This story is pre-long weekend, but I’m just getting around to reading it now. Did anyone else spot this profile of an Indiana Jones-obsessed Kirkland man?
Dan DeLong / P-IP-I reporter Cecelia Goodnow can be reached at 206-448-8353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Indiana Jones and the legend of the obsessed fan’
Life’s been one big adventure for Kirkland man
He’s put on some mileage since 1981, when “Raiders of the Lost Ark” transformed his life and made fedoras the headwear of choice for swashbucklers.
But it takes more than a few laugh lines and graying stubble to dim this guy’s mojo. No, when he strides forth in that iconic leather jacket, bullwhip coiled around his shoulder, one thing is clear: Michael Ryan hasn’t lost his jones for Indiana.
The genial and otherwise normal Kirkland man is a fan-extraordinaire of Indiana Jones and his celebrity alter-ego, Harrison Ford — and he’s got the movie posters, golden fertility idol, Indy pinball machine, miniature Ark of the Covenant, action figures and autographed photos to prove it.
“I’m kind of star-struck,” admitted Ryan, editorial manager at Pokemon USA in Bellevue. “I’m easily star-struck, actually.”
Here’s how star-struck:
He got married eight years ago in a white “Temple of Doom” dinner jacket and honeymooned on Kauai — his bride’s choice — after she tempted him with a visit to Gorilla Mountain, where the opening scenes of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” were filmed. She promised to take his picture.
“That’s how I was able to get him to go to Hawaii,” said his wife, Janell Toppen, who works in human resources at Microsoft.
A year later, Ryan was camping in the Serengeti in full Indy gear, fulfilling a lifelong dream, when Toppen — who took a pass on the rugged trip — learned she was pregnant. Her husband was in an area so remote the guides had never even heard of Indiana Jones — imagine that! — so her news had to await his return.
Ryan was thrilled, of course, but they hit a good-natured snag when nature presented them with a baby boy nine months later. Ryan lobbied to name him Indiana, but his usually tolerant wife put her foot down.
“There’s absolutely no way that’s going to fly,” she told him. “That’s too much.”
They reached detente. Their 5 1/2-year-old son, who has his own fedora and toy whip, is named Harrison.
Indiana is the cat.
Ryan, who jokes about his obsession, is too self-aware to fit the fraternity of Elvis impersonators or over-the-top Trekkies. He’s more Walter Mitty — if Walter Mitty had panache.
Ryan is essentially “a very normal guy,” said his longtime friend, Mark Rosewater, head designer for “Magic: The Gathering” at Wizards of the Coast, where Ryan used to work.
“I think he wants to be swashbuckling,” Rosewater said. “I think Indiana Jones represents who he wants to be.”
“The whole thing about Indiana Jones is he seemed heroic, yet he seemed fallible,” Ryan said. “He doesn’t have the arrogant cockiness of other action heroes. Indiana Jones seems like an Everyman. Like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ll figure it out.’ I find that absolutely charming.”
What clinches the fantasy is Harrison Ford, a “man’s man” Ryan sees as a throwback to Gary Cooper, with some John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart mixed in.
Ryan thought Ford was pretty cool as Han Solo in “Star Wars,” but when he saw a preview for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” he was dazzled.
“I was in high school at the time,” Ryan said. “I was 17.”
The movie hadn’t even opened when Ryan bought his first fedora.
“Is that an Indiana Jones hat?” he asked an elderly haberdasher.
“No,” came the puzzled reply. “That’s a Country Gentleman hat.”
Close enough. Ryan clapped it on his head and they’ve been nearly inseparable ever since.
“I’ve chased this across blizzards to catch it,” he said.
As much as he admires Harrison Ford, Ryan is clear on one point: He doesn’t want to be Ford, although he once paid $1,000 a head to take his wife to a Museum of Flight celebrity auction where Ford was a featured guest. The rugged star agreed to pose with Ryan while Toppen snapped their photo.
At 5-foot-11, Ryan isn’t quite as rangy as Ford — truth be told, he’s a little baby-faced — and he doesn’t have Ford’s crooked grin or midlife gold earring. (Don’t hold your breath on that one.)
But heads swivel when he suits up in full Indy regalia, including English-made Wested Leather Co. jacket, shirt and traditional cavalry-twill trousers. He wears the garb to work every couple of weeks. “I’m careful not to wear it around Halloween,” Ryan said. “Otherwise, people think it’s a costume and not a lifestyle.”
The downside of suiting up is having to forgo his wristwatch; Indy doesn’t wear one. Indy doesn’t have a cell phone either, but one must make concessions, so Ryan carries his cell everywhere.
It has an “Indiana Jones” ring tone.
Aware he might come off as a “goof,” Ryan said he tucked away the outfit for the first six months he and Toppen dated because “I didn’t want to drive her off.”
She remembers it differently.
“He did wear the hat on our first date,” she said. “The hat is a security blanket for him.”
She understands the collector mentality, since she’s into vintage Strawberry Shortcake dolls and Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Ryan supports her hobbies just as she humors his jones for Jones.
“He’s very passionate about it,” she said, “but he’s not weird about it. It’s not like he wears that stuff to Safeway.”
As you’d expect, Ryan was beside himself as this week’s release of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” drew near.
“I cannot wait to see this film,” he said. “Harrison Ford could do a movie called ‘Indiana Jones and the Search for the Double Coupon’ and I will go see it.”
Laugh if you will. Ryan’s man enough to take it. Besides, he said, everyone has props and pastimes that boost their confidence and make them feel good about life.
“For me,” he said, “it’s putting on a fedora.” Still, he was relieved that the midnight showing of “Crystal Skull” was on Wednesday, not Tuesday — his wedding anniversary.
Indiana Jones versus candlelight dinner? Don’t even go there.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES BUG
A few bucks here, a couple thou there — it all adds up.
Michael Ryan figures he’s spent about $50,000 on his Indiana Jones hobby. But it could have been worse — he could have taken up Harrison Ford’s pastime, aviation.
Highlights of Ryan’s collection:
A 1993 Williams-made pinball machine, “Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure.” Nearly life-size cardboard “standee” of Harrison Ford made to promote the video game “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.” Eight original movie posters, two for each Indiana Jones film. Six Harrison Ford autographs, including signatures on the cover and byline pages of an article Ryan wrote in 2001 for Star Wars Insider. Authentic Mark VII British gas-mask bag from 1942. Vintage comics, novels, role-playing games, video games, action figures (including rare Japanese figures), fast-food collectibles, trading cards, T-shirts, board games and Lego figures.
Fresh from the midnight showing of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” Michael Ryan was ebullient. He e-mailed his impressions to the P-I:
“The movie itself was great: lots of cross-references to the original films and the ‘Young Indy’ TV series. The crowd at Lincoln Square was enthusiastic, clapping and cheering, so I saw the midnight showing in good company …”
Ryan ranks “Crystal Skull” alongside “Last Crusade” as second-best of the Indiana Jones series, with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” still the top dog and “Temple of Doom” coming in last “but still a solid film.”
“I wanted Ford to be in character, to give me the old, familiar Indy with just a touch of new characterization, which he did brilliantly,” Ryan wrote. “And I’m glad it’s a long holiday weekend — it gives me three days to see it a few more times.”