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The Truth About Hillary Clinton – Political satirist, James Campion dissects the Hillary Senate Campaign.

Aquarian Weekly 10/25/00 REALITY CHECK

DECONSTRUCTING HILLARY

Political whores and power mongers are easy to spot in the waning moments of a campaign, especially campaigns surpassing a combined spending spree of $100 million between the two candidates. And there isn’t a half-assed pundit, pollster or sad commentary geek filling up newspapers with thousands of feeble prognostications who fails to be blinded by its queen; Hillary Rodham Clinton. This New York senate race is, has been, and will continue be all about the first lady. The GOP could have a door stop running against her and people will vote based on their love or hate for her.

The important element of this is the Clinton celebrity and the advantage and albatross it provides. Senator Rodham is at the crescendo of a decade-long game she’s played stumping for a man who has treated her like a scabby harlett throughout its duration. William Jefferson Clinton may have seen his wife’s gory mutations before any of us, but he has since become nothing more than a back-seat lecther in its wake.

Her opponent, Rick Lazio, is a few short months removed from sitting in his home out on Long Island and bemoaning the fact that his party didn’t think him a big enough name to take on the gaudy popularity numbers the first lady presented as a formidible senate challenge. This was a job for the Mayor of NYC, who first refused to offically announce anything beyond a raging hatred for Senator Rodham and then was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Rudolf Giuliani promptly backed out and in came Lazio with enviable spitfire and brimstone.

So Lazio jumped right in and became the anti-Hillary candidate phase two, because the New York senate race has always been about Ms. Rodham, or Hillary, as her “people” remind you she’s to be called. Sequestered in her rhinestone bathe of light, equivilant to a rock tour or a pre-war Hollywood opening night gala, the first lady’s suit of armor is shiny for a reason. The woman has never known a battle she couldn’t avoid.

Legitamate press never gets to her. Press conferences are nothing more than events for us fourth estate peons to gaze lovningly upon her devine personage. She smiles. She dances. She is a breath of jasmine from her lofty perch of azure. Television appearances are few and usually involve late-night comedians. Ted Koppel and Tim Russert, never mind traveling reporters, are off limits to the queen of pap. At the time of this writing there have been two debates, but it was deemed to rough and tumble for the delicate flower of Washington’s elite and the other was a party set-up that the Lazio people stupidly stumbled into with little investigation on their part.

Mere weeks remain in this charade of a campaign and what questions, what scrutiny, what hard-core politcs is Senator Rodham facing? Lazio brings no memory of powerful candidates with heaps of energy, but he at least he makes himself available to the press and handles the tough questions, ANY questions posed to him. His opponent is apprently too good or too busy or too sheltered for that.

These complaints may sound like the whining, selfish complaints of a spoiled journalist used to being fed fresh meat every time some ego-mad sucker needs coverage, and to that charge I plead ever guilty, but this is the very reason Hillary, with all her cries for equality and compassion, is a transparent candidate.

And how come my brethren let her get away with these lame duck and covers? Are we so silly with worshuip for a good story that campaigns are reduced to coronations before we have a glimmer of what a candidate stands for beyond notoriety? When will Senator Rodham be forced to face someone with a camera or a notepad who isn’t sporting a goon smile while peppering her with questions about the Chappaqua fire department picnic? Jackie Kennedy, princess of Camelot and national fashion plate, took more shit than this woman. The time has come for her mighty and untouchable hems to get filthy with debate rhetoric and that world-class litigious brain to crank its gears.

Lazio, predictably busy trying to be all things to all voters, has tried the credibility attack with his soft money overtures. It is admirable considering he’s had half the time to create the native New Yawker image from Giuliani’s shadow and separate himself from the stench of the Newt Gingrich clan the GOP so effectively shoved into the background at the convention. But Lazio is a New York politician and has served as a congressman for eight years. He has not been riding the ebb and flow of party casa de la Clinton for a decade of unpresidented verbal sewage.

In the end, this will mean nothing. Will Westchester, Central and Upstate New York voters despise or revere Hillary enough either way to defeat or elect her. Rick Lazio is the kid in class you hang with because the popular asshole ignores you. More than any election in this nation’s history beyond perhaps Jesse Ventura’s meteoric rise in Minnesota two years ago. And whether she wins or not there is a real sense now that celebrity can slant a race so completey that issues mean less than zero.

Senator Rodham and the Westchester crack team keeping her alive on bulging African American and women votes knows this. They will try and keep those and build on the all-important suburbs and Jewish/Hispanic votes and ride this puppy all the way to Washington without their candidate having to answer a single hard-line question about her ability to be grammar school principle, much less senator of New York. And that would be their victory and democracies loss. But this is something these people know quite well.

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Joseph Lieberman & The Great Leap Of Faith – Political satriist, James Campion deconstructs a demogogue VP choice.

Aquarian Weekly 7/26/00 REALITY CHECK

JOSEPH LIEBERMAN & THE GREAT LEAP OF FAITH

The GOP Fan Fest was barely done sweeping up the graffiti tonnage when the phones started to jangle in Nashville. The Gore Camp was fluttering with reaction to the first Republican Convention ripe with minorities and touchy-feely types and an absence of NRA, religious right or impeach-crazed congressmen. An eight-point deficit sunk to a 17-point chasm and the comfort of the front runner and his snoozer running mate brought one answer: SPLASH.

And by firing back with vice presidential candidate, Connecticut Senator, Joseph Lieberman, the current VP has made a big one. The name immediately cut hard into the gaudy Bush numbers, yanking the stunned interns from their seats over at Gallup. By the first full week in August, Al Gore had pulled within 2 lousy points of Captain Shoe-in with a bombast convention of his own pending.

But why did Joseph Lieberman make sense to the panicking democratic minions?

When the day is done, Joseph Lieberman is no different than Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell in the righteous, religious-judgment two-step and had William F. Buckley so juiced a few years back he endorsed him over a Republican candidate for senate.

Firstly, Lieberman is no Dick Cheney. He was the frontrunner’s opening gesture to the conservative wing of the party before the moderate convention, but a bland pick when considering the other, more courageous choices. Lieberman is truly the “wild card” name predicted by anyone willing to go on record after Bush named Cheney.

Gore needed a buzz and Lieberman resonates like an angry wasp’s nest.

Lieberman is a devout Orthodox Jew and a democratic legislator with an arms-length conservative, moralist voting record. And although no one in Washington will offer anything but “honorable” to describe the man, another word lingers inside the beltway, “enigma.” He is a purveyor of moral conduct and religious purity, yet he is a divorcee with an overwhelmingly “pro-choice” voting record.

Moreover, Lieberman secures many liberal circles while standing glaringly on the side of such conservative issues as school vouchers and Bill Bennett’s fascist Empower America crusade against pop culture. He supported George Bush’s Gulf War and was the first democrat to describe the Monica Lewinsky scandal as “immoral and harmful”, but on fiscal concerns he will back Gore’s fears of a GOP controlled congress buoyed by one of their own.

Then again, the Dems have had a history of “wild card” VP candidates from the mentally unstable Tom Eagleton and a woman, Geraldine Ferraro to presidential liabilities like the Catholic Jack Kennedy and the morally bankrupt William Jefferson Clinton. But as the VP’s had a way of killing a ticket, luck has followed the main draws.

If there was one salvo the GOP unloaded on the present administration during its televised centrist show, it was its lack of trustworthiness and moral structure. Lieberman answers that in spades. He is a morality nut and steps right in line with Gore’s corpulent shill of a wife and a PMRC past dripping with condescending “save the children” rhetoric.

But Gore’s attempt here is to seem more caring and less corruptible, and despite the predictable chicken littles moaning about mid-America’s disdain for East Coast Liberal Jews having little to no shot, it is hard to argue that Lieberman isn’t at least a news-making choice.

