Search Results for: ted kennedy

ANDREW CUOMO ON THE BRINK

Aquarian Weekly
3/17/21

Reality Check

James Campion

ANDREW CUOMO ON THE BRINK
N.Y. Governor Clings to Power in Doomland


As I write this, the governor of New York Andrew Cuomo is being besieged with requests to resign. First, he endured a scandal regarding his administration’s hiding of Covid-19 casualties in state run facilities and more recently a phalanx of women have accused him of several haughty to criminal levels of sexual harassment. Most people reading this column and familiar with the previous dunce who just left the White House may consider these stains to be the perfect training ground for a presidential run, but Cuomo is a Democrat, and it’s been a long time since Big Bill Clinton’s wild days of forgive-me fornication. The Me Too movement is now calling the shots in the Democratic Party, and what is considered “Locker Room Humor” or “Boys Being Boys” in Republican circles is anathema around these parts. Therefore, Cuomo’s reign is hanging by a thread.

The question posed to me for the past week has been Cuomo’s lack of seriousness with the idea of quitting. This does not surprise me. I expect him to dig in. This is in his nature, and it is not for us to argue it. It’s a Darwinian imperative for Cuomo. 

Firstly, the man is a political animal, not merely a comedian trying his hand at governing, like former Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who went from yukking it up on Saturday Night Live to the big chamber in D.C., and after enduring an infinitesimal sexual harassment grievance compared to Cuomo’s, exited his post in shame. This kind of moral thinking is beyond Cuomo. His father was a legendary NY bestial marauder, and his offspring is just as hairy. He will not go quietly, if at all, in my humble estimation.

And this is not just cynicism on my part. As of late this week, the governor still enjoys a majority of support among New York voters and a much larger portion in the party. This is akin to Donald Trump’s stellar support among Republicans despite his bevy of irrational lunacy and criminal behavior, two impeachments and inciting an insurrection. Politics is not about morality or values, and it sure as hell isn’t about weird idyllic notions like America. It is about power: Getting power and hanging onto power. Cuomo already nailed the first one, twice. The second, always the trickier of the two, is now on the table. This is when true politicos go to the numbers. If the numbers hold (Trump and Clinton) you remain steady and hope things blow over, and if they don’t (Richard Nixon) you bail.

Speaking of “the blow over” the irony of the Me Too movement is that it may have rattled cages and given credence to those who wish to overcome social inequities and fear of reprisals to come forth and tell their stories, but in truly high-profile cases – outside of Hollywood, where it has wreaked havoc – it has gone belly up. Trump skated through more than a dozen of these things, including bragging about assaulting women, before he was elected, and a Supreme Court Judge was confirmed despite the horror of the accusations against him by a woman brave enough to come forward.

In this climate, where rhetoric and shocking headlines may have some pull, once the dead end and now merely a speed bump for politicians, why should Cuomo quit?

Politics is not about morality or values, and it sure as hell isn’t about weird idyllic notions like America. It is about power.

And lest we forget, and I shan’t because I watched it up close, my dear friend, former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who was defeated by Cuomo in 2014, tried to alert voters of Albany’s corruption excused by the then incumbent. That summer, Cuomo summarily disbanded his own high-powered Moreland Commission to root out corruption in state politics once they began sniffing into his campaign finance issues. The whole thing stunk to high heaven. Cuomo was re-elected.

Again, in this climate, with the power and promise of two generations of Cuomo politicians, the absolutely joke of repercussions for previous political figures and sexual harassment, and the numbers in his favor, why would a craven lifer give up the most powerful governorship in the most powerful state in the union? The type of creature Cuomo is does not bend to the outcry of editorial pages or Twitter. Even his party bows to his resistance. He’s in charge. Giving that up is a tough gig. You had better have the votes to oust him. The party and/or the state government will likely have to step up and impeach Cuomo, and if the votes are there, he will go, if not, as with The Donald, then he will ride this out.

Here’s the deal; Cuomo’s career is toast, he knows it. He was the toast of America during the pandemic, despite complaints from inside his administration of grandstanding. Many in the party wanted him to run for president. Ahhh, but the same brutal acumen that makes him what kind of mutant he is, lets him know that it’s over now. He’s not a moron like Trump. He sees the writing on the wall. I see Cuomo more as a political shapeshifter like Clinton or a Kennedy, someone who gets that by quitting you just give into the enemy and mark your legacy for all times as a quitter. When we think of LBJ now, do we think of the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act or Viet Nam or the Kennedy Assassination? I argue we don’t. He’s the guy who quit rather than to defend his legacy at the ballot box. He’s a quitter. And that is worse in the political sphere that Cuomo runs in than pinching a woman’s ass.

If grabbing pussy gets you to the White House, then Cuomo is going to stay put.

The scum, as Hunter S. Thompson so eloquently put it once, also rises.  

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THE REAL VICTIMS OF “THE BIG LIE”

Aquarian Weekly
2/17/21

Reality Check

James Campion

THE REAL VICTIMS OF “THE BIG LIE”
Members of Cult Terrorists Pay the Price for Political Theater 

As the second impeachment trial of the former president rolls on, I can’t help but think of all the random Americans who turned into cultist, terrorist, insurrectionists as a result of the repeated chant to “Stop the Steal” from those who merely used it to deflect from the reality of defeat. This tactic, as discussed ad nauseum in this space, was openly declared for months and at every turn appeared to those familiar with dime-store propaganda to be a fabricated media smokescreen. For whatever the reasoning – delusion, irrationality, classic grifting – the fallout is the people who believe it, and those who act upon it; especially when specifically prodded by the perpetuator of The Big Lie.

