Saturday, November 5, 2011

Drivin' hard...Ridin' easy

Back in 1974 I wanted to be Larry Rayder from the film Dirty Mary Crazy Larry.

I thought Peter Fonda was the coolest actor in the world. Since his role as Wyatt in Easy Rider, nobody had a handle on laid-back counter-culture cool like Fonda. Before Easy Rider in 1968, Fonda had already starred in countless TV shows and movies. Once Easy Rider hit, he became the unofficial spokesperson for a generation already embracing anti-authoritarian psychedelia, acid-rock, and movies far from the Hollywood fray. Fonda's movies "spoke" to youth tired of being force-fed the hypocritical trappings of their parents. His connection to 1960s kids only strengthened once Easy Rider took hold.

Shortly after Easy Rider, Fonda directed an obscure, elegiac, Western called The Hired Hand, which, like Monte Hellman's early 70s oaters, was anti-Western, opposing the tired Hollywood take on the wild west favoring, instead, deep character study.

But it wasn't long before Fonda moved into action-movie mode (around 1974). And it was during this phase that I started to watch the actor more intently. With Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Fonda advanced his anti-authoritarian disposition that appealed to kids at my age. I found myself attempting to adopt Fonda's onscreen persona. I tried to be laid back, not easily flustered, cool with the chicks - all with a slight chip on my shoulder. But, at the age of 14, which was how old I was when I first saw Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, I failed at all of these things. The one thing I could handle at that age was Fonda's style of dress - jeans, boots, denim shirts, aviator style sunglasses, etc. But again, for me at 14, this 'look' struggled to fly.

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry became my La Dolce Vita (supposedly the film Roger Ebert dreamed of emulating). I wanted to run the countryside as an outlaw in a Dodge Charger with a girl like Mary (Susan George) by my side.

But at 14, without a driver's license or the attention of a chick like Susan George, this never happened.

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