Billy Wilder: I made it a little bit more difficult for myself with Sunset Boulevard. It was about the closest of things, you know, to make a picture about Hollywood, about an old star, falling love with a young writer, and committing suicide, attempting suicide. Tough, and then, how are we going to end it? So we just had him shot. That was a tough decision to make.
Cameron Crowe: How so?
Billy Wilder: He could have thrown everything away and gone back to Cleveland or wherever he was a reporter. That was not the solution. Because it came back to that line that we had discussed for a long time. He always wanted to have a pool. He got a pool. He died in the pool. That we hung on to. And they bought it. . .
Cameron Crowe: Was there anyone around who said, “Let Gillis live! Let him go back to Cleveland!” Did the studio ask why you had to shoot him?
Billy Wilder: No. They were all for it.
From Conversations with Wilder, by Cameron Crowe
Jim Carroll wasn’t cool anymore by the time my provincial friends and I got wind of him, by way of a cassette tape with a song on it called “People Who Died.” In the song, Carroll manages to describe the deaths of at least ten youthful friends in a strikingly efficient delivery. Tony (see title of post) was one of these unfortunate creatures. Fell off a roof.
I saw Jim Carroll give a poetry reading in San Francisco. I had a “date” with me, a young man I had befriended in Golden Gate Park, which I wouldn’t do now but I was still under twenty then, and fresh from the provinces. The reading was at night on the side of a hill in a little bar. Everyone was waiting outside, and my friend started panhandling the people in line. I said, “Please don’t do that.” My friend said I was uncool. (He was right, I was uncool, but Jim Carroll wasn’t even cool at that point so things were bad all over.)
I gave my friend some money so he would stop panhandling. His parents had money, as I recall, but he didn’t want any of it so he was a hobo, a runaway of sorts, except he was in his early twenties; technically a person of that age is not a runaway. He was doing his Kerouac thing: he panhandled and hitchhiked and later stole $40 from my roommate, who was waiting tables and left her cash around the apartment. Thus ended my friendship with the runaway.
All this took place after a major earthquake. It was major at the time.