An Interview with Joe Exotic by Tina Faye Ayres

JoeExotic

During the pandemic of 2020 a vast majority of the world found itself fascinated by the story of The Tiger King. The creator of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park is now residing at the Fort Worth Federal Medical Center. Before becoming one of the most well-known tiger breeders in the United States Joseph Maldonado-Passage worked his way up to chief of the Eastvale Texas Police Department. He later went on to run for President of the United States in 2016 and Governor of Oklahoma in 2018. Following the success of the documentary series on Netflix most everyone featured therein have had the chance to express their point of view as they see fit though not much has been said by Joe Exotic himself on the matter.

It is my belief that everyone deserves the chance to tell their story, in their own words, from their point of view. I offer up this interview in support of that belief. The following is from Joe written June 5, 2020. Many thanks to Joe and his legal team for giving me this chance, with the understanding that no profit will ever be made from it. It is an honor to have had the chance to help bring this story to light. Thank you all.

Can you tell us a little about your family? What was it like growing up with your parents and siblings? What were each of them like as people? What do you think is the most important thing you learned from each of them?

Wow, growing up with my family, I spent most of my childhood on farm in Garden City, Kansas. Born as slaves, to work in the fields, not very many memories worth keeping as a child because most are horrible but engrained in my memory forever, like being molested by my oldest brother about 5 years old in the bathroom of our old farmhouse, and to be made to kneel with your arms straight out for punishment and beat with a wooden slat if your arms came down, to watch your dad, mom, oldest brother fist fighting and hitting each other with chairs. Growing up dad was a very mean man and anything that went wrong was your fault.

Now I ain’t saying I never done anything wrong, I set the back field on fire once playing with matches, but the physical and mental abuse was something that I carry with me to this day.

You were particularly close to your brother Garold. Can you tell us a little more about him? What are some of your most fond memories of him? What do you think he would have thought of The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park? Did it help you feel closer to him in some way?

My brother Garold who died, always said he was going to break that cycle with his kids and he did. He was the best dad, and the only sibling who ever just accepted me as a kid and as an adult. My oldest sister ran away from home and was with a guy who she ended up marrying who overdosed on heroin and died.

I never really spent much time with my younger sister, but me and Garold spent most of our teenage years riding horses in the mountains when we moved to Wyoming. That is where my love for weird animals came in. We had pet raccoons, porcupines and my little sister found an orphan baby antelope.

But my animal hobby started in grade school when I brought home the schools white mice for the summer and ended up with hundreds of white mice and we went around different farmers barns at night and caught pigeons to raise and show off for 4-H. At one time we had around 500 pigeons.

Around 1979 we moved to Pilot Point, Texas because dad was raising race horses. Garold got married and put a trailer house on the same ranch because he said mom and dad would never go to a nursing home.

I worked at the The Sundial nursing home with mom and became an E.M.T and worked on the Pilot Point Ambulance at 18 years old. Graduated High School in ‘82 and applied for a job as a police officer in Eastvale, TX and the city council said I looked too young to work on the street so I offered them a deal I would work 6 months for free if they gave me a chance. I graduated the Police Academy as the youngest chief in Texas history. In 1985 my oldest brother told my dad I was gay and my dad was standing in the front door of his house screaming so bad the spit was hitting my face and my mom was standing behind him crying. As my dad made me shake his hand and promise not to come to his funeral, so on my way back to the house where I lived, I drove my police car into a bridge. I spent the next 3 years in braces after 57 days in traction in the hospital.

After a year in Florida Garold and mom came to Florida to move me back to Texas, at this time I had about 45 parrots and on the way to Texas we stopped on the side of the road to check the bird and I fell off the side of the stock trailer and broke my arm and crushed my shoulder. They took me to the hospital in Mobile, AL and they wanted to put in over 200 pins, mom said no so they transferred me to OKC to the Bone and Joint Institute where they healed me without surgery.

Then mom and dad helped me get a trailer house in Arlington, Texas, where I got a job at a Pet Safari with Sandy and Stanton Kizer. They offered to sell it to me and Garold and finance it for us. It was 1400 sq ft store for $15,000 and $5,000 down. So me and Garold went into business and I met and married Brian Rhyne.

We worked every day together and Garold was then living on mom and dad’s ranch in Springer, Oklahoma and drove to Arlington to work, and stayed at our house 2 days a week.

He built the cat furniture, dog houses, and reptile cages we sold and he sold that stuff to almost every pet store in DFW.

My older sister moved from Florida to Arlington and stayed about a year and wanted to go back to Florida and everything was always about saving money. So dad talked Garold into driving her to Florida with her stuff. He stayed the night at our house and the next morning in my front yard he shook my hand and said, “If something happens there is enough money in CD’s to take care of Lois and the boys.”

About 6 p.m. that night the phone rang, mom saying that he and my sister were in a bad wreck and they were on the way to pick me up, we got to the hospital in Corsicana, Texas and he got out of surgery from removing his spleen. Both legs, his back and neck were broken and his head injury was so bad his eyes were bulged out of the sockets, he was awake but on a ventilator and scared as hell, he knew he was gonna die, they put him in a drug induced coma, and for 7 days I tried to get him transferred but every time I got it set up the doctor would tell the receiving hospital he was brain dead. I would not accept that, so I made a deal with Baylor, if they would come get him and prove to me he was dead I would donate his organs, when they rolled him out of the hospital to the helicopter huge globs of spiderwebs fell from the sky all over the helicopter, like at that moment he went to Heaven. So Baylor kept their word and so did I. My brother saved 4 other people and I got to meet the man who got his heart.

My brother was my hero, when we had the pet store people gave me a hard time so he painted the pole of the sign by Fielder Road the color of the gay flag and said, “Fuck em, you’re my brother and if they don’t like it they can deal with me.”

Garold was the only one who had anything to do with me. I have not spoken to the others since his funeral in 1997.

Me and Brian sold the store and put our money in with mom and dad to build a memorial park in honor of Garold. He always wanted to go to the jungle where the native people with bone in their noses lived, so it seemed the right thing to do.

Brian got sick in 1996 and contacted fungal pneumonia and went through a long battle of treatments and being sick. When we got the zoo started his health went downhill and I had hospice helping me with him while I built the zoo with mom and dad.

One night before Christmas of 2001 his pain was so bad I couldn’t stop it and he had quit talking days before so I called an ambulance to take him to Norman, OK to the hospital. The E.R doctor told me if they give him a shot it would kill him. It was like taking your dog to be euthanized, what could I do but tell them to give him the shot? His cousin was with me and they admitted him in the hospital so I went home and Amanda stayed with Brian. She called me the next morning and said they were releasing him. So I went to go get them.

And when I rolled him out of the E.R and pick him up to put him in the car he took his last breath. My heart just died, again.

The hospital would not let us back in with a dead body on hospice so I had to sit with a sheet over him in the parking lot waiting for a funeral home to come get him.

I had his funeral at the zoo.

Over the years people built cages as memorials of loved ones so animals could live for people’s memories. Mom and dad spent every day there telling their story to people who lost a child or loved one. It helped everyone.

Why do you think it is important to honor the memory of our loved ones?

My dad turned out to be my biggest fan in the world. He was so proud of what we did in Garold’s memory. Then jealousy hit my oldest brother, for years he blackmailed my mom to tell my dad that I donated Garold’s organs and in 2016 he held good to his threat and told dad.

By this time dad’s mental health was going downhill and I set all night with dad as he cried that we cut Garold apart. But after hours of talking he came to understand he saved 4 people even while dying himself. He died a hero.

Magic was the only way to get people’s attention to the message. People are tired of being preached at.

You honor those who die. You respect their memory. What changed me was when Travis died. I begged for a sign he made it to Heaven and out of nowhere the word, “Hi” appeared in the sky. It is on my Facebook. I got a picture of it.

You often helped children with various disabilities experience the wonders of nature via the Park. What was it like to be able to offer the chance to interact with the animals in such a way?

We never charged anyone who was sick to come to the zoo and I sit by the hospital beds of those who were dying with a baby tiger to only grant their last wish. People don’t stop and think people with Downs Syndrome or blind, etc. live in such a dark world for a life time and bringing joy and a smile to them is what Garold stood for.

I worked the next 18 years for my brother , people worldwide new who he was and were so proud to become part of it.

I toured the nation doing magic and singing the songs I wrote to millions of kids and adults, about saving or environment and not to bully others, and it worked. To this day people are writing me letters of support that seen a show in their town.

What are your feelings on the series? How do you feel about how the media has distorted your love of animals?

The media and the animal rights make me out as an animal abuser because it makes them money from people who don’t know better or do their own research. Just like Carole made millions but keeps her animals in small, rusty cages. It is all a scam. I’m not in jail for animal cruelty. It was for “taking” an endangered species that was born in my own zoo.

I have never been charged with animal cruelty. As you see my tigers love me and if you abuse a tiger you will not go in the same cage with it and live to tell about it

I had mixed feelings about the documentary because I had no idea what angle they were gonna take but I don’t think they expected the world to see I’m honest, hard working, and proud of everything I done, right and wrong, my videos of real life on Youtube helped people understand the real me.

What I am disappointed about is how everyone now who turned their back on me wants to make a buck and become a movie star. Look what it has even done to my husband Dillon, he is so busy being famous he has not wrote one letter to see how I’m doing, but during my trial he was so ashamed of me he wouldn’t come to the trial because he didn’t want in the press.

This has went to peoples heads. This was my life. This was my parent’s lives, this was the memory of 152 other people and it has turned into who can make a buck. Before meeting me who was Dillon? Jeff Lowe? Eric Cowie? Rick Kirkham? John Finlay? They were all people with nowhere to go that Joe gave them a chance and now where are they?

While Joe sets in prison fighting for the truth and his life, they are all movie stars at parties and having a time of their lives.

I feel so used and abandoned by everyone and I never in a million years expected this from my own husband. To be just forgotten over a little fame and money, which by the way not one dime taken in by anyone has been sent or spent on my lawyers. So please quit giving money to anyone’s Go Fund Me or Paypal because they are NOT taking care of my needs.

I lay here locked down, alone 24/7 in this tiny room with no phone, no email or commissary, counting my heartbeats, begging God to just grant me a heart attack so I don’t have to live in this Hell everyone put me in. And they can’t even take 10 minutes and send a letter of support but can be famous beaus they either were or are married to me or worked for me at some point. But now its to leave Joe Exotic in a prison room like a dog in a shelter. They should be ashamed.

There has been tens of thousands of dollars raised, paid, and spent on good times while Joe has nothing. My fans send me more letters of support.

How have you changed most since your earlier days?

Someone answer me one question, how can a person claim to love and care about someone and use every bit of money on themselves while you use the fame of that person to be popular to the point you can’t write a letter or even show enough respect to wear a wedding ring?

I’ve gotten letters saying I said it was ok to move on? The Hell with that, those words are not in my vocabulary, “Till death do us part” was the vows I took, “for better or worse” was what I heard. What I receive in the mail from people saying Dillon has moved on killed my soul. I have lost all hope. To be stabbed in the back once again and by my very own husband if this is all true…

But you know, fame goes as fast as it comes and I can only pray that he slows down and realizes that this won’t last forever. If it lasts 6 months and people will turn on fake public figures like wild dogs. I can say if I give up it will be Dillon’s fault. If I get lucky enough to get a pardon or win my appeal look the Hell out because we are going to change this system. But I love that man enough I took a job in Florida washing dishes for $10.50 an hour to make that man happy, and all I want is some support and a husband that don’t have to take his wedding ring off to go party with the boys while I’m fighting for my life. Move on? Not a chance, who does that? Who says that?

That’s what I’ve learned through this and my life that has changed me. You honor your word, you hold true to your vows, and you never leave a man down, or behind.

What would you like the world to know in regards to you as a person? Is there anything in particular you would like the world to know about you as an individual?

I’m a man with a heart, with feelings and I’m a man who can and does hurt by all of this.

This has really opened my eyes to how one nation and these politicians can lock people away and treat them worse than what we as Humans require animals in a zoo. And how fast people can forget you when you’re out of sight out of mind.