As discussed in this space for the last year, Al Gore has two main problems.

The first, and most damaging, is that people don’t like him. They don’t want to give him credit for the economy, blindly accept his alleged pristine record with ecology, embrace his repeated denials about campaign finance misappropriations or beam at whatever earth tones he happens to model while canoeing up a man-made creek. The majority of voting types see him as a Washington dupe and a disingenuous lout who would tell anyone anything they wanted to hear to be elected dogcatcher.

This brings us to problem number two: His opponent has brilliantly crafted an image of the one man Gore is trying to separate himself from: Bill Clinton.

Junior’s speech at the convention broke many seemingly unattainable Clinton records for moderate hyperbole. From saving Social Security and Medicare to even mentioning single mothers and inner city children, Bush laid out liberal agenda with a slice of “compassionate conservatism”, going as far as complimenting the president if not for his silly peccadilloes. Everything from his strained attempt at not smiling to avoid the “wise ass smirk” to the passionate call for change reeks of Big Bill at his most eerily phony moments.

Cut through all the polished speech-gunk and George Bush jr. told the nation that he knows what you liked about Bill Clinton and he can provide that and then some, without all the embarrassing perjury aftertaste. New and improved mouthwash in a handy mess-free bottle.

If Gore was the least bit likable, or faced with another stuffed-shirt conservative beast, then Joseph Lieberman is still serving the good people of Connecticut. He certainly isn’t balancing the ticket on battle lines drawn by the GOP convention.

Bush has set the tone thus far. That will change in a presidential campaign. Gore’s flow with the momentum is very reminiscent of Big Bill as well. But this worked with Clinton because he went in knowing he would get a pass by anyone he could entertain for four minutes. The Gore people know that if their man spends half that time with an independent voter he is likely to queer the deal.

When the day is done, Joseph Lieberman is no different than Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell in the righteous, religious-judgment two-step and had William F. Buckley so juiced a few years back he endorsed him over a Republican candidate for senate. But he is Gore’s lightening-in-a-bottle to balance a ticket wherein the presidential candidate has a problem separating ethics with business as usual.

NEXT WEEK: DIBBS BACKSTAGE AT THE CONVENTION

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Fidel Castro’s baseball career – Political satirist and author, James Campion puts Cuba into perspective.

Aquarian Weekly 4/26/00 REALITY CHECK

CASTRO, BASEBALL, AND THE GREAT DIVIDE

Opening day at Yankee Stadium and the press room is jammed with the ego elite and media geeks grubbing buttered rolls because they’re too cheap to afford George Steinbrenner’s seven-dollar buffet. The deadline monsters are breathing hard on the swinging doors and the smell of stale wool jackets is already prevalent.

Pushing my way into a table while smiling at my friend, Brain Cashman who happens to be the general manager of the team of the century and four years younger than me. I fail to call him “bastard” on this visit, which he agrees is my right since no one younger than me can be allowed to do anything considered important.

There’s an air of good feeling, for the ides of March has given way to breezy April afternoons in the shadow of this shrine. I promised a broadcasting friend earlier this year that since I sauntered out of the old girl last October, with the Yankees sipping nonalcoholic champagne and Roger Clemens high-fiving truck drivers and construction workers on the roof of the Yankee dugout, that since I saw the last game played in the 20th century here, why not hit the field for the first one of the 21st.

The Pirates never did have the patience to develop short Cuban kids with little pop on the cheese, so a dejected Fidel attended law school, went to prison, and disappeared into the Cuban socialist underground.

Something about new beginnings that bring the leeches from the dusty corners and send the rabid fungus of the sports world clamoring. The Yankees are a hot ticket. They win. Americans–New Yorkers first and foremost–love winners. Losers draw flies and boos and calls for painful death. One minute on the pro sport circuit and a concept like politics becomes child’s play.

Inevitably that kind of talk around those who moonlight at the Stadium want to know what the hell is going on with the Cuban kid. A few tables over Elian Gonzalez comes up in light conversation, along with how horrible it was that the world champs wasted their celebration with nonalcoholic champagne when AA veteran Darryl Strawberry was weeks away from getting back on the crank.

But it was the boxing curmudgeon known as Bert Sugar who started a near melee after a rant on his new magazine and the future of Cuban middleweights when things became heated. “I just wanted to double the average age of the press corps,” he laughed and exited stage left, leaving a hardy debate on all things Elian Gonzalez.

Right down the middle among the sporting press: Elian stays, or hops the first freight with his father back to the land of cigars and sugar cane. “What do you think would be the furor if the Gonzalez kid were a fat, greasy Cuban with a gruff beard and a stogie hanging from his face?” someone asked. “Probably would have pushed him back on that raft with his mother’s corpse,” I answered causing an aggravated woman to ask for another show of hands.

There is a well-known baseball trivia question that makes its way around most press boxes involving Fidel Castro as a 21 year-old pitching prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Seems two corpulent scouts, hired by the parent club, went to Havana to watch the diminutive lefty break nasty curves and dip sinkers in and around the aggressive Latin competition, but were somewhat lukewarm about his speed. “The kid Castro has some command of breaking pitches (stop),” the report told the front office the next morning via Western Union. “Has nothing on the fast ball (stop) Double AA talent at best (stop).”

The Pirates never did have the patience to develop short Cuban kids with little pop on the cheese, so a dejected Fidel attended law school, went to prison, and disappeared into the Cuban socialist underground. Those were the days when his family and friends were subsisting on a steady diet of dung beetles and palm leaves chased by rotten disease-ridden water, while the mob ran numbers for a dictatorship backed by the muscle of Harry Truman’s United States.

It was a short walk from the entrance of Forbes Field to the den of hate. And hate turned into revolution on New Year’s Eve 1959, when the failed pitcher became champion of the weak and an American thorn; followed closely by the CIA’s spring invasion gone terribly wrong two years later. And when the Bay of Pigs sent the slugs from Florida’s underbelly to the right people, Jack Kennedy paid with his life in Dallas two years after that.

Books by James Campion are available on this web site or at Amazon & Barnes & Nobleclick to order

Thirty-three years later Elian Gonzalez was born to Cuban natives, Juan Miguel and his wife Elisabeth. The couple divorced and the mother fled the country with Elian in toe. When fishermen rescued the boy in an inner tube on Thanksgiving Day he could only mention his father’s name. His father wants to take him back to a country where Elian has less than eight months to drink milk without serious rations and is merely a public relations faux paus from prison. Floridian Cuban refugees from the gun runners and coke fiends to the hardworking parents and relatives of those suffering tyrannical madness mere miles of water south want the boy to stay. Sticking it to the failed pitcher has a purpose.

But the boy is a political football, and that is a sport rarely discussed in the cathedral of baseball. And politics takes a back seat to a child and his parent taking in the sunshine of spring. It is the third change of season that finds Elian Gonzalez without his father. Human chains keeping blood and communism away from the great bellow of freedom.

Governments raising children.

Courts playing mommy.

Play ball!

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Super Tuesday Mayhem – Political satirist, James Campion comes clean on a fixed political system.

Aquarian Weekly 3/22/00 REALITY CHECK

CHEAP GARMENTS AND LESSER WORDS ON SUPER TUESDAY

“Nobody really wants to vote for these guys.” – Chief Wonka

So said the Poobah of a revolutionary underground information network called BLAZO!!, after a long day of deliberating on whether the black hole that has become the American political landscape drew deeper parallels to the misty days of 1960. That was the year the Kennedy brothers handed the vice presidency over to a man they despised and who moments earlier painted a picture of Jack Kennedy that would’ve trounced him in a race against Caligula, much less Dick Nixon. Yet, Lyndon Johnson stood by the side of JFK as he ran the mother of all kick-ass campaigns against a political mutant that might not have survived for six minutes in Roman elections.

