Billy Jack

I found it very difficult to get up out of bed.  I heard the very bad news from Belgium and thought about whether the world was getting worse.  I walked out to the grocery store, noting that the morning was rather cold.  I wanted to get out to Jack London Square to catch a movie because it was a bargain Tuesday.  I got to the theatre early and took a seat.  At first, I thought I would be the only one there to watch “Deadpool.”  I guess I liked it a bit more the second time, although I didn’t truly like it.  I felt like I was watching Jim Carrey in “Kick-Ass.”  I was the only person who stayed until the end and the Ferris Bueller bit.  I went over to the Cupcakin’ Bake Shop and bought a chocolate orange cupcake for two dollars.  I thought it was pretty good.  I browsed through the record stores before returning home and taking a nap.  I thought about watching one of my Criterion Collection discs, but I sat down to watch “Billy Jack” on television.  A lot of the acting had that awkward, amateur feel, and most of the songs and improvisations felt like filler material.  I noticed that Howard Hesseman was in the cast.  Tom Laughlin is the star of the show, though, and he is the one with the strongest presence on the screen.  I thought it was quite strange that in an ice cream shop, a barrel of flour should be handy for some to make a racist statement, but apparently the scene was based on something that really happened.  It sure seems contradictory to promote a peace-loving philosophy in the form of the Freedom School while having the hero be a hapkido master who kicks people on the side of the head.  Laughlin seems to anticipate the martial arts movie craze of the 1970s.  The fight scene in the park felt refreshing as a break from those kids in the school.  I had the feeling that they were getting a useless education there.  Jean’s life’s work was supposed to be that school, but what she should have been teaching them was some depth and discipline in their thinking.  Why aren’t they learning about math, biology, or physics?  One of the rules of her school was no drugs, but Dr. Johnny Fever made marijuana jokes in the Cheech and Chong vein during one of those role-playing games.  Tom Laughlin said that he once beat up Gene Wilder, who lived in the same neighborhood when the two were youths.  Laughlin would play football for Marquette University, and he tried out for the Chicago Cardinals.  It’s funny how both would gain fame, although Wilder would do greater things with Mel Brooks and also the role of Willy Wonka.  Maybe in those days people like Jean didn’t think that she needed security measures at the school, but she shouldn’t have gone swimming naked.  I thought the bit with The Star-Spangled Banner was not so funny.  I could see that it took a while to complete filming because one of the scenes showed a football schedule from 1969.  I wondered if there was any influence from “Easy Rider.”  If you think about this movie, it doesn’t make too much sense, and Billy Jack seems like not much of a hero.  When he was cornered in a building, there were shades of “Cool Hand Luke,” although this sequence is drawn out.  Billy Jack shoots at the police.  The song that added something to the picture was “One Tin Soldier,” although its lyrics were melodramatic.  The kids give Billy Jack a fist in the air salute at the end, but I would have thought that at least some of them would have reservations about his violent actions.  I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving the television on for “The Trial of Billy Jack.”  The idea seemed like a real farce.  Laughlin was nearly forty when he started filming “Billy Jack.”  You’d think that he would have given a lot of thought to his material at that age.  This was not a film for adults, who looked at it with a critical eye.  One interesting fact about the first Billy Jack movie, “The Born Losers,” is that Jane Russell is in the cast.  “The Trial of Billy Jack” really influenced the way that films are promoted and released.  Laughlin wouldn’t stop coming up with Billy Jack ideas.  I would think that he would have had a way to insert Billy Jack into the current presidential campaign.  Laughlin had cancer in 2001, and suffered from poor health in 2007.  He would suffer strokes, and he died of complications from pneumonia at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California on December 12, 2013.  I would think that up until the end of his days, he was always asked when he would make another Billy Jack movie.  He wouldn’t have been able to do those kicks when he was eighty years old.  Delores Taylor is still alive and is 83 years old.  She married Tom Laughlin in 1954.  I stayed up to watch Jack Lemmon on the Tonight Show rerun from March 18, 1982.  He didn’t look too old, as he would in the late 1980s, and he discussed the movie “Missing.”  I think of this as his last great movie role, although he would be in “Glengarry Glen Ross” in 1992.  Lemmon would die of cancer on June 27, 2001.  Some of the people who died on March 23 include Peter Lorre (1964), Edwin O’Connor (1968), Giulietta Masina (1994), and Elizabeth Taylor (2011).  Today is a birthday for Keri Russell (40) and Chaka Khan (63).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for March 23, “Truth or Consequences” made its debut on NBC radio in 1940.  In 1973, New York judge Ira Fieldsteel ruled that John Lennon had to leave the United States within 60 days.  In 1985, John Fogerty reached Number One on the album chart with “Centerfield.”  In 1999, Ricky Martin’s single “Livin’ la Vida Loca” was released.  In 2011, Elizabeth Taylor died of congestive heart failure at age 79 at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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