Sunday, April 30, 2006

Jane in Blue Jeans

First thing this morning I read about how a Republican has been using the specter of Jane Fonda’s name in his new fundraising letter. To me, it's worth noting that hawkish right-wingers resist comparisons to the Vietnam War from lefties criticizing the Bush policy in Iraq, yet, it seems some of the symbols from that time are still quite useful to them.

‘Tis a pity, I tend to remember Fonda best for how she looked in rather flattering blue jeans in “Cat Ballou” (1965).

In my film buff's eye Jane will always be a beautiful young actress. The difference is I know she’s actually a 68-year-old lady who has always been a little eccentric. Moreover, she has little real influence on today’s political milieu.

So, 34 years ago a pretty actress who was then married to an antiwar activist, Tom Hayden, tried to do something to help end a war -- she appeared in some infamous propaganda photos shot in Vietnam. Basically, she did what she knew how to do best -- she posed for a lens (no, not the "Cat Ballou" promo shots you see here).

Now she says she has her regrets. No doubt. Still, it amazes me how much mileage war mongers and other political opportunists have gotten out of what was mostly a clumsy, well-meaning effort to save lives.
Images from WantedCowgirls.com

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Thousands March in Manhattan

The momentum of the American anti-war movement seems to be picking up with the warm weather. The Associated Press reports:

“Tens of thousands of protesters marched Saturday through lower Manhattan to demand an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, just hours after this month's death toll reached 70. Cindy Sheehan, a vociferous critic of the war whose soldier son also died in Iraq, joined in the march, as did actress Susan Sarandon and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.”

To me, remembering how it felt in the spring of 1970, when the American public finally turned hard against the Vietnam War, this year's climate is getting familiar. Therefore, I expect the anti-war demonstrations to get larger soon. Much larger.
Photo: AP

Agitation Aggregation

A tip of the SLANTblog cap goes out to Waldo Jaquith -- who is a sharp writer, among the best of Virginia's teaming political blogosphere -- for launching a new project/web site, which presents material fed to it from Virginia’s most active political blogs of every stripe.

No doubt, this is a link that'll become popular fast in a noisy world within a world. Do check out virginia political blogs, already with over 80 “subscriptions” and growing.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Harvey 50th Well Done

The Bryan Harvey 50th birthday party at Plan 9 was exactly what I thought/hoped it would be. It was absolutely upbeat, even light-hearted. If there was any weeping, well, I missed it. Good. One more sign that life really does go on, no matter what.
Still, remembering is important. Tonight, it was music that was remembered, and presented well by Bryan's longtime friends, who happen to be top shelf musicians. I needed to go to this oddly sweet happening tonight, staged to spotlight the Bryan Harvey CD. I needed to see that crowd back on its feet, after having been shattered by the events of the first week of 2006. It did me good to be there, and I'm sure others felt the same way.

Soon, I'll write more about this event, including captions for the pix. There'll be an update on fundraising activities for the memorial fund for the Harvey family, too. For now, 'nuff said, here are SLANT's photos...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jake Wells Called the Shots

In Time Capsules by Larry Hall, in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, the writer puts the spotlight on a small Downtown movie theater that is no more. The story begins with it opening as the Lubin in 1908, named after its original owner. Later it was purchased by the legendary Jake Wells (pictured right), who renamed it the Isis. Known for its bad luck -- the screen caught fire in 1943; a section of the ceiling fell in 1950 -- in 1953 the small cinema closed as the Park. The building was demolished in 1993.

Local show biz history always get my attention. The people of the cinema exhibition business are sometimes good copy, too. For example, here's a short piece on that same Jake Wells -- perhaps the most noteworthy player/impresario of Richmond's movie theater lore -- that I penned for SLANT in April 2005:
In a 1952 Richmond News Leader piece columnist George W. Rogers wrote about a significant figure in Richmond’s theater history, calling him, “... a theatrical proprietor, impresario and father of Richmond movie houses.” That was showman Jake Wells, who had been a big league ballplayer in the 1880s.

With his best days as a player well behind him, in the late-1890s the same Mr. Wells, as player/manager of Richmond’s minor league baseball franchise in the Atlantic League he became a somewhat dashing figure in the local nightlife scene. When he lost that sports gig he looked around town for what next to do. Imagining he had a future in show biz, Wells took the leap to create the Bijou at 7th and Broad Streets in 1899.

The instantly popular Bijou offered selected vaudeville acts that fit into Wells’ concept of “family entertainment.” And, occasionally, a short film was thrown onto a screen, then more. The first venue thrived. With his brother Otto, Jake expanded into the Norfolk market, opening the Granby. In the early-1920’s Wells’ chain included 42 theaters in the Southeast.
Eventually, Wells cashed in his theater interests to concentrate on becoming a real estate development tycoon. In 1927, in the grip of a spell of melancholia, Mr. Wells drove out to the countryside, shot himself in the head, twice, and died.
For more on Wells, the first baseman turned showman, click here. Here's a page with his Major League baseball stats.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Two-Way Tim?

The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s top editorial today is a curious piece. In short, the writer offers evidence that Gov. Tim Kaine has been breaking his campaign promises.

Perhaps it reads like anti-Democrat boilerplate stuff, mostly, on the surface. It underlines possible conflicts between Kaine’s stated personal beliefs and his role as governor. It doesn't touch on the obvious truth, which is that such conflicts are common on a wide range of issues for public officials every day. Who hasn't had to deal with dilemmas stemming from a conflict involving what we sense is proper and some sort of rules?

However, the RT-D would have us to believe Kaine is an utter hypocrite if he fails to act summarily on his personal beliefs, to trump his duty as governor.

Well, Kaine said many times in the gubernatorial campaign he wouldn’t do that. But then the RT-D piece finishes with what almost seems to be concern for the bitter fate of a convicted murderer, Dexter Lee Vinson, who is scheduled to be executed on Thursday, April 27:

“...Kaine claims to be a man of conviction, but he does not want to face any political consequences for his stated beliefs. This is bad news for Dexter Lee Vinson, who may well pay a high price so that Kaine won't have to.”

Missing from the editorial is the chilling description of the crime, which almost always can be found in an editorial about the death penalty written by a person who favors its use. This time, in order to twist the knife in Kaine, Vinson is painted as a victim paying “a high price.”

OK. That’s politics, and it‘s almost funny.

Like Kaine, I’m opposed to capital punishment. At the same time I don’t think it would be proper for a governor to merely substitute his own judgment for that of the court’s. Unless he sees something wrong with the process or there’s new evidence, I think Gov. Kaine should allow the execution to go forth, which I expect he will.

Still, the editorial makes other accusations that I would hope Kaine will deal with soon, before they gain any more credence. They are on the inconsistencies, or perceived inconsistencies, between what Kaine said during the campaign -- on gay marriage, guns, transportation, taxes, etc. -- and what he’s done since taking office. While I’m not saying I agree with the RT-D, I do think Kaine should rebut that editorial, directly, and tell the voters who trust him exactly why and where it is wrong.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are a Scam

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives, the Stop Deceptive Advertising for Women’s Services Act, which would force the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on what some, no doubt, see as deceptive advertising by "crisis pregnancy centers." This proposed legislation is responding to a growing problem that may have been flying under the radar for most folks.

From Planned Parenthood here’s an example of why it is now reaching out with an information campaign. It wants to inform those citizens who still care about an American woman’s right to make her own choices to do with her own body, as well as those who simply still care about decency and honesty.

