Writing Letters to Jodie Foster

LUKE: You know what people told me when I said you were coming here to live with me? They told me I was crazy, they told me I was insane, they told me to start writing letters to Jodie Foster.

Luke references John Hinckley Jr. (born 1955), a college drop-out from a wealthy family who attempted to assassinate president Ronald Reagan. Hinckley was reportedly seeking fame in a misguided effort to impress actress Jodie Foster (born Alicia Foster in 1962), with whom he had been obsessed since the 1976 film Taxi Driver, where Foster plays a sexually-trafficked twelve-year-old child – in the film, the disturbed protagonist plots to assassinate a presidential candidate (it’s based on a true story).

When Jodie Foster began attending Yale University, Hinckley moved to New Haven in order to stalk her, sending her dozens of letters and poems, and leaving messages on her answering machine. Believing that assassinating the president would somehow make him Foster’s equal, Hinckley fired a revolver six times at Ronald Reagan on March 30 1981, as he left the Hilton Hotel in Washington DC. Although Hinckley did not hit Reagan, he was wounded when a bullet ricocheted and hit him in the chest. He also wounded a police officer and a Secret Service agent, and critically injured a press secretary, who died from his wounds in 2014.

John Hinckley Jr. was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982, and transferred to psychiatric care. He was released from hospital in 2016 into his mother’s care under numerous restrictions. As of June 2022, Hinckley will be living freely in the community. He has a YouTube channel, where he self-publishes his own songs; they are also available on Spotify and other streaming sites.

“Tunneling out of here with a spoon”

LORELAI: Aw, look at you, trying to make Mommy feel like you don’t spend every night tunneling out of here with a spoon.

Lorelai references Escape from Alcatraz, 1979 prison thriller film directed by Don Spiegel. It’s an adaptation of the 1963 non-fiction book of the same name by J. Campbell Bruce, and dramatises the 1962 prisoner escape from the maximum security prison on Alcatraz Island, off the shore of San Francisco.

The film stars Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris, an extremely intelligent criminal who forms an escape plan with a few other prisoners. Over the next few months, they dig through their cell walls with spoons, make papier-mache dummies to act as decoys, and construct a raft out of raincoats. The film implies the escape was successful, although that is not certain (recent evidence seems to suggest the men did survive).

Escape from Alcatraz was a commercial success and well received by critics. It is often considered one of the best films of 1979.

Gloria Allred

LORELAI: How dare you accuse my face of that! My face is calling Gloria Allred when we get home.

Gloria Allred (born Gloria Bloom in 1947), attorney known for taking high-profile and controversial cases, especially those involving the protection of women. She represented Nicole Brown Simpson’s family during the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1995. She has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

This is the book that Jess is reading in the park when Rory finds him. It’s a 1968 non-fiction book by Tom Wolfe, a popular example of the New Journalism literary style. It’s a firsthand account of the novelist Ken Kesey and his followers, called The Merry Pranksters, who travelled around the US in a colourfully painted school bus called Further, whose name was painted as the destination sign. The bus was driven by Neal Cassady, the inspiration for Dean Moriarty from Kerouac’s On the Road.

Kesey and his Pranksters became famous for their use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD (“acid”), often added to the drink Kool-Aid at Acid Test parties. Kesey becomes idolised as a hero of the countercultural movement, and almost a priest of a transcendent new religion or cult. He forms friendships with the Hell’s Angels, and crosses paths with other countercultural icons, such as The Grateful Dead and Allen Ginsberg, but is unsuccessful in his attempts to meet psychologist Timothy Leary, who worked with psychedelic drugs. The Pranksters meet Jack Kerouac, who finds them overwhelming and resents them, a symbol of the hippies overtaking the Beat generation as the new counterculture. Eventually, the law catches up with them.

The book received modest critical acclaim, and is regarded as a faithful and sober account of Kesey’s activities, although it has also received plenty of criticism for Wolfe’s idolisation of Kesey, and his glorification of rampant drug abuse. Kesey himself noted that Wolfe was only with him for three weeks, and used no recording devices at all, but provided a reasonably factual account.

This book makes perfect sense for Jess to read – an updated On the Road, with a similar vibe to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It shows his interest in journalism as a literary art form.

David Lee Roth

JESS: It’s where David Lee Roth got busted.

