Ford Fairlane

Created by Rex Weiner

“The lights glimmered down Broadway like a strand of pearls slung over a black girl’s thigh.”
— the opening line of 

“So many assholes, so few bullets!”
— Ford waxes philosphical

Intended as a star vehicle for misogynistic, racist, foul-mouthed comic Andrew Dice Clay, the 1990 flick The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, with Clay in the role of FORD FAIRLANE, turned out to be an even bigger flop than Clay himself. Heavily hyped and promoted, with soundtrack and comic book tie-ins, the flick sank with barely a trace, leaving just a small, oily stain. Undaunted, Clay keeps threatening to make a comeback.


I know, I know. The film was stupid. And crude. And so transparently, deliberately offensive and tasteless and vulgar and so intent on pandering to the lowest common denominator that, so help me, I thought a few moments were kinda funny, albeit in a cringeworthy, train wreck sort of way.

The lathered-on obnoxiousness of Clay’s stage persona was carried directly over to his screen debut. Sure, Ford Fairlane’s a jerk, but at the time, he seemed so ridiculously over-the-top, so obviously a cartoon, that it’s hard to believe anyone could take his clunky, transparent button-pushing seriously. Sorta like an amped-up cross between Archie Bunker and the Fonz, Clay played a self-styled private eye specializing in cases involving the music industry. A failed musician himself, he had a love/hate affair with his reputation as “the rock ‘n’ roll detective.” As Ford put it, “Fucking rock stars! I mean, how am I going to pay my taxes with bathtub compact disc players and autographed drumsticks?”

He dressed like a fifties throwback and tooled around in a classic — what else? — Ford Fairlane. He was arrogant as hell, but the chicks — Whoa! — just couldn’t get enough of him. Whoa!

His prize possession? A Fender Stratocaster once used by Jimi Hendrix, which Fairlane seemed to care about more than he did for most people. His long-suffering gal Friday was called Jazz. Of course, she’s secretly in love with the boss.

Which may have been the film’s biggest mystery. Fairlane might have been a lot of things, but lovable?

Like a character says, “You know, Fairlane, sometimes you can be a real dick!”


* * * * *

Ironic, then, that when he first arrived on the scene in 1980, in “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, New Wave Private Eye,” a monthly, six-part serial by NYC journalist and night-time punk rocker Rex Weiner, that Fairlane wasn’t a cynical, loudmouthdick, but an idealistic, outspoken champion of all that was good and right about rock’n’roll. Revolution was in the air, and Ford Fairlane was a punk rock saviour, not a scumbag scoundrel trying to cash in, and if the plots were cartoonish and outlandish (and they were–in one case Fairlane’s up against the “Fourth Reich”—a neo-Nazi synth band out to convert the youth of America into fascists), at least Fairlane’s heart was in the right place. That first story appeared in the now defunct weekly alternative, The New York Rocker, and wrapped up just as the second arc began appearing in September of that year in the LA Weekly, paralleling Weiner’s move west.

And that was that for Fairlane, punk rock private eye.

It took ten years for 20th Century Fox to bring him to the stage, and in the process the character was leached and bleached, any rough edges sanded down or worse–co-opted, ending up about as punk as Donny and Marie. Fairlane was no longer part of the solution–he was part of the problem.

Even the soundtrack got it wrong: instead of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, X or Dead Kennedys, we got child-friendly, corporate-approved, punk-free rock from the likes of Motley Crue, Sheila E. and Richie Sambora, and a few inexplicable cookie cutter covers (“Beyond the Sea” by Jeff Lynne? “Sea Cruise” by Cliff Richards?).  At least “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix made some sense. And Ford got to strut his rock’n’roll chops, performing a scenery chewing, semi-credible version of Clarence Carter’s “I Aint Got You.”



  • The film “won” several Razzies, including Worst Actor (Andrew Dice Clay), Worst Picture, and Worst Screenplay. It was also nominated for Worst Director and twice for Worst Supporting Actor (Gilbert Gottfried and Wayne Newton).


  • “…loud, ugly and mean-spirited”
    — Roger Ebert on the film
  • “Don’t let Andrew Dice Clay prevent you from reading this. Substitute J. J. Gittes and you’ll have a great ride. From coast to coast Ford Fairlane knows his way around the scene. With Tom Waits-like prose, you’ll be out hipped, Rex Weiner is so hip.”
    –John Densmore (The Doors) on the original stories


  • “Where It All Began” (April 1980, The New York Rocker)
  • “Laffs and Stilettos on the Lower East Side” (The New York Rocker)
  • “Fifty-Two Pick-up or Die” (The New York Rocker)
  • “Night Train to Nowhere” (The New York Rocker)
  • “Manic Panic” (The New York Rocker)
  • “A Sunnyview of Life” (The New York Rocker)
  • “The Snatch” (September 12, 1980, LA Weekly)
  • “The Funny Joke” (LA Weekly)
  • “The Connection” (LA Weekly)
  • Like Falling Off a Cliff” (LA Weekly)
  • “Mysteries of the Cuckoo’s Nest” (LA Weekly)
  • “The Permanent Chill” (LA Weekly)


  • The “Original” Adventures of Ford Fairlane (2018) Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Collecting all the long lost original short stories from The New York Rocker and LA Weekly.


  • THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE | Buy this DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray
    (1990, 20th Century Fox)
    Based on characters created by Rex Weiner
    Written by Daniel Waters
    Story by James E. Cappe and David Arnott
    Directed by Renny Harlin
    Produced by Joel Silver and Steve Perry
    A Silver Pictures Production
    Starring Andrew Dice Clay as FORD FAIRLANE
    Also starring Wayne Newton, Gilbert Gottfried, Priscilla Presley, Morris Day, Robert Englund, Ed O’Neill


    (1990, DC Comics)
    Based on characters created by Rex Weiner
    Written by Gerard Jones
    Art by Russell Braun, Jose Delbo and Carmine Infantino

    • “Stayin’ Alive” (No. 1, May 1990)
    • “I Write the Songs” (No. 2, June 1990)
    • “Got a Right to Sing the Blues” (No. 3, July 1990)
    • “While My Guitar Gently Warps” (No. 4, August 1990)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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