Right now I feel like the most famous homeless man there is. Am I married? Do I have a husband? And do I have a home if I beat this?

What do you plan on doing when you are released and free? Do you look forward to showing others that there is always a chance to turn things around for the better?

When and if I get out of this alive I want to be the first to combine comedy/music/magic in one concert and tour the world, and use that money to save people all over from starvation and homelessness, save our rainforests for the animals that need it, and advocate for people in jail and prison against the corruption in our justice system, to end the abuse in jail and hold prosecutors and agents accountable for perjury just to win a case for self gain.

The millions of people around the world see in my uncut videos who I am as a person, a man that would take anyone in and give the shirt off my back, a man that can see when someone is in a dark place and give up part of me to lift them up. A man you might be shocked by but a man who will tell you like it is and never lie to you to your face or behind your back. A man who opened his zoo and his heart to Jeff, Lauren, James, Allen, Eric, and many more just to be taken advantage of. A man who fought for a decade for Don Lewis and his family. A man who fell in love with a man named Dillon Passage and a man that was proud enough to take his last name. I’m a man praying to God he does not abandon me and move on while I live in this Hell.

How are you holding up under your current circumstances?

How am I holding up? I only wish right now to die because being used and unloved is the worse thing I fear in this life. To hear the words I love you is my drug of choice. We get one shot at this and it can end at any moment, does not matter in a mass shooting or a car accident, those unspoken words will haunt you forever. So be faithful if you are going to make a commitment, people’s hearts are not your games. You can cause heartache, misery, and even suicide because you’re playing games with someone’s life.

What has this done for me? The thousands of letters I get from 4 year olds to 89 year olds, people of all sexes, races, and styles with their phone numbers to a complete stranger offering support, and some looking for support that have tried killing themselves or hurting, but it shows we are all people who really want the same thing, to be loved, to get along, and to support one another.

I don’t give a rats ass about fame or money. I would give it all up to be home with Dillon. Hell I gave it up to move to Florida to start a life with Dillon as Joseph Passage, that was on my application to get that job. But now I beg just to be noticed by him enough he can be my husband, wear a ring in support and help me get through this. Am I asking too much?

What are your feelings on life and death and what comes after? How do you hope to be remembered when your time comes?

I’m gonna combine some of the last all in one answer, Death can come to anyone at any time. I’ve experienced more than most, there is an afterlife. Travis showed me beyond any doubt. No one honors commitment these days, because it is too easy to just move on to the next until you wake up alone and you’ve trashed what meant something.

My brother taught me one thing, your respect you have earned from you keeping your word is all you leave when you die and all you take to get to Heaven. And Karma is real. Its God’s way of making things right, big or small.

I want people to remember me as a man that tried to make a difference in the way people treat each other, for the good I did and tried to do, and for the love I poured into everything I’ve done, and for always honoring my word.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

You know I’ve made mistakes, and I have lived this hard life I was dealt to the best of my ability. Its been a hard road and I pray I don’t die in here an innocent man. Two things I wish from the people of the world:

Keep asking our President to make this right and grant me a pardon so we can move on from this and help the people of our nation and the world together.

And for you all to be my voice to Dillon to just slow down, be supportive, and don’t let this ruin his life by throwing away someone that will love and forgive him forever. The party will be there in 6 months and it will be much larger when I walk out of here. So please don’t abandon me in here when I need him the most.

Be safe, Be my voice, Hear my cry for help.

Love to you all,

Joe Exotic

(Author’s note: On July 6, 2020 I received a note from Joe stating that now he has a phone he can speak to Dillon twice a day, who assures him their marriage is going to be, ok. Dillon has also stated that he wants no part of the press or anything, and when Joe gets home he wants his animals and that is it. )

Joe&Garold

Joe & Garold

To see the actual letters as they were sent please see:

Joe Exotic handwritten to Tina Faye Ayres, June 05, 2020

An Interview with Investigative Reporter Jerry Mitchell

jerrymitchell

Photo by James Patterson.

Jerry Mitchell is an investigative reporter best known for his working convincing authorities to reopen cold cases from the civil rights era, where his work helped put four Klansmen behind bars: Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers, Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers for ordering the fatal firebombing of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer in 1966, Bobby Cherry for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four girls and, Edgar Ray Killen, for helping orchestrate the June 21, 1964, killings of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. His work in those cases is also the subject of the book “Race Against Time.”

He is also best known from the Rob Reiner film Ghosts of Mississippi in which he was portrayed by Jerry Levine.

Mitchell went on to write a 10 chapter narrative titled Genetic Disaster in which he investigated a rare genetic element occurring in his own family and the 13 chapter narrative The Preacher and the Klansman which features the story of a preacher/civil rights activist who became friends with a former Klu Klux Klan terrorist.

His investigative work has won him upwards of 20 awards including the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, the first ever Journalist of the Year away from The Southeastern chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and Columbia University’s John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism just to name a few.

He is currently investigating Carole Baskin in relation to the disappearance of her late husband Don Lewis.

 

Can you tell us a little about where you are from and your earliest memories? How do you think your earlier years helped shape you into who you are today?

I grew up in Texarkana, Texas, which is very much a part of the South. When I was about 9 years old, I came home, saying the “n-word,” which a friend of mine had said. My mother treated me like I had committed a capital offense, and I’m so grateful she did. My parents taught me right about race.

What was the genetic disorder featured in the narrative Genetic Disaster? How did it affect your family over the years? What do you think people can learn from dealing with genetic disorders of any sort?

The genetic disaster is a combination of three diseases: frontal-temporal dementia, muscular dystrophy and Paget’s disease. My grandfather and one of his sisters both died in mental institutions.

There are many genetic diseases, and most of them are rare and, therefore, receive little funding. In fact, more than 25 million Americans suffer from a rare disease — more than any other disease, including cancer and heart disease.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned from your own family?

I am a person of faith, and the lessons my family taught me about God and His love for justice are the ones that have guided me through out my entire life. 

How did you come to be an investigative reporter? What was it about that line of work that drew you in?

I got into journalism because I loved to write. And once I got into the profession, I learned that I was a much better reporter than I was a writer. I had barely begun reporting when I read “All the President’s Men”. What I read inspired me to want to be an investigative reporter.

How did you go about convincing authorities to reopen cold cases from the Civil Rights Era? What was the most challenging issue you faced in doing that?

As a reporter, we can just report the truth or, more accurately, the facts we find. Reporting on a case repeatedly over time creates a drum beat that authorities feel like they can no longer ignore. How can they claim they are for justice when they refuse to pursue it?

What do you think is the most important element in convincing anyone to do…anything?

Make them think it’s their idea.

Can you tell us a little more about The Preacher and the Klansman? How did that come about?

When I was in graduate school in the 1996-97 school year at Ohio State University, I stumbled across serial narrative in newspapers, and I found it fascinating. I wanted to do one after I graduated, and that..’s what I did.

What are your feelings on the current state of Civil Rights in America? How have they changed most over the years and what do you think needs to be done to improve them at this time?

When it comes to race in America, it seems we take a step or two forward, only to take a step or two back. My hope is that this time of examination of race and our nation’s ugly and violent history will prompt us to search our souls and seek solutions that will help heal us.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the world in general?

2020 will be long remembered for these two pandemics: COVID-19 and the racial pandemic. How we address these pandemics will determine how future generations judge us.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

Living for others instead of ourselves.

How did you become involved in investigating Carole Baskin?

I saw “Tiger King” like everybody else, and as I watched it, I saw this cold case. I feel like God, for whatever reason, has given me these gifts when it comes to pursuing cold cases. I felt obligated to share these gifts in this case because this family has yet to see justice.

How is that going? Is there anything that you are at liberty to share about that particular case?

I’m currently working on a project called “Poverty and the Pandemic” that will explore how Mississippi’s poorest places are dealing with the pandemic.

What do you hope the accomplish over the course of your career before your time is up?

No goals beyond what I’m doing now … seeking to shine in the darkness, expose injustices and tell the truth, because it is truth that helps bring justice.

If you don’t mind my asking what are your feelings on life and death and what comes after? How do you hope to be remembered when your own time comes?

I’m a disciple of Christ, so I do believe in an afterlife, and I do desire to live for Him. I know that He loves justice.

This may sound strange, but I don’t care how people remember me. I just want to do the right thing.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

Investigative reporting can help expose truth, and that truth can help bring justice. Without truth, there is no justice.

raceagainsttime

“The Voice in the Vent” by Joe Exotic

Old Man with his Head in his Hands

by Vincent van Gogh circa 1882

THE VOICE IN THE VENT

As I sit and cry and wipe away a tear
The voice in the vent says “What’s wrong with you dear?”

I explain my feelings. I explain my fear.
The voice in the vent says, “It will become very clear.”

My soul is dying and it’s starting to harden.
The voice in the vent says, “You’ll get that pardon.”

I know the President is busy right now.
The voice in the vent believes it will still come through, somehow.

For I know the voice has been here 2 years.
I don’t know how? I’ve not even a year.

The voice in the vent says, “I’ve screamed and I’ve cried.”
I dreamed last night that I actually died

The voice in the vent says,”It can’t end up that way,
Because the world is waiting to hear what you say.”

So I got to push forward and move on along.
As the voice in the vent works on his next song.

If the pardon came through and this was my fate
The voice in the vent said, “Wouldn’t America be great?”

As the voice in the vent is starting to fade.
Was it real or was it fake?
Or did God mean it this way?
For the voice in the vent to save me today.

All I can do is bow my head and just pray
And wait for him to take me away.

This voice I have never seen a face to
Is the only thing keeping me from killing myself.

What a sad way to live.

TheVoiceintheVent1

TheVoiceintheVent2

Poem by Joe Exotic via Francisco Hernandez.  Written from solitary confinement. June, 10, 2020.

“Twilight Years Poem” by A.D Winans

MichaelParkes

“Dream For Rosa” by Michael Parkes

TWILIGHT YEARS POEM

I remember a poem by William Wantling
about how he never wanted to be a poet
that he would carry a lunchbox
just like the rest of them
if only the strange mutterings would leave him alone

Having turned eighty-four this year
I share those thoughts
the years behind me leave me naked
as a dead man’s shadow

these strange words rattle inside my head
like a bag of marbles rolling along a warped floor.

84 years feeling like the worn impression
on a buffalo head nickel
holding on to these fading visions
like an immigrant unable to escape the old country

the moods come and go
like cloud banks sinking slowly
like the Titanic where roam
the deck dressed in words of fire

each day brings yet another illusion
harsh as a hobo’s dreams
as I sing the song of my chosen grave

My words dance like a ballerina on a high tension wire
with no safety net below
while a friend of mine considered a success
in the business world
tells me that like him
I should make a list of priorities
and stick by them no matter what

but the hooks are too far in
too high up into the gut
to do anything about

A poet is like a train
a romantic trip back in time
he is good for a laugh or two
someone to on special occasions converse with
sleep with and always someone to stay away from
when he is down and out

d.a. levy was dead right
“some people cannot beat the system
and poets can’t even pretend
they are beating the system”

James Dean Visual Tour: “Jimmy Was Here,” an interview with Lee Raskin

James Dean at Bank on Czech mc #1 (1)

James Dean riding his Czech CZ 125cc motorcycle in front of the Citizens Exchange Bank at 102 S. Main Street, circa 1947. Photo: Nelva Jean Thomas / Fairmount Historical Museum.

 

JAMES DEAN VISUAL TOUR

”Jimmy Dean Was Here”

In the hope of educating and inspiring both residents and visitors to Fairmount, Indiana for years to come, biographer and author Lee Raskin is planning to debut the “James Dean Visual Tour” during the 2019 Fairmount Museum Days’ James Dean Festival.

Co-sponsored by Main Street Fairmount, the Fairmount Historical Museum, and the historic Citizens Exchange Bank branch of the First Farmers Bank & Trust…the visual walking tour will feature legendary photos along with brief captions pertaining to James Dean as a teenage student at the Fairmount High School, as well as during his final visit to Fairmount in February 1955.

