Dear Ike: Lost Letters to a Teen Idol

Directed by: Dion Labriola

Featuring: Ike Eisenmann, Dion Labriola, Andy Steinlen, Carmella Moore, Loren Qualls, David Zuder, John DiMascio, Pat Bishop, Talon Bohn, Christopher Gaal

Dear Ike and Dion,

I want to thank you both for the fabulous and frankly candid “Dear Ike: Lost Letters to a Teen Idol.”

Dion, your courage to take your consuming ambition to contact Ike, your passion for your art, and your determination are admirable. Throughout “Dear Ike,” we discovered the exciting quirks that define who you are. Your sister, Carmella, displayed pride as she related your wily ways of learning how to contact Ike; your teacher, Pat Bishop, beamed at your aptitude and interest in the arts and your creative soul. Your friends like David, John, and Loren supported your efforts. They all attest to the creative spirit in you.

You proudly and rightly explore your growth throughout the story. While my experience was different, I can relate to the struggles to discover your identity in the industrialized Midwest in the early 1980s. Your thoughtful storytelling doesn’t put this aspect of your life front and center. It intertwines your own experience with Ike’s.

Through the ingenious editing, you told a tender and endearing story of two artistic individuals whose stories parallel each other. I never dared to write to my favorite stars, so the audience gets to live vicariously through your experiences, something the documentary does well. The interviews were informative in carrying these experiences to tell a finely crafted story.

I found Albert’s (voiced by Christopher Gaal) letter to you genuine and heartfelt; reflexively, it was difficult to hear the letter’s contents. I recall letters that offered parental encouragement but having someone in an industry that I aspired to would have gone a long way to building my confidence.  Even as an adult, I still question decisions that I’ve made.

Thankfully, it has allowed me to be able to write about films, such as “Dear Ike.”

You expertly bridge your college years and your eventual move to L.A., where fate brought you together with Ike. Andy’s animated recounting of his visit to Ike in Florida highlighted your handling of such a delicate and tender subject concerning Albert Able Eisenmann.

“Dear Ike” handles this adeptly, confidently, and respectfully. The interview is candid and forthright, a credit to your understanding of your respective journeys.

Your passion for pursuing arts and the integrity to have the friends and connections you’ve made in your life shine through. It is inspiring, and I hope that “Dear Ike” is a springboard to more adventures in your future.

Dear Ike,

I didn’t intend that to be a pun, a product of my sometimes-dry humor. Your love and passion for your life’s work, for your efforts to fit into a medium that’s as vast as media, is endearing. That you were forward-thinking enough to have dreams and live them is the stuff that many only wish they had the opportunity to pursue. You remind us that we should see our dreams fulfilled, and my respect for you has only grown. I especially found it touching how your dad’s letter to Dion affected you, made it equally as important because of your journey.

I was already a fan of your work in Nicholas Meyer’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Having recently watched your “Witch Mountain” films, and the work on television you’ve done made me appreciate you as an actor and a human, all the more.

As in our interview, your courage was uplifting and is a testament to the indomitable inner child in all of us, the drive to allow the human spirit to flourish, and the passion with which we live our intertwined lives. Even if we don’t know, we need each other.

My thanks to you both for such a fantastic experience with “Dear Ike.” I hope the premiere at Dances With Films is as rewarding as the making of this documentary was. Life-long ambitions are rarely fulfilled, and you’ve both offered a glimpse of the work it takes to realize our dreams.

Even if it takes nearly a lifetime to fulfill.

Sincerely yours,

Ben Cahlamer

NR, 70 minutes, The Dion Lab