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Riding Shotgun with Woody Harrelson

Missoula, Montana

Woody Harrelson’s new film, Go Further played here in Missoula, last week. Ron Mann directs the film and will be at the Missoula showing. Josh and I went to our first movie together. I don’t go to many movies. The last one I saw was the first Spiderman. I liked it because it was close to the original Comic Book, which I used to buy at Whitehead’s Drugstore in Louisville, back in 1964. For me, movies should be like Comic Books, the bad guys get their asses kicked. But since I don’t go to theaters, I usually watch these kinds of movies on Cable in a Motel. Sometimes I even watch tear-jerkers. Most of these movies will get at least one tear in a theater, but not on TV. It’s not the same somehow.

But I’ll tell you, there is one kind of movie that really I do not like to go see. That is the Documentary. Woody’s movie is a Documentary of a Bus Trip he did. It’s getting great reviews, and he’s my friend, so I had to go see it. Woody is a great activist and has proven many times that he can hang with the Lowbaggers. But trust me, you might not want to let your girlfriend do Yoga with him.

Last year I was asked to speak at a Hollywood Film Festival that screened mostly environmental and animal rights documentaries. Afterwards, I went out to dinner with some of the directors and famous Hollywood actor dude Ed Bagley Jr. They asked me how I liked the festival. I said it was fun as long as you didn’t watch the movies. They are such a Buzz Kill. These movies were all propaganda and I sometimes felt like a small salmon, swimming upstream against a strong current of bad propaganda. Of course, propaganda is not necessarily bad. It’s protected free speech, and it’s necessary in a free society. But, in a free society you also don’t have to read or watch propaganda, even if it’s good.

My first movie going experiences were seeing the newest Elvis movies. We’d go to the old Knox Theater, on Third and Oak, for the Saturday Matinee. There were too may of us kids to go all at once, so my Mom usually took turns taking us. This was no problem, because Elvis was making about 18 movies a year back then.

Being in a movie theater was a big deal in the early sixties because these theaters were built by, and for, rich people. They were palatial. We only got to use them when the rich white people moved to the suburbs. The rich Black people still couldn’t move to the suburbs, so the Knox Theater was integrated without incident because the neighborhood itself was changing. Not many of the Black kids went to see Elvis, but later, when I started selling newspapers and doing odd jobs, I could afford to both buy Spiderman comics and go see Steve Reeves’ Hercules movies at the Knox. Steve Reeves could kick Elvis’ ass. There was always a large group of kids there every Saturday afternoon and everybody sat together and hid their eyes every time the monster appeared on the scene. In the end, the monster got his or her ass kicked (Hercules would fight a lot of women in his movies), and afterwards we felt safe to go out on the sidewalk and wait for our parents to meet us.

This is the thing about movies. I always feel manipulated by the director, but in the end, it is okay because I want to feel good leaving the theater. As I’ve said, I don’t mind being manipulated in the theater, as long as it’s by the director, not the person sitting next to me. Unless that person is my date. Film is a very powerful medium, and very hard to do well when you have a message, or messenger, that’s more important than the story. And if people don’t leave the theater feeling better, then no one will come back to see another one of their movies, unless they go to the movies to feel bad. I go to see the monster get his or her ass kicked. Or, if I have to, I go to the movies to see a handsome guy watch his girlfriend die bravely from a slow, painful, and very rare, disease.

Speaking of Woody, his movie is about a bus trip. Lowbagger took a road trip with both Woody and famous conservationist and election reform hero Granny D. Haddock, in Joe Hickey’s bus, coming back from the Heartwood Gathering in Western Kentucky two summers ago. We were taking Woody to the airport, which is pretty much all you do when you hang out with Woody. It was a long ride, and we had a big Buick for Granny D. Granny D was somewhere around 90, and we didn’t think it was a good idea for her to ride two hours with Woody and Hickey in a Hippy Bus. Regardless, she climbed on board the bus and we were on the road for ten minutes when I overheard the following conversation between these two respected activists.

Woody: Granny D, have you ever smoked pot?

Granny D: No, I never have.

Woody: I can’t believe it. I never met a ninety-year-old woman who hadn’t smoked pot before. Do you want to try it?

I couldn’t hear Granny D’s response, but the next thing I saw was Woody pulling out a funny looking, left-handed cigarette and Granny D was taking a shotgun hit from Woody. When we stopped for gas, it was, as usual, very hard to get the Lowbaggers back on the bus, especially with Woody acting like he was some big Hollywood Movie dude and being very nice to all his fans, which appeared to be everywhere. When we finally did get on the bus, Matt Koehler and I asked Granny D how she felt. She replied that now she understood why it takes so long to get back Hippies back on a bus.

Another bus we like here at Lowbagger is the Oxygen Bus. They are not making a movie, but I think they are making history standing up to the Freddies in the Siskiyous right now. Well, they probably are making a movie, because they have a video camera, and someday you will have to watch their movie. Trust me, it will be better if you just go up to the Biscuit and check it out for yourself, now, while it is happening, and maybe you can even be a part of history. They need your help. Check out their link and give Laurel and friends a call. I am still out on bail in Douglas County, but I will be down there for my trial whenever we get a decision from the Judge on our appeal of the Ag Ops Law. See you there.

MIKE ROSELLE, “Man Without a Bioregion,” is cofounder of Earth First!; the Rainforest Action Network and the Ruckus Society and has been instrumental in virtually every famous GreenPeace stunt. “Nagasaki” has lost count of how many times he has been arrested at nonviolent anti-war and environmental Civil Disobedience actions in every region of the country, as well as internationally. His dispatches from the road can be read on Lowbagger.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MIKE ROSELLE is Campaign Director of Climate Ground Zero and author of Tree Spiker!. He can be reached at: mikeroselle@hotmail.com

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