December 14, 2009
Merwin: Steelhead, Bourbon, and Lee Remick
By John Merwin
This yarn involves some Michigan steelhead, the late actress Lee Remick, and a bottle of bourbon. If you’re a teetotaler, you might want to skip it. But then again, you might find it interesting, too.
My wife was watching the classic 1959 film Anatomy of a Murder over the weekend, which was shot on location in northern Michigan and starred both Remick and the great Jimmy Stewart. That brought this story to mind.
The best-selling book of the same name was written by my late friend John Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver. He also wrote some trout-fishing classics, including Trout Magic. Voelker, a true character, was on the set a lot sharing his celebrity while the film was being made. That’s all by way of background.
A great many years later, I was in Baldwin, Michigan, fishing the Pere Marquette with an old friend and Michigan fly shop owner who shall remain unnamed. The steelhead fishing had been only so-so. Back at the motel and chilled by a day in the river, I pulled out some bourbon and offered him a drink. He said thanks but he didn’t drink. Then he started laughing.
“This is like what Voelker did to me once,” he said. “John gave me some bourbon in an old tin cup when we were done fishing. I said no thanks. John scowled and shoved the cup at me.
“‘It was good enough for Lee Remick, so it’s good enough for you,’ Voelker told me, and shoved the cup at me again. So I drank it. But I’m still not a drinker.”
Or he wasn’t until later that evening....