Bruce Willis and the Cruelty of Aphasia

Bruce Willis at a film premiere in New York, Oct. 11, 2019.


For more than a decade of generally joyful and generally awkward summers starting in 1992, I traveled to the United States alongside a well-known artist who suffered from aphasia. Many people are not aware of the situation or the misfortune that can accompany it. It is quite difficult when the victim is a personal citizen. When it is an artist who nevertheless shows himself earlier than the public, bravery turns into a work requirement.

Bruce Willis

he said this week that the actor was retiring due to aphasia. Mr Willis’s family have not revealed what led to his analysis. Causes can include a stroke, a tumor, or extreme mental damage. Frequent signs are the ability to converse only in short or incomplete sentences, to mix sentences or to say problems that make no sense to listeners.

The person I spent all these summers with was

Jan Berry,

one half of the surf-rock duo Jan and Dean, who in 1963 had the national hit n ° 1 “Surf Metropolis.”

In 1966, Berry was the driving force behind a one-car accident that mirrored Jan and Dean’s 1964 hit “Useless Man’s Curve.”He carried the after-effects, as well as aphasia, until his death in 2004.

It is a merciless affliction. For someone like Bruce Willis or Jan Berry, the world can suddenly become full of strangers who had been prepared to worship you because of your work, and who now look with puzzled expressions, not knowing what to do with what they see.

You converse, and sometimes what comes out of it is disjointed and complicated. There may be nothing you can do about it. Someone—maybe a fan-asks a question and, without it, you seem to be making fun of him by answering in an illogical or incoherent way.


Surf-rock duo Jan Berry, left, and Dean Torrence perform in 1978.


After the announcement of Mr. Willis’s family, I watched excerpts from current films through which he appeared. Among the assessments verged on the ruthless. I guess the critics had no idea what Mr. Willis might have faced. In a number of film scenes, it seems that Mr. Willis was filmed individually from his fellow actors, reciting traces of one or two sentences. I checked his famous face and noticed Jan Berry’s face.

On flights from one performing arts city to another, Jan put on headphones and listened intently to Jan and Dean’s songs. It wasn’t out of ego. He was trying to remember the sentences. He had written these words a long time ago and had sung them on information purchased in thousands and thousands of copies. The following evening, every particular person within the viewers would know every sentence. However, he had forgotten and needed to relearn them earlier than every gift.

An individual can hide aphasia for so long, as Mr Willis and his family seem to know. One evening on stage, Jan Berry had said, directly into a microphone, something he had not intended to say, a humiliating thing. He turned to me and, with tears in his eyes, whispered: “I have to make extra.”He blamed himself. It comes with the melancholic territory of aphasia.

Mr. Greene’s books include “When We Get to Surf Metropolis: A journey across America in pursuit of Rock and Roll, friendship and desires.”

Moments after assaulting Chris Rock on stage, the actor received a standing ovation from Hollywood viewers. Photograph: Zuma Press/Reuters Photograph: Mark Kelly

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Published in the print version of April 1, 2022.

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