Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Looks like books are coming to an end

From the pen of To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee comes a downbeat letter written in September of 2008, at a time when a flurry of worrying developments in the world of traditional book publishing had seemingly brought about - in Lee's words - "the last of the wine". Just months earlier the CEO of HarperCollins, Jane Friedman, had simultaneously surprised and worried many in the industry by leaving her post; at the same time Harper Lee's agent was finding it impossible to secure a reprint of Mockingbird, one of the world's most celebrated novels and Lee's only published book. Then, on September 22nd, New York Magazine sounded the death knell by way of this widely read article, entitled 'The End'.

Clearly that was enough for Harper Lee.

Transcript follows.

Recommended reading: To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Anniversary Edition.


22 Sep. '08

Dear Jonathan:

Thank you so much for the LEAVES OF GRASS. It will probably be the last edition, because the news in NY Magazine of 22 September is not good. Looks like books are coming to an end. My agent can’t get M’bird placed anywhere as a reprint. My own publisher, one of the biggest houses, is going out of business! Guess this is the last of the wine.



Monday, 30 August 2010

I was not an actress but rather a victim of degradation

October, 1986: In response to an autograph request from a fan, actress Linda Boreman writes the following angry note. Fourteen years previous, in 1972, Boreman, under her stage name Linda Lovelace, had starred in a hardcore pornographic movie that would go on to become the highest grossing x-rated film of all time: Deep Throat; it wasn't until the late 1970s that such claims of abuse - at the hands of then-husband and production manager on the movie, Chuck Traynor - began to surface.

Transcript follows.

Recommended reading: Ordeal: The Truth Behind Deep Throat.


You say you have repeatly written for a signature. Let me explain you should read my book "Ordeal" in it you will learn I was not a star or actress but rather an unwilling participant and victim of degradation. I find it difficult when people say they admire my films.


Friday, 27 August 2010

Some mean man killed my dady too

Above: Monroe Young Jr. III

On November 22nd of 1963, whilst travelling through Dealey Plaza in an open-top limousine, then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy was tragically shot dead; millions of stunned people around the world immediately began to mourn. On December 1st, 1963, just over a week later, a young empathetic schoolboy named Monroe Young Jr. wrote the following heartbreaking letter of support and sent it to the late-President's widow, Jacqueline.

Transcript follows. This letter, and many others of a similar nature, can be found in the book Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation.

Decembr 1, 1963

in 1962 September 23,

Some mean man killed my dady too - here in Dallas - my dady was a soldrer.

Sanda Clause diden get my letter

i hope he will get my letter. i wont a bicycle-

when you write him- tell him my name-

Monroe Young Jr. III

1838 Nomas. Street
Dallas, Tex.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

I will never be the next Rene Zellwegger

Today, a short but humorous letter of thanks - and briefly annotated envelope - from 2003; sent by Zach Galifianakis to Ryan McKee and Ron Babcock, founders of a fledgling comedy magazine named Modest Proposal that ran for just six issues until its demise in 2006. Galifianakis had recently been interviewed for the publication and the letter below, handwritten in Vancouver whilst "vomitting out [his] lines" on the set of the ill-fated drama Tru Calling, was sent in response to a copy of the magazine he had since received.

Transcript follows.


Ryan & Rob-

Thanks for sending me a copy of Modest Proposal - I quite enjoyed it.

I am currently in Vancouver vomitting out my lines. It is splendid here. I only work two days a week and spend the rest of my time looking for my wallet. There is a thing here called "pot" - I am thinking about trying it.

I trust all is well in Arizona. Good luck with the magazine. Thanks Again.


Zach Galifianakis
professional something
I will never be the next Rene Zellwegger

No matter how much try

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


It could have been so different. From the archives of Paramount we have a memo—written in April of 1987 to the studio's Head of Network TV—detailing the acting talent then being considered for various roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation, a programme that would begin to grace the small screen just five months later. A few observations: at this juncture, Patrick Stewart was already a favourite for Picard, alongside Patrick Bauchau; Brent Spiner wasn't even being considered for the role he eventually took, as Data; a young man by the name of Wesley Snipes was in the running for the part of Geordi, a role ultimately filled by LeVar Burton but seemingly close to being taken by Reggie Jackson; Jenny Agutter at least read for the part of Beverly, and there was, as of yet, no sign of a certain Wil Wheaton, the youngster who eventually played her son, Wesley Crusher.

Transcript follows.

DATE: APRIL 13, 1987

Per your request, following is a list of actors who are being considered for their respective roles in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.


Patrick Stewart
Mitch Ryan
Roy Thinnes
Yaphet Kotto
Patrick Bauchau


Lianne Langland
Julia Nickson
Rosalind Chao
Leah Ayers
Bunty Bailey


Mark Lindsay Chapman
Eric Menyuk
Kevin Peter Hall (also for Geordi)
Kelvin Han Yee


Michael O'Gorman
Gregg Marx
Jonathan Frakes
Ben Murphy


LeVar Burton
Reggie Jackson
Tim Russ
Wesley Snipes
Victor Love
Chip McCallister
Clarence Gilyard Jr.
Kevin Peter Hall


Anne Twomey
Jenny Augutter
Cheryl McFadden


Denise Crosby


J.D. Roth

The above actors will be brought in to read for Gene Roddenberry starting next week. However, Patrick Bauchau did come in to read for Gene today for the role of "Picard." His reading was well received; he and Patrick Stewart seem to be the favorites for the role of "Picard."

For the role of "Ryker," Michael O'Gorman seems to be a favorite. He's sort of an atypical choice for the role, however, a good one.

Denise Crosby seems to be the only possibility for the role of "Troi" at this point; the same for J.D. Roth for the role of "Wesley."

There are several contenders for "Tasha," "Geordi," and "Data." However, Rosalind Chao seems to be a favorite for "Tasha"; Reggie Jackson for "Geordi"; and Mark Lindsay Chapman for "Data."

For the role of "Beverly," Cheryl McFadden is the favorite. However, her schedule may pose a problem. She's currently performing in a play in San Diego.

