by: Peter Strescino
Many people would like to be like Mike. Not Michael Jordan, Michael Modzelewski.
Modzelewski, 39, is a guy who lived virtually alone on an Alaskan island for 18 months, who runs ultramarathons, travels the world to write about wildlife for publications such as the New York Times, has a screenplay optioned, has his second book on the way and was once a Cosmopolitan magazine bachelor of the month.
Yeah, we’d like to be like Mike……………
Modzelewski is the son of former National Football League running back Ed Modzelewski of the Cleveland Browns. Modzelewski was replaced as the Browns fullback by a pretty good runner by the name of Jim Brown, but went on to be a successful restauranteur. Brown went on to become the greatest back in NFL history.
In the Modzelewski household, Ed would never accept the word “can’t” from his children. Apparently, that sank in for Michael.
Young Modzelewski was also a college football player, but later his career path veered to adventure and writing about it.
Modzelewski said he was writing in Aspen about eight years ago when he saw the movie “Jeremiah Johnson.”
“For some reason, that movie flipped the switch,” Modzelewski said during a phone interview from Kansas City. “Since then, I’ve tested myself to the marrow.”
Soon after, Modzelewski spent 18 months living alone on an island off the Alaskan coast, including a stretch of 83 days in which he never saw another person. His book, “Inside Passage: Living with Killer Whales, Bald Eagles and the Kwakiutl Indians,” was a main selection of the Nature Book Club.
“I tapped into resources I never knew I had,” Modzelewski said. “Like psychologist William James said, ‘We lead lives inferior to ourselves.’”
Since, Modzelewski has run several grueling 100-mile ultramarathons, climbed mountains and written about it. Now, his screenplay about a different sort of wild life is optioned by a movie producer.
After Modzelewski was Cosmopolitan’s bachelor for the month of November 1991, he received more than 4,500 letters from women interested in such a physically fit specimen as Modzelewski.”
“It was a deluge,” he said. “I also received 22 bouquets of flowers, six pairs of silk boxer shorts and lots of women’s lingerie.”
He met with several of the women, in what he laughingly referred to as “research.” But he married one, Paula Grecco-Modzelewski, a flight attendant who wrote him a few months after the Cosmo publication.
“It was love at first sight,” Modzelewski said. “A lot of the women who wrote and whom I met needed a white knight. Paula didn’t.
“There was an aura around our meeting. We talked for the first four hours, and got married five months later. We’re soul mates.”
His screenplay and planned book are about the Cosmo experience.
Modzelewski is also writing a book about small-city America, and is researching while on his current lecture tour, one of several such tours he has done over the years.
“I don’t know why anyone wants to live in a big city,” said Modzelewski, who said he lives on both coasts. “I’m finding many heroes in these small cities.
“Most of America is so celebrity-crazed, but in small towns and cities, people shake your hand, look you in the eye and what you see is what you get.