I shan’t spend more than a sentence making the point that this behavior has been propagated since humans could communicate, sometimes to horrific results. Being suckered or brainwashed or riled up by the ravings of a megalomaniac is as common a human trait as love, jealousy, fear, and hate. It is baked into our DNA. We can’t help it. The thing that matters most are the lives of these people who seem to be (and I am only guessing here) so empty and bereft of emotional contentment that they seek outside sources to provide a level of self-esteem. Again, for whatever the reasoning there were a whole lot of people who bought into this thing with zero evidence and no logical framework. It was, for them, (another guess?) a brighter alternative than the ignominious ending to what they deemed as an imperative

Some took to Facebook or chatted up their theories on Twitter. Still others made a placard and did some protesting or kept their election signs up on the lawn a few more weeks after the election. And while that last one is pathetic and a little sad, none of those things are criminal. I believe people have every right to think the earth is flat or that Tom Brady doesn’t cheat. Whatever gets you through the night. It is the criminal thing that we’re interested in here. Some people felt the need to act as if this was Armageddon, as if there was nothing left to lose. The desperate and disappointed among us are also a dime a dozen. In the grand pantheon of the human experience, the illusion of fate and doom can be powerful sparks to weird and violent actions. The results were on display on January 6.

I’m reminded of the most famous of these illusions, the Resurrection of Christ. I am using the word illusion; one might use faith – a belief in something with no tangible evidence. For me, as I delved into over ten years of research on this subject for my third book, Trailing Jesus, I was unceasingly intrigued by the refusal to abandon a movement as dramatically ingrained in the spirit of first century Palestine simply because of the systemic execution of its leader whom many believed was God. It was decided to ignore the gory facts of this and repeat that Jesus of Nazareth didn’t really die or that his purpose was to die, and whammo! you have a resurrection. Defeat? Nah, victory! The cults and violence that succeeded this story is the legend of western civilization. And the funny thing is, it had little to nothing to do with the original Jesus movement. For more on that, you can read my book.

Shameless plugging aside, let’s take the most famous of the Big Lie suckers, Q-Anon. Part of this belief depends on certain dates that would allegedly hand a divine intervention victory to the ousted president. January 6 as one of those, which brought many of them to Washington D.C. to commit crimes against the nation. The next date is March 4. Let’s see how that goes for them.

Politics, religion or cults are okay in their place. No point risking it all for any of it.

But cultists are easy targets. They look to something otherworldly (like resurrection) to cure the pain of loss. But what of the Proud Boys and The Oath Keepers, two right-wing extremist groups who plotted the attack on the Capitol and used the president’s January 6 “rally” to enact violence and mayhem? These political terrorist groups used the trauma of defeat as a call to action to overturn the results as a matter of “principle”. Political principle is as good a reason for terrorism, or as Osama bin Laden once jibed, “One man’s terrorist is one man’s freedom fighter.” But at least bin Laden (American intervention), like the IRA (draconian British colonialism) or even the Weathermen (Viet Nam draft), based their rage on something tangible, despite building its violent grievances on lies.

I look to the Kennedy Assassination to find where people like the Proud Boys live. For years the main reason for delving into conspiracy theories about the murder of the president in broad daylight was not the shock of the incident but the idea that a bumpkin communist with an antiquated rifle could cut down the mighty Camelot. Now, unlike The Big Lie of 2020, there is ample evidence that there were shenanigans with that incident, however, it does not explain the initial and continued motivation to find out something more befitting the magnitude of this tragedy – it had to be more – a government plot, a mafia hit, a vengeance jag for Fidel Castro. This falls under the category of hero/godhead worship, but in a more socially foundational construct. The country is being taken away from us is the theory here. The “rally” that ignited the violence of 1/6 was titled “Save America”. These guys heeded that call to arms.

This is the core of the Capitol insurrection, which began the moment the former president did not accept defeat and decided to jack up the demented into providing a reason to unleash their grievances upon the symbol of American democracy, inviting them to the place of their eventual crimes, and finally allowing, even cajoling them to run amok as he tweeted inflammatory rhetoric condemning the vice president and anyone not buying into The Big Lie for one last media event. Finally, and most egregiously, is the ignoring of a call for the national guard to protect fellow Americans. That is something for the Senate to debate. But, let’s face it; there is little chance that committing political suicide is available to already feckless Republican sycophants who once called the former president a conman, liar, psychopath and nonetheless did his bidding to maintain power. These cretins get to keep their gig and make like nothing happened. Good for them.

But what about the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, Q-Anon suckers? They are arrested, humiliated, their lives ruined. They will do time for this. They’re losing their jobs, what good standing they may have perpetuated as a front for their extremism, and for what? A revolution? As horrific as January 6 was, that is one sad revolution. They are now criminals. Terrorists. Maybe martyrs for the cause – the ravaged butt end of The Big Lie? I wonder if they will be thinking of St. Peter’s last thoughts as they hung him upside down to die or St. Stephen’s bloody carcass lying beneath a torrent of stones. How did that all work out?

Not that I give a shit about any of these idiots, mind you. They’re adults. We all have to endure the consequences of our stupid shit, even though many of their lawyers are blaming this on all the brainwashing I covered above. You see, only presidents and rich people get away with stuff. These people are duly fucked and fucked for nothing. Nada. Bullshit. The ravings of a dung stain on history.

There is a lesson here. Maybe one person might read this and say, “Hey, the next time a stranger tells me something that only benefits his/her agenda, perhaps I should step back and think for myself before putting on a funny outfit and break shit and kill people or join some confusingly named group (come on, who doesn’t think of the Village People when you hear Proud Boys? You know you do). Politics, religion or cults are okay in their place. No point risking it all for any of it. Those things will fail you. Every time. And man, did the latest gaggle of the duped get jobbed on this one.

