October 23, 2014 rss
header twitter link facebook link home link
Sign Up For Weekly E-BulletinsView Resource Guide and Job Postings

Jack Lessenberry

You Don’t Know This Jack

April 23, 2010

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to see yourself being portrayed in a movie? Would you be flattered? Outraged? Freaked out or creeped out?

Though I have my own fantasies, mainly involving the sudden inheritance of vast wealth and, occasionally, major league baseball talent, this was, frankly, something I had never thought about.

Until it happened. I have just finished watching a movie in which I am a character, and it was an odd experience. This weekend, HBO is airing a made-for-TV movie called You Don’t Know Jack, about the apostle of assisted suicide, Jack Kevorkian.

I covered the Kevorkian saga, principally for The New York Times and the Boston Globe. I did long pieces about him in Vanity Fair, Esquire, and other magazines, and saw him and his flamboyant attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, often between 1993 and 1999.

Presumably because of this, the movie makes me into a fairly important secondary character, although, as you might expect from Hollywood, the script doesn’t stick to the facts.

The character who was given my name actually seems to be a composite of me and several other reporters. In the movie, I am depicted as a staff writer for the Detroit Free Press. (I never was.) The actor who plays “Jack Lessenberry” (James Urbaniak) appears younger, thinner and probably better looking than the real McCoy, but a tad scruffier. (“No, it is you. See, he eats awful food,” my significant other whispered after a scene in a greasy spoon.)

Actually, I was surprised to find that I felt no emotional connection at all. Most of my character’s lines are things I never said, and the movie completely turns around one thing I did say.

After Kevorkian videotaped himself committing euthanasia, the event that ultimately got him sent to jail, Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes asked if I thought he were sane.

“I am not competent to deliver a clinical diagnosis,” I said. “But if you mean, is he rational, the answer is yes, he is rational.”

The movie has me saying the opposite.

But leaving my own portrayal aside, You Don’t Know Jack does stick closer to the essential facts than many “biopics.” Al Pacino, indeed, does an absolutely amazing job at capturing Kevorkian‘s mannerisms.

Kevorkian himself, who now spends his days writing books in a rundown apartment across from the Royal Oak Public Library, said he found it hard to believe he wasn’t watching himself.

I could well believe it. The real Kevorkian, however, was scrawnier and bonier than the Pacino version, and his irrational rages were more explosive and terrifying than shown here.

On the other hand, the producers might have done better had they asked Geoffrey Fieger to play himself; Danny Huston delivers at best a smirking parody that fails to show how completely the charismatic lawyer dominated both the coverage and the courtrooms.

Possibly the film’s most revealing moment comes when Kevorkian tells sidekick Janet Good, played by Susan Sarandon, that he ought to have married and had children to perpetuate the family name. “Yes, but could you have loved anybody?” she asked.

Kevorkian cannot answer, which is an answer in itself. The movie follows the Kevorkian saga as it unfolded between 1990 and 1999, when the renegade pathologist finally managed to get himself convicted and sent off to prison, which is what he in fact wanted.

Yet it fails to solve the enigma of this baffling little man, who was utterly mesmerized by the transition between life and death, but whose self-destructive instincts torpedoed his own cause.

Though his crusade was presented as being about relieving suffering, that was an intellectual abstraction for him. He did not emotionally engage with anyone. When, in real life, his sister died of a massive heart attack, I went to her apartment to write about it.

Her daughter was there, crying. Geoffrey Fieger was considerably shaken. Margo’s shawl and knitting needles were on the table where she had left them before going to the hospital. Kevorkian sat next to me on a couch. Finally, he whispered to me, “Do you think it would be okay if I watched TV?”

The man himself may be an unsolvable riddle, but the issues he raised haven’t gone away. The national climate changed dramatically after Kevorkian went off to prison.

September 11 followed, as did two wars and a massive recession. Physician-assisted suicide largely disappeared from the national debate, in part because of world events, in part because of better pain management and hospice care.

Yet there are still people who are kept alive long after life has lost its sweetness. “You’ll see this legal, but not for the right reasons,” Kevorkian told me once. “Society won’t be able to afford to do otherwise.”

The Kevorkian I knew was sometimes a crank. He was not, however, always wrong.

Veteran journalist and national Emmy Award winner Jack Lessenberry teaches at Wayne State University, serves as Michigan Radio’s senior political analyst and writes regularly for several publications. He also serves as The Toledo Blade’s writing coach and ombudsman and is host of the weekly television show Deadline Now on WGTE-TV in Toledo.

April 22, 2010 · Filed under Jack Lessenberry Tags: , , , , ,

34 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bill Gill // Apr 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Great piece about an issue that grows in
    importance by the day. Kevorkian was ahead of his time, from all appearances just trying to help those who wished to bring their suffering to an end. Does anyone have the right to deny that decision to another human being? Not me.

  • 2 Chris Cavanagh // Apr 24, 2010 at 5:17 am

    “this baffling little man, who was utterly mesmerized by the transition between life and death” This quote is the most interesting insight of Mr. Lessonberry. This is what bugged me most about Jack Kevokian. Putting someone out of their misery is one thing, being turn-on by the process (being fascinated watching life leaving someone’s eyes) creeps me out.

  • 3 Dick McKnight // Apr 25, 2010 at 2:06 am

    As a person who has had Parkinson Disease for at least 16 years, this story is more than academic. It’s a real issue that might not have been exposed to public light without Dr. Kevorkian. But his quirkiness is and always was a side show—entertaining as well as educational.

  • 4 Richard Cole // Apr 25, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    I had the honor of having to ask Jack K to quit eating lunch in the Blue Cross cafeteria while he was on trial in Greektown. He thought the food was great, but I thought the photo could easily be misinterpreted.
    I thought the movie would have been much better if Geoff played Geoff and you played you. But Pacino is a hoot. Take care Jack.

  • 5 Dau Design // Mar 5, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    154218 90699Its excellent as your other posts : D, regards for posting . 1496

  • 6 مجله پزشکی // Mar 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    124772 473429I only wish that I had the ability to convey what I wanted to say within the manner that you have presented this info. Thanks. 874344

  • 7 edmonton seo company // Mar 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    845189 575801How a lot of an appealing guide, keep on generating much better half 843570

  • 8 microfit solar in ontario // Mar 7, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    216001 911783It

  • 9 free online slots // Mar 10, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    926150 600503Very good day! This post could not be written any greater! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a very good read. Thanks for sharing! 211131

  • 10 Hidemyass Pro // Mar 11, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Sorry, I’m busy at the moment aciphex otc Not Applicable- Preceptor did not have an opportunity to observe the student because

  • 11 important site // Mar 11, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    155852 120538Wow, great weblog layout! How lengthy have you ever been running a weblog for? you make running a weblog glance straightforward. The total appear of your internet web site is magnificent, properly the content material material! 666351

  • 12 Check out this // Mar 11, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Smashing review ! Find out more about the utmost antivirus software application anywhere by going down to YouTube !

  • 13 is enchant him a scam // Mar 12, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Some us residents say love is for the birds. Is enchant him a rip-off? Enjoy is with regards to comprehending one particular a further, your man to be far more particular person. Get pleasure from is about guiding your person for the duration of the issues of a romantic relationship from the year by yourself 2 meet.

  • 14 turbulence training scam // Mar 12, 2014 at 9:06 am

    728260 915471Very good publish, thanks a lot for sharing. Do you happen to have an RSS feed I can subscribe to? 289973

  • 15 enchant him review // Mar 12, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Whilst on your own take into a partnership versus a place of vitality oneself will have an understanding of that girls usually consist of the higher hand no make a difference what. Gals contain this ability of serious wanting to know.

  • 16 click here // Mar 12, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    of be chosen.

  • 17 photographer in az // Mar 12, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    320679 64901I

  • 18 chiver // Mar 12, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    It is just like you read through my head! Material comprehension much around that, as you had written the particular guidebook inside something like that. I believe that you only can perform by Percentage to push what it’s all about residence a little bit, having said that besides these very, that is great web site. An awesome study. I will easily be backside.