"An Indiana mother recently accompanied her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend to one of Indiana's Planned Parenthood clinics, but they unwittingly walked into a so-called "crisis pregnancy center" run by an anti-abortion group, one that shared a parking lot with the real Planned Parenthood clinic and was designed expressly to lure Planned Parenthood patients and deceive them.

"The group took down the girl's confidential personal information and told her to come back for her appointment, which they said would be in their 'other office' (the real Planned Parenthood office nearby). When she arrived for her appointment, not only did the Planned Parenthood staff have no record of her, but the police were there. The 'crisis pregnancy center' had called them, claiming that a minor was being forced to have an abortion against her will.

"The 'crisis pregnancy center' staff then proceeded to wage a campaign of intimidation and harassment over the following days, showing up at the girl's home and calling her father's workplace. Our clinic director reports that the girl was 'scared to death to leave her house.' They even went to her school and urged classmates to pressure her not to have an abortion.


“The anti-choice movement is setting up these 'crisis pregnancy centers' across the country. Some of them have neutral-sounding names and run ads that falsely promise the full range of reproductive health services, but they dispense anti-choice propaganda and intimidation instead. And according to a recent article in The New York Times, there are currently more of these centers in the U.S. than there are actual abortion providers. What's more, these centers have received $60 million in government grants. They're being funded by our tax dollars.”

Here’s more: This article, “Stopping Crisis Pregnancy Centers,” by Amy Bryant will give you more of an overview of the situation. If you’ve been worried, in general, about what religious nuts and anti-abortion crazies have been up to, please take the time to read this. You’ll be glad you did. And, to take action on this front go here.

Hey, and this time the shameless zealots are doing their twisted mischief with tax money!

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Grace St. Game

Ten years after "Discover the Fan" (see post on April 14th below), upon quitting my longtime job as manager of the Biograph Theatre, my very first sitting at the totally independent cartoonist’s drawing board resulted in a rather dark vision of the West Grace Street neighborhood I knew so well and had just fled. Bad mood? What was up?
(Click on the image to enlarge)
Well, the street itself had recently been switched from one-way traffic to two-way. That was an extremely unusual thing to do, city planning-wise, and a big mistake, in my book. Yes, I still think it was a goof. And, it seemed to me then that local popular culture, in general, had hitched a ride in the absolute wrong direction, too. Disco, Heavy Metal or Hardcore? That was suddenly the choice.

Ah, times were changing and I had moved on, or so I thought. Perhaps, in truth, I was sitting still while all else moved on.

Plan 9 Bryan Harvey Show Thursday

At Plan 9 in Carytown several musicians will perform live on stage on Thursday, April 27, to remember the late Bryan Harvey on what would have been his 50th birthday. The players, all friends of the slain musician, are more than happy to promote the recently released memorial Harvey CD -- "Remember Me Well, 1956-2006."

The show will include: members of Harvey's late-'70s group, Boys from Skateland; members of his most recent band, NRG Krysys; his longtime House of Freaks partner -- Johnny Hott. This one-of-a-kind show starts at 6:30 p.m. Don't miss it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Worst President in History? Updated

Is George W. Bush the worst president in history?

Princeton historian Sean Wilentz’s explanation of the rightful place in history Bush is in the process of earning is nearly 6,000 words long. For a modern magazine article that’s a tad long. But that's because to be thorough/scholarly it has to be. Unfortunately, this indictment will be read -- for the most part -- by people who are already unhappy with the Bush presidency.

That’s too bad. Because Wilentz obviously knows what he’s talking about and he does a fine job of laying out his case. So, if you know any Bush supporters who are open-minded -- if that’s possible -- send them the link to this Rolling Stone piece. Tell them to read it and then tell you where it’s wrong. Here’s a little sample of "The Worst President in History?":

“According to the Treasury Department, the forty-two presidents who held office between 1789 and 2000 borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. But between 2001 and 2005 alone, the Bush White House borrowed $1.05 trillion, more than all of the previous presidencies combined. Having inherited the largest federal surplus in American history in 2001, he has turned it into the largest deficit ever -- with an even higher deficit, $423 billion, forecast for fiscal year 2006. Yet Bush -- sounding much like Herbert Hoover in 1930 predicting that "prosperity is just around the corner" -- insists that he will cut federal deficits in half by 2009, and that the best way to guarantee this would be to make permanent his tax cuts, which helped cause the deficit in the first place!”

Update: Reuters reports that President Bush's approval rating has sunk to a new low.
Illustration by F.T. Rea

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day 'Toon

Funny how folks call the destruction of property “vandalism,” but they see the destruction of nature as “development.”
"Toon by F.T. Rea (1986)

Edwards: Let Fitzgerald Investigate It All

The message below from former senator John Edwards came in from Jenni Lee at One America, Edwards’ web site.

I wanted to get your help spreading the word about an important cause. We’ve all read about Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity. Now we’re reading that President Bush could be involved. Senator John Edwards is calling on Attorney General Gonzales to allow Mr. Fitzgerald to investigate President Bush’s involvement. He is asking people to write the Attorney General to demand accountability. Senator Edwards’ message is below.

Thanks for your help.


*
Dear Friend,

Over the past few weeks, the investigation into the leak of CIA secrets on Iraq has produced disturbing new information. Court filings in the Scooter Libby case have connected both President Bush and Vice President Cheney with an effort to selectively disclose classified and highly flawed intelligence to the media in order to discredit people who were asking legitimate questions about the Iraq invasion. The White House even admitted that President Bush himself authorized the disclosure.


Now that he is firmly linked to this deepening scandal, it's time for President Bush to level with the American people about his role in this egregious manipulation of sensitive intelligence. But you and I know he's not going to do it. And we know that the Republican-controlled Congress will not hold him accountable either.


Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may very well be the only person who can shed light on what really happened and ensure accountability. What he needs now is our support to expand the scope of his investigation to specifically include whether the President broke the law.

Let's put our online community to work and together demand that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales allow Mr. Fitzgerald to get to the bottom of this. No one should be above the law. It's time we demand real accountability. Please
sign the letter now.

Clearly, there is precedent for a special prosecutor's mandate to be expanded when he comes across further wrongdoing in the course of an investigation. I can think of no better time for doing this than right now. This case has all the elements of becoming one of the most serious breaches of the public trust in our nation's history - with consequences that we are all too familiar with.


The facts of President Bush's involvement, and the extent to which he manipulated intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq, are not going to come out unless his actions are subject to an independent investigation. Remember, this is a President who at first said that he didn't know of anyone in his Administration who had leaked anything. Then he had his spokesman say that anyone found to have leaked classified information would be fired.

Now it turns out it was President Bush himself who authorized the leaks.
But it is clear this Administration will go to any length to prevent the facts from being known. We can't let them get away with it. And they won't if we speak up and make the Attorney General understand that the American people will accept nothing less than the truth. Please sign the letter and tell Attorney General Gonzales that we want no stone left unturned in this important investigation.

Thank you for taking action and for all that you do.

Your Friend,
John

Friday, April 21, 2006

CBS: CIA told Bush Iraq had no WMDs

What’s it going to take for the 33 percent of Americans who still approve of President George Bush’s policy in Iraq to face the truth -- it was never about WMDs. It was always about regime change. Reuters is reporting:

"The CIA had evidence Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction six months before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion but was ignored by a White House intent on ousting Saddam Hussein, a former senior CIA official said according to CBS.

