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Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

I read an article about the Harley-Davidson Museum which was accompanied by a photo of the “Captain America” bike in the movie Easy Rider (1969). 

It’s unclear if the film was essentially a western with bikes replacing horses or a post-classical Hollywood male-bonding LSD joy ride.  No matter what your viewpoint, the film was added to the U.S. National Film Registry as having been deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” 

However, this post isn’t about how everyone should go down to your local video store and rent Easy Rider to be a rebel.  It’s about how some family’s are severely touched by demons and despair in large quantities that’s unequal to the general population. 

For example, earlier this year the Easy Rider producer and lawyer, William Hayward died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  He was 66-years old and the suicide occurred in a trailer where he was living in Castaic, CA, an unincorporated area near Los Angeles.

William “Bill” Hayward was the youngest of three kids and born in 1942.  His growing up years were chaotic. There were several moves between California and Connecticut with the last to Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1948 after his mother, Margaret Sullavan was divorced from Leland Hayward. Sullavan wanted her children to have “normal” childhoods, and isolated them from the “evils of Hollywood”. The children lived in a separate house with a nurse (nanny) and a cook. A tutor taught Hayward and his siblings at home for the first few years of their life. When they were older, his sisters, Brooke and Bridget attended Greenwich Academy a private girls school, where Jane Fonda was a classmate. Bill Hayward and Peter Fonda attended Brunswick, a boy’s school around the corner from Greenwich Academy.  Interestingly is the fact that Sullavan was married to Henry Fonda for less than a year in 1931.

In the fall of 1953, the Hayward children (Brooke, Bridget and Bill) all left home to attend boarding schools. Brooke attended Madeira, a private girls school in McLean, Virginia; Bridget went to Gstaad, Switzerland and Bill to Lawrenceville in New Jersey. Brooke attended Madeira her junior and senior years, graduating in 1955 going on to Vassar and Yale.

Bill’s mother, Margaret Sullavan died of an accidental drug overdose January 1, 1960. At the time, both Bridget and Bill were patients in a mental asylum, Austen Riggs in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and Menninger’s in Topeka, Kansas, respectively. In October 1960, Bridget Hayward died of a drug overdose just 8 months after her mother. Leland Hayward died in 1971 at home, after an extensive hospital stay following an unsuccessful surgery.

At one point and according to Brooke Hayward’s bio, she was married to husband number two, Dennis Hopper, 1961-1969; they had one child, a daughter, Marin. And as you likely know Hopper worked closely with Peter Fonda (a long-time Sullavan/Hayward family friend) and Bill Hayward on the movie Easy Rider.

Bill Hayward also produced “Haywire” (1980) for CBS, an account of his mothers suicide based on a memoir by his sister Brooke.  In Haywire, Brooke wrote of a conversation she had with Bill in which he said if he ever committed suicide, he would do so by shooting himself in the heart….which is exactly what he did.

This was a family whose talent was unfortunately outshined by its demons.

 

Replica “Captain America” bike photo by Randy Leffingwell and courtesy of the 1969 Easy Rider film.  Photo taken at the Harley-Davidson Museum.  (the two originals were destroyed during filming, according to museum literature).

Haywire book courtesy of Amazon.com

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