Chief Wonka knows a thing or two about the climate of big time politics, tapping his left leg like a fiend on crank while assaulting the Grand China Buffet with a passion rarely found in mortals. The Chief loves his politics, but his fried cream cheese even more; and when it came time to handicap the Super Tuesday ballots he leaned back in that funny way he does while peeling off a medieval grin that told me all I needed to know about the rising smog.

John McCain had a chance, I foolishly told myself. But by 10:24 PM the final curtain had come down on the Arizona Senator. “Effectively, he flat lined in New York,” they’ll write. “And California will put the dirt on him.”

Writing this gibberish is the easy part. I have spent the last four hours at a voting outlet in the sleepy nook of Putnam Valley, where less people know about me than those forced to edit this rant. Most of it with a bull horn gripped firmly in my right hand belting out the kind of propaganda needed for desperate March evenings when Fat Tuesday becomes a super bummer and the only men left with a puncher’s chance at finally putting Bill Clinton out of a job are pathetic facsimiles.

“HEAR YE, POOR MINIONS OF OUR DENTED SYSTEM,” I began. “THE LORD HAS ABANDONED US, AND ALL THAT IS LEFT IS OUR MEAGER WILL TO SURVIVE THE FINAL BLOW!”

“The final blow?” a hardy pedestrian asked. “What are you talking about?”

It was a fair question. How would Chief Wonka decipher the crux of such a cryptic statement born of frustration and defeat? He was so sure that things would right itself that afternoon at the Grand Buffet that I nearly ate the multicolored death mints on the way out. But something beyond the lobster roll gnawed at my stomach. Four men remained before Super Tuesday—when more than half the delegates it takes to become president would be up for grabs—but only two would stand.

“No one really wants to vote for these guys,” the mighty Chief said twice more before we departed. “We’re supposed to choose a royal meal from rotten dog meat?” It rang true, then hollow. Bill Bradley was a dead man hours after he left New Hampshire, but the the glassy-eyed zombies up at headquarters still kept e-mailing me his itinerary: Mr. Bradley goes here. Mr. Bradley goes there. Didn’t have much of a point after too long. So much so I turned down two personal invitations to his consession speech just to avoid gazing upon the carcass.

The Republicans would set things right, I thought. Every bubble-headed paranoid dipshit screaming about a phantom hijacking of the party and ignoring millions of independent votes would suddenly come to their senses and put the scare into the vice president. John McCain had a chance, I foolishly told myself. But by 10:24 PM the final curtain had come down on the Arizona Senator. “Effectively, he flat lined in New York,” they’ll write. “And California will put the dirt on him.” As my grandmother, Carmella Martignetti, once said so eloquently. “That man is dead, he just doesn’t know enough to lie down.”

So the hardy man at the poll asked, “What are you talking about?” And in the tradition of Chief Wonka, and all the proud warriors of dark battles, it is important to remember that in defeat can be another kind of victory. And back to the bull horn I went…“THE PHEONIX CAN RISE! THE CHRIST KNEW VICTORY AFTER DEATH! SHIRLY MCCLEAN FUCKED KUBLA KHAN! THERE IS A WAY TO BEAT SATAN AGAIN!”

“Satan?” the man asked, following along slowly.

“YOUR MAN BUSH IS A SCUMBAG, IT IS TRUE! HE PAINTED HIS OPPONENT AT A COMMIE, LAND-RAPING, WOMAN-HATING GREMLIN, BUT IT WOULD TAKE THE ARCH ANGEL OF THE LORD AND ALL HIS CHARGES TO BRING DOWN THE EVIL THAT RESTS IN THE HEART OF THE MAN WHO SLEEPS REGULARLY WITH TIPPER! KNOW NOT THE FIRES OF HELL UNTIL HATH LIE WITH THE SLITHERING SNAKE!”

Bull horns may be well and good at teamster rallies, but late at night in Putnam Valley, NY amidst the gentle voters, it is enough to bring the law. My stand was finished. Within two hours G.W. Bush would win the lion’s share of key delegates, edge New York, and by evening’s end wrap up Cali on a whim.

Al Gore swept the thing and stood at a podium in Tennessee begging the McCain independents to protect their women and children from the right-wing religious freak from the land of electric chair justice and world record pollution numbers.

At that moment, phones had to ring in the McCain hotel room somewhere in Los Angeles; and the men paid high figures for advising had to be all over them rebuilding the same bridges that had G.W. in bed with evil preachers and in the back pocket of an establishment which was one bad night in South Carolina away from funneling funds elsewhere. If McCain has a heart, and any compassion left for his party and the future of this nation, he will suck it up and join Junior on the ticket. It is the only avenue left to cease this presidency-by-default Gore has lined up.

It’s after midnight and G.W. is on CNN telling Larry King that he might not have invented the Internet, but he’s sure he could spell it. I still plan to keep writing. Most of it will not appear in this space, but there may be another book left in me. Chief Wonka may even know. I was told he knows all. I was also told crime doesn’t pay and you can’t argue with election results.

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R.I.P. Woodstock – Pop Culture author, James Campion slams Woodstock 1999.

Reality Check Classics 7/28/99

R.I.P. WOODSTOCK

Like all things attached to aberrations and miracles, the legacy of Woodstock must be allowed to rest in peace. It has become sadly apparent that to revive its memory only unearths actions barely resembling anything to do with the word peace.

Glaring examples of capitalism run amok in the form of 90s’ sponsorship, and potential record sales eclipse any homage to a time and place so rare it defies explanation even now. For if Joni Mitchell had been walking down the road to Rome, New York on the weekend of July 24, 1999, it is more likely she would have seen less a child of God, than a Baby Boomer fallout.

Whatever those who put together Woodstock ’99 might have thought—or offered up as an excuse, following three days of disgusting accommodations, ridiculous overpricing, lewd and abusive behavior, blatant acts of violence, looting, and arson—it can simply be summed up as the day the piper came looking for his check. Somewhere between MTV, pay-per-view, and ultra-hip.com, the ripped-off, starving, unwashed, poser revolutionaries who were bilked by this sham enacted their vengeance on what surely has to be the last of these hapless revivals.

By the time the miscreants began looting the evil money lenders and setting fires, Woodstock, as we have come to know and love it, became just another example of humans misinterpreting compassion for luck.

Thirty years ago, a couple of rich kids got lucky. All they wanted was to make a few bucks on a burgeoning music culture born out of a Summer of Love and a stockpile of recreational drugs. The small town known as Woodstock, nestled in the mountains of Sullivan County, New York seemed as good a place as any to have what was fast being known as a music festival.

Home to artists for most of the century, and by the Summer of ‘69, host to musicians including the patriarchal Bob Dylan, the town of Woodstock served as a mini-nirvana for those starved for an image to summon the crude, but sometimes charming lifestyle begun in the streets of the East Village in NYC and Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. The Woodstock Music and Art Festival didn’t turn out like the rich kids planned (Actually, it didn’t even take place in Woodstock, NY, but in nearby Bethel), but it could’ve been a whole hell of a lot worse.

Nearly three decades later, other rich folk, coupled with corporate America and the record industry, decided to press the odds. A 25th Anniversary weekend went relatively well a few towns south in Saugerties, NY five years ago, and now it would take place a few miles southeast. But it was more than decades and miles which separated the 350,00 lost souls who descended on Max Yasgur’s farmland in the Summer of the moon landing and the Amazin’ Mets, and nearly 230,000 suckers crammed into an abandoned Air Force base last month. That was a distance made but for one element: luck.

It should always be noted that the original Woodstock festival was supposed to be a profit venture. Sadly, for the rich kids financing it, the thing turned into a financial bath before the end of day-one. More than half the kids who piled into the festival waltzed over downed fences. As a result of the unchecked influx of flower children there wasn’t nearly enough toilets, water, or space. The New York Thruway, a winding stretch of road as long as the Mississippi River, was closed. Humanity outweighed the blue print ten times over. Then came the torrential downpours and random dissemination of tainted LSD.

