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#FILM: THE FRENCHY

THE FRENCHY

“No problem!” Anyone who hears Jacques Houot’s life story will be surprised at how the 82-year-old has managed to reach this age. There were at least 23 times in his life when he could have met his end all too early. Somehow, he has always managed to land on his feet and keep going. Today, Jacques spends most of his time in the mountains near his home in Carbondale (Colorado). No mountain bike trail and no ski slope is safe from the likes of this native Frenchman. Jacques Houot loves life and he lets everyone know it.

In his guide for unconventional thinkers Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite, the British advertising icon Paul Arden tells the following anecdote: ‘A friend of mine was in trouble, so he asked his father for advice. He said, “Dad, I’m in trouble.” The father asked, “Are they going to kill you?” He said, “Oh no, no.”

His father said, “Son, you don’t have a problem.”‘ This clever insight comes from a person who probably didn’t escape the jaws of death anywhere near as often as Jacques ‘Frenchy’ Houot. And Houot would probably add, ‘Even if they did want to kill you, you’d still have no problem.’ He speaks from experience. By his own account, he has survived life-threatening events ’23, maybe 24′ times. Was it merely luck or did he somehow play a part? The eighty-two-year-old Frenchman lives by this simple motto: No problem! Adding parenthetically, What could go wrong? Throughout his long life, Houot has kept a detailed account of all that’s happened to him. Some incidents occurred decades ago. Shortly after his birth in 1935, little Jacques mastered his first challenge in this world. He was born a ‘blue baby’, named according to the infant’s blue complexion caused by a lack of oxygen.

Although the chances of survival in these cases were not good at the time, doctors were able to save him. From 1940–44, he was also fortunate; in contrast to many others of his generation, he survived the Second World War. And his first swimming attempt in 1945 could have ended badly; it was involuntary in nature and took place in winter, when the thin layer of ice covering the surface of a lake suddenly collapsed under him. In the mid-1970s, Jacques Houot immigrated to America. He lived in Colorado and Florida and was involved in a variety of activities. He did not have a career plan in the traditional sense; he was instead always seeking after the next challenge, not necessarily because of the promise of financial gain but because of the possibility that it would offer adventure and exciting experiences. And although he spent many years working in the jewelry business, the accumulation of worldly possessions has remained foreign to him to this day.

With his lifelong focus on the present, financial security has always been of little importance. Today, he lives on an extremely modest pension. During filming, he confided to director Michelle Smith, ‘If I were rich, I would already be dead. Money kills you!’ This may sound like a rather extreme assertion, but it is not surprising coming from Jacques Houot. There are situations in which money actually saves lives, but for him, quality of life greatly outweighs any material comforts or conveniences. Although it may only apply to a certain segment of his age group (and others), overweight and lethargy are widespread and inherent problems of prosperity. Jacques Houot prefers to stay active.

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