PITTSBURGH MADE: Kenny (1988)

Kenneth Easterday was born with sacral agenesis, a congenital disorder in which the fetal development of the lower spine is abnormal. The first amputation surgery used his shin bones to replace his missing spinal column. They held off on the second surgery as he wasn’t expected to live, but then his second surgery improved his mobility by amputating the rest of his remaining legs at the hips.

This didn’t stop Kenny, as you can see in the movie, as he got around on a skateboard.

Directed and written by Claude Gagnon, this film is about a documentary crew trying to see what Kenny’s life is, living in the mill town of Aliquippa with a large family. Funded by Bandai Entertainment Inc. and Toho and staffed by a Japanese crew — Gagnon often worked between Canada and Japan — this film has a great cast as well, including Pittsburgh native Caitlin Clarke (Dragonslayer), Liane Curtis (whose father was the voice of Pops Racer and directed The Flesh Eaters; she’s in Sixteen Candles and Critters 2: The Main Course), Zach Grenier (he was Ed Norton’s boss in Fight Club), the man considered Pittsburgh’s finest actor Bingo O’Malley and Kenny’s real-life brother and sister Jess and Karen.

What’s amazing in this film is that it never gets overly dramatic. Kenny is actually pretty much fine with the hand that life is dealt him, laughing that the documentary crew wants to ramp up his pain and refusing the fake legs that everyone thinks will make him feel normal. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to see the old Market Square that I miss so much, giving you a view of George Aiken’s so perfect that you can smell the fried chicken.

This is now available on blu ray from Canadian International Pictures, a Vinegar Syndrome partner label.

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