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THE GREAT VOTER MIGRATION

Aquarian Weekly
2/10/21

Reality Check

James Campion

THE GREAT VOTER MIGRATION 
& The Future of Southern Politics 

To celebrate Black History Month, I dedicate a column this week to a brilliantly prescient account of the present and future political climate in the United States as proffered by African American journalist, Charles Blow in his new bookThe Devil You Know – A Black Manifesto. Its central theme, already played out in the 2020 presidential election and again just last month in the heretofore red stronghold of Georgia, is a new “great migration”, this time in the opposite direction. Citing the Great Northward Migration or the Black Migration of the early to mid-twentieth century that saw six million African Americans leave the rural South to Northern urban centers, Blow posits that the shift Democrats were seeking after its subpar showing in the 2016 presidential elections in the Rust Belt to a new “southern strategy” might well tell the tale for coming generations.

“The proposition is simple,” writes Blow. “As many Black descendants of the Great Migration as possible should return to the South from which their ancestors fled, which are the true centers of power in this country, and as such control the lion’s share of the issues that bedevil Black lives: criminal justice, judicial processes, education, health care, economic opportunity and assistance.”

For Blow, this begins in the cities, the most economically thriving part of the new South, especially in its major metropolitan centers. In a 2018 Forbes report, the worst cities for Black Americans were found in the North from the Great Migration, whereas the majority of Black wealth was being realized in the South. More than one thousand of the nation’s twelve-hundred majority Black cities reside there, all of which are home to most of the nation’s Black-owned businesses and boast the most Blacks in local government.

This, of course, like all economic calling, including the first Great Migration, is where the direction of any racial, economic, or generational group will lead. It is the plot line of the American story.

Blow’s points, noteworthy in how the voting went in the past two election cycles but crucially in the most recent, is why The Devil You Know is perhaps the most important political theory book of the past two decades. It summarizes the foundation of the Black voter explosion that helped culminated in over eighty million votes for President Joe Biden, whose own flagging campaign was rescued by the Black vote in the Democratic Primary. Those numbers, already calculated among Democratic insiders, who tallied the most fervent support for the defeated Hillary Clinton four years earlier in the African American vote, measurably increased for Democrats in 2020, as it did also for Republicans. More young Blacks under the age of forty-four supported the losing party, thus allowing Republicans to outperform the top of the damaged ticket, leading many to surmise that the general numbers of a steady voting bloc were evident everywhere.

New Black voters… were lying in wait for the general election and to turn a reliable red state a deeper blue

Seeing how only eight percent of the Black vote routinely supports Republican candidates, the party has some work to do, but according to Blow’s research and reasoning this is ever more evident in the South, where a traditionally White voting bloc had shifted from Democrat in the early part of the previous century to Republican during the Civil Rights movement, resulting in the blowback against the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act signed into law by a Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson in the early 1960s. LBJ’s predecessor, also a Democrat, John F. Kennedy and his Justice Department, run by the president’s brother Robert, became the first administration to openly challenge the region’s draconian and racist Jim Crow laws. This led, as we know, to Richard Nixon’s shamelessly racist “Southern Strategy”, which fanned the flames of fear amongst white voters, and some Blacks as well, to the changes implemented by overzealous federal government interference. Nixon would win overwhelmingly for a Republican for the first time there and change regional politics for nearly half a century.

Despite overwhelming numbers for the African American community, due to voter suppression, violence, and corrupt police activities, it became ever more difficult for politicians to secure or count on Black support throughout the South. The shift changed in the early 1990s, as Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton began to solidify the heretofore silent Black vote to his advantage, and although he failed to win a popular vote average nationally, consolidated this constituency to gain two consecutive terms as president. However, the Democratic Party did not spend enough time and effort working that segment of their voter base, which ended up costing Al Gore a razor-thin election in 2000 and later another tight loss by John Kerry in 2004.

It was, of course, the electing of Barack Obama, the first Black candidate president in 2008 in which the greatest number of African Americans flocked to the polls. Obama became the first Democrat to win the presidency by a considerable margin since LBJ in 1964, but his party could not maintain that level of support in his re-election bid of 2012, despite securing a second term. Many political scholars cite a lack of faith in a true Southern breakout of Black votes.

This changed dramatically in 2020.

The most prevalent formation of this change was enacted by one of the most effective and powerful political minds of the past decade, Stacey Abrams, who while losing her bid for governor of Georgia in 2018, found formally silent Black voting blocs amidst the urban centers of Atlanta and Columbus. A former state legislator, lawyer and author, Abrams canvased Georgian counties for two years, expanding the base and registering record numbers of new Black voters. These were lying in wait for the general election and to turn a reliable red state a deeper blue, a blue that became solidified with the election of two senators in a January run-off, one of them a Black candidate.

Similar numbers were revealed in Arizona, another state the Republicans lost in 2020, much as the Dems lost Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania four years earlier, Black destination cities of Phoenix, Tucson and Tempe have shifted the balance of political power in the state, leading to inter-party fisticuffs just weeks ago when Martha McSally broke ranks with Republican pushing to overturn the 2020 election results – causing a restructure of the political landscape back to the state’s more racially divided roots. Blow believes, although a heavier lift, the influx of African American entrepreneurs entering the largest growing cities in America – Houston and Dallas in Texas, and Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina – will cause a dramatic shift in not only the political power structure but also a need for the Republican Party to either court this vote or expunge the white supremist underbelly currently battling for a majority voice in The Grand Old Party to remain relevant.

Blow’s book, while certainly political – I concentrated on his theory of economic migration to urban centers acting as Democratic strongholds, such as Detroit and Philadelphia in states Biden won back this cycle – it is more a study of the racial power structure in the second decade of the twenty-first century. This goes beyond, of course, winning elections, it proves Hunter S. Thompson’s, another great son of the South, axiom; “Politics is the art of controlling your environment.”