General reading sessions are continuing; our next one is on April 14.

cc: Jeff Hayes

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Thomas Pynchon on plagiarism

1977: Romance novelist Lucilla Andrews' autobiography, No Time for Romance, is published. In it, she describes, in detail, her experiences as a nurse during World War II.
2001: Atonement - an Ian McEwan novel in which the heroine at one point works as a wartime nurse - is released to much critical acclaim. In the book, Lucilla Andrews is acknowledged as a source.
25th Nov., 2006: Following Andrews' death, a British 'newspaper' prints an article accusing McEwan of plagiarism in relation to the late-novelist's memoirs.
27th Nov., 2006: McEwan immediately responds, saying, in part:
For certain long-outdated medical practices, she was my sole source and I have always been grateful to her. I have openly acknowledged my debt to her in the author's note at the end of Atonement, and ever since on public platforms.
December, 2006: A number of prominent authors jump to McEwan's defence. Below, a particularly notable letter of support from reclusive author Thomas Pynchon, sent to his British publisher.

Transcript follows.

Recommended reading: Atonement.


Given the British genius for coded utterance, this could all be about something else entirely, impossible on this side of the ocean to appreciate in any nuanced way-- but assuming that it really is about who owns the right to describe using gentian violet for ringworm, for heaven's sake, allow me a gentle suggestion. Oddly enough, most of us who write historical fiction do feel some obligation to accuracy. It is that Ruskin business about "a capacity responsive to the claims of fact, but unoppressed by them." Unless we were actually there, we must turn to people who were, or to letters, contemporary reporting, the Internet until, with luck, we can begin to make a few things of our own up. To discover in the course of research some engaging detail we know can be put into a story where it will do some good can hardly be classed as a felonious act-- it is simply what we do. The worst you can call itis a form of primate behavior. Writers are naturally drawn, chimpanzee-like, to the color and the music of this English idiom we are blessed to have inherited. When given the choice we will usually try to use the more vivid and tuneful among its words. I cannot of course speak for Mr. McEwan's method of proceeding, but should be very surprised indeed if something of the sort, even for brief moments, had not occurred during his research for Atonement. Gentian violet! Come on. Who among us could have resisted that one?

Memoirs of the Blitz have borne indispensable witness, and helped later generations know something of the tragedy and heroism of those days. For Mr. McEwan to have put details from one of them to further creative use, acknowledging this openly and often, and then explaining it clearly and honorably, surely merits not our scolding, but our gratitude.

Monday, 23 August 2010

More close-ups, more money

As U.S. audiences continued to be wowed by Hedy Lamarr's glamorous turn in Algiers, Oscar-winning movie producer David O. Selznick was both blatant and determined in his efforts to capitalise on the natural beauty of Ingrid Bergman whilst filming her Hollywood debut - Intermezzo - in 1938; so much so that he wrote the following memo to the movie's director, editor and production manager towards the end of shooting and, whilst pointing out that 'every beautiful shot we get of her is a great deal of money added to the returns on the picture', demanded more close-ups of the Swedish actress.

Transcript follows.

Highly recommended reading: Memo from David O. Selznick : The Creation of "Gone with the Wind" and Other Motion Picture Classics, as Revealed in the Producer's Private Letters, Telegrams, Memorandums, and Autobiographical Remarks.

Messers. Klune, Ratoff, and Kern


7/11/39 (Dictated 7/10/39)

As I have said so often, I think the success of "Intermezzo" is to an unusual extent dependent upon how beautifully we can photograph Miss Bergman. If we can get the public talking about her to an extent comparable to that in which they talked about Miss Lamar in "Algiers", we will have added a great deal to the gross of our picture, as well as increasing the possibility of our having a new star. Bear in mind that Miss Lamar did not give a performance that anybody could estimate and to this day it is not known whether or not she is an actress; and that her success is traceable entirely to half a dozen or a dozen close-ups that Jimmy Howe made of her.

I think we should spare no trouble to get comparable close-ups of Miss Bergman. Every beautiful shot we get of her is a great deal of money added to the returns on the picture and I urge that Mr. Kern and Mr. Ratoff start to work on a list of where re-take close-ups might be made. I don't even care if the photography is acceptable or very good in the shot we have presently. If an important close-up can be made, it should be made. It might even be possible to pick these up at odd times but if a whole day or two days or even three days were involved in making them, I would still want to make them.

I suggest that Mr. Kern and Mr. Ratoff talk this over with Mr. Toland after Mr. Kern has spotted various places in the cut material where we might insert these. I would like, if possible, to pick up some of them even in advance of our first preview as I think even the first preview reaction on the picture is going to be to a large extent dependent upon whether we achieve an outstanding result photographically with Miss Bergman.


Friday, 20 August 2010

Be an unbeatable person and avenge my death

On the evening of May 23rd, 1945, in the Japanese town of Chiran, Masanobu Kuno sat down and hand-wrote the following farewell letter to his 5-year-old son, Masanori, and 2-year-old daughter, Kiyoko. The next day, Captain Kuno proudly boarded his explosive-laden aircraft, took to the skies and, as did thousands of other Kamikaze pilots during World War II, deliberately flew his plane into an Allied warship as part of the Battle of Okinawa.

Translated transcript follows.

(Source: Bill Gordon; Image: Masanobu Kuno, via.)

Dear Masanori and Kiyoko,

Even though you can't see me, I'll always be watching you. When you grow up, follow the path you like and become a fine Japanese man and woman. Do not envy the fathers of others. Your father will become a god and watch you two closely. Both of you, study hard and help out your mother with work. I can't be your horse to ride, but you two be good friends. I am a cheerful person who flew a large bomber and finished off all the enemy. Please be an unbeatable person like your father and avenge my death.

From Father

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Death List

On August 9th of 1969, four members of Charles Manson's 'Family' followed his orders and carried out the murders of actress Sharon Tate and four of her friends. Three months later it was revealed that Steve McQueen - a friend of the victims who, since the murders, had carried a gun at all times - featured on a hit-list of Manson's known as the 'Death List', alongside various other celebrities.

