Friday, 29 October 2010

Best Wishes, Brad Bird



Yet again (see also here, here, and here) we have a letter from the offices of Pixar that further cements their reputation as being incredibly generous to fans, the gracious respondent this time being the great Brad Bird, director of The IncrediblesRatatouilleThe Iron Giant, and, most importantly, the music video for Do the Bartman in 1990. Further credit is due to Bird for his patiently answering, in detail, all of young Zack's probing questions.

Incidentally, 1906 — the movie mentioned at the end of the letter — is apparently still in production. His first live action film turned out to be Mission: Impossible 4.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Anonymous; Image: Brad Bird, via.)





Transcript
PIXAR

June 16th, 2009

[Address redacted]

Dear Zack,

I hope this letter finds you well. Thank you very much for your kind words. I'm so glad that you enjoyed RATATOUILLE, and it would be my pleasure to fill out your questionnaire. My answers to your questions are as follows:

Q: Do you have a favorite project that you've worked on in your career?

A: Every project that I have worked on has had its own unique challenges and rewards. I truly enjoyed working in television on FAMILY DOG, part of Steven Spielberg's AMAZING STORIES series, my years on THE SIMPSONS, KING OF THE HILL, and others. I learned a lot during that time because we had move so quickly. I was forced to learn how to make decisions on the fly, a skill that helped me a great deal on IRON GIANT and RATATOUILLE.

While each project I've been a part of will always have a special place in my heart, my three films are the most special to me. Of these three, while I love them all, THE INCREDIBLES is probably the most special. It is a gumbo of all my favorite action-adventure, spy movies, TV shows, and comic books from my childhood, and it was also my first opportunity to work at Pixar. At this studio, the founders, John Lasseter, Ed Catmull, and Steve Jobs, granted me total creative freedom. They didn't abdicate responsibility - they were watching what I did - but they were very good at encouraging me to try new things in a new way. If you were to list the ten most difficult things to do in CG, we did all of them and did a lot of all of them! Not only that, but we were able to do those things while telling a personal, family-based story that was important to me. As to your second question...

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your work with RATATOUILLE? (How the idea came about, how you became involved, etc.)

A: The idea originated with a man named Jan Pinkava, who was working on it the whole time I was making THE INCREDIBLES. Although I wasn't initially drawn to the idea of making a movie about rats, I always loved it, but I never imagined I would end up directing it. Then, the studio ran into some trouble. Everybody loved the idea, the look of it, the cast of character types, and all the possibilities of the premise, but they were having difficulty getting the story to coalesce. So in 2005 John Lasseter, Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs asked me to take on the project; write a new script, and get it onto the big screen. My respect for these 3 amazing geniuses, who, through some fluke of nature happened to get together and build this amazing company motivated me to help them out in any way I could. I had agreed to the original schedule, and had few resources and even less time to complete this giant project. It was complete fear that drove me through it. I described it to somebody once as driving down the freeway in the wrong direction and just trying to stay alive. I was just trying to make a movie that made sense and fulfilled all the possibilities of Jan's brilliant premise.

Q: What actor would you most want to be involved with one of your movies?

A: I very rarely write with a particular actor in mind. Sometimes someone's voice creeps into my head, such as it did with Peter O'Toole in RATATOUILLE, and I start picturing them saying a line as I write it. But most of the time, I try to let myself be free when I am writing something, and when I am finished I ask myself who the best person for that part is. Pixar has a philosophy of trying to find the best voice for a character whether or not that person is famous. During THE INCREDIBLES, for example, we ran the gauntlet of having people that are very well known like Sam Jackson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee and Craig T Nelson but we also had people like Brett Parker, one of our animators, do the voice of Kari the babysitter. It is more important to me that we get someone who is absolutely right for the character than name recognition.

Q: Any news you can give me on possible future projects of yours?

A: Right now I am working on a script for my first live action film project. The title of the movie is 1906, and it is based on the events that took place during the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of that year. It's been a challenging process writing this story (there are so many interesting things going on in that place and that particular time period) We are currently looking at places to shoot, and I am very excited to get this project in full swing. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Thank you again for writing Zack. I hope I answered all of your questions. Per your request, I've also included a little something with this letter. I hope you enjoy it.