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EXPLAINING “ROE v. WADE” IN THE AGE OF STUPID

Aquarian Weekly
7/11/18

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

EXPLAINING “ROE v. WADE” IN THE AGE OF STUPID

Now that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will be retiring from the highest court in the land after three decades there is the very real possibility that the person the president chooses will be vehemently anti-abortion and therefore nearly every case some of the less-enlightened states have been trying to push up to the Supreme Court will find a sympathetic ear, making it harder for women to have control over their reproductive rights and even put into jeopardy the 1973 Court ruling of Roe v. Wade that is at the heart of the Religious Right movement and a precious resource for those who happen to own the equipment the government will then be allowed to control, namely women, which is why I am always baffled when women vote Republican, but that is a subject for another column.

This is about the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade and where it stands in the pantheon of decisions based on that little document which keep lunatics like Donald Trump from turning this whole shebang into his personal Atlantic City mob quest.

Speaking of our game show president, it will be his (gulp!) decision to replace Justice Kennedy for the next generation. And, to be kind, Trump’s choices of personnel have been woefully subpar. If we’re honest, which we have consistently tried to be here for two decades, his choices have been horrifyingly abysmal. Have you seen Donald Trump’s closest confident and lawyer lately? In custody. His campaign manager? In jail. His choice for the man to run the EPA had to finally quit after some 14 investigations, the head of Education is uneducated, there is a surgeon running HUD, the Secretary of State ran EXXON, and then there is Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, so you get the point. There is a very good chance if Trump is involved in making personnel decisions they will definitely be awful. Supreme Court? He’s already sent one ideologue there.

But take El Douche’s failings aside, and let’s concentrate on the wider religious conservative movement in this country since the 1980s – you could go back to Nixon’s Silent Majority and Southern Strategy, but I think that is under-cutting the influence of the Religious Right on the Reagan Administration and the puritanical return to dumbness which percolated during that decade – and what that has done to the political direction of the Right since then and its concentration on Roe v. Wade.

This has always been a major sticking point for what began this sort of mangled quasi-Christian thing called Evangelicals in the 1980s that made shitloads of cash for insipid mouth breathers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and their ilk, who for some weird reason (First Amendment mostly) were allowed to bring their voodoo shit into the vox populi, or the dumbing down of political discourse. Their witch-doctor influence was paramount in creating a mutated wing of the Republican Party that before was filled with mostly multi-issued economic voters. The legalization of abortion was to many of these people the culmination of the eroding of the nation’s moral center the minute they allowed Elvis Presley to shake his ass on network television in 1956.

The 1960s broke these people and by the 70s the Culture Wars were in full swing. The attempt to return the culture back to pre-Elvis-ass-shaking days fell to Ronald Reagan, who believed the Viet Nam War was a success and all the Shiny City on the Hill stuff that was co-opted by the mobilization of the Religious Right to stop things like the Equal Rights Amendment, convincing women that they would have to share bathrooms and work on a shipping dock if passed. And, of course, right smack in the middle of all this drug-addled, sexually depravity came Legal Abortion!

I have found no one who thinks the government should control your liver, brain, heart, stomach, so why the uterus?

How these frightened shut-ins mostly see abortion, and it turns out they are partly correct, is that it is a form of infanticide. And I get it, as I have family members and good friends who are (and I hate this word, because some of these people are hunters, pro-war and pro death penalty, so as a word-man I find these semantics foul) Pro-Life. However, despite my libertine bent (I believe all vices should be legal, as it is the bedrock of liberty promised by our little document and a key part of this human experiment called America) I feel for this argument. I am vehemently Pro-Choice, what Pro-Lifers like to call Pro-Abortion, but that is like saying someone who is all about the Second Amendment is Pro-Murder. It’s silly and falls into the category of stupid, and since we are smack in the middle of the Age of Stupid it is important to explain why I support the Roe v. Wade decision and why it is important to the foundation of our liberty and is the correct and sound decision by the Court and what many in the country (a majority of which support Roe v Wade – roughly six out of ten) believe.

Roe v. Wade is not about abortion, although it is the key result of the decision, it is about the government’s right to enter the bodies of tax paying citizens and control the results. God forbid you’re a victim of rape, you then have to carry the child of your rapist? What if your life is in danger, you roll the dice? This is the problem with asking, “What about the rights of the fetus?” That is not a thing, a fetus does not have rights. You know who does have rights? The woman carrying the fetus.

Forget abortion. What if the government decides that the pancreas is negatively affecting the national health? It can then, with no Roe v Wade president, order a national removal of the pancreas. This is not science fiction, it can happen. What if the government decides that there are too many people on this continent? National crisis! You know how many liberties we’ve surrendered because of those two words? The food supplies are low, like in China back when they instituted its draconian law of one child per family, which resulted in forced abortions and the murder of thousands of female babies because, shit we need a boy to keep the family name going. The government will then have the right to make a law that forces people to have only one child and that through the eradication of Roe v. Wade ironically gives it the right to command forced abortions. Again, it is possible, because Roe v. Wade is not about abortion, it is about the government controlling the human body.

Nobody, no matter what political stance you support, thinks this is a good idea. I have found no one who thinks the government should control your liver, brain, heart, stomach, so why the uterus?

This is what happens when you allow people to use the Bible to control our laws. My favorite is the Ten Commandments, which states that merely coveting things is a sin, thus illegal (religious crazy people’s interpretation). It is not the basis of law. It is religion, and it should be separated from the state as the founders intended. The law should protect the citizen, whose rights are provided by the Constitution, not a religious document. This is why there is no slavery or women vote, because some enterprising soul chucked the Bible nonsense and went with citizen rights. Roe v. Wade protects citizen rights. Period. I am for that, not abortions or the rest of it. Rights. Citizens.

Ignorance of what was behind the Roe v Wade decision is what should disturb clear-thinking Americans who cherish liberty. But ignorance is kind of in now, and this is why so many Evangelicals continue to support easily the most immoral fucker we’ve elected president since the Civil War.

