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Remembering Max Hodge - iconic GargAlum would've been 103 this year!
Two GargAlums remember a mentor and friend, Max Hodge, Gargoyle editor and cartoonist in the 1930s. He went on to Hollywood fame, contributing as a writer on shows including Batman and Mission: Impossible.
My Memories of Max Hodge
by Steve Jarczak
Max's life was never dull. Perhaps the single most important thing he taught me (and I'm certain, the many others lucky enough to know him) is to seek out and enjoy the adventures that life can take you on. And in this case, Max led by example.
Like many GargAlums, I first became acquainted with Max "Hollywood" Hodge as a student during one of our illustrious reunions (when not busy gorging on free pastries). But it was only after moving to Los Angeles that I really got to know Max - and fortunately for me, to befriend him. On a tip from John Dobbertin, I gave him a call and he was more than happy to meet with me. And that meeting turned into a series of unforgettable visits over the next several years. It was like Tuesdays With Morriebut without the bestselling book.
At that time, Max was in his late 80's and still living alone in his Sherman Oaks house - or should I say, museum. The residence was a treasure-trove of memorabilia from all facets of his life, from decades of Hollywood productions to University of Michigan mementos to souvenirs from his many travels. A self-proclaimed packrat, Max saved everything, so there was nearly 90 years of history in that house. I remember him showing me filing cabinets filled with his annotated scripts from 1960's television productions, his original printing plates from 1930's Gargoyle covers, and even his elementary school workbooks! And everything came with an interesting story.
Although Max had more than enough fascinating show-and-tell to fill a thousand visits, he would always turn the conversation back toward my career. He took a keen interest in me and became a welcome supporter and cheerleader during those early and difficult assistant years, as I struggled to make a dent in the Hollywood machine. Although much of Max's advice was not exactly applicable to the modern industry climate ("Just walk into the Network President's office and tell him your ideas!"), his enthusiasm gave me confidence and his anecdotes gave me perspective. I remember one day while discussing series pitches, he recalled a meeting with an executive in which he sold a show by simply saying, "It's called The Wallet." When pressed for more details, he replied, "It's The Wallet. Do you want it or not?" And they actually bought it! Talk about supreme confidence in an idea, however undefined it might be.
When circumstances prompted his move to the Motion Picture & Television Country House (aka the Old Actors' Home) in Woodland Hills, Max found a whole new community of folks to charm. And although he had a slew of fellow industry veterans as his neighbors, he still made time for my visits, frequently asking me to dinner (in undoubtedly the fanciest dining hall in the history of senior care facilities). I remember nodding hello to Robert Guillaume every time I walked in, and will never forget the day when Max introduced me to his friend across the hall - who turned out to be the famous (and nearly 100 year-old) Hollywood director Vincent Sherman!
It can be truly said that from his early days at Michigan to his twilight years in Hollywood, Max's life was never dull. Perhaps the single most important thing he taught me (and I'm certain, the many others lucky enough to know him) is to seek out and enjoy the adventures that life can take you on. And in this case, Max led by example. Because he didn't just write great stories... he lived a great story.
Memories of GargTober with Max Hodge
by K. Stahl
"For me, Max reinforced what I knew Michigan alums were capable of. He was a trend-setter, before the word was even invented, a pioneer in the television entertainment industry, and so much more."
I first met Max when I started attending the GargAlum events, and we were an instant match! You see, I have easily accessible seats for football at Michigan Stadium, and Max loved going to the game, even though his sight and hearing were limited.
When we were both more mobile and agile, we would walk from the League to the stadium, and Max would share his memories of places he lived, people he knew, and changes he observed in Ann Arbor over the years. Within the stadium, he was an amazing resource of football knowledge and trivia, and kept me and our seatmates intrigued and interested with his commentary and observations. After remaining in our seats for the post-game show
by the marching band, we would wander back to the League and re-join the GargAlum group, who would have completed their "Saturday Night Special" issue of GARGOYLE while we were at the stadium.
As Max's health and stamina deteriorated, attendance at the games became "optional." The last game we attended, he had to take a break on the walk back to the League, and helped himself to one of the couches on someone's porch along Packard. As always with Max, by the time we left the porch, he had made new friends of the students in residence, and regaled them with stories of the olden days in Ann Arbor and Hollywood.
The last few times he was able to attend our gatherings, Max and I watched the game on TV at the League. It was too cold, too rainy, or just too far for either of us to get to the stadium. And we could sit on comfortable chairs, or couches while helping the team to victory!
I miss Max, and those great football Saturdays. My Dad, who was also a huge Michigan fan, passed away before I met Max. But for the years we shared our biennial football weekend, experiencing Michigan football and the GargAlum events with Max was like having a little bit of my Dad back with me too. They would have liked each other, and I hope they've been able to meet on the "other side."
I have always been a fan of Max's work on TV, even before I knew him. Now I can have a secret extra smile when watching an episode of "The Waltons" or "Wild, Wild West" on nostalgia TV, and seeing his name in the credits. For me, Max reinforced what I knew Michigan alums were capable of. He was a trend-setter, before the word was even invented, a pioneer in the television entertainment industry, and so much more. Max Hodge was my friend, and I miss him.