Three Things We Should Remember about Paul
As we near the birthday of Paul Walker, who would have been 41 years old on September 12, it is still hard to believe that the youthful, energetic and attractive actor is truly gone. He was the main star in one of the most successful movie franchises of all time, yet he was never one to seek out the spotlight.
In the days that followed his passing, Walker was elevated by many in the press to near saint-like status, his handsome face now enshrined in the public memory for the ages. Today, for many, the name Paul Walker has become synonymous with the word legend. The pain of his loss was palatable by many of his fans, including me. In fact, it was something I tried to speak to and offer comfort to others after that terrible day in late November of last year. Let’s face it – his death was depressing.
Remembering His Essence
In processing all that happened with his death, it is easy to forget that the core qualities of the man, namely modestly, generosity and kindness, are what attracted so many to him during his lifetime.
And so it is important to remember that his ability to connect with those around him was not a function of his good looks alone. Instead, Walker drew people to him because they could relate to his essence – an essence that was informed by being all too human.
I’ve never understood the tabloid exploits about Paul Walker. So many in the press focused on his handsome appearance, which no doubt was stunning – yet missed the deeper story about the events in the man’s life that helped to shape who he was as a person and perhaps more important, who he was not.
Following Paul Walker
I followed Paul Walker for pretty much his entire acting career; starting way back in the 1980’s when he grabbed a part in Monster in the Closet (1986) in his role as “Professor” Bennett. If truth be told, there isn’t a flick he appeared in that I haven’t seen or an interview that he has given that I have not read.
Upon his death I, like many of his fans, became deeply saddened. After a period of time, I also became curious about who he was away from the camera and how his image transformed in the days following his passing.
As many followers of Walker know, he was notoriously private.
And so, through the lens of time, contextualized through his public interviews, I’ve put together a more accurate, meaningful portrait of the star that can now be shared as we move closer towards his birthday – the first such anniversary to occur after his death.
All Too Human
In the interviews given by Walker, what I noticed time and again was the tortured contradiction of a man who always seemed to have one foot in Hollywood and one foot out. The conclusion is very simple: Paul Walker, like the rest of us, was all too human.
While it may be too late to push back against the public narrative that has taken hold about him, namely a handsome young celebrity whose life was tragically cut short, I believe there is still space to remember his deeper fabric, which really should be infused into our collective memory beyond his physical appearance.
What follows are 3 important things about Paul Walker that I hope provides you a better understanding his essence
1. Compassion through Homelessness
In his very early 20’s, after graduating Sun Valley Christian High School in San Fernando, Paul Walker experienced what it was like to be homeless. While there were some press items about this early part of his life, much of it was lost in a sea of tributes in the immediate days following his death.
Walker already had some modeling and acting work under his belt, which helped him land the role of Brandon Collins on CBS’s, The Young and the Restless in 1992. While he made good wages for this work, he spent more money than he had, something not unheard of for new actors. And so when his time on Y&R ended, living on fumes, he enrolled in Santa Barbara City College to pursue one of his passions, marine biology. And it was during period of time, between 1992 and 1993, that Walker was homeless.
While this time in his life may have been short-lived, there is some evidence to suggest that the star may have been living out of cars and quite possibly, relying on food stamps, according to information gleamed from the Liberty Voice online.
His fortunes would obviously change later however; it is important to isolate this life event because it helps to inform us of the metal of the man. Part of the reason Walker was so compassionate to others and so giving to those in need, particularly strangers, is because he knew on some level what it was like to go without.
I encourage you to read more about this period of his life, which helps to shed a brighter light on who this man truly was. His homelessness may also help to inform why he freely gave to others and often did so anonymously. It is perhaps for this reason that he began his charity, Reach Out Worldwide, to help those who were less fortunate.
2. Humility through mindfulness
By his own admission, Paul Walker made mistakes, which he described as doing some “stupid things” when he was younger, according to an interview he gave in 2009 in promotion of Takers. Apparently, one of those stupid things almost led to his being charged with a felony when he was 18-years old.