“Tyler Drumheller, who headed CIA covert operations in Europe during the run-up to the Iraq war, said intelligence opposing administration claims of a WMD threat came from a top Iraqi official who provided the U.S. spy agency with other credible information. The source ‘told us that there were no active weapons of mass destruction programs,’ Drumheller said in a CBS interview to be aired on Sunday on the network’s news magazine, 60 Minutes.”

While the White House now says it truly believed the WMDs were there because it was led to that conclusion by faulty intelligence, Drumheller, co-author of “On the Brink: How the White House Has Compromised American Intelligence,” blows off the intelligence failure alibi.

"‘It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it’s an intelligence failure,’ he told CBS. ‘This was a policy failure.’”

So, what’s it going to take for that 33 percent of Bush loyalists to finally accept that the same Bush team that lied to the American people to start a war of choice is still lying about why the war started. And, it hasn’t a clue about how to get America out of the Iraqi quagmire it created?

Machiavellian Rove’s Influence Declining?

Dr. StrangeRove gasped, "It would not be difficult, Mein F├╝hrer! Nuclear reactors could easily provide, heh... I'm sorry, Mr. President."

Writing for the Washington Post, columnist E.J. Dionne clears up what seems to have become a misconception, regarding Machiavellian presidential adviser Karl Rove. Rove’s influence on President George Bush and the Republican Party, in general, is not likely to be diminishing just because his duties may changed slightly.

No, Rove’s stock probably hasn’t gone down one bit. He is merely going to concentrate on what really matters most at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- holding power. And, as Dionne points out, there is good reason for that to be the No. 1 priority:

“Here’s the real meaning of the White House shake-up and the redefinition of Karl Rove’s role in the Bush presidency: The administration’s one and only domestic priority in 2006 is hanging on to control of Congress.

“That, in turn, means that all the spin about Rove's power being diminished is simply wrong. Yes, Rove is giving up some policy responsibilities to concentrate on politics, but guess what: The possibility of President Bush's winning enactment of any major new policy initiative this year is zero. Rove is simply moving to where all the action will, of necessity, be. As one outside adviser to the administration said, the danger of a Democratic takeover of at least one house of Congress looms large and would carry huge penalties for Bush. The administration fears ‘investigations of everything’ by congressional committees, this adviser said, and the ‘possibility of a forced withdrawal from Iraq’ through legislative action.”
'Toon by F. T. Rea

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Exactly where are the Catholics? Baptists? Muslims?

Last year Gov. Tim Kaine turned the tables on the folks who said a Catholic couldn’t win in Virginia. Instead of playing down his religion, which had been seen as a drawback -- because he isn’t a Protestant -- Kaine used it as a shield to deflect criticism of his political stands to do with abortion and the death penalty.

President George "I'm the Decider" Bush says he’s not fighting a religious war in Iraq, yet he also seems to want people to believe that God told him to invade. Meanwhile, the cries of “death to the infidels” grow louder in Middle Eastern countries, which have populations that are largely Muslim, and who appear to see Bush’s policy as a new Christian "crusade" against Islam.

It’s 2006, yet religion still plays a huge role in politics everywhere. Which leads to this -- maps. Would you like to see where the highest concentrations of Muslims are in the United States? Curious about which states are over 50 percent Baptist, or Catholic?

Valparaiso University has the answers. They’ve got some interesting colorized maps of the USA, created by the Glenmary Research Center, showing the concentrations of all sorts of religious brands.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Is George 'I'm the decider' Bush a Nut?

Has George W. Bush lost his precious presidential marbles? I ask because his actual statements are getting steadily more off-the-wall. Sometimes, at least, he seems to be wearing blinders. What civil war in Iraq? What global warming? Rumsfeld? Oh, he’s fine.

Now I wonder, was what I use to see as neoconservative thinking really the early signs of dementia? Could Bush's old partying lifestyle finally be catching up with him?

Or, has he cracked because of the stress? War is hell. Today, according to CNN, Bush said:

"I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best..."

"I'm the decider... I hear the voices!" Oy vey!

In his piece, "Don't Impeach Bush. Commit Him", syndicated columnist/cartoonist Ted Rall writes:

"Despite the man's wacky religiosity, I have been giving Bush the benefit of a small amount of remaining doubt after five years of the most disastrous rule this nation has ever suffered. I believed that he was breathtakingly bigoted, stupid and ignorant. But I didn't think he was out of his mind. Until now."

Sometimes you feel like a nut...

VCU's Unveils Coach Grant

Two consecutive days in mid-April. Two press conferences at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center on Broad St. Two new names in local sports to get to know: Norwood T. Teague, 40, who won the competition to be the university’s new athletic director, was introduced to the press yesterday. Today, Anthony Grant, 40, was named as the Rams ninth head basketball coach.

VCU’s president, Dr. Eugene P. Trani, was beaming. Once again his swashbuckling leadership style was much in display. Faced with having to fill the two highest profile jobs in the athletic department, simultaneously -- Trani moved quickly to stabilize the situation.

Grant has been an assistant coach under Billy Donovan at the University of Florida, of the Southeast Conference, for the last 10 years. Yes, that Florida -- the current national champs of Division I hoopdom. For Teague, VCU dipped into the Atlantic Coast Conference for an assistant AD at the University of North Carolina. He is set to replace Dr. Richard Sander, VCU’s athletic director since 1986, who will step down this summer.
“The time and situation couldn’t be more perfect for Coach Grant (pictured above) to join VCU; both our program and league are poised to reach the next level,” said Trani. “We are thrilled to have a person of Anthony Grant’s stature, experience and recruiting talents, and eagerly await the successes that are ahead of us.”

Former VCU head coach Jeff Capel, who left to take the job of steering the Oklahoma Sooners program last week, departed having accumulated a 79-41 record in four years. The Rams were 19-11 overall, last season, and 11-7 in Colonial Athletic Association play.

Kudos to Trani. In hiring Grant, who looks intense but carries himself with poise, VCU appears to have landed on its feet, once again. The bold Capel hiring in 2002 worked out well. Time, of course, will tell more about Grant, whose resume looks impressive enough. Once again, Trani has rolled the dice on a man unproven as a head coach.

“VCU is getting one of the brightest coaches in the nation in Anthony Grant,” said Coach Donovan by amplified telephone. “[VCU’s] players will have the time of their lives.” Donovan’s enthusiastic endorsement of Grant was unqualified.

Grant played his high school ball in Miami; he was then a standout at the University of Dayton, graduating in 1987. In 105 games in Flyers colors his career stats were 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Following five years of high school coaching, he has been an assistant coach at the collegiate level for 13 years, 12 of them under Donovan.

“I am very excited to be here at VCU,” said Grant. “I appreciate Dr. Sander, President Trani and Mr. Teague giving me this opportunity. There is an obvious commitment on behalf of the administration to athletics and men’s basketball, in particular, to put us in a position to compete for championships.”

Moments later, in the back of the room, one of the returning Rams players had his cell phone go off, loudly, with some sort of goofy clatter. Amidst laughter, he ducked out of the press conference room, perhaps without his new coach and athletic director knowing who was the guilty party. His identity shall remain a secret.

Facing the press, in a friendly room, questions about how to upgrade the schedule were thrown at the new coach right away. Grant answered carefully but expressed confidence that in spite of the difficulty that mid-major schools have had with that mission, historically, VCU would be able to make new strides on his watch.

Well, there’s not much Coach Grant can do about that project right away -- next year’s schedule is set, for the most part. What he’d better get to work on, immediately, if not sooner, is finding a quality recruit who can play center. So, don’t be surprised if you call VCU’s new coach to congratulate him, and his cell phone rings somewhere near a junior college in Florida.

