Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why Me, Kris?

Yesterday I watched the recent, well-received documentary titled Brats--which has as its subject us children of the armed services. I vaguely knew of this film but had no idea its name was so stark, and that I was duplicating it when I wrote a couple of postings for this blog. Oh well, Donna Mucil's far-ranging work certainly subsumes my casual thoughts on the matter!

I found much to agree with, some new revelations I'd never considered, and some sociology stuff I'd just sneer at: sort of, "So what? So there's a few million of us. Suck it up. Get a life." Guess that makes me sound like the Robert Duvall martinet father from that other movie, but I did NOT get the attitude from my father, fondly known to my sisters and me as "The Colonel." Dad was a reluctant warrior, a reservist called back for Korea, who decided to stick around till he could retire; and he was a fairly casual guy in the discipline department. Oh, sure, we kids had to be polite and do chores and such, but my family life was blessedly free from trauma, aside from all the moves.

Still, Brats is a very worthy look at the dependents life, helped considerably by the songs of honored songwriter, movie narrator and, these days, elder brat Kris Kristofferson. And he's the real subject today, as I relate the sad tale of Kris and Ed, two Air Force brats who went astray...

Back in the day, I wrote record reviews for Rolling Stone. And one review I was assigned circa 1970 was to examine new albums by Kristofferson and Leon Russell (without a copy of the review in front of me, I can only guess it was likely the second album from each of those soulful croakers). So, as one does, i discussed the artists' voices, song choices, and backing musicians, one of whom was vocalist Rita Coolidge, who sang on both albums.

Then, inspired by rock-crit wiseacres like Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer, I cracked wise too, making reference to the fact that Ms. Coolidge has been Russell's so-called old lady, had toured and sung with him, but was now singing and sharing the life with Kristofferson instead.

The fit hit the shan after that. Since I have never had the pleasure of meeting Kristofferson, I can only report what I was told thereafter. He reacted angrily, not to the remarks about his album, but to my snooping into and then discussing his private life. He called (or maybe wrote a letter to) the Rolling Stone offices to complain, and threatened to punch me out if we ever met face to face. I was stunned, intending only to be clever but instead arousing real ire, guilty of having acted thoughtlessly (i.e., see the very first posting on this blog).

I tried to issue an apology through the magazine and through record promotion people I knew, but Kristofferson was having none of it. His next album had on the jacket back a dressing room mirror scene, with supposed LP reviews tacked up, including a parody of mine signed by "Ed Limesucker"! Okay, I thought, fair enough; Kristofferson has gotten even.

But he was not finished with me. As his movie career brought both fame and shame, drinking and drugging (maybe) and casual flirtations (maybe), his relationship with Coolidge soured; and in some long magazine interview (was it Playboy? I just don't remember), he talked about how everything had started going wrong when this one asshole journalist had somehow interfered in his private life and introduced bad vibes or something!

A couple of years later, Kristofferson spent time in Seattle filming a not-very-good futuristic film directed by Alan Rudolph (I think). Once again, I tried to get word to the actor that I would like to meet him in person, to apologize and even take a punch or two if it would just clear the air. Again, I was told to stay away.

And so I have, all the years since. Kristofferson straightened out, got a whole new, evidently happy life, ascended to the Highwaymen rank of country stars, continued to act successfully in Hollywood, and so on. He's become a healthy, hard-running, grey-haired elder statesman, and now the fitting narrator for Brats.

I just wish he and I, two guys who spent too many years acting unprofessionally--un-military brats indeed--could finally settle our differences.

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