When a person becomes iconic in popular culture, the media reduces them to a cartoon. Roger was a real person, a good person, and a tremendously brave person, who sought to subvert that undertow by the example of his day-to-day living.
A man of formidable intellect, boundless energy, incisive perception, biting wit and deep compassion - when faced with the loss of his voice and terrible disfigurement from cancer, he forced the world, and the media, to not look away in denial. Add breathtaking heroism and inspirational grace to that list. Through it all, he never lost the pixie's twinkle in his eye.
Oh - and he was also the world's best known film critic.
I had the honor and privilege of a three-hour lunch with him, just the two of us, in a deserted Mexican restaurant in Chicago, in 1996. He was tremendously kind and encouraging to me, even as we forcefully debated his assertion that video games could never be art. I told him I wanted to make interactive art for adults, with a sensibility on a par with Tarantino. What happened next took my breath away: "Do it," he said. "You have more ideas than he does." I wish I'd had the presence of mind to grab a napkin and ask him to write that down.
Freely embracing the future, he demonstrated how a journalist could not only adapt but thrive in the new Global Village of social media. He leaves us with a vast body of work that will be enjoyed and scrutinized for generations and as sterling an example as one could ask for - on how to live, and how to die.
More about his life and work can be found from the Usual Suspects (a movie he hated):