Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

In Praise of The Christos Mosaic

Full disclosure; author Vincent Czyz is a dear friend and a frequent contributor to our monthly Readers Responses. Among his many qualities; he is a wonderful conversationalist and debater on all things, a fine dinner guest and an impeccable dresser. We have supported each other’s work for over a decade now (that is hard to believe); he as a purveyor of fiction and a novelist, mine as whatever you call this, as well as an author and one-time novelist. I like Vincent. This much is true. But I absolutely love his new book, The Christos Mosaic, a page-turning masterpiece of a thriller with more than an undertone of controversial reimagining of Biblical history. It will challenge your beliefs and keep you on the edge of your seat; a pretty damn enviable balancing act.jc_vc

It is strange for us to have books published within a few weeks of each other, mine a pop culture treatise on one of the seminal records of our childhood, Shout It Out Loud –The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon, and his long-awaited entertaining polemic on the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth and the sinister underbelly of black market antiquities throughout the backstreets of Turkey and Egypt. We celebrated this welcomed anomaly at the historical Algonquin Round Table last month in the heart of NYC. It was a magical touchstone for me, and I dare say, for him. Vincent worked hard on this book for more years than he cares to remember and it is quite simply a triumph.

Having researched and penned a controversial book on the subject, released in 2002, Trailing Jesus – A Holyland Journal, and since have engaged my wit and wisdom against Vince’s considerable barrage of wonderfully buttressed factoids about First Century myths and the origins of Christianity, I looked forward to The Christos Mosaic with bated breath. This, I assumed, and rightly so, would be the culmination of my friend’s incredible journey, both personally and professionally – and certainly spiritually – to put down once and for all the inner conflict of the intellectual pursuit of truth versus the comfortable blanket of faith. I came to know that journey well. It is a difficult one for anyone, let alone a writer to make, and then dare to put down for posterity; but to do so in the engagingly penetrating novel form – replete with action, intrigue, sex, violence, and mystery – is as immense an effort as one can expect from art.

Vincent lived in Istanbul, Turkey off and on for seven years, teaching English at several foreign universities as a burgeoning novelist, much like his protagonist and the novel’s hero, as well as its moral center, Drew. But when pressed at our Algonquin dinner if the character was autobiographical, he demurred, assuring me Drew was indeed a work of complete fiction, and in fact the characters in Christos were more fictionalized than any of his other work, which includes the published collection of brilliantly evocative short stories, Adrift in A Vanishing City. However, like the places and characters that stimulate Adrift, Christos puts the reader on Istanbul’s every street corner – the cafés, bars and apartments – awash in the sights, sounds and even the smells of the city, and the colorful language and mannerisms of its inhabitants. (Vincent even went as far as providing English phonetics to bring the reader into the pronunciation of the Turkish language that lends an authentic air to the richly rewarding dialogue).

Here is one of many favorite passages of Christos in which Vincent puts the reader squarely inside the claustrophobic bustle of Cairo’s largest marketplace, Khan Al-Khalili: “Tourists, merchants, boys carrying trays of tea in their hands or long pallets stacked with round loaves of bread on their heads all fought for position in dusty, often- unpaved streets. With some of these narrow byways, a car was not an option. Sellers had set up their tables so that even pedestrians had to pick their way through.

They were stuck behind a man in a turban who was pushing a cart with wooden wheels. The cart was topped by a wood-fed oven with a tall pipe. The man, who was having difficulty maneuvering around tables piled with wares, was selling roasted yams.

And then there were the flies. Smaller, faster than the ones Drew was used to. They were everywhere. You could wave them away, but they’d settle right back on you – generally around your eyes and mouth drawn to the moisture.”

This is the tool Vincent uses so well to weave his stirring tale; the backdrop, the people; the grimy, pulsing humanity. It engulfs our hero, Drew. He must navigate through the density of his surroundings, the recalcitrance of his intellectual opponents, and the villainy of those who value profit over discovery and myth over truth.

Drew is a seeker, like Vincent. He is the seeker in all of us, who must grapple, frustratingly so, as the evolution of deduction gnaws at the comfort of our traditions. Not coincidentally, Drew is introduced in the novel as a precocious college student challenging the norm and using his literate skills to eviscerate what is accepted knowledge about the beloved and reverential Saint Augustine, providing the reader with the intellectual corner in which Drew will come out fighting and keep fighting throughout his adventure, even when the noose is tightened on an ancient but unfolding mystery.

And the unraveling of that mystery, some two-thousand millennia long, is both shocking and inspiring, not unlike my favorite of the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas quotations attributed to the historical Jesus; “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all.”

He is the seeker in all of us, who must grapple, frustratingly so, as the evolution of deduction gnaws at the comfort of our traditions.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the arguments presented through the evidence discovered, hinted at, debated over, and eventually unearthed in Christos are not hyperbolic and provocative merely to play on our most deeply held beliefs for dramatic purposes. They are carefully presented through painstaking research and sound analysis without embellishment. It really is hard to fathom how Vincent crammed all of it in, but he did, and he did it well.

Ultimately what my dear friend has created here in The Christos Mosaic is more than a novel; it is an impeccably framed thriller that will hopefully spark new discussions and provide insight into the future of Christian thought and study for the new century.

It was also one hell of a fun read.

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Aquarian Weekly


James Campion


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Blah blah blah, blah blah?

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

Look, Ma, Everyone Has Gone Crazy…Again

Be afraid of the lame, they’ll inherit your legs
Be afraid of the old, they’ll inherit your souls
Be afraid of the cold, they’ll inherit your blood
Apres moi le deluge, after me comes the flood

– Regina Spektor

I think it was my then managing editor, Chris Uhl, who aptly named this column Reality Check. I wanted to name it Fear No Art, but he was the managing editor and I gave in, but got him back by titling my first published collection of columns and essays Fear No Art in 2000; the one where I predict 9/11 and implore the United States government to make Osama bin Laden its number one priority in 1998. Ah, it’s all ancient history now. But, you see, it’s not. Uhl, it turns out, was correct. It is indeed time for a reality check, while also reminding ourselves of what lies in the shadows when we choose to ignore cold, sober fact and replace it with brush-fire panic.


The tragedy in Paris last Friday was horrifying; one might say, terrifying, which is the whole point of terrorism.

It certainly has unleashed the crazy in many of us.

And one cannot merely blame French President Francois Hollande, who has gone all Dick Cheney this week or the United States congress and more than two dozen governors, who have decided to ignore the fancy U.S. Constitution they’re always touting as sacrosanct to arbitrarily reject 10,000 Syrian refugees or our president, who has become queerly dismissive and condescending, or the host of presidential candidates, many of whom are running dying campaigns, making desperate attempts to appear tough or anti-Muslim or whatever claptrap plays in the sticks; one must look at us – 75 percent of whom wanted nothing to do with this nut house in the Middle East again just two weeks ago to a neck-wrenching u-turn of 65 percent wanting blood.

Oh, how nostalgia runs deep.

We’ve been here before. Of course ours was a first strike, shocking beyond belief, and within our borders. We had spent a half century whistling along while our government played chess with the Middle East and we consumed the oil as if a bottomless bounty with no consequences. So we went completely spastic; trading in civil rights and trampling on law, and invading everything. Now we know better; or maybe we don’t. Either way, we all need to calm the fuck down.

Here’s how I see the Paris attacks; a desperate attempt for a suddenly flummoxed and barely structured organization, ISIS, whose original edict or caliphate or religious falderal that hides behind maniacs with lives so spectacularly empty they trade them in for “a cause”, no more pathetic an existence can be conjured by human thought, has been seriously curtailed over the past few months. ISIS is not used to losing. It is losing.

As published here on 7/22 (THE IRAN DEAL AND THE SECRET WAR ON ISIS) and again on 10/7 (SYRIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST EITHER/OR THEORY) the days of the growing ISIS movement are over. The Paris attack not only does not alter this opinion, it strengthens it.

If one had money on ISIS, as if a sporting event, or looks at it as one might with the long-view of an historical eye; visa vie the Nazis making what appeared at the time as merely another aggressive move towards the East and the Soviet Union at the height of its power, which turned out to indeed be the beginning of the end for them, then it is easy to see that this maneuver serves no strategic purpose for its progress. Hitting a major European city, especially one that heretofore had no skin in the game but was merely the easiest target because of a) its normal unrest, b) its large Muslim population, and c) its borders are a sieve, only makes it more difficult for ISIS to complete its mission; unless of course it hopes as a last resort to turn the tide by terrorizing the efforts to thwart it.

Let’s remember, the original aim a of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), was the return of territories (which they see as holy), once robbed by centuries of progress (wholly Western created) to a 12th or 14th or whatever century construct in the name of Allah and Muhammad… blah, blah, blood on your children, Biblical/Qur’an stupidity. This had nothing to do with the al Qaeda model of striking a blow against infidels abroad. ISIS was not global, it was primeval territoriality. Then the United States decided to send in humanitarian aid to assist refugees on a mountain in early August of 2014. Only then did Americans appear on videos being beheaded. This caused a predictable stir here and got the John McCains of the world riled up. Of course a stiff wind motivates McCain to invade someone, which is why I thank the god Baal on a daily basis that bleating lunatic was never president. Moreover, the current president began yammering on about “red lines in the sand” in Syria and put us squarely into its cultural civil war, which stars a brutal dictator (a dime a dozen in the Middle East), President Bashar Assad, who is a puppet of the Russian government and its own brutal dictator, Vladimir Putin.

