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Saturday, January 14, 2006

You know, for a pacifist, you're quite brutal.

So enthralled were those who read my post about Billy Jack the other day (all right, it was only Stew) that I decided I should follow up on the tale.

I called Tom Laughlin and asked for an interview, but he said he'd be busy all day watching film of himself kicking a stunt man in the crotch for his new film Billy Jack's Crusade. Mrs. Tom Laughlin (DAMN HER PACIFISM) helpfully told me that, if I wanted to find out more about Billy Jack, I should go and meet the real article, the actual Billy Jack on whom the films are all based. Surprised as I was that there was a real Billy Jack, she explained that they had to base the film on someone, as it's quite hard to make up characters when the cast and crew are all as baked as the pavement on an Albuquerque summer day.

I caught a late flight out to Phoenix, Arizona, and then took a rental car 600 miles into New Mexico, because Mrs. Laughlin's directions were about as clear as a Billy Jack scenario. I arrived at a small, deserted one-mule town called Laughlinville on the vast Navajo Indian reservation, where I had a chance to speak with a middle-aged and still menacing-looking Mr. Jack. We talked in his front room, which was an abandoned shack furnished entirely with folding chairs stamped with the logo "Tom Laughlin School for Pacifist Hippie Children".

Just in case you're wondering, he wore the hat.

**********

Earl: Billy Jack, it's good to finally meet you in person.

B.J.: You got any peyote on you?

Earl: Erm...no, sorry? Peyote, did you say?

B.J.: Never mind. Umm. It was for a friend.

Earl: Billy... do you mind if I call you Billy?

B.J.: Just don't call me "Jack".

Earl: Whatever fries your sausages, mate. Anyway, I wanted to start by asking you how you felt about the films about your life.

B.J.: Earl, I want you to know... that I try.

Earl: Try what...

B.J.: When Jean and the kids at the school tell me that I'm supposed to control my violent temper, and be passive and nonviolent like they are, I try. I really try. Though when I see those films...films of such a beautiful spirit... so degraded by Leonard Maltin... and that boy Tom... that I love... sprawled out rhetorically by that bigape Ebert... and this little girl, Mrs. Tom Laughlin, who is so special to us we call her "God's little gift of sunshine"... and I think of the number of years that she's going to have to carry in her memory... the savagery of those idiotic reviews of theirs... I... just... go... BERSERK!

(Earl's note: It was at this point that Mr. Jack delivered a swift kick to my sternum, followed by several chops to, in order, my cranium, left shoulder, liver, right heel, and right pinky fingernail, the crazy bastard.)

Earl: (spitting out blood) You crazy bastard! Why did you do that?

B.J.: I'm sorry. Even though I'm a committed pacifist, sometimes my temper gets the best of me.

Earl: (Staggering to my feet) Well...I suppose I can forgive you this time... but knock it off! That really hurt!

B.J.: Sorry!

Earl: Anyway, I'm not responsible for the film reviews. I just wanted your take on how accurate the films were in comparison with your real life.

B.J.: Earl... Earl, I want you to know... that I try. when Jean and the kids at the school tell me that I'm supposed to control my violent temper, and be passive and nonviolent like the people who play them in the picture are, I try. I really try. Though when I see those films...films of such a beautiful spirit... so accurately capture the brutality of this world... and that boy Tom... that I love... play me with such ferocious and egocentric devotion... and this little girl, Mrs. Tom Laughlin, who is so special to us we call her "God's little gift of sunshine"...

Earl: (Sensing the danger) Erm...I think you said that part before.

B.J.: and I think of the number of years that she's going to have to carry in her memory... difficulties she endured to bring my tale to the screen... I... just...

Earl: Oh, bloody hell.

B.J.: go... BERSERK!

(Earl's note: This time Billy Jack kicks me square in the face, then the neck, then the face again, then the neck, the neck, the neck, the ribs, the neck, the pelvis, the neck, the pelvis, the groin, the neck and for good measure, he pulls out a shotgun and fires both barrels full of rock salt into my back as I lay sprawled out on the floor. Then he kicks me in the neck again. I'd have been killed if I weren't wearing my extremely durable "Highbury Final Season" Arsenal jersey with my name stitched on the back.)

Earl: (Coughing up blood) Billy... I thought... you weren't going... to do that... again.

B.J.: (Helping me up into one of the chairs) Sorry! Sorry, Earl! Man! I just don't know what's gotten into me today. I'm normally much more in control of my temper than this.

Earl: This does... (spits tooth out) explain why no one else... lives within 10 miles of the place.

B.J.: Please continue. Here you, can tie me to the chair, if that will make you feel more comfortable.

Earl: That sounds like a good idea. (I tie him to the chair with the rope he provides.) Now, erm... let's find a good question to pick back up with. What is your happiest childhood memory?

B.J.: Bernard...

Earl: Earl.

B.J.: Earl, I want you to know... that I'll try to answer that question. When Jean and the kids at the school tell me that I'm supposed to control my violent temper, and be passive and nonviolent like they are, I try. I really try. Though when I think of my childhood...

Earl: Here we go again...

B.J.: ...a childhood of such a beautiful spirit... so degraded by war and bigotry against people who enjoy mind-altering substances... and this boy... that I was and loved... sprawled out by the bigapes from the Department of Indian Affairs...

Earl: I hope those knots are going to hold.

B.J.: and this little girl, that my mother dressed me up as, who was so special to us we call her "God's little gift of sunshine"... and I think of the number of years that she's going to have to carry in her memory... the... the...

Earl: ...the savagery...

B.J.: ...Right..the savagery of being dressed up like a Barbie doll by her...I mean his mentally unstable mother... I...

Earl: Ropes, do your stuff, lads!

B.J.: ...just...

Earl: Hope they're not hemp based...

B.J.: ...go... (Billy Jack suddenly stops, looks at the ropes around him, takes a deep breath and relaxes.)

Earl: (wipes sweat from brow...blood from lip...carefully adjusts compound fracture)

B.J.: (after a sixty second pause) ...BERSERK!

(Earl's note: Billy Jack snaps off the ropes, which I later discover were old cheap prop ropes from an unfinished production Billy Jack Goes to the Goodwill Games, he then kicks me in 117 different parts of my body, shoots me with two different handguns, and attempts to strangle me with the rope, finally giving up after realizing just how cheap and flimsy it is.)

Earl: (adjusting spine) Billy...(adjusts separated shoulder) Billy... (quickly fashions splint for shattered tailbone) Billy...

B.J.: Sorry, Earl... I really should have skipped the coffee today, eh?

Earl: Billy, I want you to know... that I tried. When Jean and the kids at the school told you that you're supposed to control your violent temper, and be passive and nonviolent like they are, you should have tried. I mean really tried...

B.J.: Oh, I get it... you're teasing me now, Earl. Turn the old man's words on him. I understand.

Earl: You don't understand the flippin' half of it mate.

**********

I didn't bother finishing the speech. I found out later from the kids at the Laughlin School that, stoned as they were, they could hear the screams ten miles away. I left Billy Jack at that point in our conversation, I left him with his inner demons, torturing his peaceful spirit with temptations of violence. I left him with his distinctive hat and his inimitable style of speaking and battling his many enemies. I left him with his royalties from the movies and his life-sized personally autographed photo of Tom Laughlin and Mrs. Tom Laughlin, who you can see, barely, just over Tom's shoulder in the car in the distance. I left him with his bleak and lonely future.

More to the point, I left him with a broken spine, a fractured skull, a dislocated prostate, and a folding chair up his arse, the stupid git.

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