Talking Movies: Remembering Barry – Episode 1

Welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we embark on episode 1 of ‘Remembering Barry’, a heartfelt tribute to the beloved entertainment journalist and film critic, Barry Ronge.

A rare privilege, I stepped into Barry’s tranquil Johannesburg home, and conversed with his partner of 47 years, Albertus van Dyk (LightStrider to many). Their starry-eyed story unfolds beautifully, a love that blossomed against their shared passion for the silver screen.

Albertus, it is so wonderful to be in this home. I am blown away by the garden, by the books, it’s a magical world. Welcome to Talking Movies.

Thank you, thank you for being here and I really appreciate you being here.

I’m so honoured to be here and I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to talk to you and to talk about your wonderful love and Barry and 47 years that you guys were together and all the adventures that you had.

Thank you and I’d love to share that with you.

But starting off with the first thing that happened, tell us about how you met Mr Ronge, who turned out to be Mr Right for you.

Exactly, my Mr Right. Well, let’s go back a few years. I was in high school and you know we would have English literature, Romeo and Juliet, and then you go to the theatre and you become aware of a certain person and then when you see this person you think, hmm, I wonder who that man is. You go to the theatre again and he’s there and then I go and see Romeo and Juliet in Johannesburg. It was a two o’clock show after school and I had to run to get to the movies. I’ve always loved movies and there was that man again and it was me and the nuns and what would be Barry? I didn’t know Barry then. I always sit in the front. Mr Barry also sits in the front as well.

So this is how we met in a way without actually knowing about each other and then I bunk school often to go to the Cinerama, which was a very grand cinema and I bunk school to go and see a movie and ah, there’s that man again. It wasn’t sexual, it wasn’t anything really because he was just there.

And then one day I wanted to go and see this film of David Bowie in Hillbrow at the High Point. I didn’t know how to get to Hillbrow. I asked a friend of mine to take me to Hillbrow so I could see. Well you go in the two o’clock movie Wednesday and then you see the pre-show and then it’s a break and I walked down the stairs and there was that man. That man actually looked at me and fell down the stairs and I went and I helped this man up and we made contact. It was the first time in all these years that I’d seen him that we actually had a physical connection.

I said, “wow, it’s you”. Barry said, “oh wow, it’s you”. I said, “may I meet you after the show?” I knew that there was something special but I didn’t think about it. I said, “but I’m with somebody and I need to catch the train and you need to come to the station to wait till we can meet”. So we watched the movie, The Man Who Fell to Earth. So we both fell to earth that day.

Barry waited for me. My friend left and we had a most wonderful afternoon discussing the movie and just being friends. Barry was so debonair. He said, “you know, it’s my birthday tomorrow and I think you’re my birthday present”. I said, “how amazing”.

I was so excited because he’d been so kind. And I was there very, very early in the morning. I thought he’d never come… to be there on the station. And so a very beautiful, deep relationship began. We spent the day together and he said, it’s New Year. I’d love to see you on Monday. Well, since that Monday, we’ve been inseparable for 47 years.

Shew. Such a beautiful story. And what I love about it is the movie undertones of The Man Who Fell to Earth with Barry falling. And then also the cute meet set up, you know, with the fall and you helping him up. I mean, it just sounds like a movie moment.

It is a movie moment, isn’t it? And a bumblebee has just flown in and I call him B. Is that auspicious or not? My beautiful B. I used to call Barry the Little King. There was a cartoon many years ago in print media of the Little King. And it reminded me so of Barry. So he became my Little King, who was actually a big king in the making.

You, at that time, wouldn’t have known exactly how big Barry’s celebrity and stardom and how prolific he would be in his career. So you’ve actually been on every step of the journey. I mean, that must have been such a fascinating time… 47 years.

That’s a long time.

It is a long time.

Actually, I did go to Wits because I wanted to be an architect and I didn’t have the qualifications to study to be an architect. But I did go to Wits to attend an architectural lecture and I was aware that Barry was there. Of course, by the time we had met, Barry was still giving lectures at Wits and he was giving lectures on movies and he was also giving special lectures to the English Unisa students.

And so I’d go with. That’s how we kind of spent our courting days. Meeting after work, my work… meet Barry, we’d have dinner or we’d go to the lecture or have dinner afterwards. The beginning of a very long, long life, busy life. And then Barry said, you know, I’m doing this… I’ll have to lecture on Emma and Dickens and all these things. And I see the same students year in and year out. And a friend of ours said, why don’t you come and work in the travel industry because your English is so extraordinary. So, Barry left the university and another new life began.

Barry Ronge’s legacy shines through our collective memories. In this spirit, we seek a library or museum for his 1,700 film book collection, where his passion for movies can endure.

Together, we can ensure Barry’s love for art, film, and culture continues to light our way. Share your ideas and join us on this mission at splingmovies.com.