Best Wishes,

(Signed, 'Brad Bird')

Brad Bird

Thursday, 28 October 2010

I have never drawn PEANUTS for children



Reader David Desmond remembers fondly the day he received the following letter from the late-Charles Schulz, creator of what is widely considered to be one of the greatest comic strips ever created: Peanuts.
I can still recall the feelings of amazement and excitement that I experienced when I received this letter. Even then I understood that the production of a daily comic strip could be quite demanding, so for Charles M. Schulz to have taken the time to reply to my letter made it that much more special.
Schulz's gracious response was typewritten in 1977, at which point Peanuts had already been running for a very respectable 27 years. It continued for another 23. On February 13th of 2000 - the day after Schulz's death - the final original Peanuts strip (see above) was published.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of David Desmond.



Transcript
CHARLES M. SCHULZ
NUMBER ONE SNOOPY PLACE
SANTA ROSA, CALIF. 95401

December 28, 1977

David Desmond
172-70 Highland Avenue
Jamaica Estates, N. Y. 11432

Dear David:

Thank you for your very nice letter. It was good of you to take the time to write and tell me how much you enjoy PEANUTS. I hope you will continue to read and enjoy it for many years to come.

The answer to your question of developing the strips to appeal to children without turning adults off is a simple one. I have never drawn PEANUTS for children. I have always drawn the strip with adults in mind, and fortunately, everyone seems to find something there. I draw from a child's point of view, which is probably a significant factor to attracting young readers, but much of the dialogue is beyond a small child's scope of understanding.

At any rate, I appreciate your letter and your interest.

Kindest regards,

(Signed, 'Charles M. Schulz')

Charles M. Schulz

CMS/ed

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

MRS YOKO ONO LENNON DOES NOT SWEAT

An irritated John Lennon wrote the following note - currently on display at the Mansion on O - in the 1970s, after discovering that one of his white shirts had somehow turned yellow in colour whilst at the hands of some laundry workers. Clearly, Yoko Ono had nothing to to do with it.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Gene Teale, but additional thanks go to Andrew Warlick for also suggesting this letter.


Image: Gene Teale

Transcript
Dear Laundry,

MRS YOKO ONO LENNON DOES NOT, WILL NOT, HAS NOT DYED HER HAIR.

SHE DOES NOT SWEAT (MOST ORIENTALS DO NOT SWEAT LIKE US)

What is YOUR EXCUSE FOR TURNING MY BRAND NEW WHITE SHIRT YELLOW?

(Signed, 'John Lennon')

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Little People's Petition



Early-1864, frustrated and saddened that the recently introduced Emancipation Proclamation only guaranteed the freedom of slaves in the Confederate States, 195 schoolchildren of Concord, Massachusetts signed the above "Petition of the children of the United States; (under 18 years) that the President will free all slave children" and, with the help of local teacher, author, and widow of Horace MannMary Tyler Peabody Mann, sent it to then-US President Abraham Lincoln. Much to everyone's surprise, Lincoln - who quickly named it the "Little People's Petition" - soon replied by way of the following letter.

Less than two years later, on December 6th of 1865, slavery was abolished in the United States.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Sotheby's who, in 2008, sold the letter for US$3,401,000.


Image: Sotheby's

Transcript
Executive Mansion,
Washington, April 5, 1864

Mrs. Horace Mann

Madam

The petition of persons under eighteen, praying that I would free all slave children, and the heading of which petition it appears you wrote, was handed me a few days since by Senator Sumner. Please tell these little people I am very glad their young hearts are so full of just and generous sympathy, and that, while I have not the power to grant all they ask, I trust they will remember that God has, and that, as it seems, He wills to do it.

Yours truly

A. Lincoln

Monday, 25 October 2010

Remembering John Peel

When he wasn't on-air, championing the music of previously unheard bands to an adoring audience, the late, great John Peel could often be found responding personally to the warm mountain of feedback his pioneering broadcasts generated. Below is one such reply: a brief and typically charming letter, typed in 1985 below a picture of a tractor cab and sent to Daniel Williams, a young devoted listener who wished to interview two obscure bands - Sudden Sway and John Hegley's Popticians - for his as-yet-unpublished fanzine; unable to locate contact details for either group, Williams naturally, pre-Google, decided to ask the forever-gracious Mr. Peel for assistance.

John Peel passed away exactly six years ago, on October 25th of 2004. His legacy lives on.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Daniel Williams.



Transcript
INTERNATIONAL TRACTOR CAB

Dear Daniel,

sorry it has taken me so long to get around to answering your letter. I was imagining that I might find myself cycling through downtown Langham at some stage and could pop in with the (lack of) information. A combination of indolence, weather and work (pause to allow gales of laughter to subside) prevented me.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure how to contact the two bands you're after. If you send letters addressed to each to me at wunnerful Radio 1, I'll send them on though. Someone in the contract department will know their addresses. Ok?

