Where have you gone, Nancy Dowd?

I recently spent a pleasant afternoon in a theater watching the new hockey movie Goon, and although it was completely entertaining and I recommend it to fans of hockey/brutal comedy/Canadians, it couldn’t hold a candle to the ultimate hockey movie, Slap Shot. Full disclosure: the first time I watched Slap Shot, I was just a kid. I had no idea what was going on–the only memory I retained into adulthood was of the ultimate goon-trio, the Hanson brothers. Little else made sense. In hindsight, I never should have been allowed to see this movie as a kid, as it’s one of the most vulgar, foul-mouthed, violent sports movies ever made. It also has that 70s movie magic going for it–thoughtful, raw, subversive–and later screening it as an adult I’ve come to realize that it’s a really special movie about rust belt America around the time of the steel mill decline in the late 70s. Even more strange, I found out that this amazingly vulgar (and genius) movie was written by a woman, Nancy Dowd. In interviews she has revealed that the movie was based partially on her own upbringing in a mill town, and partially on her brother Ned Dowd who played for a minor league hockey team (the Johnstown Jets) in Western Pennsylvania during the 70s.

Even more of a mystery is what has happened to Ms. Dowd in the remaining years. After a few writing gigs–Slap Shot, SNL, and an Oscar for Coming Home–she all but dropped off the map. Where has she gone, and what happened? I had very little luck digging around to see what she’s been up to lately (other than selling her Caribbean home). But I must make mention of one of her great (largely uncelebrated) triumphs, a little film called Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains. It’s finally available on DVD, after years of being out-of-print and only shortly viewed on late-night cable in the 80s. It’s a sloppy film–but so good, and so ahead of its time. The film is rumored to be loosely based on the career of UK band The Slits, and follows a group of working-class teen girls in Western Pennsylvania who decide to start a girl punk band and go on the road–even though they can’t sing or play instruments. Notably, it stars a very young Diane Lane, Laura Dern, and Ray Winstone, as well as Paul Simonon from The Clash and Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols. It has also been credited with inspiring many ladies in the Riot Grrrl movement such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Sleater-Kinney. It’s not a great film, but its music and forward thinking ideas make up for any amount of shoddy moviemaking.

How strange that one lady wrote a film that is one of the greatest sports movies ever made, another that inspired a generation of girls to start a movement, and another that won an Oscar, and then totally dropped off the map. Where have you gone, Nancy Dowd?

Not gonna goon it up for you,


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8 responses to “Where have you gone, Nancy Dowd?

  1. N

    Hello, It’s Nancy Dowd. Checking in. I didn’t drop off the map, I just moved to a different part of it. You’re very kind to write those nice things about me.
    A California friend sent me the link last night. I never answer anything but I got up the courage to look after she assured me it was completely and utterly flattering. So I told her I’d open it in the morning with coffee and a croissant. I’m in Paris. I’ll study your blog now. You’re librarians! Books, books, books! I saw stack and thought pancakes?
    Fond regards,
    Nancy Dowd

    PS It wasn’t The Slits: it was The Ramones. If the Hansons had gone to art school………

    • Sue Talbot

      Hello Nancy: If you see this – it’s Suzy (Wally’s ex-wife) from Topanga….would so love to hear from you … and fill you in on what’s been happening on this end. I would suggest you can write me on Facebook – Sue Talbot – Shingletown, CA…HOPE YOU SEE THIS!!!

    • Hello Nancy! Listening to the dvd commentary I heard that you were a big fan of Black Randy (as am I!). I helped Brendan Mullen years ago with interviews for his book on the Hollywood punk scene called “WE Got the Neutron Bomb”. I was wondering what your connection was to Randy and how you discovered his music. Those early Hollywood punk bands like the Screamers, Bags, Skulls and Black Randy are pretty “underground” even to this day. Were you a regular at The Masque?

      Hope all is well.

    • Nancy, this is Connie Cronley from Tulsa Oklahoma. We met briefly at Hot Springs, Arkansas, when you were researching the race track in preparation for “Let It Ride.” I would like to reach Ned and tell him that Jay died unexpectedly last month. The memorial was March 26 at Tulsa’s independent movie theater, the Circle Cinema, featuring “Let It Ride” and “Funny Farm” with a reception in between of Jay’s favorite movie meal, popcorn, Coke and a box of Junior Mints. It was so wonderful seeing “Let It Ride” again. Truly, a great movie, Thank you for writing it. Please putm e in contact with Ned if possible.
      Connie Cronley
      1711 South Gary Ave Tulsa OK 74104

  2. Tara

    Hello Nancy Dowd!

    It’s so nice to hear from you, thank you so much for your comment. Thanks are also due for your rather imaginative use of language in the film Slap Shot – I think even my dad may have learned a few new phrases from that movie.

    I hope you are enjoying your new place on the map (in Paris – lovely!), it was very kind of you to get in touch.

    Yours in books & pancakes,

    PS – The Ramones! I’ll allow it :-)

  3. nancy, pat Jordan here. better late than never. was talking to my editor at vanity fair, today, and he asked me what was the best sports movie. told him, hands down, no competition, not a movie even in its league, Slap Shot. I should know, I played minor league baseball in every shit hole town in America in 1959-1962, Palatka, McCook, Thomasville, etc., and your movie was the most realistic depiction of minor league life in any sport. bull durham, fields of dreams, all for non athletes who never did it, and so spent their lives romanticizing it. they read roger angell, people who want it real, see Slap Shot…. glad to hear you’re happy in Paris, as I am in Abbeville, S.C. Pat Jordan, a fan

  4. Nancy – It’s been a while since you posted here but if you come back just want you to know how much I love Slap Shot and Let It Ride. Plus I think you also contributed to the writing of North Dallas Forty, which I also love.

    You are one of my heroes.

    Wishing you the best.

  5. Paul

    Let it ride is a perfect movie. You were a big part of it. The characters are easily understanding.
    Great job!

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