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Splendor in the Short Grass

Illustration for article titled Splendor in the Short Grass

Here's Grover Lewis' famous Rolling Stone takeout on the filming of The Last Picture Show:

Meanwhile, on their tiny plot of dead grass, Jeff and Loyd are embarked on an extraordinary exchange of their own. Jeff is saying in a casual, offhand way that he knows Loyd doesn't do much reading, but anyway, he's got this spare copy of a book called Steppenwolf in his room at the hotel, and he wants to lay it on him … you know, whatever … just in case Loyd ever gets the urge to read something in an off minute.

"Steppenwolf. Is that that rock group?" Loyd asks. "Shit, boy, Ah lahk rock—it puts fuel in mah airplane."

No, Jeff explains—still ever so offhandedly, casually—the rock group in all likelihood took its name from the book, which is about—well, about this dude named Steppenwolf, Loyd'll just have to read about it for himself to understand…. But if there's an overall message to the book…you know… well, maybe it's something like—Keep movin'…Or, whatever…It's only a book after all, but still and all, Loyd might get something out of it that might, you know … change his way of thinking, his values, stuff like that—

"Ah ain't good at books—Ah don't have to tell you that—but Ah lahk that message, whatever you call it," Loyd says, worrying at his teeth with a stem of grass. "Keep movin'—shit, that's mah meat, awright. Listen, Jeff—you reckon Ah'd make a fair Western star? Ah'm savin' mah money so's Ah can go out to California when this outfit's done shootin' here, but what happens then? How do Ah go about gettin' in the union, do you know? The Screen Actors Guild? Mr. Surtees said he wants to do some stills of me if Ah ever make it out to Hollywood. And John Hellerman—you know, he's an awful fahn little man—he gimme a mixed drank last night up in his room at the ho-tel and tole me Ah could bunk at his place when Ah git out there. Well, shit fahr and save matches, maybe ever'thang's gonna turn out awright, you thank so?"

Jeff, no longer offhand or casual, hunches his shoulders forward intensely and gestures in an agitated circle: "I don't know, Loyd. Nobody knows anything for sure, so nobody can tell you anything for sure. If some dude says he can, then he's bullshitting you. That's why it's important to keep moving—keep tryin' to understand yourself better in the world, the real world of true recognitions.

"OK, so Surtees and Hellerman say they'll try to help you. Well, I'll try, too—I'll give you my L.A. address, to start with. But I don't want you to get your hopes pumped up too high, because you might not make it. Probably won't, in fact. Hell, you might even find out you don't want to be a movie star, blah-blah-blah. Follow me? You might find you want to be something altogether different, you know? The thing everybody has got to learn is—channel that energy. I mean, like in your case, don't fight with your fists anymore, all that jiveass shit you've told me about. Fuck, or eat, or climb a mountain, or do something useful instead."

Unused to such talk, Loyd passes a troubled hand across his face, then blurts impassionedly: "Gawddamn it to hell, Jeff, it's hard for me to keep thoughts lahk that in mah head, but Ah'll try, and you got mah word of it, buddeh! Hell, Ah wanna know about all that stuff you mean—values and thankin' and all that shit. You just way out ahead a me, is all, and it's hard as hell to catch up. Ah guess just bein' in this movie, gettin' to know a guy like you and all—that's changin' mah lahf, ain't it?…

"Ah was thankin' the other night at the house—you know, just settin' around thankin', lahk a guy'll do—and all of a sudden, Ah was on the subject of God. Jesus Christ, Ah says to mahself, what's goin' on here? Ah never did figger it all out to suit me, but anyways, what Ah was thankin' was you limit yourself to God, but He don't limit Hisself to you, does He? Ah mean God can be whatever he takes a notion to be—a tree or a rock or whatever the fuck…. But a guy cain't be nothin' but a human man, see what Ah'm gittin' at? And you know what? Alla that made me feel-lonesome, somehow. Ah don't know how to explain it, but Ah guess you cain't hep but feel lonesome sometimes, can ye?"

It's worth your time.

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