(Signed, 'John (Peel)')

Friday, 22 October 2010

It was a busy year and then it wasn't



Here we have a pleasant, charming letter from the living legend that is Christopher Walken, a man with one of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood, typewritten to members of the Online Christopher Walken Fan Club in 2004 via its co-ordinator, Candy Rosenbaum. According to Ms Rosenbaum, the actor, apparently a technophobe, makes a concerted effort each year to keep in touch with his fan-base.

Before beginning, please be aware that you will read the following letter slowly, in the voice of Christopher Walken.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Candy Rosenbaum; Image of Walken via.)



Transcript
AUGUST, 04

DEAR FANS,

IT WAS A BUSY YEAR AND THEN IT WASNT. BOTH OF WHICH IS FINE. UNTIL NEW YEARS EVE (I0:30 PM) OF '03, I WAS SHOOTING AROUND THE BEND ( COMES OUT OCT-NOV ) IN NEW MEXICO. THEN, IN THE WINTER, JOHN TURTURROS ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES WITH THE GREAT SUSAN SARANDON AND JAMES GANDOLFINI. THEN IN THE SPRING, A NICE JOB WITH OWEN WILSON AND VINCE VAUGHN ON THE WEDDING CRASHERS. IN LA AND SOME BEAUTIFUL LOCATIONS IN MARYLAND.

THENCAME THE NOT SO BUSY PART. I FINISHED THE WEDDING CRASHERS IN EARLY JUNE AND NOW ITS MID AUGUST AND HERE I AM UNEMPLOYED. ID THROW MYSELF OUT MY BASEMENT WINDOW BUT IM AFRAID ID BREAK MY NOSE. HA HA.

ITS BEEN A GOOD SUMMER THO VERY HOT AND RAINY IN THE NORTH EAST. I READ SOME GOOD BOOKS AND WATCHED A LOT OF CHARLIE ROSE.

THANKS, CANDY ROSENBAUM FOR THE PIECE ABOUT RUTGER HAUER. I LIKED HIM IMMEDIATELY. HES AN AMAZING ACTOR AND AN EXPERIENCED SAILOR. I HOPE TO WORK WITH HIM AGAIN.

THIS FALL, I HEAR THERE ARE SOME JOB POSSIBILITIES BUT THERE WILL BE PRESS FOR AROUND THE BEND AND VARIOUS THINGS.

I HOPE YOU ARE WELL AND THRIVING AND THANKS, CANDY, FOR PUTTING ALL THIS TOGETHER.

THE CATS ARE WELL AND BEST TO YOU ALL.

(Signed)

CHRIS WALKEN

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The birth of Wonder Woman

Here we have a piece of comic book history from early-1941 in the form of a letter from cartoonist Harry G. Peter, written to William Moulton Marston, in which he unveils some very early sketches of Marston's new superheroine, Wonder Woman; Marston's handwritten response to Peter can also be seen, penned in red below the original message. Wonder Woman's subsequent debut came just months later - December - in All Star Comics #8 (cover). The rest is history.

Transcript follows. Click the image to be taken to a much, much, larger version. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.



Transcript
Dear Dr. Marston,

I slapped these two out in a hurry. The eagle is tough to handle as when in perspective or in profile he doesn't show up clearly — The shoes look like a stenographer's.

I think the idea might be incorporated as a sort of Roman contraption.

Peter

Dear Pete -

I think the gal with hand up is very cute. I like her skirt, legs, hair. Bracelets okay + boots. These probably will work out + see other suggestions enclosed. No on these. See suggestions enclosed for eagle. Braziers I suggest may work better in curved or slanting stripes - red + white. With eagle's wings above or below breasts as per-enclosed? Leave it to you. Don't we have to put a red stripe around her waist as belt? I thought Gaines wanted it — don't remember. Circlet will have to go higher — more like crown — see suggestions enclosed.

See you Wednesday morning — WMM

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Mark Twain on proofreaders


"In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proof-readers." - Mark Twain, 1893.
The inimitable Mark Twain, never one to bite his tongue, had a notoriously turbulent relationship with his countless editors, printers and proofreaders  the very people tasked with ensuring his written words were fit to print. The following letter is a perfect example of his frustrations, written in 1897 to his publishers, Chatto and Windus, after discovering that his latest work, More Tramps Abroad (the English edition of Following the Equator), had been incompetently proofread by a "damned half-developed foetus."

Transcript follows.

(Source: Beverley Wright; Image: Mark Twain, via.)





