Monday, August 14, 2017

Billy Jack - the Candidate

Does any of this sound familiar?

Billy Jack is a "half-breed" American Navajo Indian,[2] a Green Beret Vietnam War veteran, and a hapkido master.  Jack defends the hippie-themed Freedom School and students from townspeople who do not understand or like the counterculture students. The school is organized by Jean Roberts (Delores Taylor).  More…

A group of children of various races from the school go to town for ice cream and are refused service and then abused and humiliated by Bernard Posner and his gang. This prompts a violent outburst by Billy. Later, the director of the Freedom School, Jean, is raped and an Indian student is then murdered by Bernard (David Roya), the son of the county's corrupt political boss (Bert Freed). Billy confronts Bernard and sustains a gunshot wound before killing him with a hand strike to the throat, after Bernard was caught in bed with a 13-year-old girl. After a climactic shootout with the police, and pleading from Jean, Billy Jack surrenders to the authorities and is arrested. As he is driven away, a large crowd of supporters raise their fists as a show of defiance and support. The second movie -  “Billy Jacks trial” went on for as long as the campaign.

As it happens, there were two Billy Jack movies on the SonyMovie channel this afternoon. And why were those movies of interest to me?  Well, there are those times when my Presidential politics were more colorful than the usual; candidate establishes credibility, raises money, builds a campaign, and runs for office. But he was not a traditional writer, producer or film maker,  “Billy Jack”, Tom Laughlin, was not a traditional Presidential candidate.  It was never clear how found his way to me.  Maybe he heard about the time we ran Lee Iacocca for President.  Of course, Iacocca was not happy about our campaign. But we raised $50,000 and got terrific press and even better, we were only allowed to build a campaign if the candidate didn’t agree to be involved  And, be assured, he did not agree.

The campaign had no money. They expected me, (me the entire political staff),  not to want any money.  That was not going to happen.  I designed a campaign strategy and made some suggestions.  They were nice, if somewhat delusional, people. He still thought that as Billy Jack, he would be recognizable, and have an automatic following.  He thought his Q rating remained off the charts. They agreed with nothing I thought they should do.

Their expectations of me became very complicated.  As the consultant, the driver, the scheduler and the person most likely to underwrite the campaign financially, there came a point when it was impossible to continue to work for them.  Them being Tom and his assistant, not his wife.
Anyway, David and I took them to the White House, where we still had friends who pretended to know who he was.  And that was the last I heard about him until I read his obit.

“Tom Laughlin, the actor, writer, director and producer who created the “Billy Jack” movie series of the 1970s, a low-budget fusion of counterculture piety and martial-arts violence that struck a chord with audiences and became a prototype for independent filmmaking and distribution, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 82.”

The obit also mentioned that he changed the way Hollywood movie distribution was done. And that he made 80 million dollars on the Billy Jack movies. He was relentless as well as rich.  He could have paid me and an entire staff if he had wanted to do that.  His intention was not to run for President but to get info for his remake of “Mr. Smith goes to Washington”, of which there is a trailer but the movie never got released. And ended on this note “Blah blah blah.” He later became an outspoken environmentalist and antinuclear activist and sought the Democratic nomination for president on several state primary ballots in 1992, 2004 and 2008. I was the campaign staff in 1992.  After I left the “Not really” Billy Jack Presidential campaign, I created chickens for the Clinton campaign — which was a much better, and much more fun to do.  We’re just sayin’….  Iris

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