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Read letters Stephen King wrote to the BDN in the ’80s and ’90s

Courtesy of Joe Baldacci
Courtesy of Joe Baldacci
Stephen and Tabitha King were at the Cross Insurance Center polls in Bangor in June 2013 to support a $3 million bond for the replacement of Bangor Public Library's roof.

Over the past 40 years, one of the most frequent and colorful writers of letters to the editor to the Bangor Daily News has been Stephen King, the Queen City’s most famous son.

Though in more recent years he’s only sent a few — including some to endorse political candidates — back in the 1980s and ’90s, King wrote to the BDN about a number of things. From musings on specific local issues, to taking various levels of issue with the ways the BDN did or did not cover the news of the day, King did not mince words. There’s no better example of that than a 1985 letter expressing his outrage at the censorship of a “Doonesbury” comic strip about abortion.

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We’ve collected all the letters from King we could find, beginning with a 1983 letter about the town of Hermon. We couldn’t find the BDN story that prompted King’s letter in this specific case, but the fine folks of Hermon shouldn’t take too much umbrage with a 35-year-old letter.

June 22, 1983

You can please some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Mark Twain, who never made it as far north as Hermon, said something like that.

The town manager of Hermon may want to erect a Mark Twain museum on my old trailer pad, because he has never been there — if he had been, they would have to look for yet another writer. I dread to think what Mark Twain would have made of Hermon.

I’ve lived in Maine all my life, and people who know me and know my work will know I’ve had very few bad things to say about my home state. In fact, I have found a fair number of good things to say.

In Hermon I was evicted from my home, harried by my landlord and someone shot my dog. My wife carried the poor mutt out of the back field with one leg hanging by a string.

I’m sure there are lot of good people in Hermon, but it’s still never going to be one of my favorite places.

Carroll Hall | BDN
Carroll Hall | BDN
Stephen King opens the new gates to his bat-guarded Victorian home in this November 1982 photograph.

Feb. 13, 1985

My lord! I’ve been living here in Bangor for five years now, and I’m still Steven King to your writers and copy editors. If you don’t stop pretty soon, I’m going to spell the name of your newspaper The Banger Dailie Noos in my next novel, which just happens to be set in this area (pretty good piece of blackmail, huh?).

I mean, I expect to be Steven King, Steven Keene, and in one memorable case even Stephen Kinney to the people who send out those “Occupant” circulars, but the local paper? Come on, guys. And if you must stick to Steven, could you at least start referring to our celebrated local

Baptist minister as Buddie Franckland?

Thank you.

April 24, 1985

I want to thank the News in general and Paul Reynolds in particular for censoring that nasty and vulgar “Doonesbury” strip last week. Without such guardians of moral standards and decency, I don’t know what I’d do. I’m sure if the strip had been run without cuts, I would not have been able to withstand the temptation to read it and my moral status would be a good deal lower than it is, thanks to the quick action of the News.

I also want to thank you on behalf of parents in the greater Bangor area. It’s good for us that the News staff realizes we’ve lost all control over our kids, and would be helpless to stop them reading such a vulgar piece of work. But with the News there to make such decisions for me, I know that I — and my fellow parents — can relax. The kids can’t read what isn’t there, and so their moral standards will remain just a little higher.

This is a step in the right direction — I hope it signals the beginning of a new News policy and a broadening of editorial responsibility. You might begin by refusing to run anything at all having to do with sex or sexually related diseases; you could cheer people up and also calm them down by omitting bad financial news; assure support for our president by refusing to carry such unpleasant things such as his visit to the SS version of Boot Hill; and these are really just a few of the “creative management” possibilities which the censoring of the “Doonesbury” strip hint at. Gentlemen, this could be a great step forward for the Fourth Estate! Congratulations!

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Author Stephen King's house is seen Monday, May 16, 2005, in Bangor, Maine.