But something significant, some might offer magnificent, happened over those three miserable days. Through it all, the people survived. Better yet, they thrived. What originally was supposed to exploit them, deteriorated into something which transformed them. For all their antisocial rhetoric, the hippie generation formed a mini-society which laughed in the face of convention by embracing its most ardent qualities. This was the story plastered on the front of the New York Times on the Monday morning after. Crazy kids with heads full of drugs and hardly a stitch of clothing or a dollar to spare supported each other for three days of “peace and music.”

Like Kennedy’s Camelot, Woodstock has been retrospectively lifted to epic lore. But for those who found themselves there it was nothing short of a disaster area. The Who’s Pete Townshend still speaks of it in horrific terms. Filmmaker Martin Scorcese, who worked the sound for the award-winning movie, has often described it as surviving war. Bad acid, bad weather, bad well water, and creeping sickness turned fields around the stage into Gettysburg without the rifles.

Yet, the world continued to wonder if those hearty souls showed the rest of us a thing or two about the glow of the human spirit., where behind the myopic harangue of civilization there is a ring of collective truth about brotherhood, caring, and the simple, but significant, act of lifting the person next to you out of the mud and back on stride.

The world knows now it was nothing but dumbass luck.

People would love to blame the senseless violence and looting of this year’s version of Woodstock on the music, the artists, the culture, or those empty-headed youngsters whose only sense of self-respect and responsibility eludes them. But if you find yourself in Limp Bizkit or Korn right now, a few months, maybe years, from eating stale bread in your no-heat apartments, you’re taking any gig, especially a high-paying, high-profile one. And if you need to scream and yell about how much life sucks to a rapid-fire beat and three chords to make a buck, may the good Lord bless and keep you.

Ironically, many feel that the acts not allowed to perform during the original Woodstock allowed for the vibe to float rather than sink. There was a reason why the Doors, with their radical calls for the break down of reality barriers and invisible social casts, were left off the bill.

When the rebellious Satan clan known as the Rolling Stones were told not to come, Mick Jagger decided to host his own festival on the hills of San Francisco which resulted in the blood bath forever known as Altamont.

But in reality the music didn’t have as much to do with the tragedy of Altamont as the fascist violence of the Hell’s Angels and the hippie mismanagement which inevitably led to infamous killings and another type of bell which tolled for the Baby Boomer peace and love era.

All of this had been conveniently forgotten until the pathetic display of raging capitalism, apathy, and finally violence in Rome last month. Only this time ignorance cannot be used as an excuse. As the weekend unfolded it seemed far more attention was paid to draining patrons of their cash than providing decent camp areas, ample toilets, showers, or any presence of security. The hundreds crushed in mosh pits could have been prevented. The overflow of human secretions hindered somewhat.

By the time the miscreants began looting the evil money lenders and setting fires, Woodstock, as we have come to know and love it, became just another example of humans misinterpreting compassion for luck. Those stumbling into a wonderful mistake and sliding through relatively unscathed 30 years ago achieved a level of fortune rarely reached in the annals of humanity.

The luck ran out in August of 1969. For the rest of us there is only an empty vessel of suffering at $169 a pop.

First Published on 8/11/99 in The Aquarian Weekly. It is included with many others in jc’s new book, Fear No Art available now on jamescampion.com!

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Journalism Review 4/15/96

ON THE TRAIL OF A KIDNAPPED JOURNALIST

Part One (Thrust into the angry mouth of the ’96 campaign on a hunch and a prayer)

“Do you see what those bastards are trying to do to my party?” The voice on the other end of a cellular phone screeched. It was the determined rant of an angered female named Joannie, one with a boulder-chip on her shoulder and probably the same disturbing gleam in a right eye that never seemed to blink. In all the time I’d taken her frenzied calls, I’d never heard her so all-hell riled up. It was a voice, yes, but more like the disturbing, repetitive screech of a rabid ferret gnawing its way through a metal cage. “In the holy name of Ronald Reagan,” she bellowed, “the idea is to win!”

Friends like Joannie come around once in a lifetime; well versed in political rhetoric and amped-up on fourteen cups of java a day, railing about one injustice after another. That’s the way true underground journalists work: a phone in one hand and a micro cassette recorder in the other, freelancing like a Times Square hooker for every twisted story dangling on the professional bate line.

But Joannie is just a child in this business; squeaky clean and emerald green from the sprawling fields of Michigan, thrust into the shark-infested waters of Washington DC like a bleeding minnow. She is one of those beautiful examples of wide-eyed optimists running rampart through the new world of the Fourth Estate.

I, on the other hand, have seen the ugly truth of real politics, foul dealings and back-room rugby scrums for the removal of a traffic light, much less the increase on tariffs or the deployment of troops. Joannie and me had always made an interesting team.

I first met her at a Trenton State campus rally for unfair parking permits back in 1982. Fresh from winning a journalism award for an expose on pregnant women’s abuse of certain grain alcohol’s and the effects on their fetuses, Joannie already exuded a ravenous appetite for a story. I had won a similar, meaningless award from the American Cancer Society for a story I’d written about a middle-aged man who refused to quit smoking even after his wife had died of lung cancer from his second hand smoke. The judges were especially impressed with my description of the deranged cretin smoking no-filter Lucky Strikes through the tracheotomy hole in his neck.

Joannie was a whiny liberal then, so full of passion for helping the destitute and saving whatever aquatic creature was rumored to be endangered. Although struggling with the morality of abortion, she found it almost impossible to balance her fervent defense of women’s rights and the power of any government to demand that a thirteen year-old, freckled-faced girl carry her rapist’s love child for nine months. In the end, though, it was economics and the charm of Ronald Reagan that convinced her to register Republican in 1984, ironically opposing the first presidential ticket with a woman on it. “Ferraro is a goddamn mobster’s wife,” she hissed, that fateful November day.

On a professional level, politics was never Joannie’s bag. She chose instead to delve into movie reviews and cooking blurbs, nailing the odd interview with a Midwestern town comptroller or local congressman for most of the 1980s’. But then, as with most newspaper work, the money dried up. “I’m going to the heart of journalism now,” she told me four short years ago.

Once in our nation’s capitol, Joannie found herself in the mouth of the dragon with nothing but her valiant heart. There was little covered in her Civics 101 or Introduction of Mass Media that prepared her for such a vile disregard for humanity, and on one particularly humorous call, I received in her first month there, she told me that only Dante himself could find the proper adjectives to describe the netherworld lurking inside the Beltway.

Certainly, nowhere in the text of any respected college course could one find the type of vitriol Joannie was presently spewing into my right ear as I surfed the cable channels for a decent sports highlight show. “There is no direction in the Grand Old Party anymore,” she continued, building mind-bending momentum. “Too many frightened people crawling behind a veil of weak apathy and phony posturing. Too many goddamn polls on fucking CNN! Who the hell runs these wretched things?!”

“Calm down,” I pleaded, attempting to swing the conversation into innocuous banter about spring fashions and the royal divorce. “How can you bark about such banal crap when Princess Di is left all alone,” I began. “This is a gender issue of grave importance.”

“Fuck that English cunt,” she blurted. “The Republican Party is imploding quietly under the weight of stale boredom, and that scumbag Clinton is going to rule the free world for four more fucking years!”

I knew her tantrum would lead to it. Every manic conversation with her lately had gone the way of the loyal opposition. Slick talking southern Democrats with the lilt of a country carnival barker always rubbed Joannie’s skin raw like fresh sandpaper on an open wound. Even above the incessant crackling of our conversation and the drone of the television I could hear her teeth grinding.