Transcript
Sunday, July 25/97.

Dear C & W:

I give it up. These printers pay no attention to my punctuation. Nine-tenths of the labor & vexation put upon me by Messrs. Spothiswoode & Co consists in annihilating their ignorant & purposeless punctuation & restoring my own.

This latest batch, beginning with page 145 & running to page 192 starts out like all that went before it — with my punctuation ignored & their insanities substituted for it. I have read two pages of it — I can't stand any more. If they will restore my punctuation themselves & then send the purified pages to me I will read it for errors of grammar & construction — that is enough to require of another who writes as legible a hand as I do, & who knows more about punctuation in two minutes than any damned bastard of a proof-reader can learn in two centuries.

Conceive of this tumble-bug interesting himself in my punctuation — which is none of his business & with which he has nothing to do — & then instead of correcting mis-spelling, which is in his degraded line, striking a mark under the word & silently confessing that he doesn't know what the hell to do with it! The damned half-developed foetus!

But this is the Sabbath Day, & I must not continue in this worldly vein.

Ys

SLC

P. S. These are not revises — they are first-proofs, & bad ones at that.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

I sure am thinking of you

On October 8th, 1916, seven months after his first comic strip debuted in the Chicago Herald, 24-year-old cartoonist Elzie Segar took out a sheet of his employers' letterhead and wrote and illustrated the following love letter to then-girlfriend, Myrtle Johnson. Three years later, by which point he had married his sweetheart, his third comic strip - Thimble Theatre - appeared for the first time in the New York Journal. Eventually, as a result of the well-received introduction of a certain spinach-swilling sailor to the strip in 1929, Segar's creation evolved to become Popeye.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Rob Stolzer.

Recommended reading: Popeye, Vol. 1: I Yam What I Yam.


Image: Rob Stolzer

Transcript
CHICAGO HERALD
Over 200,000 Daily

GEE!! I WISH MYRT WAS HERE

CHESTER, ILL.
OCT. 8.—16

DEAREST MYRTLE:-

I SURE AM THINKING OF YOU, AND I'M DOGGONE LONESOME. THINK I'LL JUMP OFF THE CLIFF AND END IT ALL. "LOVE SICK EH?"

ALL I GOTTA DO DOWN HERE IS SHAKE HANDS AND TELL 'EM HOW I MAKE A COMIC.

HOPE YOU'RE WELL. ALSO HOPE YOU'RE THINKING OF ME.

GOO BI

LOTSALOVE

YOUR "LIL" BOOB

DICK

Monday, 18 October 2010

Cal Tech students are primitive little shits

From the early-1960s, a brief but characteristically humorous letter from Dorothy Parker. At this late point in her life - having previously founded the Algonquin Round Table; penned much poetry; worked as an Oscar-nominated screenwriter; and written for numerous publications including Vanity Fair and The New Yorker - Parker was sporadically reviewing books for Esquire magazine and, it seems, teaching at Caltech. Judging by the following rant, her students clearly hadn't impressed.

Transcript follows.

Recommended reading: Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?.


Image: eBay

Transcript
DOROTHY PARKER
8903 NORMA PLACE
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA

Dear Harold,

I am horrified to think what a pig I have been about writing, but it honestly is no reflection of lack of thought or love. I have been busy teaching a class at Cal Tech. The term just ended and I am celebrating my manumission by writing to you. The students there are a grievous lot, hopeless, unattractive, and not even young. I threw my hands up the second week when one of the brighter lights defended Peyton Place as a work of substance and value. The one advantage though of having to deal with such primitive little shits is that they don't ask stupid questions about the Algonquin. They have apparently never heard of the hotel or me.

I have been in touch with Leah Salisbury and she is very high on your new book. I would like to review it when the time comes, which better be soon. I don't know how much longer they will put up with my inconstancy at the magazine.

Alan is looking forward to your visit. If he were here now, I know he would send you his abiding and unconditional love. He and Ross went to town to look for some lumber, very butch of them both.

Yours,

(Signed, 'Dorothy Parker')

Friday, 15 October 2010

Even the most sophisticated society can still fall prey to an invasion of monsters

Early-1966, celebrated journalist Alex Haley bravely entered the headquarters of the American Nazi Party in Virginia and proceeded to interview its founder - retired U.S. Navy Commander, George Lincoln Rockwell - for Playboy Magazine; to further intensify the situation, Rockwell, until then unaware of his interviewer's African roots, sat through the entire meeting within reach of a gun. Unsurprisingly, the resulting interview - available to read here - was published in April of that year to much debate.

