiful story. Truly.

Kim said...

What a beautiful and compelling story! Thank you so much for sharing that and thanks to John Hughes for engaging with you!

Nelson said...

Dearest Alison-

I stumbled onto your blog while looking online for more information on Mr. Hughes' life and work, and I am so very glad that I found you!

While I am truly saddened (for his family, for you and for every 80's teen that loved John Hughes' work) knowing that John has left us so early in life, I am also really happy that someone like you was so deeply and genuinely inspired by John's work. That you even managed to keep in touch with him personally over the years is both a validation of and a testament to his beautiful, insightful soul.

On behalf of every misfit kid who wanted to shake John Hughes' hand, and guy who STILL finds glimmers of himself in 'the jock', 'the brain', and 'the criminal', thank so much for letting John know how important his work was to all of us.

joe8track said...

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story. And thanks for helping John by befriending him.

Ron said...

It is hard to imagine John Huhes at 59 having a heart attack because he seemed -- and I mean this in the best possible way -- forever young, inquisitive and sad that people eventually embraced realism over idealism.

Thanks for this post.

Mike said...

This is an amazing and touching story. I'm happy you got to experience such a relationship with him. RIP, Mr Hughes.

Marcy said...

Thank you for making me cry at my cubicle at work. :) What an amazing story that you will have with you for the rest of your life. I enjoyed so many of his movies, and knowing that he took the time to write back to you as your pen pal is the perfect example of just how much he understood about relationships. His movies reflected upon summer family vacations, teen angst, the struggles between teens and their parents, and he took the time to develop a relationship with you as a teen because he understood what you were going through.
Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Moonmaid said...

Your blog story made me cry. Thanks for sharing it. I was a little older when I saw John Hughes' movies, but they really resonated with me, since I was an outsider in high school too. I think Hughes made the right move for his kids getting out of Hollywood, and I am sure they turned out pretty well. Good luck with your writing.

Adam said...

Thank you for your loving tribute to John Hughes. His gentle spirit was apparent in his films, but it's inspiring to know he was a genuine, caring person in real life too. It hurts to lose people like him- but while he was alive he made a tremendous difference in so many lives, including your own. You are truly fortunate to have cultivated a friendship like his.

Jamie's Girl said...

I LOVED Pretty in Pink. It made a world of difference to me knowing that I had something to offer. Regardless of my background, I still could have an awesomely fun future.

Breanne said...

What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

This was so amazing to read. I loved his movies and especially The Breakfast Club. What a wonderful tribute and how lucky you are to have so many memories.

Doug said...

What a great story, thanks for sharing. I admire your post for the writing as much as I do the story, thank you for the time you put in to it.

Anonymous said...

thank you for writing. it's so nice to hear a man you respected for his work, was a great man in his life.

Flora said...

Oh man.
Thank you. Just... Thank you.
For writing this. For making the man human (especially when you have people saying "He was a celebrity. Get over it").
And for the sheer beauty of this post.
Thank you for sharing your story.

You made me cry. No fair.

lori luna said...

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20296605,00.html

you are noted in the People Mag article.

Ineedmyfix.com said...

Alison,

Your story moved me to tears, like everyone else.

I knew John Hughes' movies very well, but not a lot about him. Your story changed all that. Being Canadian I was especially moved by the part about how Hollywood killed John Candy and how upsetting it was to the good man that John Hughes clearly was.

Be strong Alison, and listen to the things John told you. He had it all figured out. This world has clearly lost a very good man.

alex dante said...

Thank you for sharing this.

anyone & no one said...

Wonderfully written tribute to a man whose movies also meant the world to me. Thank you, Allison, for sharing your special relationship with the man who made those movies that helped me feel like someone understood me. I can only hope that someday I will be able to write as well as you or tell a story on film as well as Mr. Hughes.

thirtyhelens said...

