Shame on Variety and deputy editor Pat Saperstein for describing the late and great John Heard, who yesterday was found dead in a Palo Alto hotel room, as the “Home Alone dad.” Great merciful bloodstained gods! Why would Variety do such a thing to an actor of Heard’s calibre? This is like an obit headline writer calling James Stewart “the singing Magic of Lassie guy.”

Yes, Heard played Macaulay Culkin‘s dad in the hugely popular Home Alone (’90) and in the ’92 sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, but show a little decency, for God’s sake. Heard was glad to have starred in these films, but he did it for the money.

Heard should more properly be remembered and honored for his late ’70s to early ’80s hot streak of fierce, penetrating performances in Between The Lines, On the Yard, Chilly Scenes of Winter, Heart Beat (in which he played Jack Kerouac to Nick Nolte‘s Neal Casady), Ivan Passer‘s Cutter’s Way and Paul Schrader‘s Cat People, the only film in which Heard played a romantic lead.

And don’t forget his wonderful work on The Sopranos as that sad, corrupt, dessicated detective who was on Tony Soprano’s payroll and half-hated himself for that.

Heard downshifted into character roles after Cat People, but he scored in CHUD, Best Revenge, Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, The Trip to Bountiful and Robert Redford‘s The Milagro Beanfield War.

In the spring of ’83 I saw Heard knock it hard and straight in Total Abandon, a courthouse stage drama written by Larry Atlas. Or so I recall. I certainly remember going up to Heard after the matinee ended and saying “Wow, man…that’s a tough role to play twice a day” and him smiling and shrugging and saying “naaah, just a workout.”

I’m pretty sure I also saw Heard act in G.R. Point, an anti-war play set in Vietnam, but I need to sift through my memory leaves a bit more.

I knew Heard slightly in the early ’80s. He wasn’t a friend but I was close at the time with Keith Szarabajka (Missing, Marie, A Perfect World, The Dark Knight, Argo) and he was genuinely friendly with Heard and so I kind of absorbed the atmosphere of that. In the company of Szarabajka (whom I became befriended when we worked as waiter-busboys at the Spring Street Bar & Grill in the late ’70s) and others.  I ran into Heard a few times at Cafe Central and The Allstate, another popular actor haunt on West 72nd Street.

Heard had an off-and-on alcohol issue at the time, but he was a good egg and a seriously emotional guy. 

In ’82 or thereabouts Heard experienced a momentary surge for a woman I’d been out with a few months earlier — i.e., photographer Sonia Moskowitz.  He approached her at a bar one night with “you wanna get married?” But when I told him a day or two later that Sonia and I had gone out two or three months earlier Heard apologized, as if he’d done something improper. “No, no, it’s cool, man…life moves on,” I said, but Heard was all “Jesus, man, I didn’t know….shit, sorry.”

True fact: In 1983 I sat one evening at a table in a West 72nd bar with CHUD star John Heard and at least one other CHUD costar (Daniel Stern?) plus a couple of other actor friends including Szarabajka. I distinctly remember Heard explaining to someone at the table that CHUD would be (and I’m writing this from memory) “kind of a subversive, side-pocket, slider-ball type of thing…it’ll be what it’ll be when it opens, and then it’ll be something else in ten or twenty years.” Not a big moneymaker and nothing close to an Oscar-type deal, he meant, but possibly destined for coolness.