“Luck Almost Muzzled: Godzillabrook vs. SLANT” is a story I’ve waited 22 years to write. The kind words of Chris Bopst in Brick’s most recent issue have inspired me to dust off this odd-ball episode from my time publishing SLANT and try to craft it into a coherent record my readers today might enjoy. It’s […]
“Luck Almost Muzzled: Godzillabrook vs. SLANT” is a story I’ve waited 22 years to write. The kind words of Chris Bopst in Brick’s most recent issue have inspired me to dust off this odd-ball episode from my time publishing SLANT and try to craft it into a coherent record my readers today might enjoy. It’s a project I’ve put off too long.
Please note, this heretofore untold tale has a happy ending, in that in a court of record a wee blow for freedom of speech was struck by an independent publisher. This post begins a series that will unfold under the title above. My plan is to write this on the fly, to see what will evolve and what feedback I’ll get.
In 1987 a posh dry-out clinic commanded a powerful law firm to buffalo SLANT into not publishing any further material, satirical or otherwise, mentioning or referring to Godzillabrook Hospital.
Threats swelled into a full blown law suit: Godzillabrook laid $300,000-worth of legal action on SLANT, itself, and its wiseass film critic, H. Sherwood Luck.
Although I was flabbergasted then, at first, since this is a true story there’s no use in trying to work the suspense angle. Ultimately, after some twists and turns, SLANT was successful in defending itself.
Nonetheless, the way my little magazine got itself in such bizarre trouble, and the unexpected gift from out of the blue that helped make that trouble vanish, should be good for a few laughs.
That’s my hope, anyway.
To begin with, of course Godzillabrook isn’t really what the dry-out clinic was named. For reasons that must remain secret to this day, its real name won’t be used here.
But that speck of editorial discretion won’t really do much to cheat the reader, as the clinic/hospital in this story doesn’t exist, anymore. Then, again, as it’s all a matter of public record anyone determined to solve that little mystery can simply look it up.
Hey, H. Sherwood Luck was a made-up name, too.
Luck’s column, ostensibly about movies and popular culture, appeared in the pages of SLANT from 1986 through 1989. The best of Sherwood’s work was top shelf social criticism, satire delivered with a deft balance of absurdity and slapstick. Typically, his rambling yarns would start out about a classic film or a new release and digress into one of his own misadventures.
Sherwood, with his urbane, self-deprecating brand of off-Broadway bluster, was a bemused Everyman.
From the onset, it was all a joke. Soon after I began publishing SLANT, a friend offered to write a stream-of-consciousness film savvy column for it; kind of a spoof on Earl Wilson’s or Hy Gardner’s name-dropping gossip columns of the 1950s.
Presto! Luck became my first columnist. As SLANT was totally an experiment, as its editor, for each of his columns published I decided to run a photo of a different person on the page with “H. Sherwood Luck” under it as the caption. No explanation was ever offered to the readers. The illustrations in this post are all originals.
An essential part of the arrangement SLANT then had with the creator of the H. Sherwood Luck series was that the public would not know who was doing the writing. The person who put the words in Sherwood’s mouth had reasons to remain anonymous.
So, H. Sherwood Luck was a penname and a character. I bet when fictitious characters get sued the trials are usually good for a few laughs.