'Telephone Book' Writer/Director Nelson Lyons Dies at 73

Jul 23, 2012 6:30 PM PST

LOS ANGELES — Nelson Lyons, writer and director of the 1971 X-rated sex comedy “The Telephone Book,” passed on Tuesday after a six-week bout with liver cancer. He was 73.

Lyons worked with Andy Warhol's Factory studio in the late '60s and as a writer on "Saturday Night Live" during the 1981-82 season. He co-produced spoken-word records for William Burroughs and Terry Southern and was a permanent fixture on the counter-culture scene.

In 1971, he wrote and directed "The Telephone Book," a satire on pornography revolving around a naive, but lustful young woman who sets out to find the obscene telephone caller she has inexplicably fallen in love with. The film marks Sarah Kennedy's ("Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In") big-screen debut. 

"The Telephone Book" was panned by movie critics at the time of its release, but is now — forty years later — experiencing an international renaissance, according to LATimes.com

Lyons career, however, is said to have flatlined in 1983 when he testified to the Los Angeles County grand jury the events that led to the night that comedian John Belushi overdosed and died after shooting up a speedball administered to him by friend Cathy Evelyn Smith during a three day bender with Lyons. 

Lyons retreated from the spotlight after Belushi's death and went on to launch a movie trailer company. According to Dennise Perrin, author of "Mr. Mike," a 1999 biography of Lyons' writing partner and former "SNL" writer Michael O'Donoghue, Lyons was unable to shake Hollywood's negative perception of him.

"He was blamed for Belushi's death, and it ruined his career," Perrin told the LATimes.com.

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