AP: Florida Assistant Grant Named as VCU Coach
Photos: SLANT

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cheney Makes His Bunny Bones

While Easter went quite well in Richmond, as noted by the series of Monument Avenue photos below, sadly, this was not the case in Casper, Wyoming, as reported by Unconfirmed Sources:

“Millions of children worldwide awoke with tears of anguish and frustration and empty Easter baskets as they coped with the tragic news that the Easter Bunny was dead. He was slain early this morning in the predawn hours by Vice President Dick Cheney who was enjoying an Easter hunting expedition at a rabbit hunting farm south of Casper, Wyoming. The vice president had reportedly slain over 150 rabbits in the twilight hours before the incident occurred, and was packaging them as gifts for friends and families for their Easter dinners...”
Image from Unconfirmed Sources

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Fan District Does Easter

The turnout for the Easter Parade on Richmond's frozen-in-time Monument Avenue was what you would expect in such nice weather. Here's a random look at the way it was today in the Fan District. From the Robert E. Lee monument at Allen Avenue, west, to the Jefferson Davis monument, it was wall-to-wall humanity. The hats were fun. Exhibitionists were in their element. If there was any trouble out there I missed it. Kudos to both the planners and the public.

Friday, April 14, 2006

April 14, 1973: Discovering the Fan

Thirty-three years ago, today, an ad hoc group of 21 merchants in the VCU area cooperated for a one-time-only promotion that went over quite well -- Discover the Fan. By my count, only one from that group in still there and open for business now in the same location. On April 14, 1973 the weather was absolutely spectacular and for a Saturday afternoon the 800 and 900 blocks of West Grace Street, and environs, were packed with a curious foot traffic like never before. Hundreds of helium balloon and free prizes donated by the merchants were given away. There was live music. Nothing like it had ever been done before in the Fan District.

The handbill above was done by yours truly. With its list of participating businesses it provides a nostalgic snapshot of the area that day, in what was probably the zenith of the Hippie Era. At the time I had been the manager of the Biograph Theatre for a little over a year and the promotion itself was my project, part of a strategy to improve the image of the bohemian neighborhood. Below is a piece about this event, written by the late Shelley Rolfe:

Shelley Rolfe’s
By the Way
Richmond Times-Dispatch (April, 16, 1973)

It was breakfast time and the high command for Discover the Fan Day had, with proper regard for the inner man, moved its final planning meeting from the Biograph Theater to Lum’s Restaurant. Breakfast tastes ran a gamut. Eggs with beer. Eggs with orange juice. H-hour -- the operations plan had set it for noon -- was less than three hours away. Neither beer nor orange juice was being gulped nervously.

Terry Rea, manager of the Biograph and the extravaganza’s impresario, was reciting a last-minute, mental things-to-do list. There was the vigilante committee, which would gather up the beer and soft drink cans and bottles that invariably infest the fronts of the shops in the 800 and 900 blocks of W. Grace St., focus area of the discovery.

The city police had promised a dragnet to sweep away the winos who also invariably litter the neighborhood. The day had bloomed crisp and sunny, the first dry Saturday since Groundhog Day. “I knew it wouldn’t rain,” Rea said with the brash confidence of the young. “Lots of young businessmen around here,” a beer drinker at another table said. The free enterprise system lives.

REA WAS assigning duties for the committee that would rope off two Virginia Commonwealth University parking lots that would serve as the setting for a fashion show and band concert. The committee to blow up balloons, with the aid of a cylinder of helium [sic]. One thousand balloons in a shrieking variety of colors. “If we only get 500 kids... two to a customer,” Rea said cheerfully.

“I need more people,” said the balloon task force leader.

Twenty-one businesses were involved in the project. Each of them had contributed prizes, and gift certificates had been put into plastic Easter eggs. An egg hunt would be part of the day, and Rea had a message for the committee that would be tucking the eggs away: “Don’t put them in obvious places, but don’t put them were people can get hurt looking for them.”

“We talked about doing this last summer but we never got it together,” Rea said. There had been fresh talk in late February, early March, and it had become airborne. The 21 businesses had anted up $1,500 for advertising, which was handled by Dave DeWitt, proprietor of a new just-out-of-the-Fan, small, idea-oriented agency.

“Demographically, we were aiming for people between 25 and 34,” Rea said. There had been newspaper advertising and spots on youth-oriented radio stations. “We had a surplus late in the week...” Rea said. The decision was made to have a Saturday morning splurge on radio station WRVA. “Hey,” said a late arrival, “I heard Alden Aaroe talking about it.”

“We wanted people to see what we have here,” Rea said. “People who probably close their windows and lock their doors when they drive on Grace Street and want to get through here a quickly as possible.”

Well, yes, there must be those who look upon the 800 and 90 blocks as symbolic of the counterculture, as territory alien to their visions of West End and suburban existence. Last November the precinct serving the 800 and 900 blocks went for George McGovern, by two votes. Not a landslide, but, perhaps, a trend.

NOON WAS approaching. Rea and DeWitt set out on an inspection tour. Parking lot ropes were being put into place. Rock music blared from exotically named shops. The balloon committee was still short on manpower. An agent trotted out of a shop to report, “They’ve got 200 customers ...” And how many would they normally have at this hour of a Saturday” “They wouldn’t be open,” Rea said.

Grace Street was becoming clogged with cars It would become more clogged. Don’t know how many drivers got out of their cars, but, for a while they were a captive audience making at least vicarious discovery.

Also much pedestrian and bicycle on the sidewalks. Merchants talked of espying strangers, of all ages. A white-haired woman held a prize egg in one hand, a balloon in the other. A middle-aged man had rakishly attached a balloon to the bill of his cap.

The fashion show went on to the accompaniment of semijazz music and popping balloons, most of them held by children. Fashions were subdued. A dress evocative of the 1840s. Long skirts. Loudest applause went to a man who paraded across the stage wearing a loud red backpack. Everybody’s urge to escape?

ON GRACE STREET a sword swallower and human pin cushion was on exhibition. No names please. “My mother ...” he said. He wished to be identified only as a member of “Bunkie Brothers Medicine Show.”

Discounted merchandise on sale included 20-yesr-old British Army greatcoats and a book fetchingly titled “Sensuous Massage.” Sales resistance remained firm.

On Harrison Street a sidewalk artist was creating. A wino, who had somehow escaped the dragnet, lurched across the sidewalk art muttering. “Free balloons ...” In a shop a man said, “I want the skimpiest halter you have ... for my wife.”

On an alley paralleling Grace Street, a man holding a hand camera and early on a VCU class assignment was directing actors. One stationed in a huge trash bin. “Waiting for Godot” revisited? The second, carrying a an umbrella in one hand, popcorn in another, approached the bin. A hand darted out for popcorn. “I ran out of film!” screamed the director.

Everything was being done again. The actor in the bin emerged, seized the umbrella and ran. “Chase him,” from the direct. Actor No. 2 did a Keystone Kop-style double take, jumped and ran. A small crowd that had gathered applauded.

LATE IN the day. Traffic still was at a saturation level. Early settlers said the territory hadn’t seen such suggestion since the movie, “Deep Throat.” Rea spoke of objectives smashingly achieved. Euphoric talk from him on another day of discovery in September. City Hall would be petitioned to block off Grace Street.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Aliens? Illegals? Undocumenteds?

