Class of 1986, ‘Bueller… Bueller?’

Adriene Hill Feb 22, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Yesterday on the broadcast Adriene Hill took us to Northbrook, Ill., not far from Chicago. She took us in search of the past. In search of what happens to the expectations we had back in high school. In search of a guy named Ferris Bueller — of the movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Yes, we know it’s make-believe, but we thought it might be interesting to see how Ferris’ real-life high school has changed in the 25 years since the movie came out. Today, what happened to the class of 1986, the real life classmates of Ferris Bueller?

Here’s Adriene one more time.

Adriene Hill: We start this story with a roll call. Perhaps the most famous roll call in movie history. Please cue Ben Stein.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” clip: Adams. Here.

Jon Loevy: I’m Jon Loevy. I’m a lawyer here in Chicago.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” clip: Adamly. Here.

Dara Owen: Dara Owen, and I’m a homemaker.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” clip: Adamosky.

Josh Zarov: My name is Josh Zarov. I work for Empire Today, which sells carpet. And I work in the online division.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” clip: Adamson. Here.

Nick Kokonas: Nick Kokonas. I do a lot of different things. I’ve been sort of a serial entrepreneur for the last 15-20 years.

Nick’s a wealthy former trader who now owns one of the toniest restaurants in Chicago. All four graduated from Glenbrook North High School in 1986. It’s a public school in an upper middle class suburb of Chicago. And it’s the set of some of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Josh and Nick both signed up to be extras in the movie.

Zarov: When the movie was being made, casting folks came over to high school. Yes, yes, no, no, yes, yes, yes. And I got a yes.

Kokonas: When they are asking for money for Ferris’ kidney you can see me very prominently.

Among the most important questions I have to ask these real-life classmates of Ferris. Who was Bueller? Who was the uber-confident kid that everyone liked? Was there a Bueller?

Loevy: Maybe Nick Kokonas. I hate to throw it on him, but he comes to mind.

That’s civil rights attorney Jon Loevy. He and Nick hung out their senior year.

Loevy: You know, when I think back to Nick, I see a guy sitting in class smiling. He’s the guy everybody knew was going to win the game of life, and he knew was going to win the game of life.

Kokonas: I expected it to be an adventure. You got one shot at it and you might as well make the most of it.

Hill: Have you had a day in your life some sort of Ferris Bueller day or moment where you’re like, “Oh yeah?”




Kokonas: Yeah. It’s wrong to say, but I have lots of them. I’ve gotten over the last 10 years an amazing number of opportunities to meet fantastic people who are great at what they do. I feel lucky all the time.

Of course life for most of us isn’t filled with days driving fast, flipping off the man, and doing whatever we want. Real life for all of us non-Ferris’s can be tougher. Here’s Josh and then Dara.

Zarov: My previous company had huge layoffs, myself and 10 other people were laid off in June. So I had the summer off and it was probably one of the most nail-biting times in my life.

Owen: My husband has been out of work for almost a year. Are we feeling the pinch? Yes, but luckily we’ve been smart enough with our investments that we’re not sitting here wondering if we’re going to lose the house tomorrow, that kind of thing.

But for each of these class of ’86 grads — buffered by a combination of education and wealth and hard work — life is going at least OK.

Kokonas: I shouldn’t say lucky, but I’m very fortunate.

Zarov: I feel really, really lucky. It wasn’t easy at all.

Owen: It will work out. It will be great and wonderful.

Loevy: I’m very happy. I got a family that I like and that likes me. I got a job that I like and that I’m pretty good at — so I feel very satisfied.

And as for the future, of the country, the economy, and the outlook for their kids…

Kokonas: The problem in America right now is like a PR problem with ourselves. Economic cycles — every one of them seems like the worst or the best that’s every happened because they’re happening to us and our generation. I’m not minimizing the issue globally or in the U.S. But, at the same time, humanity has been going at this for tens of thousands of years. We keep pushing forward. I think my kids will have opportunities that I’ve never even dreamed of.

Owen: I’m hoping that by the time our kids are in high school that everything will have… I don’t want to say fixed itself, but will have turned itself around.

Zarov: I think as long as they know what I know now, which is if I want something that I’m going to have to make it happen and it’s not going to happen by itself, I think they’ll do great.

I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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