Throw Back The Little Ones!



Once upon a time, I was convinced that one of my movie treatments -- The Bomb Family, about a family that hunkers down in a fall-out shelter bunker and is found years later to be way out of step with the current times -- was ripped off for the movie Blast from the Past (1999) starring Brendan Fraser. The thing that was most disturbing about the whole thing was that I'd pitched my idea to an old acquaintance of mine from my William Morris days who I knew from L.A. He was then one of the development folks at the same boutique studio that produced Blast. I had a detailed treatment and was certain he'd "greenlight" this amazing project once he convinced his colleagues they should option it. I could then start writing the script and the rest would be history. But alas, it never materialized, until it materialized a few years later with a different title and a slightly different story; oh, such a very slight difference.

When I talked to my lawyer about it, he said that without a "proper" paper trail it would virtually impossible to prove and that a lawsuit would not be a very wise decision unless I had witnesses and a boatload of cash to pay out for the legal fees, etc. Not having the financial depth required, I let my anger dissipate over the years, promising myself I would never pitch another project unless I had my back covered; and my front and my top.

In the case of Steely Dan v. You, Me and Dupree, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker not only have a legitimate beef but some serious weight behind them. Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, this romantic comedy has some serious explaining to dol. Now, it may take some real legal muscle to convince a jury that their song "Cousin Dupree" and lyrics inspired this insipid little romantic comedy, but I suspect it will be settled before it ever reaches the jury phase. The fact remains that in the movie biz this kind of shit happens all the time. People are always crawling out from underneath their shells to sue development people, ex-partners, or former friends claiming they spawned the idea that ultimately made someone other themselves a huge success and left them holding the door.

But enough hyperbole, check out the Becker and Fagen letter to Mr. Owen Wilson's brother Luke that's posted on Steely Dan's website and see how justice is served on the Web. This is one of the best public floggings I've read in some time and well worth the effort.

Below are their lyrics from the song in question, "Cousin Dupree" from Steely Dan's long player Two Against Nature:

Well I've kicked around a lot since high school
I've worked a lot of nowhere gigs
From keyboard man in a rock'n ska band
To haulin' boss crude in the big rigs
Now I've come back home to plan my next move
From the comfort of my Aunt Faye's couch
When I see my little cousin Janine walk in
All I could say was ow ow ouch
Honey how you've grown
Like a rose
Well we used to play
When we were three
How about a kiss for your cousin Dupree
She turned my life into a living hell
In those little tops and tight capris
I pretended to be readin' the National Probe
As I was watchin' her wax her skis
On Saturday night she walked in with her date
And backs him up against the wall
I tumbled off the couch and heard myself sing
In a voice I never knew I had before
I'll teach you everything I know
If you teach me how to do that dance 
Life is short and quid pro quo
And what's so strange about a down-home family romance?
One night we're playin' gin by a cracklin' fire
And I figured I'd make my play
I said babe with my boyish charm and good looks
How can you stand it for one more day
She said maybe its the skeevy look in your eyes
Or that your mind has turned to applesauce
The dreary architecture of your soul
I said, but what is it exactly turns you off?


It'll be really interesting to see how things shake out on this one, but in the interim enjoy the drama. It's a silly little diversion from our chaotic world; a fun distraction from our real problems.