  • 19 blogging // Mar 13, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    133611 610453This sort of in search of get the enhancements created on this unique lifestyle and diet, begin your L . a . Shifting the pounds diet answer can be a huge procedure into accesing which typically hope. weight loss 250175

  • 20 Why a lenticular billboard? // Mar 13, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    617543 721965hello, i came in to learn about this topic, thanks alot. will put this site into my bookmarks. 809290

  • 21 hay day cheats iphone // Mar 14, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I’ve noticed that credit improvement activity must be conducted with tactics. If not, chances are you’ll find yourself destroying your position. In order to succeed in fixing to your credit rating you have to see to it that from this minute you pay any monthly expenses promptly prior to their booked date. It is definitely significant for the reason that by certainly not accomplishing so, all other actions that you will decide to try to improve your credit position will not be powerful. Thanks for revealing your thoughts.

  • 22 This Site // Mar 14, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Thank you for another fantastic post. Where else could anyone get that type of info in such a perfect way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such info.

  • 23 blog commenting // Mar 14, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    This is insane, exaclty like Hudecek. How do people get hundreds of quests to their page. Probably using a SE service.

  • 24 iphone 5 privacy screen protectors // Mar 15, 2014 at 2:00 am

    204910 785677hey there, your site is fantastic. I do thank you for work 97730

  • 25 click here // Mar 15, 2014 at 7:38 am

    We awareness upon aiding bloggers and on line reviewers. If on your own comprise a solution you would which include towards proportion with our throughout the world readers of reviewers and charity celebration organizers, be sure to get hold of us concerning marketing and advertising at. We can showcase your substance in direction of the ideal readers in direction of aid by yourself buy critiques and publicity online!

  • 26 Chandra Friedlander // Mar 15, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Thanks for helping me to acquire new concepts about desktops. I also have the belief that certain of the best ways to maintain your notebook computer in prime condition is with a hard plastic case, or even shell, that will fit over the top of your computer. A majority of these protective gear will be model specific since they are made to fit perfectly in the natural outer shell. You can buy all of them directly from owner, or from third party sources if they are for your notebook, however not every laptop could have a shell on the market. All over again, thanks for your ideas.

  • 27 check out this review // Mar 15, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Each every day email of our cost-free products assessment prospects publication goes out around the world in the direction of individuals looking for no cost exposure and product or service critiques for their merchandise on the internet. All those include products promoters, entrepreneurs, general public kinfolk or exposure specialists, and presently hopefully on your own, too!

  • 28 Best Child Custody Attorney in Williamsburg Virginia // Mar 15, 2014 at 10:27 am

    502517 296647You got a quite exceptional internet site, Glad I noticed it by way of yahoo. 296583

  • 29 qdFB0RTyZN qdFB0RTyZN // Mar 16, 2014 at 5:05 am

    Healing’s Dragon

    to search out issues to improve my website!I suppose its alright to generate usage of a couple of within your ideas!!

  • 30 Cortez Nerney // Mar 16, 2014 at 5:07 am

    F*ckin¡¯ amazing things here. I am very glad to see your post. Thanks a lot and i am looking forward to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a mail?

  • 31 http://finance.yahoo.com/news/free-tutorial-shows-anyone-start-063300189.html // Mar 16, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    357373 455178Thanks for the data provided! I was researching for this post for a long time, but I was not able to see a dependable source. 810036

  • 32 Eulalia Fuhriman // Mar 17, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Hello there! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My web site looks weird when viewing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to correct this issue. If you have any suggestions, please share. Appreciate it!

  • 33 create a website // Mar 17, 2014 at 11:50 am

    824416 442045You wouldn

  • 34 build a website // Mar 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    205867 211929Dead written articles , Truly enjoyed reading . 519561


Advertisment

Advertisment


Advertisment

Advertisment


© 2007-2011 DomeMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Site design by Kimberly Hopkins, khopdesign, llc.