Cake for Peter Fonda: “Easy Rider” in 2019

Easy Rider, with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.

We made two cakes this weekend. 

“Get a white or yellow cake mix.  A yellow cake tastes just like a white cake,” I said.

Cake mixes are better than homemade cake, at least in my kitchen. My cakes are giant flat biscuits.  It would be different if I had a Mixmaster, I always think.  The Mixmaster would make the batter fluffy.

 We decided to make a cake in honor of Peter Fonda, who died last week.  We would offer crumbs to the gods.

But there was a cake problem.  My husband did buy a yellow cake, in a sense.  It was lemon cake.  Let me say that lemon cake mixes are a regrettable invention. 

He gallantly went back  for a white cake mix. 

Peter Fonda

And then we sat in the living room and watched Easy Rider (1969), an independent film written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern.  The heroes, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), are drug dealers on an American road trip.  Wyatt is the cool, taciturn guy and Billy is the wild man.  An American flag is ironically painted on Wyatt’s helmet, but the small-town Americans do not appreciate this.

Not much happens.  Wyatt gets a flat tire.   They pick up a hitchhiking hippie philosopher and visit his commune.  There is a mime troupe at the commune and at least one goat (or was it a llama?)  in the house.  Everybody is stoned:  how else could they stand it?

The film has a slightly embarrassing ‘60s vibe, but if you watch it to the end it is poignant.  Wyatt and Billy are traveling on their motorcycles to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  Things become intense in the South.  No small-town restaurants will serve them and no motel will rent them a room because of their long hair.  (I had forgotten all about that aspect of the ’60s.)

The tempo of the film picks up when they meet George (Jack Nicholson), a witty lawyer with a drinking problem. He decides to go to New Orleans with them, hilariously wearing a gold football helmet for a motorcycle helmet. 

Wyatt introduces George to marijuana.

But “Do you have to be high every minute?”  I prudishly asked the actors during several scenes.

When they finally get to New Orleans, I was relieved to see the actress Karen Black.  I knew, however, that any woman in the film would be there only for sexual reasons.  And, yes, she plays a whore.

The LSD scene is graphic.  Karen Black has a very bad trip.  

“That drug has ruined more people’s lives,” my husband said.

Altered states are not good for everyone.

The ending of this movie is shattering.  I had forgotten how divided America was back then. 

The Peter Fonda movie I really love is Ulee’s Gold,  but it wasn’t available from Netflix.

6 thoughts on “Cake for Peter Fonda: “Easy Rider” in 2019

  1. All due respect to Peter Fonda but the best part of Easy Rider is the music. Played my Easy Rider soundtrack CD last weekend for him.

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  2. I was 17 in 1969 and took my conservative but open-minded mother to see Easy Rider. I wanted her to know what my generation was all about. I had not yet taken recreational drugs and I know that if I saw the film now, I couldn’t watch all the drug-taking. There’s something about it that makes me feel ill, perhaps too much exposure later to too many ruined lives, physically and mentally. But Peter Fonda will be missed.

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    1. It’s a film really for its time, I think. I hadn’t remembered anything about the drugs. But it does seem to be a picaresque film about two nonconformists willing to engage with all kinds of people, many of whom hate them on sight. The ending is shocking.

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