My friend Bill Harrison the great novelist and wonderful teacher, the co-founder of the University of Arkansas’ Writing Workshop (along with James Whitehead) died tonight at 10:20. I will write a more full account of our forty six year friendship sometime later this week. Bill was like a big brother to me, saved my career, and probably my life by seeing something in a wild kid who more than anything needed a home and people who thought he was ok and that he really did have the talent he hoped he had. The two years I spent at Arkansas were turbulent, wild, the 60’s in the Deep South, which was no joke. We were the first hippies that town had ever seen, and it was some trip. Threats to cut off our hair . A fight in a pool hall in which my lead guitarist,Mike caudle, knocked out a redneck with an eight ball. Bill was there backing us up. When they took away my scholarship he went in and fought for me and they gave it back in one day. He literally helped me put my eight hundred page novel of the Haight, Shedding Skin, together on his office floor. The story goes on and we had a rare and deep friendship. I already miss him so much that just writing this puts a hole in my heart. I’m going to bed and dream of my old buddy. Read his wonderful book In A Wild Sanctuary. Or his masterpiece Burton and Speak which was made into the film Mountains of the Moon by Bob Rafelson. Best of all are his short stories. He was a wonderful short story writer. Gotta go Thanks for reading this. Here’s to William Harrison, master teacher, lover of women, academic politician superb, quiet wild man, and great friend. The laughs and things we shared can never be taken away.
Ok, After waking up, making a banana and strawberry smoothie I started my day by watching the Miley Cyrus Video. My first thought is she’s saying “I might still be associated with teddy bears and sweet little kiddie things but underneath them are sexy black men who I am now fucking night and day. Or will if I want to “Cause it’s my house and i do what i want.” I am also screwing whoever that guy in the black and white coat is…(Is that Robin Thicke. He looks like Alan Thicke, is that his son? I remember Alan Thicke as the least talented human being on earth. He once did a duet with James Brown which was the worst performance by a white Canadian in history) ) Oh yes, more of her message is Don’t I look hot in my underwear? (She does. She’s beautiful), but she showed no more skin ,in fact, less than a woman in a bikini) Also cant I dance well? That part of the message would be met with a resounding no. She’s awkward and I was worried she might fall off the runway. Those are the messages she is sending out. They are meant to disturb parents, cause rebellion and talk among the youth…so they will buy her songs and they have succeeded beyond her wildest desire. Here we are arguing away. Some of you are fearful for your children. Your kids must Love it. Mom and Dad are freaked out. KOOOOOL! But it’s all just pop jive. It’ll all be forgotten when the next pop superstar comes on. In a few years your kids will go to college, have a respectable boy friend and eventually get married and give you grandkids. They will remember this performance as “Haha…Mom and Dad went nuts!” Ok, a few of them wont. A few of them will become whores and drug addicts JUST BECAUSE OF MILEY! Gerrie Ferris Finger asks what will be the next step, obviously meaning will we have real S/M related screwing on stage? Like the old Live Sex Shows in Times Square? Are there no standards left? I have no idea, but it only works if people watch them and get excited and talk about them on FB. Just dont turn them on. I do think it’s funny though that our generation created the Sexual Revolution and here we are when it is now right there in front of us totally freaked out. Our heroes sang “Why Dont We Do It In The Road?” Now the next generation is acting out wild sex on TV and we’re like “No No, we didnt mean it to go this far!” Sex is a force of nature, and all pop music pulsates with it and has in a vulgar, obvious way since Elvis. That’s not going to stop unless you bring back CenSors to TV and the Movies. She wanted to shock and make herself both sexy and sort of repulsive. Didn’t you do stuff like that when you were a kid? I sure did. I once poured peroxide all over my head to become a blonde beach boy as did every other guy I knew. I thought I looked cool, but the added bonus was my parents hated it! And girls thought it was KOOL! Well, one did. I looked like a total idiot, but people talked about me which was better than before when I was almost totally unnoticed. Later, I grew my hair long, had a really dumb looking beard which scratched and which I hated. But Hey, it was supposed to mean…something…er ah sort of. Millions of us did this. We swore we would never cut it. I look back at those pictures now and say to myself. Honestly…You were a pretty good looking guy and you totally hid it under all that stupid hair. What an idiot you were!” I had sex with women in cars, in the street, in parking lots, airplanes and once or twice in hallways in New York. I was bad, terrible…and often dangerous to know, like Byron. (Or wanted to be) But I raised my kids, who turned out fine, and now I’m a grandfather. Sex is fun, remember? And when you’re young living in sexual extremis is sometimes wonderful. (But dont get into heroin) The last thing I will say here is this. I was teaching a course in Surrealism once at Hobart College and I looked up Andre Breton who did all this stuff, ran around Paris naked, acted like madman in his youth to “stretch people’s perceptions” etc etc. They asked him “Now that you’re older how do you feel about all the crazy stuff you did when you and the other surrealists were young?” His answer:”Gee, I look at it all now and it’s really embarrassing.”
