Terry Runté was way more talented than most people got to see.
He was sharp-witted and provocative, curious and impatient, generous and spontaneous. He had a flair for language and self-invention. He was usually late.
He wrote humor for National Lampoon and Playboy and Omni, and co-wrote movies that he and I both wished were better. These included Mystery Date, with Ethan Hawke and Teri Polo, and Super Mario Bros., with Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, and Dennis Hopper.
Terry really didn’t want to be known only for those movies, so he was working on a new one, a romantic comedy set in Jamaica. He went down there looking for inspiration.
Instead, he got murdered.
None of his friends could believe it at first. Terry would often commit to long-tail pranks, and faking his own death seemed not only plausible but likely. They never did find a body.
But they got a confession. And when police divers searched the waters around what locals call “Shark Rock” they found enough evidence to get a conviction. That was in 1994.
Since that time, I’d been meaning to write about Terry — about our friendship and our adventures together in Hollywood — but I kept putting it off. I didn’t want the prank to be over.
Luckily, there was a pandemic. That’s given me some time and perspective and impetus, and now I’m about two-thirds of the way through writing the first draft of a memoir.
In the process, I’ve gathered stories and sketches and articles that Terry wrote, which I would love for more people to enjoy. I’ll be posting them here, along with photos and videos and anything else that might help Terry be remembered as the prodigious talent he was.
So much more than just the guy who wrote Super Mario Bros.
— Parker Bennett
October 8th, 2021
Sept. 1988. Having sold our first screenplay, Mystery Date, in a successful bidding skirmish, Terry and I were now the “Flavor of the Week” in Hollywood. We were flown to L.A. on Orion’s dime, and were now aiming for the stars. Or at least our next deal.
A few weeks back, I was a guest on one of my favorite podcasts, The Flop House. Now, Jason Snell, on my other favorite podcast, The Incomparable, was kind enough to mention this website in a non-sponsored, just-as-a-favor interstitial…
We officially launched the site on Oct. 8th, 2021 (Terry’s birthday). It was great seeing old friends and a new face or two. I gave a quick tour of the site, and shared a story about Terry and me meeting Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel for the first time…
They looked a bit like Terry and me if we were a married couple — and if my facial hair showed up in sunlight. Rocky boomed in his jovial British accent, “There you are! The Mystery Daters.” We smiled, not sure how to take that…
Hey, I’m a guest on one of my favorite podcasts, The Flop House! We talk about Super Mario Bros. It was tons of fun! Click below to listen…
I so look forward to the day when Daley is voted out of office, and each and every one of you cocksuckers is thrown out into the street where you belong, left to wander endlessly, looking for your cars, which unfortunately have been towed…
Our seven-page pitch for Super Mario Bros. and the poster mock-up that Rocky later said got us the job.
In 1987, Terry served as Editor in Chief of this April Fool’s parody of Today’s Chicago Woman. It is just as puerile and of-its-time as you might imagine.
Terry was a frequent contributor to Today’s Chicago Woman in the ’80s. Here’s one of his humor pieces, with a topic that remains timely…
A Star Wars Story
Here I am reading an excerpt from the memoir I’m writing about my friendship with Terry. This is about how we first met.
Dylan Brody hosted this event featuring the writers from his Weekly Writer’s Workshop (which I highly recommend — visit activevoiceproductions.com for more).
Last Word Columns, 1985–1989
Terry Runté’s World of Science Fun
Here’s an example of Terry’s unique approach to cover letters:
Dear Mr. Colligan,
Here’s yet another submission for your ‘Last Words’ column from your squad of Chicago writers. I hope you like it. Then I hope you buy it. Finally, I hope you rename your magazine ‘Terry Runté’s World of Science Fun.” I guess you could say I’m a hopeful sort of guy…
The thing is, it practically was Terry Runté’s World of Science Fun. Terry wrote half the “Last Word” columns in 1986. By 1989, his final tally was 16 (Mitch, 8).
This was Terry’s favorite, profiling has-been animal actor Flipper — now a joke in the Hollywood community. He anticipated Bojack Horseman by 25 years.
“I want to do all the old-people things I see on TV. I want to be set in my ways. I want to repeat myself a lot. Old age is wasted on the elderly.”
“He possesses that elusive, nameless substance that no one talks about, thinks about, or even thinks about talking about. He has a major helping of the wrong stuff.”
One of Terry’s favorite opening sentences: “Sitting there, bound to a crude wooden chair by leather straps, I began to question the career choice I had made so many years before.”
“Deane suffered from an affliction more common than measles, more deadly than bubonic plague, more stupefying than a subscription to Reader’s Digest. Deane was in love.”
“Here we have evidence that centuries before we ever thought of such things, the Mayans had built this mall, conveniently located and with plenty of free parking.”
“Connors is one of a new breed of automotive maintenance specialists who promise to change garages forever. He is the word’s first car psychologist.”
Terry’s first Last Word column for Omni. “An invisible field of energy surrounds the body and extends itself at the fingers and feet during moments of stress or anxiety.”
This submission is one of Terry’s rare Omni rejections — about aliens playing practical jokes on humanity as part of an interplanetary hazing ritual. The cover letter is pure Terry, cocky and charming…