Terry Lawson

I was born in Dayton, Ohio, raised mostly by my grandparents, and my grandmother taught me to read at age three so I wouldn't be bothering her all day; whatever the reason, it instilled a life-long love. She was a also fundamentalist, and I wasn't allowed to see movies, which compelled me to sneak out to my neighborhood theater The Alahambra, which changed double-feature programs twice a week, which meant that for 50 cents, I could see four films a week. Oddly, no one had any objection to my early passion for rock and roll, and most of my allowance was spent at the Ol' Hat TV Repair and Record Store. The first Lp I ever owned was "The Twangy Guitar of Duane Eddy. I was the perfect age to be slammed by The Beatles, The Stones, and Bob Dylan, who would retain my life-long devotion. From the age of 13, I played in rock bands, which directly interfered with my education; one of them got damned good and played regulalry at teen hops, rock clubs and bars (using phoney IDs). We opened for bands like The Byrds and The Beau Brummels, and even did a Midwest ballroom tour with the Beck and Page Yardbirds; we also cut a track for a compilation album of the area's best bands which now sells for insane prices in Japan. This greatly improved my social standing in high school. Somehow I got into college, mostly in an attempt to avoid the draft. I got involved in anti-war groups and the SDS, cut my hair to work for Eugene McCarthy's doomed presidential campaign, lost a front tooth to a billy club in the Chicago police riots, and drifted into more mainstream politics; I eventually became Ohio's youngest elected offical (School Board) at age 20, after 18-year-olds finally won the right to vote. I soon discovered that while I had ideals and ideas, I had no talent for actual governing, and defected to the enemy: Journalism. With no qualifications at all, I was hired at the late, great Journal Herald, a place which encouraged good writing and creativity, mostly because we sold only about a third as many newspaoers as the more staid competition, The Dayton Daily News. I originally wrote features and a pop music column, and then bluffed my way into the Film Critic's job, which required a quick education. I watched lots of silents. foreign films, and John Ford, and again, was lucky enough to come of age in the 70s, the last great period for American film. When the Dayton Daily News absorbed The Journal I became film critic there, and aside from a brief New York City sojourn where I worked as an assistant film editor, a film critic I would be. I moved to The Detroit Free Press in the late 90s, where I also contributed music and books reviews and wrote a weekly column. I also wrote a weekly DVD column, the first in any American newspaper. Along the way I've had my share of accolades; I was nominated for the Pulitzer annually, and was a runner-up twice. I was awarded first place in Criticism by the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors. More dear to me were unbelievable encounters. I've had dinner with Martin Scorsese and Tom Hanks (not together); I've shaken hands with teenage heroes Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger and latter-day hero Jimmy Stewart; I once ran into and talked with my favorite musician, Miles Davis, while lifting weights at a New York hotel gym (I didn't tell him I was a writer), and literally bumped ino a corpulent Brian Wilson backstage at a Beach Boys concert, and told him how much his music had meant to me. He asked me if I had any speed. A few years later, I cried when I watched Wilson, nervous, but apparently healthy, and his great band perform "Pet Sounds" in its entirety. I took a buyout from the Free Press almost three years ago, shortly after the newspaper business began its sad descent. I thought I would write a screenplay and a book titled something like "All Americans: the Country Seen Through the Films of Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood." Eastwood was all for it; Redford not so much, and the project was droppped. I continued to teach Screenplay at the University of Michigan, where I have happily remained for more than a decade. and I still absorb as much film, music, and information as my brain can handle. But after swearing never to write anything ever again save thank you notes and e-mails, I finally couldn't stand it any more: After overwhelming my long-time and tolerant partner Kate with my opinions, she finally said it: "So just shut up write something, OK?"