Life imitates 'Ezra & Mike'

Opinion: Editorials

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

I'm happy to report that the screening of Ezra & Mike at the Lake Theatre on Oct. 7 went well. There was a good turnout of 45-50 people. They came from different parts of the Chicago area, as well as Forest Park. The concession counter was open and the candy and popcorn greatly enhanced their viewing pleasure. 

After the movie, something special happened. Life imitated art. 

But first, it was a thrill to see the film on the big screen with professional sound quality. The audience was attentive and applauded our effort. When the lights came up, I joined the co-star, Mike Chiappetta, in a lively Q&A. We singled out my partner, Deborah Harper and gave shout-outs to others who helped with the film. We also thanked the Lake Theatre for showing it. 

Then Mike and I did our thing. Audiences love Mike for his big heart and colorful delivery. A woman in the audience tried to praise Mike for reaching across racial lines and helping a black family he didn't know. Humble as always, Mike replied, "Thank you, but you know there's a lot of guys like me, black guys, white guys. It's just that no one has the opportunity. I had the opportunity because I was right there and I knew how to do it." She countered by claiming that we all have the opportunity to help others but don't always step up.

After we left the theater, we took Mike and his family to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Mike excused himself to walk to his bank to take out some cash. When he returned, he didn't tell us he had lost his wallet at the bank. If it had been me, I would have been freaking out. I would have made it the main topic of discussion. Instead, we simply enjoyed our lunch and getting to know Mike's daughter and grandkids.

After lunch, Mike said he was walking back to his bank but didn't say why. He searched for his wallet but couldn't find it. Then he received a phone call from a black Maywood resident named Bennie Washington. Bennie told Mike he had found his wallet at the bank and wanted to return it to him. They agreed to meet up at the Dunkin' Donuts, at 17th & Roosevelt. 

I later spoke to Bennie about finding Mike's wallet. He said he was with his father-in-law when they pulled into the bank parking lot. He spotted the wallet and saw it didn't contain any cash. "I thought it might be from a person who was robbed and someone had ditched the wallet." He found Mike's phone number and called him. 

"He was so happy he didn't have to replace his IDs and a lot of other documents. He told me I had 'saved his life.'" 

Mike drove to the Dunkin' Donuts. "He had his grandkids in the backseat," Bennie recalled. Mike rewarded Bennie with a $20 dollar bill. "I used it for donuts and coffee," Bennie said. "I hope someone else would do the same for me."

We live in such divisive times, with so much racial tension. It's not unlike the '70s, when Ezra & Mike took place. So it was inspiring to hear the story of Mike's wallet. 

Perhaps we can shoot a sequel titled, "Bennie & Mike."

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

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