Remarkable. Thank you for being the surrogate for so many of us all those years ago and for meaning so much to him; it's clear how much his correspondence meant to you, as well it should. What a wonderful gift. x

Anonymous said...

This was posted by a friend of mine on facebook and i can't tell you how much I love it. Thanks for sharing. I too was a huge fan and find the fact that he left Hollywood fascinating. Living here I can see why and see why he made the comment about John Candy. I love it that he was such a special and sensitive person. Thank you so much for opening your heart and sharing this. Take care and sorry for your and our loss.

Paula said...

What is most interesting and sad to me is, that an exchange such as yours would be hard to imagine today, despite, and probably because of, our (overly) connected world. Too many people seek too much access and want to take, take, take from those in the spotlight.

It's not only a reminder of a person who's left us, but a time.
Thanks for sharing.

Kristen said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Allison. What a great tribute to John Hughes! Like many others have said, you're a great writer and should keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Alison, I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. Thank you for sharing your fantastic relationship with us. John Hughes is very proud and touched by what you have said. Well done.
Lori
xox

Rose said...

What a special experience Alison and a wonderful man who definitely spoke to many generations through his art. I totally got teary eyed at work :)

Thanks for sharing, keep art and self expression alive!

n said...

Dear Alison

I don't know if its your blog, or the comments by the anonymous, 39-year old executive from California, but, at this very moment, in the middle of a very crowded Panera bakery, I am fighting a losing battle attempting to restrain some really persistent tears.

Thanks for your loving tribute to such a beautiful soul.

And thank you, Mr. Hughes, for reminding the world that even young hearts feel pain, too.

Vic Arpeggio said...

Thanks for this. I only knew Mr. Hughes through his movies and the stories my cousin John, a Teamster in Chicago who worked on his films (he was in the polka band in HOME ALONE), told me. I work in Hollywood and while I love it at times, understand how soulless it can be. This is a beautiful tribute.

Benjamin Russell said...

Thanks you for sharing this. I once worked with a woman who told me the story of working for her high school newspaper in Illinois, and getting Mr. Hughes to speak with her about the process of filmmaking, and how great of an experience it was for her, and how much it inspired her to write further. I've been thinking of how this event must have shaken her, but have had no way of getting in touch.

Your post is a balm. It's wonderful that he reached out to other young people, like you, and it's wonderful that neither you nor my friend were likely the only people he connected with, wrote to, and inspired. It confirms what we always wanted to think of him after watching his visions and listening to his words.

Stephan said...

Dear Alison, we're all connected. I feel connected to you and also to all those who were moved by your post. Become a connection point for as many people as you can and maintain it. The internet is tailor-made for this activity. I personally prefer the phone as well as letter writing. I am connected to Peace Corps Volunteers and also to the people of my beautiful island of Saipan for the last 43 years. Its a great investment in time.

Steve

kieran said...

that's a really nice story & good to hear some insight into why he left hollywood, i was gutted about that.

Stellar Drift said...

I wish I had known someone to tell me I mattered... when it mattered...

Polly Helen said...

thank you allison for sharing this. what a wondeful tribute.

mr. hughes would be proud of you. not just as a friend, but as a writer.

Steve said...

Incredible.

Thanks so much for sharing such a personal time in your life. It's wonderful to know that people like John exist, and stories like these (although yours is quite unique) SHOULD be shared.

It's refreshing to see someone like John take responsibility for his work and have a conscience.

Whether it was speaking a a voice for a whole generation or being a pen pal, John was a really great guy.

Thanks!

JSeds said...

Alison,
As if you don't already have enough comments, I figured I'd leave my two cents..
Your relationship with John sounds beautiful and inspirational. When I was 14, I was in a staged version of The Breakfast Club and it was the first play I ever did. The experience made me fall in love with each of the castmates as well as John Hughes and the messages that he communicated through his career. In the years following, I took a lot of grief from people for having a passion for arts in a conservative setting, but I'm now in college, majoring in Acting and planning to make a career out of it. The Breakfast Club and John Hughes kept me determined through high school, so thank you for strengthening the image of John Hughes that's inspired me from the very beginning.
-Josh

Johnathon said...

