Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Sunday, August 26, 2012
James Fogle dies at 75; 'Drugstore Cowboy' author, career criminal
James Fogle was serving a 16-year prison term for robbery at the time of his death. His book about a band of pharmacy-robbing junkies became a movie.
James Fogle in court in 2011 while waiting to be sentenced for what would be the last time. (Ken Lambert / Seattle Times / March 4, 2011)
By Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times
August 26, 2012
James Fogle, a career criminal and writer who blew every chance he had to go straight, including the brief period after his manuscript about a band of outlaw junkies, "Drugstore Cowboy," was made into a well-regarded 1989 movie, died in prison Thursday in Monroe, Wash. He was 75.
His death was confirmed by the Snohomish County medical examiner's office, which said Fogle hadmalignant mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer often associated with asbestos exposure. He died at the Monroe Correctional Complex, where he was serving a 16-year term for robbery.
"Drugstore Cowboy" told the story of two couples who joined forces to support their habits by robbing pharmacies. They were a quirky foursome with superstitions and their own ethical system whose exploits were laced with humor, pathos and sheer bad luck.
Made into a film by director Gus Van Sant, it starred Matt Dillon as the leader of the pack, who Fogle loosely modeled on himself and a longtime cellmate. It earned enthusiastic reviews, including one by Sheila Benson in the Los Angeles Times that called it "an electrifying movie without one misstep or one conventional moment." The screenplay, co-written by Van Sant and freelance writer Daniel Yost, won honors from the Los Angeles, New York and national societies of film critics.
Novelist William Burroughs had a small part in the movie and praised the book, which was published in paperback in 1990, for its "hallucinatory reality." It was Fogle's only published novel out of 11 he wrote in prison.
"His characters were so perfectly real," Van Sant said Friday of Fogle's fiction. "He was a pretty good writer who could channel his own experiences through these novels."
Fogle's life of crime began when he stole a car at 12. He spent his youth in a series of juvenile lockups and reformatories, an experience he later described as "like going to school to learn to be a thief," Yost said in an interview.
Born Sept. 29, 1936, in the tiny rural Wisconsin town of Elcho, Fogle was a difficult child who, he once told the Chicago Tribune, "couldn't relax … couldn't stand still." His father, a welder, beat him, and Fogle stole cars to escape.
In the mid-1950s he was serving time for auto theft at McNeil Island in Washington when he learned from fellow prisoners how to use drugs — and how to break into pharmacies to procure them.
He became a "drugstore cowboy" in 1963 when he burglarized a pharmacy in suburban Los Angeles. His haul was "humongous," he recalled, and "I spent the rest of my life not looking back."
He was involved in drugstore heists up and down the West Coast for the next four decades, rarely spending more than a year out of prison. He favored opiates such as morphine, but also used cocaine and heroin.
"It's a sensation probably between alcohol and sex," Fogle told the Seattle Times in 1992 of the hold that drugs had on him. "Most people don't know how they're gonna feel one minute to the next," he said, quoting a line spoken by the Dillon character in the movie. "The dope fiend has a pretty good idea. He just has to look at the labels on the little bottles.... It's almost like having a future."
During the 1960s, he decided he could write better than the authors whose works he had been reading behind bars. By the early 1970s he had produced a novel, "Satan's Sandbox." He sent it to Thomas E. Gaddis, who wrote the bestselling 1955 prison biography "Birdman of Alcatraz."
Gaddis sent the manuscript to Yost, then a freelance writer for the Portland Oregonian, and suggested he help Fogle rewrite it, which Yost did. Fogle sent him "Drugstore Cowboy" a few years later.
"He only had a sixth-grade education. He had a lot of problems with grammar and some plot holes," Yost recalled. "But I thought his novel was amazing … because of the uniqueness of the world he wrote about, an alternate world where there are just a different set of rules."
Fogle was married a number of times — "He was charming, women liked him," Yost said — but information about survivors was not available.
Like the characters in his novel, Fogle often found himself in situations that would have been laughable if they hadn't ended so badly.
One time he broke into a drugstore by cutting a hole in the roof and lowering himself with a rope. Police found him asleep in the store with $10,000 worth of loot in paper bags.
In 2010, after his longest stretch — three years — out of prison, a BB-gun-toting Fogle and an accomplice held up a pharmacy in Redmond, Wash. A silent alarm quickly drew police officers, who caught him with a pink bandanna over his face and rubber gloves on his hands, hauling two trash cans full of pharmaceuticals out of the store. He was convicted in 2011 and sent to the Monroe prison.
During one of his prison stints, Fogle learned to be a machinist and worked as a steam pipe fitter. According to Yost, his doctors believed that work exposed him to asbestos and caused him to develop the lung tumor.
"I had everything going for me," Fogle said some years ago about the possibilities for a new life after "Drugstore Cowboy" hit movie screens. "But it wasn't really different.... I always went back to what I knew."
Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Phil York has passed away. He was the engineer who recorded, amongst many others, the Nervebreakers' We Want Everything album in 1980. Back when the Nervebreakers were first looking into recording an album, I quizzed my older brother Dan for recommendations. Dan had previously recorded with Gene Summers at Phil's studio, Autumn Sound in Garland, Texas and immediately brought York's name up. Phil was a really good guy, and had seen and recorded many artists over the years, but I think we were his first exposure to punk rock. He was the ultimate professional. After we called him to inquire about recording at his place, Phil came out to one of the Nervebreakers live gigs to check out what we sounded like in person at a nightclub. Once in his studio and recording, he was very patient and steady in his dealings with the rowdy novices we were at the time. Years later, he also helped out on some remastering projects. Phil was very good at what he did, as the quotes below demonstrate. He's a big part of Texas music history and will be missed. I just hope Phil had the time and inclination to complete the memoir Robert Wilonsky mentions in his remembrance from the Dallas Morning News website.
A word from Nervebreakers' guitarist/songwriter Mike Haskins and Phil York's obit:
R.I.P. PHIL YORK
From Mike Haskins: “Phil York recorded the Nervebreakers’ “We Want Everything” LP in 1980 and The Big Gundown EP in 1994. A great guy, excellent engineer.”
Philip Wylie York, of Irving, passed away Saturday, August 4, 2012. He was born January 2, 1942 in Dallas. He was a graduate of South Oak Cliff High School and was a Scientologist for 50 years. Philip was a recording engineer/producer and owner of Yorktown Digital Works, Inc., in Irving and Big Y Productions for 53 years.
Philip was a three time Grammy winner and a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He had recorded tens of thousands of hours in Texas recording studios, including his own. He recorded the musical numbers to Universal Pictures’ feature film Tender Mercies, which was nominated for four Academy Award Oscars and won two of them. He has recorded a No. 1 national chart hit single in five major music styles: Pop, Country, Rhythm & Blues, Hispanic, and Contemporary Christian. He recorded the No. 17 Billboard disco hit single, Coming out of Hiding, sung by Pamela Stanley. He has recorded three Grammy Winners and about 40 Grammy contenders that didn’t win. The most recent Grammy received was in 2003.
Philip wrote and directed the TV movie Waiting for the Train for Paragon Cable, which included an original Ron Dilulio music score. He recorded four of Willie Nelson’s hit albums, Red Headed Stranger, The Sound In Your Mind, Family Bible, and Face of a Fighter, with Willie as producer on all, and Phil as recording engineer. Red Headed Stranger contained the classic, Grammy winning hit single, Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. In 1983-90, he co-hosted The Texas Toast radio show with Foxy Jan on KNON-FM in Dallas, playing only Texas music. He has recorded hundreds of national commercials for companies such as Gulf Oil, Igloo, Texaco, Chrysler Corporation, Fuddruckers’ Restaurants, IBM, Datashred, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Chase Manhattan Bank, Republic National Bank, The Dallas Morning News, and many others. Phil had recorded hundreds of talented artists in his career as recording engineer. Among them are Ann-Margaret, Jewel Akens, Chelsey Austin, Jim Batchelor, Belinda B, B-Square, David Cline , Dallas Coleman, Brave Combo, Bruce Channel, King Cone, Crawfish Band, Floyd Dakil, T. Bob Davis, Lonnie Dean, Nokie Edwards, John Gary, Art Greehaw & The Light Crust Doughboys, Paul Harrington, Johnnie High, Engelbert Humperdinck, Carroll Hubbard, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kalinka, Kenny & The Casuals, Shannon Kincaid, Von Lightfoot, Jesse Lopez, Trini Lopez, Delbert McClinton, The Moondogs, Willie Nelson, The North Texas Lab Band, Tommy Overstreet, Larry & Linda Petty, Charley Pride, Helen Reddy, Dan Roberts, The Rolling Stones, Ray Sharpe, Shotgun, B.W. Stevenson, Vern Stovall, Gene Summers, Shoji Tabuchi, Dave Tanner, Larry Joe Taylor, Susie Taylor, Marc Toussaint Combo, Dwight Townsend, Ross Vick & TrueHeart, The Van Dykes, Jimmy Velvit, Jerry Jeff Walker, Debbie White, Lew Williams, Don Zimmers, and many, many more.
Phil had also restored and remastered for re-use record labels in the US and Europe, using CEDAR & Sonic Solutions with NoNoise, over 550 CDs from old analog sources. Vintage artists include Rex Allen, Patsy Cline, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Lightning Hopkins, Glenn Miller, Elvis Presley, Della Reese, Kay Starr, Sunny & the Sunglows, Ike & Tina Turner, Johnny Guitar Watson, Andy Williams, YALE Whiffenpoofs and many more.
He knew how to fix gooey tapes, and regularly performed those services for individuals, too. Bing Crosby, one of the most loved and respected entertainers who ever lived, recording more recordings than anyone else, said this about Phil York’s work restoring some early recordings to higher quality: “The tapes are truly remarkable. The quality is unbelievable. Thank You.”
He is survived by his son Jason, sister Sharon; grandson Michael; granddaughter Chauni; nephew Steve; niece Stacey; great nieces April, Autumn, and Alex; great nephews Morgan and Conner; numerous other family members; and many members of the music industry whom Phil considered his family, including several best friends that he loved dearly.
Funeral services will be held at 10 AM Friday, August 10, 2012 at Brown’s Memorial Chapel. Burial will follow at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas. The family will receive friends 6-8 PM Thursday at the funeral home.
Robert Wilonsky's Blogpost: