Unexpected Reflections on the Fragility of Life After Reading the IMDb Trivia for Ghostbusters II *1989*
by Austin Ross
I didn’t know that Oscar, the baby in the movie, was actually played by twin actors: William T. and Henry J. Deutschendorf II, nephews of the late singer John Denver (real name, Henry J. Deutschendorf, Jr). John Denver, of course, tragically died in an infamous plane crash—a cataclysmic mix of low fuel and some homemade modifications to his airplane meant he couldn’t switch fuel tanks in time and crashed into Monterey Bay.
Then the next trivia line: “Henry J. Deutschendorf II, one of the twins who played Oscar, died June 14th, 2017, by suicide, at the age of 29.” And below it: “33 of 42 found this interesting.” A life, summed up in its entirety as an item of trivia. Nine people deemed it unnoteworthy. But I can’t stop thinking about it. My son was born the same month that Henry died, a month that I myself was 29. My boy arrived seven weeks early, stranding us for a month in a NICU in the middle of Manhattan, a city we didn’t know but were visiting for a weekend family reunion.
The uncertainty of life’s arrival seems to match the uncertainty of its departure. In Ghostbusters II, you can’t tell which baby is which. In some scenes, Oscar is portrayed by someone who is no longer with us; in others, he’s played by the surviving brother. Life and death share the screen in equal measure. I wish I could know which is which; I wish I could pinpoint Henry’s scenes, to give them extra care and attention, to honor the memory. But there is no way to know for sure.
Austin Ross's fiction and non-fiction has been published in various journals, magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, including Hobart, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. He is a part of the editorial team at CRAFT Literary and lives near Philadelphia with his wife and son. You can follow him on Twitter @AustinTRoss.
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