I’ll always know where I was when I found out Bruno Kirby died. Not because it’s one of those life-changing historical moments like the Challenger explosion (in living room in childhood home), Reagan being shot (being picked up from middle school) or Husker Du breaking up (freshman dorm room), though I did admire his work.
It’s because I happened to be IN the venue for one of his most memorable scenes, and I’d even been thinking of that scene as I drove up earlier that evening, completely unaware of his passing.
“So I’m going to the door, and there are moving men there. Now I start to get suspicious. I say, ‘Helen, when did you call these movers?’ And she doesn’t say anything, so I ask the movers, ‘When did this woman book you for this gig?’ and they’re just standing there, three huge guys, one of them wearing a T-shirt that says, ‘Don’t fuck with Mister Zero.’ So I said, ‘Helen, when did you make this arrangement?’ She says, ‘A week ago.’ I said, ‘You’ve known for a week, and you didn’t tell me?’ And she says, ‘I didn’t want to ruin your birthday.'”
(The wave comes around.)
“You’re saying Mister Zero knew you were getting a divorce a week before you did?”
“Mister Zero knew.”
“I can’t believe this.”
“I haven’t told you the bad part yet.”
“What could be worse than Mister Zero knowing?”
That’s from the published screenplay of When Harry Met Sally. Specifically, the scene in Giants Stadium, when Harry (Billy Crystal) is telling Jess (Bruno Kirby) that his marriage has just ended. And Giants Stadium is where I happened to be Wednesday night when I found out that Bruno Kirby had died.
Of course, I bet I didn’t need to explain it to anyone. You can walk up to an awful lot of people and say “What could be worse than Mister Zero knowing?” and you’ll end up at the last line, after Jess has made the pitch that infidelity is only a symptom of trouble. “Really? Well, that symptom is fucking my wife.”
They don’t make movies like that anymore, and that’s one reason why I think Bruno has gone to a better place. One where they don’t cut about 75 percent of his contributions to This is Spinal Tap.