Nov. 3, 1994

On the front page of the Nov. 1 issue of USA Today, there is a little squib saying that my family and I “fled the house” in order to escape hordes of trick or treaters. This is completely erroneous, and completely dopey. We were away Halloween weekend on family business, and got back too late to hand out candy. We reserve the right to either hand out candy on Halloween or not hand it out on a year-by-year basis, but the idea that we could be driven out of our home, even for an evening, by little ballerinas, pirates, and Power Rangers, is just ridiculous.

Nov. 3, 1995

[King wrote this letter just before election day in 1995, to express his disapproval of Question 1, a ballot measure that sought to prohibit local laws outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation, among other civil rights protections.]

I have lived in Maine my whole life, and have never wished to live anywhere else. I love the woods, the lakes, the seacoast, and the towns. Most of all, I love the beliefs held by most Mainers, because they have always seemed to me the purest distillation of those things that make America worth loving and cherishing. These beliefs include the idea that everyone deserves a fair shake, and that no one deserves to be treated badly because they think a certain way or live a certain way. A “yes” vote on Question 1 would go against everything I believe in, and that includes sticking my nose into the way other people live.

I urge you to vote “no” on 1.

May 16, 1997

Neither a lighthouse nor a chickadee works for me as a license plate image; neither says “This is the spirit of Maine as we make ready to enter the 21st century.” How about a pregnant teen-ager smoking a cigarette?

Yours for a more accurate Maine image,

Stephen King

Stephen M. Katz | BDN
Stephen M. Katz | BDN
Author and prominant U. Maine alum Stephen King flashes the peace sign during Wednesday afternoon's panel discussion, "Thirty Years Later: Reflections on Campus Activism by Those Who Led It."

Nov. 19, 1998

[Matt Kinney is a Bangor native and former Major League Baseball pitcher about whom King wrote in his 1990 essay “Head Down,” detailing the 1989 Bangor Little League season, in which both Kinney and King’s son Owen participated.]

As someone who was busted twice by the Orono police for alcohol-related misbehavior when I was 21 and a student at the University of Maine, my heart went out to Matt Kinney when I read the report of his arrest. There is plenty of reason to focus attention on substance and alcohol abuse, but it should also be pointed out that most young people drink too much at one time or another, and most learn that the consequences — even if those consequences are limited to how lousy you feel on the morning after — outweigh the benefits. When athletes and celebrities have repeated problems with alcohol, news of their behavior may have a place in the press. First lessons should perhaps be treated with a little more discretion and kindness, however.

My two not-so-excellent Orono adventures were noted in the BDN’s police blotter column, where I was mixed in with all the others who had done something dumb after getting tanked at Pat’s or the University Motor Inn or The Shamrock. Matt Kinney, on the other hand, got his very own headline at the top of the sports section’s second page. I’m very grateful I didn’t have the burden of fame while I was still learning to be a grownup, and I don’t have much respect for the Bangor Daily News’ handling of this particular tale.

Evan Agostini | Invision/AP
Evan Agostini | Invision/AP
PEN literary service award recipient Stephen King attends the 2018 PEN Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in New York.

Aug. 11, 1999

I agree with Hugh Taylor (BDN, Aug. 10) that all the discussion of Christopher Smith’s “Blair Witch Project” review has been a great thing. It’s refreshing to see a controversy in the letters pages that doesn’t involve guns or Hillary. Put me down as an enthusiastic Christopher Smith fan — compared to the Portland paper’s Marty Meltz, Smith is a cultural genius — but I think he’s dead wrong about the end of “The Blair Witch Project.”

I suffered a serious accident in mid-June, and have been pretty much confined to bed ever since, but the people at Artisan Films sent me a videotape copy of “Project.” I watched it for the first time with my older son near the end of my hospital stay, and my reaction to the end was very similar to Smith’s: You mean that’s all?

I think that would still be my reaction, but I watched the film again with my younger son when he came home from New York about a month later. This time I picked up a small but vital clue in the first 15 minutes of the film that changed my understanding of the end completely. I advise Christopher Smith and anyone else who was disappointed to watch the film again, paying particular attention to the interview with the two fishermen.

I would also like to thank everyone in the Bangor area who has wished me well in my recovery. I have never been so touched in my life.

 


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