But she had it all wrong this time. “Bill Clinton is not the enemy,” I told her, carefully considering her fragile state of mind. “Oh I know that,” she said. “The enemy is bullshit! How to manufacture it, market it, and sell it. The Grand Old Party has forgotten how! Where have you gone Ronnie, our nation’s turns its lonely eyes to you!”

“Ronald Reagan dies in 1983,” I barked. “Everyone in Washington knew it at the time. They stuffed him and spliced together old tapes of speeches whenever they wheeled the carcass in front of the press. Do you think for one minute the Gipper would have let a dullard like Ollie North embarrass him like that?”

“Just how do you suppose a dottering old fool like Bob Dole will fare in a debate with the likes of Bill Clinton?” she asked, becoming more frantic. “Dole couldn’t debate that idiot Steve Forbes and he never even ran for school board!”

Just then, I happened by a news channel running the same tired footage of Pat Buchanan on the stump down South where he was repeatedly slaughtered by Rappin’ Robert Dole in practically every state that held a primary. Uncle Pat was busy waving his fist like some televangilist demanding money to keep Jesus from stealing the Statue of Liberty. God bless his mangled heart, I thought to myself, he is the only man demented enough to topple a vicious professional like Bill Clinton.

Uncle Pat was a pit bull with a spiked collar and a lusty taste for blood long before Big Bill even dreamed of running for class hall monitor. Not even the long arm of Dick Nixon could keep him from whipping up a few venomous lines for Spiro Agnew to read as part of a harmless ribbon cutting ceremony in Demoins, Iowa for the Knights of Columbus.

Oh, how the tiny hairs on the back of Bob Halderman’s neck would stand at attention when he would be forced to brief the president of some speech Buchanan handed Agnew. No target was too small for Uncle Pat’s sharp ideological arrows. He would proudly stand in the wings cackling as each sentence angered anyone within earshot who even remotely used their conscience.

After all, it was Uncle Pat who told a frazzled Nixon to “start a bonfire with those goddamn tapes,” when the Supreme Court came-a-knockin’ for the president’s impeachment. It was Uncle Pat who nestled at the bosom of such evil brutes like John Mitchell and Ed Meese during the bulk of the Nixon and Reagan empires, displaying sheer brilliance at keeping his hands clean and his fat ass out of jail. These are key assets for a candidate who entertains the challenge for the ultimate office.

Bob Dole couldn’t get a sniff of those type of activities. Nixon’s top aids would laugh like mischievous school boys whenever Rappin’ Rob would leave the room. He was a small player at the crap table and never did like to get his hands dirty. No one who gives half a shit about the future of the Republican Party would seriously cast a vote for Bob Dole. I know it, and apparently Joannie had come similar conclusions. Rappin’ Rob might have been a wounded in the Big One, but he would be lucky to come out of a real hard political battle with Big Bill with his dick still attached.

The president was even now revving up his campaign engines, stopping in the Lincoln bedroom to spark a joint and hold his breath. The truly connected people can tell its party time when a political bagman like James Carvillle starts spending quality time on every talk show from Ophra to Larry King, giggling like a mental patient at the thought of stomping a nice, bland old man like Bob Dole.

“It had better be Dole,” Carville shuttered. “Cause Buchanan’s got full color photos of the president screwing half the street walkers on Pennsylvania Avenue, Larry! Christ, we can’t deal with that bastard without serious ammunition!”

The more I thought about it, Joannie was right. But the further she raged on, the more muddled and diluted her thoughts had become, like a feverish child babbling about the cute purple dinosaur ripping up through the box spring to eat her alive. “I’m working for the party,” she whispered, when I concocted an excuse to hang up. “What?” I cried. “You’ve slipped into the abyss, never to return! No tabloid, or television station will have you now. Look what happened to that fucker at channel four! Your soiled, corrupted, finished in this business!”

A sudden clicking sound interrupted my tirade.

“Your other line is ringing,” I offered.

“I don’t have call-waiting,” she said nervously.

I knew it wasn’t me, having dropped that particular service as part of a tantrum I pulled during tempestuous negotiations with NYNEX not long after they tried to charge me for running six computers out of my house when I didn’t even own a computer. I remember frantically trying to call the FCC in a huff, but the lines were busy.

“Your fucking phone is tapped,” I barked, quickly slamming down the receiver.

I ran to my car and yanked the gear shift into first, grinding up one of the many hills surrounding my house in the thicket of Putnam County, New York. The nearest pay phone is a twenty-minute ride in any direction, but I managed to make it in ten, ignoring the double yellow lines and two stop signs.

On ring. Two rings. There was no answer. Whomever had tapped her line obviously alerted someone of her dangerous babbling and gotten to her. The chances were very good those involved had traced my number and would certainly be coming after me. If Bob Woodward had to carry a pistol around downtown Washington D.C., only God knows how easy it would be to get to a relative novice like Joannie. Especially if the Republican Party had her address, phone number and vital information.

As I stood in that phone booth, listening to one unanswered ring after the other, her predicament became clearer to me. She’d probably been stewing for days, maybe weeks, throwing back martinis in a bar across the street from the FBI building and going on and on about the party imploding while Bill Clinton ruled the world. It could easily have been the type of hysterical outburst that would perk the ear of any official in the know. For all Joannie knew, she was under surveillance for months and had given them all the evidence they needed for a covert kidnapping.

I fumbled through my wallet for the number of several publications that I’d freelanced for before, but it was late and I was having trouble trying to find the right words to present my reasons for running off to Washington DC in an attempt to rescue a crazed journalist from committing professional suicide. Not mention the possible ugly results of going toe to toe with angry Republican insiders.

That’s when the name Dan Davis popped into my swimming head. After all, it was Dirty Dan, who as a young reporter, had brought the Pet Rock industry to its knees. He was the editor of the leading underground newspaper on the East Coast, known far and wide for his profound drunken boasts on how he’d stretched the credibility of the First Amendment further than Howard Stern, Lenny Bruce and Cybersmut junkies. Luckily, his card was still in my wallet.

“It’s two o’clock in the goddamn morning, Campion!” he bellowed from the other end.

“Important feces has hit the fan, Davis,” I began.

“I have no money,” he interrupted, quickly surmising my train of thought.

“Hear me out,” I argued, feeling my final solution slipping through the cracks. I hurriedly explained the crisis while dumping a slew of change into the cold coin slot.

“I’ve never heard of this Joannie character,” he barked. “Call me when they beat up Dan Rather again.”

“This is a story that could lead to the steps of the Republican Convention in San Diego,” I cried pounding my hand on the glass in from of me. “There is trouble and there will be hell to pay by November!” Can you imagine a kidnapping in the heart of our nation’s capitol? Possible ties to the FBI, the CIA and most likely the fucking Kennedy assassination! It’s not O.J., but it’s gound-floor insurrection!”

“Sober up and call a psychatrist,” he calmly retorted. “I’m going back to sleep.”

“Joannie is a ticking time bomb,” I said, trying desperately to keep him on the line. “Even if nothing happened to her there’s a great chance she’ll do something bizarre. I’ll be in the eye of the storm I tell you. The whole presidential campaign could break wide open!”

“O.K., I’ll tell you what,” he slowly exhaled. “I’m not giving you dime-one to get to Washington. But if you find this chick, get to California, and manage credentials to the convention…” he hesitated, bringing my sense of urgency to dangerous levels of pure fear. “…then I’ll pay for the story as it develops.” Then he hung up.

That’s really all I needed to hear. Once a journalist has the pulpit in which to scratch the bloody surface of a story, the details become minutiae. I had just enough gasoline to get to an airport and plenty of plastic credit to get to DC, but one question remained: would Joannie still be there when I arrived?

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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The Legacy and Legend of Howard Cosell ‘s eulogy to an American broadcasting icon.