One vocal supporter of the magazine's decision to grant Rockwell such an audience was Rod Serling, creator of, most notably, The Twilight Zone. He wrote the following fantastic congratulatory letter to the publication's offices soon after. Its message still rings true.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Recommended reading: Roots: The Saga of an American Family, by Alex Haley.



Transcript
April 15, 1966

Editor
Playboy Magazine
232 East Ohio
Chicago, Illinois 60611

I anticipate that you people shall probably be roundly roasted for the recent Rockwell interview. There is a breed of layman social scientist who will forever cling to a concept of "defeating by ignoring". Hence, when out of the muck of their own neurosis rises these self-proclaimed fuehrers, there is this well-meaning body who tell us that if we turn both eyes and cheeks the nutsies will disappear simply by lack of exposure.

My guess is that in this case exposure is tantamount to education and education, here, is a most salutary instruction into the mentalities, the motives and the modus operandi of an animal pack who are discounted by the one aged maxim that "it can't happen here." So might have said the Goethes and the Einsteins of a pre-war Germany who thought then, as we do now, that civilization by itself protects against a public acceptance of the uncivilized. Eleven years of national genocide and ten million lives later, we have learned to realize that even the most sophisticated society can still fall prey to an invasion of monsters. It is not public exposure that helps these perverters of human dignity. Rather, it is apathy. Laughter and derision might momentarily embarrass them but in the long run prove no deterrents whatsoever. What is desperately needed to combat any "ism" is precisely what PLAYBOY has done -- an interview in depth that shows us the facets of the enemy. Yes, gentlemen, you may be knocked for supposedly lending some kind of credence to a brand of lunacy. But my guess is you should be given a commendation for a public service of infinite value.

Sincerely,

(Signed, 'Rod Serling')

Rod Serling
Pacific Palisades, California

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Madonna: "I hate actresses"

Judging by the following letter, Madonna wasn't exactly thrilled when filming A League of Their Own back in 1991. Writing to friend and photographer Steven Meisel - the man with whom Madonna later worked on Sex, the highly controversial book also mentioned in closing - the frustrated entertainer bemoans the lack of "beautiful men" in the city of Chicago, makes known her apparent hatred of all actresses, and calls Geena Davis a "Barbie doll".

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of our good friends at Hard Rock. As always, a visit to the Hard Rock Memorabilia website is highly recommended, as is a jaunt over to their Facebook page. Thanks Jeff!



Transcript
Dear Steven

For some reason I thought you were angry with me - because I finked out as a judge at the "Love Ball"? Because I'm still nice to Herb Ritts?? Because my hair is the wrong color? I hope you will forgive me for all of the above. Because I cannot suffer any more than I have in the past month learning how to play baseball with a bunch of girls (yuk) in Chicago (double yuk) I have a tan, I am dirty all day and I hardly ever wear make-up. Penny Marshall is Lavern - Geena Davis is a Barbie doll and when God decided where the beautiful men were going to live in the world, he did not choose Chicago. I have made a few friends but they are athletes, not actresses. I hate actresses, they have nothing on the house of extravaganza. I wish I could come to N.Y and visit. Are you having a good Summer? Saw the piece in the N.Y Times Magazine. Great!! - I would love to do this book thing with you so lets talk soon.

THANKS ALOT STEVEN!!

Love Dita

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Limitations are the greatest assets in producing a work of art



In 1976, having recently been introduced to - and quickly enchanted by - his work by way of a cover of TV Guide - seen above - aspiring artist Peter Emslie decided to contact acclaimed caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. Unaware of Hirschfeld's address, Peter sent a letter to the offices of TV Guide along with some of his work, in the hope that it would eventually reach him; indeed, it did, and the following charming reply soon appeared. Peter, who has since illustrated approximately 40 books for Disney and now also teaches character design at Sheridan College, continued to correspond with Hirschfeld, and they met some years later.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Peter Emslie.


Image: Peter Emslie

Transcript
AL HIRSCHFELD
122 EAST 95TH STREET
NEW YORK, N. Y. 10028

TEL. LE 4-6172

PETER EMSLIE ESQ.,
2116 Saunderson Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Dear PETER:

Sorry to have kept you waiting for this reply to your recent request but I only received this packet of drawings from TV Guide this very day.

