A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story
After 44 years in the institution, Bill’s life was about to begin…
“A Friend Indeed – The Bill Sackter Story” is an inspiring documentary showing how a forgotten man and an uncommon friendship shattered the world’s perceptions of people with disabilities.
Bill Sackter’s life story was made famous by the award winning made-for-tv movie “Bill” (1981) starring Mickey Rooney as Bill, and Dennis Quaid as the young filmmaker Barry Morrow who had befriended Bill in 1972 and began filming their relationship and adventures.
Now get to know the real people behind the story in this engaging documentary featuring actual film and video footage and photographs of Bill Sackter himself, along with new interviews with the people closest to Bill, in an uplifting true story that has been over 35 years in the making!
With a harmonica, a warm cup of coffee and a positive embrace of life, get to know the real Bill Sackter, an international hero for people with disabilities, and witness how a little friendship and attention transformed Bill’s life and everyone around him.
See Lane Wyrick’s powerful new documentary “A Friend Indeed – The Bill Sackter Story” – voted the #1 Audience Favorite in five consecutive film festivals.
It’s a highly entertaining and engaging real life story filled with laughter, inspiration, and emotion (a box of Kleenex is definitely recommended)!
Learn more at http://www.BillSackter.com
Since first meeting
Bill Sackter over three decades ago, Barry Morrow's desire has always been to
create a documentary about Bill Sackter. Working with a variety of film and video equipment
as well as photographs Barry captured precious moments in his experience with Bill.
A national audience was given a glimpse of Barry's actual footage at the end of
the TV movie “Bill” (1981), the documentary never got produced. Morrow went on
to a successful Hollywood screenwriting career (he won an Oscar for "Rain Man"), and the source material
has been in storage ever since.
three decades later, Barry met award winning documentary filmmaker Lane
Wyrick at the Los Angeles premiere of his documentary “The Nazi
Drawings” held at the Director's Guild Theater. Having met Wyrick
previously, it was at this screening that Morrow passed the torch to
Wyrick and chose him to take on this ambitious project. After Wyrick
looked the potential of the story and the resources of film, video,
photos, and possible interviews he decided that this production demanded to be treated as a
feature length documentary.
After 7 years of research and production, Wyrick premiered "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City - the same location where the TV Movie "Bill" was screened 27 years earlier.
The documentary has a deep universal appeal as
an exploration of the way we, as a society, have treated people with
disabilities (from institutional abandonment to community embrace), and
how human compassion and caring can really make a difference. The
documentary is an emotional journey that is ultimately very inspiring.
It is appropriate for all ages and especially family
audiences. Anyone viewing the documentary, even those that know nothing about Bill himself or the tv portrayal of him, will be left with the feeling that the real Bill Sackter is as close to them as a great friend.
"A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" is a 90-minute documentary created by
Mid-America Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker Lane Wyrick, that
explores the emotional journey of Bill Sackter's extraordinary life
in the context of the sweeping historical changes that he was a part of
and helped influence to a large degree.
and film & video footage of Bill taken by Barry Morrow, Jack
Doepke, Tom Walz and others during his life are mixed with
interviews of the people who were closest to him with some recreations of Bill as a 7-year-old boy being sent to the institution after his father died.
full orchestral score by Hollywood trained composer Peter Bloesch deeply enriches the emotional journey of Bill's struggles and triumphs,
at times reinforcing the dialogue and visuals, and at others providing
an all encompassing sound bed for visual montage.
is a visual composite of many different film and video formats, of
photographs, of music, of narration, of interviews, but ultimately, it is a story about friendship, compassion and hope. While the entire story is based in fact, it is not just a historical recitation of events, but rather an emotional journey where viewers will really have a sense that
they know Bill Sackter like a close friend.
The 1981 made for tv movie "Bill" was extremely
popular. Many people across the US to this day remember the movie "Bill" with Mickey
Rooney and Dennis Quaid for its powerful and compassionate view of people with disabilities.