North County 4/26/95

“TELL IT LIKE IT IS” – THE LEGACY AND LEGEND OF HOWARD COSELL

Howard CosellThis country has not known a more influential journalist than Howard Cosell. His innate ability to dissect an event, infiltrate a personality and offer honest analysis at the point of attack made him a unique voice in an otherwise antiseptic profession. The resonance of his talent is an echo in the world of reporting today, but it is a faint reminder of the man whose voice served as a sonic boom that shook the walls and shattered the windows of broadcasting.

Ironically, Cosell died quietly this past weekend after a private three-year battle with cancer at the age of 77. The doctor’s report told the world it was a heart embolism, but anyone who knew anything about the attorney with a microphone and the massive chip on his hunched shoulder was convinced that he was too stubborn to succumb to anything, much less a deadly disease.

His staccato delivery was immediate legend, his hawkish looks an instant caricature and his powerful ego a massive hammer swung sometimes with little control, if not definite, direction. These were the odd attributes that combined to make Cosell a superstar among faceless haircuts and scribbling notepads. But his greatest asset was that he was utterly fearless. There was no crusade too big, no injustice too imposing, and no human power too intimidating for his prodding sarcasm and razor-sharp wit. “I tell it like it is,” was his catch-phrase.

“I did what I believed in,” he reflected to a reporter a few years ago. “I saw myself as a person who wanted to bring to public attention that which I thought was wrong. No more. No less.”

Throughout the 60s’ and 70s’ the appearance of Cosell at a sporting event signified its importance. If there was ever a question of its relevance, it was answered by his presence alone.

He was the living embodiment of the first amendment and the shining example of what truths can be uncovered by the oft-challenged “freedom of press”.

Not unlike John F. Kennedy and the Beatles, Howard Cosell was a figure perfectly fit for the times in which he found himself. Ten years earlier, or perhaps, even ten years later, an editorial voice like Cosell’s might have been shoved aside as too assertive, or worse yet, ignored altogether. But in the age following McCarthyism and the Red Scare, a country swirling in the tornado of events from Vietnam to Watergate we were just cynical and thick-skinned enough to handle him.

He could have covered any corner of the news, but chose sports because of the immediacy and likelihood of the impossible to explode at anytime. Moreover, he precociously knew sports needed him. “If ever a broadcaster sought to bring sports out of the banal,” he once mused, “this, you see, is my mission.”

Throughout the 60s’ and 70s’ the appearance of Cosell at a sporting event signified its importance. If there was ever a question of its relevance, it was answered by his presence alone. In one predictably pompous moment, he once compared his celebrity to Walter Cronkite. But unlike the security and warmth of Uncle Walty at the time of breaking news or crisis, Cosell exuded the fastidious tension of a literate watch dog that needed not only an answer, but the answer.

If there was no Howard Cosell, Muhammad Ali would have still been an icon for a generation locked in turbulence, people would’ve still crowded into bars on Monday nights to watch prime time football, the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics would’ve had the same impact on a stunned and riveted television audience, Joe Willie Namath would still have his middle name, Chris Chambliss would’ve probably hit that homer to win the pennant for the Yankees, and Joe Frazier still would have tumbled to the canvas under the thunderous blow of the brooding force of young George Foreman.

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The difference is that Cosell was there, and for some strange reason, we remember that. Cosell and the event seemed to take on an inseparable quality as time passed. Yet, despite his propensity to find a space in the spotlight of a sporting event, like an annoying relative trying to squeeze into a family snapshot, Cosell never usurped the game itself. He somehow joined its magnitude by riding along, often times actually becoming the only voice that mattered when the dust settled.

He could sense a story as it unfolded and enlarge its aura as if it were a moment already recorded, digested and reflected in history.

In this way, Cosell clung to the light and fury that was Muhammad Ali, arguably the largest sports figure of the 20th century. When the young heavyweight, Cassius Clay embraced the Muslim faith and changed his name, only Cosell would honor it by calling him Ali during interviews. When Ali fought the draft because of his religious beliefs, and was stripped of his championship belt, Cosell was there beside him.

Cosell’s interviews with the always poetic and vociferous Ali were masterpieces in entertainment. “I’ll take you out Cosell,” Ali would pronounce with that ever-present smile biting down on his bottom lip. “I’ll knock you out and take that rug off your head.”

“You wouldn’t dare lay a hand on me,” Cosell would quip in his laconic drone.

His powerful radio show, “Speaking of Sports” lasted the longest of any of his projects. Probably because he didn’t have to share the spotlight with anyone else. And when I was a kid, it punched its way through the mono speaker on my little portable every Sunday morning. He took on racism, the wrongful treatment of pro athletes by monolithic leagues, the absence of a commissioner for prize fighting; but it what made those shows special, was those priceless moments when a unsuspecting guest would need to wiggle out of a finger-pointing diatribe on the hypocrisy of something somewhere.

Cosell’s best-known pulpit was the crowded booth on of the most popular experiments in network history. Monday Night Football was the perfect place for his pedantry and bluster, and he made it his stage. A man who had never played the sport, offering strong commentary, most of it derisive, led to a TV Guide poll that during the mid 70s’ had him the most hated and most loved sportscaster of all.

After denouncing boxing as a “disgusting mess” and pro football as a “stagnant bore”, Howard Cosell rode off into the sunset, leaving a 35-year body of work in his indignant wake. His last public jab came in the form of his fourth book, What’s Wrong with Sports, a truculent attack on everything he ever encountered along the way. Cosell went out the way he came in–swinging.

Howard Cosell never received a big sendoff like Johnny Carson of Cronkite, but one would have to wonder if he would’ve either expected or embraced it. But every one of us who have ever offered an opinion or covered an event, or tried to procure a quote from a newsworthy subject have a debt to pay to Howard Cosell. Because in the end, reporting is the search for truth, and as a reporter, you’d hope a little justice prevails. Right or wrong, the reporter strives to, at the very least, make people think. That is Howard Cosell’s legacy.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

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James Campion – Gonzo Journalist for a new century of mayhem

BIOGRAPHY

jc in 1997

Born to James and Phyllis Campion on 9/9/62 at the northern tip of Manhattan, jc spent his formative years on Van Ness Avenue in the Bronx, New York. Sequestered from the swirling chaos of the 1960’s by a loving family, his imagination was fueled by fantasy, comic books and the distant music from passing cars and open windows. Creating fantasy worlds far from the heat and cement of city life kept him from being scarred by stringent Catholic School rules and rough neighborhood wounds. His close relationship to his mom, grandmother and aunt has led jc to often refer to these years as paramount in experiencing the plight of the underdog. This lead to the inevitable questioning and rebellion often displayed by personalities educated in the belief of freedom and expression at home.

Campions
Phyllis and James Campion -1993

“My dad spent much of his time either at work or school trying to make a better life for my brother, Philip John and me,” jc told jamescampion.com. “I didn’t have that constant male presence. Very talented, emotional and brilliant women with an indescribable inner strength raised me to question everything and give your all in the face of any challenge.” jc’s mother noticed his penchant for ignoring the status quo very early in life. “James could never conform to the way things were right from the start,” Mrs. Campion told us. “We couldn’t understand why he didn’t take his first day of school as hard as the other kids. Then the next day when I asked him if he was ready for school, he responded, ‘I already did that yesterday.’ Of course we tried to explain to him that he had to go everyday so he could meet new people and play with their toys and learn new things, but he simply thought it crazy to leave his own friends and toys behind for some group dynamic.”

In his father’s company, jc’s imaginary worlds were transferred to sports or the silver screen. “My dad had this knack for taking me to movies that were incredibly thought provoking,” he remembers. “I developed my love of film and storytelling from those afternoons.”

