Aaron Latham, Writer Whose Texas Monthly Story Inspired ‘Urban Cowboy,’ Dies at 78

Aaron Latham, a screenwriter, journalist and author whose story in Texas Monthly inspired the 1980 smash “Urban Cowboy,” died July 23 in Pennsylvania of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 78.

Latham was married to “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl. He died at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Stahl and the couple’s daughter, Taylor Stahl Latham, a producer on the Apple TV+ drama “Servant,” were with him as he died.

“He loved being two things: He loved being a writer and he loved being a father,” Stahl told Variety.

A native of Texas, Latham was known for writing about novels set in the Old West. His magazine journalism also inspired the 1985 movie “Perfect” about the aerobics exercise craze of that moment. The film reunited Latham with the “Urban Cowboy” team of screenwriter-director James Bridges and star John Travolta.

Latham’s novels include 2001’s “Code of the West,” which transports the mythology of King Arthur to hardscrabble Texas, and 2004’s “The Cowboy With the Tiffany Gun.”

Stahl says Latham at first was an intellectual, getting his PhD at Princeton with a dissertation he wrote about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood.

“Hollywood was in his head, even way back,” Stahl said, even if he took a circuitous path to making his mark on the screen. “I think he had a very rich life as a journalist, as a playwright, as a screenwriter.”

Latham was buried in Spur, Texas, a small town about 75 minutes outside of Lubbock, which is where the character played by Travolta in “Urban Cowboy” hails from.

Stahl told Variety that Latham considered “Urban Cowboy” his favorite achievement — having identified the cultural moment unfolding at the famed Gilley’s nightclub outside Houston. She and her daughter played the movie’s soundtrack for him in his final hours.

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