I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Vern Tell’s It Like It Is: The Confession

tn_ineedtimevtiliiHello friends, I need to talk to you about something. Probly not a big deal to most of you, but it is to me. A major, scary step in my life’s journey or whatever. What does it take to change the essence of a man time I need time time I do too I do too.

The occasion for this thorough soul and/or bellybutton search: after a decade and a half of secrecy I’ve decided to show my face in public, at least one time, at this Cinefamily Steven Seagal marathon I’m co-hosting with Jeremy Smith on June 14th. A one night event so promising I am risking my very Vern-ness to take part. Tickets still available.

As you know, I’m kind of a recluse, and have remained mysterious and anonymous and shit since starting my sight in 1999. This hasn’t helped me career-wise. I’ve turned down many fun opportunities: podcasts, signings, being a talking head on an A&E Biography of Steven Seagal, being seriously injured in the ring by “Demon” Dave DeFalco. And I’ve had trouble filling out forms that require last names.

I don’t regret most of it. I think there’s an artistic pay off to being an enigma and shit. I like that nobody knows for sure what I look or sound like, how old I am, what I do besides watch movies and occasionally flip off Dick Cheney in his limo. I love hearing that certain cinephile types are impressed that one of my buddies knows me, or seeing the reaction a co-worker  had when she found out I wrote the Steven Seagal book she bought her boyfriend. A couple times I’ve even had people talking to me about my reviews or about Seagalogy, not knowing that I wrote them. I get to be the poor man’s Bruce Wayne. It’s fun.

The thing I do regret is not meeting people. A bunch of you have written to me when visiting Seattle, wanting to hang out. I never do it because, I rationalize, you’re gonna be disappointed to put a face and voice to the words. Like Kiss without the makeup, or the man behind the curtain. What if you see me and it ruins the image you had in your mind? It’s like how the Calvin and Hobbes guy doesn’t want a cartoon ’cause you’d hear the actors and then what would happen to the voices you always had in your head when you read it? Years ago one of the newsies told me I was wise to hide my face because people pictured me as their father who they grew up watching action movies with. That’s sweet. I like that.

But shit, that’s out the door for anyone who goes to this Cinefamily thing, so I think the time is right to air some things I’ve been carrying around for too long. SPOILERS FOR VERN. I’m gonna come somewhat cleanish here, fellas. I’m gonna imply things that I’ve intentionally never said in my 16 years of movie reviewing. Things you probly figured out, but maybe didn’t want to know for sure. So if the mystery is important to you you might want to stop reading. This will be the definitive vague explanation.

IT IS POSSIBLE, hypothetically, that I’m not quite the grizzled old badass I sometimes pretend to be. And that some of the things I used to write about when I started out were not exactly what you would call “reality based.” In my opinion they are true, but the facts may often disagree. I would prefer you take them like I take Seagal’s hints that he used to work for the CIA. Sounds like bullshit, but… maybe?

If you’ve read me since the beginning you’ve seen me get more experienced as a writer and as a person, and I hope get better at both. I quickly started taking it more seriously and more personally. At the very beginning, I have to admit, it was more fuckin around than it was sincere. I thought it was funny to be disruptive. I wasn’t taking a standard “troll” route, but I definitely was trying to be a bull in the china shop of online film discussion. I wanted to make people ask “What the fuck is this guy doing here?,” to be inappropriate but disarming enough that nice people would humor me and assholes would dismiss me for the wrong reasons. And that’s what happened.

I named my column VERN TELL’S IT LIKE IT IS after a phrase I remembered Jesse “The Body” Ventura saying all the time as a WWF commentator, and I thought it was ironic because I was so full of shit. I was fuckin around when I talked about things in my life, trying to sound ludicrous, but I was talking from my heart about movies. And then as George W. Bush happened, and 9-11, and Katrina, I felt the need to vent about those things, and we went through them together, for better or worse. I really went to those peace marches, obviously. I really flipped off Dick Cheney. I really stopped driving, that was all real. So how were you supposed to know which parts I was joking about?

Meanwhile I was finding my calling. I like to think I helped promote a more sincere appreciation and discussion of action movies, and that I both predicted and first identified a renaissance in DTV action. I believe I was ahead of the mainstream on issues of action clarity, among other things. Of course I’m sincere about all this.

But through a samurai code of artistic purity I’ve also tried to also stay true to the goals of the 16 years younger Vern who posted on Usenet with the email outlaw_69@my-deja.com (get it, 69) and made people uncomfortable by getting too personal about his sobriety and legal troubles while they were just trying to talk about the box office for MEN IN BLACK or some shit. I think people got a laugh from it at the time but years later I worried about how seriously people took that stuff. I didn’t want to be a liar and a traitor, sweating on Oprah’s couch like James Frey. For my peace of mind I stopped ever making reference to my past and took my origin story off the outlawvern.com banner. I never made any false claims in my interviews I don’t think.

But is that enough? Like Seagal I never denied it. Even professional wrestling decided to let their guard down and become sports entertainment, but I stuck stubbornly with the ol’ kayfabe. And until I said yes to this thing a month and a half ago I thought I would take it to my grave.

I want to be a mysterious figure, but I don’t want to get credit for doing shit I didn’t really do, overcoming adversity or bettering myself any more than the next guy. It doesn’t happen very often, but I feel like such an asshole when someone reaches out to me for advice on shit besides movies or self-publishing, important things they think I know about because I used to say I did.

I never meant to make light of these issues, but I can’t pretend to be totally innocent. It was a point of pride to me that nobody thought Moriarty really had a secret lab or Harry really had all these elaborate cloak and dagger procedures he talked about, but some people took everything I said at face value (and hammered me for it in the talkbacks). That was all in fun, but if you’ve been believing my tall tales for this long it’s kind of a hard pill to swallow if I say “hey man, I was just jokin around.”

So, my sincere apologies if I’ve unfairly misled any of you, or also if I’ve ruined the fun by bringing up this shit at all. I’m not planning to reveal any more or talk about this again, but I made this bed a decade and a half ago and maybe it’s time to get in and get comfy.

If hypothetically you go to this thing and see me or meet me and I’m not what you expected, and you end up still liking me… do me a favor and tell everybody I looked like kind of an interesting combo of Steve McQueen, Kris Kristofferson and Lee Marvin. Or impossible to describe, like some H.P. Lovecraft creation. Not that those things aren’t true. They probly are.

Anyway I hope you understand what I’m talking about here. And if you get to go to the thing please introduce yourself. Since I finally crawled out of my cave I hope I finally get to meet everybody.

And as long as I’m coming clean about things I should also apologize for the time I submitted a fake review to The Ain’t It Cool News of a movie I hadn’t even seen yet. See if you can guess which one is me. It might be the best thing I’ll ever write but I am sorry.

thanks everybody,

Vern
more of a metaphorical outlaw, in some ways

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 at 1:09 pm and is filed under Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

149 Responses to “Vern Tell’s It Like It Is: The Confession”

  1. I’ve never posted, but I’ve been reading you for over a decade. You always speak the truth, even if it isnt always the Truth.

    You’re still the man.

  2. grimgrinningchris

    June 3rd, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Does this mean that now you CAN fight Demon Dave? What happened to that guy? Did him and that coroner finally open the doorway to true evil?

  3. grimgrinningchris

    June 3rd, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    And Vern, there is ZERO need to apologize for anything. I think most of us have had a blast with the secret identity (and I have to admit to having spent more than a few hours trying to track down your real identity over the years… just for fun and to satisfy my own curiosity, but I must say you’ve done an EXCELLENT job covering your tracks all this time… even if I had found something, I never would have blown the whistle, of course). And as for the made up backstory early on “coming clean from a life of crime, alcohol etc…” I think most of us never took that seriously either and it was just a fun addition to the mystique.

    I applaud you coming out in the open now, and wish more than anything that I could make it to this event, but almost feel bad that you feel at all guilty for ANYTHING.

    Your loyal readers adore you and will continue to do so even when we all find out that you are actually Fred Savage in A Michael Moore suit in another Rush Limbaugh suit in a Michael Jai White suit.

  4. That’s pretty tricky with that accent, Vern.

    Wish I could make it across the water for the marathon, good luck with that.

  5. I assumed a long while ago that your persona was just that, a persona. I and I’m sure many others hold no ill will towards you and for me it helps make your reviews that much more fun playing along believing you’re either this older frumpy guy or a an older guy burnt out on life but still looks for the positives in life. That said seeing the real you I don’t think will diminish the quality and entertainment of your writing.

    As for the fake review I’m going with LamborghiniCountacheStill#1 was the one you submitted.

  6. I knew it!

  7. To reiterate: Outside of your family and friends, how could ANYONE who attends this shindig be able to ascertain if the person cohosting with this Jeremy Smith guy is actually you? If it turns out to be your only public appearance… you could place just about anyone on that stage, and no one in the audience would be the wiser. If it’s the first in a string of public appearances… not so simple.

  8. Hey Vern. Long time reader; infrequent poster. The gradual move away from the ott persona is something I both regret and admire. I miss the old Vern tells it like it ises and the laughs at your AICN pieces. I don’t remember the earliest days you’re talking about but I’m guessing the one thing that always trumps trolling ( for want if a better word) is real insight which you’ve got in spades.

    Can’t tell you the number of films I’ve seen on your recommendation, but the most recent was a screening of Cockfighter in Switzerland.

    The mystique may be gone a little but I know you’ll never stop striving for excellence!

    Cheers, Pete.

  9. grimgrinningchris

    June 3rd, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Wear a bag over your head like the Jerky Boys used to do before their movie.
    Or that Longmont Potion Castle guy… actually I have always kind of equated his secrecy with yours and secretly wished you were the same person… except he’s in Colorado, we know that much.

  10. In all the years I’ve been reading your stuff you’ve not once come off as anything less than completely sincere and honest.

    The world – and the internet, especially – are full of bullshitters, liars and people who are only too quick to sell out.

    These are 3 kinds of people you most certainly are not.

    So enjoy the 14th, Vern – embrace it and have a great fucking time. I hope it leads to more of such events and hey, maybe this is a bright new dawn for ya, a bold new direction.

    I look forward to seeing you on MTV’s Top 100 DTV films of the Noughties. Or something.

  11. grimgrinningchris

    June 3rd, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    And I’ll second it that LamborghiniCountacheStill#1 is clearly the Vern one.

  12. insert name here

    June 3rd, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    You let me down, man. Now I don’t believe in nothing no more. I’m going to law school

  13. I guess we all have our own internet personae (and fake name), so there’s no need for apologies, Vern.

  14. You mean to tell me I was lying when I summarized your triumphant backstory of imprisonment and redemption to the readers of Smooth magazine (many, many of whom are incarcerated themselves) in my five-star reviews of SEAGALOGY and YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER?

    YOU MADE ME COMPROMISE MY JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY YOU RATFUCKER!! I’M TAKING ALL TEN OF THOSE STARS BACK!!

    But seriously, I think we all figured out a long time ago that your official bio was maybe just a little bit, um, exaggerated. Like how we’re pretty sure Dolemite never literally handcuffed lightning and threw thunder’s ass in jail. I started putting two and two together about how maybe you weren’t really a 50-year-old dude who spent the nineties in jail when you revealed your Wu Tang fandom. Something just didn’t add up. I was disillusioned for a while, but then I realized that I liked you for your Writing, not for your Stabbing A Guy In The Nutsac With A Sharpened Pudding Can.

    So it’s cool, man. You don’t have to be a legend. You can just be human like the rest of us. We’ll take your myth in the spirit of a How Badass Is He? speech. We know Rambo never literally ate anything that made a billy goat puke or that Forrest Taft never technically escaped from the Arctic Circle wearing only a pair of bikini underwear, but we love them anyway. A tall tale captures the essence of a man, not his flesh-and-blood reality.

    Just tell me that story about the catheter was true. And maybe the Disneyland one. I want to believe.

  15. “There’s many a truth spoken in jest.”

    Gotta be honest Vern, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to the Cinefamily thing precisely because I didn’t want to spoil my image of you. You’re one of my favorite writers and I like knowing you just through your writing. But after reading this, I can’t help it, I’m curious now. I just bought my ticket. See you at Cinefamily!

  16. And I have to agree that your pre-review of Transformers is one of your best pieces of writing! Absolutely hilarious and on the nose! Your review of the movie after you’d seen it is still my favorite thing you ever wrote, especially the ensuing shitstorm in the talkback. I still go back and read that review every once in a while. It’s just perfect.

  17. WAIT A MINUTE!!!! I’VE GOT IT!!!!! HOW COULD I NOT HAVE SEEN IT BEFORE!!! YOU’RE ANDY KAUFMAN!!!! YOU’RE FINALLY REVEALING YOURSELF TO THE WORLD!!!! HOLY SHIT THIS IS GOING TO BE AMAZING!!!!

  18. Man, those comments on the fake review are hilarious. Only one person figured out that it was supposed to be a joke. I guess AICN jizz-and-boner-themed hyperbole is impossible to parody. It’s like trying to do a satire of Fox News. You’ll never match the absurdity of the real deal.

  19. Knox Harrington

    June 3rd, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    I will admit to being a little disappointed. I’m cynical by nature, so always assumed that your backstory was just a load of bullshit, but damn I wanted to believe it was true.

    There’s a part of me that will always see the worst and think “This guy’s a damn chancer. He was just looking for a way to market himself, to stand out in the crowd.”

    Luckily that petty side of me disappears whenever I read your writing and think back on the good times we’ve all had on this “sight”. Hell, you’re my favourite critic. I’ve had fantasies of becoming a world famous filmmaker and telling everyone in interviews to read your stuff.

    I’m pretty sure all of us here think you’re a pretty swell guy, Vern. And this confession of yours just proves it.

  20. Vern,

    I figured out a long time ago that some of the shit you said was probably bullshit. There’s nothing wrong with creating a persona – everybody should be able to reinvent themselves, and everybody deserves as many chances as they like to find themselves – as long as they aren’t hurting others. None of what you wrote has done that.

    I just wanted to let you know that as a VERY longtime reader, it doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wheelchair-bound 75 year old asian dude. We don’t read you because of your past. We read you because of the insights, jokes, and opinions that you bring to the present.

    Don’t worry about it, brother.

  21. Knox Harrington

    June 3rd, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Okay, now it’s my turn for a confession: I don’t like Seagal. I can’t stand him. I’m pretty sure the dude’s a paedophile, and I hate his screen presence. He looks like a dick. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been more of a Van Damme guy, I dunno. I’ve tried watching some of his DTV movies, like Into The Sun and Pistol Whipped, after getting all psyched up reading Vern’s excellent reviews for them, but I thought they were terrible. Under Siege is still pretty good, though.

  22. Well, I like the Seagal comparison, and just like a part of me will keep believing that yeah, maybe Seagal is a former Special Ops CIA badass for real, a part of me will keep believing that Vern is indeed an outlaw who earned his freedom by winning an illegal fighting tournament in the joint, looks like Lee Marvin and sounds like Stone Cold Steve Austin.
    I hope people who attend the movie marathon refrain from telling us that he’s actually John Cusack or Paul Rudd.

  23. Plastiquehomme

    June 3rd, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    No issues with me – I always assumed the whole convict thing was just a play at inhabiting a character, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The writing has always been good, and so has the insight. Good on you for clarifying though.

  24. Vern,

    I have been reading your reviews since around 2005.
    I don’t think you have to apologize for anything.
    I don’t care if your backstory checks out or not.
    You are a man with great insight and reason and I thoroughly enjoy your writing.

    you’re passion for the films of badass cinema( and other genres as of late) and the many details you manage to go into great depths to
    are just some of the things that have me kept checking in on a daily basis.
    Hell, think some of your arguments have made it easier for me to make my argument when talking movies with some friends.

    Enigma or not just keep doing what you do!

  25. Seriously am I the only one who sincerely believed (and still wants to believe) or are you guys all pretending “somehow I’ve always known” just to look smart just like Leia did when Luke told her they were brothers and sisters even though it’s obvious she had no idea before he told her?

  26. I believed for quite a while. Probably longer than I should have.

  27. insert name here

    June 3rd, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    @Toxic

    I started reading this site when I was a young teenager, and I thought it was true for a while, but I began to suspect it was bullshit as I got older (sort of like with Santa Claus but later in life). I don’t recall the other details of his bio, but going to prison isn’t that farfetched. People get locked up in this country at crazy rates compared to the rest of the world, I have numerous relatives in prison.

  28. Well shit, Vern- I’ve gotta admit to being a little disappointed. Being of a trusting nature I never really doubted your backstory, although I suspected you might have embellished a few things here and there for dramatic effect (and who doesn’t do that?). I’d start an internet hate campaign or a boycott or something but unfortunately you’ are by far the best film critic on the net (or maybe anywhere) so what the fuck can I do? Keep reading your shit, that’s what. Thanks Vern.

  29. I’ve been reading you from the start Vern and just assumed that it was all a persona. It doesn’t detract from the fact that you’re not just my favourite critic but one of my favourite writers and that you have created one of the best communities on the web. Your work and this place are your legacy and that’s a pretty great legacy. Wish I could be there for the event and at least shake your hand in gratitude for all those hours of enjoyment I’ve gotten throughout the years and I’m looking forward to many more books and reviews to enjoy in the future. Unless you’re actually Michael Bay in which case I challenge you to a wrestling match, loser to be tossed through the doorway to ultimate evil.

  30. flyingguillotine

    June 3rd, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    My tickets are purchased! I shall be there, sir!

  31. Vern,

    If you’re not really an ex-con who learned the hard way how to write better, that would be disappointing, as I always found your backstory (what little I could piece together) inspiring as hell.

    But you know what? It’s like the end of every romantic comedy, where the love interest is at first mad that the hero was pulling a con this whole time, but then decides s/he loves the hero anyway. Or like THE RINGER where the other special-ed guys find out that Johnny Knoxville is faking his handicap, but decide to root for him anyway.

    Point is, we love ya Vern, and will accept you for who you are.

  32. Vern, I’m a gullible motherfucker and I didn’t really question your backstory. I’ve only been reading and posting here for about a year, and there’s been a lot of stories to process, so I guess you got me. But Outlaw Vern dot com has been the best platform for expressing appreciation for movies on the web that I know of. And it’s felt like a growing experience in learning to articulate about something we all love. I like the idea that stories, like our lives, evolve and change and there may be some amendments and improvements along the way. And I think your writing brings out the best in people, even if they don’t agree with you and tell you otherwise. You’re open enough to allow for that.

    Also I’ve found a lot of amusement and insight from some of the commenters (Paul cracks me up and frustrates me in equal measures, Mouth talks tough but now my suspicions that he is really Katheryn Bigelow going through menopause are becoming more a reality…Confession time Mouth! Though I admit the world needs more Mouths, so I would want Mouth to stay Mouth. No need to shatter that illusion.)

    Anyways, looking forward to Act 2 in VERN TELLS IT LIKE IT IS.

  33. By the way, I should clarify that any disappointment I feel is not quite the proverbial “George Lucas raped my childhood” level of disappointment that Vern might have been worried about.

    It’s closer to “oh, they’re changing the title from THERE AND BACK AGAIN to BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES? That’s too bad, I liked that title. Still gonna go see it.”

  34. There’s one thing I don’t understand, Vern- didn’t you meet Harry Knowles one time at a book signing or something? So you can’t be outwardly all that different from what you claimed to be right? Or has Harry been in on it all these years?

  35. I was a believer all these years too. Maybe I was too naive or maybe it was seeing a bit of that in myself growing up in the hood. Either way Vern you’ve always been one of the good guys when it comes to this online critical analysis shit. Actually now that you came clean with this I respect you even more.

    You just have a great imagination but there is still so much truth in your writing it could never be denied and real recognizes real. Just like many of us posters here and a lot of the genius creators we’ve all admired. Honesty is a very tough thing to convey especially on the internet. That shit takes balls and that is the true spirit of this fine community, genuine self expression. This is why outlawvern.com stands above the rest. It is hip hop.

  36. You’ll hear no complaints, mean-spirited questions, or denunciations from ole Mouth. Online enigmaneity is a trait to be treasured, preserved, propagated, & honored in my opinion. It is the fault of the rube audience if that audience chooses to allow itself to be a bunch of fucking rubes and believe everything that it reads.

    I only wish I weren’t already committed to a US Army birthday function thing (Happy 239th!!!) on the east coast on this 14th day of the 6th month of this aught+14th year of this aught+6th millennium of this planet’s lifetime (if you ask fundie young earthers). (I’m giving a speech in front of some brass and getting a special medal pinned on my chest and everything; sorry you can’t compete with that, Seattle Man, though I do envy your home city’s new minimum wage.) (PS You should write a column about that new $15 minimum wage, that’d be awesome.)

    Yeah, I’ve been bold & un-top-secret in choosing to meet in person the likes of neal2zod (good kid; would recommend to others), Fred Topel (good kid; would meet again), and Mr. Majestyk (scary guy; small hands, smells of cabbage) while fruitlessly [so far] extending the invitation to the DC dudes who oft occupy these talkbacks (fucking schedules, how do they work?), but I recognize that the essence of an online persona is weirdly sacred, shifty, shady, sketchy, fungible, fragile, and in some ways more important than anything these days.

    I’ve been fortunate & savvy enough to develop the skills & network that allow me to redirect everything I type through just one or 2 or 3 IP addresses & IDs, no matter my actual location in the world. (I’ve been paranoid about the NSA, Zuckerberg, & Chinese internet gestapo for years, so my buddies & I have more than a couple fake online presences we maintain at Locations A & B while the real us is at Locations X/Y/Z.) A function of my paranoia that I’m sure Vern and his websight programmer buddy have scoffed at if they ever looked closely at it or cared. But I’ve also bought a fair amount of OutlawVern merch, ad-widget merch, and Vern-authored e-books, so yeah I’m on the map as a consumer if anyone with Snowden-skills or insider access wants to look at this sight’s activity. This is all to say, I feel ya, holmes. A persona is a precious thing, but you’ve demonstrated through the years that the integrity of the person & writer behind that persona is an even more important thing. In fact, that thing is a person in my opinion, and persons are more important than things.

    In conclusion I bet if you publish a photo of you doing the Mississippi Guard Dog all will make sense.

  37. You know all this is starting to make me wonder if that one guy in the talkbacks really did fuck horses. I WANT TO BELIEVE.

  38. We’re good, Vern. Regardless of what your persona may be, it’s your personality that comes through in the work, not the backstory, and given how little you’ve brought your origins up in recent months, it’s not really been an issue to me. You keep going and thanks for the years of information and entertainment, or…entermation.

  39. When the horse fucker showed up in the Zoo review (yes, I was there), I immediately questioned his legitimacy. But the moment I posted something, two or three other talkbackers argued that he had to be real. I guess what I’m trying to say is, on some level we all want to believe, Mode7

  40. Also, I’ll admit that I’m one of those rubes. While reading Niketown, I remember thinking to myself, how much of this was influenced by Vern’s time in the clink? Still, I come to the sight for words, not the mythology.

  41. Because I first found you on AICN, I assumed the entire backstory was artistic license, and never minded it a bit. Also won’t find you any less interesting now that you’ve “confessed”. If you lose any readers over this, 1) it won’t be many, I can practically guarantee, and 2) fuck’em

    I only wish I was going to be at the marathon to thank you personally for a ton of interesting content. Looking forward to much more.

  42. Dikembe Mutombo

    June 3rd, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I was a reader of yours back at the beginning Vern (I have some terrible posts on the old vern yahoo group that I hope nobody ever finds and holds against me), and I was also in my early teens back then and I’ll admit I did take you at face value over your backstory. Or at least I spent a long time wondering about its truthfulness and would search for hints of insincerity. It made me weirdly defensive of you, like when you first started getting stuff on AICN I would get mad that people didnt “get” you or whatever. Then at some point I became a guy who lost interest in cinema, stopped reading about movies, only went to the theater once or twice a year, etc., and stayed that way into my mid-20s. When I started getting back into movies again I came back here and went “wait, how was I ever fooled by this?” But I never held my gullibility against you, what I find more difficult to reconcile is it now being *15 years* since I started reading your shit.

    It’s funny to reflect on how the reader-writer dynamic changed over time as you made less and less pretense about your past circumstances. Nothing really needed to be said because the subtext of your writing eventually became “well look you know it’s not true so I’m not gonna pretend anymore, I’ve got a movie to write about here pal” and it became less like “grizzled old ex-con finds something in common with internet cinephiles” and was more “well Vern’s just one of us”.

  43. Aw, schucks fellas. I honestly wasn’t fishing for compliments, I just felt I had sort of a moral obligation to do this before appearing in public. But I can’t tell you how much the kind words and acceptance mean to me. You guys are the best.

    p.s. Majestyk, the catheter story is unfortunately 100% true, including the part about “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”

    p.p.s. I believed Bruce Willis was real on that LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD talkback and I was right. So I still believe in the horsefucker. Don’t give up on your dreams.

  44. Count me amongst the rubes who believed you, but is okay with it not being true. I feel sheepish, but no hard feelings.

  45. I think this whole thing just makes Vern just more adorable.

  46. OK, Mr. “LamborghiniCountacheStill#1”, I have to say that this was a very weird article to read, because, it felt like you were actually there, you know? And at points I wanted to talk back but this is a computer, you don’t talk back to text. I mean, sure, I could have posted here in the comments but you don’t do that until after you have finished reading the whole review/article. Anyway next time just call, it will be easier.

    P.S.: At the beginning I did fall for every single “enhanced truth”, but after the years I started to suspect a lot about the “being in jail” part. And that’s OK. But the other thing I have been sometimes suspicious of, and it would be the biggest pill to swallow, is age. When I was reading the paragraph that said “SPOILERS FOR VERN”, my eye caught the number 16 a couple of lines below. My first reaction was that you were going to say that you’re 16 years old! Of course that wouldn’t make sense, but I would lie if I said that at that moment I didn’t think “THE FUUUCK??!!”. So please don’t turn out to be a 16 year old kid at the upcoming event, thanks.

  47. PHONEY!!!!

    Just kidding. I liked Vern for his humor, his insight (even if I sometimes disagree with him cough MOS cough) and being a good alternative to the Nerd Chic. His backstory I just take for granted and never thought twice about it.

    Still give props to Vern for coming up clean now and not after somebody figured out 2 plus 2 equals 4.

    (Since we’re using analogies, this is like me finding out that Dez Dickerson actually did the guitar solo on “Little Red Corvette,” not Prince. Still 1999 is a great fucking album.)

  48. Mattman Begins

    June 3rd, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Hold it. This is going to turn out like every dating site I’ve ever visited, isn’t it? The stories are there, the personality, the likes and the dislikes…it all seems like a match made in heaven. Until the day comes for that fateful meetup, the moment to match all that background, all those long chats, all that history between myself and that name with a face, and my dreams are steamrolled with just one look.

    Vern, you’re secretly a gorgeous woman, aren’t you?

  49. Did anyone else trawl through enough comments on the Transformers review to get to this gem:

    Is it just me or is that second to last reviewer, LamborghiniCountacheStill#1, one of the biggest douchebags I’ve ever read? Seriously, it’s a wannabe Vern review with none of the humor. I’ll say it again…douchebag. p.s. saw the movie tonight, awesome summer movie.

    Good luck in Seattle!

  50. Consider me one of the gullible. I’ve been reading since ’99, and your writing has given me the most pleasure of any film site I’ve found. I stopped reading AICN years ago, but Harry never made me laugh like you did complaining about “fucking Survivor”.

    I have to admit, I’m one of the people who asked to buy you a beer and shoot the shit when I was in Seattle. Good to know the lack of response wasn’t personal (I hope?). I admire your commitment to character, even if I do feel a little silly.

    The silver lining here is that I did the math recently, and thinking you were approaching senior citizenship, I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer we would have you, especially after all that hard living. Weight off my shoulders.

    Peace and many happy returns.

  51. Hey Vern,

    Just so you know, I’ve been reading your reviews ever since you started posting in AICN. I got tired of reading reviews over there about the time you stopped and I migrated over to your “sight” to check in periodically and see what you had to say about movies that usually do not get the kind of coverage the mainstream blogger-types typically did not cover. Obviously, I enjoyed the hell out of the persona you had built up and I found it just a part of what made your reviews entertaining, besides your insights and analysis. I admire your ability to build that niche and stand out in what is now an overcrowded zoo of the internets, a singular and reasoned voice in what is an endless hum of white noise.

    So yeah, you can come out of the closet, but much like a cool knowing parent or relative, I think it is safe to say we already knew and accepted it already.

    It might surprise people but my real name is not Cassidy and my email ends with a 666. Yeah, it probably sounded better back when I created that.

    Stay cool, Vern. I will always think of you as that grizzled badass ex-con who was getting into posting on websights about movies and shit.

    Cheers,
    Cassidy

  52. Can’t wait to meet you. Hard to believe it was 6-7 years ago I picked up Seagology, then Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer and found this site. I would love to believe I had a small part in encouraging you to come forward, but that would be hubris on my part.

    The persona is a valid form of art. Borat is honest, even if he’s really Sacha Baron Coen. It was always about the analysis, the sincerity towards badass cinema and nerd shit. I just hope you’re not better looking than me.

  53. Hey Vern, looking forward very much to seeing those Seagal films with you in attendance. I live close to LAX, grew up in SoCal, and don’t venture very much to Washington, so I couldn’t believe my luck that you made it out here to host such a cool event!

    I sent you an email a long time ago when I was depressed and going through a breakup, telling you you reminded me of a long-lost friend or movie-watching brother I never had. I never heard back from you and always assumed I creeped you out or something, so I just want to apologize for that, even though the sentiment remains the same. I never miss a review.

    Also, I got a real thrill out of making those movies to enter your contests. Since graduating college and losing a little bit of nerve after some directing failures, those two quick action/comedy videos are the only thing I’ve made by hand since 2008. So your work has not only been entertaining, but motivating. I think my goal has always been to tell stories that guys like you or I would enjoy.

    See you at the event! I’ll probably ask the Under Siege 2 screenwriter if Eric Bogosian contributed any of the dialogue for his character.

  54. Your “stepping into the light” moment is once again classier than most things on the internet. Good job buddy.

    As for me, part of me will always believe anyways. Like with Santa.

  55. Yeah, dobe brought up the age thing. I got no problems waiting till your debut next week to find out, but just so you know Vern, I had this idea you were heading into the Clint as William Munny era of your life, and wondering how long we would have you for.

    And there was a recent picture of Elmore Leonard before he died, sitting at his desk, smoking and looking cool, surrounded by books, and I pictured you as a slightly younger version of him.

  56. Sweetm, looks like the VernPool is still open. What odds can I get for “middle class, educated black dude”?

  57. Oh shit, what if Vern has long hair? Which is why he always had to mention his dislike for that particular hairstyle. Motherfucker, I SWEAR, if your hair is more beautiful than mine, I will punch you in the throat and cry!

    But in all seriousness, I don’t mind that your backstory was made up*. It is kiiiiiiiiinda disappointing, because it was a seriously inspirational one, but I’ve been inspired by fictional characters and stories more than once in my life, so whatever man. You are still one of my favourite internet people! Your reviews are funny and insightful and I just love the lack of cynicism that comes from you and your work. Your writings are real and I will still recommend your websight and books to everybody I know!

    You are Vern! Just sayin’.

  58. No worries Vern, don’t even sweat it.

    And don’t freak out about the Cinefamily thing. As a member of the audience I can tell you in advance we’re gonna be supportive whether you’re a nerdy young white dude, a grizzled old black dude, a little girl in a pink dress, a hamster, whatever. It’s really kind of a no-fail situation I think. And of course those of us who are there will tell everyone you look like Lee Marvin, that was always the plan. What I’m saying is, I think it’s gonna be more fun than you’re expecting. Break a leg chum.

  59. I never really questioned the back story and my only negative from this revelation is the number of people I’ve related it to while recommending you.

    Nonetheless my recommendations of the Columboesque film reviewer from Seattle will still ring true.

    Also it does relieve my secret fear that you’d turn out to have been a sex offender.

  60. I never knew one way or the other whether your backstory was true, though I figured it wasn’t since you stopped bringing it up but who am I to know for sure about something like that? but the important thing is it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, it’s your talent as a writer and your thoughtfulness in your opinions on movies that has kept me coming back to your personal site for half a decade now and reading your stuff on AICN for two years prior to that and as far as I’m concerned you’re one of the coolest mother fuckers out there regardless of what you look like or how old you are or what have you, it’s someone’s personality that determines their coolness, not their looks or age

    and having a persona like that can certainly help someone stand out on the crowded internet, so you have nothing to be ashamed of

    but Vern, if I’m going to be honest I have always been curious about what you look like and I feel like the faithful readers of your site deserve to know, not just the hipsters that show up to this “cinefamily” thing, so since the cat’s going to be out of the bag for the most part anyway, why not post a picture here? knowing what you look like is not going to take away one iota of your writing talent nor will it even put an end entirely to the mystery that is man, the myth and the legend Vern

  61. I for one hope Vern turns out to be a woman.

  62. I´ll never trust the internet again…

  63. Knox Harrington

    June 4th, 2014 at 1:39 am

    You know, I bet you could make some good money if you started selling official Outlawvern “I STILL BELIEVE IN THE HORSEFUCKER” T-shirts.

    Also, “entermation” gets my vote for word of the year.

  64. I clicked on one of the links in this confession and was taken to a page on a website called ‘Aint it Cool News’. After scrolling down the page I stumbled upon a review of the movie “Transformers” posted by someone with the moniker ‘LamborghiniCountacheStill#1’.

    Halfway through this review a knot began to form in my stomach and my palms became sweaty. I was looking at Chuck Yeager strapped into the cockpit of the Bell X-1 Rocket Plane, hurtling towards the sound barrier. How is LamborghiniCountacheStill#1 going to survive this? I covered my eyes but left a tiny gap to peer through. Thank God! LamborghiniCountacheStill#1 broke the sound barrier and brought that bird home! I wanted to shake their hand and buy them a beer.

    You can imagine my disgust when the following comment dissed the foregoing feat of excellence, referring to some of the content as a ‘mild diversion’. Fucking 21st century! We can be presented with a perfect object such as the report filed by LamborghiniCountacheStill#1 and shrug our shoulders and exhale a vile “meh”.

    Vern, I’m sorry to hijack a thread that was supposed to be about your big confession, but if you know who LamborghiniCountacheStill#1 is, I kindly ask that you encourage said person to consider sharing more of their writing with the world.

  65. Fan since 2001, first time poster and all time believer of your inspirational backstory.
    So at first I was a little disappointed, but in the end I’m really glad you didn’t ACTUALLY rape somebody in prison. I never could get that little detail out of my head, so much that whenever I recommended you to a friend, I added “He used to be a con and raped a guy in prison, but he left all this bad shit behind and became a better person and a great writer”. And that you are, in my opinion.

  66. @Knox What happened to Vern’s Flea Market link btw? Now I want a I STILL BELIEVE IN THE HORSEFUCKER t-shirt!

  67. Love your work, Vern. You’re one of the best critics on the internet, and you come across as a great guy. Enjoy your moment in the sun, dude. You’ve let no one down.

  68. Also, that AICN review was fucking hilarious.

  69. I’m feeling disappointed, but I’ll get over it. Just keep on writing, man. You’re needed.

  70. Man, yeah, this is a bit disappointing, even though it may have seemed a bit obvious by now, I really wanted to believe that shit. It was crazy inspirational. I found Seagalogy after an incredibly dark period of my life, and it really helped me lift myself out of that bullshit and “strive for excellence.” I guess mainly it sort of stings since integrity was such a big part of what you were talking about (at least, that’s how I read it) and I wanted to believe every word of it, since honesty was something I was trying to maintain in my own life, but it doesn’t matter. You are still one of my favorite writers, and the only one who ever responded to an email from me, which makes you THE BEST. Seriously, whenever my body and mind feel broken in the midst of these sixty hour workweeks, or when I feel like I wanna do dope or kill myself, one of the things that never fails to make me feel good, like I can DO THIS, is that incredibly kind email you sent. And even if you never went to prison and clawed your way to sobriety and review writing par excellence, you still wrote Seagalogy, which finding that book for the first time was a true “I am not alone in the universe” moment. The work of a true hero

  71. Why would it be so disappointing after all? I mean, Frank Dux turned out to be full of shit, did it make BLOODSPORT any less enjoyable?

  72. A brazilian reader

    June 4th, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Man, after this, I admire you even more.

  73. I had the pleasure of interviewing Vern a few years back when Seagalogy came out – I figured that he’d want to do the interview in person since we both lived in Seattle (I’ve since moved to D.C.), but he stuck to his script and told me he didn’t want to meet. However, we did do a phone call. And while I wasn’t really surprised to discover that he sounded less like a grizzled ex-con and more like a UW student, it was a great chat, and I’ve continued to be a fan, having purchased all of his work since then. So congrats on “coming out,” so to speak, and good luck at the Cinefamily.

  74. Vern, I have always liked your mysterious persona and “worked” origin story, but more then that I have always admired and appreciated your love of cinema, specifically action films and genre films that often don’t get the same level or respect or appreciation as your usual Hollywood Oscar bait. You stepping out from the shadows from the shadows to revel yourself doesn’t change the respect and admiration I have for you.

    I hope you have fun at the Cinefamily event. I wish I could be there.

    PS: I will be back in Seattle later this year and I am going to drop you a line.

  75. Funny story, I might have already bumped into Vern and not known it. We both were at the BOB & DAVID PRESENT ON DEADLY GROUND SCREENING in Olympia back in 2003 or 2002. For all I know I could have been sitting right next to the future Seagalogist.

  76. A luchador mask and voice modifier would enable Vern to have his cake and eat it too. On the other hand, he’d be that dumbass walking around in public in a luchador mask. That won’t go over well, not even in Los Angeles. Especially not in Los Angeles. Cake is overrated anyway.

    ****************************************

    Seagal should make an updated addendum to his pro-environment ON DEADLY GROUND presentation. Republicans seem to listen to him; maybe he can smooth the way for Obama and the EPA’s new power plant regulations & carbon-emission mitigation measures. Offer him a platform to do these things and I bet he’ll show up at Cinefamily.

    ****************************************

    Also you should film this Cinefamily event (don’t skimp on the audio recording quality), the parts between the Seagal marathon screenings, and package it as a mini-documentary feature to be included with your next hardcover publication or next iteration of Seagalogy.

    This has been Mouth’s Unsolicited Brilliant Advice, Summer 2014 Edition.

  77. Mouth – “That won’t go over well, not even in Los Angeles. Especially not in Los Angeles.”

    Unless it’s an El Santo mask.

  78. Vern, I’m pretty sure I figured out your real name years ago, from an offhand remark made online by someone else who was “in on it.” Since then I’ve thought several times of emailing you and straight-up asking “You’re this person, right?” but I didn’t want you worrying some random schmuck was gonna publicly reveal your secret identity just for kicks. And also I was somehow happier to just feel like I had figured it out but not get actual confirmation (which you probably wouldn’t have given anyway!).

    Anyway, now that the cat is at least peeking part of its head out of the bag, I am curious to ask one thing: how many of your friends/family members/etc. know that you’re Vern? Just how secretive have you been?

  79. As mentioned in an old comments section , I think you’re a badass chimney sweep like Dick Van Dyke( but older , Diagnosis Murder style) in Mary Poppins , Vern ( but with better background music for the dancing parts). That’s my mental picture of you , and it will always be that, since I live in Europe and unfortunately I’m unable to come for the marathon . Of course , pictures will eventually surface of this happening and I will see your face , but I can always pretend that it’s a stunt double , a mutant clone or a Life Model Decoy . I’m glad that you’re doing this confession piece , but it really doesn’t troble me at all knowing that not everything in your biography is “rock solid fact”.It’s your Internet Persona , right? For so many people the Internet Persona is their free-pass to be assholes , racist or trolls, not creative , funny and thought provoking like you . Plus , thanks to your Internet Persona , I now own Seagalogy !I will still read the site and comment when I have something useful to add , and always will !

    …..but if you want , you can host the marathon wearing a costume with all the elements of action movies : ninja mask , cowboy hat , batman cape , boxing gloves , gladiator sandals , wrestler belt and karate pants. Less mysterious , more balls shattering awesome.

    Keep up the good work, man .

  80. Put me in the “ya fooled me” category, perhaps because I’ve been a reader from way back. I discovered the Geocities websight via AICN and proceeded to read everything on it. I guess I figured a lot of the prison stories were exaggerated, but I thought Vern had to have been in the joint for a little while at least. I mean, c’mon, that book was called FIVE ON THE OUTSIDE!

    But it doesn’t really matter. As others have said, Vern’s true spirit and character come through in his writing. I feel fortunate that I’ve been a reader long enough to witness Vern’s writing get better in real time. And he has written some of the funniest things I’ve ever read, like his old April Fool’s gags–and that fake AICN review ranks right up there, too!

    Like RBatty024, I was constantly speculating about how much of NIKETOWN was based on Vern’s own experiences because it seemed so true-to-life to me. If it turns out that Vern never had any of those experiences, then I guess he’s an even better writer than I thought (and I already thought NIKETOWN was fucking fantastic). Go buy a copy of NIKETOWN is what I’m saying.

    Vern, I wish I could make to LA for the show. But hopefully you will come to Chicago for an event someday, or maybe I will come to Seattle to check out the Cinerama theater and track you down. I wish you all the best for your future, less-incognito career. And maybe I ought to buy a classic “Vern Tell’s It Like It Is” shirt before the world discovers Vern and they become hard-to-find collectibles. Thanks again for all the laughs and insights.

  81. Yeah Vern can you please relate more stories about being a Secret Outlaw Film Critic?

  82. Hi Vern,

    I really don’t know to what extent what I’m about to say hasn’t already been covered by pretty much everybody else a dozen times over (I assume that it has). But, after having spent half of my life following your opinions, I feel like I owe you one.

    I’m nearing 30, and I’ve read your reviews since some of the earliest AICN days. Back then I used to fashion myself a serious film buff of sorts, as I still had much more time to dedicate to that particular passion. My film buffery (buffoonery?) was not limited to watching films, but also extended to being involved in the Socratic argument, either with real-life people, or by the opinions of respectable online personalities. From all the people that I’ve used to follow, the only ones that stuck with me after more than one decade were (until very recently) the esteemed Roger Ebert and the fearsome Outlaw Vern (I remember one of the more frequent posters saying the same thing).

    Part of your appeal, I think, is that you were always genuinely unwilling to compromise your integrity as a critic, and this idealism was obvious in many gestures big and small — in your famously stubborn clinging to that outdated Geocities website, in your passionate political statements, and in the fact that you really didn’t give the slightest of flying fucks that enjoying Seagal movies didn’t always used to be ironically hip and self-referentially fashionable — as you know, it used to be (and still sometimes is) looked down upon by most “connoisseurs” that consider such genres to be rubbish entertainment for the simple-minded. You showed us that one can find genuine artistic expression and nuance, even in the least sophisticated of material, and your defense of these genres showed us that you had a genuine relationship with an art form, and not just with your paycheck, or with appearing to be fashionable. It made your words more honest and worthy of consideration than any phony backstory could ever be. To paraphrase Yehudi Menuhin, a person who loves something genuinely understands more about it than a person who doesn’t, and thus, at least, in principle, demands respect.

    I already assumed that a man who (quite justifiably) cried at the opening scene of UP cannot have had a “life in crime” and cannot have decided, after that fact, to spend the rest of his years expressing a penchant for clever Cage-related neologisms. Had you been an actual, grizzled, badass outlaw, your obvious love for many of the unmasculine sides of cinema would have been a badass juxtaposition by itself. And that would’ve been so deliciously self-referential (since you coined the term), that, by the logic of Occam’s razor, it is more probable to conclude that the outlaw backstory was simply made up as a stylistic mood-setting device. A good one, too!

    I always get irritated when people criticize your use of vernacular, as if that had something to do with your command over English. Let’s be honest here. You are a genuinely gifted writer, and your appeal lies in your use of language, and in your ideas about the films of cinema. Being a grizzled veteran of penitentiaries across the country adds absolutely nothing to that appeal — but neither does it distract. It sets the mood, and the mood is just right.

    So, don’t worry. Keep doing what you’re doing, and I will keep reading. Thank you for hours upon hours of insight and entertainment, and here’s to the many years that are to come!

  83. Hi Vern. This is my first time posting, but I’ve been a steady reader of yours since around 2002 (via AICN).

    I’ve never taken your “backstory” as anything but artistic license taken by a guy creating a persona (I’m not trying to give off a smug “knew all along” vibe), but your persona is never why I read you anyway. It’s the laid back, cutting-through-the-bullshit-yet-super-humble-and-sincere writing style. As a guy who reads a lot of websights but almost never comments (never feel like I have anything to contribute), your secretiveness that’s (I assume) rooted in humility is why I find you and your writing so damn relatable. Now, if you choose to shed your alter ego and somewhere along the road become a Drew McWeeny and start a hitfix.com or whatever, that’s your business. Bottom line is, it doesn’t matter to me what you look or sound like or what your real name is as long as you keep your voice and the quality of writing remains the same. Best of luck to you.

  84. Hey Vern!

    I’ve been reading your sight for a long time, and you’ve even been nice enough to respond to my emails a few times. I’m a huge fan, bought your books, etc. For me, part of the fun has been wondering what parts of your persona are real and which are a clever fiction. Anyways, I can’t wait to attend the Seagal Movie Marathon.

  85. Knox Harrington

    June 4th, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    I’m guessing this first public appearance must have been on your mind a lot lately, Vern.

    There’s so much to consider. For instance, should it be necessary for you to also reveal your name? Personally, I don’t think you should. It won’t contribute anything, and you’ll probably just end up with people getting their noses up in your business. Also, I don’t think it’s necessary for you to show us a picture of yourself here on the site. Again, it serves no purpose other than satisfying curiosity, and it will probably just steal some thunder from the big day itself.

    Another consideration: Should you put on a Bane voice? Or maybe one of Seagal’s infamous accents? Choices choices.

    But yeah, it’s true, the way a personality is perceived does play a part in how talent is judged. Just look at how the world lost their fuckin’ minds when Tom Cruise decide to jump on a couch, completely disregarding the fact that he was still the same, reliable movie star he’s always been.

    Don’t sweat it, though. I think we all know that June the 14th is gonna be a celebration of Vern just as much as it’s gonna be a celebration of the films of Steven Seagal, and those of you who are lucky enough to attend should enjoy the shit out of it. You guys better claps your hands and stamp your feet when our guy takes the stage. It’s gonna be awesome.

  86. Knox Harrington

    June 4th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    I also think that those of you who do attend should wear I STILL BELIEVE IN THE HORSEFUCKER T-shirts.

  87. Samuel Johnson

    June 4th, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    How you can tell ‘Vern’ is not a “grizzled old badass”:

    A) Has modish left-wing handbook opinions on ‘same-sex’ marriage et al

    2) Fetishizes Die Hard — might have blown away a kid but not a “grizzled old badass”, and not in 1988.

    D) The killer clue: has website on which he reviews the latest movies

    I used to love Vern’s more in-character reviews, but none of these things say “grizzled old badass”.

  88. On the other hand, he said he used to watch Felicity, which only grizzled old badasses did and probably still do via Netflix, DVD, etc.

  89. Vern, having known a lot of creative types over the years I’m very used to the created persona style and never believed your personal stories. But then again your sense of humor about everything just seemed like a dead give away and I really never felt like you were trying to fool anyone. Is it just because I’m one of your older readers who’s been around a bit longer? I don’t know. But I don’t think you owe me an apology, but if you feel like you need to make up for it, write another book.

  90. caruso_stalker217

    June 4th, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve been reading your stuff for I think seven or eight years now and never really believed or disbelieved the ex-con persona, but it did seem less likely as time went on. Anyway, it’s the writing that matters and it’s what has brought me back to the “sight” again and again.

  91. caruso_stalker217

    June 4th, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    I’m also responsible for an inconsequential footnote in SEAGALOGY, which means when I finally die it will be without regret.

  92. Rock on, Vern.

  93. I believe in you, Vern!

  94. >I would prefer you take them like I take Seagal’s hints that he used to work for the CIA. Sounds like bullshit, but… maybe?

    That’s exactly what I have always done, and intend to continue doing. Obviously, some of those early prison stories are pretty difficult to believe at face value. But I’ve always taken great inspiration from the Vern story, particularly as an individual who did a lot of stupid but less badass things in his own life and has really been trying to make a change, to strive for excellence. I always had my doubts that Vern really went to jail for bank robbery, but I find too much truth in the story itself to believe everything about it was invented of whole cloth — I believe it comes from a place of truth, even if in this case that place is not necessarily reality. If Vern the grizzled old ex-con wasn’t a real person to begin with, he became one when he found his voice and his passion and managed to genuinely reach people like myself, who needed to hear someone like him. Nothing as mundane as reality could ever really change that.

  95. The Transformers review (and the reaction it stirred up from the AICN talkbackers) is a thing of genius. If all of this means we get more Vern then that can only be a good thing. Good luck with this new chapter, mate. It’s always good to shake things up and try a little self-reinvention.

  96. You should have pulled a Shia Leboof at your appearance and worn a paper bag over your head with “I am not Vern” written on it and not said anything.

    You’re writing kick ass and is always getting better. Pretty sure no matter what you look like or how different your ‘real world’ persona is, that your fans are still going to keep loving your work.

  97. So Vern I am curious do you feel relieved now that you no longer have to work at keeping the illusion alive?

  98. You know what’s funny – I never even thought twice about questioning any kind of mysterious background until the Entertainment Weekly review of Seagalogy identified you as “Vern, whose true identity is a closely-guarded secret”(!) Nothing wrong with a little smoke & mirror type stuff to match the larger-than-life talent; a lot of people do it, to much greater extremes (I remember how shocking it was to learn what a right wing pansy John Wayne was in real life, and that his real name was “Marion”). I hope your debut at Cinefamily is a smashing success that leads to further appearances (hopefully some on the east coast).

  99. To me, the ex-con backstory was important because it complemented (to an extent justified) your writing style. I’d introduce you to friends by saying you’re an “ex-con who writes film reviews”. But you transcended the backstory years ago as you developed into a brilliant writer and critic in your own right. I really hope your coming out leads to well deserved, bigger and better things. If not, its pretty clear from this post that you already mean a lot to a lot of people, this sight is already a great achievement!
    My mental image of you is the spitting image of Bukowski, so odds are you’ll look better than I expect when we meet at the Shanghai Segalathon!

  100. Maxiao— The mental image I have of him is a Slappy White lookalike, albeit with glasses and a handlebar mustache.

    My theory about his checkered past: Yes, it IS true, but now he’s trying to get clear of it by playing it all off as an elaborate ruse. I’m quite sure he’s not some professional writer who does the Outlaw Vern thing as a side gig.

  101. Vern, my captain, it’s okay. We’re cool man, totally cool.

    I’ve been reading you since your AICN days, and admit to at first believing more than disbelieving. I never quite bought the grizzled badass bit, but a drunk with a few DUIs too many ending up in the pen after one awful night, now looking to turn his life around—shit, that felt possible.

    And that held true for a few years, but when things started to heat up, when the opportunities came and it was your moment to step into the light and weave god outta the piss soaked hay of your past—and you didn’t—well, I figured something was up then. Hell, I even called you one time after the James Frey/JT Leroy business hit the news. Not antagonistic or anything, just because reality was a rare commodity that year and I wanted to test the waters to see if I’d get a response. When none came forth I reflected, realized I cared about the writing, and accepted there was a truth to it that outweighed more immediate facts. I think Werner Herzog even said as much in an interview: that through manipulation and surface falsehoods we reach deeper truths.

    So we’re okay man. It’ll be weird to discover you’re my age or even younger, but I’m ready for whatever comes my way. In the meantime keep the reviews coming.

    PS: Okay, one question, did your dad really work on a submarine?

  102. Aw, I knew it all along. Or at least sort of suspected. It never mattered that much. Your writing stands on its own. Thanks for linking to that AICN review. That was the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time.

  103. You know how I always took it? As a persona, yeah, but also as a kind of tribute to the personas of all the “tough guys” of cinema — Seagal, Willis, Lee, etc. It just made sense somehow. I don’t really feel like deep down you were trying to fool anyone.

    You tell it like you had to come clean before your public appearance, but I kinda think the event is your excuse to come clean. I respect that. You gotta move to stay alive.

  104. After thinking about it over the course of the last day, here is my theory:

    Everything is true! But after all those years, Vern’s biggest enemy from his big house days got out (probably even escaped?) and is now out for revenge. Don’t know how the guy (probably that giant Samoan with the devil tattooed on his dick?) found out that Vern is his old nemesis from the can (probably by googling “Mambo Socks”?), but some of his old buddies warned him, that he might be in serious danger.

    So Vern set up that elaborate plan, both with the Cinefamily screening to lure him into a trap and the reveal of his “true identity”, to make sure none of your other enemies comes after him, now that he is getting more and more famous.

    Hm. Probably shouldn’t have mentioned that in public. Oh well, if you get murdered, feel free to ban me from here. But remember, your legend will live on!

  105. It’s OK as far as I’m concerned. Don’t worry about it and keep doing what you are doing. Cheers!

  106. Bad Seed: Yes, my old man worked on nuclear submarines at the Naval shipyard. He was a chemical engineer, like Dolph. I’ve actually been finding out more about him recently going through an old box of his belongings, learning about things he never talked about. I verified that in high school his nickname was Crusher.

    Alot of emotional shit going on in my life this year. Thanks for your patience, everybody.

    By the way, if we could keep this “I am a phony” stuff just between us guys here that would be great. thanks

  107. Can we go back to babbling about Star Wars and Sylvester Stallone movies and shit now?

  108. One Guy from Andromeda

    June 5th, 2014 at 3:03 am

    Please don’t be a fat guy with a pony tail in his early thirties, Vern. Pretty please.

  109. Vern – my father is an ex-Navy guy as well (though he worked on ships, not submarines), I just find it interesting that we have that in common

    and don’t worry, 2014 is shaping up to be one of those years where the planets align and big things happen in everyone’s lives, a cousin of mine fathered a baby daughter back in March for example, as for me there’s been a lot of internal changes with how I think and feel about the world and myself

  110. Steve From Bristol

    June 5th, 2014 at 3:25 am

    Nicely done, Vern.

    Obviously, you’re about to embark on a top secret mission that makes use of your criminal past, like breaking into Alcatraz or infiltrating a drug cartel in Val Verde. And whenever you find yourself in a ‘send a maniac to catch a maniac’ scenario, it’s important to establish an alibi (and confuse your enemies) by sending an imposter to a Steven Seagal marathon and pretending your online persona is not 100% true. Very, very clever.

    At least, that is what I choose to believe. I’ve been enjoying your reviews since the AICN days and I plan to enjoy them for many more years.

    Best of luck with your mission, and thank you for your service!

  111. When I was in college, back in the dark ages, I used to write poems and short stories for the school paper under a psevdonym. And the guys who ran the paper hated not knowing who hid behind the fake name so much that they almost became criminals in the hunt for the secret author. They broke into lockers, stole books and papers and compared people’s handwriting behind their backs (yes, this was before computers and e-mails). I don’t think they ever found out who it was for sure, but some of them suspected me. These days I wish I had done back then what Vern just did.

  112. Outlaw Vern, son of Crusher. Man, that’s perfect. And don’t worry, your secrets safe with us.

    Had another thought. Does this mean you’d be down to meet up should any of us find our way to Seattle? If so, can you go out for a drink, or is coffee a better bet?

    Better yet, an Outlaw convention, complete with pie!

  113. Vern you are making the right decision, in my opinion. You have made Outlaw Vern into an awesome, awesome, thing. But you are bigger than this websight. And I’m proud of you for choosing what must in many ways be the harder path of admitting both that and the limits of internet badassness by appearing in the world. Way to expand your parameters of excellence.

  114. Vern, as someone who’s read your stuff since the rec.arts.movies days, don’t sweat it. I wasn’t into it for the ex-con backstory. I was into it because your writing’s fantastic.

  115. Advanced Lucifer Radio

    June 5th, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Hi all
    I’m a long time reader and a first time blah blah. I’m not usually much of a joiner I guess but it seemed like the right time to pitch my tent alongside the rest and say a truly heartfelt thanks for the joy your writing has given me over the years. I never wholeheartedly bought into the whole backstory thing (yet I’m perfectly happy to go along with the idea that The Incredible Hulk takes time out from saving the world to write reviews for Bad Ass Digest) but as a homely looking individual – not that I’m casting aspersions mind you – I’ve always dug the idea of anonymity too. But, while I hesitate to fill my first post here with doom and gloom I have to admit that a potentially troubling thought sprang to mind after reading your confession. I might be labouring under a false assumption but I imagine you “created” Vern because he was a good fit for the voice you wanted to write with (I wrote for a website for a while and once reviewed the final Harry Potter movie pretending to be my own fictional seven year old nephew – most fun I ever had and probably the best piece I ever wrote). But now the your secret’s out might slipping into Vern’s voice start to feel a bit pointless to you? The next time you roll headlong into a deadline or a spell of writer’s block (should you be troubled by such things, god forbid) do you worry that there’ll be a voice inside saying “now the secret’s out is this even worth doing anymore?”
    I applaud your desire for not wanting to deceive anybody (this may also prove that the Vern we know and the guy you are are not hugely different) but are you sure you’ve done the right thing here? I’ll read your stuff in any form it takes; it’s the wit and the insights that bring me such joy (in my opinion) – but I would hate to see ol’ Vern become a chain around your neck and get put out to pasture. Hopefully I’ve just overthunk all of this, in which case I apologise for taking this all too seriously. Enjoy your coming out party.

    Forever a believer.

    x

    ps. Doing this on my phone on the rush hour train and couldn’t figure out how to add a little picture. Maybe next time.

  116. grimgrinningchris

    June 5th, 2014 at 10:55 am

    “It’s like when bad really means good. Man, that Outlaw Vern is so phony!”
    (paraphrased from SEINFELD)

  117. Well I have to say I’m a wee bit sad. I tend to take everyone and everything at face value so I believed Vern’s backstory to a large extent. Having said that, it’s none of my business and no skin off my nose but like PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN (sort of) pointed out “The world didn’t used to be a bigger place, the world’s still the same. There’s just… less in it.”

    But if that’s what it takes to go where you need to go in life with your writing, etc., then more power to you.

  118. Throw me in with all these other people who love you anyways Vern, unless you don’t actually take the bus all the time. That is a revelation that would make me sad.

  119. The Limey, I know what you mean, I’m the same way. In most of my life honesty is such a given that it often doesn’t occur to me that somebody I’m cool with would ever mislead me. I had a roommate and close friend who never told me he was gay *or* that he was doing heroin. The first one I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t tell me so when somebody correctly noticed it I thought they were wrong. I had another roommate and close friend who was stealing to keep up with his coke habit, but I had no idea until he got caught. You wouldn’t believe the number of serious drug addicts I’ve worked with without realizing it. I just thought they were weirdos.

    I used to have a problem giving money to people on the streets. They always have some story about their car broke down and they’re on the way to such and such and they just need this amount for gas/impound, here’s my business card and where do you work I promise you I will bring it to you afterwards, with interest. These guys I did think were lying but I wanted to believe they weren’t, wanted to prove to myself that I could give them the money and they really would come pay me back. The last time I did it it was a guy claiming he needed diesel for his truck, said he was an electrical engineer from Michigan or somewhere, working on the tunnel they’re building downtown. He talked about how much money he made as proof that he didn’t need to rip me off. I told him how much I made an hour, which is pathetic for someone of my age and experience. The thing is, this guy for sure has more money than me because I saw his truck and the tools in the back, they’re worth more than I have. But he was still willing to rip me off. And I let him because I wanted so bad for him to be telling the truth.

    I just wouldn’t respect myself if I was a liar like that. That’s why this has weighed on me over the years, despite original good intentions. So I get it bud, I’m sorry to bum you out. You have been a good contributor here and I appreciate you reading and responding all these years. I’ll try to step up my game in hopes for making it up to you and anybody else disappointed by me.

    marlow: I absolutely do take the bus, don’t worry.

    Andromeda: fitter, older, no ponytail. Not that there would be anything wrong with that though. I’m sure I would have a goatee, trenchcoat and Firefly t-shirt to complete the look, but that’s not me.

  120. Well, I have grown out my hair to full Mason Storm length. I usually wear it in a sort-of-attempt-at-a-top-knot. But In honor of this momentous event I will sport a properly slicked back pony-tail. And dress all in black. And get all whispery and squinty.

    Please have whoever introduces you recite this verbatim https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iq4dhgD07qo

  121. Listen up Vern, I followed your ass around the internet for damn near fifteen years now, back from when r.a.m.current-films was you, Berardinelli, and that clutch of chuckle fucks called the online film critics society. Do what you gotta do, man. Although I kind of wish we could’ve pitched in and hired a disguised Danny Trejo to take your place, talk about Seagal for a while, and then start breaking shit.

    Good luck and may the publicity lead to doors opening for you.

  122. Vern I’ve been reading your site for over ten years now. You’re part of my routine, I check my e-mail and then I check for the newest Vern. Don’t care what truths you may have stretched, you’re a bad ass.

  123. In protest I’m taking “probly” out of my phones custom dictionary!!!!

    Nah, fuck it, I’m just kidding! Now you’ve reminded me of all those AICN/Vern era reviews. Looks like I’ve got some catalogue reading to do!

  124. This is the home website on my computer and phone, only thing I’m guaranteed to check out everyday unless I have the luxury of being far enough away from civilization.
    I started reading your reviews on aintitcool, when all the critics but a few had
    pseudonyms.
    Not all of them came up with elaborate backgrounds for their critical identities but then
    again few of them were as interesting and entertaining as yours.
    For me this changes nothing.

  125. TexanFromFrance

    June 6th, 2014 at 12:49 am

    I hope there will be pictures and videos of the event. Photoshop some prison bars if you want to but don’t be like Salinger, Vern!

    I’ve been reading the reviews and comments for so many years the unanimous reaction to this post doesn’t surprise me one bit. The regulars always made me feel like we were here for the same reason. It’s like going to the theatre. We know the dude playing Hamlet wasn’t really friends with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and he’s just acting like he’s sad they’re dead. If he decided to do a talk-back in character, we wouldn’t go home thinking he was going home with that skull.

    This makes your career more interesting and damn human. All I know is the writing and it always gives me the impression of a nice and funny guy who genuinely gives a damn about civility – just not in movies.

    Break a leg, Outlaw Vern.

  126. I personally feel honored to have lived through this whole thing, discovering Vern via the persona and sticking around long enough for the moment where he took it to the next level. Years from now people will ask us, “Where were you when Vern went public?” And we’ll remember.

  127. It has been suggested that Vern’s true story isn’t as inspirational as his truthy one. I think that overlooks the fact that, while he may not have risen up from the bowels of the military-industrial complex, we’re still dealing with a dude of integrity who built his own thing from the ground up. A dude who, while working a day job and not making much if any money off his Writing, quietly stuck to his guns about the way he felt comfortable both expressing himself and doing business. People told him he sucked and he should quit, but he stayed the course and built an audience over the course of a solid decade and a half. He never compromised his integrity to further his career. He could have been pimping himself out to any number of bullshit websites, writing snarky Buzzfeed lists like 10 RIDICULOUS STEVEN SEAGAL MOMENTS THAT WILL SHOCK YOU! or running ads paid for by the same movies he was supposed to be reviewing objectively, but he didn’t do any of that shit. And you know what? He made it anyway, motherfuckers. There’s a whole bunch of Ellises out there who sucked down the terrorists’ Coca Cola with a shit-eating grin on their face who never saw a tenth of the success as our man here. So when he decides that it’s time to try a new approach, nobody says “Oh shit, Vern’s selling out.” Because that would be absurd. Vern’s not selling out. No fuckin’ way. He’s earned that trust. As a dude who has trouble faking his way through the phony bullshit everybody says you need to do to get by in this world, I find it inspirational that Vern skipped all that. He just did work he could be proud of and let it speak for itself. It speaks pretty fuckin’ loudly, in my opinion. Louder than a million careerists pumping out clickbait they’ll never be able to stand by after the check clears. So enjoy your coke, fellas. Hope the aftertaste isn’t too bitter.

  128. I’m with you, Mr. majestyk. I meant to mention that I thought it was the right kind of irony that this post was proof of Vern’s integrity. I also like what the man wrote in response to The Limey. It’s more proof Vern cares about the right things and is the kind of person I thought he was.

    The comments are a big reason I love the sight, too, so I hope no one is too disappointed but it’s perfectly fair to feel that way. I just hope everybody sees things are better, now. Vern is even more free to be an outlaw.

  129. Mr. Majestyk – *slow clap* well said brother.

  130. Right on, Mr Majestyk.

  131. And write on, Vern.

  132. I don’t even remember much of the prison stuff, except for maybe the NUTMEG story. I think the only time it felt serious was when you got mad that some other dude was trying to cash in on the felon gone critic schtick. But either way, with or without the backstory (being real or not) you have such a great talent and voice for writing that I don’t think anybody comes close. The timing, wit, and references, are always so well packaged with such detail, that really only a genius like vern could pull off. Always honest, and always well thought out no matter how simple. It’s the type of thing that inspires and I really hope it takes you places because you truly deserve it. There’s a reason why we keep coming back. The reason why i’ll always keep reading. And it was never about the persona but the voice in the writing that came with it. There’s more I wish I could say that’s probably already been said, but respect to you for coming out clean and trying to be honest with yourself. It’s another step in excellence, i’m sure. Cheers to you for any other future successes and appearances/projects that come your way.

  133. grimgrinningchris

    June 7th, 2014 at 12:50 am

    ADVANCED LUCIFER RADIO-
    I’d like to read the Potter review/young nephew character piece. Is it online anywhere?
    Not to steal any Vern thunder by talking about something only tangentially related. You’ve just got my interest piqued now.

  134. “As a dude who has trouble faking his way through the phony bullshit everybody says you need to do to get by in this world, I find it inspirational that Vern skipped all that.”

    Yes, amen to that. As I struggling writer, though, I find it necessary to use lies in order to be truthful. I can be more truthful when nobody recognises what I write as facts, or personal experiences. That´s the beauty of storytelling, finding a way to be truthful without fearing the responses in regard to how people perceive you. I wonder if Vern had written the chapter about doctors putting stuff up his private parts if he hadn’t had the privilege of anonymity. (A chapter I find fucking awesome, and oddly moving as a conclusion to reviews of action movies, btw). My point being, that a lot of your writing might have been different without the fake persona you have created in order to being as truthful in your opinions as possible. Anyhow, Vern, no matter who you are, I already feel I know you, having read your sight every day for a decade (except for a couple of weeks in 2011 where I was stuck in Darjeeling without a internet-connection). And as I´ve probably written several times before; this sight, and your writing, is the best thing on the internet, imo. And it would´t have been as excellent without your “fake” persona.

  135. This thread is the perfect answer to why it never mattered Vern. In a medium defined by assholes and over reacting this has been inspiring and hopefully erased any doubts you had because you really are one of the shining lights brother. Put my name on the list for buying you a beverage when I’m in the States next. Mr M, you get two for that post, Amen and a Eastwoodian Respect Head Nod to you good sir.

  136. I’m always appreciative Vern has let me help with his work. In all of our communication I never even thought about asking about his identity and have been happy to fill in where needed.

    As some of you know I was kicked out of three different colleges for publishing underground magazines. Always went the fake name route more for fun than anything since in those pre-Internet days I find distribution by hand and the old “no, I font write this I just hand it out” schtick was pretty ridiculous. But I definitely saw the value in identity and how you could use it to frame writing from a perspective.

    I hope this means Vern’s planning on stepping into some of the types of opportunities he’s had to pass on given his situation. Oh the possibilities!

  137. Nah, I’m not disappointed, I just liked the myth. I chose to picture you as, if not Lee Marvin, then a rough around the edges James Coburn.
    Like I said, more power to you. Do what you have to do, because you have the talent and the insight.

  138. Jareth Cutestory

    June 7th, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Vern: After years of willful obscurity the Texas-based musician Jandek started performing live a few years ago. Given the alien, haunted singularity of his work, some fans feared that the music would be diminished as a result of actually seeing the musician for the first time, not to mention watching him situate himself in such mundane contexts as gigs and press conferences. They needn’t have worried. Jandek was true to his vision, refrained from indulging in the insipid rituals of celebrity, and continued self-producing his weird and utterly unique music. Just with a lot more people paying attention and the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded musicians who couldn’t have reached him during his decades as a recluse.

    I figure you’re going to have no problem keeping your integrity intact.

    But try to keep the selfies to a minimum.

  139. The Original Paul

    June 8th, 2014 at 4:34 am

    You guys are all surprisingly level-headed about this.

    Personally I will take my prolonged and nefarious revenge by forever describing Vern as a slightly gone-to-seed Rod Steiger.

  140. TheLimey: I think you meant “in site”, not “insight”.

  141. I CAN’T FUCKING BELIEVE IT!

    That’s it. I’m leaving.

  142. Vern…you’re the man.

    All I got to say, brother. Keep on striving for excellence.

  143. long time lurker … meh always thought it was a persona. was in seattle couple years backing hoping to grab a beer and never got a reply back. Now i know it wasn’t personal. so how about a beer next time i’m in town?

  144. Ok, who wants to start guessing how old Vern will turn out to be? I’ll have a go.

    Sometimes it seems to me that Vern has the kind of passion (positive or negative) for cultural artifacts of the late 80s / early 90s that someone has who’s lived through it as an adolescent or young adult. Reagan-era liberalism, the cast of EXPENDABLES and the cinematic style that spawned them, blacksploitation, martial arts films, oldschool gansta rap, Seagal (duh), and so it goes on. Today’s piece on BATDANCE is a good example of that. If I’m correct, that means Vern would’ve been born in the early 70s, which would make him about 40 today, give or take a few years. Whoever goes to the Seagalogical screening, let me know if I was right.

    Oh wait, am I being creepy? Sorry. I’m just saying, since people have speculated about Vern being black before, we might as well place bets on how old he is.

  145. I never doubted you for a second.

    You fuckin’ rule Vern.
    You fuckin’ rule.

  146. Well. I guess I’m a gullible rube. Ya’ll acting like its been obvious for years. I have a trusting nature often to my detriment at times. I believed, Vern.

    However the reason I’ve been reading this sight for over a decade isn’t because of your felonious past or redemption story. All that seems second fiddle to the quality reviews and pieces you’ve turned out over the years.
    It’s been a pleasure watching your writing go from admittedly amateurish to you finding your own voice and owning it so completely.

    Still be reading in another decade I hope, and I’ll see you in Seattle.

  147. Oh damn I thought the Seagal marathon was in Seattle. Well. I’ll still see you around Seattle. Just won’t know it I guess!

  148. Well duh. You can’t read a guy’s stuff for well over a decade and not pick up some stuff, so I’m not very surprised. I’ve had some experience with online personae becoming self-perpetuating to the point that it’s way harder to tell the truth than to lie, so props for coming out with it. I hope the event goes well!

  149. I am absolutely shocked!

    nah not really. It was pretty obvious the moment you dropped the hammy stuff and starting writing honestly. (about 3-6 months in?) That’s what I really respect.

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