You see, “getting involved” is a bad move. It’s too late, of course. We’re involved. To what extent, we’ll see. I know two things for sure; 1) once Barack Obama exits stage left, there is no one currently running for his job that has a hoot-in-hell of winning it that will not get us more involved than him, on both sides of the political aisle, and 2) the progress and aim of ISIS is coming to a close.

Now we know better; or maybe we don’t. Either way, we all need to calm the fuck down.

It will not take months or even a year to complete, because its rise and expansion has taken decades-plus, as ISIS has transformed and morphed in some way shape or form since the late-90s. But whatever the hell it was trying to ultimately accomplish is pretty much done. And every time they conjure up a Paris or a Libya or the failed attempt in Germany, it speeds up its demise.

Sure, there is going to be some lone wacko who walks into a café or bar in New York or Washington or London to try and take a few of us out for “the cause”, but that is our world now; just as it is on a far greater scale that some gun-nut finds his way into a school to shoot a bunch of kids. And don’t think destroying ISIS destroys religious-motivate hatred anymore than the Pope talking about the church being horrified by priests raping children will halt that.

Apres moi le deluge.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

Pre-Holiday Conflict In The Republican Party Fuels Presidential Campaigns

Word I’m getting from those on the inside is that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is back on the sauce. His drinking problem, which began to rear its ugly head around this time four years ago, has returned with a Hemmingway-like vengeance. Only this time he doesn’t have a minor core of religious nuts or gun goofballs to deal with, while desperately trying to adhere to a 2012 post-mortem declaration by big-money donors and establishment voices to make the next national GOP candidate electable. This time he is facing a full-out revolt, not just ideologically, but quite literally.


For the first time in distant memory all the current Republican presidential campaigns met in private this past week to cobble together demands on how the party will represent their needs; specifically in these showcases dressed up as debates. These included, among other key issues, the choosing of softball moderators and the temperature in the venues. The consensus is that Priebus has not had their “interests” in mind – whatever a collective of fourteen’s general interests may be. The byproduct of this is the lost-cause campaigns that are not yet polling at one-percent, like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former New York Governor George Pataki, Rick Santorum, and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who want out of the kiddie-table, pre-showcase debates to bloat an already crowded stage of ten, with every candidate getting equal time.

All of the campaigns want these things to be two hours, during which they are allotted four minutes at the top and the conclusion to speechify. This, of course, would give each candidate about additional six minutes to differentiate themselves from the field, but only if those differentiations do not include stupid things they say or stand for.

Most of this blew up after CNBC ran a clown show that turned into a whine-fest about the liberal media and then an out-right cry-baby complaint department. Even the declared winner (if there could be such a thing in these insipidly devised events) Marco Rubio, the mostly absentee senator from Florida, who turned opponent Donald Trump’s rightful tirade on how million-dollar Super Pacs (of which Rubio is second to only Jeb Bush) make candidates special-interest puppets into an opportunity to claim that the mainstream media is a Super Pac for the Democratic Party. Nice job.

To be fair, the CNBC production and the performance by its moderators was abysmal at best and a downright mugging at worst. How a financial network cannot ask a single question about the current administration’s largest trade agreement or force Republican candidates to explain to voters how another GOP president won’t sink the economic solvency of the western hemisphere again is beyond me. Bad questions, allowing candidates to shout incessantly over one another, and not having the proper notes to refute claims that candidates didn’t say things that were on their websites is inexcusable.

Having said that, bitching about it is bush league, especially during the damn thing. Texas Senator Ted Cruz spent two minutes complaining after being asked one of the few legitimate questions and then was perturbed to not get another two minutes to actually answer the question. Predictably, this kind of nonsense plays well with the base of the Republican Party, and the public in general, who all have some measure of beef with the media – specifically the networks who run these showcases dressed up as debates as if professional wrestling matches; complete with dramatic openings and promises of major conflict. The selling of Trump and the field of nine trying to take him down has turned news into big entertainment. However, attacking the messenger has a short shelf life. Didn’t help Nixon or the Clintons and it pretty much sank Newt Gingrich last time around.

There were rumors after the debate, most of them started by this columnist, that Priebus was already hammered on six Grand Marnier’s after his precious showcase had gone rogue, and yammered like a ten year-old about the line of questions and the decorum of the moderators, claiming the same kind of “attack dog” victimization as the Clinton Campaign parlayed into soaring poll numbers the previous week. It was well calculated on his part, but little did he know the candidates were not fucking around.

It is important to point out at this juncture that the current frontrunners – and have been for months – Donald Trump and Ben Carson, with zero political credentials between them, despite running for the top political job in the land, had no problem with the moderators or the showcase dressed up as a debate. Chaos fits their narrative just fine; the process is screwed. They’re merely here to provide an alternative. Ted Cruz, who has been in the U.S. Senate now for almost six years but continues to claim outsider status, once again piggybacked Trump and Carson’s headwind by comically suggesting that Rush Limbaugh and other right wing radio entertainers moderate. Good one.

The selling of Trump and the field of nine trying to take him down has turned news into big entertainment.

Seems Trump and Carson and a few other candidates eventually came to the conclusion that it is not such a good idea to allow barely relevant opponents a chance to muck up an already crowded field. Soon after the brief solidarity, Trump, in his inimitable fashion, began suggesting candidates start extracting themselves from the process, so he can have more time to do the Trump thing. Carson mumbled something about Jesus with his eyes closed and his poll numbers soared.

Priebus had a conference call with RNC officials to have someone on staff to make sure he has enough cognac on hand.

There are eight more of these left.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

Maybe They’re Wearing Sneakers

I won’t waste any precious column space mincing words or joking around. This latest move by the Obama Administration to “shift gears” or “change strategies” in the current bedlam that is Syria is a mistake; check that – a big mistake.


Of course the knee-jerk reaction to cite Viet Nam or the last Iraq War, two of the most egregiously criminal conflicts this country embroiled its military and people in, is patently unfair. What is not unfair is that if this escalates – and thus far this president has not been honest about how things are being handled there, almost without question repeatedly saying the opposite of what appears to anyone paying attention to be the actual policy (the most obvious of these is the continued nonsense about “no boots on the ground” or “no combat personnel”) – it will certainly resemble them.

These are the soft lies of ramping up a war that no one wants and no one sees coming until we are trillions in debt and there are kids coming home in boxes or with vital parts missing.

What makes this worse than even those conflicts at its origins is that there is no clear enemy. We do not know, neither does our fancy intelligence that helped usher us into the Iraq War, who the hell we’re fighting for or against. This is a fact. Pentagon officials declined on two different occasions this week to specify which groups they will work with, or where they will be located. The Russians, who have stupidly thrown themselves into this thing to prop up a doomed regime, have no idea who they are fighting. Those fighting on the ground barely know, if they know at all.

Right now there are several factions, none of which could loosely be described as an American ally or even an eventual threat to the United States, perpetually fighting – door to door and street to street – in Syria. There are “rebels”, who are made up of ISIS fighters and al Qaeda and Saudis and Kurds and Turks, and on “the other side” there are Syrian defense fighters at the behest of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and next to them Iranian-backed soldiers of fortune, and a different faction of al-Qaeda, and from what I see on CNN, thrown into the sinkhole, is a cadre of free-lance Americans who are playing Cowboys and Indians because their penises are too small or their girlfriend left them or McDonald’s isn’t hiring.

Syria right now makes Viet Nam and Iraq look sane.

Let me write again: This is a big mistake.

The announcement this week (and by announcement, I mean more bullshit that is nowhere near what is actually happening, which is likely ten-times worse and coming in about two months too late) that 50 or so “special operators” will be in country to “advise” and “deploy” and “recon” and all the other shuck-and-jive we’ve heard from the Westmorelands and Wolfowitzs who foolishly lead their charges into damnation.

A glaring example of this is the combat soldier killed in combat while carrying out a combat mission in Iraq, which ignited nearly a week of yammering out of the Pentagon about how he really wasn’t in combat. This is what our greatest war criminal, Lyndon Baines Johnson would have called “a riddle wrapped in an enigma” before he sent thousands of American kids to die in a jungle against their will for nothing.

Senior White House “officials” and Pentagon spokesmen echoed the mantra that these troops will be deployed for less than 60 days at a time, and then this nugget: “We will not be establishing our own, U.S.-led headquarters … we will go to where they are. Our vision, at least at the outset, is for them to go for small amounts of time and to one location. I don’t anticipate they’ll be moving from place to place with regularity. They are not going to be out and about to advise and assist in the way we are in Iraq. This is to get guys on the ground and get eyes on … to see what more is possible. This is a start.”

Oh, it’s a start all right. Like Kennedy’s set of advisors and Mission Accomplished; the usual fog of war that takes our money and our youth and our legitimacy; we’re no longer legitimate, if we ever were, or at least not since WWII. We have no international voice that really matters, and this myth keeps us from admitting that not everything that happens everywhere is our business and that barely anything that happened in Viet Nam and Iraq was of vital or any defensive interest to this country.

We do not know, neither does our fancy intelligence that helped usher us into the Iraq War, who the hell we’re fighting for or against.

