"Oh honey, tramps like us/baby we were born to run," and other lyrics from the Boss serve as the backdrop to Glenn Marx's story about Whitehall, Mont. Marx is the former publisher of the Whitehall Ledger and his new book, Talk About a Dream, gives a little insight into growing up in a small town, though it's fiction. The book takes place in 1986 and it's about many things: football, family, music, rural living. All proceeds from the book go to saving Whitehall's last remaining movie theater, the Star Theatre. He signs and sells books today from 1 to 3 PM at Missoula's Fact & Fiction.
Here are a few questions I asked Marx about the book and his obsession with Bruce.
How did your love for Bruce Springsteen turn into a book?
Glenn Marx: What evolved into a book started as a story to my two kids. They were both raised in Whitehall and both went to Whitehall High School and they both ended up in college at NYU. They left Montana and it was unclear when and how or possibly even if they were even going to return. And so I wanted to tell them a story to show them how lucky they were to have been raised here in Montana—that not everybody has that good fortune. That was job one [in writing the book]. Job two was I wanted them to understand how music and lyrics and art can truly impact you. And certainly music is art and even rock and roll is art. I'm 58 and I can remember hearing "Born to Run" in my college dorm room and the guitars and the drum went through my body and into my heart and 40 years later that song still does that. For me there’s two kinds of music on earth: There’s Bruce Springsteen and there’s everything else.
What are some of your favorite songs of his?
Marx: He has a suite of songs that have the word “land” in them" "Badlands," "Promise Land," "Jungleland," "Land of Hopes and Dreams," "Hard Land." My favorite song depends, well, it depends on where you are and who you're with and what your mood is.
What's the significance of 1986 to Talk About a Dream?
Marx: I wanted to tell a story pre-technology. I wanted to tell the story before there were significant technological upgrades in weekly journalism. And I wanted to set the story in a meaningful Bruce Springsteen phase. This was right after Born in the USA came out.
Tell me about your drive to raise money for the Star Theatre.
Marx: The town of Whitehall has had economic misfortune in recent years. We had a cataclysmic fire in spring of 2009 when a major section of a commercial area burned down. And since 2009 it has not been rebuilt. It is a major vacant lot on the corner of what ought to be the most prosperous corner of Whitehall. So when the Star Theatre sent a signal that they needed to get new technology or the theater might have to close the thinking was if the theater closes it will never reopen. The theater is not just a business, it’s a place of entertainment and where kids can go. It’s a hub. It keeps people in town. It would be a quality-of-life blow if it closed. So immediately there was an effort strated called Save the Star. And I had this story that I had sent to my two kids. At that time it only existed in a word document—that was as public as it got. I called up the movie theater owners and Save the Star [and offered the book so that] every penny that’s generated from sales should go to the Star. save the star. They looked at it and liked it. It’s a nice synchronicity that it’s book about Whitehall with scenes in it that pertain to the Star Theatre. We put together funds to get the book printed. And to show there's even more synchronicity in the world we ended up with a printer in Naples, Fla., called Whitehall Printers. We need $80,000 and Save the Star has raised just over $70,000. I think we're going to get the job done. It would be a nice success story for the community of Whitehall.
Why, as a newspaper guy, did you decide to do a novel?
Marx: I wanted to let my imagination wander. There were stories I wanted to tell and examples I wanted to give that didn’t happen in real life. I was in Whitehall last fall and an old lady came up to me and she said, "I was down at the beauty shop and we were trying to figure out who the floozy is based on." I had to laugh and tell her the person she categories as "the floozie" isn’t based on anybody and there’s a lot of characters in the book not based on anybody. But that has not stopped Whitehall residents from trying to figure out who's supposed to be who. it’s become kind of a game.
How do your kids feel about Springsteen?
Marx: I had the good fortune a couple of years ago of going to New York and seeing Bruce Springsteen in Albany with my daughter. There’s a song called "Out in the Street" that's very much an audience participation song where he sings and the audience sings and the audience has to carry the bridge of the music from section to section. I can remember during my daughter’s early teenage years, she had a bit of a rebellious streak, and "Out in the Street" was playing and I was singing it and I turned the sound down and turned to her and I said "Wouldn’t you like to be
in a crowd of 50,000 people all singing along the lyrics of this song...?" and she turned to me and said, "Not if I was standing next to you." Which she might have meant at that time, but years later, when we saw Bruce in Albany...Springsteen played it and my daughter and I put our arms around each other and sang along to the whole song so life turns out good. You’ve got to mark those great moments that bring you great joy. And that was one of those moments.