Just bought the DVD of “Come and See” which is the most terrifying and best war movie I’ve ever seen. It’s so mind bogglingly great and horrifying that one critic said it “makes the Deer Hunter seem like The Green Berets”. This is true. Imagine the most terrifying scenes in The Deer Hunter magnified about fifty times and you get this Russian film about the Nazis invading Russia. I have only seen this movie once and then by accident just flipping through te channels years ago and I have never been able to forget it. It’s shot in this way that makes it like a terrible dream you can’t escape. Why would I want to see it again? Because it’s amazing, artistic and jaw dropping. My friend Dan Leo says he owns it but has to get up the courage to watch it again. I feel the same way. But anything that amazing …well you just have to do it. Check it out. Not available on Netflix. Def not for kids under sixteen. This is a horror movie without ghosts werewolves or vampires. Only people. If anyone else has seen it on here love to hear your thoughts.
Well, tonight’s episode of Breaking Bad was one of the best ever…I mean from a story pov…It wasn’t action packed but Walter White’s “confession” was such a stunning piece of business I just started laughing out loud. Having written a few of these things I usually can see what’s coming but this floored me. Absolutely hilarious and wonderful. Anyone who doesn’t think Breaking Bad ain’t art of a high order loses me. Kudos to the writers. A terrific twist.
My pal Dean “The Dream” Meminger who I played basketball with three days a week at the YMHA on the Upper East Side of New York died today. He was an All American at Marquette, a great defensive specialist on the World Champion Knicks. We played in a morning game at the Y and often ran on the same team. After the main game he and I and his teammate Hawthorne Wingo would hang out and play three on three with anyone hanging around. Dean could score any time he wanted but was generous and fed me the ball. At first I would lob passes to Wingo who could jump out of the gym. But one day he looked at me and said:”You shoot. I bound.” I got it. He needed to practice bounding since that’s how he stayed on the Knicks. Dean gets the ball, passes to me and they want me to shoot! This was a gunner’s dream come true. I shot, missed Hawthorne bounded and threw the ball back out to me to shoot again. It became embarrassing. I gave the ball back to Dean who would shoot and make EVERY shot. On same days after everyone else left Dean and I would play one on one. He was two inches taller than me and nine million times better so we made up our own rules. 1. He had to shoot outside the three point line. (Or outside the circle, as I’m not sure they had three pointers yet) 2. He could rebound his ball but still had to run back outside. No put backs. With these rules firmly in place we started out. I was a good shooter and if left alone I could hit shots. Dean left me open and I hit eight shots in a row in a game of fifteen. I could hear a happy little inner voice singing inside my head:”Bobby Ward is going to beat a world champion Knicks player at one on one.” Then I missed. Dean got the ball and with me draped all over him made fifteen three pointers in a row. At the end I was laughing and tackling him as he shot and he still made them all. He looked at me and said, “Good try Bobby.” He was a lovable and wonderful guy who everyone at the Y loved. His life was fouled up by drugs and the usual suspects but he was a dear pal and a buddy to all the guys who played with him. In our games he was generous, and would much rather pass than shoot. RIP Dream. No one who knew you will ever forget you.
Just heard that Elmore Leonard died. He was one of my favorite writers and his dialogue influenced me when I went to work on Hill Street. The terseness, the irony, the way he caught a character in one sentence or gesture. Not to mention the humor. I discovered him when I was a journalist in England doing a story on the making of Rollerball(The first good Rollerball). I had to interview Jimmy Caan, but he was busy so I had some time to kill. I went to the book store and found this novel which I think was Unknown Man Number 87. (Though now that I think backon it the English title may have been Ryan’s Rules) There were many crime novels to choose from but the name Elmore Leonard was so interesting I picked the book up and read the first page. It was about a guy, Jack Ryan, I think, who bought a car at a police auction. He tells his sister “I got a pretty good deal except for the bullet holes in the door.”She laughs and says, “What do you mean except for the bullet holes. You bought that car because of the bullet holes.” It was so hilarious and summed up Ryan (and his sister) in one brilliant exchange. I went back to the Savoy, and read the whole book in two and a half hours. To say it was good would be a huge understaement. I felt like I had discovered our generation’s Hammet or Cain, except,frankly, he was better than either of them. When I got back to New York I looked everywhere for Elmore Leonard books but couldn’t find any. Then a few months later I saw an add in the Sunday New York Times Literary Section. From his publisher (I forget who that was). But it said, (obviously I’m paraphrasing) “We are publishing the most amazing crime writer. We think he’s awesome, the critics agree but so far we’re not selling many books.” Basically it offered to give you your money back if you didn’t like his new book, which I think was La Brava. I bought it at once. It was totally wonderful. Soon I became a giant bore at parties as I tried to turn every conversation into an Elmore Leonard Fest. But pretty soon I didn’t have to anymore as his books finally got discovered by great masses of people. I think the ad helped. In any case in my mind he is one of the great masters of the English language. He breaks all the rules. Writes in sentence fragments to gain immediacy, doesn’t really plot his books like thrillers and yet they are totally thrilling. He’s closer to a jazz improviser than a novelist. There’s a plot (melody) but he riffs off of it, creating amazing scenes that would never be found in a traditional crime novel. I imagine most people on here have read him but if you haven’t get started at once. Pure pleasure. Plus, he wrote one of the greatest Westerns of all time Hombre based on the life of the Indian lawman John Russell and made into an equally great western film with Paul Newman, Frederick March, Diane Cilento and others. Directed by Marty (Hud) Ritt. Absolute killer. And now there’s his show Justified which is the best written show on tv. I don’t know how much Leonard actually contributed to it but the writers have the feel for his language, plotting, and humor. He was the master and on the occasion of his death I’m going to try and read all of his books again. Goodbye “Dutch”. There’s barely a week that goes by when I don’t remember a phrase or scene from one of your books.