Hey Alison,

While I was never a big fan of The Breakfast Club or 16 Candles, I will always love Family Vactaion, Christmas Vacation, and the Great Outdoors. They are some of my all time favorite movies as well as being very special to me. You see, I lost my father in February of 2008 and these films were some of his favorites as well. Whenever they came on, him and I would watch them. I thank Mr. Hughes for giving me those memories so that I will always have a part of my father with me.

Thank You Mr. Hughes and may God bless!

Anonymous said...

What a wondeful tribute. I love his movies, but never gave any thought to what kind of man John Hughes was. Knowing such a kind man was behind them will somehow make the most treasured movies of my teenage years mean even more to me. My husband has never even seen Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club (truly shocking to me, although he was a popular jock while I was an angsty redhead with a prolonged "awkward phase"). I am going to introduce him to them this weekend. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your life with us.

kjt said...

Thanks for posting your story Allison--
It is a beautiful one and a great tribute to a wonderful human being.

Ed said...

Powerful and moving. So few class acts in Hollywood. I'm glad we had this one, and that you took the time to share.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing Alison. This story has moved me more than I would have imagined and gave me a greater appreciation to the human side of John Hughes. With all the crap on the internet and the uselessness of social networks this bit of "light" makes it worth it.

RobinMSwartz said...

Alison:
I think every teenager in the 1980s felt as though they had a special, personal relationship with John Hughes ... and you were lucky enough to have a real one. What a fantastic story you shared. Your appreciation for the connection you had with John Hughes is so evident and makes your story even more enjoyable to read.
Thanks for writing about it.
Robin

sharon said...

Thank you for publicizing your very private relationship with Mr. Hughes. I am sorry for your loss. He will be missed my millions. You are a fantastic writer. Have you thought much about continuing the work that Mr. Hughes started? Sharon

Anonymous said...

As a child of the 80s, John Hughes' movies are a part of my soul. And yet I didn't know him. But now I do. Thanks to you, Allison! I now feel his passing as a great loss.

Betsy said...

This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Thank you for sharing it with us... and please know my thoughts and prayers are with you.

johnny said...

that's some wonderful writing, and a very nice story. my girlfriend just sent me the link because she said it reminded her of how i'm always leaving notes for people or writing people back or complimenting someone out of the blue, and it's made some significant others mad, but i think people should always tell everyone how they feel about them, or that they have a beautiful smile, or that they affected them in third grade, or whatever. i'm not writing this to say i'm a swell guy. i'm writing to say that it's wonderful that you had this experience, and to urge other people to express themselves even if it means putting yourself out a bit. that someone who never knew how much his or her friendship meant would love to hear it. cheers! johnny

Christopher said...

I feel like nothing I write will do what I just said justice, so let me just say wow.

Chris in Athens said...

I only hope I understand my teenage children as much as he did his. Thank you for sharing, What a joy to know that you've brought together hundreds of fans under one umbrella of thanking one man for chaging our lives. Those of us born then will always be the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal.

Christopher said...

I feel like nothing I write will do what I just read justice, so let me just say wow.

(correction of Christopher's Previous comment)

Sarah said...

Alison, what a touching story. Thanks for sharing -- you brought tears to my eyes.

Jill said...

I think that is one of the most beautiful and pure tributes I have ever read.

If you aren't writing for a living you have missed your true calling.

It is my assumption that you could really give John a true tribute by doing the necessary research and publishing , 'The Life and Times of John Hughs: The Man Behind the Scenes'.

If there are 570 posts just here imagine an entire generation and beyond wanting to read more of your words about John

I do hope there will be more of your words and I hope that John will guide to to pen future writings.

Tyrone said...