It is a lie. It is a dangerous, unholy lie, and we keep hearing it, and now we hear it from our anti-war president, the one I have championed for his previously smart and cautious Middle East policy; one that does not repeat the mistakes of centuries of over-zealousness by nations trying to quell centuries of blood-lust.

But that is over now. Barack Obama has begun the path for which he was definitely not elected. And trust me, whether it is Hillary Clinton or whatever war puppet the Republicans spat out, it will be far worse.

Barack Obama, September, 2013: “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Maybe they’re wearing sneakers.

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Detroit Free Press Interview With James Campion – Transcript

Interview – Transcript  

James Campion, author of Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon
Brian McCollum /Detroit Free Press – October, 20, 2015

Brian McCollum: Hey, James. Really great to speak with you. Just read the book and enjoyed it. It was personally resonant to me because not only do I write about music in Detroit, but I’m from Charlotte and I worked at the Observer. You wrote about your time spent researching this mystery behind the song “Detroit Rock City” and working with people from that paper like Marie David. I’m not positive… when would this have been, when you were dealing with her?KogGoOL-50


James Campion: Last year.  2013 into… I pushed it as far as I can go – I think I sent the final version of the manuscript in February, so I want to say through last holidays into the beginning of 2015, yeah.


Did you ever meet her? I may have known her. Is she young? Because I was at the Observer in the early 90s, so it’s been awhile.


She did not sound too young, but I did not meet her and I’m bad at guessing ages even when I am in the same room with someone. We spoke mainly on the phone and through email. The only people I met were the people at the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, they were very nice. I flew down there last October. My parents live there. They’ve been down there since the 80s. I stayed with them for a couple of days and they drove me over to the state building at the capitol and I spent probably a whole afternoon and another morning going through microfiche and any other archived material from 1975 trying to find some semblance of a story that might have… my hope was to find the actual story that Paul Stanley might have been reading on an accident he cites as the inspiration for his song, “Detroit Rock City”, that was the dream. I thought for sure I’d stumble across this thing, “Teen dies on the way to KISS concert,” and Paul goes, “Oh, I’m gonna’ write this song,” They’ll have the name in the article and that will be a great ending to my book, which became Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon. But it eluded me, and I was able to… as you said, you read it… I pulled up about six or eight names that it could have been based on age and proximity to those concerts, the dates – a couple of people that worked for the band helped me by saying “It wasn’t ‘75 it was ‘74.” I went back in… it was quite a run. Everybody was so helpful, Marie specifically, she went back in twice for me and got me everything relevant.


Gosh, where to even start?  It’s a complicated… it almost seems it became this obsessive quest for you in a sense to track down this teeny nugget of information that’s kind of been lost to time in a lot of ways. Let me start with this… What is your sense of how well known this anecdote was in the first place? I guess the KISS die-hards would know this, this idea that “Detroit Rock City” was actually inspired by an incident somewhere down South. Did you get a sense of fairly conventional wisdom?  Because it was news to my editor. 


Yes it is. Let’s put it this way; KISS fans are nuts. I just did a podcast with a great gentlemen who does all of this KISS FAQ sites since the late ‘90s and has several books he has self-published. (Julian Gill), and we just did a podcast for an hour and he asked me the greatest minutiae questions, and I enjoyed it but you’d be amazed at the details these people absorb. I read everything that was ever written about KISS. There’s not as much as you would think, considering KISS’s popularity and impact on pop culture, even today, which was one of the motivations to do the book in the first place, but it hasn’t stopped KISS fans from filling the Internet with tons of minutia about the band and its history. When signed on with my publisher, Backbeat Books, they thought dissecting KISS and their seminal album, Destroyer was a great idea, because most KISS books are just about the makeup and merchandising, the salacious stuff. There are a couple of books where more is covered. The first place OI saw the quote was in Ken Sharp and David Leaf’s authorized biography of KISS, called Behind The Mask in 1996 when the band got back together for the reunion tour. There’s an entire quote there where Paul says, “I got the idea from this story that I heard… about a KISS fan driving to the show and loses his life… he was driving to someplace where people are celebrating life and he loses it, and that really affected me.”  Something like that. I’m paraphrasing, of course. The actual quote is in my book as well. He mentions Charlotte specifically. I should say I interviewed Paul in 2006 and he told me that it was down South. I interviewed him for an unrelated thing, a solo album he was doing then in 2006, but I was always fascinated by Destroyer and that song so I asked about it.

And then if you go online and really dig deep, like on Facebook and other places, there are people actually arguing about where it was… Ashville or Fayetteville North Carolina, Charlotte, towns around there – there is one place the woman was swearing to me, I can’t remember the town now… I wish I had the book in front of me…that the accident occurred in Fayetteville Then people from Detroit started saying no, because it’s “Detroit Rock City”, after all, why didn’t he just write “Charlotte Rock City”? Well, Charlotte is not really a rock city, per se… I think Paul really wanted to have a tribute to Detroit, because of what Detroit meant to bands like KISS and Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent. The Big 8 that used to broadcast out of Canada that really dominated Michigan and that whole area there… to Ohio, etc, and how bands really… raw bands…were accepted unequivocally, and what Cream Magazine did for those bands. I think there is something iconic, the fact they recorded their best material for Alive at Cobo Hall, all of that stuff led Paul to write about Detroit, but the incident apparently happened in the South.

Then, finally, author Jeff Suhs, who wrote a book about KISS back in the ‘90s (KISS Alive Forever) as well, he had gotten some key info from KISS’s 1974 road manager (Peter “Moose” Oreckinto when he and I were going back and forth, because I tried to get everybody’s input. Moose told Suhs he remembers hearing, not reading, about someone dying going to a concert either in Charlotte or one of the three or four cities they were in down South, so…


This was your interview with the road manager?


It was actually my discussion with Jeff Suhs, the author who had gotten that information from the road manager, the only thing the road manager said – and I was going to quote him, but this is toward the very end when the manuscript had to be in – “Look, I don’t remember anything about it, I just know I heard it. I heard about it at that point in the tour when we were down South, that someone had died driving to the concert.”small_shout


Right. Is he deceased now himself, the road manager?


No, he’s still alive. This was a recent discussion, late last year, early 2015.


Yeah, which again I’ve read, your book is just so packed with details you almost need a road map.


It’s a detective story, yeah.


Quite a mission you went on. Okay, back to my original question. It sounds like this is kind of a known thing among the real die-hard, “trainspotter” type KISS fans, but it’s not something the average joe rock fan in Detroit is going to know about, this idea that the song was inspired by someone else.


Right, or that it was inspired by a real event, because it comes on very much… I mean the record opens up with the announcement on the radio they did with the binaural recording with the radio announcing that a young man died on the way to a concert or whatever, and you hear the guy get in the car and start it up and plays “Rock and Roll All Nite” and he’s singing along on the way to the concert, and then the song starts and all of the lyrics there. It features that great middle section that Bob Ezrin ended up writing for the band that sounds almost like an aria. It’s a great rock song, but it’s also a beautiful sort of operatic melancholy tribute to no matter how young you are or how invincible you feel by rock music, there is always mortality involved, you know? And that kind of song is replete in rock history, whether it’s “Leader of the Pack” or “Wreck on the Highway”…many of them.


Yeah, Jan and Dean… Yeah. Absolutely. What was “The First Kiss”, right? The song Pearl Jam remade a few years back.  Yeah absolutely.


I should say this, producer Bob Ezrin admitted to me a mistake in the lyrics. The original lyric is “I’m speeding down 95” or something. They meant to say 75, since 95 is in New York and New Jersey, going up the East Coast and they were all New Yorkers. They ended up changing it on the lyrics sheet to “We’re doing 95,” which means the driver is going 95 mph. But they meant speeding down 95, when they meant 75. So that was an interesting little tidbit I learned from interviewing Bob Ezrin for the book, that they had to end up changing that in the lyrics sheet because they got the geography wrong.


Right, right. Yeah, I didn’t know that either actually. When I read that in your book, I was sitting there scratching my head like, “Well how has my brain always heard this?”  I had never even picked up on that, that they might have meant 75 here. Maybe I just, all these years, interpreted it as the speed and not the highway. But yeah, really interesting. So yeah, to dig into the story, you had gotten wind of this, or you knew of Paul Stanley’s story here, this brief backstory of the genesis of the song, which sent you… I mean why did you feel it was so important to dig up, to try and find this original incident down South? What really drove you?


It was twofold.  The first is that I’m writing a 300-plus page book on a single album, and that album’s initial song, which aside from the hit “Beth” and I guess “Shout It Out Loud”, is one of the top three songs, certainly on the album, as far as popularity in the KISS canon goes. But also it was my favorite KISS song. It was my favorite rock song, one of my favorite rock songs of the 70s. I love the opening, I love the car crash at the end, I love the middle section with the guitar solos and the harmonies; so it’s always been sort of interesting to me and I’ve always wanted to know its origins… and then when I found out it was a true story, I thought to myself, “Would any journalist or author worth his salt ignore this?” I mean, three years of my life, 300-plus pages, come on! Find out who this kid is. People talk about it as if it’s a thing, but they’ve never had a name. There was some point, I think I write about it in the afterword, I was almost convinced for about a week that Paul Stanley made it up. Because Gene and Paul make stuff up all the time, that’s the KISS thing right? Make it up, it’s a cool story. But it really did, I’m convinced it really did happen. But there was no report, and even if there was a report I’d think to myself, “In 1974, would anyone really give a shit if KISS was playing a concert in the South or really anywhere?” I mean, if someone died on the way to an Elvis Presley concert, sure. Yeah, I get that. A Paul McCartney concert, maybe, but KISS was still kind of coming up, so even if this person died going there I don’t know if that would have been put in the police report or the newspaper report that they were on the way to a concert, much less a KISS concert, so that kind of made me keep going.