By the age of ten, jc found himself in the grips of suburbia when his father’s hard work paid off and he was able to move his family out of the city and into a Central New Jersey town called Freehold. Moving again two years later to yet another neighborhood taught jc to adapt quickly to the cruelty and challenges of childhood politics. “When you’re small in stature and the new guy on the block,” he told an interviewer in 1996, “you learn quickly that you have to prove yourself time and again.” Eventually the new kid in town turned to the radio for solace and a source of endless imagination. There, in the din of corny 70s’ pop music, singer-songwriter honesty and the echo of athletic heroes pulsating through its tiny AM speaker, jc developed a nurturing relationship with music and a rabid infatuation with sports. He fell in love with their compact medium of telling compelling stories through song and drama, and with no formal musical training and lacking the body to compete at the highest level of sports, he pined to be the voices who brought those images to him..

jc and cb
jc and Chris Barrera on location of “The Package” – 1997

It was in the bucolic splendor of Freehold that jc also developed his love for reading and began to display an acute aptitude for writing. His budding friendship with neighbor, Chris Barrera, two years his junior, bloomed into a partnership of vivid imagination. Before long, their fascination with comic books and fantasy evolved into their own humble comic book empire. Everyday for countless hours the two would bang out stories of heroes and villains in the basement of jc’s house; Chris sketching the harrowing pictures, and jc penning the dramatic dialogue and plot. Sometimes the kids in the neighborhood would clamor for the latest tale, other times the stories would live and die under a naked light bulb above a black card table where the young team huddled together. “I read Stan Lee’s autobiography on how he conjured up those amazingly complex characters for Marvel Comics,” jc remembers. “The idea that someone sat down and wrote these things from out of their head and the result ended up on my nightstand intrigued me greatly.” In his grammar school year book in the spring of 1976 jc wrote one word under the heading, Desired Occupation: Writer.

This was also a time of great awakening for jc on the subject of politics. “I had this incredibly articulate and entertaining civics’ teacher in eighth grade, Tom Antus,” jc told Westchester Weekly in the fall of 1998. “Height of the cold war, hostages in Iran, Watergate fallout, Kennedy assassination conspiracy rumors; this was a fertile time to unload these things to a kid just formulating his way intellectually. I was hooked from the start.” Having spent two summers earlier glued to the television during the Watergate hearings, jc’s curiosity with power, corruption and the system of government soared. It would be an important theme in his thinking that expanded in a social conscience and fueled many rabid debates throughout his youth, eventually becoming an integral part of his writing career.

When his creative partner, Chris Barerra moved away, and high school began, jc took his writing skills to the school newspaper and monthly student poetry collection. Studying the classics as well as modern mavericks in literature, and covering the school sports teams, jc tackled all his favorite subjects. “I was an avid sports fan and spent most of my time in high school reading,” jc told us of his teen years. “Aside from listening to the Rolling Stones, watching the Yankees and reading Kurt Vonnegut or The Great Gatsby, I can’t register most of my time in High School. I was a lousy student and had trouble buying into established rituals.” Through those years, jc began dabbling deeper into poetry and song lyrics, sometimes corresponding through the mail with Chris. The two built a modest song catalog of original compositions. Once again jc provided the words, and Chris, veraciously learning guitar, the colors. When college life began, jc left behind volumes of work published and unpublished, and armed with awards for poetry and journalism, he set off to capture the dream of being one of the voices lucky enough to bring music and sports to the public.

Over the next few years, jc studied the electronic media, spending quality time on the campus radio station at Mercer County Community College and Trenton State University. “I wanted to be heard,” jc says of his time as a student of radio and television. “Having been weaned on radio, that was my best chance.” Continuing to work on school newspapers and penning commercials and skits for campus radio, jc began to branch out to other forms of writing and performing. “I was influenced by 70s’ satire like Saturday Night Live, Second City, and George Carlin,” jc says. “Irreverence as an art form reeled me in.”

It was also a place where he discovered the unusual bending of his favorite craft by the controversial Beat Writers. “Reading (Jack) Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’ in college truly changed my life,” he fondly remembers. “I know a lot of people always point to that book as a watershed for many reasons–especially young men–but for me Kerouac, (William) Burroughs, (Kurt) Vonnegut, and Hunter S. Thomspon; these were guys who not only wrote, they wrote from the gut. I’d never seen anything like that stuff. It jumped off the page and made me feel somehow more at home with the idea of putting pen to paper.”

It is during this time jc began to teach himself several musical instruments and write more personal songs. Although he worked in radio and dabbled in journalism, he made time to join small bands and was wooed by the seduction of immediate audience gratification. All those years dreaming of being the man cueing up the musical stories and describing sports heroics paled in comparison to being the one getting the cheers. For jc, the bellow of a hyped-up rock and roll crowd beat a lonely radio studio all to hell. He was not only hooked, but not too long after, with his parents moving once again, he was off on his own to chase the footlights.

 

Satyre
Satyre – 1986

By the early 80s’ and entering his early 20’s, jc found himself well ensconced in the Westchester, New York music scene; which wasn’t much of a scene at all. During those years and well into the mid-80s’ jc’s band Satyre played wherever and to whomever would have them; four young men from different places and backgrounds creating original songs and attempting to grab an audience fueled jc’s artistic juices. And while Satyre’s audience wasn’t overwhelmingly large, it was faithful. Its songs of passion and rebellion penned by jc, had a flair for culling the rabid fanatic. His performances as lead singer also raised eyebrows. He was using words to evoke emotions much like the movies and songs of his childhood. “I was so involved in lunatic causes then it was ridiculous,” jc told the Journal News in 1994. “It’s that time in a young man’s life when anger and curiosity take hold. I thought everything was worth writing about and eventually fighting for. That kind of blind commitment, coupled with this internal struggle to reduce all human endeavors to meaningless bullshit, finally turned me into a cynic. By then anything raised my ire, which was everything possible.”

By 1986 Satyre had a single and the financial backing to make a record and go on the road. But money troubles and lawyer squabbles ruined the innocent pursuit of creativity for jc, and although he was personally pursued by several professional talent outlets, by 1989 he was out of the business all together. “A lot of people tried to make me something I wasn’t,” he remembers. “I guess that’s the point of a business based on something resembling art. But that’s not why I went into it.” However, the love of making music remains a major part of jc’s personal and professional life. In 1991 he began a project with local producer and musician, Ken Eustace. The two put together a collection of jc’s songs for a CD called Days that is still circulating around. Since, jc has collaborated with many New York and New Jersey singer/songwriters on various projects including former Satyre band members, Peter G. Stevens and Tony Misuraca.

His appetite for performing, coupled with his original romance with broadcasting, lead to jc resurrecting his career as a respected broadcast journalist in the greater New York area. (See Sports Bio) By the early 90s’ jc drew rave reviews and scores of viewers for his local “Sports Club Live ” call-in television show. At the same time, he began a three-year run as writer, producer, and host of the acclaimed and cable-award winning baseball show, “The X-tra Inning” . These were years spent interviewing the game’s greatest talents like Ken Griffey jr., Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Don Mattingly, the late/great Yankee broadcaster, Mel Allen, and many more. “I spent plenty of afternoons and evenings as a kid in the stands at Yankee Stadium,” jc recalls. “Next thing I know I’m on the field, in the locker room, and chatting with ballplayers.”

jc parlayed his work on local television and radio into a sports column called “Sports Shorts” for the North County News, and during his time there its sports section won annual awards for coverage and quality. Moreover, his continued literary correspondence with friend and foe during his years with Satyre had kept him inside the journalism field. It was through those relationships that jc eased back into the craft of his first love, writing.

 

Sports Club Promo
Promo photo for Sports Club Live -1991

During the early 90s’ jc began research for a book he planned to base on the miraculous comeback of the 1978 New York Yankees. “That was my team,” he said at the time. “I want to put to paper what it meant to a sixteen year-old punk to have heroes come through in an age where everyone seemed to fail everyone else.” Culling interviews with many members of the legendary team, and compiling reams of information, he called it more a “labor of love” than anything resembling a book. Through his constant contacts in the literary world there was some interest in the manuscript, but by early 1995 jc had become wary of making a sports’ book his first published statement. “Pounding my head against the wall for social change and all that crap really made me recoil into the playful world of sports where the most inane detail takes precedence over the terrors of the real world,” jc pondered during a seminar for independent authors in New York City in 1996. “Sports is where journalists go to escape having to make a difference. It feels good, believe me.”

