Richard Linkletter & Me

Gayle Leslie
3 min readJun 27, 2021

PBS American Masters: Richard Linklater

Filmmaker Richard Linkletter

There were a lot of things I didn’t know and hadn’t thought to think about before I watched American Masters’ profile of Richard Linklater. Having lived most of the past four decades in New York City, I’ve thought lately that — if you live long enough — everything comes back around. So many connections I’d made when I was very young and fresh to NYC from my troubled past in Texas are coming back to me. Names and people I had nothing more than a strong sense of destiny about years ago who’ve gone on to do some pretty spectacular things are coming back into my sphere. NYC and the “business,” are just amazingly small worlds.

What I hadn’t realized because I’d never looked was that Richard Linklater and I were born within weeks of one another in Texas and by the time we were both teenagers we were both roaming the landscape in and around Huntsville, Texas looking for direction. A place to go and something to do.

Huntsville is a strangely remarkable unremarkable little place. Sam Houston State University and its quirky pseudo-liberal student body live there. All the while the old-fashioned town square and the curious characters populating the place belie the immense gravitational pull toward the town’s dark side: the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas proudly and unrepentantly kills four times as many people as any other institution in the country. If the state of Texas wants to make you dead to prove itself a model of entrenched toxic manhood, not even the DNA will save you cause, you know, fuck science.

It’s the kind of place that people from there who write can’t help but write about: people like Richard Linklater and me. And so we have, but I don’t share his warmth for our mutual stomping grounds. But Y’all, I could feel the weight of the humidity and the heat in the air I breathed of an East Texas night when I watched “Dazed and Confused.” This is a director who transports with the environment.

Watching American Masters was an epiphany for me. At the very same time that I was conspiring to escape from Texas — all I’d ever wanted to do was flee the place and the inevitable doom constantly nipping at my heels there — my contemporary Richard Linklater was figuring out, not only how he could stay, but how he could make the movies he wanted…

Gayle Leslie

Author of “Dwelling in the Vast Divine.1 & .2" Political consultant, policy wonk.