First off let me advise you that I have absolutely no TIPS on what makes a caricature as distinguished from a cartoon, I have no knowledge of any rules, formulas, systems or other calculated answers to, what makes a work of art a work of art? If there were a reasonable answer to this enigma there would not be so much bad drawing being perpetrated today. It seems to me that the personal limitations each individual is endowed with is the only true evaluation one must adjust to. I know this sounds complicated but it is about the only yardstick that makes sense. Limitations, honestly faced, are the greatest assets in producing a work of art. I am always impressed by ones ability to push his limitations to unknown, unexplored, realms rather than settling for the unexplicable endowment of talent. Anyone with their five senses operating normally is talented. The artist, or so it seems to me at any rate, takes his talent for granted and then pushes his limitation beyond the normal accomplishment of a gifted civilian. If all this nonsense comes across as nonsense I must confess it is all that I have learned across a lifetime of trying to unravel the pure magic of a simple line drawn across a blank piece of paper.

Your drawing of Johnny Carson as a feline character has a slight touch of genius...it's beautifully drawn, expertly conceived and borrowed from the right sources (as all art borrows, changes form and invents from all that was created before our arrival) The body of work shows discipline and an insane drive to push your limitations beyond your obvious endowed talent...all to the good. Trial and error and this incalulable impulse will prevent you from ever retiring..Best of luck for the New Year...

Sincerely,

(Signed)

January 12th 1976

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Perhaps we should establish that worth in dollars


An angry Leonard Nimoy wrote the following letter in July of 1976, after learning that a Star Trek blooper reel had been shown in public without his consent. The letter, sent to the show's creator, Gene Roddenberry, is brimming with annoyance and clearly spells out - not for the first time it seems - the reasons behind Nimoy's stance.

To add: I understand the date on the RECEIVED stamp was incorrect; the letter was sent, and received, in 1976.

Transcript follows. Image supplied by Denny Fitzgerald.


Image: Denny Fitzgerald

Transcript
LEONARD NIMOY

705 NO. ALFRED STREET
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. 90069
(213) 6567112

Mr. Gene Roddenberry
Paramount Studios
5451 Marathon Street
Hollywood, Calif. 90038

July 6, 1976

Dear Gene:

You must be aware that I have long held certain, very strong negative feelings about the use of the "blooper reel" in public. I personally expressed these feelings to you a year and a half ago. I thought we had an understanding.

Several months later when I reported hearing of the use of the film again, you told me it was an old commitment you had to fulfill.

Now I am in Milwaukee. Evidently you made an appearance here and showed the film very recently. I can't accept the "old commitment" approach in this case. If the use of the film is so important to you that it is worth jeopardizing our future working relationship, then perhaps we should establish that worth in dollars.

My objections to its use are two-fold:

1) The artistic question of the characters being exposed in less than an ideal light.

2) The unauthorized use of an actors work without payment where there is a financial gain involved for the user.

Certainly at least the latter would be of interest to the Screen Actors Guild and to some of the actors who have had less than flourishing careers in recent years.

I don't feel that I can let this situation ride on a friendship basis any longer.

Would you please give me some signal as to your intentions?

Sincerely,

(Signed, 'Leonard Nimoy')

LEONARD NIMOY

LN/tv

Monday, 11 October 2010

Wear it well

Below: As seen in the December 2nd, 1977 issue of Variety, an open letter from Steven Spielberg to his friend, George Lucas, in which he congratulates him on the recent success of Star Wars. Good friends since the 60s, a healthy sense of competition had long been been present between the two, with Spielberg once remarking:
He was always more competitive with me than I was with him. He kept saying, "I'm sure Star Wars is going to beat Jaws at some point..."
Transcript follows. Quote taken from the book, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. Image from Retro Star Wars.



Transcript
Dear George.

Last week "Star Wars" moved ahead of "Jaws" in domestic film rentals.

Your hyperspace performance package really did the trick.

Congratualtions to the Cantina crowd and all the forces of your imagination that made "Star Wars" so worthy of the throne.

Wear it well.

Your pal,

(Signed, 'Steven')

Steven Spielberg

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Our government doesn't give a fuck about our troops

From celebrated humanist, author and one-time prisoner of war, the late-Kurt Vonnegut, comes a 1991 letter to activist Robert Henry Walz, in which the Slaughterhouse Five novelist responds to a request for assistance with regards to the support of American war veterans. Writing just four months after the end of the Gulf War, Vonnegut was admittedly "down in the mouth", and very clearly exasperated with the "rich and powerful".

Transcript follows.



Transcript
Box 27. Sagaponack, NY 11962

June 29 1991

Dear Robert Henry Walz --

Sure, I'd help if I could. But, as you may have noticed, I have spent most of my adult years trying and failing to get the attention of the rich and powerful. There are so many worthy causes they find easy to ignore, such as education and public health and bettering the deplorable conditions in so many VA hospitals and on and on.

