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Lions Roar : July 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2009 37 of becoming—an ongoing miraculous creation. Every day we awaken to that miracle with gratitude, respect, and compassion for all who share the gift of being.” “To me,” he says, “that felt like a nice distillation. I thought it was good enough to remember.” HARoLD RAMIs WAs BoRN in 1944 to a Jewish couple of modest means but rich in love. At age twelve, he started work- ing in his father’s grocery and liquor store, in a largely African- American neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. He attributes his humor to his father, who would critique comedians on Tv like Groucho Marx, sid Caesar, steve Allen, and Red skelton. “Dad would point me to the good stuff,” he said. “Red—‘too cloying, too sentimental.’ steve Allen—‘funny, intelligent.’ sid Caesar—‘great stuff.’ I grew up going to movies: Abbot and Cos- tello, Laurel and Hardy, and of course the Marx Brothers.” “When I was twelve, I read the line, ‘An unexamined life is not worth living.’ I took it seriously to heart. And literally. Like it was a requirement in life, akin to the Buddha’s suggestion that we maintain ‘sufficiently inquiring minds.’ ” By sixteen, they’d moved to Rogers Park, a middle-class neigh- borhood on Chicago’s North side. He got his first peek into the world of journalism when he was hired by the Chicago Tribune as a messenger for its ad department. He was editor of his high school yearbook, and thought his logical career step would be ad copywriter. But the seeds of a growing interest in entertainment were planted when he took ukulele lessons from a friend, and found he could sing. His life, as he puts it, has been a study in “coincidences that in retrospect were probably what you would call karma.” And, as if to underscore that, we discover during an interview that his ukulele teacher was, years later, a friend of mine when I lived in san francisco. Ramis hadn’t talked to him in twenty years, so I called him, and when Ramis got off the phone he pat- ted his heart. “I feel warm,” he beamed. He went on to sing with folk groups, covering songs from the likes of the Kingston Trio and the Limelighters. He sang in the high school chorus, was selected for all-city chorus, and per- formed with the Chicago symphony orchestra. “All of these experiences were peepholes into worlds that were heretofore alien to me,” he said. “But it helped demystify things. At that time, I was part beatnik folksinger, part choirboy, and part entertainer.” At Washington university in st. Louis, he was still trying to decide between writing and showbiz when he became friends with fellow student Michael shamberg, whom he described as an “extraordinarily confident, snide, and brilliant guy who was a sort of spiritual brother and creative co-conspirator.” He and shamberg wrote skits and performed them on campus. “Michael and I made a pact and shook hands on it,” Ramis said. “We agreed to never take work that wasn’t fun, to do only what we wanted to, and never take a job that we had to dress up for.” shamberg went on to become a Hollywood producer of such films as Erin Brockovich, A Fish Called Wanda, and Pulp Fiction. “Harold is my most enlightened friend,” shamberg said. “I always thought he was funny, but the reason I was drawn to him was that he was smart, honest, and had a generosity of spirit. As far as I un- derstand Buddhism, it’s a system of seeing things with clarity and In Groundhog Day Phil says, “I’ve killed myself so many times, I don’t even exist anymore.” “Now,” Ramis comments, “Phil is ready for change.” Left to right: Harold Ramis as Dr. Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters; Ramis with Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson on the set of Ghostbusters; in the role of L’Chaim from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox story; and acting in his new comedy, year one. “GHosTBusTERs”©1984CoLuMBIAPICTuREsINDusTRIEs,INC.,ALLRIGHTsREsERvED.CouRTEsyofCoLuMBIAPICTuREs