02/10/2014 11:52 EST | Updated 04/12/2014 05:59 EDT

Watching Shane (and 99 Other Ways to Beat the Blues)

When she was thirteen years old, Tanya Tucker had a big crossover country/pop hit called Delta Dawn. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, she found herself famous, the Miley Cyrus of her day. Tanya went into a wild spell marked by extremes, outrageous behaviour and public delamination of the celebrity sort. Now, she's grown into a respected icon of country music, which, goes to show you -- survival is the most important element in becoming an icon. You, too, can become a venerated elder of your tribe, no matter what you did as a teenager. It's a matter of not stopping till you get there.

Anyway, Tanya Tucker put together an anthology called 100 Ways to Beat the Blues. In the book, 100 more or less well-known people talk about their personal remedies for fighting depression. Mostly, she chose country singers and movie stars, along with a smattering of politicians and sports guys. And me. Lord knows how I made the cut. I've never met Tanya, although I have enjoyed her music and she seems to have come through the too-young fame syndrome with some level of sanity.

There are a few writers in the 100 -- Wally Lamb, Kinky Friedman, Cathie Pelletier. Not many live west of Austin. George And Barbara Bush had to share a chapter. Willie Nelson's advice is short -- "If you don't like the blues, play from the whites." I'm thinking it's a golf joke. Garth Brooks' chapter is serious, sincere and personal. Among other things, Garth says you should watch the news on TV every night. Whatever makes you happy, I guess. Roseanne said it's uplifting to beat the tar out of your ex-husband's motorcycle with a baseball bat.

An alarming number of the musicians recommend getting drunk. Personally, I found myself drunk a lot, back in the old days, and I don't remember it ever making me perky, punctual and positive.

A bunch of the your more artistic types say depression is not necessarily bad for you.

Here is my chapter:

Kurt Vonnegut says a person must be depressed to write a novel, which is probably true. However, when I am depressed I have a tendency to sit on the couch and stare at that four-inch gap between my feet for several days, until the spiritual catatonia grows boring and I get up.

Boredom is the cure for long-term depression, and anything that alleviates boredom short-term -- alcohol, sex with people you don't like, rage -- only puts off the cure. So, after a few days of sitting there like an African violet in need of sunlight, I get up and fix a pot of Kenya AA coffee. Then I pop Shane into the DVD player. It's a scientific fact that a person cannot remain in the dumps throughout a full viewing of Shane.

Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur. Jack Palance.

"Shane! Come back! Mother wants you!"

The movie will renew your faith in the inevitability of good's victory over evil, the dignity of beauty, and the inspiration brought on by a nice view.

After Shane, and a couple of cups of strong Kenya AA, I can return to my work, refreshed and ready to produce.

That riff is the closest I've come to a bestseller.

I once saw Tanya Tucker at the Cowboy Bar. She was with Glen Campbell, at the height of her public flame-out. Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears are flashes in the pan compared to a country singer gone off the steep side of the roller coaster. Tanya had apparently taken some sort of strange pills and got herself stuck up against a wall in the Cowboy Bar ladies room. Folks went in and out of there for a couple hours, trying to peel her loose.

Then, suddenly, Tanya bounced on stage, grabbed the microphone, and belted out one of the most kick-ass sets I've ever seen or heard. She was a true professional, and a hot singer. I later used that scene in Western Swing. Nothing is wasted.


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