I write this all the way from Wales, Great Britain.

Mr Hughes's work not only resonated with teenage life in the United States but also small towns like mine called Llandovery (5000 people.. ish).

I am of course saddened by the news today. However, your post provided some light on this, a very sad day.

It proved that he was not only a great writer & director but more important than any of that.. he was a great man.

Sadly, very few heroes actually live up to the mark in real life.

However, my high esteem of John Hughes has been taken to a whole new level by the correspondence that you have shared today. I always wondered why he left Hollywood, at a time that his star was at it's highest.

We will always have his legacy & a revisit of all his movies for me.

With love & respect.

Abe Froman - The Sausage King of Chicago

Couldn't resist.. Sorry..

Ty Davies

Valerie said...

I just wanted to thank you for sharing this. It touched my heart to think that there are still people out there that care what we think about what they do.

Scylla said...

Thank you for sharing this story, it is a fitting tribute for a wonderful person.
I am so sorry for your loss.

Saple Janik said...

I am crying. I read it twice.. In his life and in his death... I am jealous of your relationship with such a strong and powerful mentor who we all think "got us". I enjoy watching my now teenage neices and nephews watch the movies and I can see in their head.. "Oh my god he gets us"

The world lost a great man and you lost a great friend... I am sorry

Clair LaVaye said...

What a unique situation. You reached out to connect and what a gift you both gave each other. This is a lesson in taking the chance, in asking for friendship, even across a great distance of space, age, and other differences. How kind of you to share yourself and very personal connection to a gift filmmaker. Thank you.

espressivo_41891 said...

Thank you so much.

Mark Leslie said...

Alison:
Thanks so much for sharing this truly wonderful, touching and insightful story.

The down-to-earth nature that John revealed in his correspondences with you truly did come through in his writing and the movies he brought to life.

R.I.P. Mr Hughes!

Geologychick said...

Thanks for sharing your wonderful story. ;)

dj lil'e said...

on behalf of the grown-up, real-life breakfast club, thanks for this.

I'm Kim, by the way said...

Thank you, thank you for sharing this. This was absolutely beautiful and I cried too.

Decaf said...

Thank you for sharing this. It brought tears to my eyes, too. I think we all needed to read this story of such a good man helping a faceless teenager, and shaping so much of what they would become. I'm so glad he kept "I'm doing this for Allison" in his mind - I'm sure it kept him on exactly the right path in his life. The little things like that stick, don't they? Because you and John were, what I would deem as "close, I am especially sorry for the loss you are feeling and the pain that it brings. Know that he left you with so much, though...part of who you are, and that's a wonderful thing I think he'd be proud of.

Hugs,
Lisa

Laurie Whitney - Mermaid Glass said...

What a great tribute. I didn't know John Hughes, but he knew me. He was a voice for all of us who were on the fringe and otherwise. He made movies of truth in such a wierd time in history, movies that spoke to us and for us.

I didn't know John Hughes, but I cried, too.

Steve Pickering said...

Thank you very much, Alison, for posting this remembrance of John. You really captured his spirit in this piece.

I was lucky enough to work on that movie about young marriage and babies. I spent four days filming a wedding scene as a groomsman. One story I hope I'll never forget: John was shooting one scene, over and over and over. I looked over to where he was, and he wasn't watching the monitor -- he just listened to the actors and said "again"... "again"... "again"..... All of a sudden, the voice saying "again" was different. It was one of his assistants. John had gone out to the lawn of the church where we were filming to play with Kevin Bacon's dog. He always found time for the important things.

I'm not surprised he left hollywood, and I'm sure his family is better for it, just as I'm sure hollywood wasn't. He was a great talent and person, and is missed terribly.

just a guy said...

damn it! you brought tears to my eyes while I'm at work!! I hate that!! I felt your intensity 100%! John's movies were a huge part of my teenage years. They were my companions when I was home alone with nothing to do. They screamed my feelings which I couldn't speak about. They gave me ways to grow.

