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The Original Rain Man: ‘We Got It All . . . ‘

Times Staff Writer

“We did it! We got one!”

Kim was sitting at the edge of a small dinner party in La Verne, peering at the floor and twirling a string when at approximately 8:30 Wednesday night, Dustin Hoffman was named best actor for 1988 at the Academy Awards.

The party was the final destination of a long trip, figuratively begun in 1984 when writer Barry Morrow met Kim, an autistic savant with extraordinary mental gifts, and decided to write the story that would become “Rain Man.”

The gathering of 10 adults and assorted children was held at the hilltop home of David and Cloyce Flaten. She’s the sister of Morrow, who wrote the original story and co-wrote (with Ron Bass) the screenplay for “Rain Man.”

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As the Oscar telecast went along, Kim, 37, (his father asked that Kim’s surname not be printed) paced nervously from room to room, pausing to dispense his effortlessly spectacular mental computations. (Asked at one point how many seconds there are in 70 years, he instantly shot back the answer.)

“We stand a good chance,” he said. “AT&T;'s Cliff Robertson won for ‘Charlie’ in 1968. ‘Johnny Belinda’ won it for the (then) wife of the future President. She’s now a wine heiress (on TV’s ‘Falcon Crest’). Her name is Jane Wyman.”

Kim’s father, Fran, was watching as the early awards were handed out, and took a moment to update the story of his son. He said Kim has been addressing high schools and junior high schools in Salt Lake City, and his talks have been credited with bringing an increase of 20% in the reading rate there.

Fran and Kim had driven here Sunday from Salt Lake City. “He wore his ‘Rain Man’ jacket and told people in every restaurant we stopped in that ‘I am the original ‘Rain Man’,” Fran recalled.

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When at last Hoffman was named best actor, Kim tilted his head toward his father in an intimate, loving gesture. “This can only happen to someone once in a lifetime, and it’s great,” said Kim.

Kim then paced the room nervously, flipping his hands and moaning with excitement, waiting for the other Oscar categories to be announced. Morrow and Bass went on to win for original screenplay, and Barry Levinson was named best director.

Ultimately, “Rain Man” was named best picture.

“We got it all,” Kim exclaimed excitedly. “From now on, everyone will know who I am. The whole world will know I am the original ‘Rain Man’.”

After one last party with Barry Morrow, Kim and his father will travel back to Salt Lake City this week. But Kim’s story is ongoing. He is a prodigy who remains a mystery to medical science.


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