- With the recent passing of British comedian Rik Myall, you might have had nightmarish flashbacks to one of the most astoundingly awful films of recent decades: Drop Dead Fred. Or maybe you had fond flashbacks, because you were one of the people who cherished that movie. But did you know that the movie’s title character was stolen?
Sometime in the late ’90s, I read the fantasy short story “Mr. Fiddlehead”, by Jonathan Carroll, in a 1990 collection of the year’s best fantasy and horror. In the story, a woman falls in love with her BFF’s imaginary childhood friend after he materializes as a carroty-haired, freckled, impish man. He appears only when the woman who created him is in emotional distress. He delights the two women with his practical jokes, childish sense of humour, and magical powers.
I was appalled that Mr. Carroll had recycled the plot of a terrible movie.
What I didn’t bother to notice at the time was that “Mr. Fiddlehead ” had already appeared in Carroll’s 1989 book A Child Across the Sky, two years before Drop Dead Fred was released. Somebody had recycled a plot, but it clearly wasn’t Carroll.
The IMDB page for Drop Dead Fred credits one Elizabeth Livingston for the story. It is her only listed story credit. The script was written by Anthony Fingleton and Carlos Davis. Davis’s only other screenwriting credit is a TV children’s movie from the early ’80s. What is he doing these days? Possibly working on the long-rumoured remake of Drop Dead Fred, his one and only big-screen effort.
Are we dealing with out-and-out theft, or with the sort of “inspiration” that Yann Martel used to refashion Moacyr Scliar’s Max and the Cats into a slightly different (but infinitely more famous) story? That’s a judgment call. But I would absolutely love to hear Ms. Livingston, Mr. Fingleton, or Mr. Davis explain how their shitty movie somehow ended up with the central character from a story they didn’t create.
UPDATE: After additional research, I have found that Elizabeth Livingston is a freelance writer/editor who was a book editor with Reader’s Digest for many years. She co-authored two children’s books.
In a 1991 interview with Fantazia magazine (reproduced here), Rik Myall said of the screenwriters, “They’d been talking with a mutual friend, Elizabeth Livingston, who was writing a story based on her little daughter’s imaginary friend, Drop Dead Fred. They decided it would make a better film than series and approached me.”
This doesn’t clear up the mystery, of course. It just establishes that Livingston was not simply the pseudonym of a writer who didn’t want to be connected to the movie.
- Happy World UFO Day! International Business Times has a fun piece about a video hoax that involved both the secret space program and yet another alien corpse.
- Two years after Melba Ketchum released the profoundly weird results of her Bigfoot DNA study, the group of UK researchers that was conducting a parallel study has announced its findings. Researchers at Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology, led by Bryan Sykes, have spent the past two years analyzing 30 hair samples suspected to be from Bigfoot, Almas, and the Yeti. The upshot? Not a single hair came from an unknown animal. Most were from bears. The rest came from horses, deer, wolves, raccoon, sheep, cows, a porcupine, a human, and a tapir. Curiously, a hair sample from the Himalayas turned out to be a match for a prehistoric polar bear.
- Mother Jones has compiled one of the largest lists of Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories ever. We’ll be seeing lots of these in the run-up to the 2016 elections. One of the latest, crafted by a JFK researcher who loves boobies, is that Chelsea Clinton is actually Webster Hubbell’s daughter. Morrow also asserts that Bill Clinton is a serial rapist, and claims that a large number of U.S. presidents (including, um, Nixon) were secretly bisexual.
“The IMDB page for Drop Dead Fred credits one Elizabeth Livingston for the story. It is her only listed story credit.”
it is of course always possible that a pseudonym is being used to cover either a group of people, or someone who was heartily (and rightly) ashamed of having been responsible for such a poor story. This is not an unknown phenomenon, in the case of one 1970s ‘Doctor Who’ story the writer so disliked what had been done with his script that he told the BBC they were on no condition to use his real name. “Well, what name shall we put on it?” the show’s producer asked. “Just make something up,” came the reply, “Something bland.”
The name in the on-screen credits was therefore “Robin Bland”.
In the case of Drop Dead Fred, that would be entirely understandable.
It’s a mystery I hope will be solved – no one involved with that film deserves to get away free and clear.
Now I’m curious about just how awful that Doctor Who ep might have been…
It’s not a pseudonym. It actually is a real person and the author got it correct that she worked for Reader’s Digest for many years. The imaginary friend was actually her daughter’s, too, and given the age of her daughter in 1989 I suspect that the imaginary friend pre-dated that.