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One Tin Soldier Rides Away – Rest In Peace Tom Laughlin [VIDEO]

Hollywood lost two actors this week, the amazing Peter O’Toole and Tom Laughlin, who is best known for his role as ‘Billy Jack.’ I have great respect for the work of Mr. O’Toole. But Tom Laughlin’s death really struck a chord with me. See, I was in love with him as a young girl. Or rather, I was in love with the character!

If you’ve never seen any of the ‘Billy Jack’ movies, here’s the basic gist. Billy Jack is an ex-green beret, hapkido expert who spends his time protecting the inhabitants of a “Freedom School’ in the desert. The granola-themed hippie school is offensive to the local ‘establishment’ and they constantly try to shut the school down.

The movies appealed to me on a couple of different levels. It spoke to the rebel in my pre-teenage soul who wanted to find my own path. I loved the fact that the school focused on everyone’s personal skills rather than the standard three R’s. And, let’s face it, the gauze tops, flowing skirts, and sandals were cool!

In addition, there’s that whole ‘knight in shining armor’ theme in the movies. The kids and staff at this school go through a LOT, but Billy Jack was always there to save the day. And hey, he was cute! There was something so strong, solid, and spiritual about the character.

Tom Laughlin was an actor/writer/director who struggled for two years to find studio backing. He eventually successfully sued Warner Brothers for the rights and produced the movie himself, renting movie theaters to show it in. He was among the first to market a movie on television and open it immediately nationwide. The movie flopped financially but became a cult hit. And the character of ‘Billy Jack’ is thought to be a predecessor to ‘Rambo.’

Laughlin died Thursday from complications from pneumonia. He was 82 years old. Rest in peace, Billy Jack. Fade to black as ‘One Tin Soldier Rides Away.’

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