But this space is about fighting ignorance, so there’s that.

Citizen.

Rights.

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THE “DADDY LOVE ME” NUCLEAR STAND-OFF – 2017

Aquarian Weekly
8/16/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE “DADDY LOVE ME” NUCLEAR STAND-OFF – 2017

Who didn’t see this coming?

The second Donald Trump took the oath of office, all of it; wildly manic Tweet storms about TV hosts and obsessions with fabricated inner demons and spastic firings and institutional in-fighting and ill-advised bluster about seemingly innocuous and mostly delusional self-congratulatory nonsense, and now, most likely crimes, was inevitable. It is the Trump branding. This is what we voted for, or at least enough people voted for, and it has been damn fun. Half the administration is going to jail and the rest to hell, and as we continue to celebrate the chaotic dismantling of all of the myths of the American consciousness with delinquent glee there has always been the distinct possibility that all this stumbling around would result in serious consequences.

We might be there this week with the purported nuclear stand-off between our El Douche and North Korea’s impishly wacky Supreme Leader Kim Jung-un. We’re now witness to another in a long line of powerful and insecure man-children putting at risk millions of lives to impress dead fathers who tortured their sons with bullshit machismo to hide their own fear of penis size.

And at some point you’d figure petty knee-jerk imbeciles whose whole point of existing is to find enemies, particularly weaker ones in which to hammer, would move our game show president from the media to congress to a nation across the globe which has a ready-made villain with just as many psychological issues as him. This is science; pure natural selection and the biological attraction of crazy-finds-crazy eventually. This is a duet ready-made. Call Stan “The Man” Lee, we got ourselves a comic book!

You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung or even Dr. Phil to see the damaged souls at work here. Trump and Jung-un have made global their severe mental issues exacerbated by cold and domineering fathers who by their mere nature were predatory lunatics likely hiding latent homosexual desires and violent tendencies of paranoia, bigotry and self-loathing. Or to simplify, what we have here are two assholes created by two assholes and now there is “fire and fury” and “die American dogs” and the usual mindless machismo that begs for the ghosts of their fathers to recognize they exist.

If only the fat little Korean kid with bad eyesight and the pasty monosyllabic rich boy had been loved, maybe we wouldn’t have to wonder if Guam will be around next week.

Look, since both Jung-un and Trump are entirely full of shit and like their pathetic fathers are merely big-mouth posers creating fantasy worlds in which they’re John Wayne or Al Capone, nothing is going to occur close to the Cuban Missile Crisis, commandeered by two men (John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev) whose daddy issues were through the roof. But the fact that it has come this far and trust me it will not be the last time that men with small peckers and zero self-esteem piss-fight to fell the demons hatched by their horrible patriarchs, is both sad and eminently intriguing.

We’re now witness to another in a long line of powerful and insecure man-children putting at risk millions of lives to impress dead fathers.

It is also fascinating to watch two men who have little to no idea what they’re doing play this thing out – one a neophyte from an early age thrown into some ancient dynasty of madness and the other a game show host via the World Wrestling Federation who ran for president to expand his family’s international real estate holdings and because he was bored. It is hardly Roosevelt, Hitler and Churchill, all of whom had severe daddy issues but formed an unholy bond in a vacuum of ideology and nation building, world war and cultural divides that spanned the entire earth’s surface. Comparing these idiots to those lunatics is like saying your backyard pond is the Indian Ocean. This is a roly-poly pompadour shuffling like a cartoon character from one half-assed missile test to the other, never leaving his cocoon of sycophants, spitting at the rapidly aging hair-hat golfing nut who needs Fox & Friends to tell him he’s okay to sleep at night.

Not sure what will happen in North Korea, I was certain that by now one of Jung-un’s doomed generals – he kills about a dozen a year – would find a way to assassinate him, but that is an ancient problem this country has been trying to “solve” for nearly seventy years with spectacularly bad results. As for the United States, this whole Trump ranting has been nicely curtailed by congress, which two weeks ago quietly wrested control from the commander-in-chief on any semblance of foreign policy in Eastern Europe due to his by now patently obvious (to say the very least) conflict of interest with Russia. And the Pentagon, who completely refuted and will never implement the president’s goofy LGBT military ban, and the Department of Defense, who routinely walks back the president’s shoot-from-the-hip schoolyard nonsense as “posturing”, have several fail-safes against the inevitably hissy fit.

Which brings us back to Trump and Jung-un’s duel working out of their daddy issues in public with access to powerful weaponry. They serve each other well, a ying/yang thing that will never cure them but allows for a healthy valve in which to decompress. And since our president is at the service of a leader with clear mommy issues, Vladimir Putin (men who continuously have themselves photographed in public shirtless and need to have their chests shaved are absolutely putting on make-up and trying on lingerie in private), it is important he has someone who understands him.

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THE SUMMER OF “ANNIE HALL” AT 40

Aquarian Weekly
7/19/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE SUMMER OF “ANNIE HALL” AT 40

Pop culture is the folk culture of the modern market, the culture of the instant, at once subsuming past and future and refusing to acknowledge either.
– Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces

I heard commentary and dissent merged to form dysentery.
-Woody Allen, Annie Hall

About a month ago while gearing up for a cover piece on the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ culture-shifting album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band it came to my attention that one of my favorite films was celebrating its 40th anniversary; Woody Allen’s masterwork, Annie Hall. Released in April of 1977, unlike most of his movies at the time which had a limited but dedicated following, it would, much like Sgt. Pepper’s, come to define a generation and influence countless film-makers working in almost every genre. It would transform the concept of the romantic comedy and lift Allen from comedian turned film-maker into one of the most celebrated auteurs of the era.