Geoffrey Nunberg is the Stanford University word expert who appears from time to time on NPR’s Fresh Air. Nunberg's musings on the language of immigration are worth considering. His most recent commentary, “Aliens,” was heard on today’s edition of the interview-based program, hosted by Terri Gross.

Below are two excerpts of his essay in which Nunberg examines the difficulty in coming up with a neutral accurate word for a person from another country who is in the USA without the government's official blessing:

“...It’s only your immigration status that can qualify you as being an illegal person, or that can earn you the honor of being ‘an illegal’ all by itself. That use of illegal as a noun actually goes back a long ways. The British coined it in the 1930’s to describe Jews who entered Palestine without official permission, and it has been used ever since as a way of reducing individuals to their infractions.

“...Then there's undocumented. That word was introduced in the 1970's as a version of the French phrase sans papiers, or "without papers," which is used in a number of other nations to refer to immigrants who have no legal status -- at the rallies across the country in recent days, Spanish speakers were using the equivalent sin papeles.”

Instead, Plunk The Barry

Vin Scully, the legendary broadcast voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, recently commented on the possibility that he might call the game in which Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s career home run mark:

“I would just as soon it not happen against the Dodgers,” Scully told the Los Angeles Times. “With Aaron [passing Ruth in 1974], it was a privilege to be there when he did it. It was just a great moment. With Bonds, no matter what happens now, it will be an awkward moment. That's the best word I can think of now. If I had my druthers, I would rather have that awkward moment happen to somebody else.”

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. sees Bonds as a sign of the times, a high-profile cheater:
Bonds, after all, is hardly unique. He's just the latest manifestation of an ongoing national embarrassment: the prodigious amount of cheating in fields as varied as pop music, education and journalism. To the best of my knowledge, nobody keeps stats on this sort of thing, so maybe people are cheating now with exactly the same frequency they always did, but it sure doesn't feel that way. ...Think about it: When Hank Aaron smacked the 1974 home run that put him in the record books, it was a tribute to his endurance, his hard work, his strength and, given the racist death threats he faced, his courage. When Bonds overtakes Aaron, what will it be a tribute to? Better living through chemistry?
With Bonds’ slow start so far this season, and in the wake of “Game of Shadows” revelations, Dan Wetzel debunks the notion that white baseball fans begrudge Barry Bonds his much-anticipated passing of Babe Ruth’s career home run total of 714 on account of race.
...The people who used to hold Ruth up as a symbol of White America, an icon to hold onto as the black athlete began to dominate, are mostly dead. Besides, contrary to Professor Moore's contention, Bonds passing Ruth would do nothing to affect the Babe’s legacy. What’s the difference between No. 2 and No. 3? Is Willie Mays any less of a player because Bonds is ahead of him? How about Frank Robinson? Ted Williams? Roberto Clemente? Mickey Mantle? Aaron won’t lose his place as a true American sports hero if Bonds passes him.
If there is a more galling character in professional sports today than the 41-year-old Barry Bonds, I don’t know who it would be. If he was a callow youth one might dismiss his ugly displays of hubris more easily. As a lifelong lover of baseball, I can’t remember a time before when everyday fans of the National Pastime were openly pulling for a player to be injured, so he can’t play.

Hey, if you're a pitcher, why intentionally walk the arrogant cheater? Instead, plunk The Barry.

OK. That’s not pretty, either, but I can’t say he hasn’t brought that sort of sentiment on himself. And, so it goes. We’ll just see how the mysterious forces of baseball karma and public opinion combine to deal with Barry Bonds' hungry pursuit to pass Ruth and Aaron in the game's record book.

Update (April 14): Bonds said facing perjury probe

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bush: We have found the WMDs ...oops!

With George W. Bush in the White House putting the two words "administration" and "credibility" together creates an oxymoron just as sure as jumbo shrimp. The stack of Bush's revealed lies to justify a ba-a-ad policy to launch a war gets taller every week. And, we've got almost three more years left to go.

Yikes! Talking about a lame duck, with this prevaricating president we're talking about a duck with no legs at all.

Reuters reports
: “On May 29, 2003, Bush hailed the capture of two trailers in Iraq as mobile biological laboratories and declared, ‘We have found the weapons of mass destruction.’ Two days earlier, on May 27, 2003, the Pentagon confirmed on Wednesday, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) team faxed its preliminary report on the mobile labs. This report concluded the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons, the Post said.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Collection of Harvey's Music Issued

On the new Bryan Harvey memorial CD Pete Humes writes for the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

"Songs written and performed by House of Freaks, his successful collaboration with Johnny Hott, make up more than half of the compilation. The Hawaiian-themed side project Poi Boi and funk cover band NRG Krysys are represented with one track each. Bandmates, friends and family came together to assemble the album. Gary Stewart, an executive at Rhino Records in Los Angeles, collected the tracks and donated his time to produce it.

"'Remember Me Well' is available at Plan 9 Music in Carytown, with all proceeds going to the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Memorial Endowment. The fund, established by a committee of family and friends, was created to support music and arts in the Richmond area.

"For anyone familiar with Harvey's catalog, 'Remember Me Well' plays like a 1-hour-and-9-minute visit with an old friend. Harvey's songs resonate with passion and energy. Whether it's the peppy,'80s pop of The Dads or the dark, Southern Gothic rock of House of Freaks, his spirit shines through. The 22 songs paint a lively portrait of a musical life -- from the innocence of "Don't Fool Around with Young Girls' Hearts" to the maturity of "Tell Everybody Hello."

VCU's Capel to Oklahoma

Update: On the developing Jeff Capel story, this notice came in from VCU Sports Information at 12:55 p.m. today:

“Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball head coach Jeff Capel announced today that he is leaving VCU to become the head coach at the University of Oklahoma. VCU will move quickly to name a new men’s basketball head coach, university officials said.
Last month Capel signed a contract extension,
to stay with VCU through 2012, but...
“‘While we are, of course, very disappointed that Coach Capel is leaving VCU, we also are proud of what he has accomplished here at VCU, and that he will be the head coach of a Top-25 team,’ said VCU President Eugene P. Trani.

“‘We know this is a coveted job and we feel confident that we will bring in a quality coach to continue to build on the program’s excellence,’ said Richard L. Sander, VCU Athletic Director. “We are both sad and happy with Jeff’s announcement that he is going to Oklahoma. He did a great job here, and we know he will do a great job there.”

In his four years as head coach at VCU, Capel, 31, guided the Rams to a 79-41 overall record, a Colonial Athletic Association title and two postseason appearances. Capel became the youngest head coach in Division I men’s basketball at age 27 after he was promoted from assistant in 2002.”

The Associated Press reports. "Capel inherits an Oklahoma team that loses three of its top four scorers and top three rebounders in seniors Taj Gray, Terrell Everett and Kevin Bookout, but features a strong recruiting class that includes McDonald's All-American guard Scottie Reynolds from Herndon, Va."

The Richmond Times-Dispatch says Capel met with his coaches and players at VCU this morning to tell them he's decided to leave the Rams to coach the Sooners:

Photo: SLANT

Monday, April 10, 2006

Webb: 'Pre-emptive war is not American'

Successful author Jim Webb is 60. His books get made into movies. He's got it made. So, why a run for political office now? In this Alexandria Times piece, “Webb seeks return to Democrat roots,” the reasons behind his late-blooming campaign to best rival Harris Miller in the June Democratic primary are explored.