DogVoices at Sea Shell
DogVoices during the summer of Deep Tank Jersey – 1995

It was then jc received a call from one of Satyre’s former band members, Peter G. Stevens. Peter had stayed the musical course and landed in a wildly popular New Jersey club band called Voices. The band was adding Rob Monte, a popular front man of another top Jersey act called Who Brought the Dog to the fold. The harried result called DogVoices would not only set out to expand the success of both bands, but do it on the fly. It would be the band’s first summer on the road in a baptism of fire between a huge fan base and an amalgamation of raw enthusiasm. jc smelled a story, dreamed of a book, and told Pete to save him a spot on the bus. “The writing of Deep Tank Jersey was perfect timing for me,” jc said in a 1996 interview. “I had just gone through an incredibly horrible breakup, there was a goddamn baseball strike, all my closest friends had either moved away or gotten married. I was motivated to do what all my teachers and mentors had been telling me to do since I was a kid; shut up and write. So, I did what any self respecting American boy would do, I packed up and joined the circus, only I brought along a tape recorder and notebook.”

In the summer of 1996, Deep Tank Jersey hit the stands. An independently published rant on self-discovery, while battling the demons of fame and rapture inside the subculture of nightlife, it was read on every beach along the Jersey Shore and beyond. Real stories of real people doing incredibly insane things all in the name of fun, escape and camaraderie spoke to a generation of party animals and music lovers. Even those in the industry gushed about it’s cruel honesty and attention to sordid details. For jc, Deep Tank Jersey was a triumphant marriage of his love for music, artistic expression, obsession with “being heard” and writing “from the gut.”

jc in Jerusalem
At the Western Wall in Jerusalem – 1996

The success of the book was not only the product of timing, it had been the culmination of literary observations made on the move. For jc, the years leading up to the writing of Deep Tank Jersey were spent in the company of women and friends throughout the boroughs of New York, where he channeled a lifelong love affair with Greenwich Village into personal expression. Expanding his literary vision, he began to strategically move about the country for short stints, periodically delving into the lifestyles of Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco. But his dream had always been to travel to the Holy Land. Literally hours after Deep Tank Jersey went to print he was on a plane to Jerusalem and the wonders of Biblical mystery. An avid reader of spiritual tomes with a fascination for their founders, jc spent nearly a month in Upper Galilee and Jerusalem in the hopes that it would become the basis of his second book. But upon his return, and the start of the manuscript, the world of journalism came calling.

 

On the Trail
Covering the George Pataki gubernatorial campaign – 1998

Almost immediately after embarking on his spiritual sabbatical, the offers for jc’s services came pouring in. By 1997 he was firmly back doing what he loved, writing. His work as a freelancer took him from sports and satire to the national magazine scene. Many of the publications learned of jc through the growing buzz around Deep Tank Jersey, which afforded him a new underground audience, but it was in the manning of his infamous, “Reality Check News and Information Desk” that jc found a home. His weekly column for the edgy, and oft irreverent, Aquarian Weekly provided jc the pulpit in which to shine.

“It was always about awareness for me,” jc told a publisher’s conference at the headquarters of BLAZO!! recently. “I was part of that 60s’ radical revisionist movement in the 80s’ when it wasn’t hip to be young and struggling with human rights issues. This was before all that Live Aid stuff. In the time of Reagan, with greed and selfishness run rampant, it was more important to make the grade. But having lived through all that, it’s easier to see that just knowing you’re being screwed by a system or abuse of authority is enough. People mostly know they can’t do a damn thing about the atrocities of this world, they just want to be aware it’s all happening. Don’t tell us everything’s fine. It’s fucked. Let’s come to grips with that and see it for what it truly is.”

jc’s coverage of politics, pop culture and current events in his Reality Check column has brought reaction both glowing and scathing from every faction of society. This period of his work is well chronicled in his second book, Fear No Art. Published in the Spring of 2000 by BLAZO!!, an experience reception network for the new millennium, it catipulted jc into the pantheon of the Gonzo age and helped him share the satirical realm with his mentors and heroes like H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain, Lenny Bruce, Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson. Owner and creator of BLAZO!!, Bo Blaze launched jamescampion.com soon after to allow web surfers a chance to absorb what he called. “The Campion Experience.” Meanwhile Fear No Art helped BLAZO!! signal a maverick age in information dissemination. “BLAZO!! is important for what I’m trying to do now,” jc told us that Summer. “The idea of working with a creative mind like Blaze in an atmosphere of utter insanity and depravity excites me in ways better left unsaid.” The results of which proved fruitful in a host of Internet cartoons including , “Rabbi Blazo Sings the Classics” and “Lil’ Pengy”, both of which jc acted as head writer and co-producer.

 

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Erin D. Moore pictured with her work at SUNY Purchase College – 1998

In between the long hours of freelance journalism, pounding out a script for an independent film called “The Package” in the summer of ’97, and pulling together notes and essays for Fear No Art in late 1999, jc found time to fall in love with an artist/photographer,Erin D. Moore. A trusted friend and creative soul mate, Erin is an exquisite talent in her own right; with the brash toughness, emotional honesty and a dry wit that would have the two marrying in June of ‘99, shaving their heads and heading West where they camped in the California desert and strolled the wondrous hills of Big Sur. Throughout their romance both have been each other’s creative motivation and often the subject. jc has written several songs and a short story about Erin and Ms. Moore has used jc as a model for her magnificent mosaics, sculptures and was the photographer for the back cover of Fear No Art and his latest effort, the controversial and mystical, Trailing Jesus. She also created the stunning mosaic for its cover. Ms. Moore’s work is available for viewing and purchase at mosaicsbymoore.com.

jc in 1999

Finally completing the six-year opus about his Holy Land journey with Trailing Jesus, jc has accomplished his labor of love and what he now dubs, “the most honest piece of work I’m capable of.” Trailing Jesus is jc’s most ambitious work to date, mixing philosophy, religion, mysticism, politics and revolution in a swirling journal from the edge of the Judean desert. Visions of the Galilean sage come alive as jc follows in the footsteps of the western world’s most enigmatic figure and what he finds is hard to forget.

Today jc’s Reality Check column is bigger and badder than ever. And with the help of this web site it has become an international sensation. jamescampion.com is read in over 20 languages by hundreds of thousands of people every week from all walks of life, gender, race and generation. Its biting and witty prose has infiltrated the very heart of controversy and hyperbole with a style fresh and honest. His critics call him mean and aloof, his fans deem him good and tough. After the terrible events of 9/11/2001, two of jc’s controversial and touching five-part series on the tragedy appear in the charity compliation, Glory: A Nation’s Spirit Defeats the Attack on America. Later that year he followed it up by contributing a stirring account of his generation to the fourth volume of the wildly popular, In Our Own Words collection.

With the release of his third book, Trailing Jesus, published by his very own company, Gueem Books, jc embarks on a new venture that he hopes will touch many more authors. “My hope is that Gueem Books will allow other struggling writers find a voice for independent publishing,” he notes. “It’s all the rage with film, why not literature?” In early 2003 jc signed on with Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists with the hopes of attacking the mainstream media the way his work has succesfully cracked the literary underground. Later that year his first novel was optioned for a film by the Hal and Cheryl Croasman production team. The manuscript is currently in review at several publishers. A street date is not yet known.

“Art is the most important thing left to humans”,” jc told Amazon.com in late 2002. ““It’s our last frontier. So let’s not screw it up.””

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