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Billy Hayes
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    (April 3, 1947- )
    Born in New York City, New York
    Arrested while trying to smuggle four pounds of hashish out of Turkey (October 7, 1970)
    Escaped from prison (October 2, 1975)
    Wrote the book ‘Midnight Express’ about his experience (1977)
    Portrayed by Brad Davis in the movie adaptation of ‘Midnight Express’ (1978)
    Featured in the documentary ‘Midnight Return: The Story of Billy Hayes and Turkey’ (2016)
    Performs in a one-man show, ‘Riding the Midnight Express’
    As a student at Marquette, his friends nicknamed him ‘Crazy.’
    He tried to climb the outside of a skyscraper in Milwaukee. (He had second thoughts at the fifth floor and came back down.)
    He was a small-time dealer who had made three previous trips smuggling hashish, which he would buy in Turkey for $200 per kilogram and sell stateside for $5,000.
    He got busted because it did not occur to him that Turkish airports might beef up their security procedures after a series of PLO hijackings.
    Friends would send LSD to him prison by hiding tabs under the stamps on letters.
    He used $2,700 hidden in the binding of a book sent by his father to bribe a prison doctor to send him to a less secure facility for ‘health’ reasons.
    The movie version of ‘Midnight Express’ took considerable liberties with the truth. (Such as, Hayes did not kill a guard by bashing his head against a clothes hook – or by any other method, for that matter.)
    He felt uncomfortable about ‘Midnight Express’ making him a countercultural hero. (‘I had become famous for something I didn’t feel good about inside.’)
    Turkish officials complained about the way their country was portrayed in his book (and even more so about the movie’s portrayal).
    He was originally sentenced to four years in prison for possession, but the prosecution appealed and got it changed to thirty years for smuggling.
    He said he felt the most guilt over the pain he put his parents through during his imprisonment.
    He said, ‘I needed to go to jail…. I grew up.’
    He noted about the movie omitting his affair with another prisoner, ‘They let their protagonist smuggle drugs, kill a guy, bite another guy’s tongue out, but not touch another human being. It says something about the producers, and the age.’
    He met his wife at the premier of ‘Midnight Express’ at the Cannes Film Festival.
    He wrote and directed the play ‘Cock & Bull Story,’ which received a prize from the L.A. Drama Critics Circle (1992).
    The New York Times called his one-man show ‘engrossing’ and ‘stirring.’
    He returned to Turkey and apologized for the way the country was depicted in the book and the movie (2007).

Credit: C. Fishel

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