Top of the Morning, April 14, 2014: From the archives
A year and 10 days.
Roger Ebert left us on April 4, 2013.
We were lucky, here in Champaign-Urbana. We probably got more of Ebert for more years than any place other than Chicago.
He started here, sure, but when you're Roger Ebert, you could forget that, if you wanted to. Who'd blame you? Pulitzer Prize. TV show. Most famous/influential movie critic ever.
But he didn't. He came back.
And he brought an entire film festival with him.
He didn't have to do that. Surely, those directors and actors and actresses could have made it more easily to Chicago than to C-U. But they came here.
Because of him.
He was brilliant. Read some of his writing — his criticism, his blog, his autobiography — and you will have no doubt.
He was fearless. Once, Johnny Carson asked him if any of the current crop of movies were, in Carson's words, "dogs." With Chevy Chase sitting next to him, he trashed Chase's just-released movie.
But when you look at photos of him from Ebertfest over the years, he was something else: Friendly. Approachable. Humble, even.
We've got lots of photos from over the years of Ebert. There's a gallery online. And in our files was a copy of the commencement address he gave to the Urbana High School class of 1988; that's online, too.
Melissa Merli of The News-Gazette has covered every Ebertfest. She got emails from Ebert. He praised her work.
I'll leave you with what Merli says of Ebert:
"He truly was a friend of humanity."