There is an unusually large, very out-of-place house around the corner from us that Mauro and I refer to as “the boy’s reformatory.” It’s a charmless two story brick house that sits behind wrought iron gates and tall hedges and more brick. Think of a depressing and sinister brick institution where paddlings and lobotomies might take place. I’m pretty sure skeletons of once-incorrigible boys dating back to the depression era will be found in a crawl space in there one day.

The other day Mauro and I were on a walk with Sabina when we walked by the creepy house.

“There it is,” he said. “The reformatory.”

“Yup. Nobody ever goes in, and nobody ever comes out.”

Today I realized Mauro had no idea what I meant. I somehow forgot that he hates musicals, and for that reason he has never seen Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. Even though it’s not really a musical. It’s not Cabaret. That I can see.

“Musicals are silly,” he explained once. “People don’t break out in song in real life. They’re just so fake.”

All movies are fake, babe,” I replied. (Think about it.)

For a guy who loves silliness, he doesn’t know what he’s missing. (Which is what he says to me about Monty Python movies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an entire Monty Python movie. Don’t hate me.) This is the Google description of Willy Wonka:

The last of five coveted “golden tickets” falls into the hands of a sweet but very poor boy. He and his grandpa then get a tour of the strangest chocolate factory in the world. The owner leads five young winners on a thrilling and often dangerous tour of his factory.

Have you ever noticed that half the people have British accents and half have American accents—and Slugworth is like, Russian—even though the movie takes place in some kind of Danish hamlet? It’s how I picture Holland. Ends up they filmed it in Munich. Shoulda known. Augustus Gloop lives in Duselheim (which sounds German, but doesn’t really exist, FYI). And where is Charlie’s dad? No explanation. The dad’s parents are there, living their days out in a bed for four eating cabbage soup. Also, the whole thing is obviously rigged. Slugworth is always right there. So why didn’t Willy just give the chocolate factory to Charlie to begin with? I mean, he decided a long time ago that he had to find a child, a very honest, loving child, to whom he could tell all his most precious candy making secrets. Under Veruca’s control it probably would have become a front for money laundering. After she sold all Willy’s secrets at top dollar.

None of this matters. Willy Wonka rules. The opening credits alone get me all choked up. Willy Wonka may be the reason I love chocolate so much. And silliness. Willy and his frippery. I actually looked into lickable wallpaper once. You can make it. There’s a recipe for it in a cookbook called Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes. Which I now have to get. I hope it has something about snozzberries.

Yesterday I was driving home from teaching when I got a text from my brother.

John: So shines a good deed in a weary world…

Me: Were you watching Willy Wonka

John: You didn’t hear?

Me: ?

John: Gene Wilder died today

He may as well have said silliness itself died. With magic. And dreams.

So I watched Willy Wonka last night. Is it a musical? And what is so wrong with musicals? At least they’re happy. Except Les Misérables. I’ve only seen parts of it, but it looks pretty depressing. At least Willy Wonka isn’t depressing. Well, unless your daughter Violet has just turned into a blueberry or your son Mike Teavee (nice name) has just been shrunk to the size of a thumb.

My favorite part of Willy Wonka: Close your eyes. Make a wish. Count to three…


Never gets old.

Mauro came in toward the end and guffawed. It’s safe to say when he saw the Oompa Loompas singing and dancing he just didn’t care, and he never would, not even when I explained why Charlie relinquished the everlasting gobstopper. Most touching moment in filmdom ever.

RIP Gene Wilder.

Written by Anne Clendening
Anne Clendening was born and raised in L.A. She's a yoga teacher, a writer and occasionally slings cocktails in a Hollywood bar. She could eat chocolate cake for every meal of the day. She has a huge fear of heights and flying. And fire. She wishes she could speak French, play her guitar better and make cannoli. She's probably listening to The Dark Side Of The Moon right now, kickin’ it with her boxer dog and her hot Australian husband ★