Jeff Goldblum: An Appreciation | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Jeff Goldblum: An Appreciation

He’s everywhere, yet elusive. He’s from here, but not ours. Jeff Goldblum is a national treasure, and July 13 is his day.

Jeff Goldblum: An Appreciation
CP illustration by Xiola Jensen

What makes Jeff Goldblum … well, so Jeff Goldblum? Is it the way he can pull off a sweater so bold most of us can’t look directly at its pattern? Maybe it’s how he transforms a simple Hawaiian button-up into chic, stylish formal wear. Part of it has to be that hair — you know, the hair that’s not gray or silver, but rather shines with the incandescence of a rare mineral hunted by the cast of a superhero movie.

His wild-but-perfect outfits, the incredible hair, that infamous laugh — put them all together and you’ve got a picture of someone who seems to have access to a never-ending reservoir of joy. Jeff Goldliness, it seems, means knowing how to live.

I could say almost anything about Jeff Goldblum’s life and it would sound at least plausible. He plays with a jazz band weekly at a small club in Hollywood — that’s actually true. He once claimed his favorite color was rainbow — saw it on Reddit. He owns a small surf shop in Santa Barbara and spends his free time investigating unsolved murders — OK, that one I made up. But you can picture it, can’t you? The surf tousling those perfect locks, the Zodiac killer within his grasp?

That’s because a life lived Goldblum, a life lived with unabashed glee, could lead down any path. Goldliness is about embracing life’s weird and lovely corners wholly, unironically.

It’s not just embracing the highbrow stuff, like jazz and sweaters. One senses that while Jeff Goldblum would know the perfect fine wine to pair with any meal, he’d be just as ecstatic if you handed him a can of $3 fizzy rosé. Jeff Goldblum loves Dvorak’s New World Symphony, but his face will still light up at a Dua Lipa song. “Oh, this is catchy,” he’d say, bobbing his head along to ‘New Rules.’ “I like this.” 

Jeff Goldblum is summer personified: enjoying everything, questioning nothing, leaving us all slightly sweaty.

Perhaps Pittsburgh can take credit for some of the Goldblumian down-to-earth qualities. (Let’s be honest, this is Pittsburgh: we’re going to take credit for it anyway.) “He’s from here,” we can say. He may have left West Homestead for fancy big cities and learned about the finer things, but he could still crack open a beer at a Steelers game with the best of them.

There’s some evidence for this: Jeff Goldblum hasn’t forgotten about us, coming back in 2004 to play sleazy salesman Harold Hill in The Music Man (and later making a mockumentary of the experience called simply Pittsburgh.) That production of The Music Man was my first introduction to Jeff Goldblum — maybe yours was something a tad more niche, like Jurassic Park, but that’s part of the charm of Jeff Goldblum. There’s a Jeff Goldblum for everyone.

Jeff Goldblum’s Harold Hill was exactly like every other Jeff Goldblum performance: trading overbearing charisma for a “golly, aw shucks”-ness that charms you all the more because you aren’t expecting to be charmed. You can steel your heart against those who are obviously trying to win you over, but with a Goldblum performance, you’re in love before you even realize what’s happening. There’s a little grease there, maybe — but you love him all the more for embracing it, for not trying to hide his rough spots.

There’s another key to Jeff Goldliness: no matter which pair of slightly different glasses he’s donned for a particular part, he’s always fundamentally Jeff Goldblum. Your Willem Dafoes and Ethan Hawkes transform for each new character, but Jeff Goldblum retains his same signature vocal affection, his same sly, pursed-lip smile. Because all his performances are so similar, we can only conclude this is how he must be in real life. He doesn’t act, unless he’s acting all the time.

Perhaps the most Goldblumian trait of all is that we’ll never know for sure. All the fun quirks, the openness, the zest for being alive, create an intimacy that seems so real. “He’s from here,” we can say, ignoring the part where he left. For all the praise we can lavish on his zany sweaters, they are still Prada and still cost thousands of dollars. Is the effortlessly charismatic essence of Jeff Goldblum just the comforting illusion that we can understand a man we don’t even know?

Maybe. But maybe it’s just the hair. Seriously, the hair is fantastic.

July 13 was designated “Jeff Goldblum Day” in Pittsburgh in 2004. Artisan Tattoo (5001 Penn Ave., Garfield) and Row House Cinema (4115 Butler St., Lawrenceville) will celebrate Goldblum with separate events.

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