Plenty of hell has been raised about our hostages in Lebanon or wherever, to absolutely no effect. So I am discouraged, to say the least.

If you were to hook me up to a lie-detector this evening, I think, but I'm not sure, that we would find out that I believe PW's were kept somewhere after the war's end, but that they are all dead now. In my own much more civilized war in Europe, I saw several American bodies burned along with all sorts of other people in a big funeral pyre after the Dresden raid. I was on a PW train which was bombed by the British on the way to Dresden. God only knows what was done with all the body parts.

There is all this talk now about our wonderful troops. Anyone who has been a troop in a shooting war finds this out pretty quick: our government doesn't give a good fuck about our troops.

Go ahead and use my name any way you like. What the heck. As I say, though, I am very down in the mouth these days.

Cheers,

(Signed)

Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

You have lit the flame of aspiration within so many of us

At New York's The Village Gate in October of 1962, legendary jazz tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins played a rousing set to an audience that included another notable jazz musician: Sonny Rollins. So impressed was Rollins with his idol's live performance that he later sent the following eloquently worded letter of admiration to Hawkins. A year later, the two joined forces to record Sonny Meets Hawk.

Transcript follows. Many thanks to William Kennedy (Associate Professor of Jazz Studies & Contemporary Media, College of Music, Florida State University).







Transcript
St. Rollins
195 Willoughby Walk
(Near Grand)
Brooklyn S, N. Y.

10/13/62 P.M.

My Dear Mr. Hawkins,

Your recent performance at the 'Village Gate' was magnificent!! Quite aside from the fact that you have maintained a position of dominance and leadership in the highly competitive field of 'Jazz' for the time that you have, there remains the more significant fact that such tested and tried musical achievement denotes and is subsidiary to personal character and integrity of being.

There have been many young men of high potential and demonstrated ability who have unfortunately not been 'MEN' in their personal and offstage practices and who soon found themselves devoid of the ability to create music. Perhaps these chaps were unable to understand why their musical powers left them so suddenly. Or perhaps they knew what actions were constructive as opposed to destructive but were too weak and not men enough to command the course of their lives. But certain it is that character, knowledge and virtue are superior to 'MUSIC' as such. And that 'success' is relative to the evolution of those qualities within us all. That it has been positive and lasting for you Coleman is to the high honor and credit of us, your colleagues, as well as to your own credit. For you have 'lit the flame' of aspiration within so many of us and you have epitomized the superiority of 'excellence of endeavor' and you stand today as a clear living picture and example for us to learn from.

It has always been a task to explain in words these things which in nature are the most profound and meaningful. Now you have shown me why I thought so much of you for so long. Godspeed in your travels and may I be fortunate enough to hear you play the tenor saxophone again in person.

Yours truly

Sonny Rollins

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

SAY THAT TO MY FACE



In the summer of 1995, a scheduled appearance by the Rollins Band at a gig in Brandywine, Maryland was thwarted at the very last minute due to torrential rain. A few weeks later, still feeling cheated having stood sodden in the audience through many hours of support acts, local Rollins fans Chris Farley and Ken Meekins sent Henry Rollins an admittedly "immature" message via a contact form on his website. Says Chris:
We put stuff like "Why did you have to cancel the show? Were you home eating soup with your mommy?" I think we may have called him a "punk-ass bitch" too. The form required the entry of your snail-mail address for promotional mailers and stuff. We entered "Bob Walters" in the name field and my home address. We sent the e-mail, giggled, and never thought another thing about it.
Much to their surprise, the following explanatory note, handwritten by Rollins, arrived at the house a few weeks later. The last line is fantastic.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Farley (link now dead); Image: Henry Rollins, via.)



Transcript
BOB. HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED. THE PROMOTER SETH HOROWITZ WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THE WEATHER EVEN WHEN HE PROMISED HE WOULD BE. BY THE TIME IT WAS FOR HELMET TO GO ON, THE POWER GENERATORS WERE SUBMERGED IN WATER. THE STAGE WAS MOSTLY METAL AND THE RISK OF BANDS & CREWS GETTING FRIED.

SETH REALLY BLEW IT FOR US. WE WERE THERE ALL DAY INTO THE NIGHT WAITING TO PLAY. IT WAS THE LAST SHOW OF THE TOUR WITH SAUSAGE & HELMET AND WE WERE ALL LOOKING FORWARD TO HITTING IT. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN #80 FOR THE YEAR.

