Southern Discomfort

Writer Terry Southern helped shape a generation. Now his son is fighting for his legacy.

Each day, it seems, Nile is still discovering some studio in L.A. handing over a fraction of Terry's royalty checks to the government. (Terry gets $250 for each televised screening of Easy Rider, considerably less every time Strangelove runs on TV.) It will take years before Nile can account for every cent due his father--and every cent his father owes someone else.

All Nile can do now is wait it out and hope someone will buy the archives and donate them to a library. All he can do is keep spending his own money to fly to L.A. for a meeting with an agent to discuss filming Texas Summer or remaking The Magic Christian or, maybe, Blue Movie, which itself is a tangled mess of legal issues, since Stanley Kubrick might own up to 40 percent of its rights (it was, after all, his idea!). All Nile can do is keep getting temp jobs--working construction, stretching barbed wire on area ranches, anything--and hope his wife and two-year-old daughter understand how important this is to him.

"I knew that I wanted to be involved with Terry's work, because I feel it's an important body of work," Nile says. "They're wonderful stories. There's this kind of nagging feeling of something wonderful that's neglected--like, say, a beautiful woman who's unmarried. It just doesn't feel right. That's a situation that ought to be corrected."

It is now a few hours after Nile first called Peter Fonda. He decides to try again, and this time gets him on the phone. Fonda is in bed, ready to talk, reminisce...even, Nile says later, sort of apologize. They talk about the old days, Easy Rider, how much Fonda wishes he had known earlier of Terry's financial state. He says he wants to help.

Nile is direct, wanting to know how much Fonda can contribute. Maybe the whole 200 thou?

Fonda says it's late and he will call again tomorrow. They will talk specifics then. Nile is relieved.

But Fonda doesn't call on Sunday.
Still, Nile waits.

Visit www.westword.com to read related Westword stories.

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