While the details of exactly what happened during time period remain unclear, we know that Walker must have been on the edge of something serious. Going by the Taker’s interview, this would have been circa 1990, around the time he would have made appearances on Charles in Charge and Who’s the Boss
And we need only look at more recent events to see the awareness of these flaws. According to a fan account in 2013, Walker was on break with his crew during the filming of Fast 7 in Atlanta. The fan’s wife, a waitress at the eatery, texted him to come quickly to the restaurant because she knew her husband was a big Fast and Furious fan.
Apparently, Walker had been previously flirting with the man’s wife, which the celeb stopped doing once he was informed by her that she was married. Upon the arrival of the husband to the restaurant, the wife introduced him to Walker and the Fast 7 crew. Paul immediately asked the man to pull up a chair and sit with him.
Walker, the Fast 7 crew and the husband of the waitress then proceeded to chat for about an hour, making light conversation about things other than movies. And Walker himself was curious, asking the fan questions about his life and about who he was as a person. Afterwards, Walker took photographs with both of them. I’ve included the photographs here.
I am making the point here is that Paul was very much human, more than mindful and aware of who he was, where he came from and his mistakes.
And we see in this fan account a theme that is repeated countless times by those who came into contact with him – he was unpretentious, down to earth and real. This humble quality happens not because of genetics but instead, through a process that was shaped by living.
Eerie Side Note
As an eerie side note that may have foretold the future, the photograph of Walker shown here was taken on September 18, 2013 at the restaurant Six Feet Under, located on Memorial Drive overlooking the historic Oakland Cemetery during filming of Fast 7, about 2 months before the star died.
Did Picture Foretell The Future?
3. He really loved the oceans and its creatures
When you look at Paul Walker’s life and explore the things that really interested him, you see a man who was deeply connected to the ocean, his crystal blue eyes almost perfectly matching the depth of the aqua blue sea. Walker’s father shared in an on camera interview after Paul’s death that his son had a unique connection with all things oceanic. In fact, the star was involved in the protection and conservation of sea life and had a real passion for the ocean and its many creatures.
Below you will find a short video that features Walker talking to Dr. Michael Domeier, a marine research scientist. The interview is part of a promotion piece for the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. What is important that you notice is the absolute focus Walker has on Domeier when the scientist is talking about the topic of sharks.
On more than one occasion, Walker wanted to quit his job as an actor and immerse himself in the study of marine biology, something revealed in an interview with Domeier appearing on the Entertainment Weekly website.
“Hey, I want to quit acting. I want to go back to school. Can you help me?” said, Paul.
As an aside, when you look at the array of publicly available photographs of Paul Walker, you will also notice that he loved animals – animals of all kinds and types.
There is so much more I could share with you about this actor. He came from a blue-collar background and humble beginnings. Walker was by no means perfect – he had a number of flaws, several of which have come up since his passing in November. And I am the first to say the man was not a saint. He had a reputation of living on the edge and had no doubt had brushed up against death before.
That however is not the point of this article. Instead, my hope is to leave you with a deeper, more substantive personalogical mosaic, which can be traced back to a time well before he became a star on the silver screen.
And I would be remiss in not mentioning his daughter, Meadow, who meant so much to Paul that he had her name tattooed on his wrist. We should also remember his girlfriend, Jasmine, who according to news reports, Walker planned on marrying in the future. And finally, we should remember Paul’s family.
He was a good actor – not great. With that shared, the truth is that I still miss seeing him. Not for his celebrity status, nor his looks. I miss him because, like many of his fans, he had a humble life story that folks could relate to – mistakes and all. In plain speak, the guy was real.
I encourage you to give generously to Paul Walker’s Charity as we get close to his birthday this September 12. Remember all of the reasons you liked him and all of the joy he brought to your life.
Happy birthday Paul – we miss you plenty.