MEMORIAL DAY LOCKDOWN: A (FITTING) REPOST

Memorial Day lockdown is upon us and since it is indeed a Memorial Day lockdown, I’ve decide to repost a previous blog entry. This holiday won’t be like previous ones (at all!) but I think the sentiments expressed below have not changed…..


Memorial Day weekend is upon us and to most folks it means backyard BBQs, big box sales events, picnics and the traditional start of the summer. It also means something else. It means honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. That sacrifice was not only made on the battlefield. I have come to learn while working on Lee Marvin Point Blank that every single person who ever saw combat was wounded in one way or another and the result was a traumatized existence. Whether it was Agent Orange, PTSD, alcoholism, or rampant suicide, clearly, not all wounds were the result of combat. One example is Lee Marvin, who died at the premature age of 63.


Thanks to the extreme sacrifice of others, I was lucky enough to never have had that experience. Of course, that raised the question of how could I write about it, as it was a defining factor in Lee Marvin’s life? Gratefully, his letters from the war were discovered by yours truly, and after putting them in chronological order and deciphering their content, I was able to let Lee Marvin write that chapter in his own words…As it should be.

Lee Marvin’s headstone at Arlington as memorialized by members of the BSOL.

 

 




Several members of the BSOL (Bastard Sons of Lee) visited his grave site at Arlington a few years back and decided to leave the appropriate tribute seen here…..
So, this Memorial Day weekend, as it should be every Memorial Day weekend, take some time to remember the real reason for the day. Reading a good book on a the subject may be a good way to commemorate. I can recommend one: *wink, wink*
And more importantly, despite the lock down….give thanks.
– Dwayne Epstein

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: HISTORY MAKERS

History Makers
My lengthy and ongoing research into Lee Marvin Point Blank yielded some unexpected benefits, for example authoring several Young Adult titles for Lucent Books, such as Lawmen of the West for their History Makers series.
How it came about, was more serendipity than Kismet. In need of a job after being laid-off from the small publishing company I worked for, the wife of one of the brothers in The Bastard Sons of Lee (BSOL) informed me of the writing she was doing for Lucent. She then put me in contact with an acquisition editor there and we discussed possible titles in their various series. Lo and behold, I discovered they had several young adult biographical series that needed authors so I jumped at the chance to do Lawmen of the West for their History Makers series.

The cover for my young adult multi-biography LAWMEN OF THE WEST, part of Lucent Books’ History Makers series, published in 2005.

It might seem an odd choice for this Brooklyn boy, I grant you, but I figured being a a movie fan might help me enjoy exploring the lives of some of the individuals often depicted on screen. What the series required seemed daunting at first but then again, what new project isn’t? The form of a multi-biographical series actually dates back to Plutarch in the 1st Century, who wrote volumes within the theme of comparing leading Romans to ancient Greeks. Not too daunting a challenge, right? Each chapter needed to have not only a worthy individual who’s life is briefly explored, but most importantly, a specific theme within that life that has to be emphasized throughout the span of that lifetime. Such a requriement not only gave me pause, it nearly had me giving up!

Copyright and Table of Contents for LAWMEN OF THE WEST.

Luckily, once I began exploring the possible inclusions, the theme actually seeped into the work itself. As noted in the table of contents seen above, the subtitles told the tale of the themes within. I chose the subjects, did the research, wrote ’em up and then created introduction(s) and bibliographies. The only one I had to drop (due to length), was Alan Pinkerton, the Scottish immigrant who helped create the Secret Service following Lincoln’s assassination and the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency, the one with the big eye on their business cards.

The section on the last years of Wyatt Earp that is not nearly as talked about as the O.K. Corral.

There was some necessary obvious choices, such as the likes of Wyatt Earp, first and foremost. In researching his legacy I not only discovered how reluctantly he became a lawman (the perfect theme) but also how vindictiveness made him more like Michael Corleone than Matt Dillon. His later years were also just as intriguing but less written about, as well.
Along the way, I developed personal favorites. Topping the list for me was Bat Masterson.

The opening section on the chapter on Bat Masterson, who was a personal favorite of the author.

Not only a legendary lawman but a spinner tales in which he probably never did really kill anybody but created a reputation that entered a room long before he did. His final days as a NY sports writer was yet another fascinating twist. Bitter at the end of his life, the day he died he was found slumped over his typewriter with what could have been his epitaph freshly typed onto the page: “There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this old dump of a world of ours. I suppose the ginks who argue that way hold that, because the rich man gets icier the summer and the poor man gets it in the winter, things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I’ll swear I can’t see it that way.”
The creation of these researched biographical sketches taught me much about what life writing is all about. The themes fleshed out and executed within, kept me in good stead in researching and writing about Lee Marvin and other figures since. It also proved that biographies had changed MUCH since I was a kid. For example……

A staple of young adult bios (if they can be done) is the dead body of an individual, always a crowd pleaser.

  • Dwayne Epstein
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HAPPY 64TH BIRTHDAY TO SONS OF LEE MARVIN FOUNDER JIM JARMUSCH

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are quite familiar with the connection indie film director Jim Jarmusch has to the legacy of Lee Marvin. Jarmusch turns 64 today and in honor of his birthday, allow me to recount the tale.

Cult director and Sons of Lee Marvin founder, Jim Jarmusch

Jarmusch has been avoiding mainstream success for decades by making and occasionally appearing in his own indie films (Mystery Train, Down by Law, Stranger Than Paradise, Dead Man, Ghost Dog, etc). He’s also an avowed Lee Marvin fan, dying his hair white in tribute. Consequently, when I was still in the earliest stages of research of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I came across his tale, or at least his version of it, of how his ‘secret’ organization, The Sons of Lee Marvin, came into existence. I was standing in the middle of the Buena Park Public Library perusing back issues of Film Comment magazine. They used to have a semi-regular column called “Guilty Pleasures,” in which renowned filmmakers detail their love of movies they know are not very good but they love them anyway. I was not yet fully sold on committing myself to a Lee Marvin bio, but when I read Jim Jarmusch’s account of how The Sons of Lee Marvin came to be as part of his column, I was shushed for laughing out loud. It helped sell me on the idea of the book as in all my years of reading and researching films and stars I have never come across such an amazing tale! I was hooked.
In the interim, I was to discover (and later join), a shadow organization known as the BSOL. How they came to be introduced to the real son of Lee Marvin is also an intriguing exclusive of Lee Marvin Point Blank.

The main logo for The Bastard Sons of Lee.

A logo for the more accessible organization known as the BSOL, sometimes seen in Pasadena’s Doo-Dah Parade.

But I digress. The point here is that like all talented filmmakers, even fiercely independent ones, like birthday boy Jarmusch, has a knack for creating mythology. I was to discover how much of a mythology it is when I ultimately met and made friends with Christopher Marvin, Lee’s actual son. As Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know, Jarmusch’s tale of Chris Marvin and Tom Waits is, how shall I say it? As our current POTUS has coined it, an “alternative fact.” To know the truth, read Lee Marvin Point Blank. Until then, enjoy this page from my research binder in which Jarmusch himself recounts the tale in his Film Comment article. Happy birthday Mr. J. and keep the mythology growing! Enjoy……

The original FILM COMMENT article in which Jim Jarmusch explains the formation of the Sons of Lee Marvin.

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