Number 1 Book That Should be a Movie:
By Gary Cartwright
The True Story of Mafia, Murder, and Mystery in Texas
This would definitely make a great Martin Scorsese film. You see, I love Martin Scorsese films and I grew up in El Paso. I was in school and then teaching high school when all this happened! You might be saying, “So?” If you thought that Texas in the 1960’s and 1970’s was just about cowboys, think again!
Before actor Woody Harrelson’s Dad, Charles Harrelson, died in March 2007 of a heart attack at Supermax prison in Colorado, he told Dallas reporter Chuck Cook, “Listen, if and when I get out of here and feel free to talk, I will have something that will be the biggest story you ever had. November 22, 1963. You remember that!” Perhaps we all will hear the biggest story as told by Charles Harrelson. Charles Harrelson left his memoirs to his three sons and said he wanted his life story published. Harrelson also asked that his sons continue efforts to clear his name for the murder of Judge John H. Wood. How did it all start?
Flash back to 1979-1982. It would be the biggest FBI investigation in history, costing more in time and money than the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The trials of Charles Harrelson, Jo Ann Harrelson, Jimmy Chagra, Joe Chagra, and Elizabeth Chagra for the murder of Federal Judge John H. Wood have all the elements of a top rated Hollywood mafia movie.
At one point, Don Johnson announced he would produce a movie about the Chagra brothers. Three books provide more detail about Harrelson, the Chagra family, and the Judge Wood trial: Dirty Dealing; Of Rats and Men: Oscar Goodman’s Life from Mob Mouthpiece to Mayor of Las Vegas; and The Man on the Grassy Knoll.
Jimmy Chagra allegedly hired Charles Harrelson to kill “Maximum John”, the name Judge John Wood earned for his stiff sentences given to drug felons. Jimmy Chagra was facing drug charges at the time, and Judge Wood had already denied several defense motions brought forth by his defense attorney, Joe Chagra. Jimmy Chagra was well known in Las Vegas where he spent a great deal of time at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino. Some people believe that this is where Jimmy Chagra met Charles Harrelson in 1979.
Jack Dean of the Texas Rangers, who knew Charles Harrelson all too well, was assigned the case. Jack was the captain of Company D in San Antonio, and the case would make national headlines. The local FBI office asked the Rangers to help. Contrary to what many would think, the FBI, at least at that time, had minimal experience in working homicides. Jack dispatched his sergeant Lefty Block to work with the FBI team. Dean would later appear at Harrelson’s appeal hearings and visit Harrelson several times while he was in prison. The last contact Dean had with Harrelson was through a note. Harrelson thanked Dean for letting him see his grandkids for the first time. Dean says, “Charlie is like the battery bunny in my life. He just keeps on coming.”
When Harrelson was once asked if he is a hit man, he replied that he is a card player. Much has been written about the six degrees of separation between the Dixie Mafia, the Chagra family, the Binions, the Clintons, JFK, LBJ, and the CIA. The Judge Wood murder was not the only murder mystery that allegedly resulted from these associations. Just ask Doyle Brunson who speaks about Jimmy Chagra on his blog.
Will Charles Harrelson’s memoirs reveal additional links to JFK, the Judge Wood murder, the Clinton family associates, the Chagra family, the Binions, and the CIA? Will Charles Harrelson tell us who he played cards with? Did E. Howard Hunt beat Charles Harrelson to the biggest story ever told about November 23, 1963? Only time will tell, and even if it does tell, will we believe it? Will Woody Harrelson and his brothers be able to clear their Dad’s name? One thing is certain: the world will always want to know the truth, but probably never will.
Strangely, the people in El Paso who remember or knew the Chagra family have a bizarre love affair with them and their story. It can only be explained like that of Bonnie and Clyde, Jesse James, or Doc Holliday. I remember times that our family would dine at The Empire Club when the Los Churumbeles played, or at Cappetto’s next door on Montana Street. Our father would point out that the Mexican Mafia is coming through the door and they would proceed to a private back room.
Members of the Chagra family and others were lavishly dressed and had luxurious cars in the parking lot. I remember thinking the women were so beautiful and wishing someday I could look as beautiful as that. It was around 1966 and I was 10 years old at the time, so I had no idea how their story would end. Neither did they.
