Re: Paul Cullum’s “The Misfits” [cover story, November 15–21]. Had the L.A. Weekly called me to respond to Don Murphy’s claims about Boys Don’t Cry, I would have been happy to relay the following: Kim Peirce and Killer Films struggled for more than five years to make a movie based on the life of Brandon Teena. Kim was there from the very beginning of the case, attending the trials and conducting extensive interviews. As is common practice, she obtained signed releases for all interviews, including two from Lana Tisdel and one from JoAnne Brandon. Faced with two competing studio projects, we beat the odds and managed to independently finance our film and get it into production first.

When Fox Searchlight purchased Boys Don’t Cry, Fox ceased development on their internal Drew Barrymore project and New Line ceased development on Murphy’s. Murphy then sent Killer Films letters claiming that he was the only one who had the “right” to tell Brandon Teena’s story. Murphy also accused us of “copyright infringement.” He had optioned the documentary and claimed to have also secured Brandon Teena’s “life rights” from his mother, JoAnne Brandon.

As any first-year law student could tell you, stories that depict historical/criminal events in the public domain are not copyrightable. That is the reason so many competing projects were able to be in development at once. Don Murphy proceeded to tell our lawyer that his intention was to “destroy” Boys Don’t Cry. Among other things, Murphy attempted (and almost succeeded!) in blocking the film’s North American premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

We were trying to arrange a screening of the finished film for Lana when we learned that she was now being represented by Don Murphy’s Beverly Hills–based lawyer. Murphy, realizing that he had no personal claim, engaged his lawyer to press a claim for Tisdel. After viewing the film, Tisdel filed a lawsuit claiming she had been libeled. Tisdel asked for an injunction against the film on the day it opened. The injunction was denied with a ruling that she was not likely to succeed in her lawsuit based on the initial claim. Fox decided to settle with Tisdel for a small sum in order to avoid further litigation.

If Murphy had presented his actions against Boys Don’t Cry as an example of his ability to exact revenge on people he feels have crossed him, I would not be writing this missive — he did that very well indeed! But the idea that he harassed Killer Films out of some moral obligation to Lana Tisdel is laughable. As if!

—Christine Vachon
New York City

Yes, Stuart Cornfeld is brilliant, funny and handsome, but the influence of his wife, Johanna Went, a gifted performance artist and painter, has also been a major factor in Stuart’s evolution. So sad that it’s the producers, prisons and politicos who rate cover stories, while prescient local talent like Johanna (whose friendship with Karen Finley began long before her union with Stuart) remains known only to the cognoscenti.

—Ruth Kramer Ziony
Los Angeles

In Paul Cullum’s article, the Philip K. Dick property Flow My Tears the Policeman Said is identified as a prospective future project at Muse Productions. Muse was, in the past, attached to produce that project by bringing in a certain director and helping to raise the financing for the picture. That attachment has expired. The owners all along of the book-rights license for any motion picture of the property have been John Simon and Chip Rosenblum. Muse has been — and is currently — engaged in discussions to help raise financing for this picture, and may once again attach itself formally. However, that will not be the case until that financing, as well as the creative elements, are approved by the rights-holders of the underlying property, namely Simon and Rosenblum. At the request of Mr. Rosenblum in particular, I would be grateful if you set the record straight.

—Chris Hanley
Muse Productions
Los Angeles


I just finished John Powers’ “Who Wears the Pants?” [On, November 15–21]. It’s been quite some time since I ‘ve read such a refreshingly candid piece. As an unabashed East Coast liberal, I have been disgusted over the so-called liberal media’s kid-gloves approach to the Bush administration on everything from corporate irresponsibility to the injection of Christian dogma into our government, to the not-merely-erosion-but-wholesale-excavation of our civil rights, culminating with putting convicted felon (and traitor) John Poindexter in charge of the national information database.

We all need to be very, very afraid.

—James Carrington
Haverhill, Massachusetts

Here the Democrats had a tanking stock market, an anemic economy, high-ranking corporate criminals, climbing unemployment, sinking consumer confidence, ä vanished IRAs, and they still couldn’t score a hat trick. Nor could they beat Jeb Bush in Florida, even with Al Gore on the campaign trail for the other guy (whoever he was). The Democrats were opposed to the Iraq war, sort of, and in favor of it, sort of; they had an economic plan, kind of, and no economic plan, kind of. They didn’t do the one thing people wanted most, take a stand against terrorism. They wanted to “understand” the murdering terrorists, not just kill them on sight. Add to this that the Democrats were running against an “illegitimate” president. With all of this, they still couldn’t get the job done. Don’t blame the Republicans. And the Democrats’ solution? Move further to the left. This is the meaning of Nancy Pelosi’s victory as Democratic house leader. Add a dash of McGovern to this equation, and you have the Democrats stuck in the political wilderness for an entire generation, again. That they could so quickly have forgotten this lesson puts them exactly where they deserve to be today. Nowhere.

—Leopold Rosenfeld
Beverly Hills

Re: Doug Ireland’s “Pelosi’s Problems” [November 15–21]. How refreshing to read an in-depth critique of a Democrat, particularly a Democrat who is female, more liberal and vocal than most in Washington, from California, has some power and clout, and is relatively free of the political taint clinging to Bush appeasers like Dick Gephardt. I certainly don’t read enough negative press about Democrats in the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, CNN, ABC or other major media outlets. Thanks, L.A. Weekly and Doug Ireland, for your dedication to “alternative” political coverage.

—Paulene Kirk


Kudos for Sara Catania’s latest foray into the dungeons of America’s death-penalty system [“A Third Repreive,” November 15–21]. Her article portraying Marcelino Ramos’ life was a stirring drama of soul-crushing childhood neglect, severe mental retardation and a tragic association with a career criminal who testified that he — not Ramos — belonged on death row for the senseless murder of Taco Bell clerk Kathryn Parrott. Too bad your headline and photo caption didn’t reflect a similar gravitas. “Is he retarded? Does it matter?” you ask beneath Ramos’ mug shot. It does — even to the ultraconservative U.S. Supreme Court. As Ms. Catania points out, the court ruled this year that executing people with mental retardation constituted a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s protection against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Ramos’ IQ has been measured between 62 and 75, within the range of mentally retarded. Yet your headline declares him “one of California’s most notorious death-row inmates” (with 612 people on death row, Ramos’ single, unpremeditated murder hardly places him in that category), and chastises him for appealing for his life a third time. Would you stop appealing for your life if the Supreme Court just declared your sentence “cruel and unusual”?

We have an effective alternative to state killing in California — life sentence without possibility of parole (LWOP). More than 2,500 murderers have been sentenced to LWOP and only one released, when he was proved innocent. With LWOP, no one has to take on the gruesome task of determining who’s smart enough to be executed, or cruel and unusual enough to do it.

—Mike Farrell, President
Lance Lindsey, Executive Director
Death Penalty Focus


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