Can you tell us a little about how this project came into being? What was it like to realize that there is a younger generation of residents who aren’t fully aware of the legacy left by James Dean?

I have been visiting Fairmount during the James Dean Festival since 2005. Looking back, I had noticed for many years that residents, especially a younger generation, was unaware that James Dean had actually been photographed while walking, talking, and even acting at various Fairmount locations.

I felt this was an exciting opportunity to replicate a part of James Dean’s legacy for the benefit of everyone to enjoy while experiencing Fairmount today — and for years to come.

JD on Main Street #2

James Dean is standing next to long-time friend, Bill Beck, twelve-year old cousin Marcus Winslow, Jr., and Everett Hiatt in front of Corn Auctioneers (now Fairmount Helping Hands) at 119 N. Main Street, as Bill’s wife, Roma walks along Main Street to greet them all. Photo: Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos, February 1955.

What has it been like to work with the individuals involved in bringing this project to life?

I first mentioned this project concept with James Dean’s cousin, Mark Winslow, who has been a close friend of mine for over 30 years. He liked the idea and suggested I convey it to Jim Hayes who was head of Main Street Fairmount. Mark introduced me to Jim and the association’s President, Alissa Meyer during the James Dean memorial service in 2018. I then submitted my initial ideas and worked with Alissa to formulate an exciting plan that grew to become the James Dean Visual Tour. In addition, I also got to work with Tate Powell, Jessica Rolph, and Debbie Shrout of the First Farmers Bank and Trust; as well as with several proprietors of Fairmount businesses where the James Dean Visual Tour signs would be displayed.

Why do you feel that the work carried on at The Fairmount Historical Museum as well as the James Dean Gallery is important to the keeping the town vital and thriving?

The Fairmount Historical Museum and the James Dean Gallery are the primary destinations for visitors throughout the year beyond the annual James Dean Festival. Today, the Museum and Gallery creatively utilize social media as a dynamic vehicle to promote their respective attractions and future events for James Dean fans and future visitors. Many thanks go out to the Museum’s Christy Pulley and Dorothy Schultz who have been very supportive while assisting with this project.

James Dean walking on Washington St. #3

James Dean is walking along East Washington Street…with the Citizens Exchange Bank’s golden dome in the background. Photo: Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos, February 1955.

Do you feel honored to have the chance to further educate the world on the life of James Dean?

Yes, I do. As a biographer and author, I feel obligated to promote the James Dean legacy and to provide James Dean fans and devotees with the most relevant history, especially with respect to Jimmy’s passion for motorsports and his ownership of two Porsche sports and racing cars.

Interestingly, of the published authors who have written about James Dean, I take pride in being one of the few who continues to update my James Dean publications and documentaries with new factual changes and stories substantiated by first-hand research and attribution. I feel it is important to educate Jimmy’s fans to keep his legacy bright and untarnished from embellished and untruthful stories.

JD Goon #4

James Dean acting in the play “Goon with the Wind,” a parody on the story of Frankenstein. Jimmy played the dual role of “The Creature” & the Villain in this Halloween play on this same Fairmount High stage in 1948. Photo: Courtesy of David Nall / Fairmount Historical Museum.

How do you hope this endeavor benefits the residents and the town of Fairmount itself in years to come?

The James Dean Visual Tour —”Jimmy Dean Was Here” establishes a sense of reality where Jimmy’s presence in Fairmount was very special for not just him, but for his friends, and his family. He was truly an easy going and fun-loving individual.

How do you think James Dean himself would have felt about the impact he has had on the town over the years?

I believe that Jimmy would have a huge grin on his face…in disbelief that he had become a real American Icon growing up in Fairmount’s rural environment. Unlike portraying the older and richer Jett Rink in Giant, Jimmy would most likely have been a very humbled individual…having much compassion and gratitude for being a Fairmount Hoosier.’

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James Dean is visiting Fairmount High and reflecting upon his performances as a young actor on this same stage. Photo: Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos, February 1955.

Can you tell our readers a little more about what to expect from the Visual Tour?

The visual tour will allow everyone to stand in Jimmy’s footprints — to recapture some of these historical moments — with a posed photograph and/or with their own ‘selfie.’ Additionally, Main Street Fairmount, the Fairmount Historical Museum, David Loehr’s James Dean Gallery, Fairmount Helping Hands, and the First Farmers Bank and Trust will have ‘hand-out’ tour maps to provide visitors with the exact location of the five ‘Visual Tour’ displays along the Main Street area and at the Playacres Park Pavilion.

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Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

I have always enjoyed the opportunity and excitement to be part of Fairmount as a visitor and a long-time contributing James Dean biographer / author. I hope that I can continue to make these small contributions in furtherance of James Dean’s wonderful and deserving legacy.

Lee Raskin, JD

Baltimore, Maryland

 

JD Festival Lee and Salinas book

An Interview with Toby Froud Regarding “The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance”

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Toby Froud is best known for his appearance in the film Labyrinth (1986) and as writer/production designer of short film Lessons Learned (2014). His work as a creature designer and sculptor has been featured in such films as I Am Not a Serial Killer, Paranorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Missing Link. He also worked as executive producer on Yamasong: March of the Hollows.

You have said you grew up in Magic. Can you tell us a little more about what that was like? What are some of your most fond memories growing up?

I’ve been lucky to grow up the way I have, in a place that is engrained with magic and steeped in history. I will be eternally grateful for the way my parents raised me. For teaching me to be true to yourself and the things you strive to create.

Do you think with the world being as it is today that magic is needed more than ever?

It feels like the world is in a darker place and people need magic more than ever! An escape, a place to be able to experience something extraordinary. To make them feel like they belong no matter who you are. That’s what we always strive to do when we create something.

As a parent yourself do you strive to make the world more magical for your own child?

It’s hard as a parent to know how to show your child the world, you want to protect them and make sure they have the best experience but that’s not always real. I’ve learnt that my son is continually learning for himself and teaching me how to see the world, how to ask questions and view something that as an adult we have become blind to. I hope I can make the world a little more magical for my son and other people too.

What have you been up to since we spoke last? At the time you were working on Lessons Learned. What did you take away from that whole experience?

Lessons Learned was a truly amazing experience, one I am grateful every day! I’m grateful to the crew, the friendships forged, and the challenges overcome! The responses to the work and the journey that came after. I continued to work at Laika studios on Kubo and the Two Strings, and Missing Link. Before going onto the Dark Crystal, which was the project of a lifetime.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently on Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio which is very exciting and I’m looking forward to all that may happen next.

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Are you excited to see The Dark Crystal be introduced to a new generation with the release of The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance?

I can’t wait for the new generation to see the show! I’m proud of what we achieved. And truly hope the fans love it. I am excited for the new generation to experience this!

I actually got to see the original Dark Crystal on the big screen again last year. I went with some of the crew working on the series. While watching it I kept noticing the young guy next to me was truly engrossed and would sigh and react!, jump and clap as the movie went on. After I asked if he liked it, he said “Absolutely! I had no idea what it was! My friend told me it was about lizards that lived castle! It’s so much more than that! I can’t wait for the series!”

That was amazing to see someone experience the film for the first time and be so excited for what was to come! That’s why we do what we do!.

What role do you and your parents (Brian and Wendy) have in relation to the show?

My father was the conceptual designer on the show, my mother consulted on the geldings and also built wonderful creatures for the world. I was the design supervisor.

We did all sorts with the amazing teams that truly deserve the credit for making the world come to life again!

Do you think it is past time we see more projects that rely only on puppetry and less on CGI?

I feel it’s the right time, that people want puppetry! They want to feel and believe a character might truly be present in the shot or story they are actually seeing. I feel CGI actually works beautifully to enhance and bolster that idea. Working together we can now create truly amazing things!

What are some of the most challenging aspects of creating, anything that is done entirely with puppets?

(Laughs) The puppets! They are such a wonderful challenge to create, to build a character that can emote and carry a scene, that the audience will follow and believe in is the best sort of challenge.

Actually, the whole thing is challenging, building a whole world 4feet off the ground, sets that can break apart and be used with the puppets.

The team that was brought together to achieve the age of resistance was astounding! Every department and there are many!! Rose to the challenges set before them! Helmed by Netflix and Henson’s guided and driven by Louis Leterrier. We all went to work to create the greatest and largest puppet production ever achieved.

What do you think of Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Hamill, Simon Pegg, Keegan-Michael Key, and Andy Samberg providing voices for some of the characters?

The voice cast is wonderful! The talent that came on board is very exciting to have. Voicing the characters can be tricky to make them believable but I’m very excited by the cast for this!

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What do you think it is about the original characters that have made them so enduring? Did you a favorite from the original film?

The original film has a magic about it! It’s was got people into the industry and what inspired people for generations. Everyone relates or responds to a certain character or part of that film. From Skeksis to Fizzgig.

I think it’s truly and simply that no matter which character you respond to. You believe them. They feel real! And that’s true magic.

I’m not sure if I have a favorite character, there are so many for me. Between the Chamberlain and Kira to the Landstriders!

Each one is wonderful to me.

How do you think the prequel series will differ most from the film?

The way the series is shot is amazing! The camera becomes a whole other living part of Thra almost. Moving around the world and characters as they battle their way through is stunning.

I also think it expands the world in a big way giving you a much richer tapestry!

This is the way you should film puppets!

Do you have a dream project you’d most like bring into existence?

Well I will say Dark Crystal was a dream project to work on! Truly the project of a lifetime for me! But I’m very excited for the future and things to come! I feel like this is the beginning and there are lots more stories to tell! Let’s hope the world feels the same.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

Thank you! Thank you to all the fans who have loved the films and my family’s work for so many years. For the people who believe in magic and who want to see and experience more in their lives!

To the wonderful talented creatives who strive to show the world beautiful and wonderful things who work tirelessly to achieve greatness so kids and adults alike can be transported to strange new worlds and journey to realms unknown.

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The Art of & an Interview with Capat

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Romanian born Theodora Daniela Capat studied art at The Swedish Academy of Realist Art, where she later became a primary teacher upon graduation. Her lavish portraits have made a two time winner of The American Portrait Society with a Certificate of Honor and Certificate of Excellence. More examples of her work can be found at https://capat.art/ .

What was it like growing up in Romania? What are some of your most fond memories of that time?

Even though I was born close to the 90’s people think that I grew up in the 80’s. Was born in 1989 during the revolution on the 9th of December. Even though communism “died” out I still felt it while growing up. I always was an outsider. Never liked dressing up like a girl. Had my moments of girly times but I’ve always been a tomboy. At school we had to wear a uniform and I hated it. I wanted to wear black! My mother always told me I have to be a lady but like Arya, from Game of Thrones:“I am not a lady.” That kinda quote was with me all the time. Growing up in Romania was hard for me to be honest, for most children after 89. Since Romania had a lot to recover, as a child I was controlled and very protected by my family. I was allowed to play only in front of the building, where the entrance to our apartment was. My mum never let me go further than that, but I never obeyed my parents. I used to “run” in the back of the building and played at the garbage dump. People threw their trash there. Since I had a very strong imagination I always found something that made it look fun while scavenging in the dump area… Sounds sad but that made me the person I am today. The old communist building made the warm orange colour the dominate atmospheric colour for most of my dreams. When I dream everything happens at my childhood place. Since I was little I dreamt extremely vividly, created worlds, and invented stories, though when I was little I didn’t speak well till the age of 6. At school I had hard times adapting. I was called a handicapped and hit with a ruler. Those were the communistic traits.

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How does society tend to view art in that particular corner of the world?

I never considered myself a smart person because I feel limited when trying to explain my thoughts and ideas. Since I grew up in a communistic world art there was a bit… too political. Corneliu Baba is one of my absolute favourite Romanian artists. He refused to paint Ceausescu, the communist leader and for that he lost a lot… Many intellectuals died during the regime thus the repercussions were felt dramatically after the 90’s. Art became ugly. Abstract art made no sense. There’s good art and bad art. I love some abstract art with well thought colour composition but since most of the intellectuals were killed or in jails it felt like we started everything from the start. It wasn’t only in Romania, most of European academies just became a joke. Few kept the academic drawing teachings alive. Feels sometimes that we start things from the start just because we forget history and all that knowledge that the old masters worked so hard to achieve, people just threw it out because it was outdated and new views had to be adapted. It is very, very sad. Nowadays art is still kept under control by the modernists. In Romania you see that well. People get offended when their own creations are threatened by a higher quality of art. Philosophical and technical. You can’t do much since Romania is still very corrupted. I always say “Romania is a beautiful country, too bad it is inhabited by people…”

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When did you first take notice of art in general?