Characters and Actors:
Charles Harrelson played by Woody Harrelson
E. Howard Hunt played by Leonardo DiCaprio
Jimmy Chagra played by Antonio Banderas
Elizabeth Chagra played by Salma Hayek
Lee Chagra played by Lou Diamond Phillips
Joe Chagra played by Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)
Jack Dean played by Tommy Lee Jones
Doyle Brunson played by Doyle Brunson
Screenplay by Gary Cartwright, Texas Monthly Senior Editor, author of Dirty Dealing
Number 2 Book That Should be a Movie:
The Last Lecture
By Randy Pausch
The True Story of Life and Death in Profound Perspective
The movie about Randy Pausch and his Last Lecture would be a tearjerker for sure and we all know the sad ending. The thing that would make The Last Lecture a great movie is the story of courage, family, love, and humble, spiritual endings to life, that we can all learn from and try to gain Randy’s rich perspective on death and family.
How do a college professor, a wife, and children prepare for death with such grace, dignity, and courage? How does the average person prepare for death by keeping it a secret and instead preparing a video for his children on how to follow your dreams and accomplish your goals? How does the average teacher give that lecture to his college students as if nothing else were behind the lecture besides wisdom?
How do you really do that? Most people could not, which is why his Last Lecture YouTube went viral and his book sold millions of copies. To read more about Randy Pausch and The Last Lecture, visit: The Last Lecture: a Profound Lesson of Life and Death from a Dying Professor.
Producer: Oprah Winfrey
Director: Steven Spielberg
Randy Pausch played by Tom Hanks
Jai Pausch played by Rita Hanks
Three children: Chloe, Dylan and Logan played by
Screenplay by: Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire)
Number 3 Book That Should be a Movie:
Adaptation of The Dead Circus
By John Kaye
Bobby Fuller Four – Never To Be Forgotten
Another legendary true story from El Paso is the story of the Bobby Fuller Four and the tragic unsolved murder mystery surrounding the death of Bobby Fuller. I wrote another article about wanting to marry Bobby Fuller one day, but the rest of the true story about the music genius of the Bobby Fuller Four that made I Fought the Law and the Law Won famous, should be told on film. I think Jeff Bridges should produce it and Rick Kern from El Paso should write the screenplay.
Bobby Fuller co-wrote A New Shade of Blue with Mary Stone of El Paso, Texas and that song was used in the Academy Award winning movie Boys Don’t Cry. Hilary Swank earned an Academy Award for her role in the movie in 1999.
The 2002 novel, The Dead Circus uses the murder of Bobby Fuller as one of the main parts of the story, with some mingling of Charles Manson and the corrupt LAPD in it, too. In the book, the author, John Kaye, has some mafia hitmen killing Bobby Fuller to please Frank Sinatra. Now that you mention it, maybe that IS what really happened to Bobby Fuller.
Much has been written about how the mafia, drug dealers, the corrupt LAPD and other theories were behind the mysterious death of Bobby Fuller. While the book, The Dead Circus takes liberties in its’ novel genre, nevertheless, with some movie consulting from Randy Fuller, it could make quite the movie. It would be long overdue for the music legends of El Paso. Check out the Bobby Fuller Four MySpace page. You will remember who they are: The Bobby Fuller Four – Never To Be Forgotten!
Producer: Jeff Bridges (he probably jammed with Bobby Fuller??)
Director: Penny Marshall
Bobby Fuller played by: Jensen Ackles
Randy Fuller played by: Chris Evans
Jim Reese played by: Emile Hirsch
Dalton Powell played by: Robert Pattinson
Rick Kern played by: Jeff Bridges
Mary Stone played by Emma Watson
Rod Crosby played by Rod Crosby
Bobby Fuller’s Los Angeles girlfriend played by Megan Fox
Screenplay by: Rick Kern; El Paso Musician, Music Historian and friend of Bobby Fuller Four band members
Narrated by: Me, Aly Adair of course: the 7-year old girl who thought one day she would marry Bobby Fuller!
1982 Interview with Charles Harrelson, Dallas Fox News Reporter Quin Mathews
Don Johnson Movie Announced
E. Howard Hunt’s Taped Deathbed Confession, April 2007
The Last Confessions of E. Howard Hunt
Book Excerpts: Of Rats and Men
Woody Harrelson’s Comments to Page Six
Bobby Fuller: Rock ‘n Roll King of the Southwest by Nick Carroll
May 2008. A video documentary about the life and music of Bobby Fuller. It was created as a senior computer art thesis project at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.