Tag: Lenny Bruce

Weird Scenes #110: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours…

Weird Scenes #110: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours…

Part One!

Over the past week or so, I’ve been inundated with emails, texts, Facebook messages, and the like asking for my reaction to Aaron Sorkin’s movie The Trial of the Chicago 7. It’s nice to get that attention, but I have yet to comment in public. Well, Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind allows me the opportunity to prattle to my friends without having to engage in redundant or even repetitive keyboard tapping.

For those who came in late, the Conspiracy trial (a.k.a. the Chicago 8 trial, a.k.a. the Chicago 7 trial) was a heavy-handed attempt by President Richard Nixon and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1969 to intimidate, incarcerate, and obliviate the still-surging protest movement which, at that time, mostly was focused on opposition to the Vietnam War and on civil rights.

We believed the choice of the Democrat’s smoke-filled room, Hubert Humphrey, was a criminal warmonger. He was the vice-president who stood beside President Johnson and cheered him on knowing, as L.B.J. knew beyond a doubt, that the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that turned the Vietnam conflict into a full-blown war was complete and utter bullshit. My source on that is Johnson’s Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who later copped to it in his memoir. This was confirmed by the NSA, among others. It’s a fact.

Combined, the Civil Rights and the anti-Vietnam war movements quickly led to a major reinauguration of the feminist movement, to the establishment of gay rights movement, as well as many other such programs that encouraged Americans to stand up for themselves.

It was a heady time to say the least. Those invested in the status quo do not like having their oxen gored. Yet they do not like to be revealed as the right-wing self-absorbed bigoted assholes they are. As Lenny Bruce said, “I’ve got to do business with” the common people.

So Nixon, Daley and their coconspirators hand-picked eight people they decided were leaders of the Democratic National Convention protests held in Chicago. The one where the whole world was watching the cops gas and beat lawful protestors, as well as the media, Women for Peace, Teachers for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, unaffiliated hippies and aging beatniks, and gawking bystanders alike. Not to mention Jules Feiffer and Hugh Hefner.

A special commission was appointed to investigate what happened. Their Walker Report stated “The nature of the response was unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions, particularly at night. That violence was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat. These included peaceful demonstrators, onlookers, and large numbers of residents who were simply passing through, or happened to live in, the areas where confrontations were occurring.”

This greatly upset ÜberDemocrat Mayor Daley. During the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr four months earlier, Daley gave his police the authority “to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand … and … to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city.” This, too, upset him and he was not about to just ignore the Walker Report.

In the presidential election held shortly thereafter, ÜberRepublican Nixon squeezed out a victory beating Humphrey by seven-tenths of one percentage point. With that overwhelming mandate, Nixon decided to keep Daley’s Democratic hack federal attorney Tom Foran in office and they had eight radical “conspirators” prosecuted for conspiracy. In the words of defendant Abbie Hoffman, these eight, who had never met together previously, “couldn’t even agree on where to have lunch.”

(Full disclosure: I worked with and for Abbie during the trial and for a couple years thereafter. He personally financed the first comic book I ever published, Conspiracy Capers, edited by Skip Williamson as a fundraiser for the Trial. It’s a small world, ain’t it?)

I was on the staff of the Conspiracy Trial. I was one of the first four hired, and I focused on working with what was then referred to as the underground or alternative media, which was akin to the social media of today. I had a background in this stuff as I was on work-release from the journalism program at my college, at the time of the police riot I was a precocious and obnoxious lad of 18, and I had been on the staff of the Chicago Seed for, oh, several months. I also had been on the staff of the Chicago Defense Fund, an effort by a bunch of lawyers to deal with all the legal poo that happened in the wake of said police riot.

