I hesitate to share this story. It’s old. It’s new. It’s personal.
In 1990 I met Lenny Buckstone, a well-known musician I greatly respected. Lenny had just released a new album, and when I told him how much I liked one song in particular, he asked if I wanted to direct a music video for it. I hadn’t directed anything at that time. My first film, Johnny Suede, was still a script in my desk drawer. So, I said yes instantly, and in a long-distance phone call, I told Lenny the ideas that had slipped into my brain when I listened to his song, “Flying Blind.” They were very specific ideas involving cowgirls, poisoned wine, and burning beds.
Lenny listened quietly to my ideas and said he would consult with his record company and get back to me.
I never heard from him again.
30 years ago, I didn’t own a television. I didn’t watch MTV. I had no idea what happened with the song. Lenny Buckstone released many more brilliant albums. But, in the years that passed, I heard “Flying Blind” frequently, and every time I did, I saw those visuals that had slipped into my brain. And every time, I said to myself, “Well, he mustn’t have liked my ideas. Maybe he thought they were stupid.”
It is crucial to this story to emphasize that this cycle of interpretation kept silently repeating itself every few months for 30 years.
Then, in June 2023, I released a music video for a song of my own called “Lock Him Up.” A few days ago I watched it on YouTube to make sure it was still streaming correctly. When it ended, I was suddenly sucked into what I was certain was a violently absurd dream. There, on my computer screen, was another video with images of cowgirls, poisoned wine, burning beds, and Lenny Buckstone singing “Flying Blind.” But it wasn't a dream. It was right there in front of me, and trying to make sense of it, my brain lurched and shuddered like a wood chipper with a crowbar thrown into it.
It took me several moments to figure out that YouTube had automatically cued up Lenny’s song right after “Lock Him Up” with a vicious, accidental indifference. It took me several more moments to
realize Lenny hadn’t thought my ideas were stupid. In fact, he’d liked them so much he’d stolen them.
After the initial shock wore off, I wasn’t angry at Lenny, just supremely disillusioned. More, I was shaken, not only by my naiveté about the business but by my complete willingness to believe my ideas had been worthless. For 30 years, I had told myself that this musician I’d respected and admired thought my ideas had such little value they didn’t even deserve a response. And there he was on the screen, casually appropriating every single one of them.
It shone a sharp, clear light deep into my own self-awareness. I saw a pattern I’d developed in early childhood, and it disturbed me. Actually, it scared me especially when I thought about all those years I’d wasted believing a story I’d written about myself that wasn’t even true.
I thought I’d learned this lesson. Apparently, I’ve got to keep remembering it every second of every day. I share it here for anyone who might take some comfort or consolation from it:
Accept that there will be people in your life who may want to put you down or diminish you. But never, ever do it to yourself. Trust your own heart. Nurture a steady, instinctive faith in your own Being. Give value to yourself right now, right here. And never stop.