There is no easy way to mark the loss of a longtime friend. Rick Scheckmanwas a quiet guy, the last one to call attention to himself in any situation. He was also a loyal friend and part of our extended family. My daughter Jessie has known and loved him her entire life (she’s heartbroken that he won’t get to meet my granddaughter Daisy.) I met him after he wrote me a series of fan letters about my early books The Great Movie Shorts and The Disney Films. He was five years younger than me but we spoke the same language and loved the same offbeat shorts and cartoons.

He was an avid film collector, but decades ago he and two like-minded pals turned their hobby into a full-time business, forming Streamline Films. They supplied oddball film footage for commercials, TV show parodies and the like. If you needed a dog yawning, one phone call was all it took. This meant organizing and cataloguing hundreds upon hundreds of 16mm reels and figuring out a way to provide quick access to individual shots. It also meant if you arrived at a dealer’s room at a convention like Cinefest after he did you lost out on the real goodies. The dealers might as well have placed a “Ricky Was Here” sign on their tables.

In the early days of David Letterman’s late-night show on NBC, the staff called on Ricky so often that he was ultimately offered a full-time job. That job became a second home, fostered ongoing friendships and exposed the normally shy “Film Coordinator” to the world in a series of silly appearances on-camera—which, he noted, earned him a welcome fee. Letterman also benefited from Ricky’s vast knowledge and access to private film collections for his own amusement and edification.

I met Ricky when he was still a teenager and never got used to calling him Rick. At Letterman he earned the nickname Shecky, which stuck. He was part of a group of Cinephiles who, under the leadership of Phil Serling (founder of the annual Cinefest in Syracuse, New York) began taking cruises and continued doing so even after the heartbreaking loss of our fearless leader.We traveled the globe and Ricky outdid us by taking even more cruises, sometimes with a friend or two but often on his own. 

He lived simply in the home where he grew up in Queens, New York. It was filled—and I mean filled—with books, magazines, and ephemera covering a wide swath of pop culture. Whenever I called him it seemed he was reading a newly-published book on movie history or a collection of comic strips.

It’s become a cliché to say that you don’t get to choose your family, but as my daughter can attest, you can choose your surrogate family. In befriending Ricky we chose well. Alice, Jessie and I will miss him terribly. His friends and colleagues at Letterman put together a wonderful video tribute–you can watch that HERE.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024