There is no easy way to mark the loss of a longtime friend. Rick Scheckmanwas a quiet guy, the last one to call attention to himself in any situation. He was also a loyal friend and part of our extended family. My daughter Jessie has known and loved him her entire life (she’s heartbroken that he won’t get to meet my granddaughter Daisy.) I met him after he wrote me a series of fan letters about my early books The Great Movie Shorts and The Disney Films. He was five years younger than me but we spoke the same language and loved the same offbeat shorts and cartoons.
He was an avid film collector, but decades ago he and two like-minded pals turned their hobby into a full-time business, forming Streamline Films. They supplied oddball film footage for commercials, TV show parodies and the like. If you needed a dog yawning, one phone call was all it took. This meant organizing and cataloguing hundreds upon hundreds of 16mm reels and figuring out a way to provide quick access to individual shots. It also meant if you arrived at a dealer’s room at a convention like Cinefest after he did you lost out on the real goodies. The dealers might as well have placed a “Ricky Was Here” sign on their tables.
In the early days of David Letterman’s late-night show on NBC, the staff called on Ricky so often that he was ultimately offered a full-time job. That job became a second home, fostered ongoing friendships and exposed the normally shy “Film Coordinator” to the world in a series of silly appearances on-camera—which, he noted, earned him a welcome fee. Letterman also benefited from Ricky’s vast knowledge and access to private film collections for his own amusement and edification.
I met Ricky when he was still a teenager and never got used to calling him Rick. At Letterman he earned the nickname Shecky, which stuck. He was part of a group of Cinephiles who, under the leadership of Phil Serling (founder of the annual Cinefest in Syracuse, New York) began taking cruises and continued doing so even after the heartbreaking loss of our fearless leader.We traveled the globe and Ricky outdid us by taking even more cruises, sometimes with a friend or two but often on his own.
He lived simply in the home where he grew up in Queens, New York. It was filled—and I mean filled—with books, magazines, and ephemera covering a wide swath of pop culture. Whenever I called him it seemed he was reading a newly-published book on movie history or a collection of comic strips.
It’s become a cliché to say that you don’t get to choose your family, but as my daughter can attest, you can choose your surrogate family. In befriending Ricky we chose well. Alice, Jessie and I will miss him terribly. His friends and colleagues at Letterman put together a wonderful video tribute–you can watch that HERE.