An understandably cautious McQueen wrote the following letter in October of 1970 and sent it to his lawyer, Edward Rubin.

Transcript follows.

Recommended reading: Steve McQueen: A Tribute to the King of Cool.


October 17, 1970

Mr. Edward Rubin
Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp
6380 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90048

Dear Eddie:

As you know, I have been selected by the Manson Group to be marked for death, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones. In some ways I find it humorous, and in other ways frighteningly tragic. It may be nothing, but I must consider it may be true both for the protection of myself and my family.

At the first possible time, if you could pull some strings and find out unofficially from one of the higher-ups in Police whether, again unofficially, all of the Manson Group has been rounded up and/or do they feel that we may be in some danger.

Secondly, if you would call Palm Springs and have my gun permit renewed, it was only for a year, and I should like to have it renewed for longer as it is the only sense of self-protection for my family and myself, and I certainly think I have good reason.

Please don't let too much water go under the bridge before this is done, and I'm waiting for an immediate reply.

My best,

(Signed, 'Steve')

Steve McQueen


cc: William Maher

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Dear 8 year-old Teresa

In 1988, aged just 8 but already a fan of the teen actor due to Stand By MeStar Trek: The Next Generation and his "awesome smile," an excited Teresa Jusino saved up the $12.00 membership fee and applied to join "WilPower," then-15-year-old Wil Wheaton's official fan club. She then waited. And waited some more. And then gave up waiting altogether. The membership kit never materialised, and before long the initial disappointment was forgotten.

In 2009, Teresa Jusino, now a 29 year-old writer, received — along with a package containing the very items she had waited patiently for 21 years ago — the following incredibly endearing letter of apology and belated welcome to Wheaton's now defunct fan club, written by the man himself after being alerted to her story.

Says Teresa:
He gets a big thank you from Twenty-Nine Year Old Me. Don’t get me wrong. Eight Year Old Me is very, very pleased. But Twenty-Nine Year Old Me better knows the importance of a kind gesture, and hopes that her gratitude carries more weight.
Transcript follows.

(Source: Teresa Jusino; Image: Wil Wheaton, via.)

Dear 8 year-old Teresa,

I wanted to apologize to you for making you wait so long to get your official WilPower fanclub membership kit. You see, 15 year-old me is very busy with work and school, and the people who were responsible for getting your membership kit mailed back to you must have made a mistake.

It's been a long time since the fan club did anything, but I've enclosed a membership card for you, as well as a wallet photo, and a picture that shows you how much I love Batman (HINT: It's a lot.)

WilPower members got updates about me and my work a few times a year, but the fan club stopped sending those out a long time ago. My latest update, though, goes like this: I got married, I have two boys who I love more than anything in the world, and I'm a writer now, just like you!

And now, 8 year-old Teresa, I want to tell you something very important before I sign off, so listen closely: When you grow up, you're going to be a great writer. I can't tell you how I know, but I hope you'll trust me; I just do. So stay in school, always do your best, and treat people the way you want to be treated.

Thank you for being part of my fan club,

(Signed, 'Wil Wheaton')

Wil Wheaton

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Let's make use of this opportunity

In November of 1966, ever the optimist, Bruce Lee wrote the following letter to one of his students, Taky Kimura. Early ratings for The Green Hornet - his first acting role in front of U.S. audiences - had proven to be disappointing, however Lee was well aware that the exposure from just a single season as Kato would suffice in his quest to bring his Jun Fan Gung Fu ('Bruce Lee's Kung Fu') schools to the masses. The next year, with the show cancelled but his star rising, Lee founded Jeet Kune Do ('Way of the Intercepting Fist').

Transcript follows.

Recommended reading: Letters of the Dragon: Correspondence, 1958 - 1973.

Twentieth Century-Fox Television, Inc.


A letter to let you know that the "Preying Mantis" episode will be on the 18th of Nov., which is 2 weeks from this Friday (we're pre-empty because of a special). Also, a week after that "The Hunter & the Hunted", an episode in which I do Gung Fu without the mask.

The show is doing bad, rating wise. Dozier is trying to make it go by changing it into an hour show. Whether or not we can change it remains to be seen. For our sake, we better.

Next week I'm doing a pictorial layout of Gung Fu in color in the Doger Stadium for T.V. Guide.

You know, whether or not this show will go, the show will last at least till March. So Gung Fu will have enough exposure and so is Kato, Bruce Lee.

The schools will definitely go. I’ll discuss with you in more detail. I'm preparing for it. Let's make use of this opportunity buddy.

Take Care


Monday, 16 August 2010

Wind up the world the other way...

From the pen of the late-Charlie 'Bird' Parker - a veritable musical genius and one of the world's greatest, most innovative saxophonists - comes an apologetic but undeniably poetic handwritten love letter, penned to long-term lover Chan Woods. Parker's adult life was a turbulent one, his musical brilliance often affected by his addiction to both heroin and alcohol, and he split with Woods in 1954 following the death of their two-year-old daughter. Tragically Parker passed away the next year, aged just thirty-four.

Transcript follows.

Huge thanks to the lovely Mr. Nolan at Hard Rock for supplying yet another great letter; be sure to visit the Hard Rock Memorabilia website for endless amounts of similarly fascinating memorabilia, and follow them over at Facebook for related goodness.

To you;

The way I thought was wrong, having not known, it was right. Here is the proof of my feelings, Don't hate me, love me forever: — — — —

Beautiful is the world, slow is one to take advantage. Wind up the world the other way. And at the start of the turning of the earth, lie my feelings for thou.

To you
Shame on me.
I love you.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Wow! Am I fucked up

On April 8th of 1954, less than two years before his untimely death at the age of 24, promising young actor James Dean left New York and headed for Los Angeles in order to prepare for his first starring role in a Hollywood movie, as Cal Trask in East of Eden. The change of scene was unwelcome and, just a few weeks after arriving and clearly homesick, Dean wrote the following anguished letter to on-off girlfriend, Barbara Glenn.