Up until that spring Allen had mostly dabbled in comedic efforts filled with pithy one-liners and classic pratfalls centering on a singularly damaged nebbish character that juggled a myriad of trepidations through several bizarre scenarios. Annie Hall crystallized this concept in the guise of a couple; Allen’s comedian/writer, Alvy Singer and photographer/singer, Annie Hall, played with quirky ennui by Diane Keaton, who would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. Both characters drift towards middle age – anxious, lonely and spiritually lost in the greatest city on earth, which was then in the throes of its own spiritual decay; economic collapse, a spectacular rise in crime, while also capturing an underground esthetic in music, art and social upheaval. (Annie compares Alvy to New York; a damaged, isolated island).

The expanse of the city, which reflects the anxieties of the times; sexuality, friendships, fame, insecurities about the decay of the culture, and the analytical, intellectual and religious failures to fill the voids of people unaware of their conditions, also allowed Allen to profess his professional and personal affection for his then lover, Diane Keaton, who had already built a solid resume with Allen on Broadway (Play It Again Sam) and films (Sleeper, Love and Death).

Although dripping with Pygmalion ironies and doomed from the beginning, Alvy and Annie’s relationship reveals the deeper truths in the insecurity of the dating world circa mid-70s (Alvy insists that he and Annie kiss in the middle of their first date to avoid nausea later), especially among the more cynical that came to discover that compatibility with the world was enough of a chore without trying to balance it with the vagaries of love. In one brilliantly devised scene, both Alvy and Annie idly chat about photography while subtitles of what they’re actually thinking appear beneath them.

In this way and more Annie Hall is a romantic comedy like Moby Dick is a book about a whale. The love story is merely a backdrop for the deeper themes in the film; specifically its satire of urban life in the latter part of the American century in which a stop-gap generation straddled between two clashing eras – the Great Depression/WWII and Rock and Roll/TV – deal with the loss of self beneath angst, guilt and self-absorption. The city, as the people who inhabit it, is overloaded with the illusions of contentment in artistic statement, psychoanalytical theory or status symbol myopia. “The rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers,” muses Alvy to a friend. “I think of us that way, sometimes. And I live here!”

To that end Annie Hall is illuminated by period touchstones and a plethora of cultural references that bridge the generational gaps. In a recent viewing (apologies to my wife, who has seen it at least fifty times since I’ve known her) I counted 47 direct references to authors, book, films, gangsters, rock stars, politicians, magazines, movie stars, etc. These include music (“Seems Like Old Times” – overly sentimental mid-century romanticism – to a flaccid reference to Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”), commentary (a disjointed argument about the Kennedy assassination to Marshall McLuhan magically appearing as himself to settle an argument about his work), and film (Alvy repeatedly drags Annie to see a film about Nazi atrocities, The Sorrow and the Pity).

Annie and Alvy are a microcosm of their times; turning the focus of their fears and aspirations inward and convincing themselves that there must be more to life, or more to the point, the terrifying notion that life may not have any point at all. Alvy skillfully explains to Annie early in their relationship that he divides people into two categories; “miserable” and “horrible” and that they should be happy to be merely miserable. An early flashback shows the childhood Alvy Singer bemoaning the expanding universe to avoid doing homework. Later Annie, who at one point is reading a book about sexual mystique while refusing sex with Alvy, is taken in by the Hollywood quick-fix culture of celebrity, macrobiotic foods and peace mantras.

Annie Hall is a romantic comedy like Moby Dick is a book about a whale.

This search for personal enlightenment ends in dissatisfaction with the inability for the characters to discover the simple joys in merely being, never mind being together; a theme Allen would mine for years in subsequent films. He would originally title the screenplay Anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure.

Co-written with comic writer, Marshall Brickman, Allen unfurls a 1970s over-analytical, paranoid, self-absorbed version of many of the classic Hollywood “goofy boy meets quirky girl” memes, providing Allen’s tried-and-true nebbish character a foil in Keaton’s wonderfully off-beat use of language (her sentence-trailing “La-di-da” as a nervous tick) and fashion (her penchant for off-the-rack, ill-fitting gender-neutral togs), and charming naiveté; all of which Keaton already had in her arsenal that inspired the screenplay.

For all its memorable lines and ingenious obliteration of the “fourth wall” (Allen opens the film speaking directly to the audience and throughout breaks the scenes to comment on the action) Annie Hall continuously resonates with me and I believe future generations for its honest portrayal of cultural isolation; its protagonist, Alvy Singer is a man out of time (not quite making the “greatest generation” – too young to fight in WWII – and too young to be a Boomer), who walks the fine line between being obsessed with death and an almost anthropological infatuation with life. Allen intuitively reflects the plastic glamour, the false political narratives and seemingly failed 1960s revolutions of free sex, drug experimentation, and anti-hero worship of the late 1970s.

Annie Hall is a film about its time and timeless; a weird kind of magic trick that all great art manages to pull off. It struck a chord among East Coast intellectuals, Middle America and Hollywood glitterati like few films before or since, especially ones made by Woody Allen. It was news, did fine box office in the time of the blockbuster from Jaws to Star Wars and won numerous awards including four Oscars for Best Screenplay, Director, Actress, and Best Picture. Today it tops several romantic comedy lists and continues to inspire the genre while remaining incredibly relatable, even if it is becoming harder for us to admit it.

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JOE COOL…OUT!

Aquarian Weekly
1/18/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

JOE COOL…OUT!
Our Journey From Hope To Change To Trump

Barack Obama is the only major party candidate for president I have ever voted for with gusto. And he shall be the last. That is my gift to him on his way out. The man I dubbed Joe Cool was historic for many reasons, but that is the only one that counts around here. Of course this only applies to 2008, for I went back to my independent ways four years later. Nevertheless it was a monumental vote for me, and one that I shall ultimately remember him by.

