October 29, 2003
Terry Southern, 1924-1995

peace2.jpgToday is the eighth anniversary of Terry Southern's death. Terry was co-author (with Mason Hoffenberg) of Candy (they were paid $500 for their retelling of Candide as a softcore romp through the sixties), co-screenwriter (with Stanley Kubrick) of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (he also tried to get the director to let him co-write A Clockwork Orange with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones as Alex and his Droogs), the true author of Easy Rider, and a journalist, to boot.

Terry was the knock you on your ass funny heart of the sixties counterculture and an astute slayer of pietiesóright, left, center, everything in between.
Here's a letter Southern wrote to Ms. Magazine in 1972, from Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern 1950-1995 (edited by Terry's son, Nile):

Dear Ms.:
Since the letters you see free to print are so flagrantly and one-sidedly selective ("self-serving" is, I believe the expression), I doubt this will find its way into those columns; we shall see. In any case, during your own quest for the truth, libbywise, you might consider the following suggestion: namely, that it is naÔve in the extreme for women to expect to be regarded as equals by men (despite all lip service to the contrary), so long as they persist in subhuman (i.e., animal-like) behavior during sexual intercourse. I'm referring, as you doubtless know, to the outlandish panting, gasping, moaning, sobbing, writhing, scratching, biting, screaming conniptions, and the seemingly invariable "Oh my god ... oh, my god ... oh, my god" all so predictably integral to the pre-, post-, and orgasmic stages of intercourse...

According to Dick Holland of The Austin Chronicle, there's no evidence that Ms. ran the letter in whole or in part.

Let Terry's writingóand his utterly uncompromising, career-ruining anticsóbe a lesson to all of you safe, boring, self-styled "humorists" out there (you know who you are!) who's only ambition is to write an illustration-heavy quickie book about current events, land a New Yorker Shouts and Murmurs piece, get their own McSweeneys perma-link, or fill the once-a-month humor hole in The Times Op-Ed page. If Terry were alive today, he'd tell you exactly which hole you can fill and how. (Furthermore, Terry would never call himself a 'humorist': sounds too much like 'economist' or 'manicurist' and besides, it makes being funny seem like a job.)

To do today:
Visit Nile's site and and pay your respects.
Rent Candy and see Marlon Brando in his most insane (but intentionally funny) performance this side of The Island of Dr. Moreau
Remind yourself of how relevant Dr. Strangelove still is by checking out Operation Strangelove.
Read Terry's take on the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago and get ready for the G.O.P. invasion of New York next Sept. 11.
Pray that Drew Barrymore's Flower Films never gets her proposed remake of Barbarella off the ground.
Be more funny.

Posted in a Shallow fashion.

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