East of Eden was released in March of 1955, six months before Dean's tragic car crash; his leading performance as Cal Trask resulted in a posthumous Oscar nomination — the first of its kind — at the 1956 Academy Awards.

Transcript follows. Huge thanks to Abigail for supplying the scan.

Recommended reading: James Dean: At Speed.



Dearest Barbara

I don't like it here. I don't like people here. I like it home (N.Y.) and I like you and I want to see you. Must I always be miserable? I try so hard to make people reject me. Why? I don't want to write this letter. It would be better to remain silent. "Wow! Am I fucked up"

Got here on a Thurs. went to the desert on Sat., weeks latter to San Francisco. I DONT KNOW WHERE I AM. Rented a car for 2 weeks it cost me $138.00. I WANT TO DIE. I have told [Redacted] and 5 others like her to kiss my ass and what stench, spineless, stupid prostitutes they were. I HAVENT BEEN TO BED WITH NO BODY. And won't untill after the picture and I am home safe in N.Y.C. (snuggly little town that it is) sounds unbelievable but it's the truth I swear. So hold everything, stop breathing, stop the town all of N.Y.C. untill (should have trumpets here) James Dean returns.

Wow! Am I fucked up. I got no motorcycle I got no girl. HONEY, shit writting in capitals doesn't seem to help either. Haven't found a place to live yet, still living with my father--HONEY. Kazan sent me out here to get a tan. Haven't seen the sun yet. (fog & smog) Wanted me healthy looking. I look like a prune. Don't run away from home at too early an age or you'll half to take vitamins the rest of your life. Wish you cooked. I'll be home soon. Write me please. I'm sad most of the time. Awful lonely too isn't it. (I hope youre dying) BECAUSE I AM.


Jim {Brando Clift} Dean

My address is (fathers that is) is
1667 So. Bundy Drive
L.A. 25, Calif.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

This little girl has her Walters crossed

Thanks to the endearingly confused efforts of a young cartoon fan in 1964, we have the following charming sequence of letters to enjoy. The fan in question — Wendy — fancied acquiring some pictures of Woody Woodpecker and the character's creator, and so attempted to ask him directly. Indeed the request reached Walter Lantz, but not without a brief detour due to a case of mistaken identity.

Transcripts follow.

(Source: Paul Anderson's Disney History Institute.)


Letter One
March 7, 1964

Dear Walt Disney,

I watch Woodywood Pecker every week and see you on it. I like it very much and so do my younger sisters. Would you please send me a picture of you and some of the characters. Thank-you very much. Well, I guess I'll go and watch Bugs Bunny.

From one of your true fans,

Letter Two

April 6, 1964

Dear Wendy -

Even though Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Ludwig Von Drake and the rest of our characters aren't related to Woody Woodpecker, I'm glad to know you like him because he belongs to my good friend Walter Lantz. And I know Mr. Lantz will appreciate knowing you are a fan of Woody Woodpecker.

I am enclosing the autographed picture of me and a couple of my friends which you asked for....and I'm sending your note on to Woody Woodpecker. Perhaps you will get a picture from him, too.

Many thanks for your letter...and all best wishes.


(Signed, 'Walt')
Letter Three

April 6, 1964

Dear Walter -

As you can see by the enclosed....I get blamed for everything that happens in Hollywood!

However, this time it's obvious this little girl has her Walters crossed -- although I don't know how the hell Bugs Bunny got in the act.

All best -

(Signed, 'Walt')

Mr. Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz Productions Inc
861 Seward
Hollywood, California
Letter Four
Walter Lantz

8 April 1964





Walter Lantz

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Art, like love, speaks through and to the heart

During the run-up to a benefit show at Carnegie Hall in January of 1961, civil rights activist Martin Luther King sent the following supportive letter of thanks to Sammy Davis, Jr., as a result of his active role in its preparations. At the time Davis was looking to star in an anticipated - but ultimately shelved - Broadway production of Oscar Brown's musical, Kicks & Co., and King was clearly excited by the prospect.

Transcript follows.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ebenezer Baptist Church
407 Auburn Avenue, N. E.
Atlanta, Georgia

Murray 8-7263

December 20, 1960

Mr. Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sherry-Netherland Hotel
5th Avenue at 59th Street
New York 22, New York

Dear Sammy:

I have been meaning to write you for quite some time. A sojourn in jail and a trip to Nigeria among other tasks have kept be behind.

When I solicited your help for our struggle almost two months ago, I did not expect so creative and fulsome a response. All of us are inspired by your wonderful support and the Committee is busily engaged in the preparations for January 27th. I hope I can convey our appreciation to you with the warmth which we feel it.

In the midst of one of my usual crowded sojourns in New York, I had the opportunity to hear the play, "Kicks and Co." by Oscar Brown at the invitation of the Nemiroffs, at whose home I have previsouly been a guest. I learned of your interest in it and I am deeply pleased.

To my knowledge, rarely has there come upon the American scene a work which so perceptively mirrors the conflict of soul, the moral choices that confront our people, both Negro and white, in these fateful times. And yet a work which is at the same time, so light of touch, entertaining--and thereby all the more persuasive.

Art can move and alter people in subtle ways because, like love, it speaks through and to the heart. This young man's work will, in its own special way, affect the conscience of vast numbers with the moral force and vigor of our young people. And coming as it does from a source so eminently influential as yourself, it will be both an inspiration and a sustenance to us all.

In that context, let me share with you again my appreciation for the motives and the wisdom that have led you to it.

Very sincerely yours,

(Signed, 'Martin')

Martin Luther King, Jr.


Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Remembering Tony Wilson

Exactly three years ago, on August 10th of 2007, a city began to mourn as the inimitable Tony Wilson lost his battle with cancer and passed away. As music journalist and co-founder of both Factory Records and The Ha├žienda, Wilson's enormous influence on the Manchester music scene - and in turn the city in general - was, and still is, undeniable. He wrote the following letter in 1978 to Rob Gretton, just a few days after seeing an impressive young local band play live; the band - Joy Division - signed to Factory soon afterwards. The rest is history.