(laughs) I never thought I would talk about this again. When I was little I started drawing horses. My mother always liked art but she never pursued it because during her time it was very difficult. When she saw me trying to draw horses she drew one for me. I was amazed at how good it was! As a child the world is so small so for me that felt huge! I started drawing that horse drawing my mum did around the apartment walls. My mother didn’t stop me. She just loved seeing me happy. After that at the age of 11, my neighbour who had also been my headmaster at the kindergarten noticed my ability to draw, so she brought me a portrait, a small picture, of Alexander the Great. She also gave me a drawing pad, graphite pen, eraser and sharpening tool. Then she asked me to draw it. The longest 2 hours (as I recall ) of my tiny life! After that I was hooked. I was just drawing on my own and buying the only magazine that made sense with art called Mari Pictori (Great painters)

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What was the most challenging issue you faced when you were learning your craft on your own uninstructed?

I can’t go in detail about it. My friend that knows much of my past told me that his life is so calm and easy in compared to how I grew up. I got a Romanian friend who had it even worse than me. Learning on my own was hard. Locked in my room, skipping school, arguing with my mum, my father telling me to stop and do something more productive… Now that I think about it, people nowadays or some artists are so spoiled by their family supporting them early on. Our parents want what is best for us but even now I am told to get a job and do art on the side. At school my teachers called me “an American kitsch artist.” I went to an art school when I was 14. It destroyed me. It would have been better if I just went to a normal school and learned on my own. Between age 16 to 19 I stopped drawing. I hated it. During that time I did some small work. Deviantart was gently getting into my life though at school I was called stupid for liking that site. Didn’t even know about conceptart.org until I was 19 and a half. Before that I discovered some art sited made by Romanians. I got the worse push back critiques from those people. Mean, jealous people. Some were kind but I was too young to know how to defend myself, that is one reason I beg parents to explain to their kids what social media really is and toughened their kids instead of protecting them. I still hid away and watched my art magazines…and wondered if I will ever be able to do that type of art.

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What was it like moving from Romania to Sweden? How do the two cultures differ most?

When moving to Sweden is was very, very hard. Coming from a country that has the type of people who throw trash on the ground, mocks you on the streets for being fat, calling you ugly and everybody is the best and you are nothing to a country where everybody is happy and trying to help everyone was a shock to me. It felt very, very superficial. Still does sometimes. People are at their worse when they are in survival mode. Sweden doesn’t survive, they live. They can travel and they have space to live, green spaces and respect to their environment. I got my issues now with Romania and Sweden. We need to understand that culture is of two kinds: good and bad. It is what it is. Some say culture is your enemy. No. It is not. Look at the work that we do. Spiritual or satanic it is based on a political, cultural agenda. Romanians are very loud and we are close to how Italians are. We have a lot of gestures in our body when we talk. Swedish people are calm, talk low and don’t flap their hands while trying to explain. I had a Swedish friend who made fun of me because of that (laughs). That is the beauty of culture. We share and we have to adapt to other’s culture when you move to their country. Not the other way around because that’s when you destroy cultures. Swedish people are starting to change, I can see that. They had enough of others telling them how they should be, accept and sacrifice what makes them Swedish. And I am very proud to see that because their culture helped me become a more calm person and rediscover my own culture in a better way.

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How do you think proper instruction helped you hone your craft most?

At the age of 20 I started at The Swedish academy of Realist art (before they were located in Stockholm). Since I didn’t accept my past and my flaws it actually kept me from developing properly while at school. It is hard to say everything that has happened. Your art grows with experience, not only skill based but also what happens in your life. It did help me improve, the school, but It also helped me grow as a person. I had my issues when I was being critiqued and also being told how to draw. I was young! When you’re young you think you know everything and I can’t tell you now that I accepted how little I actually know. Anyway, the school helped me develop what I call sharpening your eyes, see forms and shapes, compare etc. When I started the school they still had a bit of sight size method in their way of teaching which really made me unhappy. But my teachers and founders of the school got away from it, which makes this school come forward compared to others. Comparing, understanding form, seeing things more 3D is more beneficial if you want to work from imagination. It makes you faster and also broadens your vision. It doesn’t get you stuck into copying point by point what you see. You learn slower because it is hard… took me 10 years to do what you see now and I still have a lot to learn.

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Why does portraiture appeal to your artistic nature?

What we deal most in life is ourselves and others. Is the constant jungle battle for survival and to do it we need each other. We still have tribal thinking which has is flaws. It works in a small community, hence why communism failed. We are too many and we have huge desires now with social media. We see so many faces on Instagram. Filters of beauty, body building… These things makes me cringe. Why are people so obsessed with validation from others? But then again don’t I do that with art? Faces are fascinating for me. You think you know people by just looking at them but you don’t really. One still image can tell you so much. It doesn’t even show the real you since again beauty filters, shoot from a certain angle so you will look thinner. Really? Think about how sad this is. We know it yet we do it, then we wonder why we get anxious. We wanna see this…we wanna be a part of the tribe of fame because we think that will bring happiness because you will make an income as they do. Listen… I can’t say I am a good person and wise, I am pretty much full of my bad stuff too. But like Jordan Peterson said… if we would stop lying the world would be a better place. When we talk to someone we look them in the eyes… have you noticed how rare this is becoming? Social media has created so much disconnection between people, rather than bringing them together. People don’t know how to act because they created an image of themselves online that they don’t know how to bring it forward in real life. Why am I saying all of this? Because it is interesting to me. Portraits that I do are a reflection of today’s society. “Look at me… look at my beauty. Make me important , show my grief, happiness, victimization and superficiality to the world.”  I feel that most artists are doing that because, what I believe, is that we paint how the world is. And it feels that way: lost and confused but desires fame and wealth by being emotional towards others suffering.

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What do you love most about the act of creating?

I will try to keep this simple but I have to explain why. We try so hard to make our art have a deep meaning because it does appeal to people nowadays since we are so lost and confused on what we should do with our lives. What I love about creating is how well it detaches me from the “reality” of the world. It is a way to release my dreams, my fears, my anxiety, my desires, my view of the “real” world… but most importantly it is fun! We forget why we do art as time goes by. The struggle of making a living and getting out there, or whatever you wanna call it, made us forget that art is just fun. Look at kids while drawing. They are having fun.

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What did you enjoy most about your time teaching others?

How much I learned from them. Best teachers I ever had. Thinking how to help them see their mistakes, getting into their world, failing with them, growing mentally, becoming patient, hating that they hate me, so much going on as a teacher that I can’t number them. It is very hard to be a good teacher. As a student you only see your world only, as a teacher you see others and unfortunately you have to be rude and get into their world uninvited to be able to teach them technique.

Do you have any dream projects you’d most like to bring into being?

Yes…I do. One day but until then I have to work hard to be able to have that great of a place and be more mature in mind and in skill to be able to achieve it.

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You have said that, for you art is a way to represent your feelings of frustration when it comes to your understanding of self and your surroundings. Can you elaborate on that a little further?

Not sure how to explain this but for me art is more like visual poetry. I have never been good at writing compared to others. That touches you through one sentence. I had to create images to explain to people how I feel. When low, happy or depressed I found art as a source to explain how I feel. To be honest I don’t really show most of those works. Now with social media everybody shares everything. I tend to do that too sometimes but I have moments when I feel I just want this for myself, to reflect on them on my own and not be vulnerable to everyone out there.

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You have said you have always had a curiosity when it comes to life and death. Where do you think that curiosity came from? When did you first become of aware of it?

I came aware of it when I was little through my vivid dreams that I still have to this day. Dreamt death itself. Everyone around me talks all the time about spiritual guidance, believing in a God or something after life. I asked my grandmother some months ago if she fears death. She replied that she does because she feels that she hasn’t lived her life at its fullness. Time for me is weird. It passes by too fast and I keep losing track of my present moments. I am getting old and in the end I will die. Since I was born my destiny, if I can call it that, is going to that point where everything will end. That made me curious about it in combination with how it felt when dying in a dream. When I was working as a teacher and my life was quite stressful I dreamt about myself living again where I grew up as a child. There I saw two men, playing chess. The colours around me where of a warm orange colour. Very saturated. It felt very warm but somehow I got curious of this two men playing chess. Then at a point while I was wondering what was happening I got scared of this 3rd person, a man, dressed up in this long coat with a hat on that started coming towards me. That scared me. I tried to run away but he got to me. He grabbed on to me, turned me around and put this metal long steel through my chest. It hurt very bad. I was holding his arm to not push it more into me since I could feel it getting close to my heart. I was afraid and started telling him that I don’t want to die… while I kept him from pushing I was saved by this two elderly men that where playing chess. They stopped this person by holding him and pushing him away, quite gently as I recall, like somehow it was normal what he was doing. They looked at me, these 2 men, and told me that My time has not come. I got confused and everything morphed within me seeing them again from that point I first saw them while they were playing chess and drifting away from them, while seeing bright colours like a rainbow distorting everything around me. It was like I was swallowed by a colourful black hole. After that I woke up. I had to stand up on my bed thinking, confused on what has happened. I felt almost nothing… just an empty feeling of why I was saved. There’s more of this dreams that I had but I guess this answers your question a bit of why I am curious about death.

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What are your personal feelings on life and death and what does, or doesn’t come after?

I don’t really know…I think once we die it all ends. We just stop being. We go back from where we came from: nothingness. We are so conscious, so curious and so self-absorbed into our own daily life, trying to create this image of ourselves that it becomes an obsession. Time doesn’t wait on anyone. Since we are born its decided: It will all end either you like it or not. Many don’t talk about it, feels like a taboo. Got friends who are afraid of it. Famous people who are afraid of it. I don’t know but the more I think about it I just know I will go from where I came from: nothingness.

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What do you think is key to a life well lived?

I think everybody has their own answer to this. My answer might sound cheesy but It is quite simple if you think about it. A life well lived is when you know how to be in the present. When we were kids, before we became too absorbed into the world of chaos created by our fathers, into a world of future goals…we as kids didn’t care. We could stare and do nothing and just enjoy being. Now, with all of this technology, everything has become fast, everything is about “me” and what I can do to show the world how awesome and caring I am. It is nothing wrong with being selfish. You can’t help everyone. The life you have is your own. Not saying you need to not care about anything but if you know what life is… I think you found the key of how to help others and just be with time all the way till your end. We perceive time but the more you look around you it doesn’t really exist. It is static. But our mortality has created it to define the past and the future. Future? It is not even written but the result is that it will end. It all depends on how you handle time right now rather than how you will. Of course, we all have a rent to pay and trips to plan, friends to meet and friendship to keep but time gets in between. You become so bombarded with things to do that the future is brought to you faster and thus…time passes too fast that you miss out on just looking around you and feel the weird push on your body from the surrounding atmosphere. I don’t know how to really explain it but my drawing serenity is about it. Simple, floating together with everything, surrounded by black crows who for me manifest death and how it flies with you until you will get grounded and can’t go back to the sky anymore. The water is liquid and you as well. It is static but moves from place to place but it feels like it never has time. It is just there.

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What advice would you offer to other wishing to learn how to best express themselves through their own art?

