An Alternative’s Hollywood Ending

By: Greg Mitchell

For anyone who thinks the corporate takeover of alternative weeklies is a recent phenomenon, I’m here to tell you it ain’t exactly so. And I have my one Hollywood film credit to prove it.

Way back in 1977, director Joan Micklin Silver prepared a low-budget film called Between the Lines, set in Boston at a fictitious alt-weekly, the Back Bay Mainline. The paper was obviously modeled on the two Boston papers then in a fight to the death, the Phoenix and The Real Paper.

The movie would star a group of near-unknowns: John Heard, Jeff Goldblum (as a scuzzy rock critic), Lindsay Crouse, Jill Eikenberry, and Bruno Kirby, plus the inevitable Michael J. Pollard (as a hawker).

But the director had a problem. The film’s script had the owners of the Mainline contemplating selling out to a corporate chain, an idea condemned by most of the funky (though rather short-haired) staffers. One scene showed two of them gazing sadly at an old photograph of the staff in its radical 1960s’ heyday.

The problem: By 1977, there were few longhairs left. I happened to be one of them, as senior editor of the legendary magazine Crawdaddy in New York. I also happened to know the movie’s set photographer, the ex-wife of a famous ’60s rock star. She asked a few of us Crawdaddy types to show up when she shot the ’60s photo in front of a warehouse in Soho. It was summer, but we were to wear winter clothes, the proverbial cold day in August.

In the finished film, the photo appears for a few seconds, as the staffers clear out their offices — after the sellout to the corporate monster. Two years later, Crawdaddy died. Then, The Real Paper died. But Jeff Goldblum became a star. There just ain’t no justice in this world, as we used to say.

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