Now with the real life documentary, "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" is set to reach a wide and diverse audience with its story of the power of human compassion, and one with universal appeal..
It is a story the whole family can
enjoy, and helps to open discussion about the
treatment of people with disabilities. It is not just a history lesson.
It is the story of an outsider learning how to fit in a world he never
knew before he was 50 years old. It is above all a positive story,
where Bill walks away from lifelong confinement and instead of
being bitter as many in his position would be, he embraces his last years of life to its
fullest. All this from a man who simply made coffee and played the
documentary finally puts a real face and personality on Bill
Sackter, a person who helped change our society for the better and
who has become a hero for the disability community.
Barry Morrow is one of Bill's
closest friends. Barry met Bill at a staff Christmas Party at the Minikahda
Club in Minneapolis where Bill had been employed as a dishwasher.
Immediately a friendship grew, and Barry took Bill around town and out
to nightclubs where his friend Jack Doepke performed. Barry began
shooting videotape and Super 8 film footage of Bill, finding him to be
a great subject for a documentary, but after a bad experience in taking
Bill back to the institution for the film, Barry put the project on
being offered a job in Iowa City, Barry had to leave Bill because Bill
was a ward of the state of Minnesota. Shortly thereafter, Bill was
hospitalized and it was Barry's job to tell him that he needed to have
his leg amputated and to be sent back to the institution. In an
unprecedented move, Barry instead petitioned to become Bill's legal
guardian and brought Bill with him to Iowa City.
Barry's help Bill made a full recovery and Bill soon became a celebrity
with the help of Barry, Tom Walz and others in the community. Barry's
nomination papers for Bill to become Handicapped Iowan of the Year soon
turned into a deal to have Bill's life story turned into a made for TV
movie “Bill” (1981) starring Mickey Rooney and Dennis Quaid.
Barry Morrow was honored by
winning an Emmy for writing "Bill", and later an Academy Award for
writing "Rain Man". Barry has enjoyed a successful career as a writer
and more recently, as a producer. Member of The Arc, the National
Association of Social Workers , and the Autism
Society of America , Morrow is a lifelong advocate for
the rights of persons with disabilities.
notable writing credits include "Bill: On His Own" (1983, TV),
"Conspiracy of Love" (1987, TV), "Quiet Victory: The Charlie Wedermeyer
Story" (1988, TV), "The Karen Carpenter Story" (1989, TV), "Christmas
on Division Street" (1991, TV), Gospa (1995), Race The Sun (1996) and
Milost Mora / Mercy of the Sea (2002).
Dr. Tom Walz had been
a teacher of the ambitious young Barry Morrow while in Minneapolis, and
when Walz was hired as the Dean of the School of Social Work at the
University of Iowa, his first thought was to bring Morrow along to add
vibrancy to the department. Barry informed Tom that Bill would be part
of the package, so Tom pulled strings to allow Bill to work in the
great passion of furniture refinishing provided Bill with his first employment at the University, but
after a chemical fire in the building, Tom was forced to find a new
position for Bill. Shortly thereafter, he inaugurated Wild Bill's Coffee Shop in an old classroom in North Hall,
and Bill found a place behind the counter serving coffee. And then a
transformation took place: the man who'd spent his life isolated from
society became one of Iowa City's best-loved citizens, and he did it,
according to Tom, through "pure kindness." People of all ages and
backgrounds sought Bill out for a joke, a word of comfort, or a
rendition of the "Too Fat Polka" on the harmonica he kept in his back
Tom's help, various disability organizations came to recognize Bill's
extraordinary role in the community, and Bill went on to have a made
for TV movie about his life and to be invited to the Whitehouse. When
Bill died on June 16, 1983, Tom was determined his friend's legacy
would live on. He helped convince the University that Wild Bill's
Coffee Shop should remain open permanently and employ people with
2000, Wild Bill's was beginning to outgrow its University confines. Tom
had just retired as a full-time professor, and a new dream began to
take shape in his mind: a place where individuals with disabilities could have
the freedom to develop their own businesses.