Don’t forget why you are doing art, your drive to do it. Is it for yourself? Is it for the world? Is it fun still? Look at yourself and not others. Look at how you can improve and not how you can improve and be like others. It is such a death trap for us artists and I speak from experience. Social media is great but it has killed most of us because we want to be seen so we do things that are popular…Some succeed with it while others don’t. Reality is harsh so maybe some of us will make it while others won’t. Nothing beautiful comes easy. I battle this demon everyday, to not get trapped and just be myself even if I have to sacrifice my own stability and not profit from my art. I have to do things I don’t like to be able to pay my rent and disappear from most of my friends life just to work hard on this vision of mine. It is my sacrifice and my view. That’s why I know that I might not be a mum, that I might not have a proper home and that I will live month to month. But, at the end of the day, I know I stood true to what I believe. For me that is a sacrifice worth doing that most of my friends and family thinks is foolish. Right now this is how I feel.

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Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

Life, death, past, present, future. All of this is in our mind. Once you are gone all of them will end with you. Be kind and grateful for this time you have, take care of your surroundings and don’t hurt others. We are prone to great evil and takes a lot of courage to admit to your faults and be a better person. I do my best to live on those principles and I noticed how many people can’t stand this, to admit to their mistakes. Most prefer to just become a victim of their own bad decisions. Those decisions, even if you didn’t know why you took them or things that happens in your life, is a part of you. Mistakes are the ones who teach us how to become better. Tragedy as well is a part of your growing up, takes courage to be strong, to deal with all the suffering you have endure. It is not easy but like I said nothing beautiful comes easy. I wish you the best in your journey and may you find your peace in life that will truly bring balance. Ah yes… I find balance more important than happiness. Why? Happiness can lead you do bad decisions, (laughs) Balance makes you think and not be too emotional when making decisions but…hey, that’s just me, right?

 

An Interview with Keith Lansdale on the Making of “The Pale Door”

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Keith Lansdale can currently be found working as a co-writer on the set of the Western Horror film The Pale Door, which also features Joe R. Lansdale as executive producer alongside writer/director Aaron B.Koontz (Camera Obscura). Featuring Devin Druid (13 Reasons Why), Zachary Knighton(The Hitcher), Melora Walters(Magnolia), Bill Sage(We Are What We Are), Pat Healy(The Innkeepers), Natasha Bassett(Hail, Caesar!), Noah Segan(Looper), Tina Parker(Better Call Saul), and Stan Shaw(Rocky) the film features an eclectic mix of cowboys, wolves, and a coven of witches.

How did this particular project come about?

I met Aaron and Cameron on a panel in Beaumont. I was actually there meeting about a different project and after chatting with A & C we mentioned working together.

How have you enjoyed working from the set out in Oklahoma?

If by work, you mean wander around set and try not to get in anyone’s way. My part was done, but I got invited to set for a chance to meet some of the actors and see how it was looking. I’m happy to say it looked like it was going very well.

As far as Oklahoma, the shoots I was going to were night shoots so I didn’t really explore Oklahoma so much as I slept in and hung out on set all day.

Do you get the chance to enjoy the view on the long drives to the set or do they get tiresome?

I stayed at a hotel in Oklahoma, and the drive from home to set was actually 7 hours total, which is the limits of what is and isn’t enjoyable.

What has it been to work with your father on this project? What have you learned from working with him across the various projects?

Dad, Joe R. Lansdale, is a walking masterclass. But on this project his role has been completely separate from my own. He had more to do with his name allowing them to get some real star talent.

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What was it like to write alongside Aaron Koontz and Cameron Burns on the script?

They actually wrote the outline of what they wanted and I filled in the meat of the script sandwich. Writing with other people isn’t always a fun process, so I wasn’t sure how this would go, but after they saw my rewrite, they seemed pleased with the outcome.

Do you have any interesting stories from the set that you might be at liberty to share with our readers?

I got to meet some really great people. And not just the actors, but a lot of the people behind the scenes that you don’t always get to meet.

What are some of the most challenging issues you face when bringing a Western Horror film into existence?

Making it fun, scary, and worth the watcher’s time without getting stuck in any tropes. Which I don’t think it too different than most films.

Do you think the motley mix of cowboys, wolves, and witches is something that will appeal to today’s masses?

I think it’s safe to say we’re going to find out soon. At the end of the day, the setting is never as important as the story and the characters. But having a fun story sure doesn’t hurt.

Coming from Texas as you do, did you ever want to be a cowboy yourself growing up?

I think I sort of missed all that. I grew up playing Nintendo. Also, horses sort of terrify me. Not in an unreasonable way. I don’t run for it when I see them, but I have a constant fear of somehow being behind one and getting kicked in the head.

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Why do you think there are generally less Western themes in film and television today?

Just like anything else, they swing in and out. I’ve seen a bit of an uptick here of late. I don’t try to guess it. Just write what we write.

Do you feel privileged to have the chance to work on this one?

I feel privileged any time I’m asked to be a part of a project. I’m sure I always will.

Why do you think the genres of Western and Horror merge so well?

Things are scary anyways, but this wasn’t the time of cell phones and being able to just call the police. Something’s outside your house, you better hope it ain’t that hungry.

What can audiences expect from this one?

Dark humor and dark creatures.

When do you think the film will be released and available?

Not sure. I know the next stage is looking to get noticed at some film festivals. So fingers crossed.

What projects will you be working on next?

I’ve actually got several things going, but it’s a mystery what will get done next. I’ve got a new comic Red Range: Pirates of Fireworld that’s about to go on sale, the script I did, The Projectionist, that keeps making some noise, and a couple other heres and theres.

Anything to say before you go?

Thanks so much for taking the time.

A Poem by Turner Mojica

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There was a burst of gold.
Made me squint.
Never seen nothing like it.
Over the ridge.
The edge.
It zigzagged.
The bolt cut, bright, I raised my hand to block it and it cut when it came.
Too bright.
Sparks.
Brighter.
Cut.
Zigzag.
It cracked the sky.
It came.
It rattled, the earth moved and vultures and bats and crows
scattered and cut again with black and a deep blue and howlers
and more chatter and scatter
and dogs and birds and the sky and iguanas and spiders split apart.
It opened.
Beach.
The earth moved.
All honey colored.
Got dark.
It melted.
Moths flew.

Woke up the cicadas.
She does that.
Shaking dreams from her hair.
Every morning.

Shadows four fingered and five and seven
blocking all bright all painted.
Dripping.
She just smiled all honey colored and sticky.
The thought of her.
Told me she loved me.
She lied.
Didn’t mean to.
Cut.
Deep.
She sang and left all long legs, porcelain and crickets and fireflies
and smiles soft as every orchid
and buzzing sipping nectar like all honeysuckle
and life and dancing
and I took in everything because she deserved it
and she was right
and I am the only one that saw her wings,
long, dark, with deep brown eyes
and I watched her.

As she climbed down the web.
And picked me apart.
Dark eyes.
And flew away with broken wings.
Dark eyes.

And it cut.
Deep.
And I sighed.

An interview with Bruce Glover

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Bruce Glover has had a varied career throughout the decades. He has appeared on Broadway in The Night of the Iguana with Bette Davis and Mother Courage and Her Children with Anne Bancroft. His television appearances include such shows as My Favorite Martian , Perry Mason, The Mod Squad, Gunsmoke, Barney Miller, The Dukes of Hazzard , and The A Team to name to a few. He is likely most well known for his work in the films Walking Tall and the sequels Part 2 and The Final Chapter, as well as the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, Chinatown, and It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine. which was directed by his son Crispin.

A man possessing many talents Bruce began teaching acting in the 1950’s and still continues to do so to this day in Los Angeles. He is also an avid painter.

 

Can you tell us a little about your earliest days? What are some of your most fond memories from your childhood?

Having a very loving mother. Fond, just being alive I suppose. I was always very curious about things. She used to take me to see movies which my father was against because he was very religious and you weren’t supposed to go to movie theaters, evil places. Which is pretty weird, anyway. I remember her taking me to movies and I saw a newsreel of F.D.R struggling to get to a microphone. And I remember showing my mother, I used to show my mother stuff because I would try to amuse her constantly, I remember showing her F.D.R and I was trying to understand why he would be walking like that by putting my body into his polio-afflicted body. So that in a way was my first discovery of the approach I’ve always taken to acting.

And what I teach as an actor is that you have to get into the body and by that into the mind of the character that you are playing.

I remember my mother watching me doing that and going, “Do you love your president?” And I didn’t know who the president was I was just rehearsing that person walking.

So I guess that is a fond memory and another one was my father’s church had pageants. It was a little tiny Methodist church. I was put in a pageant and the scene was Joseph and Mary trying to find a place to stay so she could give birth to Jesus. I was the third kid in a row. I had one line, and my line was, “No room at the inn.” When they got to me, I was three years old and had this booming little voice and I went, “NO ROOM AT THE INN!” (laughs) and the whole church burst into laughter. And I remember going, “Wow I can make people laugh.” So I said the line again and they laughed more, and I said it again and they laughed more. And then the minister came running up the aisle trying to catch me and I was running around behind the altar and through the section of the church and he’s trying to catch me and I’m yelling out “No Room at the Inn.” It was hilarious. Finally, he catches me and carries me downstairs.

So I knew I had a gift for laughter I used to amuse my mother and I always had a sense of that, but I never thought of it as acting. If you said you were going to be an actor back in those days… because I was in a tough working class neighborhood and I had to learn very quickly how to be a tough kid where you could take care of yourself and not be pushed around. I was kind of an inner nerd with the muscles of an athlete and I would protect other nerds who didn’t have the muscles.

So I was a tough working class kid in Chicago in those days you had to talk with a tough, deep dems and dos accent if you didn’t talk like that you were considered a sissy. I was a kid that liked nature and you could go down the railroad tracks and get to a forest and run around in trees and there was an abandoned factory before you get to the forest it was like a variety of environments. I was a natural athlete. I didn’t know how good I was but I was good I learned it very quickly. But I had to learn how to be pretty tough very quickly.

What was it like to have your first job delivering groceries at the age of 6? Are you thankful that you had the chance to develop a strong work ethic at such an early age?

Yeah actually. I guess this woman had a store. She thought it was cute and decided to offer me a job. Ten cents a day delivering groceries after school and Saturday mornings so I made sixty cents a week. Sometimes I’d get a tip from whoever I was delivering to, but that was the beginning of the seeking of work. I remember selling magazines door to door, Saturday Evening Post finally. There was always a job. I mowed grass, I worked with my Grandfather who was a carpenter, I worked construction, I dug graves, I got a job in Chicago working at a newsstand starting at the age of 8 it went on til 13, every day after school and all day Saturday, and my pay raise had gone up and I was making a dollar a day. $6.00 a week.

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If you don’t mind my asking, what was it like being drafted into the Army from 1953-1955 and in later days serving in Korea? What do you think is the most valuable thing you learned from that experience?

Well, Korea I was playing football and I was on a city championship team in Chicago and I was offered football scholarships and there was a weird thing that I had, and they discovered it when I was like 6 years old, it is an affliction, something that nobody knew much about, or anything about back in those days, but it caused me to not get my scholarship because I had to go to another college. So I went to a college in Chicago, a junior college, and played football there. The scholarship that was offered was to a Colorado college, they had a good art school. So the two ways I was finding out of the working class was football and art. I was selling paintings even as a little kid.

The odd thing was I was playing football at Wright Junior College in Chicago and I was all-conference both years. I had passed the test to stay out of the draft with high score, because I have a very high I.Q. All that was good and I passed all that stuff, but I flunked English three times, and the English flunking got me drafted into the Korean War.

I arrived there the last six months of that war. Now when the war finished and I was still in Korea, I was in an engineering company, the University of California sent over teachers. I picked up nine hours of college credits in Korea. The army was very good about that, they transported you to Seoul, Korea for your classes. I decided I’d better take English so I could pass it and get my full football scholarship again. This teacher, a very kind man, very smart, pulled me aside at the end of the sessions and he said, “ You know I don’t know what it is with you, but there is something odd going on. If I were to go by your scores on your grammar test I’d have to flunk you again. I know you’ve flunked before, but you write terrifically.”

He’d given out writing assignments and I’d written three good short stories. He said, “You have unique abilities as a writer and I am going to pass you. I don’t know what it is, but I am going to pass you just to get you past this so you can forget about it.” And I went, “Thank you very much.”

