One of my favorite special-interest websites is Letters of Note, which curates all sorts of correspondence between prominent figures. Today’s offering was advertised as “This day in 2006, Steely Dan wrote to Luke Wilson and complained about his brother’s latest movie, You, Me & Dupree.“
My God, if they gave an award for intriguing news ledes… Anyway, it seems the acclaimed dad-rock pioneers wrote an open letter to Luke Wilson on their website, to complain about You, Me & Dupree, which, besides being a crappy Kate Hudson movie (that Owen Wilson also co-produced), had a tenuous connection with Steely Dan, on account of their song, “Cousin Dupree.” Is this making sense yet? Just read.
Hey man – it’s, like, Don and Walt, we’re the guys from Steely Dan, the group, we won those Grammies that time, maybe you recall? You know, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”? “Reelin’ in the Years?” “Hey Nineteen”? “Babylon Sisters”? Right, that’s us! So how’s it going?
Cool, we hope. We both really liked that “Bottle Rocket” movie that you and your brother did. We both thought it was way rocking! – even though the end was a little sad, you know, the overall thing was so great. In fact, it’s the only movie that you and your brother did that we can really agree on, the two of us… we usually like the same kind of things, but not always exactly the same things, if you can get to that. […]
It’s your little brother Owen C. that’s the problem. We realize what a drag it is for you to have people coming to you about his lameness all the time and we’re really sorry to be doing the same thing – believe us, usually that’s not what we’re all about. But it so happens that your brother has gotten himself mixed up with some pretty bad Hollywood shlockmeisters and that he may be doing, like, permanent damage to his good creds and whatever reputation for coolness he may still have – let’s face it, ‘Bottle Rocket’ was a ways back already.
What we suspect may have happened is this: some hack writer or producer or whatever they call themselves in Malibu or Los Feliz apparently heard our Grammy winning song “Cousin Dupree” on the radio and thought, hey, man, this is a cool idea for a character in a movie or something. OK, so the “cousin” idea was no doubt eliminated so as not to offend the Fundamentalist ticket buyers in the Flyovers. Nevertheless, they. like, took our character, this real dog sleeping on the couch and all and put him in the middle of some hokey “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” ripoff story and then, when it came time to change the character’s name or whatever so people wouldn’t know what a rip the whole thing was, THEY DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO THINK UP A NEW F*CKING NAME FOR THE GUY!
Anyway, they got your little brother on the hook for this summer stinkbomb – I mean, check the reviews – and he’s using all his heaviest Owen C. licks to try and get this pathetic way-unfunny debacle off the ground and, in the end, no matter what he does or what happens at the box office, in the short run, he’s gonna go down hard for selling out like this and for trashing the work of some pretty heavy artists like us in the process. You know the first f*cking thing you learn, right? Instant karma is a fact, Jack. So your spaced out little bro is generating some MAJOR harsh-ass karma for himself by f*cking us over like this – I mean, we’re like totally out in the cold on this one – no ASCAP, no soundtrack, no consultant gig (like we got from the Farrelly Bros. when they used a bunch of songs in their movie, “You, Me and Irene” or whatever). No phone call, no muffin basket, no flowers, nothing. [Read the rest at LettersofNote]
That’s only about half the letter, but the whole thing’s pretty great (favorite phrase “if there’s one petite solid you could do for us…”). There are a number of things I love about this. First, the fact that they chose to write to Luke to complain about Owen. Genius. Second, you normally see burnout rockstars overcompensate with multisyllabic academia prose whenever they have to put pen to paper, to try to make themselves sound smart. Steely Dan seem to have taken the opposite approach, writing like a self-aware parody of burnout rockstar speak, which actually has the effect of making me think they’re pretty smart. Also, Steely Dan seem to be serious Wes Anderson aficionados, which is like the best Saturday Night Live sketch never written (on the level of Stevie Nicks Fajita Round-Up, even). Steely Dan – comedic geniuses. Who knew?
According to LettersofNote, Owen Wilson released a response two weeks later:
“I have never heard the song ‘Cousin Dupree’ and I don’t even know who this gentleman, Mr. Steely Dan, is. I hope this helps to clear things up and I can get back to concentrating on my new movie, ‘HEY 19.”
I must confess, that song puts me to sleep. Still, it had to have been better than Drillbit Taylor.