The second part of it is that I really think I was always intrigued by the song and the album, enough to embark on this project, for sure. I just wanted to know. I was in the final weeks of getting the manuscript done and I said, “You know, let me just go full bore as a detective…” And once people started to help me, they got excited. People in the archives departments of all these newspapers and the people at the state archives in Raleigh were rummaging… “Let us try this. What about that?” It was great! Different police guys were saying, “Well we wouldn’t have reports of that, but why don’t you try this?” So almost everybody I talked to was kind of excited by the whole search, so that kept me going, kept me motivated.


You’d also made the point in the book… You said you did have that one moment you were convinced Paul had just made it up, and then you realized why make up… If you’re going to make it up, say it was in Detroit to begin with? Why throw Charlotte into the mix? It’s almost random. He’s writing a song about Detroit. If you’re going to invent an anecdote, just say it happened in Detroit.Stanley


I went to Israel in 1996 to do research for a book I was working on around the historical Jesus (Trailing Jesus), from the standpoint of a journalist going there and trying to figure out when these incidents could have happened and how… it was always an interest of mine, like Destroyer.  One of the things I noticed, that a lot of the Jesus scholarly approaches, people outside the canonical biblical stuff, they would say there were certain sayings attributed to Jesus that makes no sense, in another words if you’re going to make up a figure that’s supposed to represent God or be the Messiah, why would he ever say “Love your enemy?” That makes no sense. If you’re going to write something, and as a writer, I understand the argument that such a statement would be considered completely antithetical to the concepts of Christianity or First Century Judaism… so biblical scholars consider that statement an authentic piece of evidence to the historical Jesus, something not made up for the purposes of starting a religion or creating a myth. And that’s how I feel about Paul’s use of Detroit as opposed to mentioning being inspired by events happening in the South. I think that was the touchstone for me. Why would Paul say Charlotte? Why not say Detroit? It’s so much cooler. It’s a great rock town. It’s a car town.  Everything about it just begs to put the song in Detroit, which he in fact did!  Right there, I said to myself, “That must have happened, or at least he thinks it happened.” But then when the road manager kind of confirmed it through this writer Jeff Suhs, he just said “Here’s a little tidbit, I just talked to Moose and he says, it was ‘74. I don’t remember if it was a guy or a girl or a car accident or a motorcycle, I don’t remember what arena we were at, but I do remember hearing about it and me and Paul talking about it very briefly, and how Paul was affected by it.”  Of course you would be, it reminded me of the stampede in Cincinnati at The Who concert, those guys were forever changed by that.


And the story that these guys were hearing was that it was an accident after the concert, right? The kid or kids on their way home from the show.


Yeah, I believe that’s true. That’s as far as I got. The song portends or eulogizes or whatever word you want to use… legendizes… the idea that the kid is speeding on the way to “the midnight show”, smoking and drinking and driving fast, singing along to the songs of the band he is going to see, very romantic in a doomed sense, which again, was perfect for ‘70s music, because that was that period where the ‘60s had kind of died and this whole peace and love and we’re gonna change the world with rock music… this was a new era to find out what that was all about; “How we can reveal the realities of life” through song. And not that KISS dealt with that much, which is one of the reasons I love that song too, and how the album Destroyer changed what KISS was about. Because normally they would just write about sex and drinking or whatever, yet here was a situation where they were writing about mortality and about how a lot of their fans think they’re invincible, but, as we know, they’re not, none of us are, and that’s always hovering over the idea of being a rebellious character. I was always fascinated by that kind of theme to the song, you know?


You know, certainly, simply because of the title alone of course, it’s been kind of adopted as something of an anthem here in Detroit. The phrase “Detroit Rock City” has really entered the lexicon as a nickname. Maybe not quite on par with Motown, but it’s something you hear pretty regularly and in a lot of different contexts up here. 


Right. I read a book called Detroit Rock City last year that I reviewed it for The Aquarian, where I’m a contributing editor here in Jersey. I think the guy’s name is Steve Miller, I don’t think it’s the same Steve Miller…


Yeah, no relation.


Right, fantastic book. And it was something important that I wanted to read, having written a book about KISS in the ‘70s and rock music and I quote Lester Bangs in the book and how much Cream magazine meant to the band, everything Detroit was about. So yeah. I mean it truly is the rock city, it’s where rock and roll became rock, that heavy MC-5; it’s where Alice Cooper went; it’s where KISS had to go when people were just booing them off stages. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, obviously, working in Detroit and writing about music, but it’s a huge part of the pantheon and an undercurrent to my book. Obviously it’s an excellent subject for a song and it has survived all of these years. It’s funny, when I was finishing up the book and I was writing the final chapter, it was last year, and the opening night of the NFL season was Giants – Lions, and as they came out of the break they were playing “Detroit Rock City” so it was still very much relevant.


Of course, it became transmogrified into a film version (Detroit Rock City), Detroit is like the Emerald City of… guys on their journey to get here…


And it’s well-earned. It’s one of those things that’s well earned and not just thrown on for effect or tourism. Detroit is the rock city of America.  It is also famous, obviously in the ‘60s, for Motown, and what that meant… but there is something… there’s a real serious… I’ve often said many times that England is given credit on a glamour or pop culture sense for punk music, but punk music was invented in The Bowery in Manhattan, and so was hip-hop in the Bronx, and disco in many ways in Hollywood, but also in New York. Hard rock, American hard rock… if it wasn’t invented in Detroit, it certainly gave it a place to gestate and explode. Even bands like Black Sabbath would go there for a respite, to really get a feel for where they were in the American idiom. They weren’t accepted that way in New York or Los Angeles, but they certainly were in Detroit, so that’s an earned moniker, Detroit Rock City, for sure.


Of course, when it was all said and done, your quest did not turn up… the story does not have a nice-pat ending. You got this handful of names, candidates I guess, of accident victims who could have been the story they heard. How confident are you that one of these names is the story really was the story they wound up hearing?NC_article_crop


Well, they’re the only ones I can honestly tell you… the only ones that were in print over any of those periods and ones that ended up in Shout It Out Loud.  I went through every KISS concert in those areas for that period of time, and those are the only accidents on record. It’s interesting because over the Thanksgiving weekend in ‘74 that they were in that swath of shows in the South that there was a spate of accidents. There were a lot. It became a story, almost in every paper, there was an eight-piece story about how an extended amount of accidents for some reason during that holiday.

This is why I’m so glad you’re doing this article, and I just mentioned this on the podcast (KISS FAQ with Julian Gil) and I was telling Julian, “If someone out there, because I know they are out there” – ‘My cousin… my friend knew a guy…’”  I tried the Internet, I tried to go on the blogs for KISS, I asked, I threw it out there to the fandom, got all of these different things… “I don’t know the name, but it was a guy, he was 25, and he was coming from…”, but nobody really gave me an actual name or place, so I couldn’t put much of those back-and-forths in the book… but I got the feeling that it’s out there and somebody knows it and they are fairly confident of it. So it would be great if you put this thing out and it made its way around the Internet and somebody saw it and said, “Wait a minute, I’ve got it!” And we can corroborate and we can see if it is true. I was going to get… I just wanted to make certain so I don’t leave you without being certain, because I want to grab the book right now…

I think the town that kept coming up is Fayetteville, North Carolina. Okay.  Here it is. Yes. That’s the one. If you type that into Google or you go on Facebook, you’ll find people that mention Fayetteville faithfully. I was told during my search, and I don’t remember who told me… I think it was… You have to remember it was 40 years ago now, next year it will be 40 years since Destroyer came out… that somewhere in the ‘90s, when it was the 30th anniversary of the thing… whatever the hell it was, the 20th… Fayetteville was really the epicenter for this rumor… there was a huge swell… there was a record store there that had a picture of the kid, or a name, or RIP, or something… of course it’s gone now. Fayetteville was the one place everything sort of comes back to. Outside of Paul’s Charlotte comment, which remember, he only says Charlotte once, he said that in Behind the Mask… He told me, “the South.” I thought it was ‘75 during the Dressed to Kill tour, and I really exhausted myself there, until I got that tidbit from Moose, through Jeff Suhs, who was not with the band in ‘75, he had injured himself and was not able to… he blew part of his hand off with their crude pyrotechnics and was unable to continue… and so he would not have been with the band after that initial ‘74 tour. In my mind, it would have had to have been then, and Fayetteville seems to be the place that everybody…


Yeah I mean especially with what you just said about the 20th anniversary stuff, you would think… Here’s a possible lead I can chase. I actually dated a girl in Fayetteville who I’m still very close to… who grew up there during that time period and was very much part of the teenage rock and roll world there. So I’ll pick her brain, actually, and see if she can put some feelers out.  She may at least know somebody who knows.  I’ll try that route, actually, after we hang up. 