So, this affliction that I had I didn’t discover it until a lot of other people discovered it. There is a thing called Dyslexia. Dyslexics I think, there are probably dumb dyslexics and smart dyslexics. I am one of the smart dyslexics. I think Einstein was considered a Dyslexic he was also very bad in school, but he zoomed way ahead. I think what a Dyslexic does is they don’t want to learn the rules. They just want to do it and they see something and they just do it and that is what I believe with me as an actor, I had no idea of being an actor.

So one of the things I learned in Korea, well I loved the Koreans, they are great people and I came back with another gift. And the gift was I had caught Malaria. When I came back with Malaria I couldn’t pick up that football scholarship so I had to go back to that junior college where I’d played football and pick up some more college credits. I saw a play being advertised that I went and tried out for. The teacher/director of the play said, “Come back for the callbacks.” Well, I didn’t go back …

I am skipping something weird that had happened, back in the days when I was playing football and working out with weights, a buddy of mine who was also an artist, we used to do art projects and work out and he said to me, “Bruce you ought to go down there and pose at the art institute for the art classes.” So, I pose at the art institute and a beautiful naked woman was posing across the room.

She came up to me at the break and said, “Bruce how would you like to…” She paused and my mind was racing, you know I’m a guy and I’d seen her naked and then she said, “…be a gorilla.” I thought what the Hell was she talking about? Well it turned out she was a stripper and she needed a guy strong enough to wear a hundred-pound ape suit and toss her around for fifteen minutes. (laughs). So I thought, well that sounds like a very dignified thing to do and I did it. I went down to the zoo and studied Bushman, the famous gorilla, which the guy who owned the act told me to do. But, Bushman gave me my first acting lesson. And he said, “Think my thoughts and do my moves.” Which is simply in a way the thing I’d done at three years old trying to imitate F.D.R. Trying to understand what he was going through by putting my body into each experience.

Well I did the thing as the ape and we were down in Florida, doing the act in Tampa Bay, Florida and we had an eight week gig we were making really good money. Much better than I’d made at the job before that, I’d worked at a glass factory, ladling hot glass when I was fourteen and fifteen years old. Back in those days, you could work, and you had to work anyway because we were poor. At fifteen I remember my father calling a family meeting because his business was not doing well and he asked if me I would quit school for him to help support the family and I was just starting to like school and playing football, and I thought, “Oh my God. I’ll quit school for a while and hopefully, he’ll get on his feet and I’ll stay out of school for six months and then go back again.” And my mother jumped in and saved me. She said, “ No you won’t quit school. I’ll get a job.”

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I was faced with a lot of realities but there was always a sense of I don’t know…love, even though my father so brainy and he was weirdly Christian and had all of that religious stuff he still was a loving man and she was a loving woman.

I was given responsibility very early. I had two sisters and I had to protect them from everything. I remember my mother was pregnant with my second sister and she was irritated and told me to get out of the house with my sister because I was annoying her. I took her out into Chicago, sidewalks on a hot Summer day and she was about three years old. A car came down the street, nobody on the street but she and I. The car stopped and the guy got out wearing a three piece suit like salesmen back in those days would wear. He stood by his car with the engine still running, and he yelled out, “Little girl come over here.” And my little sister she stood up and started to walk towards him and I jumped up and said, “Lois no!” and he yelled again, “I said get over here.” I saw him coming around the car and I grabbed her and ran her up the steps of a neighbor. I put her behind me pounding on the door ringing the bell and he came to the bottom of the steps reaching out to me, and I was going to bite him. I was eight years old. I was already having to protect my little sister.

Suddenly around the side of the house, a little old man came around that I had seen him working in the yard and that was why I ran to that house.

And he said, “What is going on here?”

I said, “This guy is after my sister.”

And the guy says, “ Oh these kids are crazy. I was just asking them for directions.”

I said, “That is not true.”

And the old man went, “Shush.”

So I shushed, and the guy took the phony directions.

He drove away and I said to the old man, “You know he was really after my sister.”

And he said, “Get off my property. You kids are a pain. Don’t bother me. Don’t come over here again. ”

Then I went back to the house to tell my mother and she said, “ I told you kids to stay out of the house.”

So I took her out of the house again and I knew from then on I was on my own. Not because of any meanness or lack of love it was just I had to take responsibility very early on. I was eight years old, so there I was. It is a sense of what I’ve always felt, that I knew from then on that I was going to have to do it on my own. I was going to have to build everything, do everything, and make everything happen without depending on help from anyone.

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Then when I was doing the ape act down in Florida a magician came up to me and tapped me with his magic wand playfully and said, “Bruce you are an actor.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

He said, “You make that gorilla so believable you ought to try acting.”

I went, “What?”

There was a guy from New York singing, strip clubs were kind of classier, and this guy said, “Yeah you ought to go to acting classes in New York.” He was from New York.”

I said, “Acting classes? There are acting classes?”

To this day I don’t believe you can teach anything. I believe it is all instinct and teaching it usually gets in the way of the instincts. I do teach acting classes, but it’s very small and they are slowly disappearing because I don’t advertise. There are so many terrible teachers out there with terrible schools that never had any experience. I’ve done a hundred plays, Broadway, Off Broadway, I did summer stock, I did repertoire, I did classical. I finally went to Northwestern University when I came back.

I did not go back to the call back of that first play at the community college. I guess something about me I got a little afraid of this idea of trying this acting thing, so I was like whoa…and I did go back.

I was walking down a flight of stairs at that college, and I see the teacher/director coming up the stairs, and he says, “Where were you?”

I said, “What do you mean?”

He said, “You didn’t come back for the callbacks.”

I said, “Yeah I’m a little busy.”

I was actually trying to set my job back up. The ape Strip Club job with the GI Bill got me thru expensive Northwestern University. So, it was Shakespeare in the day and the ape suit at night at the Mafia run strip club, two kinds of education.

He said, “You should have came back.”

And I said, “Well, I am sorry.”

And he said, “I want you to the play the lead”

And I went, “Oh. Okay.”

It was a Tennessee Williams play Camino Real and I played Kilroy in it.

I picked up a Bachelor of Science Degree in Speech, so I haven’t been able to stop talking since and have a minor in Psychology. It is good for the study of people which is what acting is about. I am still learning. It never stops.

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Who were some of the people you looked up too when you were just starting out? What led you to teach acting? What do you think is the most important thing for an actor to learn?

I didn’t think it was teaching. I had scenes with people. I’d never seen a play before. I’d never even read a book on acting. I had never had any acting classes or instruction. I just knew. I knew there were real things and there were movies. There were real actors and the real ones were very simple. Like Humphrey Bogart. He was there constantly and all those other actors from those days.

I didn’t look up to anybody. Do you know what I am saying? I just looked at what I had to do. Like I said Bogart, people like that who were real that was it. I love movies. I went to movies constantly. So all of the movies that I saw affected me but I’d never seen a play. But here I was playing the lead in a Tennessee Williams play at this college with a nice big old auditorium that sat 500 people. I had scenes to do. I had a girlfriend who was a dancer and I had her teach me a dance section. I had scenes with a lot of people. Some of them were simple and real like me. I was real, and here is how it goes with real…the ape, the gorilla Bushman back in the zoo said, “Think my thoughts and do my moves.” Well, that is the beginning of real. Being like F.D.R and putting yourself into that body, that being real.

Now there was an actor who was overacting. He’d maybe taken some acting classes, so he was acting. I don’t believe in that. I believe you just have to live. So I said to him, I hadn’t read any books or anything, I pulled him aside, and I said, “Hey have you ever thought of like talking to me?”

He said, “What do you mean?”

I said, “You know when you talk to me I’ll look at you and listen and when I talk to you you’ll look at me and listen.”

And he said, “How do you do that?”

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The next thing you know I was coaching about seven people so I guess I was teaching people acting but what I was really teaching was to stop acting. I believe people that are good at anything, like you’re a painter, well if you are a painter it is because you are just good at it. You didn’t go to school to learn how to paint. You might have learned what materials to use and you might have looked at great painters and great drawings and appreciated the works, just as I appreciate good actors in movies and later in theatre. My philosophy is that. You have to live, let life in, and let life in when you are doing art. I mean if you are doing art, it is because something has caught your eye and there is something about it, you want to do…something.

I am the kind of person I can be walking down the street and see something lying on the sidewalk and go, “Oh that is interesting.” I’ll pick it up and figure out how I can include it in a piece of art.

So anyways, I did that play and got good reviews. Then I started looking around as to what else I could do. I was healing up from my Malaria, still thinking of going back to the Colorado College that had an art school. I started doing plays in Chicago with little theatre company groups who were more Hollywood than anybody. Nutty people trying to have more affairs with everybody else. And then somebody said there is a summer stock company up in Wisconsin. So I lived out of my car, slept on the porch at the theatre, and tried out for a play every week and got one of the leads. They only had three paid actors and I wasn’t one of them so I starved and did acting all Summer long. (laughs) I was getting great reviews and really enjoying it. And I went, “This is it. To Hell with football. I want to be an actor.” I went to Northwestern University and what they did for me was they cleared up my Dese, Dems, and Dose accent.

I did a lot of Shakespeare. I don’t think I ever learned anything in an acting class although I read Stanislavsky who was a great artist. The stuff he wrote was exploratory and continuing, where too many teachers or people who call themselves teachers are people who know all the truth. Well anyone who knows all the truth is full of it. Full of lies. There is no final truth. It is a constant exploration, as you know with your art there is no final thing, you have to keep on moving forward. And that to me is what life is about. That there is a constant moving forward that is important.

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A scene from the tentatively titled, “An Untitled Crispin Hellion Glover Project.”

How is your art book coming along? I also understand you work together onscreen with Crispin for the first time in an upcoming film that is not part of the “It” Trilogy. What was it like to be able to share the screen in such a manner with someone who is also family?

I do realistic paintings. I do abstracts. I do structural things and I’ve got a book that I kind of have to get together. My son wants me to, my son Crispin, who is, of course, a terrific actor and book writer. We just finished a film where he wrote a script. So the script is his script with some of my added writing and he directed it. He is still editing it right now.

He is back in the Czech Republic, which is where we shot the film. In the last five years, I must have made I don’t know maybe fourteen trips to Poland and the Czech Republic. I did a Polish film were I acted in Polish about four years ago but I also went to the Czech Republic where Crispin has an estate that is 20 acres. He has two stables that were turned into film studios, where he builds sets. There are a lot of Czech’s working on the estate I guess they are trying to get away from Russians.

He is back there right now in fact. He’s been in that series American Gods and he’s terrific in it. Of course, you know he is a terrific actor. He was in Back to the Future and River’s Edge.

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Crispin as Brutus in Grand Room 1888 from “An Untitled Crispin Hellion Glover Project.”

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Bruce as Brutus in Grand Room 1918 from “An Untitled Crispin Hellion Glover Project.”

Well you know, we are not family when we are acting. I am in the character and the scenes we were in together we are both in character so we are not Crispin and we are not Bruce. We are the characters. It is like good and talented actors become the characters and it has nothing to do with father and son. But when he was directing me in a scene with somebody else I might jump in and say something to the other actor about if there is stunt involved, or how to do a fall, or if I have knowledge of something I will just jump in and say something. Or he might also ask me questions of what do I think of this or that so there is an exchange. And it is not an exchange that has to do with competition of any sort. It has to do with different appreciations of each other. Enjoyment in doing the job. Not particularly thinking that this is my son…but you are, you know you are aware of it.

The art book, I’ve got so many projects going right now and I am still dealing with a lot of things that have to do with the loss of my wife you know and straightening out things. Crispin wants to work with me on the art book. And he wants me to take photographs of some of the paintings I have. He says I should do about twenty-five of them. I am a person that has so many projects going that I have to grab myself by the back of my head and say, “Okay, do this one now.” And, “Finish that one now and stop trying to do sixteen of them partially.” Right now I am still dealing with filing taxes which I am going to have to do late anyway. (laughs)

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What was it like to share the stage with the likes of Bette Davis and Anne Bancroft?

Anne Bancroft and Bette Davis. Well, I did Night of the Iguana on Broadway. That was my first Broadway show. A Tennessee Williams play. Tennessee was always around, very kind, he was kind of like a kindly old aunt. I did that play for a year.