TO LEAVE THAT PLACE W/O PLAYING SUCKED.

NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME, CALL ME WHAT YOU CALLED ME IN YOUR LETTER AND WE’LL SEE HOW IT GOES.

— HENRY ROLLINS

Monday, 4 October 2010

I would like to retain 'fart in your general direction'



In August of 1974, eight months prior to its cinema release, a preview screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail—a painfully funny parody of the legend of King Arthur and the Python team’s second feature film—was attended by a member of the British Board of Film Classification, Tony Kerpel, who was there to offer some feedback in relation to its eventual rating. After the credits had rolled, an informal chat took place between Kerpel and one of the film's producers, Mark Forstater, which resulted in this highly amusing letter being sent to fellow producer Michael White a few days later—its subject: dialogue cuts.

A joy to behold, and a welcome reminder of this far cruder effort from Matt Stone on the subject of South Park.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Book), via Jason Permenter; Image above via.)



Transcript
PYTHON (MONTY) PICUTRES LTD
Registered Address: 20 Fitzroy Square, London W1P6BB
Registered Number 1138069 England

August 5th, 1974.

Dear Mike,

The Censor's representative, Tony Kerpel, came along to Friday's screening at Twickenham and he gave us his opinion of the film's probable certificate.

He thinks the film will be AA, but it would be possible, given some dialogue cuts, to make the film an A rating, which would increase the audience. (AA is 14 and over, and A is 5 - 14).

For an 'A' we would have to:

Lose as many shits as possible
Take Jesus Christ out, if possible
Lose "I fart in your general direction"
Lose "the oral sex"
Lose "oh, fuck off"
Lose "We make castanets out of your testicles"

I would like to get back to the Censor and agree to lose the shits, take the odd Jesus Christ out and lose Oh fuck off, but to retain 'fart in your general direction', 'castanets of your testicles' and 'oral sex' and ask him for an 'A' rating on that basis.

Please let me know as soon as possible your attitude to this.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)

Mark Forstater

Friday, 1 October 2010

I write for young readers, not uptight adults



In September of 2008, believing it to be "inappropriate" reading material for students, a staff member at New Hampshire's Plymouth High School lodged a complaint with the school's library in an effort to have John Irving's novel, The Hotel New Hampshire, removed from their shelves. Thankfully an internal investigation quickly followed, and an overwhelming vote saw the book reinstated. On a positive note, a decision by the school's librarian, Pam Harland, to subsequently inform the author's agent of the situation resulted in the following response from Irving himself.  

Transcript follows.

(Source: An anonymous employee of the library; Image: John Irving, via.)



Transcript
John Irving
P.O. BOX 757
DORSET, VERMONT 05251

Pam Harland, Librarian
Plymouth Regional High School
86 Old Ward Bridge Rd.
Plymouth, NH 03264-1299

November 4, 2008

Dear Ms. Harland:

My wife and agent showed me your letter, and I commend your efforts to keep "The Hotel New Hampshire" available to young readers at the Plymouth Regional High School Library. Thank you! Thank you, too, for contacting me; it's often the only way I hear about efforts to ban my books. To my knowledge, only three of my novels have been successfully banned—"The World According to Garp," "The Cider House Rules," and "A Prayer for Owen Meany." (All for different reasons.) I recently spoke at a school library in Massachusetts during Banned Books Week, and I will speak this coming Sat., Nov. 8, at a public lecture for the Nashville Public Library in Tennessee—once again on the subject of banned books.

I enclose five other books of mine, signed to the Plymouth Regional High School Library. I feel they are in good hands!

I know that you already know this, because you read my novels, but in my stories there is often a young person at risk, or taken advantage of; many of my stories are about how innocence fares in the adult world. I take the side of young people, but I am also a realist; it is especially offensive to me when an uptight adult suggests that my stories are "inappropriate" for young readers. I imagine, when I write, that I am writing for young readers—not for uptight adults.

I thank you for having the courage to stand up for a novel that is utterly sympathetic to young people. As you know, the last so-called Hotel New Hampshire (at the end of the novel) is, in reality, a rape-crisis center, a place to counsel victims—most of whom are young. I wonder if the staff member who found my novel offensive actually read that far, or if the incest issue—or the sexual explicitness, of the four-letter words in the dialogue—was sufficient to impede their progress. (Real readers finish books, and then judge them; most people who propose banning a book haven't finished it. In fact, no one who actually banned Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" even read it.)

With my heartfelt best wishes,

(Signed, 'John Irving')