“...Webb speaks with the seriousness and precision of a man who has spent his life in and around the military. Apart from his active duty service, the Naval Academy graduate has advised the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and served as assistant secretary of Defense and secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, having apprenticed for the latter under now Sen. John Warner (R) in the 1970s.

“‘This doctrine of pre-emptive war is not American,’ he said, returning to Iraq. In their view of how to export ideology, ‘the people who are doing this have more in common with the Soviet Union than they do with the United States.’”

From another angle, here's South of the James' Conaway Haskins on Webb, “When Democrats Attack: Jim Webb, Affirmative Action, and Virginia's 2006 Senate Race

Immigration Issue Roils

As demonstrations took place in cities coast-to-coast much of America remains baffled over the immigration issue's many facets. How did we get to this point? What in the world is the right thing to do for those illegal immigrants already here, and to get control of our borders?

This Reuters story sums up news about the rallies today:

“Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in U.S. cities from Boston to Phoenix on Monday, waving American flags and calling for dignity and rights for millions of illegal immigrants. The national day of protest, the biggest in a wave of rallies that some have compared to the 1960s civil rights movement, was provoked by legislation in Congress that would turn millions of illegal immigrants into felons and fence off sections of the U.S. border with Mexico.

"Houston television reported that flyers had been distributed in the industrial suburb of Pasadena urging people to burn down the homes of illegal immigrants.”

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Fan District Flashbacks

Specter Calls for 'Specific Explanation'

With disapproval ratings soaring during an election year what has been a GOP monolith for five years is crumbling fast. This morning on the Fox television network Sen. Arlen Specter, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to Reuters, spoke about the snowballing White House leak story: "...There's been enough of a showing here with what's been filed of record in court that the president of the United States owes a specific explanation to the American people."

In the interview Specter went on to say, "I think that it is necessary for the president and the vice president to tell the American people exactly what happened. There has to be a detailed explanation precisely as to what Vice President Cheney did, what the president said to him, and an explanation from the president as to what he said so that it can be evaluated."

That from a senator who is not even running for office this year, but who does remember when the Bush administration held his feet to the fire, not so long ago, over whether he was loyal enough to remain chairman of the Judiciary committee.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Armageddonville, Texas

By F. T. Rea
Part One: Setting the Stage
Amageddonville, Texas is the story of the proud Blusterbush clan. G. Phineas T. Blusterbush, the patriarch, owned miles and miles of all he surveyed. The scion of a wealthy Connecticut family, young Gee-Phinnie Blusterbush settled in Texas for a reason that was never quite clear.

With his utter determination to succeed, and a carpetbag full of Wall Street bread, Blusterbush eventually became a cattle rancher of mammoth proportions. A tall and flinty man, Gee-Phinnie believed he owned the Armageddon River that flowed across his land. To make his belief a reality, over the years, he steadily bought up any property along the river he could. He had a special way of convincing the small ranchers and sod-busters to sell off their land and leave the area.

Note: This character’s costume is patterned after Phineas T. Bluster, a puppet villain on the Howdy Doody Show television show of the 1950s. He carries a derringer, hidden in his coat pocket.

Gee-Phinnie’s oldest son, G. W. “Dubya” Blusterbush, a ne’er-do-well in his youth, swore off booze and subsequently found religion (or maybe it was the other way around.) Always on the trail of two nasty villains, Dubya was out to prove he was worthy of walking in his father’s boot-prints.

Dubya was convinced that the two villains were allies - O’ Sammy Benlion and Sa’ad Hellsbells - because it came to him in a dream in which a dead horse rose up and spoke to him in the voice of Jesus.

Note: That's the dream that makes Dubya get off the sauce. Since Dubya had always been afraid of horses, anyway - he rides around in a blue designer stagecoach to keep from having to mount a horse - this dream rocks his world. Dubya’s signature outfit is an all-leather affair. For protection Dubya always carries his matched pair of .44 caliber Colts - blue, of course.

Gee-Phinnie also owned Amageddonville’s sheriff, a defrocked preacher named Johnny Asskleft. Asskleft had to leave his final post as a pastor in great haste. Blusterbush, the elder, was the only man who knew the reason, thus, he had a firm grip on Asskleft.

Note: Asskleft bares a strong resemblance to Paul Lynde, of Hollywood Squares fame. He wears the stock Western Movie sheriff wardrobe.

Gee-Phinnie also secretly owned half of the town’s saloon, The Tumbleweed, operated by his partner, who fronted the business - the lovely and semi-talented Miss Candi.

Note: The sloe-eyed, sepia-toned Miss Candi is cute as a button, but she has no originality whatsoever - her wardrobe is a total ripoff of Miss Kitty’s (Gunsmoke). Still, Miss Candi was loyal to Gee-Phinnie to a fault. Whoa, Nellie! Is something going on there?

Dickie Chains was the foreman of the Blusterbush family’s ranch, the “Flying W.” As a teenager Chains was at the Battle of the Alamo. He survived because he proved to be quite an actor - Chains convinced Santa Anna that he was the shy female servant of an officer. He and a handful of others were released to tell the bloody story of what happened

Note: The swaggering Chains dresses as a cowhand and rides a huge red horse. The horse swaggers, too.

Don Rumdummy was part-owner of an expanding railroad company that wanted to put tracks through the town. He had a secret alliance with Gee-Phinnie to acquire the land. Even more secretly, Rumsdummy and Chains were partners in slime - they sold whiskey and guns to renegade Indians, highwaymen and anyone with the cash to pay.

Note: Rumdummy dresses in the all-black garb of a Pinkerton agent, which he had once been. He carries guns of various sizes, wherever he can.

Collard Kungpowell was the figurehead mayor of Armageddonville. He had no real power and he was eaten up with guilt. He was addicted to laudanum.

Note: Once a soldier, Kungpowell had hung up his guns. He dresses like a banker.

O’ Sammy Benlion, a half-breed, was the adopted son of an Indian chief, who was assassinated by Chains’ henchmen. The kindly old chief had been unwilling to sign the bad treaty the federal government was offering. Before the tribe moved to the reservation O’ Sammy took several young warriors with him. The group became marauding renegades. O’ Sammy and his band of snake-handling, whiskey-drinking followers were determined to wreak havoc. They blew up barns and poisoned water holes, just for fun.

Note: O’ Sammy dresses in a skintight outfit with an “O” on his chest and a cape! He thinks Hellsbells is yesterday’s heavy, riding for a fall.

Sadistic Sa’ad Hellsbells was a mustachioed Mexican bandito chief with a mean-as-dirt gang. They rustled cattle and robbed the stagecoaches that passed through the region with impunity. They shot up the town when they felt like it, too. Sa’ad also had a prize stock of Arabian horses, in his secret mountainous hideout.

Dubya spent most of his waking hours searching, in vain, for those nasty hidden horses.

Note: Hellsbells wears the obligatory bandito outfit - big sombrero - “we don’t need no steenking badges!” - and ammunition belts across his chest.

This swashbuckling story, set in Texas - the land of hot air and bum steers - will continue.

Note: This piece appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of SLANT. Illustration by F.T. Rea

Bush disapproval at 62%

According to this AP story on MSNBC:

"President Bush’s approval ratings hit a series of new lows in an AP-Ipsos poll that also shows Republicans surrendering their advantage on national security -- grim election-year news for a party struggling to stay in power. Democratic leaders predicted they will seize control of one or both chambers of Congress in November. Republicans said they feared the worst unless the political landscape quickly changes."

