"I’m Happy Just to Look at You:" The Real Rain Man

When Barry Morrow won Best Screenplay Oscar for Rain Man, he gave the precious statuette to the original Rain Man, Kim Peek, who had inspired the screenplay. The savant who would become world famous after the movie won four Oscars died last week, leaving the world without an incredible mind that never failed to amaze.

In the NY Times obituary by Bruce Weber, Peek’s gifts were described. It is thought that the man read more than 12,000 books during his short life, dying at age 58. He could read using both eyes at once, and devoured all he could find about mathematics, chess, geography and movies. “He was the Mount Everest of memory,” said one savant expert.

Ironically, when he was just 9 months old a doctor told his parents that he would never walk or talk, and that he should be put into an institution. Another doc recommended a lobotomy when he was six. By then Kim had read and memorized the first eight volumes of an encyclopedia set. His father said he didn’t know how Kim ever learned to read, but he sure did it well.

Peek grew into his fame and traveled frequently, “even becoming something of a showman.” Once during a presentation he gave about the British monarchy a young woman stood up and asked him if he was happy. “I’m happy just to look at you,” answered Peek, displaying smarts far above his ‘normal’ peers.