Transcript follows. Many thanks to Ian Paton.

Manchester M60 9EA Telephone: 061-832 7211

19 April 1978

Dear Rob

Thanks for the photostat.

I am not quite sure whether it is interesting or amusing; probably both. I am totally in agreement, Joy Division are the best thing I have heard in Manchester for about six months.


(Signed, 'Tony Wilson')

Tony Wilson
Presenter - What's On


Monday, 9 August 2010

An A&R man must be "human"

Following his departure from Sun Records in 1958, Johnny Cash joined forces with Columbia Records to release all future material; however it wasn't until 1964, six years later, that Cash - a recording artist renowned within the industry for his inability to adhere to schedules - officially signed with the label. The following letter of commendation was sent that year by Cash to a Ken Clancy at the label, and goes some way to identifying the reason behind Cash's decision: a patient A&R man by the name of Don Law.

Transcript follows.


OCT 3 1964

To Mr Ken Clancy

Tonight I signed a five-year recording contract with Colombia Records.—

May I ask you to understand that I did not read the contract before doing so. I only did it for your legal dept's benefit.

If commendations are still a special thing - then know that I, for whatever it's worth, commend Mr. Don Law on his "humanity-ty". (and perseverence)

I'm sure you fully realise that a C/W A&R man must be "human", "down-to-eath", like "one of the folks next door"...... Because non-business, down to earth artists, such as myself, work with them.

My only regret is that I wasn't with Columbia Records, and Don Law, for the very first.


Johnny Cash

Friday, 6 August 2010

Fraternally, Brother Vonnegut

In 1989, eager to seek feedback from an established, highly influential author, and in an effort to simply reach out to a long-time inspiration, first-time novelist Mark Lindquist wrote to his idol, Kurt Vonnegut. Some time later a reply materialised in the form of the admirably gracious typewritten letter seen below, in which Vonnegut spoke of his inspirations in the literary world and warmly welcomed Lindquist into the 'family'; the missive illustrated by way of Vonnegut's self-portrait, drawn in his trademark style.

Transcript follows.

228 E 48 10017 June 4 89

Dear Mark Evans Lindquist -- I thank you for your very friendly and nourishing letter, undated and with the return address crossed out. Morgan Entrekin, when a mere teenager, not only read my books but was the editor of three of them, so he would be particularly adept at noticing kinship between your works and mine. The writer who most inspired me when I was a stripling is scarcely read at all any more. He was John Dos Passos. Writers of my generation used to say that the great American novel had in fact been written, which was U.S.A. Mailer's The Naked and The Dead reads and even looks like additional chapters of U.S.A. The other book which wowed me when I was really young has held up better than U.S.A., probably because it is not so burdened with historical particulars, is a minimalist work. It is Voltaire's Candide. I have not read your Sad Movies, and Dos Passos surely never read anything by me. About twenty new books a week arrive at this house, most of them no doubt marvelous. I simply can't keep up. The fact that you have completed a work of fiction of which you are proud, which you made as good as you could, makes you as close a blood relative as my brother Bernard. The best thing about our family, our profession, is that its members are not envious or competitive. I was with the great Nadine Gordimer recently, and a reporter encouraged us to speak badly of a writer who made one hell of a lot more money than we did, Stephen King. Gordimer and I defended him. We thought he was awfully damn good at what he did. Long ago, I knocked the schlock novelist Jacqueline Suzanne off the top of the Best Seller List where she had been for a year or more. She was a sweet, tough, utterly sincere lady, and, as I say, a blood relative. She sent me a note saying, "As long as it had to be somebody, I'm glad it was you." For what it is worth: It now seems morally important to me to do without minor characters in a story. Any character who appears, however briefly, deserves to have his or her life story fully respected and told.



Brother Vonnegut

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Tiger Oil Memos

From the offices of the now-defunct but at one time Houston-based Tiger Oil Company come a batch of curiously entertaining memos, all sent by the firm's irascible, tactless, and undeniably amusing CEO, Edward "Tiger Mike" Davis, to his staff. Tiger Mike’s management style was no secret within the industry; however, in the early-2000s, 25 years after his company filed for bankruptcy, his spiky inter-office communications famously appeared online for all to see, instantly widening his audience to include almost anyone with an internet connection. A selection of his greatest hits appear here, with his blessing.

Arranged chronologically. Transcripts follow.

(These fantastic memos, and many more magnificent pieces of correspondence, feature in the More Letters of Note book with Tiger Mike's permission. You should really get a copy. More info over at Books of Note.)


DATE: December 9, 1977
TO: Payroll
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

Effective now, employees will be docked for the time they are off sick, unless I authorize you to pay them. This is for Tiger Oil - Houston Office - employees.



DATE: December 22, 1977
TO: All Employees of Tiger Oil Company and Tiger Drilling Company - Houston Office
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

What the employees of Tiger Oil International, Inc. do is none, of your business! You work for Tiger Oil Company or Tiger Drilling Company when it comes to employment procedures or anything else. Tiger Oil International is a separate company and wholly run as a separate company.

If you are not happy working here, I suggest you get a job somewhere else, but you cannot work for Tiger Oil International without my approval.

Any conversation of unhappiness or unrest among my employees pertaining to this will mean immediate termination.


P.S. On days you have to work, and you think you should be off, you wear slouchy dress attire. That will not occur in the future. You will wear proper dress attire to work always. Also, all employees should have the proper attitude to coincide with proper dress, especially on those days when you're working and think you should be off.


DATE: January 3, 1978
TO: Secretaries
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

This is a business office. All correspondence and other things pertaining to this office will be typewritten.

Handwriting takes much longer than a typewriter -- you're wasting your time, but more importantly, you're wasting my time. If you don't know how to type, you'd better learn.