Illustration from MSNBC

Bryan Harvey's Music Remembered

To learn about a new and soon to be available collection of Bryan Harvey's (1956-2006) music -- "Bryan Harvey; Remember Me Well" -- produced to document his work and to raise money for the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Memorial Endowment, click here to go to Plan 9’s site, or here for a Richmond.com story:

“In collaboration with Bryan’s longtime friend Stephen McCarthy and other area musicians, Gary Stewart, who signed the House of Freaks to Rhino Records, complied this loving tribute. The recordings trace Bryan’s career from the Boys From Skateland, to The Dads, to the House of Freaks...”
Image from Plan 9 web's site

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Richmond Braves win opener

Opening Day: On a splendid sunny afternoon at The Diamond the Richmond Braves came from behind to defeat the visiting Buffalo Bisons and start the 2006 season on a good note: Richmond 5, Buffalo 4.

In the photo above this Bill McCarthy swing of the bat made the difference in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases loaded. McCarthy, who also got the season's first hit for the R-Braves in the bottom of the second, picked up two runs-batted-in with this timely single to right firld.

And, yes, in the International League it is possible to have "bisons."

Wouldn't it help with what to do about a baseball stadium, if the Braves organization would see that this year's Richmond team is a quality outfit?
Photo: SLANT

Play Ball!

The Richmond Times-Dispatch asks 'What do the Braves mean to Richmond?' Good question. I'd write more but I'm going to the opening day game. Play ball!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Larranaga to Stay

Update: According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch Jim Larranaga has declined even talking to Seton Hall.

After the dust settled on the Big Dance, oh yeah, you knew the calls were coming: Jim Larranaga is being courted by Seton Hall, as tells this AP story. There will probably be others.

“Seton Hall was granted permission Wednesday to talk to George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, who led the Patriots to an improbable berth in last weekend's Final Four. Seton Hall contacted Mason athletic director Tom O'Connor, who gave the Pirates the go-ahead to speak to Larranaga as they seek a replacement for Louis Orr.”

Fool for Love

The following notice came in today from a friend who is among other things a radio personality, standup comic, and hail-fellow-well-met -- John Porter:

I would like to bring you up to speed on my latest project, appearing in a production of Sam Shepard's "Fool For Love" at Theatre VCU. The last time I appeared live on a VCU stage was way back in 1979 of 80 in a production of "Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes" by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. I did do one more show there before graduation, "Becket" by Jean Anouilh, but that was performed in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. And for you completists who are keeping score, I was the voice of Abraham Lincoln in last year's production of "The Civil War" and was immediately ostracized by the more southern members of my family.

"Fool For Love" is a great play and you will have a great time. I guarantee it, or I'll gladly refund your ticket price. Did I mention that it's FREE? That's right amigo, you won't even spend one thin dime for this show!

Showtime is at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (we are on the bill with two other short plays. Fool For Love will start about 9:00 p.m. and run about an hour.) The plays are being presented in the Richard Newdick Theatre (Shafer Street Playhouse if you went to VCU prior to the 1990's). If you want to have a good evening and watch some fun short plays, come early. If you just want to come and see our efforts, come at nine. Either way you're in for a great time.

***Theatre Professionals Keep Reading*** The director of the show, David Patton, is a rising talent. If you have been lucky enough to see his previous work, Sarah Laughed, then you will be pleasantly surprised at his approach to Shepard's world. It's been my pleasure to watch David as a teacher and director, and encourage you to check out his work with an eye to how he can help your theatre in the future.

***Everybody, Come Back Together Now*** I hope to see you all there. No need for reservations, just show up and be ready to watch the show. Oh yeah, if you're expecting me to play the lead's fat funny best friend – it ain't happening. But you'll have a great time anyway. If you need more information or directions, or just want to chat, give me a call at 319-6335.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

DeLay Is Kaput

The Washington Nationals baseball season is underway and Reuters is reporting that Republican bigwig Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, 58, is going to quit the political game in DeeCee, ASAP. The relentlessly snide DeLay is apparently ready to resign from his seat in the House of Representatives and go home to Texas to fight his court battles.

“...DeLay has told House Republican leaders that he intends to leave Congress as early as next month. It was not immediately clear if there would be a special election to replace DeLay or if his replacement would be selected in the November contest. DeLay, former owner of a pest control company, came to the House in 1985 and rose quickly through the ranks, earning a reputation as a master vote-counter and prolific fund-raiser.”

What’s not to like? Play ball!

Marsh against Webb; Yawn

Senator Henry Marsh is a man with a long distinguished career in politics. In the upcoming Virginia Democratic senatorial primary he opposes James Webb. Marsh favors Harris Miller. I’m not at all surprised.

In my book it hardly matters.

Let me be the first to say that Virginians owe former Richmond mayor Henry Marsh much in the way of gratitude. While he is a courageous man, he is also a man whose ideas were formed during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s. Unfortunately, Marsh's style proves that old liberals can sometimes be just as inflexible as old conservatives. At times he acts as if nothing has changed and that he’s still fighting the battles of 40 years ago.

For example: Marsh strongly opposed the movement in Richmond to change the City Charter to allow for the direct citywide election of the mayor. He managed to find all sorts of hidden racist demons in that proposed change, in spite of the fact that many local black leaders were on the bandwagon for reform. Marsh insisted it would water down the black vote and transfer power back to the rich white people who used to run Richmond.

Determined to maintain the status quo, Marsh played the race card.

By the way, SLANT first called for this same change back in 1992. After that initial piece I wrote several more OpEds for various publishers which endorsed the at-large mayor concept as a way to improve the City of Richmond‘s government. Each time I can remember being told by plenty of “experts” that as long as Marsh opposed the idea, it was dead-on-arrival. They were convinced Marsh controlled the black vote in Richmond.

Their notion was outdated. The self-appointed experts were wrong.

Another local black politician, Doug Wilder, was leading the push for the change. When Marsh opposed Wilder, his old friend from college days, Marsh rolled the dice and lost.

By losing that political fight so badly Marsh exposed the fact that he no longer enjoys anywhere near the sway over black voters in Central Virginia, or the Democratic Party, he once did. The Wilder/Bliley proposal passed by a whopping four-to-one margin in a citywide referendum. It carried all nine districts.

So, James Webb’s disappointed supporters should calm down. The days of a Henry Marsh endorsement, or rebuke, mattering very much are long gone. That hardly means Marsh is a lowdown party-splitter. It just means he’s somewhat out of touch with the times, again.

Furthermore, I don’t see any good in calling Harris Miller names. Miller is trying to win. He still thinks he can. That doesn't make him, or Marsh, into a traitor. Perhaps Webb’s blogging team should take a deep breath and swear off the hyperbole for a couple of days.

If Webb is going to be the golden boy who can beat George Allen, if he's the world-beater his blogging supporters have been saying he is, the man simply needs to handle this. If Marsh can knock candidate Webb off this easily, then he never stood a chance against Allen.

Webb will surely have to explain his stand on Affirmative Action. Not everyone will be pleased with it, especially those who are wallowing in nostalgia with Marsh. But please get this straight -- everyone who criticizes that 1960s program, designed to help make up for past discrimination, is not a racist.

Many good Democrats are surely ready to see a timetable for Affirmative Action, as it is, to be phased out and replaced by a newer program more targeted to specific problems.

Let’s give Webb his chance to deal with this problem. He had to know it would come up, so he shouldn’t be surprised by it. Besides, I don’t think most endorsements mean anywhere nearly as much as they used to.