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True, I voted for G.W. Bush in 2000, but that’s because I despised Al Gore. I never forgave him for the whole PMRC shenanigans in the 1980s. Still haven’t. And I would do it again, even though I blame Bush for 9/11, which is now all the rage but was considered some kind of treason in 2001. Fuck him and fuck Al Gore.

All of these votes are a matter of record in this space, but it doesn’t do much beyond explaining that since 1980 I have never and will never again vote for a major party candidate beyond the 2008 Barack Obama model. That idea was, is and will always be a completely bullshit either/or decision that is needlessly heaped upon the citizenry, which came to an ugly head this past year when I have now personally spoken to two dozen people who voted for one of the two candidates they were purportedly “forced” to vote for with a measure of growing apathy to outright disdain.

I gladly voted for what would be the 44th president of the United States in 2008 for one main reason, well, two; the first is that damned whiz-bang, hootenanny king-hell mutha of an Iowa Caucus victory speech he delivered on January 3 of that year. It remains the finest political oratory that I have had the pleasure to digest in real-time. I must have played that thing twenty times in a sixteen hour period, like the first time I heard Exile on Main St. or Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” or that part in “Three Babies” when Sinead O’Connor hits the high note. That speech is far better than most any that I have studied and it may be the last time I would actually believe in anything to do with politics again.

For those who dig Obama, I suggest you watch it. It’s on YouTube and it will make you throw up when you consider what transpired from that day forward; how much of the soul of that guy at that time was sucked out by our politics, even upon winning the presidency. That night the bar was set too high for the likes of us or him. But man, that Democratic primary was, along with the Republican one this year, the most fun I had covering this game to power we roll out every four years. I was never concerned by what transpired afterwards, as I’m not now. It reminded me why people who care about such things love politics, think it matters or actually believe it has any true effect on their lives. Listening to that speech transformed me, for the shortest but most enjoyable of weeks, maybe months, but then I went right back to being a cynical jack ass and proud of it.

It is important to point out that what makes the human condition at once so mesmerizingly horrific and beatific is what can be framed in a moment of true sweeping progress and is then easily sullied by the stark light of reality. This is what happens to those who see the utter lack of purity in things and understand fully how fucked the whole concept is and how those who don’t see it and think politics is some kind of elixir to the gaping hole in their faith-centers come to the same rude awakening eventually.

But political speeches come and go; what really matters to me in retrospect is that first run between 2009 and Obama’s re-election in 2012, when there absolutely had to be a shift in viewpoint of the presidency, and not a racial or ideological one, per se, and Lord knows it certainly will never be a political for me. It was ultimately a brief but dramatic generational shift; the second reason I voted for Barack Obama. He is from my generation; the butt-end of the Boomer (but not quite), and too old for X – that “between generation” that was born with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy Assassination and weaned on Viet Nam and Watergate and was far too young to get high at Woodstock. We did not fight the battle of Civil Rights but watched the potential for an Equal Rights Amendment be crushed by the forever-maddening puritan ethics bullshit which I think now that a playboy TV thug is president we can stop pretending we care a lick about.

Be that as it may, I am proud of that 2008 vote, even though the first Obama term was somewhere between stabilizing and shit. I hated the parade of Clinton cast-offs he dragged in. I wanted everyone in the cabinet to be from my generation as well, not pathetic hold-overs from the ego-addled lunacy of the 1960s through the 1980s. We had just endured two Boomers on both sides of the aisle, both of whom ended final terms in ignominy. But remember, this is a man who took office under by far the worst economic collapse of the Western hemisphere that anyone under 100 years-old could recall. The Dow was somewhere in the six-thousands and soon gasoline would spike to nearly five bucks. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were disappearing.

Historians will rightly or wrongly credit Obama’s presidency with halting this hemorrhage, but that will be the last thing his first term slam-dunked, unless you work in the American automotive industry. But there will always be the Affordable Care Act, which was a half-assed boondoggle that never worked because it cannot function in the human condition explained briefly above. It would be known as Obamacare, a term I did not use, like calling people not from India, Indians. But the president embraced it from good to bad to worse. I, for one, never bought it and neither did the country, as within two years the dismantling of the Democratic Party began.

that Democratic primary was, along with the Republican one this year, the most fun I had covering this game to power we roll out every four years.

That will also be the legacy of Obama; beyond the transformative nature of electing an African American in a mostly racist, back-water, religiously fanatic intellectual sinkhole of a nation. His party was abandoned by him. And this is where the generational thing comes in. Obama didn’t give a shit. He also didn’t give a shit about explaining anything he did well, like finally killing the man who committed the greatest crime against America that didn’t include bankers. He probably should have killed some bankers.

But doubtless and without argument, Obama’s second term, one I did not endorse because up to that point second terms were always a disaster – Viet Nam, Watergate, Iran/Contra/Monika Lewinsky/a hundred things Bush screwed up – was the finest of my lifetime. Granted, the bar was low, but the economy that was in a historic shambles continued to recover, albeit slowly, yet with a record number of months of job growth, because Obama was, and historians will record this too, the first truly “progressive” president; the one that did not fall under the anachronistic tag of liberalism. One that worked in the pragmatic, grown-up-in-the-70s mentality that was ingrained in us.

Be that as it may, the most important event that happened during Obama’s second term is the rightful, legal ratification of marriage equality and he had absolutely nothing to do with it. Trust me, the refusal of a black leader to acknowledge an obvious civil rights abomination against a community of tax-paying citizens is one of the things that made me cringe in 2008, and almost had me run back to the independent candidates, but remember, despite being in my enlightened generation, marriage equality always seemed like a pipe dream, like women voting once was. The very idea that this country could actually twice vote for a progressive black man as president is a nod to that generation and the next; you know, the one that did not buy into another Clinton – but that is another column for another day – certainly kick-started a groundswell for civil rights the likes of which we had not seen in two generations. I am glad to have been alive and be an American for that and then embarrassed for all those who continue to oppose it, because it is sad and bigoted, but entirely understandable. This is the change we were supposed to believe in, but you know what? The president was an innocent bystander. We, the law, the United States Constitution made that happen.