Oh that would be great. I hope you don’t mind, I’ve been taking…


I may get roped into this as much as you were, if I’m not careful. My own obsessive tendencies will have me hooked on this detective history.


Well that’s why we’re journalists, or like to write about stuff.  This is eminently fascinating, it does have a sort of American pop culture aspect to it, it is 40 years ago now, plus KISS has a lot of mysteries behind it where they just make up stories for fun. That was the hardest part about writing the book was getting through all of the treacle and the impenetrable KISS facade.  That’s one of the reasons why… even though I really attempted to get their quotes down, you know, Peter and Ace were writing memoirs and I got a lot of deflection from Paul and Gene, but I decided to just quote them from the period to keep them in the period, and I interviewed all of the people around the making of the album because their perspectives were very sober, they seemed very excited to talk about it.  Mainly because they’re not inundated all of the time talking about KISS, this was a chance for them to come out of the shadows of this hug thing called KIS, you know?

I just wanted to let you know for the last ten minutes or so I have been taping what you and I were talking about because you’ve excited me to try and go back in and rediscover some of this stuff, so by talking to you it’s almost like I’m remembering some of the things, and so it will just be for me to review, if you don’t mind.


Yeah sure, no problem. Yeah, you’re right. A lot of the band’s mythology is just

stuff these guys have just made up. Gene and Paul are such great marketing brains. And they know how to sort of have fun with the press, and I’m sure a lot of stuff… Yeah as you said, going back to those contemporaries, you know the stuff they would have said at that time I would think should be fairly reliable, you would assume.


Because for the most part they were still nobodies.


Right, exactly, that’s what I mean. What motivation would they really have had to… fake it in that particular way?


There’s still bravado there, but it was almost a desperate bravado. Now you get this stuff from them about the early days “We knew it was good.” No, they didn’t! They were scared shitless, and they ran to Bob Ezrin and said, “Please help us, our studio albums are awful, they sound like shit, it takes us two weeks to record them, we had to record a live album but 75% of it isn’t even live.” And this is the argument I make in the book, and I know it’s dangerous because KISS fans are very possessive, but I’m very hard on them with the early stuff because I think it’s true, I don’t think they really reached their potential until Destroyer. And unfortunately they never repeated what they did on that record. They went back to recording balls-out songs about sex and everything after that… But on Destroyer you’ve got everything from Greek mythology to sadomasochism to torch songs to beseeching, you’ve got introspection on death. This stuff is not in any other KISS record.destroyer_cover


Did you try and get the guys in the band for this?


Yeah, like I’ve mentioned they cold-shouldered me. When I was working on the book furiously, I was deep in it, talking to the engineers and designers and talking to the guy who painted the cover, Ken Kelly… I kept sending out feelers. I know some people who work for Ace Frehley, he was writing his memoir at the time I was working on the book, now I understand they tell me he’s writing another one… Peter Criss, who lives about 30 miles from me, was writing his memoir and he was going through the breast cancer thing… Gene and Paul are just… unless they’re promoting something or they own it or they can make money on it, they just don’t want to know.  And I understand that. I’m working on a Warren Zevon thing right now, because I love Warren and I think he deserves a book, and I’m working on that with the same publisher (Backbeat Books), and I’m getting a lot of blowback from people around the family and I’m thinking, “What am I doing exactly?”  I’m trying to give him his just desserts. They want to get him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The guy’s been dead for 12 years, he hasn’t been famous for about 30… It’s the strangest thing when people sort of hold you off. I understand I’m kind of making some money I guess you could say, or whatever, off of the legacy of KISS, but you’re not allowed to write history books about rock music? It’s crazy. Without everybody having their hands in your pockets… So they kind of stonewalled me here and there. I was discussing this with a good friend of mine who works for Rutgers University, he works in the archives department, he’s a library scientist and he went to school for history. He said “Look, if you’re going to be a real historian, and this sounds like a history book, you can’t be talking to people 40 years after the fact, they don’t remember. They say things, they make it up, the fish is always bigger that they caught, you know.  You gotta’ go back to the magazine articles and the interviews and you gotta’ get their comments then because that will take the person back.”  And he was right, because I really do think that’s the best part of the book.


Oh I agree, absolutely. And sorry to hear that about the Warren Zevon people.  It’s weird sometimes, after these celebrity deaths. The family dynamics get really bizarre and people get really possessive and protective and God knows what agendas each…


…family member…


…and sibling and daughter and whoever had, so…


Yeah, I didn’t expect that from them, so far. But I’m just beginning and I’m hearing it from people close to them, so I don’t know. I hold out hope for the project. I got to know Zevon’s ex-wife after she wrote the book about him a couple of years after he died and she was always very friendly.  Anyway, I don’t want to get into that project, but there is a bit of the overly protective when it comes to celebrity profiles or histories… And I’ve said, I’ll send you the essays I’m working on, and the research I’ve done, I’ve had a couple of his really close friends, his stage managers contact me… It’s still happening, so I don’t want to completely whitewash it… but I’m always stunned when it comes to that. You would think you would want more stuff out there. I understand if they think it’s shit… But the other thing is that I had no interest during the writing of this book of getting the approval of KISS, none at all.  I did not want to kiss any of their asses, no pun intended. I tried to write a history book. I tried to write the best I could about this album I loved. I thought it was underrated and needed a plug, and then I got caught up in it and I realized how fascinating it was.  It’s so cool we’re talking about this particular story, because I was hoping, really, a dark macabre part of me was hoping that somebody would write about this or it would get it out in the ether and I would get the answers I need. I don’t even care if it didn’t make it into the book. Of course, I was torn… “Watch, a week after the book goes to press, someone calls me with proof!” I don’t even care anymore, I just want to know.


 Right. And there’s always the chance of a second edition or whatever, or a re-print, or whatever they call it in the publishing world. 


Well, I guess if you throw something against the wall… This is not the same thing in any way, shape, or form… I’m always amazed when there’s a missing person… especially a kid, God forbid, or something, and the parents get on TV, and I think to myself, “If my kid was missing, I wouldn’t be able to get out of a room, you’d have to peel me off the ground with a shovel.”  But I understand the reason they go out there is because once it’s out there, now you’ve got thousands and thousands of people on the case, people who are looking and wondering and seeing who looks suspicious… so to have articles, to have the book out there and have people go, “Wait a minute, this guy’s wrong, it was this.” Good. Good. I hope that happens. I want to get to the bottom of this, for no other reason but it’s just haunted me, it really has.


Was it frustrating… sorry my computer is screwing up again… there we go… temporary glitch… Was it kind of disappointing, you said it was toward the end of the manuscript, this final rush to get this name; was it disappointing to not have nailed it down, or do you feel it made the book better in some sense to leave the mystery still dangling… just speaking as a writer, was it frustrating?


Yeah. I’ll go with the latter, because it sounds better. Sure, it’s nice to have the mystery still floating around, and I’m sure it was nice to at least put some names out there. I think I was right to do it. I battled with it because I don’t want these poor people who died, and I know it was a long time ago, to be some sort of afterthought in some rock song, or in some book, just to get people talking. But I also thought if Paul was going to write a tribute to someone, I think he genuinely wanted to write a tribute to one of the fans, a fan who died, then I think if he could have put the name in there, if he could have remembered it, I think he would have. I asked a couple of people who knew Paul, and they told me this. Because I said, let me at least get Paul back, because I interviewed him years before, and they said, “He doesn’t know any name.  And he probably didn’t read about it. He heard it and was inspired to write this tribute.” It was one of those things… any songwriter, floats in, you go, “Holy shit, that happened? I gotta write about it.” To his credit, he did a really nice job of it, and Bob Ezrin made it into a true rock aria. But to me, as a writer, I was, and I say I use the word haunted… I am haunted by the name and that moment, because I can’t get out of my mind in a weird sort of way… because I do dig drama and as an avid reader I do look back and say, “I can imagine this kid in a car driving, maybe having a joint, maybe he was distracted, maybe he was in a fight with his girlfriend, maybe he was just tired driving 60 miles to see his favorite band and he rolls the car…”  And there but for the grace of God go I, you know? How many times have I had one too many or drove too rapidly or was screwing around, distracted and BAM!

I lost a friend of mine in high school, Sheldon Broner, and wrote a piece about him years ago for some compendium (In Our Own Words). They asked me to write about my generation, which is kind of a lost… I was born in ’62, so I’m at the butt end of the Boomers, but I’m not really a Boomer, because to me a Boomer would be somebody who got naked at Woodstock or protested the Vietnam War, I was seven years old in ‘69, six years old that summer, so I don’t really fit there and I’m not really a Gen-X’er, so I’m kind of in the middle… I remember the Toure book about Prince (I Would Die For You), and he named the generation, I can’t remember what he said… So there’s a part of me that kind of feels like it’s a tribute to Sheldon in a way because when I wrote about him it was all about him dying in 1979 and… look at all of the things he’s missed! And even when I wrote that piece in 1998 or ‘99, it was towards the end of the millennium… we didn’t even have half of what we have now. Tweeting, smart phones, social media… the world is completely different, never mind how different it was in the ‘80s and all of the stuff he missed. So I kind of feel that way, this kid who died on the way to the KISS concert was my age or a little older, and he never got a chance to live his life, so all of that stuff haunts me in a way and I would have liked to at least get the name out there so it kind of finished Paul’s work in a way, in an artistic sense.


