The first time you see “ The Goonies” is a seminal moment in life. Directed by Richard Donner (the Lethal Weapon series), and produced by Steven Spielberg (nearly every other movie ever made), “The Goonies” is a microcosm of Americana, frozen in the amber of 1985. It was chicken soup for the misfit soul before we all had spoons.
Jeff Cohen, immortalized in the collective conscious as Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen, progenitor of the Truffle Shuffle, stood on stage in the SUB Multipurpose Room, Sunday, Nov. 9. Throughout the near-capacity crowd, there was a smattering of truffle shuffle T-shirts and sporadic shouts of “Chunk.”
Cohen, now a wizened 28 years of age, was sporting muttonchops and a goatee. But, beneath the facial hair was still the baby face of Chunk, even if Cohen has grown into his body, becoming Chunk-lite, if you will.
So, how did KU manage such a coup as this? Through a little Machiavellian subterfuge courtesy of a New York booking agent, that’s how. Cohen, who was the student body president at the University of Southern California—Berkeley, and later attended UCLA Law School, was informed that the KU student body was interested in Cohen’s involvement in student politics and his budding entertainment law firm. There would only be a few Goonies questions, the agent assured him. Days before the visit, the agent called Cohen back with a confession; it was actually a Goonies weekend at KU. To his credit, Cohen was game, and more than willing to discuss a movie that marked a generation.
There were no lurid tales of drug abuse and aborted attempts at armed robbery culminating in magazine spreads. Not once did Cohen blame “The Goonies” for pigeon holing him as Chunk, effectively typecasting him and ending his career. No, for Cohen, his career fell to a force greater than Hollywood.
“Now, you may ask what happened to my acting career,” stated Cohen. “I can answer it in one word; puberty.”
Cohen, who began his acting career at the age of seven, doing ‘80s television, voice overs and even a pilot with then-budding director Ron Howard, regaled the audience with anecdotes from throughout his career, including the Berkeley, and later attended UCLA Law School, was informed that the KU student body was interested in Cohen’s transition from child actor to college student to eventual entertainment lawyer running his own law firm.
“When I auditioned for ‘The Goonies,’” said Cohen, “I actually tried out for [the role of] Mouth,” immortalized by Corey Feldman. Unfortunately for Cohen, the casting director had other plans. The actor was told he had “the mouth of Mouth, but the body of Chunk.”
Despite the camaraderie on the set, and the ensuing friendships that resulted (Cohen is still close to Jonathon Ke Quan, who played Data, and Kerri Green, who played Andi) he admitted to a certain amount of jealousy. While the other actors were running around caves and zipping down water slides, “for me,” said Cohen, “it was ‘Basement with Sloth.’”
After puberty had its way with Cohen, he began working for Donner as a production assistant, being exposed to the business aspect of moviemaking. It was during this time that Cohen’s Hollywood heroes shifted from comedians such as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin to behind-the-scenes personalities that aid in the production of films.
Eventually, Cohen made his way to UCLA Law School. After graduation, he specialized in representing, as he put it, the “talent in Hollywood; actors, writers, directors.” For those interested in law school, Cohen had three pieces of advice. “First, study. Second, do well on the LSAT. Finally, get a letter of recommendation from Steven Spielberg,” he said.
To liven up the presentation, Cohen had a trivia and truffle shuffle contests, testing KU’s Goonies knowledge, and skill at the dance Cohen had abandoned years ago. The trivia contest consisted of 15 questions chosen by Cohen himself, and ended with the winner going home with an original, 1985 “The Goonies” poster autographed by Chunk himself. The truffle shuffle contest was a bit more surreal, playing out like a session of group therapy.
Four students admitted to the crowd that they were often forced by their peers to shuffle. “My name is Kevin, and I too was traumatized,” admitted one student. After this confession, the man next to him turned and hugged him. Cohen apologized to the members onstage. Shirts were pulled up, stomachs were bared and the shuffling began. As the men spasmed and shook, Cohen gently admonished the audience.
“You gotta own the truffle shuffle,” he said.