Bette Davis when she came into the play you know, she was a great film actor and the worst stage actor I’ve ever seen. (laughs) She was acting, acting, acting, acting… She was very aware of her stardom. We were warned not to approach her and we were supposed to stand in awe of her constantly. She at times would reach out and try to be a human being.

I remember my character, I played a German and I ran around with a lovely girl in a bikini and I did cartwheels on stage. I had to do cartwheel between Bette Davis and the edge of the stage and I rehearsed it all on a flat floor and then when the first set we had was up in New York in Bette Davis’ old hometown the stage was jutting out over an orchestra pit. When I saw the stage the first time I was on it, for our first performance, I thought it is going be bad tonight. I had to do between the edge of that orchestra pit and Bette Davis a cartwheel. (laughs) And I am like, I rehearsed that on a flat floor and now I have to go out there and slowly go through it myself to get past the fear of falling. What were the two dangers? Kicking Bette Davis or falling into the orchestra pit. (laughs)

Bette Davis, I admired her. As a film actress, she was great. I ran into her briefly I went over to her table at Pinewood Restaurant when I was doing the Bond film I went over and talked and she was very haughty as always. But I wanted to come over and pay my respects. I hadn’t gone to her goodbye party, because it was on a Monday night when the whole cast went to it. I didn’t go because I couldn’t bring my wife and it was my only night alone with her so I didn’t go. I think she always took it as an insult. But again, she was overacting on Broadway but in film, she was a great actress, but she got huge applause when we had Actor’s Fun Night and all of that. Everyone was still in awe of her, but I saw her realistically.

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Now Annie Bancroft was a terrific actress and a terrific person. We were in Mother Courage. It was going to be directed by the choreographer Jerome Robbins. He was a great choreographer. My wife was a ballet dancer. I was always attracted to women who were dancers. He was a great genius, a ballet master who created wonderful work. I was a fan of his, but he had done an Off Broadway play which was brilliant and directing usually, now he was going to do Mother Courage. Somehow he got intimidated and he went over to Berlin and studied Brechtian Theory on how to do a Brechtian play. Well, Bertolt Brecht wrote great plays but he wrote all of those incredibly stupid rules about how acting should be done. There is a school of acting, that has hopefully disappeared by now, which went by all of his principles in which all actors were supposed to be duplicates of each other. There was no such thing as individuality. So you would learn these things where you would be robots. The weird thing is he wrote all of these rules but he didn’t live by the rules. The actors that he cast were Peter Lorre. Who else is like Peter Lorre? Peter was unique and special. Thanks to him I did a commercial for Bubble Yum Bubble Gum where I got the commercial because I did a Peter Lorre imitation. He demanded blowing big bubbles. (laughs) So, Bertolt Brecht, he didn’t live by his own rules. And the rules were we were supposed to be deciphers.

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Bruce in a Bubble Yum commercial.

So I didn’t meet Bancroft for two weeks of rehearsal and we were supposed to go down in the basement in groups. Whichever character we were playing would be discussed by the second and third players of the play. The rule was going to be that the roles would be changed so you had some characters you were given that were supposed to be your first character to play and then another, but you were supposed to sit in a group and discuss what it all was about.

Well, that is disgusting. I am sorry I am not going to do what anyone else does. And if I am anything as an actor it is that I will never the usual. I will be the unusual and I intend to continue that whatever I am doing, whether it be acting, or I’m writing, or I am going to be painting or whatever I am going to be doing. It is uniquely my own. Every character I play is an entirely different character.

So here we are in this discussion group and I had gotten the part, back in those days in New York you’d go to an audition wearing a suit and a tie. So I went for the audition with Jerome Robbins and the audience up there. I came in and the character I was going to be playing was the paymaster I think. I came in and kicked off my shoes and spit on my feet and took my socks and started cleaning my toes while I was doing the dialogue of this character. I turned him into this is all about the seven years of war out there in the field, living like animals with nothing but filth.

The when Jerome Robbins was letting us rehearse for each of our characters they threw a pile of stuff on the stage and let you pick out your own costume. So you’d get all of these amazing pieces of stuff and it’d turn out to be a German Expressionist kind of crazy outfit. So your individuality would take up in there but you were supposed to be discussing all of this stuff in the basement of this theatre…Bancroft was upstairs rehearsing pulling around a wagon, which Mother Courage was pulling around a wagon in the play.

I remember watching this great stage designer and I stood in the wings watching over from the side of the stages that were showing mockups of all the sets that he was going to build. And they were all built and we all had our costumes and then because Robbins was believing in the Brechtian way he took away all of our costumes. And he put us all in black tights. No one was to look like an individual. The sets that had been designed by this brilliant set designer were gone. They just had black walls, black curtains, black floors. And when I came out after two weeks to do my first scene with Anne Bancroft, I sat down on the floor, pulled off my shoes, spit on my feet, and Jerome says, “No, no, don’t sit down.”

I stood up and I took off my shoes standing and I spit on my foot and he says, “No, no, don’t take off the shoe.”

Then next thing I know he is giving me lines. Saying, “No, no, no.”

And he looks at me and comes up to me and says, “No, no, no.”

Then he walked away and I said, “Don’t walk away from me you little shit.” (laughs)

Because he had destroyed everything I was doing. That was my relationship with Annie Bancroft who was befuddled but the whole thing. There were talented actors and if they came up with something that was interesting Robbins would take it away from them because he was believing in those Brechtian Rules. So we were all going to be robots and the play, of course, failed on Broadway. Annie Bancroft was a brilliant actress and a brilliant person who never got to be…the play it just didn’t work.

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Are there any certain moments from over the course of your career that stand out most in your mind looking back today?

You know the fact is, certainly you can look artistically at different films. I’ve done over two hundred films and television shows over the years. I was in one hundred plays. Every one is unique and different. So if I say outstanding it is the fact that I did so many and everything was another opportunity to grow.

For an actor sometimes and rarely you are given an opportunity by the writers, by the director that was a wide open door and sometimes, the majority of the time you are given something that was not that good. And you’d try to improve it. And I would. I would go in and improvise and throw in lines that weren’t in the script. That is one of the reasons you make a lot of bad films better by just being unique and doing what you got to do.

So when you get a rare opportunity like working with my son, the film that we’ve done in the Czech Republic which is being edited now currently called An Untitled Crispin Hellion Glover Project. We will see what the title is eventually. Crispin, people like him and Guy Hamilton who did Diamonds Are Forever, the Bond film, and Roman Polanski are people who take somebody who has never acted before and put them in a major role in a movie. Because they see that they are alive and real.

Acting isn’t important, what is important is being a real entity. Brilliant directors see that and they don’t over direct. They look at what you are doing. And if you are a really good actor when you get into film and television you never get any comments because the poor director is rushing to the problem areas and you are not one of them. You start to wonder, “Why aren’t I getting any comments?” Well, you aren’t getting any comments because you are too good to waste the time on. Whatever you come up with if you have a good director you can discuss with him what you want to do. Like Guy Hamilton was wide open to every idea I had and a lot of the success of the humor of that film was me. Those were all my ideas. The final moment in the film where Sean Connery does that rude thing pushing the hooha up my yaha and giving that character his final great sexual moment is the biggest laugh in the movie. I remember getting a few compliments on that from the Saint, Sir Roger Moore saying it was the funniest Bond moment of all which I appreciate. I never met Roger Moore but I used to see him come into the big restaurant at Pinewood when I was shooting the Bond film. That was a six month job, three of the months were in England.

Roger Moore would come in like a Golden God. But for me, the Bond will always be Sean Connery. He is the real thing.

brucesean

How long were you in Tennessee during the time you were working on the Walking Tall films? What was your impression of the state?

I watched the state change over a period of time. The first film is a good film. I mean it is a terrific film. The second two were…you know there were different writers, different directors, different cast. The first film we had Joe Don Baker, Felton Perry, and me playing the cops. And we were great together we had good relationships and the script was well written. Buford Pusser was around constantly and we became friends.

The sense of Tennessee in that first place it had more to do with Buford being a man who protected people, his family and law rather than being a guy who liked pounding people with a club. The second and third films became more about the club and less about Buford.

The first film we were in Jackson, Tennessee in a hotel and we had a swimming pool and Felton Perry who was the black deputy and I am the white deputy, we are both two guys from Chicago. We like to play chess together. And we would play chess at the side of the pool and there’d be quite often a bunch of red-necked salesmen types running around playing high school grab ass games in the swimming pool and hating the fact that there was a white guy and black guy daring to sit at the side of their pool playing chess. Which of course they wouldn’t play anyway.

I didn’t know it until later, Felton and I had stayed in contact for years, we are still a little, but he doesn’t go to the Academy anymore so…anyway, Felton told me later that he didn’t do the second film because he had been getting abuse. People standing outside of his door and saying rude things and the n word. I didn’t know about it, and I said, “Why didn’t you come to me? Why didn’t you say anything about it?”

So let us say that my first impression of Tennessee was there was that racial kind of overhang there, but there is another strange thing about it, because being from Chicago, Chicago was divided up a lot so there was like a black neighborhood and a white neighborhood. I remember my high school there was one brother sister, young black people that she and he were both attractive and confident and they became very popular in this mostly white school. She was a cheerleader, he was on the football team. He wasn’t a typical great athlete he was like fifteenth string or something. But they were both very popular and I remember a couple of black people would like whiz through and disappear and they were like under inspection.

Now I understood it because as a kid making deliveries in Chicago when I was seven or eight years old going into the all black neighborhoods the hatred that would come at you from you being the only white person in a black neighborhood it made me understand how being a black person in a white environment was…so there was that separation strangely in Chicago days.

He told me in Chicago it wasn’t quite that bad for him. But, one of the things I noticed in spite of the sense of there being an overall racial thing in Tennessee there was also kind of more…mingling. In other words, there were more encounters in day to day and if that happens people start to get to know each other as people rather than just a color.

After Joe Don Baker and Felton either weren’t offered the second film or they decided not to, Buford was going to play himself in the second film. It was an excellent opportunity, there were good scenes in it, there was good writing, a good director, and a good producer and that makes a big difference. So the first film was different producer, different writer, different director, and a different time.

You said the impression of Tennessee, it changed. I watched it over a period of time. So the first film I don’t know we were there six weeks or something maybe eight weeks I am not sure. He (Buford) would be driven back and forth from the studio from the film set of the environment out in Tennessee to the hotel. Now the second film Buford was going to play himself and I ended up doing the screen test with him and they had built four sets in Paramount studios with the full crew to do this screen test with some dude who was like one of those old-time directors who would say “Roll them” and then, “Cut” and that was about it. There were lots of directors and they were just there and you knew not to worry about them and just do your own thing. Don’t listen to anything they say except this is where you stand, this is the line you know whatever…

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Buford and I had good times. I remember me taking his club and he grabbing the gun out of my holster playing games and stuff like that. You can see it on my Facebook. There is this whole thing where they turned it into all about the club not knowing what Buford was really like. He was a man who was protective of people, women especially. He had a great sense of family and women.

But he was also a playful dude. I remember getting into a car with him one time.

He said, “Hey can I drive you back to the hotel.”

I said, “Yeah Buford.”

And I got in the car with him and suddenly he is going 125 mph on a country road and he says, “I’m sorry I don’t seem to be able to get my speed out of this.”

And I am like, “Yeah Buford”

I know he was trying to scare the Hell out of me. (laughs) And he was, but I wouldn’t let on, but I never got into a car with him again that he was driving unless there was a woman present because he was very protective and respectful of women.

When the first film was going to be promoted they had done a stupid thing with the ads and they had this stupid ad that they were having a party after the screening of the thing and the screening was they had invited all the Sheriff’s department to see the screening. All of these producers thought they had a big hit in their hands, well they didn’t know what they had done was wrong.

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And they had this party after and the President of Bing Crosby Productions who had only been president of a perfume company before that, a nice man, called me over and said, “Come on out and greet the releaser of the film. He just saw the film tonight.”

And I said, “Oh really.”

