Monday, September 04, 2006

Steve Irwin

After a break from blogging I alway wonder what will motivate me to start posting again. Last week Egyptian novelist and Nobel laureate, Naguib Mahfouz, died. Had I been blogging daily, a post would have surely been dedicated to him. My father would have had his 70th birthday tomorrow. There might have been a post about my own sense of loss and grief. But somehow I could put those things off, mediate on them alone rather than rev up blogger.

I'm surprised and saddened that what has spurred me back to blogging is the news of Steve Irwin's sudden death. Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. His end came not from a crocodile but from a stingray in a freak accident while filming a show for Animal Planet. (Apparently the show was to be called "Ocean's Deadliest.")

I first discovered the Crocodile Hunter in 1997. I was just back from 15 months in the Middle East. Most of that time I had been living with a local family that spoke no English. They had a black-and-white tv but no sattelite dish and the parents frowned on videos (aside from a few ancient movies like Antar wa Shaddad). I had a hard time readjusting to America and an even harder time handling American popular culture. The two bedroom, two-bath apparent I shared with my husband and two cats was bigger than the house I had just been living in with as many as thirteen other people. I was lonely and adrift. And in this period, I was drawn to Steve Irwin. I have a weakness for real people doing dangerous things that they love. But those early shows with Steve and Terri and their dog in canoes at night looking for and capturing live crocodiles were magnetic. The risks they took were unbelievable, the connection between them was papable. Later that year, pregnant for the first time, I remembering telling DH that "this baby can grow up and be anything it want, anything but the crocodile hunter."

A few years later Steve and Teri had their own child Bindi (named after a crocodile). As my kids grew up, Animal Planet and Steve's shows, particularly Croc Diaries with behind-the-scenes views of Australia zoo, were a favorite destination. We even talked about some day visiting Queensland Australia to see the zoo. Zoos, animals, and animal facts and trivia are a common preoccupation among my children in no small part thanks to Steve Irwin.

And now, at age 44 with two young children, his parents, and Teri left behind, he is gone.

For a time, my brother produced celebrity profiles that were syndicated to foreign markets. He has interviewed everyone. I always affected a studied nonchalance, refusing to get excited about any celebrity, Marlon Brando, ho-hum, Bono, Paul McCartney, vaguely interesting. Only once did I get truly excited, when I learned he had interviewed Steve and Teri Irwin (as part of the media tour with the release of the Croc Hunter movie). "Steve and Teri Irwin?! You interviewed the Croc Hunter, OMG! Did you get a picture, what were they like?" My brother said that TV toned down Steve. That in real life he was ten times as enthusiastic. Talking about animal conservation, he would gesture so broadly and bounce in his seat that he kept hitting the boom mike and once even accidently knocked into Teri.

I've known a few larger-than-life personalities like Steve Irwin in real-life. They are forces of nature, trailing ideas, plans, projects in their wake. Full of passion and enthusiasm for their life's work. The world is a little poorer place when they are gone.

Steve Irwin, you will be missed. Godspeed.


Heather said...

Thank-you Sharon for posting such a lovely tribute. Although I have little connection with his work or his fame, I was saddened when I read about his death. It seems so fitting that he died doing exactly what he loved doing, but so tragic that he leaves his wife and children, and all those that he deeply touched with his work.


Incog & Nito said...

The world will be a poorer place without his passion for conservation and his family. He was a great Australian who will live on in our memories for a long time. Living in Queensland, and seeing the pouring out of emotion from those like me who never knew him, has certainly made me aware of the impact he has had on everyone. He was a great ambassador for Australian and thankfully the Queensland Government have offered a State Funeral. He was a true Wildlife Warrior and has left a great void in many lives. RIP Steve!!