I get what you’re saying about that sensitivity of… the battle of do I do it, do I publish these names or not? But you know, it was a long a time ago, and frankly whoever this actual individual was… they were a KISS fan. I can’t imagine they would have a problem with being the guy who inspired one of the band’s big songs.kiss1976


Right. But if you have six or eight or twelve names, because it’s almost like… you know, when they were trying to figure out who the Boston Strangler was, there were several names. Even to this day, for instance Jack the Ripper: There are history books that they say “This guy was Jack the Ripper.”  What if he’s not Jack the Ripper? Then it’s horrible, it’s in a book! So if I had the one name, yeah, but the fact that I put names in there that might have been Joe Schmo going to get a carton of milk and he finds himself in a KISS book… maybe he would be flattered or humbled to be in any kind of book… but then there’s another part of me that feels… Am I exploiting that?  It’s a small part of it because I think in the end journalism kind of wills out… You’re writing a book and you need to get to the bottom of it and I feel like that was a big part of what made that album, certainly that song mystical, so how could I not at least try?


Right. Yeah, and those kinds of things are just a gut call, you really have to think… “Alright, it has been four decades.” If you were talking about people who died five years ago, it just feels different, you know what I mean? And that’s just the reality of it, for better or worse, you know.


Right. You can joke about the Kennedy assassination now, but you couldn’t do it in 1965.


Yeah, same school of thought I guess. So, I’m just kind of scrolling through to see if there are any quick questions to snag you on.


And you can e-mail me too, you have me e-mail if something pops up tomorrow when you’re working on the piece or whatever.


Yeah, why don’t we reconnect, let me kind of absorb what I’ve got here so far and figure out when we’re gonna run the story, I’m guessing maybe this Sunday, so I will keep you posted. But yeah I definitely plan on touching base with you again. I also like this idea of this story also serving as this callout… “Hey, if you have any clues or leads, we’re all ears!” And I’ll call my ex this afternoon and actually see what she might know. She’s actually… she herself has lived in Charlotte now for 15-20 years. But she grew up in Fayetteville and she still has family there, friends, and was certainly around in the ‘70s during that time period. So yeah, let me see what she might know.


I’ll tell you this though, that’s what I’m saying.  I’m willing to go on record that Fayetteville is the ground zero of this story. At this point, I would be shocked if it’s not. I believe they either played the day after or the day before, so that makes sense if they’re in Charlotte and Paul Stanley reads or hears, “Hey man, last night, after the gig I heard some guy died.”  He says Charlotte because maybe he heard about it in Charlotte because the day before it’s Fayetteville and then… the only mentions anywhere, and the story I heard about that mysterious record store that used to have that RIP or a picture of the kid… it might have just been some guy they were making fun of and just threw it up there… my point is that it definitely happened. There was some scuttle about it, I got it third person, I didn’t get it first-hand, and it was four decades ago and all that other stuff, but I would say Fayetteville was our ground zero for this story.


Okay, very interesting.  And you’re right, you can totally see how… especially back in those days, we were talking to people on pay phones. There’s no Internet, you don’t have the cable television station to turn on in your hotel room… Everything is just kind of second and third hand info that’s getting passed along and it’s very easy to see how he would get Charlotte into his head even if it were the show the next night or whatever.


I looked at newspaper reports the weeks after. My other thought was… Okay, there’s no way you would report on an accident and know right away that the kid was on his way or back or to a concert.  Whatever concert!  But there may be a story weeks later that they do an investigation and the family says “You know, he was on his way to a concert.” Even if I got that I would have assumed it was a KISS concert.  I would have, simply because of the dates that I had of their shows, I had all of the dates of every show they played, and the times, and how far the accidents were from the places. And as you know, it is convoluted, but that’s the way it kind of happened to me, I tried to trace how many miles, when the person would have had to leave, when the accident happened… so all of that stuff, I kind of became a macabre detective in that sense to try to piece this together. And it all kind of had to connect together. If there was any mention of a concert, or even on his way to a show, or was coming back. That’s why I included names of some of the ones that there were friends in the car, because very rarely does a person go alone to a concert, especially young kids. So, if I noticed there was an accident with two or three young kids… which were quite a few… I tried to include it as long as it was within a certain amount of miles… because I’ve driven an hour and a half to two hours to see a concert when I was a kid. Hell, I did it, so if people say, “Why would they…?” Of course you would. Especially KISS fans! And especially KISS fans then. They were real die-hards at the very beginning, people who just thought that was the coolest thing ever, these guys with their faces painted blowing fire out of their mouths! They didn’t sell a damn record, but people did kill themselves to go see them, no pun intended.


Yeah. I think in addition to Detroit picking up on KISS pretty early on, I’ve always had this sense that they built a Southern base pretty quickly as well in the early days. The South, or at least certain parts of the South, jumped on the KISS thing sooner than other markets. 


Yes. Excellent point, I forgot about that. I have a Facebook page for the book, Shout It Out Loud Facebook page. So I’ve been getting “likes” over the few months leading up to it, posting interview clips I did and some interviews I did with people interviewing me, or audio clips of me interviewing Bob Ezrin or whomever, and I would say most of the people from the South and the mid-West.  What KISS did was they were the one band that went everywhere. They didn’t care. Their first tour they called the Star of David tour because they would drive to one town and then a completely out of the way and then back again… it made no sense, they would just go wherever anybody would have them. It’s a real grassroots… enviable thing. It wasn’t the best business model, but they did it.  What are those places? Places like Fayetteville, who the hell plays Fayetteville, North Carolina?  But they did it regularly. That’s why it was so vexing, they did it three times on three different tours and I had to keep looking, so people really dug them down there, absolutely.

But I would say Detroit, more than any other place… all of the guys in KISS, everybody, and Bob Ezrin who had camped out in Detroit because of his work with Alice Cooper… unequivocally everybody agrees that that was the place that embraced KISS because they embraced all that kind of ballsy, no holds barred, we’re gonna give you everything we got for an hour and a half – two hours, burning the place down rock… they really were attracted to that. And that’s what Lester Bangs… To quote a great Lester Bangs piece he wrote about heavy metal or heavy rock, and he was equating it to the “rattly clankings” of those people working in the assembly lines building these cars… and they just related to this heavy, literally heavy metal, rock, this is before the term was coined officially… And that makes perfect sense to me, and KISS would always go there as a haven… whenever they were booed or kicked off of a tour or having problems connecting with other places… I would definitely say the South and Detroit were the two regions they would always find solace.


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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

Ten Hours of Political Theater On Your Dime

Holy mother of tap-dancing, four-on-the-floor, zippy-doo-da Christ!

What went on in the people’s capitol yesterday for eleven fucking hours – ELEVEN FUCKING HOURS – is unequivocally the stupidest thing I have ever covered in the 18 long years of penning this column. That is no minor statement. In fact, it may be the craziest thing I have ever written anywhere, and under the influence of all measure of substance, mind you, and that in itself is so off-the-charts bizarre it cannot seriously be dissected by anyone not considered a blithering idiot. Yet, it is the truth.


I am seriously considering having my attorney look into a possible damages claim against the United States Congress for this brutal assault on my central nervous system and setting the sun on the last vestige of faith that I’ve barely nurtured in what I can only guess is a democratic legal system.

Former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was used by both frothing Republicans and speechifying Democrats as a political football from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm on the 22nd day of October, 2015. Clinton merely appeared to be a bystander, occasionally smirking and always having a snappy answer to long-winded and barely coherent points that seemed to be conjured by a team of chimps on mead. I only watched about half of it and I still have no idea what the point of it was, beyond a fairly decent parody of the “Who Stole The Tarts” court scene from Alice in Wonderland in which sentence is rendered before a verdict as matter of protocol. I once was so drunk in high school I fell asleep in the street under an automobile and I think that was less an affront to my brain cells than this half-assed con-artistry.

I think anyone who watched all of it should never be allowed near children.

If this is how we attempt to drill and convict alleged political criminals now, then I think the ninth, and if there is anything resembling justice to the vocation of journalism it will be the last Benghazi Investigative Committee, will take the next few months to return my tax dollars ($4.8 million and counting – in fact Benghazi investigations have cost in excess of $15 million) for this boondoggle and get onto investigating real stuff, like the U.S. military’s murder of innocent children in Iraq, the continued rampant corruption throughout our entire banking system, and what the hell is going on in this infinite drone-attack policy by the current administration.

Because whatever the hell this thing was, it was a bust. If its goal was to take down Madam Shoo-in, and the cat was left to run wild out of the bag for the last couple of weeks by several committee insiders, all of them Republicans so embarrassed by this steaming pile of bullshit they just came right out and said it was a political wing of the Republican National Committee, then it failed. It not only failed, it turned what at best has been a questionable last few months of stumbling about by Clinton as a candidate, and left her the most sympathetic figure in the last half century of American politics.

Clinton’s testimony ended up to be longer than any Benghazi witness (all of three) in the past year. It was twice as long as her previous two appearances in front of such a committee and even according to statements made afterwards by its chairman, South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy, it revealed nothing new. Hell, this whole ridiculous “investigation” has gone on longer than any in the history of the nation, including investigations on the murder of two presidents, the Pear Harbor attack, the Iran/Contra affair, the 9/11 commission, and the one that kicked major ass for a change, the Watergate hearings. At one point, somewhere around 8:42 pm the woman completely lost her voice.

