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Dharma Blue: The UFO Movie That Never Was

by Dennis Stacy

Hollywood wunderkind producer Don Simpson died on January 19th of this year in his Stone Canyon LA house of apparently natural causes, according to a preliminary statement issued by the office of the Los Angeles Medical Examiner, and as reported in the February 5 issue of "The New Yorker" by John Gregory Dunne.

Dunne, husband of Joan Didion, is the upscale author and sometimes screenplay writer who covered the O. J. Simpson trial for "Vanity Fair." The late non-related Simpson, in conjunction with co-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, was responsible for a string of lucrative cinematic successses (worth well more than a billion dollars total) that included "Flashdance," "Top Gun," "Beverly Hills Cop" and its Eddie Murray-starring sequel.

Unlike most of the postmordem, public-pulse puff pieces regading Simpson's death that appeared in "People," "Time" magazine and other media sources (the producer's drug and sexual excesses were legendary even by Hollywood standards), Dunne's article speaks from personal experience, which is where we here at The Anomalist intertwine.

Not that any of your humble scribes here claim to have ever met the aforementioned magesterial celebrities, mind, just that we find fascinating Dunne's revelations that Simpson's last work in progress was a project called "Dharma Blue," an idea, in Dunne's words, "based on an original story by Simpson, about a forty-year government coverup of U.F.O. sightings."

While Simpson and Bruckheimer must have conceived of the idea sometime in 1991, it was only in late February of 1992 that Dunne and Didion were brought into the picture as potential scripters of a subject of which they knew little about. By way of background, however, they soon received from Simpson "a massive amount of material," according to Dunne, consisting of the following:

". . . back issues of the magazine UFO, a copy of the Encyclopedia of Personal Surveillance (Book II: 'How to Get Anything on Anybody'), a Nexis cache of newspaper and magazine clips, a tape of a '60 Minutes' segment about a cashiered U. S. Navy officer whose elite SEAL unit had tested the security of Air Force One and several nuclear submarines by trying to break into them, usually successfully. There were videotapes of possible U.F.O. sightings, a bibliography of two hundred U.F.O. books, the listed and unlisted telephone numbers of U.F.O. researchers, a Las Vegas TV interview with a scientist who claimed he had worked at a top-secret military facility near Mercury, Nevada, where he said he had seen evidence of a government-sponsored U.F.O. coverup (that the scientist was part owner of a legal Nevada brothel compromised his bona fides), catalogues of U.F.O. trade shows, and transcripts of U.F.O. symposia, featuring the arguments of both U.F.O. debunkers and the true believers, called Ufologists."

The outline of the script Dunne and Didion came up with is not exactly awe-inspiring. As described, it amounts to little less than a slightly more literate version of the execrable (and highly expendable) "Hangar 18" of a few years back. To make an already long story short, the Simpson-inspired version of Dharma Blue never made it to the silver screen--and hopefully never will. In its final terminal stages the project was renamed "Zone of Silence," presumably after the landlocked (and so-called) Mexican equivalent of the alleged Bermuda Triangle. Which is another story altogether.