Re: Paul Cullum’s
[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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
DUNGEONS AND DIMWITS
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