My friend Anthony Ferri, who for 26 years served our city’s students and community as a communications professor at UNLV, died of heart failure in his Henderson home on June 15. He was 60.
Tony was a noted author on film and media studies—the kind of figure the university could point to in its frequent seasons of budgetary discontent and say, In spite of everything, the life of the mind lives on here. His 2007 book, Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Poetic Faith in Film (Lexington Books), enhanced not only his but the university’s status. Meanwhile, he sat on countless dissertation and thesis graduate committees, nurturing thousands of students along the way.
When Tony died, he and I were working on a biography of the MGM movie mogul Harry Rapf. UNLV’s budget had been tight recently and there was little help forthcoming, but it was a tribute to Tony’s spirit and vision that we pressed on, heading off to Hollywood for research.
The last road trip was memorable. We had the Pretenders’ “Tattooed Love Boys” on the stereo, and Tony, who was a proficient drummer, loved Martin Chambers’ fast-tempo performance on the skins. This song has a really odd time signature, 7/16, but Tony was pantomiming the drumming quite accurately, his hands fussing furiously like he was fighting off a swarm of invading insects in a bad horror movie. He was so caught up in the track that he started to believe that the accelerator in his car was a bass pedal. He slowed down in time, but not without a California Highway Patrol officer giving Tony a deep stare as he passed us.
We pulled into the Del Taco in Baker, and wouldn’t you know it? That same CHP officer was in the parking lot. He approached Tony for a chat. They talked for a while. I couldn’t figure out what could be taking so long, but I could tell Tony was working an angle. When the conversation was over, I asked if everything was OK.
“It turned out he used to play in a band,” Tony said. “He gave me a coupon for a free taco salad.” His face was beaming with pride.