Good night folks. Wrote five hours today and have had to slashand cut endless tough guy dialogue and add-dig this- rationality and humanity to an otherwise well written script. Like every gig I’ve ever had i start with the idea of changng just a few things, but soon see so many oppurtunities to make it better I just gotta do it. Are you reading Rick? Anyway, after that I watched an episode of Broadchurch which was a lot of fun. The rid is being ripped off the quaint town by the sea. All we need now is Dorothy Malone and Richard Eder. Then still wired from writing I watched one more ep of The Bridge, which has so many plots I’m not sure I quite get it. Plus, it has the usual crazy genius serial killer calling in to explain why he kills and how dumb the cops are. This got old after Hannibal but really goes all the way back to the 30’s in the Clutching Hand, a madman killer who called and laughed in a snidely whiplash way at the detectives. “You fools you’ll never stop me….” They can jive it all up with computers but in the end having a dude who sounds like the Devil is the trope that wouldnt die. hahahha…You fools! I’m going to bed and dream dream of sex that wouldnt die. Several of you may be in it, but don’t blame me. Like Jimmy Clanton said: “It’s just a dream.”
Went up to San Fransisco this weekend to see the O’s play the Giants. Happily, O’s won two of three, but this conversation I had in the hotel bar trumps the games. Indeed, (and I’m not kidding) this is the most surprising conversation I have ever had with a stranger (or for that matter practically anyone). It was about nine o’ clock, I was in the bar having a quesidilla and a Sam Adams. There was a kind of chubby little Latina girl sitting next to me, guessing about twenty two or three. She and I got into a conversation and I told her I’d been to the game today, asked her what she’d done. She said, “I went to the music festival in Golden Gate Park. It was really great. Paul McCartney was there and he played for three hours, non-stop. Played the guitar, then moved over to the piano and sang and played the last hour there. He was amazing.”She had taken some pictures of paul on her I-Phone. She was pretty close to the front so you could see him pretty clearly. “Wow,”I said. He’s amazing isn’t he?” She smiled and said that he was but there was a kind of sadness in her face too. “What is it?”I said. “Just one thing wrong with him. ” “What’s that?” “He’s so …white.” I was stunned…confused. “You mean you didn’t know Paul McCartney was white?” “No, “she said. “I knew he was white but just not THAT white. I mean he’s the kind of white guy who is so white he can’t even get a suntan, ya know?” By this time the woman bartender was listening and she said, “Like what part of his name would lead you to believe Paul McCartney was anything but white?” “I know…I know,” she said, laughing at herself in a good natured way but still obviously bothered. Then I got it. I smiled at her and said, “So deep down in your soul you kind of fantasized that Paul McCartney’s real name is something like say…Enrique Hernandez? That all along he was a secret Latino? ‘ She was really laughing now but kind of in a “you got me” kind of way…She nodded her head up and down…”Yes, she said. “I always did. It’s true. And then I saw how really really white he is.” We all started laughing now. I goofed with her ,told her I’d heard he really was Mexican and just took the name McCartney so he could pretend to be British, that he wasn’t from Liverpool at all but Cabo San Lukas…All good natured silly stuff which we all laughed at. But she meant it. She had hoped for many years that Paul was a secret Latino and she was really a little disappointed. Before you say, “Well she must have been remarkably dumb,” let me add that she also told me she had studied film making last year at Oxford. She was really bright, and really imaginative and this was ,seriously, the most remarkable conversation I’ve ever had with a person of another race. I’ve had a thousand conversations with people about racism etc…and they are all very important, but this was something totally different…a sweet and touching admission…I love him so much but why can’t he just be more like me.