Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at Indian Country Today. This is the third and final installment of Simon Moya-Smith’s reports from the Lone Ranger premiere at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. (See his previous pieces here and here.) The movie, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto, opens nationally on July 3. Photos by Jonathan Wheelhouse.
Anaheim, California–“Ah, god! Jesus!” I shouted. “Here they come!” Several reporters behind me clawed at my back to see what the Hell this savage reporter was staring at. Suddenly, a gaggle of white kids, clad in faux Native garb and face paint, sauntered down the red carpet; Mom dancing jubilantly in front of them, snapping photographs and goading reporters with mics to interview her brood.
They had Ritalin grins and privilege in their eyes … but also ignorance – yes, I knew it had to happen. Someone had to do it. Costumed-bodies crowded the red carpet, and wherever there’s face paint and fringe, there will be a white Indian. You can bet your ass, slick. #Halloween.
But I don’t want to get into that now. First thing’s first: the cleavage.
The Lone Ranger has caused a serious division in Indian Country, but we’re no stranger to that, are we? Divide & Conquer. We know the phrase – all too well. Nobody on this goddamn continent knows the detriments of the D&C quite like the indigenous peoples of this place, our place. “Remove the head and you kill the body.” That might’ve worked in 16thCentury Europe, but not here. No. You remove the head we honor it and then sprout another. We’re relentless like that. We’re the rock in the American shoe. Rumor has it that, at least once a week, President Andrew Jackson would wake up and find several stones in his boots. Jagged Toe Jack, they called him, and so do I.
I digress. … We were about to discuss the bathroom scene before we went on some odd rant about the DCs and heads and Jagged Toe Jack, the bastard.
After the wildly luxuriant premiere, we ended up at the Piano Bar in Hollywood. I was completely stoned. “When in Rome,” they say. And I certainly was in the back alleys of Rome that day. The premiere was over – for good or vicious ill, and I found myself reflecting on the afternoon, listening to my tape recorded interviews with Jerry Bruckheimer, Armie Hammer, LaDonna Harris, Saginaw Grant and others, when this large black man lunged into the urinal beside me.
“What are you listening to?” he asked.
“I’m not sure yet,” I said. “Some hits. Some flops.”
He stumbled a bit, nodded, urinated and then left without washing his hands, massaging the doorknob on his way out.
Alone again, standing in the narrow bathroom of some seedy dive just off the Sunset Strip, I wondered how I’d conclude this journey, this sojourn of wisdom and anger and edification and booze. Would I endorse the film? How could I? I haven’t even seen the end product, and I never endorse things without trying them on. Right.
Later, I found myself leaning over the bar and writing frantically on several available napkins. I scribbled things like, “Disney is a corporation. Not an advocacy group” and “the [American Indian College Fund] earned hundreds of thousands of dollars today” – which is true. According to Public Education Director Dina Howerdel, the College Fund raised an estimated $266,000 as result of the premiere. That’s what we call a headline in this business, folks – especially in Indian Country.
So it was a pleasant surprise to find this rumpled napkin in my jacket pocket the next morning. “Fine news,” I recall saying as I burrowed my toes deep into the sand of Venice Beach. I had a plane to catch, back to New York, and as I dug deeper into my jacket pockets searching for more evidence of debauchery, I found a ripped parchment with several letters etched into it. The words read, “Keep it pure.” … So I will, and do exactly as my elder in Denver instructed:
“Watch the fucking film and then get back to me. Until then, you’re no expert on it.”
Sweet Jesus, I thought. That’s a solid argument. He should’ve been a lawyer. Cheers.