DATE: January 5, 1978
TO: All Employees, Tiger Oil Company, Tiger Drilling Company, Tiger Oil International, Inc., Houston Office
FROM: Edward Mike Davis
SUBJECT: Kitchen Facilities

Gertrude Love has been hired to work in our kitchen and do light office cleaning. She will start Monday, January 9th.

The kitchen will be her "office" and no one will be permitted to loiter there. If you want something from the kitchen, she will get it for you. If she is not in the kitchen, get what you want and get out.

Lunch will either be prepared here or sent in by Jamail's every day, and you are welcome to eat. She will prepare your plate, hand it to you, and you can go to your office to eat. You will not be allowed to serve yourself, unless she is not in the kitchen.



DATE: January 11, 1978
TO: All Employees
FROM: Edward Mike Davis
SUBJECT: Idle Conversation

Idle conversation and gossip in this office among employees will result in immediate termination.

Don't talk about other people and other things in this office.




Date: January 12, 1978
To: All Employees
Houston Office
From: Edward Mike Davis

I swear, but since I am the owner of this company, that is my privilege, and this privilege is not to be interpreted as the same for any employee. That differentiates me from you, and I want to keep it that way. There will be absolutely no swearing, by any employee, male or female, in this office, ever.



DATE: January 12, 1978
TO: All Monthly Salaried Personnel
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

In case anyone does not know who owns Tiger Oil Company or Tiger Drilling Co., Inc., it is me - Edward Mike Davis. Do not let anyone think they are the owner but me.

This memo is not intended towards all employees, but all must be included, because some have abused these things. The ones who have not abused any of my rules and regulations should not have their feelings hurt or be concerned. Just do your job!

A purchase order system will be initiated immediately. Only certain people will be allowed to sign. More than likely, two signatures will be required, whether it be one from the field and one from the office, or two from the office and two from the field.

only business calls will be made and charged to Tiger Oil or Tiger Drilling. No personal calls PERIOD.

There will be no liquor of any kind kept in any of the offices, other than by direct order of Mike Davis. That means get it out of there!

Cleanliness is next to Godliness. I expect things to be clean and in order. That goes for all employees everywhere -- that means the office and your appearance; righands included.

We do not pay starvation wages, and there are some people left in this world who want to work. I am not fond of hippies, long-hairs, dope fiends or alcoholics. I suggest each and every person in a supervisory category (from driller up to me) eliminate these people.

I don't want any excuses about not being able to find anyone to work on rigs, drive tricks, or work in the yards -- just find the people you need, and if we have to pay more money to get them, it will balance out in the end.

Anyone who lets their hair grow below their ears to where I can't see their ears means they don't wash. If they don't wash, they stink, and if they stink, I don't want the son-of-a-bitch around me.

Any truck driver or employee who ruins a piece of equipment due to negligence or abuse will be terminated immediately by his boss, and if the boss doesn't do this, then the boss will be terminated by Mike Davis.

Each driver will be assigned boomers and chains. A check list will be kept by Duane Brown and Fred Addison, and equipment issued to each truck will be checked off weekly. A driver will pay for any equipment not on his truck or if it is ruined. If lost, turn it in to Duane or Fred. All truck drivers will be cautioned about tearing up fences, ditches, etc. with their trucks. Truck drivers will check oil and everything else on their trucks every day - just like the Army.

When hauling any equipment, all boomers will be wired after they are closed and checked for load shift. They are not to come loose or gnaw holes in what it is bound against.

Each driver will inspect his truck for loose bolts, nuts, corrosive battery cables, water leaks, oil leaks, tires, etc. throughout the truck. If a minor repair can be fixed, fine; if not, notify Duane Brown or Fred Addison, and they will get it fixed immediately. Everything will be inspected like the Army.

Each truck driver will either sleep in his truck or get a room for at least six hours sleep per each 24 hours, and not be found in a bar drinking anything, and that includes beer. You want ot drink, then drink on your own time and your own money and not mine. Truck drivers will be given one day per week off, to be scheduled by their superior. Anyone found popping pills to stay awake will be discharged immediately. If you need to sleep, go to bed. I have personally found truck drivers drinking in motels. I will not tolerate any drinking. You want to drink - drink on your day off. You will be watched and monitored wherever you drive.

The supervision of you will be more strict now than ever. If you do not want to work for me, pick up your check now, or work under my conditions.

Failure to comply with the above will mean immediate termination.

No one will ride in our vehicles other than company employees. An exception to this is if anyone is in an accident or stranded, a driver may pick him up. What I am trying to say is no hitchhikers or free rides for family members or non-employees. They will be terminated if caught.

Excessive speed while driving that would endanger the truck, the driver, or other people is prohibited. The driver should be the one to make that decision.

All scraps of metal, nails, pieces of pipe, etc. will be picked up and not left laying around in the yard. I want to see someone bend over other than me.

Submit a daily log of work done and the time spent.

Submit a complete inventory of tires, truck parts and all other equipment and condition of same, plus the rigs and all spare equipment in all yards.

Insurance items will be reported immediately and handled per insurance company's instructions, as well as the instructions of Bill Jamison and the employee's supervisor, Fred Addison or Duane Brown. Any accidents involving a rig, trucks, cars, or employees, other than minor ones, the Houston Office will be notified so that my secretary can notify me. If on weekends or nights, the superior in that area knows how to reach me. If it is a death, call me at night or weekends. Other than that, the person having the accident should have the brains enough to take care of it until the next day.

Any driver hauling anything anywhere will get a receipt for what he has picked up and a manifest of what he is hauling. Each driver will count and know the items on his truck because they will be counted when he gets to his destination. If something is missing, the driver will be terminated.

A truck manager will be hired for Lafayette, and the trucking department will be scrutinized very carefully.

A detailed material transfer will be made out for any piece of equipment moved into or out of the yard or any place.

No one welds with a welding machine unless he knows what he is doing.

Any time any driver goes anywhere and is waiting on something, after they have had their sleep, they will work in the yard or do something that has to be done. They will check with the boss in that area. They will not lay in the motel room drinking and watching television.

Start and run trucks daily that aren't being used so the battery won't run down.

