About 12 years ago, while I was in the middle of my time studying film at Columbia College Chicago, writer/director/actor Harold Ramis, who remained even then a proud Chicago son, came to speak to us as part of a Q&A. To this day that remains one of my clearest and fondest memories of my time at Columbia, not only because I got to chat, however briefly, with someone I'd admired since my childhood, but also because of how open and giving he was with his time, conveying a genuine sense of investment and interest in the fortunes of this motley group of misfit storytellers. I've been reliving my memories of that event all day today, ever since word broke this morning that Ramis had passed away at age 69, succumbing to an autoimmune illness he'd been battling since 2010.spanned several decades (he made his screen debut on the TV sketch-com SCTV in 1976, and his last feature directorial effort was 2009's Year One), I'm willing to wager that for most folks of my vintage, he'll be most remembered -- and most missed -- for his two turns playing Egon Spengler, the brainy backbone of the Ghostbusters, easily balancing the calculated cynicism of Bill Murray and the wide-eyed wonderment of Dan Aykroyd. Most performers can only hope to create a character indelible enough to outlast them, and if my kids' professed adoration for the Ghostbusters flicks (which he co-wrote with Aykroyd) is any indication, Ramis accomplished that in spades. (The DVD insert to the right, signed at the aforementioned event, remains a prized possession.)
In fact, for what seems like twenty-plus years there've been rumors/desires for a third Ghostbusters that would bring the band back together. Ramis even talked up the positive prospects as recently as a few years ago, and the lone holdout continued to be star Bill Murray, famously reticent to strap on the ol' jumpsuit 'n' proton pack again. And while there'd been much talk about whether the hypothetical third film would move ahead without Murray, and whether it was even worth doing a Ghostbusters without Peter Venkman, I think it's just as fair to say that it's not really worth doing a Ghostbusters without Egon Spengler either. In that sense, Ramis's passing is a lot like when DeForest Kelley, Star Trek's original Dr. McCoy, died in '99, closing off a Ghostbusters reunion the same way Kelley's death ended any chance of seeing the original Trek cast complete and together again. With Harold Ramis gone, it feels like a little piece of my own childhood has slipped away.
Below, find an archival interview with Ramis wherein he offers some very good advice to those seeking success in the industry: