Prison Break Blues
In March 1964, Bob Hughes was 16 and living with his paranoid and delusional mother, Lolita, in Gladstone. After Lolita claimed that Bob had tried to kill her with an ice pick, he was shipped to the state’s Training School for Boys in Boonville. Bob’s older brother, Don, busted him out, and the duo spent five years on the run before being officially exonerated by the FBI.
The brothers are now retired and living in Versailles (Missouri, not France). In 2001, they finished a screenplay about their escape, titled Echoes From Clay County, the Legend of Don and Bob Hughes. They say their agent shopped it to Fox, but it was rejected.
The Hughes brothers say they saw their story on TV last year, in the form of the Fox show Prison Break. They’ve filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against the network, and we caught up with them recently by phone.
The Pitch: Fellas, what’s going on here?
Don: We wrote a manuscript about our escape, about one innocent brother being incarcerated and me breaking him out and about us being on the run. And then here comes Prison Break, and it’s identical to our story. We watch each week and just keep picking out similarities.
Bob: [In a recent episode], they had one of the brothers pretending to be an FBI agent. Don had done that in one [fictional] part of our story. One of the characters in our script is [airplane hijacker] D.B. Cooper. Then there are the references to a bank robbery, the Mafia, the president of the United States. It just goes on and on.
Aren’t most of those pretty generic references?
Don: Let me ask you the questions. What are the odds of two stories where one brother breaks another brother out of prison who is involved with D.B. Cooper and is pretending to be an FBI agent? The odds are greater than being struck by lightning. Every week we can pick out new things.
Prison Break‘s main character tattoos a map of the prison on himself. Any similarities there?
Bob: That was something they totally came up with.
Don: That had nothing to do with us.
What’s the worst part about watching it?
Bob: I’ll tell you how bad it was. This feels like a jab to us. When they broke out of prison, the authorities set up a roadblock at highways 6 and 53. My brother and I live at highways 5 and 52.
Don: They also showed a road sign that said “St. Louis 236 miles.” Well, duh, we live about 230 miles from St. Louis.
I take it you don’t like the show?
Don: I think the show is a great show. I think it’s fantastic. It’s a break-out hit. This hurts us as far as future possible sales of our manuscript. If we were to approach a TV studio now, they would say, “Hey, you guys have stolen the Prison Break story.”
Having lived this, any prediction of how the show ends?
Don: Sure, I can tell you what’s going to happen, unless they change it. Right now, one of the brothers has already pretended to be an FBI agent.
Bob: That was in [a recent] episode.
Don: Now, you mark my words — they are going to somehow pretend to be an FBI agent or something like that to get the other brother out of jail. They aren’t going to break him out. They are going to talk him out.
A recent breakfast outing on the Plaza seemed a perfect way to draw to a close the Summer of the Pit Bull.
Sweetie and I decided on brunch Saturday morning at re:Verse. I chose the tasty Toaster Sammy. Sweetie picked the Mediterranean scrambled pita.
Sweetie and I split the morning paper. I looked at her. Sweetie stared out the window. “Oh, my God,” she said in her exaggerated way, pausing before each word. I swung around.
My eyes met a parade of pit bulls and their owners. They streamed by, carrying signs warning against breed discrimination. One read “Prosecute animal abuse!” and included a photo of an emaciated pit bull. The photos reminded me of Operation Rescue’s signs of aborted fetuses. They wore pictures of pit bulls on their shirts and red, white and blue clothing. Someone cradled a baby pit bull in a blanket like an actual baby. I spotted an American flag bandanna wrapped around the dog’s neck. And they kept coming. More than 30 people marched by the window. A few led their dogs on leashes.
“Imagine if one of those dogs attacked someone,” I said to Sweetie.
Sweetie shook her head. Then she saw the look in my eye. Sweetie knew I wanted to whip out my notebook and run after the parade of pit bulls. Thank God for Re:Verse’s quick service. Breakfast arrived. Forget the pit bulls. I’ll choose Sweetie and the Toaster Sammy over the pit-bull scoop any day.