My Granny and Jean Claude Van Damme
My mother and father divorced
not long after I was born. Mom, working full time for the state of
The years passed and I grew up.
Much to my occasionally present father’s disappointment, I showed no
real interest or inclination for sports. However, I did develop a
love for martial arts. First in the form of films, but soon after
entering college, I began studying Shaolin Kung Fu at the
I lived at home because I was putting myself through college and couldn’t afford my own place yet. This meant I still saw Granny pretty much every day. In fact, I often didn’t get home from work until one or two in the morning, but I would find Granny up, watching late night cable TV and eating her favorite cornbread and buttermilk. I would join her and we’d watch some of the not-so-great TV fare together. Films like AMERICAN NINJA, REVENGE OF THE NINJA, THE BIG BRAWL and ENTER THE DRAGON were some of our favorites. But then Granny saw a commercial for a new film: KICK BOXER starring the newest martial arts sensation of the day: Jean Claude Van Damme.
Granny turned to me after the
commercial ended and said, “
Van Damme was enjoying some real popularity at the time and had signed a deal to do more pictures and soon a new JCVD film was being released at least once or twice each year. That was fine with Granny, every time one would come out, she would get me to take her to see it. LIONHEART, DEATH WARRANT, DOUBLE IMPACT…. Every JCVD film that came out we saw them all, and she even had me rent BLOOD SPORT & CYBORG when I told her he was in them. Granny loved Jean Claude Van Damme and it made her happy that we could go see the films together.
While Jean Claude was fighting the bad guys on screen, Granny was fighting her own battles. She had osteoporosis and suffered from a lot of pain as her bones weakened. Granny also suffered from severe asthma, a condition not helped by her lifelong addiction to cigarettes. Granny’s condition grew steadily worse, until she spent most of her time in bed, on oxygen, with only the occasional trip out. In August of 1993 a new Jean Claude Van Damme film came out at the theaters - HARD TARGET. Granny wanted to go see it. When I asked if she wanted to wait for it to come to video, she just patted my arm and said, “I want to see him on the big screen while I can.” So she got dressed and, portable oxygen tank in tow, we went to see the film. We both loved it. She told me afterwards that it was almost as good as KICKBOXER, which was the measuring stick she came to use for all films. High praise indeed.
Granny lost her fight with lung disease and passed away quietly in the hospital in October of 1993, just a short time after we’d gone to see the film. She was a tough lady who fought as hard against her failing lungs as Jean Claude ever did against the bad guys, but life isn’t like the movies and sometimes the bad guys win.
A lot of people who’ve read my “Werewolf for Hire” books ask how I learned to write fight scenes and why I put so much description into them. I always say it’s because of my training in Kung-fu and my love of action movies. The truth is, when I’m writing those scenes I think about what my Granny liked, watching Jean Claude Van Damme use martial arts to beat the bad guys. I write the fight scenes the way I do because that’s the way Granny would want to see them.