You see, beyond the Iran Deal, which I supported heartily and believe if the Republicans take their collective heads out of their 19th century asses will finally begin to transform the horror-show Middle East through secular economic concerns, and not third-century, voodoo religious nonsense. This is what progress and my generation should believe; at least the free thinking among us. And if the election of Obama’s successor is any indication, the religious right is still very much on life support, and that is the best we can cite for progress.

The rest for Barack Obama is window dressing. But failing a spate of impeachment hearings or ramped up phony wars or secret unconstitutional weapons deals with enemies or Nixonian abuses of power, this was one no-drama-Obama presidential run.

Thanks for allowing my generation a crack at this shit-sandwich.

Now it’s back to a bloviating, narcissistic, media-whorish Boomer again.

Good luck.

Joe Cool…out!

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THE SCALIA BOMB

Aquarian Weekly
2/24/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE SCALIA BOMB

Once the death of ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was announced late on February 13, the wheels of political discourse, the fluidity of the 2016 presidential campaign, and the very core of the United States Constitution was put into play. No matter how this is handled, and chances are very good they will be handled poorly by the current members of the senate and our sitting president, his name, legacy and his vast and prominent ideological shadow will nonetheless hover.

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Elections have consequences.

We have all heard that spouted over and over throughout our lives come campaign time – whether a battle for municipal comptroller, dogcatcher or president of the United States. To the winner goes the spoils – the will of the people is paramount.

To wit: In 2012, Barack Obama, the duly re-elected president of United States, was given the right and responsibility by a majority of the electorate to appoint a Supreme Court judge in the event of retirement, which he has already done twice (Sonia Maria Sotomayor – 2009, Elena Kagan – 2010), and certainly if one is suddenly vacant. This is clearly framed in the Constitution. The idea put forth by Republican members of the senate or political rhetoric by GOP candidates that they will not consider his nominee or to refuse to even vote on said nominee is patently unconstitutional.

Now, of course, no one argues that it is the role of the senate to set parameters and hold hearings and even (wink, wink) stall or filibuster this process, but to arbitrarily state the chief executive, with an entire eleven months remaining in his presidency, cannot appoint a nominee for an empty seat on the Supreme Court is to ignore the will of the people to its elected president, and therefore I argue, treasonous.

If Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell had just merely said, “We’ll see” and let the process play out in the predictably obstructionist environment largely conducted by the congress over the past five years into January of 2017, then all is fair. But he did not. Like his bluster about “making Obama a first term president” and leading the charge to obstruct the agenda voted on by the majority of the American public twice in the past seven years, this reeks of partisan pettiness and ideological gridlock; the very reasons why an Independent socialist and a TV star businessman are the currently leading candidates for both major political parties.

Having stated the obvious, President Obama needs to be careful here. Back in 2006, then Senator Obama joined 24 Democrats to filibuster George W. Bush’s nominee, Samuel Alito. Obviously, Alito became a justice, but it did not come “smoothly”, as the president has challenged the senate this week. And so must the Republicans, in and out of the senate, tread lightly, as this false notion that not in 80 years has a president gotten a justice confirmed for the Supreme Court as Texas Senator erroneously blurted out during presidential debate in South Carolina. It happened six times in the twentieth century alone, the latest, Ronald Reagan’s 1987 appointment of Anthony Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson nominated two people in 1968, after announcing he would not seek re-election – Justice Abe Fortas to the Chief Justice position vacated by Earl Warren. But, of course, you could pack Yankee Stadium with what Cruz doesn’t know about constitutional history.

One thing Cruz, the president, and every Republican, Democrat and Independent on this continent understand is how monumental the Supreme Court has been over the past thirty years deciding on the most pressing social, economic and domestic issues of our day. It is the looming third branch of government, as laid out by the framers of this republic. Its decisions, however controversial, have shaped our history and solidified our Bill of Rights against the tide of painfully slow-moving progress.

However much they hold this fight dear, this is a huge gamble for Republicans, who are underdogs in any general election which gives any Democrat at least 244 very likely electoral votes before a single poll opens. Not to mention it fires up a Democratic electorate that is half as jacked as Republicans, who have only achieved the popular vote once (2004, G.W. Bush) since 1988 (H.W. Bush).

The idea put forth by Republican members of the senate or political rhetoric by GOP candidates that they will not consider his nominee or to refuse to even vote on said nominee is patently unconstitutional.

At least Obama will be forced to send a moderate to the senate, unless he decides to make this political, which he could very well do, which again, will embolden the left and the growing majority of independents with more progressive social concerns. And should the victor be Hillary Clinton or (gulp!) Bernie Sanders the nominee would in no way, shape or form resemble a moderate. It will be as liberal as Scalia was conservative, and that choice will have post-election political capital not available to a lame duck president. Say what you wish about Barack Obama, but listening to these stump speeches and watching the Democratic debates, he is a country mile farther to the center than either Sanders or Clinton.

This election also includes the “swing” factor – the amount of Republican seats up for grabs (24) dwarfs the ten the Democrats have to defend. There is only a four-seat majority that Republicans are likely to lose and thus hand the senate back to the Democrats.

But beyond a very risky and potentially gut-wrenching political gamble, it is the duty of the senate must hold hearings on an Obama nominee. Cease this childish and unconstitutional whining and do your job.

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SYRIA – A BIG MISTAKE

Aquarian Weekly
11/4/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

SYRIA – A BIG MISTAKE
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.

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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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