Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Buddy Holly Story


Listen to me, Buddy, and you, too, Ritchie and Big Bopper, don’t get on that plane! I have just returned to 1959 in a time machine, from a really horrible possible future where you did get on it and all of you died in a frozen Iowa cornfield … and a real monster has become President of the United States. That pilot is not rated for instrument flying, and the weather is terrible! Please, please, don’t deprive the world of the music you would have made, don’t let the possible future I came from become reality. We’re dying up there in 2019, we need your music! You were one of the greats, and you can’t die at the age of twenty-two. And maybe, just maybe, the music you might have made could have convinced a doctor somewhere not to diagnose bone spurs in the feet of Donald Trump, and he died sitting in the mud, holding his bloody guts in his hands in a rice paddy in Southeast Asia. One can hope.

That’s my second time machine fantasy. The first involves returning to December 8, 1980, and stopping Mark David Chapman from ever meeting John Lennon. Even by killing the miserable little fucker, if need be. I’d go to jail for that, willingly.

The worst thing about this picture is the title. It is not the real story of Buddy Holly, a great deal of it was made up, even more than is usual in films like this. Myself, I don’t go into a biopic expecting a history lesson, I will allow a great deal of dramatic license. If you want to know all the details, read a book. But this one crosses a few lines. Such as: The Crickets were the first white act to play the Apollo Theater in Harlem, but the all-black audience did not immediately go wild for them. In fact, they were booed. It wasn’t until later in the gig that folks began to dance. But worst of all is the portrayal of Buddy’s parents as rock-hating Bible folks who were pressuring him to “make something of himself.” In fact, they supported him completely from an early age. This is unacceptable. The writer should be ashamed of himself.

Okay, that’s what’s wrong with it. What is right about it? Two words: Gary Busey. This is just one of the best portrayals of a musician I have ever seen. In fact, I can’t think of a better one. The movie is worth seeing just for that. He does his own singing and guitar playing, and he brings those amazing classics to life as if Buddy had been reincarnated.

As always, I name-drop at every opportunity. I met Gary Busey, briefly, at the premiere of The Year of Living Dangerously, on the MGM lot, where I also met Sigourney Weaver and Mel Gibson. What he was doing there, I don’t know, but I can say the same of Art Linkletter, of all people. He was there, along with Charlton Heston.