Now, I am not saying sometime two years ago when this was something of a story, we could swallow this nonsense, but now, in an election cycle with what looks like an unstoppable candidate, it is pure political theater. When you consider what horrible shit this government has perpetuated on the American people over the past half-century of my life, this was not only excessive, it was tantamount to a beheading for scratching someone’s bumper.

Take for example the committee to investigate a far larger fuck-up; the October, 1983 Beirut barracks bombing (33 years ago on the day I send this to press, in fact) that left 241 American service personnel dead, after, mind you, the U.S. Embassy there had been bombed five months earlier in which 61 people (17 Americans) lost their lives. Can you imagine if Clinton had been Secretary of State then and these assholes ran that investigation? She would have likely had to do this for sixty hours in a sleep-deprivation tank after chewing six tabs of high grade acid.

But even if Clinton were guilty as sin, which from what evidence I have seen, she is not, or maybe she is, no one seems to know, least of all this committee of the damned, than this is beyond crazy, it is criminal.

No one got to the bottom of anything for any dead Americans. It failed. Miserably.

And I am sure some lunatic is going to say somewhere on some right wing outpost of logic that this was not a mere political ploy that backfired and turned a victim into an even more powerful force of nature, and so I ask them why did the committee, which did not ask a single question about the infamous e-mails (the entire point of dragging this craziness in front of us again) until after seven pm and mostly during the eight o’clock hour – or in the parlance of our times, prime-time? And even when the rubber hit the road it was a swerving mish-mosh of gobbledygook and a ton of fast and loose from Clinton.

But none of it, absolutely none of it amounts to a hill of beans. No one got to the bottom of anything for any dead Americans. It failed. Miserably.

Unless, of course, you work for the Clinton campaign; it was an excellent display of endurance for a candidate who surely should be asked about her age and the stamina of the office. I doubt highly LaBron James would have taken that much shit for that long.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

Who The Hell Wants To Be Speaker of the House?

You may have heard that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the second most powerful post in the United States government, John Boehner has quit. For the first time in the 226 years of the U.S. Congress a speaker is resigning without either getting a better gig or being kicked out. Usually this type of job is a keeper and those who are fortunate enough to secure it hang onto it like grim death. So then the question remains; why did Boehner walk away from this austere position – incidentally whilst joyfully singing “Zippity Doo Dah” – offering no real explanation beyond repeatedly stating “It’s time.”

House Speaker Boehner Holds Weekly News Conference

There was some talk immediately following the news that it had something to do with the Pope’s visit, which is nice, but goofy. The other less goofy one was his not having the votes to be re-elected, which turned out to be false as it was the previous times this was broached. Another theory revolved around the more extreme Right Wing of his caucus threatening to shut down the government again over the funding of Planned Parenthood under what could only be described by people with a grasp of the facts as anti-abortion falderal. And although that one turned out to also be less than the truth for now, there was a kernel of it in there.

While Boehner, who vehemently denied there was ever any real motivation to defend PP or at least to halt the entire running of the people’s business over a $500 million purse, the very notion of this political suicide is symptomatic of his tenure as speaker. Since the 2010 TEA Party insurgence into congress, the second Republican wave in less than 20 years that put him in charge, Boehner has become the least effective speaker ever. This is not high school hyperbole like “This is the worst tragedy ever!” or “Worst president ever!”, but fact. The 112th through the 114th versions of our legislative branch has done less in its allotted time to govern than any other before.

Boehner’s biggest issue was with the so-called Freedom Caucus of about 50 for whom the idea of governing is an anathema, which I am not willing to deride since that is the reason they were sent to Washington by voters; to halt the march of big government and curtail the tyrannical rule of Monarch Obama and his Muslim hordes. And if that is why they are there, then one has to applaud their gusto, for it has been the sad storyline for centuries that members of congress are elected on some platform they have no intention of forwarding or their ideas are crushed within the first year in D.C and they become part of the very problem they were elected to solve.

However, as the speaker has recently stated on his “I’m going to bury everyone who screwed me” tour recently, the members of the Freedom Caucus promised stuff that they cannot deliver on and thus he is straddled with the anger and disappointment of an easily gullible electorate that believes shutting down the government, filibustering or taking empty votes would somehow override a second-term president without veto-proof control of the U.S. Senate – basic eighth grade civics most Americans who yell and scream and about things they don’t understand, like the Constitution, should know is impossible.

This is why over fifty-percent of the Republican primary polls insist on a presidential candidate with no political background – a doctor, a failed CEO, and a TV star; all promising crazy things that cannot be accomplished under the current structure of U.S. law. And this is precisely why this week Boehner’s proposed replacement, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy removed his name from consideration in front of a stunned and angry gaggle of Republican congressmen and then told the National Review that conservative members wanted things they couldn’t deliver and maybe the party has to hit rock bottom before things improve.

McCarthy is an interesting failure here, mainly because in 2010 he was one of the leading recruiters of the very people he is now calling out for scuttling his chance at speaker. More than anyone in congress he led the charge, financially and otherwise, to bring in candidates with little to no experience in governing, compromise or debate in the structure set up by the third incarnation of our Continental Congress in 1789.

Usually this type of job is a keeper and those who are fortunate enough to secure it hang onto it like grim death.

Of course this seemed dubious to members of the press and as rumors swirled of an alleged affair haunting McCarthy, word began to leak that it was actually moderate Republicans, or at least not those in the intransigent Freedom Caucasus, who began hectoring McCarthy to step aside after he unconscionably told a national FOX News audience that the entire Benghazi Investigative Committee (what is it now eight or nine versions now?) was a secret Republican plot to besmirch former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her bid for president, which unintendedly reinvigorated her stumbling campaign and pretty much neutered the whole idea of the thing.

This chaos has predictably further emboldened the Freedom Caucasus, who spent two days leaking notions that McCarthy was not conservative enough and did not have the stomach to bury the government over Planned Parenthood or any other election year craziness that might come up, which certainly means John Boehner, seemingly a socialist hippie to them, would have zero support to hang on until another “suitable” candidate arises. And so now a man for whom this gig became untenable is stuck for the foreseeable future, which includes another debt-ceiling fight and budget vote on December 11.

A panicked Boehner reached out to former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan to save the day. Ryan, one of the brightest and most stable of Republican legislators to this point has no interest in dooming his political career taking a thankless job in which he will be publically flogged by half-witted dreamers. And while Ryan is an admitted Ayn Rand political theorist, (Rand makes the Freedom Caucus look like a Liberal think-tank) he is first and foremost a pragmatist, and this is no climate for such an animal.

And so who wants to be speaker of the house? Who wants to be two heartbeats from the president and lord over the making of law and handling a multi-trillion dollar national budget? Who wants to lead the leaderless and deal with a president who does not have to be re-elected?


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Aquarian Weekly




James Campion




The party will soon be over for ISIS. This half-cocked theological throw-back had a shelf life anyway, and it has certainly gone on longer than most sane people could have predicted. But this is the beginning of the end; the autumn of 2015. Mark it down. Countries with more at stake than the United States are now finally getting involved. This was only a matter of time, and many factors are in play.

The most important of these is the Middle East Either/Or Theory. Although well-documented in the annals of Western history since WWI, this “theory” has gone unnamed except for this space. We have written extensively about how things have gone “either/or” in the region with whatever “country” England decided to stake-out and name for purposes of stealing its resources, namely oil: Either you get a dictator in charge you can prop-up and pay-off to do your bidding and keep the peace or you get chaos. Secular democracies are a pipe dream made up by hippies and people on Twitter. The Either/Or Theory is immutable, something deranged simpletons like Dick Cheney failed to grasp at our eventual peril and bankruptcy.

The Either/Or Theory however has not escaped Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’s going with Either and he’s doing it in Syria.

Russia’s latest “involvement” in Syria has been ongoing since Putin stepped in to order fellow dictator Bashar al-Assad to halt his use of chemical weapons against rebel forces in 2013. This prevented the U.S. from having to police another civil war thanks to President Barack Obama’s asinine Bushian “red-line” bullshit in 2012. Putin could not have us messing with his dictator, and temporarily put the kibosh on Assad’s trampling of international law. Things have not changed much on the ground since. Lots of slaughter, refugees and other civil war stuff.

But make no mistake, Syria is Russia’s problem. Russia made it, supports it, and needs it to be an Either rather than an Or.  It is Russia’s ally and Russia’s neighboring headache. Look at it as one Black Sea away, not unlike the few miles of Atlantic Ocean was our issue with Cuba.
For all his bluster, Putin has been consistent about the Middle East since the 2003 Iraq War, something he was vehemently against since it put the United States military in his backyard trying to for all intents in purposes build a democratic alliance through force. Putin enjoyed Saddam Hussein’s regime and its oil and its stability against Iran and most of the lunacy of the theocratic world so close to home. We fucked that up for him. And now, at least according to his self-aggrandizing, cowboy Reaganesque “We are the world’s policemen” speech at the U.N. this past week, he will not let Syria go the same way.

This is bad news for ISIS.