All drivers are to be cautioned about the loads they are hauling so they don't tear the bridges down or ruin what they are hauling.

Expense accounts will be approved by the employee's superior in charge of a particular area, and then it will be approved in Houston before it is paid. Each person should sign and pay for his own expense account. Anyone who abuses or takes advantage of expense accounts will be terminated immediately.

Any time any boss needs something and cannot get it because of credit, do not discuss our financial situation with the vendor -- call Houston. If Houston cannot give satisfaction, get ahold of Mike Davis.

All invoices for purchases of equipment, materials, etc. will be handled by a purchase order, as stated above, and the purchase order will be checked, approved and signed by one of the supervisors.

The rig must be inspected once a day by the toolpusher while shut down. All little engines in the yard that are good will be started once a month and run. All exhausts will be covered so that water will not get in them.

Fred Addison will inspect each rig at least once a week and not tell the toolpusher when he is coming.

Duane Brown will be on every rig move possible. The person put in charge of the trucking department in Lafayette will do the same.

Buy only what you need; utilize what we have.

A supervisor will watch any welder working for us, sign the ticket and then get rid of him. Welders will be called by a pusher to a rig for the purpose of cutting the surface pipe off or something of that nature. Do not call a welder to rebuild the rig. That must be approved by the superior in that area.

Any employee who does not want to adhere to the items mentioned above can quit. If any of you think I will go out of business because I can't hire help, get out, and I will hire the people to do the work. I don't need a job - you people are the ones who need to get with it.

There is one thing that differentiates me from my employees. I am a known son-of-a-bitch, and I care to remain that way. I have the privilege of swearing publicly, in front of anyone, or doing anything I want to because I pay the bills. When you work for me, you don't have that privilege. You are representing me. Don't act as I do. I am the only one who can act that way. You people are all to be respectful to your fellow employees and to other people we do business with. That may be deemed any way you want to take it, but those are my orders, and I intend to enforce them. What you do in your home is your own business, but what you do in my business is my business. I am not a preacher or I am not trying to save the world. I just intend to run my business the way I want to. This pertains to the supervisory personnel.



Date: January 12, 1978
To: All Employees, Houston Office
From: Edward Mike Davis

This is a reminder that the big room where Westfahl, Jamison and some of the landmen sit is not a hallway and will not be used as such. Also, the hallway from this room into the kitchen will not be used by anyone as an access or shortcut to the other side of the office. Go around, using the main hallway.



DATE: January 13, 1978
TO: Landmen, Geologists, Geophysicists, Engineers, or To Whom It May Concern
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

This memorandum is an addendum and in addition to the "Memorandum To All Monthly Salaried Personnel" dated January 12, 1978.

This is for Steve Chamberlain, Bill Durr, Wayne Rogers, on down.

When you are on the road or out doing my business, that is exactly what I expect you to do 100%. I do not want any fabricated expense accounts, drinking or carousing around on my money. Telephone calls for business purposes only will be accepted -- not personal.

This will apply to all geologists, geophysicists, and whoever the hell it may concern who works for me.

If you don't like it, you can do the same thing the ones in the first memo got told -- pick up your check! If it doesn't apply to you, and you have not violated this, you don't have to worry. If you have violated this, correct it by not doing it any more. All I want to do is run a good orderly ship -- or rather than that, run it like the Army.

If I don't pay you enough money to do these things you want to do personally, then I suggest you ask for a raise or quit and get another job.

Don't take advantage of me, because I am going to be looking down your throat. You need the job -- I don't!

Do not speak to me when you see me. If I want to to speak to you, I will do so. I want to save my throat. I don't want to ruin it by saying hello to all of you sons-of-bitches.,



DATE: January 31, 1978
TO: All Employees, Houston Office
FROM: Edward Mike Davis
SUBJECT: Use of Front Conference Room

While the front conference room is being used by our auditors, if you have a business guest visit you, you shall put away all information before the guest comes into your office, so they cannot steal it or look at it.

You will not leave your office while the guest is there. If I call for you, notify Jo Ann Wright or Dorothy Barnes that you have a guest.



DATE: February 8, 1978
TO: All Employees
SUBJECT: Celebrations of Any Kind

Per Edward Mike Davis' orders, there will be no more birthday celebrations, birthday cakes, levity, or celebrations of any kind within the office. This is a business office.

If you have to celebrate, do it after office hours on your own time.



DATE: February 10, 1978
TO: All Employees of Tiger Oil Company, Tiger Drilling Co., Inc., or any entity that Edward Mike Davis is associated with or owns or owns a business interest in
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

Mr. Joseph C. Winkler, III has been hired by me personally as the head of all accounting and bookkeeping, which means all receivables, payables and taxes. He will be given the fullest cooperation from everyone who works for me, regardless of who it is.

This man has done my audit for all companies for the past three years. Until he went to work for me, he was a CPA for Arthur Young & Co. This man is a highly intelligent man. I have been relying on him for answers on how I get my audits and how I pay my taxes; therefore, I need not have someone tell me he doesn't know what he is doing. He knows what he is doing because I have had the opportunity to watch him for three years. Therefore, the fullest cooperation from everyone will be had.

A list of requirements from all people will be forthcoming regarding accounting and bookkeeping and how he wants things handled. However, just as reminder, do not sit on any invoices at any time. If there is a question, we must have them here and know what the question is.

I have never given the authority before to anyone to be in charge of both accounting and bookkeeping completely, until at this time. The reason for that is that I never found anyone, before now, who had brains enough to do it -- not only brains, but the energy and desire as well.

So we are not out to see how bad we can make this man look, we are out to see how good we can make him look, and I will enforce it myself! If any employee has a complaint, direct that complaint to me, Mike Davis, personally.

I have tried to get the work done in the past under everyone else's ideas, and it hasn't worked, so we will do it my way now.

I do not want excuses from anyone. I am not paying people for excuses, I am paying you for results. If you cannot do a job the way we want it done, get another job, because we know what it takes to make the wheel turn. It takes the invoices approved correctly and timely so that we can pay them, and it also takes all of the paperwork other than that so we can pay them, and it also takes all of our receivables timely. You want your paycheck timely, and I want my things on time so I can get my paycheck. I am not asking you, I am ordering you.

If you don't like it, that is your problem, because if the shoe fits, wear it. If the shoe doesn't fit, you don't have any worry or concern, and this letter is not an insult to you. If the shoe does fit, it means you didn't do your job properly, and you have the problem, not me. This letter only pertains to the people who have abused their responsibilities. If you are doing what you are told, this does not affect you in any way. It only affects the people who neglect their duties.

We are going to do it the way I want it done. If you have a suggestion on how we can improve our methods, your suggestions are more than welcome. The best way to submit a suggestion is to put it in writing, sign your name, and send it to me by registered mail -- then you can't say it got lost. I DON'T WANT ANY EXCUSES.

Owner of All Companies and The Boss (if there are any questions, test me)


DATE: February 14, 1978
TO: All Employees of Tiger Oil Compnay, Tiger Drilling Co., Inc., or any entity that Edward Mike Davis is associated with or owns or owns a business interest in
FROM: Edward Mike Davis
SUBJECT: Mr. Richard E. "Dick" Phillips, Sr. (do not confuse him with his son, who is also an employee of Tiger Drilling Co., Inc.)

Mr. Dick Phillips works for me directly and personally. His duties may be described as many, but you could call him a trouble-shooter.,

He answers to no one but me personally.



DATE: Februray 17, 1978
TO: All Employees, Houston Office
FROM: Edward Mike Davis
SUBJECT: Working Hours, Saturday, February 18, 1978

Every employee in the Houston Office must work from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 18, 1978.

There will be no shabby attire -- you will dress just like it is a regular work day.



DATE: February 22, 1978
TO: All Employees, Tiger Oil Company & Tiger Drilling Co.
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

This memorandum is intended as an addendum to a memo I wrote on January 12, 1978 about people speaking to me. Any supervisor who has anything to say to me, day or night, the fastest way he can say it to me is too slow. The terms about not talking to me meant I do not have time to stop and talk to everyone -- saying hello, goodbye, goodnight, etc. -- that is what I was talking about. If you have business with me, the fastest way is too slow -- day or night.



DATE: February 23, 1978
TO: All Employees - Tiger Oil Company, Houston Office
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

I do not appreciate people coming into my office and helping themselves to my candy, cigars, medicine, and other personal items.

Unless you have my permission, you are not allowed to remove anything from my office, and particularly, do not remove anything from my desk drawers without my approval. I don't mind giving, but I would like the privilege of knowing and giving it myself.



DATE: April 10, 1978
TO: All Employees, Tiger Oil Company, Houston Office
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

You are expected to work a minimum of eight hours a day from Monday through Friday. If you do not want to eat the food that is prepared here, don't do me any favors by eating it. Go out to lunch, and when you go out - you make sure that you sign out, and when you come back - you sign back in. You are given one hour for lunch. If business or some delayed reason prohibits you from coming back in that one hour - please have the courtesy to call so that we may know when you will be back or what the problem is. then that way I won't have to wonder whether you have been here eight hours or not.

This letter is intended to respect people as people. Adhere to it or other measures will have to be taken to replace you. I am sorry if this hurts your feelings, but I am not running a business for your benefit. I expect a minimum - I repeat myself - a minimum of 40 hours per week. No one is exempt from this.

I suggest that you people buy enough cigarettes to keep here for yourselves to smoke because, by God, you will not go and buy them on my time.

Anyone that needs to be off for whatever the various reasons may be, as long as they notify someone and do make a habit of it, I will be more than glad to respect your wish providing you respect the one I have just said above.



DATE: April 20, 1978
TO: All Employees, Tiger Oil Company - Houston
FROM: Edward Mike Davis
SUBJECT: Office Furniture

The furniture in this office is expensive. DO NOT PUT YOUR FEET ON IT!

I am paying you to work -- not slouch in your chair with your feet up on a desk or table.

I do not go to your home and put my feet on your furniture, so don't put your feet on mine.



DATE: June 1, 1978
TO: All Employees, Houston Office
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

I have noticed the rugs throughout this office are very dirty from people spilling things on them. I will have them cleaned (which will cost me $1,000.00); and, in future, if people cannot carry their coffee without spilling it on my rugs, we will do away with the coffee pots entirely just as we did away with the food.

Please treat my rugs as you would your own at home. If, for any reason, you spill something, wipe it up right away so it won't stain.



DATE: June 1, 1978
TO: All Employees - Houston Office
FROM: Edward Mike Davis

Executive personnel who are in my office and have to be excused to go to the bathroom may use the one located just outside my office so no time is wasted going all the way down the hall.

No one else is to use the this bathroom at any time other than guests.



DATE: September 15, 1978
TO: All Employees - Houston Office
FROM: Edward Mike Davis
SUBJECT: Signing In and Out

Each employee will sing in and out on the time sheet at the receptionist's desk himself - the receptionist will not be responsible for it - you cannot just mumble to her that you are going downstairs - you will sign out and note where you are going on the time sheet and sign in when you return.

If you cannot adhere to this request, you may pick up your final pay check.



DATE: September 25, 1978
TO: All Employees, Tiger Oil Company, Tiger Drilling Co., Inc.
FROM: Edward Mike Davis
SUBJECT: Vacations

As you know, after one full year of employment you receive two weeks' vacation and two weeks respectively each year worked thereafter. Effective immediately, the two weeks per year must be taken one week at a time and begin the end of the week. There will be no more taking one or two days at a time and combining them with holidays and weekends. If, in my opinion, you deserve additional time off you must obtain it from me proving to me that you have worked hard enough to get it - not trying to edge a day here and a day there combined with the holidays. I am not a fool - I know you can take two weeks and stretch them into two months properly done so don't insult my intelligence. Ask for it like a man. Also, in your absence, you must arrange to have someone perform your duties.