By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Editor's note: John MacCormack informs us that he meant to write "well pedicured." One editor missed it, and another thought it was an intentional, if somewhat sick, joke. If you're keeping score, that's two asleep, one tasteless, and three embarrassed.
I was fascinated to read the well-researched story on the missing atheist leader. One thought struck me as I read a particular part of the article. On page 33, you quote Madalyn Murray O'Hair as referring to her staff as "scums, chicken f------, fags, masturbators, dumb n------, s-----, witless cunts, derelicts, lumpen proletarian, and transvestites."
In a day when religious leaders such as Jerry Falwell make national news for one comment about the supposed sexual orientation of a [children's television character], arguably the most visible (if missing) leader of religious opposition in this country can write a vicious, racist, homophobic comment like this one and it garners not a peep from the mainstream press. Is there something missing here besides Mrs. O'Hair? Something like journalistic balance and objectivity?
Defending Dennis Hopper
Robert Wilonsky's story on Terry Southern and the writing of Easy Rider ["Odd man out," January 28] is just another in a long list of stories about this film and its participants that has no basis in reality. What kind of research allows a writer to use a single prejudiced source as fact? That Terry Southern died impoverished is tragic and a sorry comment on the state of the arts today. That Dennis Hopper is the culprit is absurd and woefully irresponsible.
What are the facts? Terry Southern had points (profit participation) in Easy Rider, as did almost everyone artistically and technically involved in making the picture. Terry returned his points for the same reason he wanted his name removed from the writing credit: He didn't feel he contributed enough to merit them. So who got Terry's points at that time? The man Nile Southern was waiting to hear from on the phone--Peter Fonda--and Bill Hayward. Not Dennis Hopper.
Dennis Hopper worked for a year on Easy Rider. For directing, acting, writing, and editing, his total fees were less than $12,000.
When Dennis and I went out to find locations for Easy Rider, Peter Fonda went to New York to work with Terry Southern on the script. After two weeks on the road, we found every location needed for the story Dennis wanted to tell. During the same time, Peter and Terry wrote three pages. We found this out at the airport in New Orleans. Dennis flew to New York with the express purpose of writing the script using the locations we found and the stories of the people we met on the road. Two or three days after Dennis arrived in New York, Peter returned to L.A. In about 12 days, Dennis returned with his completed shooting script.
One example: The commune sequence is based on what happened at New Buffalo outside Taos, New Mexico. We spent three days trying to convince them to let us film there. They told us of the winter, of the hardships, of the fact that they weren't farmers, and that they were going to make it, most of which found its way into the script.
What Dennis and I found on the road was a very frightened and angry America. We were cursed, and we were threatened. It all comes out and is very significant in what is now a classic film.
When Dennis was going to direct the Jim Morrison story for Larry Flynt's company, Dennis got Terry hired to work with him on the script. Terry received a fee but, in three months, wrote nothing. Dennis also had Terry hired to write Junky with William Burroughs for Jacques Stern.
I am dismayed that so much was written by Mr. Wilonsky based on so little fact. Shoddy reportage does not become this tabloid. The attempt to demonize Dennis Hopper must stop! A properly researched follow-up story will achieve that end.
Production Manager/First Assistant Director, Easy Rider
Editor's note: Robert Wilonsky based his story on the accounts of several sources, including Rip Torn, Terry Southern's son Nile, and earlier interviews with Terry Southern himself.
Having listened to a slice of the "Scene, Heard" radio show [Live every Tuesday at 4 p.m. at www.dallasobserver.com] and seeing your invitation to comment, I must say this: The on-air hosts exhibit the wit and insight of 10-year-olds in a treehouse. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but most people who are paid for theirs at least put some thought behind it. It's sadly typical of radio hosts to say whatever foolishness comes into their heads, usually criticisms of music put together by people who work at it and whose worst output is vastly more entertaining than the announcers' drivel.