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The Life and Death of Gary Gilmore
January 17, 2007 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Thirty years ago today, Gary Gilmore was executed at the Utah State Prison, the first prisoner to be put to death since the moratorium on executions was established four years prior, and the first execution in Utah in sixteen years. His refusal to appeal his death sentence confounded his lawyers and attracted the attention of the ACLU, among others, who fought to keep Gilmore alive, against his wishes. His frustrations with the uncertainty of his sentence led him to attempt suicide in prison twice.

His life and death have been recounted in several books, films, inspired a few songs, and even an SNL skit. His final words, “Let’s do it,” led to a major marketing campaign.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér (24 comments total)

 
I have no particular love or hate for Nike, but, "Let's do it" ≠ "Just do it".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:53 AM on January 17, 2007


Don't forget the Judy's "How's Gary".
posted by plinth at 6:54 AM on January 17, 2007


It's no "Let's roll," but I guess it has its charm.
posted by quite unimportant at 6:56 AM on January 17, 2007


Reading that biography, that guy had enough indicators he needed help and supervision. Locking him up multiple times should have been a freaking clue. Without some sort of rehiblitation and monitoring shows how the system doesnt work.
posted by IronWolve at 6:56 AM on January 17, 2007


Blazecock actually read the final article kthx
posted by Spacelegoman at 7:01 AM on January 17, 2007


and this film
posted by rottytooth at 7:02 AM on January 17, 2007


That last bit about Nike's ad slogan is interesting. Ad Agencies seem to work by pulling things from their asses at the last minute. I think I missed my true calling.
posted by spock at 7:13 AM on January 17, 2007


I can hear the next slogan already "just say no to sex" from the first lady and "god damn you" from saddam will become the rallying cry of the republicans for 2008

" no goddamn sex"
posted by srboisvert at 7:31 AM on January 17, 2007


I can hear the next slogan already "just say no to sex" from the first lady and "god damn you" from saddam will become the rallying cry of the republicans for 2008

But I don't think any first lady has been hung. With the possible exception of Barbara Bush. "Just say no to sex" would appear to work out very well for her.
posted by hal9k at 7:52 AM on January 17, 2007


"Let's do it"

When I saw this I immediately heard Tone Loc at the beginning of Wild Thang, with that huge bass beat coming a half-second later.
posted by wabashbdw at 8:16 AM on January 17, 2007


I don't know, the connection is very very thin, at best: a blog post from 2005 where a guy says that "Just Do It" is Nancy Reagan + Gary Gilmore? I don't think so. I'd be surprised if Wieden had admitted that, and in fact the guy does not quote him directly.

the rest is silence Crime Library and Wiki.

Happy 30th anniversary, I guess.
posted by matteo at 8:24 AM on January 17, 2007


Blazecock actually read the final article kthx

I actually did read the article. I just don't think the article is well-written or well-cited. Nike gets a lot of grief for other reasons, so I openly doubt they would knowingly choose to lift their marketing slogans from serial killers, as much as I doubt that such an admission wouldn't get any traction in the mainstream press.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:52 AM on January 17, 2007


matteo,
apparently there is also a film where Dan Wieden tells the story himself. Not so thin, after all.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:53 AM on January 17, 2007


"You commit a murder Monday, and commit a murder Tuesday. I wasn't waiting for Wednesday to roll around."

Smart woman.
posted by flatlander at 8:59 AM on January 17, 2007


apparently there is also a film where Dan Wieden tells the story himself. Not so thin, after all.

Mea culpa.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:05 AM on January 17, 2007


When I was a kid, there was a drawer in my house where my parents kept photographs. Underneath the boxes of pictures there were some old magazines, including a 1977 Life year end wrap-up. It included a pictorial and article on Gilmore. I was only seven or so, but I remember being fascinated by it even though I was too young to grasp what it was all about. Along with Jonestown and Patty Hearst he became a minor obsession over the years. Side effect of being a kid in the Psycho Seventies I suppose.

Mikal Gilmore's book linked above is an excellent explication of the whole story. It's not some quickie 'My brother was a killer!' book. Gilmore was a respected journalist before the murders occured and revealed his relation to Gary to his editor Jann Wenner after the killings hit the news.
posted by jonmc at 9:05 AM on January 17, 2007


Yeah, were it not for bashos' link, the last link on the post comes across like a big steaming pile of apocryphal manure.
posted by docpops at 9:23 AM on January 17, 2007


apparently there is also a film where Dan Wieden tells the story himself. Not so thin, after all.

Thanks bashos_frog. I'd been hoping to find a better link for that part of the post but didn't have much luck.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 9:27 AM on January 17, 2007


Mikal Gilmore's book linked above is an excellent explication of the whole story.

Seconded. The book is brilliant - haunting, gothic and disturbing. It also illustrates some of the darker and weirder aspects of Mormonism.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 10:09 AM on January 17, 2007


Thirded. Shot in the Heart is one of the best books I've ever read.
posted by Jess the Mess at 11:22 AM on January 17, 2007


The Wiki article linked to "the hi-fi murders", which I don't recall having heard of. I wish I hadn't read it.
posted by Goofyy at 6:18 AM on January 18, 2007


"According to his brother Mikal Gilmore's memoir, Utah's tradition dictated that five men comprise a firing squad - four of them with live rounds, and one with a blank, so as to not know who fired the fatal shot. Upon inspecting the clothes worn by Gary Gilmore at his execution, Mikal noticed five holes in the shirt — indicating, he wrote, that "the state of Utah, apparently, had taken no chances on the morning that it put my brother to death" (p. 390)." (from the Wikipedia entry).

What a job to have. anybody ever grow up and dream of being on a firing squad in Utah? Is that an extra duty for the guards or are there people in staff who do only THAT?

And his last words "There will always be a father." Anybody what he meant?
posted by Susanna King at 10:30 AM on January 18, 2007


Is that an extra duty for the guards or are there people in staff who do only THAT?

According to The Executioner's Song, there were people volunteering to shoot Gary Gilmore. I can't remember if they got paid to do so - I don't think they did. But they had a bit of a hard time narrowing the volunteers down to just five.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 2:41 PM on January 18, 2007


Mikal was a good rock critic, turned me on to a lot of cool stuff in his work for the late/lamented Herald-Examiner in the early '80s. I never recall him writing anything about the Adverts, though... (course they never toured the States).

Always thought it was interesting, how Gary Gilmore inspired people to write, sing or make films about him -- and largely good stuff, too, in a genre known for being 95% dreck. Out of all the killers in the 1970s American West, somehow this cat just had a strange allure.

Somehow I doubt Joseph Duncan will leave a similar legacy.
posted by Scram at 6:39 PM on January 19, 2007


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