David Lee Roth (born 1954), retired musician, singer, songwriter and radio personality, best known as the lead singer of the rock band Van Halen, previously discussed.

In 1993, Roth was arrested for buying $10 worth of marijuana from an undercover police officer in Washington Square Park, and paid a $35 fine. The incident made headlines and became something of a punchline.

Jessica Hahn

LORELAI: Instead, I got pregnant. I didn’t finish high school, I didn’t marry your father and I ended up in a career that apparently Jessica Hahn would think was beneath her.

Jessica Hahn (born 1959), model and actress. She accused televangelist Jim Bakker of rape while employed as a church secretary. After the 1987 scandal, Hahn posed nude for Playboy, appeared in several television shows, including Married … with Children, and was a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show on radio in the 1980s through to the 2000s.

Ivan Boesky

RICHARD: Welcome, everyone, to the first official board meeting of the StyleAid Corporation. Will everyone please take a seat?

CHIP: I feel like Ivan Boesky.

Ivan Boesky (born 1937), former stock trader who became infamous for his prominent role in an insider trading scandal that occurred in the United States during the mid-1980s. He was charged and pleaded guilty to insider trading, was fined a record $100 million, served three years in prison and became an informant. The character of Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film Wall Street is partly based on Boesky.

David Letterman’s House

LORELAI: Honey, you gotta ease up on that love potion you’ve been giving him or he’s gonna start showing up at David Letterman’s house soon.

In May 1988, David Letterman was stalked by a mentally ill woman named Margaret “Peggy” Ray, who stole his car, camped on his tennis court, and repeatedly broke into his house. Her exploits gained national attention, and Letterman joked about her on his show sometimes, but without ever naming her. Ray served 34 months in prison and psychiatric hospitals for stalking Letterman, but refused to continue her medication upon her release, and went on to stalk astronaut Story Musgrove. She killed herself in 1998. Both Letterman and Musgrove expressed sympathy for her – “A sad ending to a confused life”, said a spokesman for Letterman.

Another rather distasteful joke about mental illness and suicide, and the implication that it is somehow Rory’s “fault” that Dean is behaving so obsessively. There does seem to be a slight acknowledgement here from Lorelai that Dean’s behaviour is abnormal and unhealthy.

Patricia Hearst and the SLA

LORELAI: She’s brainwashed. She’s Patricia Hearst and my mother is the SLA.

Patricia Hearst (born 1954), author and actress, the granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, previously mentioned. She is best known for being kidnapped from her Berkeley apartment in February 1974, when she was 19, by an urban guerilla left-wing group called the Symbionese Liberation Army. The kidnapping was partly opportunistic, as Hearst lived near the SLA hideout.

According to Hearst’s testimony, she was kept locked in a closet for weeks, given SLA literature to read by flashlight. Offered the choice between joining the SLA or being killed by them, she joined them, and was given daily weapon drills. Over the next 18 months, she took part in high-profile robberies and kidnappings as a member of the SLA.

Patricia Hearst was arrested in September 1975, her defence arguing that she had been brainwashed and was acting under duress. She was convicted in March 1976 and sentenced to seven years in prison. Her sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter, and she was released in February 1979. After release, she married a policeman who had been part of her security while on bail, brought out a memoir in 1981, and appeared in several films by John Waters.

Cult Deprogrammers

LORELAI: I’m gonna have to be deprogrammed by cult deprogrammers to get that Tuesday out of my brain.

Cult deprogramming claims to assist people who have been “brainwashed” by new religious movements. Deprogramming was introduced in the 1970s by a high school dropout named Ted Patrick, who, despite having no qualifications or training, convinced people that he could rescue their loved ones from organisations and groups for $10 000. He had experience, having already removed his own son from the Children of God.

Essentially, deprogramming involves abducting the new convert, isolating him, physically restraining him and hitting him with a barrage of continuous arguments and attacks against his new religion, threatening to hold him forever until he agrees to leave it. Ted Patrick was tried and convicted of multiple felonies, such as kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment.

There is no evidence that deprogramming works – in fact, there is a higher rate of success from people naturally getting bored and dropping out of religious movements than there is from deprogramming. Members of the Church of Unification were particularly targeted by deprogramming efforts in the 1980s.

[Picture shows Ted Patrick trying to deprogram a young member of the Children of God].