Notes of a Man Who Missed Harry Dean Stanton Fest 2015

Editor’s note: in keeping with a gonzo tradition started by HST when he missed the Rumble in the Jungle, covering the legendary boxing match from the swimming pool at his hotel, and echoed by Cody Decker when he wrote about sleeping through this year’s Kentucky Derby, our own unofficial Kentucky Colonel gives us another entertaining read regardless.

By Cody S. Decker
art copyright 2015 by  Ryan Moffett

I’m sure you’ve heard of Harry Dean Stanton before.  If you haven’t, take a sec to jump over to his Wikipedia page.  Don’t try to read the entire thing right now, the filmography section alone is enough to keep you occupied longer than my article here will.  I’m sure the moment his picture pops up you’ll say, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that guy before.”  Because you have. He’s been in everything from Cool Hand Luke, to Repo Man, the T.V. show Big Love, and had a small cameo in the first Avengers movie.   He’s also one hell of a singer.  And to top it all off for me, he was the narrator for a spoken word adaptation CD of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back in 1996.   The man has done it all and he’s still doing it… his way.  Smoking like a freight train and not giving a damn.

Stanton is a Kentucky boy, born in West Irvine, Kentucky.  Don’t go to that Wikipedia page, it won’t help.  You’ve never heard of that place before.  I promise.  In 2011, a festival started up here in Lexington, Kentucky to honor Harry Dean Stanton and remind the folks around here that this cult film icon was born and raised here in the Bluegrass state.  It uses a bunch of different spots around town here for film screenings, guest speakers (such as Harry himself in 2014), and other festivities.

When my dear editor found out about this shindig, he asked me to cover it this year.  I got in touch with the Festival Founder, Lucy Jones, and told her a little about us here at GonzoToday.  She was very helpful and excited that we would be covering the festival.  I was looking forward to seeing what kind of story I could conjure up about it all and excited to actually have a reason to pass out my business cards.  Handing them to workers in a McDonald’s drive-thru was starting to lose its luster.

The fest was set to happen from May 29-31 and wouldn’t you know it, all kinds of other stuff started popping into my schedule for those days as opening night grew nearer.  Normally, my weekends are spent with just me, my girlfriend and my dog sitting on the couch after work, watching something on Netflix and having a drink.  My dog doesn’t drink, just her and I.  He won’t touch the stuff since the Hooch mishap of 2010, but that’s another story for another time.  Like I was saying, normally we don’t have shit to do, but this weekend we were booked.  People were getting married, honky tonks carryin’ on, and grills fired up about the same time all of this festival happenings were taking place.

I’m a man of my word, I said I would cover the festival and I did go…to the first night at least. And it was pretty damn cool.  They turned the parking lot of an old whiskey distillery into a drive-in.  Which also happened to be the same parking lot of one of my favorite breweries here in town.  So, when we got there we parked in good view of the screen, I introduced myself to Lucy and we made our way to the watering hole to fuel up for the movie.  They were showing Two Lane Blacktop.  I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of the movie before but it ended up being a pretty good flick.  I made my way around the crowded parking lot snapping pictures and frequenting the bar to grab a plastic cup full of ice to take back to the car and enjoy the bourbon in my flask. We were at one of my favorite breweries like I said, but I am on a budget after all and bar tabs can get expensive.

That was a good night.

The next two days of the festival consisted of more film screenings, a Q&A with director Monte Hellman and a Twin Peaks Homecoming Dance.  I wanted to go to all of them, I really did, but when you give a feller like me an entire weekend off from work and tempt him with a free country music concert put on by one of his good friends and a cookout filled with free food and beer, I can’t pass it up.  I justified my actions by asking myself, “What would Harry do?”.  I didn’t really know for sure but from what I’ve read about him, I like to think he would have done the same.  If it makes you feel any better, I raised many a toast to ol’ Harry Dean Stanton throughout my endeavors.

Once the dust settled and I recovered from my rowdy weekend I reached out to Lucy to ask her how she felt about this year’s turnout and if she already had some cool stuff in line for next year.  She told me that she was thrilled with this year’s festival, that Monte Hellman was one of her favorite guests to date, and she couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.  She also said that they have a couple of cool guests in mind for next year but nothing was set in stone yet

I couldn’t have been happier for her.  I admire the hard work and dedication she puts into making this festival a reality every year.  She even got Harry Dean Stanton to come last year for crying out loud.  Bravo! But I’m not gonna lie, after reading her response to how great everything was, I was selfishly a little bummed.  I missed out. So, I’m making my promise now that next year come hell or high water, I will be at each and every event.  Honky tonk or not, I’ll be there.

Harry Dean Stanton Fest apparently just keeps getting bigger and better each year.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2016.