One of the things I did for the CDF when we heard these indictments were going to come down was research the backgrounds of that district’s federal court judges. I noted that one of them, Julius J. Hoffman (who looked like Mr. Magoo’s great uncle) was so right-wing, so paranoid and so asinine that, given the immutable laws of dialectics, he would be a great boom to the protest movement — although not-such-great news for whomever got indicted. For example, Julie Magoo had found the last 27 people (give or take) who came before him for avoiding the draft guilty as charged and sentenced most of them to the full term.

Judges are supposed to be selected by lottery so, as fate would have it, Julie Magoo was selected to run the trial in his Mies Van Der Rohe sculpted courtroom. The one Abbie referred to as “the neon oven.”

I was a participant in the Democratic Convention demonstrations and, as a reward for my effort, I enjoyed a ham-fisted police truncation across my left hip; I still suffer from the consequences 52 years later. But it helped me get myself ready for the year (start to finish) I spent on the Conspiracy Trial staff.

All this is why I’ve been asked by so many decent people what I thought of the Sorkin movie. To this, I respond:

I have yet see it.

I’ll tell you why tomorrow.

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #070: Words of Wisdom, Words of Strife

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #070: Words of Wisdom, Words of Strife

“Words are trouble, words are subtle / Words of anger, words of hate / Words over here, words out there / In the air and everywhere / Words of wisdom, words of strife / Words that write the book I like.” – Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz and Steven Stanley, Wordy Rappinghood

“Gestapo? You asshole, I’m the mailman!” – Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce

Ayn Rand, Dick Gregory, and Pol Pot walk into a bar…

Yeah, I know. Too soon. But, damn, what ever happened to our sense of humor? It seems the more we care about something, the less perspective we have about the subject. Humor is key to establishing and expanding one’s perspective.

Irwin Corey

Laughter opens doors. Satire opens minds. Al Capone did not say “You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone,” but he could have. In fact, this observation was given to us by Professor Irwin Corey, a Broadway actor, an incisive comedian, a far-left activist, and a hero of mine. And the good professor certainly made Capone’s point for him – we take this misattributed quote as an axiom. It makes the point succinctly, and it gets that point across the plate.

We are so concerned about not hurting somebody’s feelings that we forget that some feelings deserve to be hurt. That’s part of bringing about change. You don’t have to take malicious pride in doing so if you don’t want to, but you can get much farther with a funny word than by breeding mopery. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #070: Words of Wisdom, Words of Strife”

Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…

Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…

All your children are poor unfortunate victims of lies you believe / A plague upon your ignorance that keeps the young from the truth they deserve. – Frank Zappa, “What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body?”

For those who have been following the long and lingering death of Mad Magazine, a couple days ago things took another turn for the worse when it was announced that after two more inventory-burning issues, the legendary publication would stop running new material.

That’s sad. 67 years ago Mad changed the nature of our culture, being the first comic book to confront our nation’s culture and its many foibles head-on. It was an important part of a vital movement in the 1950s spawned by innovators such as Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, Second City, Ernie Kovacs and Moms Mabley. Mad was all the more important by being the first specifically oriented to those not yet old enough to vote. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #042: We’re Not Getting Mad…”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #024: Times Are Always A-Changin’

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #024: Times Are Always A-Changin’

It appears that those of us living in the bucolic, yet myopic state of Connecticut will be able to buy weed on the way to a gay wedding – both sanctioned by law.

As Mr. Zimmerman said, the times they are a-changin’. They’re always a-changin’, back and forth, three steps forward and two steps back. But these days they’re changing at a much faster pace. 60 years ago, Lenny Bruce said “Marijuana will be legal someday, because the many law students who now smoke pot will one day be Congressmen and they will legalize it to protect themselves.” Well, he was mistaken about the timing – President Clinton said he smoked weed when he was in school but he didn’t inhale. I am one of the few who believe him: Bill was such a wimp that he probably didn’t inhale. Besides, he already had the munchies.

A decade later President Obama said he did inhale, but his admission did not change his position on tossing kids in prison and destroying their lives for something as comparatively innocuous as marijuana. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #024: Times Are Always A-Changin’”