The Austin Ch30nicles
Remember That Issue ... With a Delicious Scandal?
Unlike Texas, autumn in New York arrives like clockwork. It was a cool and crisp late September Thursday in 1993.
Since I'd been involved in the sale and national release of Slacker, befriended Richard Linklater, and spent time in Austin, it was only natural that I became an avid reader of The Austin Chronicle. Apparently, the inside joke was that my avidity surpassed that of both local Austin readers and much of the paper's staff.
How could a New Yorker keep up with the Chronicle in 1993 when it wasn't online – when nothing was online? Thanks to the good graces of Senior Film Editor Marjorie Baumgarten and the U.S. Postal Service, I pored over each and every issue on a one-week time delay.
But that Thursday was different. Linklater's new feature and first studio film, Dazed and Confused, was opening the next day. The film was sure to be in that week's Chronicle spotlight. Only a few insiders were aware of the battles during production and the studio's fumbling uncertainty about its release.
Perhaps a pre-Internet, Pony Express-style remoteness is the reason Rick decided to offer his eye-opening journal detailing the painful twists and turns in the making of Dazed and Confused to his hometown alt-weekly. He named names, including interfering film executives at Universal Pictures and uncooperative members of Led Zeppelin, but he expected reactions to only trickle in.
Not exactly. The fax lines were burning. Baumgarten sent it to me, and page after page just kept spewing out of the fax machine. It seemed like Rick's account must have taken up half of the issue. He recently told me he sent in everything he had assuming it would be cut, but it was all there. Six pages.
It was a delicious scandal. Producers Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel, along with everyone at Universal, were instantly aggrieved. In Hollywood, criticism, even the most heartfelt and honest kind, usually stays behind closed doors and definitely out of print.
It was a great read then, and it's still a great read now. It should be published with any other production journals that Linklater has tucked away in his files. His acute insight far outweighs any vitriol. Yet it's scathingly entertaining. And unlike acclaimed inside Hollywood exposés like Final Cut or You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, it's written from the creative filmmaker's point of view and aching with sincerity.
Linklater has now made a dozen additional features – but none for Universal Pictures! – John Pierson, indie film guru