But it is also bad news for Russia. More on that later.

On top of plummeting oil prices, which has crippled Russia for the past year due to the fact that the 80 percent of the country’s flimsy economic solvency depends on it, Putin was also motivated by Turkey’s all-in to destroy ISIS after one of its ubiquitous suicide bombers killed 32 people in a Turkish town bordering Syria on July 20. More stressing for Putin is Turkey, which refused to allow the U.S. air space to conduct military operations since before the aforementioned 2003 Iraq War, immediately reversed its position, placing another strong U.S. military presence too close for comfort. Remember, one of the key negotiations during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis between JFK and Khrushchev was America’s removal of warheads in Turkey, something then U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy covertly agreed to and then reneged.

This is all good for the U.S., which all along needed Russia and Iran to get involved in this thing for their own self interest and to avoid sending U.S troops into another unwinnable quagmire.

Obama’s ass-covering insistence that Assad be removed is tired Cold War silliness.  He needs to stop that nonsense and embrace these new events that will certainly kick ISIS out of Syria and stomp the current Or chaos in Iraq, where it will tumble into some other kind of conflict like all wars in Iraq. And this will be accomplished without U.S kids dying. Win-win. Half of Obama’s rhetoric, nah, let’s say all of that rhetoric is aimed at appeasing Saudi Arabia, which is also tiring. The Saudis have been waging a fight against Iran on the boarder there for a year now and the never-ending intertwining interests between us and that quasi-dictatorship masquerading as some kind of weird theocratic democracy is sad and pathetic and it should have no bearing on the destruction of a murdering clan disrupting things for too long.

And that brings us to Obama’s finest hour, the controversial Iran Deal, which is only controversial because people with little to no knowledge of the Either/Or Theory, basically the same idiots who screwed up Iraq in the first place, make stuff up about it. The Iran Deal has changed everything for ISIS and put some Either into the raging Or around there.

You think it is a coincidence that Putin has gotten all “world’s police” to stop the spread of terrorism the week after the U.S. Senate blocked any lane for the politically motivated and largely ignorant legislative branch of our government to halt the Iran Deal, thus putting us in a position to share intelligence and use Iran’s monumental struggle against ISIS, a Sunni-inspired insurrection, to our advantage. Read the transcript of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N the same day Obama and Putin presented their face-saving malarkey. This is a man who is embracing being a player on the world stage, instead of some state-sanctioned terrorist organization. For a long time now Iran has been moving away from the piddling PLO/Hamas type nation to one that needs to have a voice in the Or stuff going on next door.

This is all good for the U.S., which all along needed Russia and Iran to get involved in this thing for their own self interest and to avoid sending U.S troops into another unwinnable quagmire.

And not that anyone outside of Russia cares, but all of this is not a good move for Putin. Assad is on his last legs and it may be almost impossible to keep a legitimate government working in Syria past the winter. Russia now owns this country lock, stock and smoking barrel. It is a broke country, as is Iran, truth be told, and it is getting involved in something that could drag on for many years. Putin is well aware of how things went for his Soviet Union in the 1980s in Afghanistan. That was the beginning of the end for that particular experiment and my guess is that it will likely be a bad move here.

But ultimately it is a worse move for ISIS, which has bitten far more off than it can chew and will become a road apple for whatever international shenanigans will keep the air-tight Middle East Either/Or Theory in practice.



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YOGI – 1925-2015‏

Aquarian Weekly

James Campion

YOGI – 1925-2015

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was the best catcher in the history of Major League Baseball. He won ten titles, three Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, finishing no lower than fourth in that category for eight years, and in 1950, maybe his finest non-MVP year, (.322, 28 homers, 124 RBI, 116 runs scored) he struck out a ridiculously low 12 times in 656 plate with an almost .400 on-base percentage. He was a magnificent defensive catcher (never made an error in 75 World Series games) and game manager, calling two no-hitters (Allie Reynolds) and Don Larson’s perfect game, the only such feat in post season WS history. All the while being an iconic World Series (WS) figure: Yogi is the first player to hit a pinch-hit homer, the only player to ever hit two homers in a game seven (1956), there when Jackie Robinson stole home, Bill Mazeroski’s WS winning home run (the most important dinger in the game’s history) sailed over his head, and Sandy Amoros’s running grab, maybe the most famous catch in WS history that helped win the Brooklyn Dodgers their only title in 1955, was off Yogi’s bat.


He was a philosopher non-parallel, his famous “Yogi-isms” are quoted more than anything uttered by any other athlete ever; and by dignitaries, presidents, movie stars, university professors, cab drivers and street vendors home and abroad. He was beloved by everyone, which is perhaps the toughest achievement of any of what is written above.

But around the Campion household, Yogi was always simply dad’s favorite player. And he is who I called the day he passed at 90.

Why was Yogi your favorite player?

It’s a funny story. I had gone to the game with my father and after the game we went outside and there was a vendor selling these big buttons with players on it and I wanted a Joe DiMaggio button. I mean, Joltin’ Joe was it then, but they were all out of Joe DiMaggio buttons. But I wanted a button! So I told my dad, “I want this one…Yogi Berra.” And from that time on I followed Yogi, from the outfield to catching, and then all of his time outside the game. I was all in. And for me it became a way to be different. I stood out because of Yogi. Everyone went on and on…”DiMaggio, DiMaggio…DiMaggio.” I didn’t go that route. Once that button was pinned on my shirt, I was all about Yogi.

How old were you?

Let’s see…I must have been eight or nine. Yogi was playing the outfield then. (Berra didn’t become a full-time catcher until 1949.) After that I would take the D train from 138th street where I lived on the Grand Concourse to the Stadium on 161st, the next stop past that was the Polo Grounds on 155th street. Two ten-minute stops, two major league ballparks. I knew the Yankees bat boy and he would let us in after school. We’d walk in with him, because he’d get there by the second inning. There were other batboys, but one of them was our friend. But mostly I watched all the games on television, a little Emerson or Philco or whatever the hell it was, and kept score of every play. I didn’t have an official score card, I just made up my own.

So that was during the greatest run of any franchise, from the late 40s into the 50s.

Sure, I saw all those games. They were all day games then, so I’d pick them up later when I was in school. That’s where the phrase “Five O’clock Lightning” came from. The game would get into the eighth or ninth around five o’clock and the other team’s pitcher would tire or a lesser relief pitcher would come in and it would be “Katy bar the door.”

Did any of your other friends like Yogi the way you did?

Nah, only me. They all liked the stars. Everyone loved DiMaggio. And they loved the big sluggers like (Tommy) Hendrick and (Charlie) Keller. But Yogi was the most important cog. He won a lot of games for the Yankees with his defense and handling the pitchers, but also his clutch hits. He seemed to get the most important hits in big games. He was always fun to watch hit. When Yogi was coming up, you’d stop what you were doing. He was something.

Okay, so you get this big button and become a Yogi fan, but soon this guy turns into arguably the best catcher in the game, winning three MVPs and ten titles, more than anyone other than Bill Russell in the history of American sport. I mean, you must have realized at some point you backed the right horse.

He was incredible. He was a great player. You’d don’t get in fourteen World Series and win ten of them without being great. And of course all the no-hitters he caught. He was also a character. The Yankees had a lot of them then, Phil Rizzuto was a character, Mantle and Whitey Ford. That was a time to be a Yankee fan. We won every year. Never got tired of that.

Yogi was a dangerous hitter because he was bad ball hitter, maybe the best that ever played. He could hit anything. He’d golf balls. I saw him golf a ball into the bleachers at Yankee Stadium…literally. The thing had to be two inches off home plate. I mean, you couldn’t pitch to him. You’d try to throw the ball outside, he’d hit it, up and in, he’d hit it. He swung at everything…pitches no one could get to and he’d hit them – three feet off the plate, boom! Did not matter.

Yogi played until 1965 for the Yankees. You’re nine years old when you get that button and when he retires you’d served in the Air Force, gotten married and have your first kid. Could you have felt about another player at that point what you felt for Yogi?

I saw him golf a ball into the bleachers at Yankee Stadium…literally. The thing had to be two inches off home plate. I mean, you couldn’t pitch to him.

After Yogi…ehhh…not in the same way. When you’re a kid and you’re growing up and he’s growing in his career, I don’t know that I ever felt the same way about a ballplayer that I did for Yogi. It’s different when you’re a kid when you have a favorite player. And you have to remember, when I was a kid baseball was it. I mean, you had college football, boxing and baseball, but baseball was by far the most popular sport. Professional football had not taken off yet. We weren’t playing soccer back then. Stick ball back behind the apartment complex or hard ball or punch ball at school. That’s what we played, some form of baseball. And baseball was on the radio all the time in the city, at the beach, in cars, in the streets. It was everywhere. Broadcasters like Mel Allen and Red Barber became as famous as the players.

How did you hear about Yogi’s passing and what were your first thoughts?

I read about it on the Internet. I get my Ipad in the morning and check up on the news and I saw it. I felt sad at first, and then I thought, hell…90 years old. And what a life! He fought in World War II. D-Day. And he was always great to listen to. Yogi was quoted and everyone loved him. He was truly great. I’m glad I chose that button. You wonder at eight years-old why a kid chooses someone to follow so closely and identify with. I did with Yogi that first day. Something about him. Like I said, I was all in.

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