This is the best thing I've seen since I heard yesterday at work, and had teary eyes then too....thank you, from the depth of my soul, thank you.

Ron Scalzo said...

An old friend just forwarded me the link to this inspirational story. I'm a 34 year old musician (and movie nerd) from Brooklyn, NY who grew up on JH's movies, and - like Alison - was affected by his earlier films, as I identified with the themes of being a social outcast, unpopular, and, basically, a typical male adolescent growing up in the 1980s.

My music has always been '80s-tinged, with many of my influences among the great artists whose tunes typically elevated JH's flicks to a greater emotional level. In 2005, as a tribute to Mr. Hughes' films and the music that accompanied them, I wrote a song about a breakup and called it "John Hughes," as the lyrical and musical themes reminded me of something right out of "The Breakfast Club" or "Sixteen Candles". I always pictured Andrew McCarthy bursting thru the doors of the lunchroom cafeteria in slow motion to confess his love to Molly Ringwald during the last chorus of my song. So the title seemed apt :)

I wanted to send JH a copy of the song, but I'm afraid I was never as bold as Alison. A few months ago, some friends volunteered to film a video for the song, sticking to the same themes of teenage heartbreak in the video's theme. We filmed it at Abraham Lincoln HS in Brooklyn.

I surely didn't know JH intimately like Alison did, but it makes me wish I would have sent him my song, as Mr. Hughes appears much more compassionate and human than, well...the average human. And that's a rare quality these days.

John Hughes' gifts extended beyond writing and directing - we need more like him in this world.

If you'd like to hear the song or see the video:
http://www.ilike.com/artist/qball

Thank you for sharing this inspirational story, Alison.


Ron Scalzo
("Q*Ball")

Karl said...

Crap, that's amazing. I'm so jealous. John DID speak for many of us children of the 80's. Speaks to me even now.

reneshay said...

here's to John Hughes...
a compassionate and loving husband, friend, father and filmmaker...

and to the coolest pen pal, ever...

thanks for sharing this with us, alison..

xo,
rene.

Anonymous said...

Totally amazing. Thank YOU for sharing and the impact you had on my day. Your blog post has made a difference.

Sona said...

I love reading things like this. Thanks for sharing your John Hughes story. His movies were an indelible part of my adolescence. Somehow it restores my faith in the world that a man that could make films that spoke to me, spoke to the teenage experience, would take the time to engage with a teenager. A sincerity, honesty, and integrity comes through. Beautiful post.

Angela said...

Dear Allison,

Thank you so so much for sharing your personal relationship with the rest of us. What an incredible thing! What a joy!

Now will someone SOMEONE please make a movie about this?!?

Joanna said...

Alison, Just wanted to add my thanks to you for posting this. I think we find too often our heroes are not who we thought they were. Nice to know John Hughes was.

Rachet said...

I came here via a link in LiveJournal. You've made me cry again over his death.

This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

cheapblueguitar said...

Thank you for sharing this with the world.

chai guy said...

As much of a gift it was to have this correspondence with John Hughes, sharing it with world multiplies it a million fold.

Wow. Just. Wow.

wonderwoman311 said...

thank you for sharing such a wonderful personal letter and memories with us! i grew up with all the classic films..any movie i ever saw that had john hughes name in it i made everybody else watch too and made many new fans of his work..from what i see he was just as great a man as artist! so sorry for your loss and hope he is happy and reunited with his friends somewhere out there..Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." kbyrd...god bless!!

ladybird said...

Wow, Alison, how absolutely touching.

When I was young I idolized all of the characters in John Hughes films and respected JH as a writer.

Older, and wiser, I realized that I actually idolized John Hughes as a writer and respected the rest as actors.

Your correspondence is proof that he deserves this adoration. This shows he was really "listening" to our generation, with a big heart and talented pen.

Michelle said...

beautiful.

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