It has been about a week and a half since my last entry. I don’t know why, but I felt like I needed a bit of a break. As I said to my blogging friend Belle, going to the computer and writing was starting to feel like a trip to the dentist. I needed to recharge my batteries. I needed inspiration. I needed something to get me motivated. I needed…Billy Jack.
For those of you under 30 (hell, under 40), I’d better explain. Billy Jack was a movie that was released in 1971, and was written and produced by a guy named Tom Laughlin, who also starred in the film as Indian half-breed Billy Jack, a Vietnam war veteran who was trained in the martial art of hapkido. He lived in the hills of Arizona with an old Indian holy man, and protected a group of students at a small alternative school run by a woman named Jean, portrayed by Delores Taylor, Laughlin’s wife. Jean was a staunch pacifist, but Billy Jack knew that in order to really get results, you needed to beat the shit out of people every once in awhile.
The film was actually the second in a series of films that Laughlin produced for the Billy Jack character, but it was by far the most popular, grossing around 65 million dollars. The first in the series was produced in 1967. The Born Losers was about a motorcycle gang that terrorized the citizens of a small California town, and even though Billy Jack was also a biker, he fought the gangsters to protect a young lady who was going to testify against them. Then came Billy Jack, a movie that Laughlin had written the script for all the way back in 1954. After the enormous popularity of the film came 1974’s The Trial of Billy Jack, which was not a critical success, but was best known for it’s marketing. Yeah, you heard me…it’s marketing. While most films of that period would open in a few cities to gauge audience opinion, The Trial of Billy Jack opened nationwide on the same day, and ran series of commercials to promote the movie on the nightly news. In 1977, the fourth and final movie of the Billy Jack franchise was released. Billy Jack Goes To Washington was a critical and box office bomb, but it did provide some irony for Laughlin’s next decade.
In 1992, Tom Laughlin sought the Democratic Party nomination for president, telling his hometown Milwaukee newspaper, The Sentinal, “I’m the least qualified person I know to be president, except George Bush.” While on the campaign trail that year, he referred to one of his challengers as “a sleazebag…I despise him.” I think everyone was waiting for him to open up a can of whoop-ass on the other guy…maybe even on George Bush! He ran again, this time as a Republican, in the 2004 primary, and again as a Democrat in 2008.
Maybe the country needs Billy Jack for president. After all, in the 1971 film he did a pretty good job of telling the public what was wrong with our country, and seemed willing to listen to anyone who had a better idea. Also during the movie, he became a brother to the snake, and survived being bitten by a rattlesnake during an Indian ceremony. Who wouldn’t want a president that was the brother to the snake? Most of all, who wouldn’t want a president that could beat the shit out of any of our enemies?
Billy Jack seems very campy by today’s standards, but it subscribes to my philosophy on life…everything seems like the thing to do at the time. For 1971, it was just what young Americans needed to show that someone was on their side…someone was listening to them…someone believed in them.
No one from the Billy Jack cast went on to bigger fame. In fact, about the only person I recognize from the film is Howard Hessman, best known as WKRP’s Dr. Johnny Fever. In fact, most of the actors in the film didn’t do ANY other films other than Billy Jack. One was Laughlin and Taylor’s babysitter. Another was Laughlin’s daughter. You get the picture. Small budget, big return.
Just take a look at this trailer…it’s inspiring, it’s exhilarating…and it’s a great way to break out of a blog-slump!