set up the Extend the Dream
Foundation to fund this dream - and in
September 2001 Dr. Tom Walz saw a long-standing dream come to fruition
with the opening of Uptown Bill's
Jack Doepke met Bill
through friends Bev & Barry Morrow. Playing guitar 6 nights a week
in the 70's with a local 4-piece band, “Denny & The Tornados”, Jack
had his days free and started driving Bill around for errands, lunch,
matinee movies & visits to friends. As they became closer, Bill
would accompany Jack to the nightclub, spend the night at his house and
goof around recording music and stories on a reel-to-reel tape
Eventually, Bill would show up at
Jack's family reunions, weddings, vacations – wherever! This guy knew
how to fit in. . .
his many vocations, Jack has been a rock-n-roll musician, 18-piece jazz
band producer, Ronald McDonald & Captain Jocko clowns, choir
director, puppeteer, cubmaster, guitar teacher, video producer and
songwriter. He's recorded 3 children's CD's for Kid Rhino records, 3
videos with Klasky-Csupo, and is currently developing a new business –
“Party Pilots” – tribal family entertainment tributes for
anniversaries, weddings & retirements.
wife Carol is a RN; they have 2 teenage boys and live in a small lake
community north of St. Paul, Minnesota (“we hear loons at night”).
is the rabbi of Agudas Achim
Congregation in Iowa City. When he met
Bill he was also the director of the Hillel Foundation, the Jewish
student center at the University of Iowa.
Jeff met Bill through Deb Singer who was then getting a master degree
in Social Work at the University. Deb heard that Bill was Jewish and
introduced him to Jeff. From then on Bill became a “regular” at Agudas
Achim, coming every Saturday to Sabbath services and then having lunch
at Jeff and his wife, Gail's house. The standard greeting after
services is “Shabbat Shalom” – which means Sabbath peace. For Bill that
was became a standard greeting for everyone. In fact on his tombstone
it says under his name “Shabbat Shalom.”
Barry decided to move to California, Jeff became Bill's legal
guardian. It was a time that went very quickly cut off by Bill's
high point in Jeff's experience with Bill was Bill's Bar Mitzvah.
Bill was little past the normal age (13) of having a bar mitzvah - he was 66, but
it was a huge community event. Bill might not have understood all the
Hebrew words but he certainly had more spirit and devotion than most
people who have their bar or bat mitzvah. It was a wonderful event.
Bill did not have a Hebrew name, so Rabbi Jeff gave him the Hebrew name
of "Simcha", which means “happiness” which certainly characterized the
most optimistic happy individual that Jeff has ever met.
||Wild Bill's Coffee Shop
When Bill moved
to Iowa to live with Barry Morrow, Bill's new life was just about to
begin. Barry's employer at the University of Iowa, Tom Walz, then the
Director of the School of Social Work, took a genuine liking to Bill.
Tom wanted to help Bill with the one thing Bill desperately needed
which was a good stable job. Tom got Bill work doing odd jobs around
campus. Eventually, Tom and Barry came up with the idea to have Bill
serve coffee in an unused room at the college. The idea was a hit! The
students and faculty took an instant liking to Bill and his coffee.
Soon it was official, Wild Bill's Coffee Shop was opened in 1975. Bill
worked at the shop until his death in 1983.
Bill's Coffee Shop is located on the University of Iowa School of
Social Services campus. Wild Bills enjoys a very loyal following of
students and musicians who hold open-mike jam sessions and other
activities at the shop on weekends.
Also, the newly created Uptown
Bill's Small Mall, is an offshoot of the coffee shop facilitated by Tom
Walz, houses several businesses that are operated by people with
disabilities. Uptown Bill's has been a tremendous success, has received
a lot of local attention and has become a shining example of the
potential to create businesses that erase the barriers between people
with disability and the general public.