Saturday, March 6, 2010

Vacation '58

National Lampoon's Vacation dates back to the days when the National Lampoon trademark still meant something. The seminal humor magazine published work from an incredible array of writers and artists, ranging from the likes of Vaughn Bode, Michael O'Donoghue, Neal Adams, Edward Gorey ... and even John Hughes.

In 1979, the magazine published a short story by Hughes called Vacation '58, which became the basis for the 1983 Chevy Chase film. It's a LOT crazier than the film and ends on a much darker beat. It also has the kind of freedom that films never have, such as using the name Walt Disney instead of the not-quite-but-almost "Roy Wally." Here's what Hughes had to say about the story:

"I wrote the first sentence — "If Dad hadn't shot Walt Disney in the leg, it would have been our best vacation ever!" — and the rest was automatic. I used the voice of a boy to cover my lack of skill, and to flatten the big moments. In Rusty's prosaic language, a ruined vacation and an assault with a deadly weapon upon an entertainment legend enjoyed comparable importance. I called to mind a clamor of relatives, situations, catchphrases, and behaviors. I was mindful of my feelings as a child witnessing phony pop inventions go to hell. I understood that the dark side of my middle-class, middle-American, suburban life was not drugs, paganism, or perversion. It was disappointment. There were no gnawing insects beneath the grass. Only dirt. I also knew that trapped inside every defeat is a small victory, and inside that small victory is the Great Defeat. This knowledge—along with a cranky old lady; strange, needy relatives; a vile dog; and everything that could possibly go wrong on a highway—was enough to make a story, plug a hole in the magazine, and get on to the next issue."
Read the entire essay here.

If you're curious about how Hughes' original story read, you're in luck! Here's a link to an online transcript.

These days, the National Lampoon trademark is just something leased to grade-z teen sex comedies that make Porky's look like Citizen Kane (though you could make the argument that Porky's is the Citizen Kane of teen sex comedies.)

Meanwhile, allow me to get this song permanently attached to your brain for the rest of the day ...

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