And here is this little dude standing next to me. He said, “He did the artwork for the ad and he is going to see the film tomorrow.”

And I am looking at these other producers all drinking, they feel like they have a big success on their hands. “So you are going to release the film and you just saw it tonight? And dinky dong over here did the artwork for the ads? And he is going to see the film tomorrow?”

I said, “Gentleman, this is exactly why your film is going to go down the tubes.” These guys are looking at me like I am ruining their party. I said, “You’re running an ad that doesn’t sell the film that we’ve got.”

They had a picture of Joe Don Baker standing there with a big club sticking out of his fly like a you know what. I think the same guy must have done the Shaft in Africa ad that was done the year before. He is standing here with this big club sticking out from his groin, again club, club, club sticking out and where dumb guys start to misunderstand what a movie is about. And behind Buford over his left shoulder, where Joe Don Baker is Buford, there are two women with their see-through blouses showing their all. All of which was in the movie. These lovely women showing their all and then over the other shoulder there is a car flying through the air with machine guns shooting out of the window, well that is in the movie too. And at the bottom of the thing with the big club underneath it says, “The Story of a REAL Man.” Like ugh God.

And I said, “Gentlemen, the ad that you are running doesn’t sell our film that we did. It is going to be in the drive-in theater for about two weeks and then it is going to disappear and it is going to go down the tubes.”

And they are looking at me and I’m ruining their party, but one of the producers, a smarter guy, pulls me aside and he says, “Will you come and have lunch with me tomorrow at the Brown Derby?”

And I said, “Sure.”

He says, “Now tell me your ideas.”And I did.

And then he asked me to come over to Bing Crosby Productions the next day and give him more ideas. And I redid their ad, but it was too late for L.A, that was the ad and it did exactly what I said. It’d be in the drive-in for two weeks and then down the tubes, but they redid the ad for Chicago and the ad I did, which I had Joe Don Baker hugging his wife and two kids, and the club was just leaning against a wall behind him. And it said, “A Man Must Protect his Family and his Territory.” And then at the bottom it said: “Based on a true story.” And that is the ad that sold it in Chicago and it became the hit structure of the Walking Tall. Now, nobody is going to say that Bruce Glover saved Walking Tall, but I did. (laughs)

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You have said for anyone to be their best at their craft whatever it is they have to stop worrying what anyone else thinks of them. Do you think that is important in most aspects of life?

Yeah, absolutely. Of course, being a football player you are being an athlete. I am still an athlete even at my age. I can’t play soccer anymore. I played for thirty years. I created two teams…so anyway when you play sports you just have to look at the ball. Where is it? Who is that other player? What is going on? What do you do? You just keep moving with life. I mean you have to let life come in and affect you. And not have it so controlled. The same with art.

It was the same thing with Buford when he and I sat in front of this corny old director and did a read through. Buford read through with me. He was terrible. And then the director just stood on one foot and then the other and he wobbled out there and said, “Tell me when it is lighted.”

Buford said, “I was terrible.”

I said, “Yeah you were.”

He said, “What am I going to do?”

And I said, “This is what you’re going to do.”, and again this is how I teach acting, I said, “Buford when you should be sitting in your car and you see a car whizzing by and you decide to follow them, you’d look at their license plate and call it in and wait for any information on the license plate, then you watch how he was driving, and then you turn on your lights to make them stop, you watch how he is reacting, and then when he stops you park your car and be out a couple of feet so you wouldn’t get hit by car coming from behind, and when you approach the back of his car, you’d look to make sure there was nobody in the back seat. And in the driver’s seat, you’d look over his shoulder to make sure he didn’t have any weapons. And when he got out of the car you’d watch his hands and watch him and make sure, that he was not holding a weapon and you’d be looking at his eyes, and when he talked to you, you’d be watching how he is talking. You’d watch how he responded to what you were saying.”

He said, “Yeah I do all of those things.”

I said, “Well that is how you act.”

And he went, “Oh. Okay.”

And he was terrific. He got it. And that was my acting lesson to him, just do the real things. And he was going to be terrific.

When I had my boys, Crispin was up at a Boy Scout camp and Buford just had one little piece of dialogue and I was already out of costume. I was going to go up and meet Crispin at this Boy Scouts camp. And Buford was always all about family.

And I said, “Buford, you don’t need me for this.”

And he said, “No I’ll see you in Tennessee.”

I reached up and goosed him and he said, “I’ll get you in Tennessee.” and we both walked out laughing. And then he was murdered of course. What a loss it was. So anyway I watched Tennessee change, to continue that thing about Tennessee, over the next two films. The two films were all about the club but I watched Tennessee change and it became more integrated and restaurants changed and you could now bring your own bottle in. I made friends with a couple of local blacks who would take me to nightclubs and I’d be the only white person in it. I learned a lot about dancing by learning how their rhythm was working. My wife being a dancer we used to dance together a lot. So I learned a lot in Tennessee the one thing I did learn was different writers, different producers, different things I think the Walking Tall went way off base and they lost the real Buford.

bruceandbetty

Is it true that when Crispin’s mother married you she thought, “Who am I marrying?” when she first saw that Hellion wasn’t your real middle name? What was she like as a person? What did you love most about her?

That she wanted me. She wanted me from the first she saw me. She made me know it and she made me want her. And I did. And she was smart and tough and brave. She was a terrific dancer. I did dancing too, I did an Off Broadway show for a year where I did East Indian Kathakali dancing. But she and I used to dance together. She was a terrific, strong woman, she had the physicality of a dancer with all the muscles. The brightness of her face and her eyes. She was a brilliant woman. And she grabbed me and made me marry her, Betty. And I miss her every day. We had fifty-six years of marriage and it’s three years almost now since she died. And she dies every day as far as I am concerned. I will never not miss her every minute. I mean I miss her every day.

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How did becoming a father change your outlook on the world?

Well, of course being a father is not too dissimilar to being an older brother protecting his little sisters and his little brother who eventually came along. You have to teach your child and I remember being born, literally.

So before Crispin was born I started talking to him. Putting my mouth on my wife’s tummy and talking to Crispin and playing classical music. Putting classical music on her stomach.

I think you have to have an influence and your responsibility to a child is to give to them and help them grow and to stimulate them with things. I did that and his mother did that.

The idea is not to make him conform to your way of doing things but to help them find their way of doing it which is what I believe any teaching has to be.

I used to pose for art classes and the best teachers were those that didn’t teach anything. They just went around approving of what everyone was doing. I remember there was one teacher up at the Art Institute of Chicago, I posed in his class and he just went around telling everyone how great their stuff was and he was right. (laughs) All these other people criticizing even at the Art Institute were destructive. And I don’t think you need to criticize you just need to show people life and let them live it and live their art.

So a child has to be shown…stuff and let them reach out for it. His mother did and I did. Crispin had the benefit of both of us and he had the benefit of our genes and lots of brain cells in there, from both of us. And that is being a good parent as far as I am concerned.

crispinasachildbruce

What was Crispin like as a child growing up? How did it feel to have him direct you in It Is Fine! Everything is Fine. ? What are your personal feelings on that particular film?

As a little kid, he was very brave. I was in New York City. I remember him walking miles without even looking around to see if I was following him. He would climb up rocks with me, of course, I was right behind him to make sure he didn’t fall but he’d just climb. He was always very brave and curious, and he didn’t whine and cry a lot. He never crawled. The first time he got out of his crib he didn’t crawl he stood up and walked. So he had a sense, from the moment he was born he had a sense of looking around and seeing life and I guess I had already introduced him to lots of that before he was born where I used to talk to him.

Working with him as a director… is fine. He is smart enough to recognize if what you are doing is good and direction is collaboration. We still will collaborate on future things. He is a terrific director. He is smart. He is my son too. In the long run, you know the love is there and the caring and the appreciation of each of us and our talents. So again, Crispin was great to work with. I don’t know if I’ll get to have him direct me in something else again or maybe I’ll get to direct him in something. I’m writing scripts too.

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Bruce & Crispin at the premiere of “American Gods” season 2.

You have said that Cripsin, as a director has an eye for talent when it comes to casting people who have never acted before. Where do you think that ability comes from ?

I think that is just the seeing of real.

I mentioned it earlier. That Guy Hamilton had it for Diamonds Are Forever the Bond film where he took Putter Smith who had never acted before so I am playing bass fiddle with Thelonious Monk and he said, “That’s got to be one of the guys.”

So he just saw that there was a quality that Putter Smith had. It was a gift to me. He didn’t know how much of a help he was, but he gave me something to bounce off of in creating my own character in looking at his character. Since it was a rare kind of movie where for the first time in history two characters were being identified as gay. There were some strange guys.

There were more in Chicago and New York, well you know they are everywhere and great people mostly. Betty had a lot of gay friends around so that was one of the things I didn’t want to do when I did the character in the Bond film. I didn’t want to do that buddy of Betty’s going, “Oh if you two get divorced. I don’t know which one I am going to marry.” (laughs)

People are people. It doesn’t matter if you want to hump…an elephant or not. Keep it to yourself. (laughs)

bglover9

As an artist yourself, what do you love most about the act of creation in all of its various forms?

Just the experiencing of it, the doing of it. Sometimes the results fit in the changing of it. And the learning process. That it is a constant learning. And if you are not learning while you are doing an art then you are not doing it right.

Good actors never know quite what is going to be I think. There are actors that come across as good because they do the same thing over and over, and at the end of the night, they are so great looking that they get away with it.

bglover8

Are there any little known things about you that people might be surprised to know?

I suppose the Dyslexia, which I mentioned. What my theory is, is if you have a talent for something, you should do it. You don’t have to learn how. Do it. And that is one of the things I do as a teacher and I hardly have any classes anymore because all of these people who are bad teachers spend a lot of money advertising. So, if anybody is smart enough to come to me, I will help them.

One of the things they won’t know and might be surprised to learn is that I am very kind. And I want to help people. And that is what I would get out of teaching, is seeing somebody grow, but most people only listen so much and they don’t do the work that they have to do. I mean the working class dude that you asked me about earlier, that is true of…everything. If you don’t do the work you are not going to be very good at it. If you don’t take some chances you are not going to get there.

You have to take chances. I took a lot of chances as an actor where you would just barge into places and just do things and if you got a part you might change it and never discuss with anyone what you were going to do.

One of the things that I am, I suppose, is that I totally, outrageously…don’t live by the rules. The rules have to be found out now. Now I change the rules, now I have to do these rules. And you have to look at to some degree, a certain amount of balance about how you care for people and take care of them.

I suppose maybe, that might one of the things. Like Crispin…we are kind to people. We like people, but we are not going to be pushed around. (laughs)

bruceg1

What would say is the key to a life well lived?

Living it. You know, every minute. Being in the moment. Not being afraid. Taking the pain when it comes and living that too. Live, live, live and that is what it really is all about.

How do you hope to be remembered when your time comes?

Ah, who cares? I’ll be dead. (laughs)

bruceglover

Is there anything else you’d like to say in closing?

Live your life. That is what I try to do and whatever part of it that you are in right now. Be in it. Get through it. If it is great, it is great. If it is not great, live through it. Do work. You have to be working on something. If you are not creating something you are not living. You have to create stuff that is not abuse of a lot of people. Create something that educates people. Be an educator, be a protector and by protecting others you protect yourself. Your own integrity is to constantly learn. Learn something new every day. If you are not learning you are dead.

I’ve been close to death many times and even the death process is kind of a learning process.

I remember I had a motorcycle accident where I knew I was going to die. I ran into a cow that had ran out on the side of the road. A big steer with horns coming right at my face. And I knew I was going to die, but I noticed that his mouth was slopping his tongue out. And I laughed. So even at that moment when I knew I was probably going to die, I found it funny (laughs).

I had another moment where I was going to be struck in the face by a rattlesnake while I was climbing a cliff in Utah. And as it was striking at me I still noticed how beautiful it was.

So live it til the end and laugh when you can.

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(Author’s note: My deepest thanks to Mark Kinnaman who took the time to call and record this interview,  as well as Bruce Glover, himself for giving of his time so graciously).