Bottom line: If Webb’s supporters go bonkers every time a Virginia Democrat doesn’t do exactly what they want this spring, I can’t imagine how that will help Webb win the nomination.

Monday, April 03, 2006

What Hans Blix says about Iran

Daily Kos has a brief story (with links) on the war drums that are sounding over Iran’s bomb program.

Remember Hans Blix, the guy who told us before the invasion of Iraq that he had looked hard and couldn’t find the Weapons of Mass Destruction that George Bush said had to be there? Remember how his warnings were blown off by Bush's war mongers? With war drums sounding again, on WMDs in another country from Bush's Evil Axis list, what does Mr. Blix say about the nature of Iran’s current nuclear threat?

"'We have time on our side in this case. Iran can't have a bomb ready in the next five years,' Blix was quoted as saying. Blix, also a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, urged the United States to take its time, as it is doing in a similar nuclear standoff with North Korea. 'The U.S. has given itself time and is negotiating with North Korea, while Iran got a very short deadline.'"

What's really good about George Allen?

As with folks in Iowa, in New Hampshire people are getting to know Senator George Allen. He's a traveling man. In reading about his exploratory stumping for the presidency, I wonder if Allen worries about how his far-flung campaigning this year is going to play with Virginia voters in the little matter of his 2006 run to keep his seat in the Senate. He probably should.

In introducing the happy campaigner, who just happened to be in beautiful Milford, New Hampshire on March 25, U.S. Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.) dug deep and said, "You know what's really good about Sen. George Allen? Sen. George Allen is not one of those flip-flopping, double-talking, union-loving, illegal-immigrant-worshipping, tax-loving Democrats who are deserting New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary status."

There you go, leave it to a guy in a place like Milford to give us a perfect description of George Allen’s philosophy -- sloganeering will do.

In his career in politics Allen has consistently stood tall in his designer cowboy boots for opportunism and little else. Besides, we know he's getting bored with being in the Senate, anyway, so it’s all good.

My guess is that newly minted Democrat, author and former Sec. of the Navy James Webb, will win the upcoming Democratic primary, which will force Allen to spend far more time in Virginia this year than the born-again protector of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary status would like.

Maybe Webb will take care of Allen's boredom problem, too, which will free him up to visit Iowa and New Hampshire more often.
Illustration: F.T. Rea

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Stretch

by F. T. ReaIf the Richmond Braves do abandon their current baseball stadium on Richmond’s North Boulevard to play home games in another part of town, or perhaps another city, no doubt, some local fans will grumble. Others will shrug it off and be content to reminisce about favorite memories set at Parker Field (which was demolished in 1984), then The Diamond, which replaced the former in 1985.

Parker Field, which opened in 1954 to serve as home for a new minor league club -- the Richmond Virginians -- once seemed to be no less than a baseball temple to this scribe. At seven I began going to games there with my grandfather. Eagerly, I breathed in the magic in the air, especially stories told about legendary players and discussions on the strategy of the game. When my grandfather and I cheered the clutch hits and acrobatic plays we witnessed, and we rose for the seventh inning stretch, and we always stayed until the final out, I took comfort in being enveloped in the game’s lore and traditions. Naturally, we pulled for the home team, the pinstripe clad Virginians, or V’s, for short.

As I got older I went to Parker Field with my friends. We usually took our baseball gloves with us to the games. I still have my glove from that time -- a Nakona (Don Mossi model), which was purchased at Harris-Flippen (then at 6th and Main).

As the V’s were the New York Yankees’ International League (AAA) farm club, in those days the Bronx Bombers paid Richmond an annual visit in April. Just before Major League Baseball’s opening day Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and the other great Yankees of that era played an exhibition game -- a dress rehearsal -- at Parker Field vs. the V’s. It was always a standing-room-only affair.

After the 1964 season the V’s left to become Mud Hens (of all things!) in Toledo. Then in 1966 the Richmond Braves arrived. A few seasons before Parker Field’s wooden stands were removed, to allow for the current setup, I attended an evening ballgame with my daughter, Katey. We went as guests of neighbors who had comps from a radio station (WGOE-AM).

To Katey, at seven-years-old, the bright lights were dazzling. The roar of the crowd was exhilarating. Nonetheless, by the middle of the game she was getting tired of sitting still and baseball’s charm was wearing thin. During the sixth inning I tried to entertain her by telling her more about baseball, about seeing the one and only Satchel (“Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you”) Paige pitch from that same mound when I was a kid, not much older than her, and so forth.

It didn’t help. Soon rambunctious Katey was climbing across seats, again, and this time she knocked an unlucky fan’s tub of beer into his lap.

As the visitors began their turn at bat, in the top of the seventh inning, I felt obliged to rein Katey in, so, I got a sudden inspiration and subsequently asked whether she’d like to be in on a magic trick which would move everybody in the stadium.

Of course she did. I pulled her in close to whisper my instructions: The gist of it was that she and I -- using our combined powers of parapsychology -- were going to telepathically will everyone to stand up at the same time.

Katey was thrilled at the mere prospect of such a feat. Next, I told her to face the on-going game, close her eyes, and begin concentrating. After the visiting team made its third out, I cupped my hand to her ear to remind her that we both had to think, over and over, "stand up, stand up…"

As baseball fans know, when the home team comes to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning of every game, the spectators get up from their seats, ostensibly to stretch their legs. It’s a longtime tradition known as "the seventh inning stretch." There’s a mention of the practice in an 1869 report about a game played by baseball’s first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

When Katey turned around, and opened her blue eyes to see thousands of people getting on their feet, it was pure magic in her book. Maybe baseball was boring but magic wasn't! No one in the group gave me away when Katey breathlessly recounted what we had just done. She wanted to recreate the stunt in the eighth inning, but I somehow distracted her from that notion. As I remember it, though, she stayed true to her word and was quite well behaved the rest of the game.

Years would go by before Katey came to understand what made for the magic that night. And, today, I still have a pair of those old wooden general admission seats from Parker Field (third base side). Those artifacts were gathered firsthand, 21 years ago, after the last baseball game played at Parker Field.

The first International League game was played in Richmond in 1884 (supposedly, at a ballfield somewhere near Stuart Circle). And, now the 41st season for the R-Braves playing baseball on the Boulevard is about to begin.

Who knows? After all the runs, hits and errors, since 1954 maybe there’s a trace of magic still in the air over that baseball park. If history is any help, should the R-Braves pack up and leave they will be replaced. And, I suspect it would happen quickly. The game will go on, one way or another, and each one will surely have a seventh inning stretch.
-- 30 --

Photo: SLANT

Mondo City Shocker

The Richmond Times-Dispatch longtime TV writer, Douglas Durden, reported today that RICH-TV (formerly Blab-TV) ceased broadcasting on Comcast Channel 79 yesterday.

"'...Last summer Comcast moved our channel position from 7 and 8 to 79, which resulted in a dramatic loss of our viewing audience, and we never recovered. Most of our advertisers' programs were highly dependent on local call-ins and viewer participation,' [RICH-TV president, and local attorney Michael] Morchower said. 'We provided a service to the community which will be sorely missed.'"

In keeping with SLANTblog's April Fool’s Day theme, below the reader will find part of a piece penned by Durden sixteen years ago about a program on Blab-TV that caused somewhat of a local stir. It happened when two members of the GWAR troop, Oderous Urungus and Beefcake the Mighty, appeared on Mondo City’s premiere episode. Mondo City was produced and hosted by yours truly.
‘Mondo City’ Shocker

Terry Rea [appearing in character as Mutt DeVille], host of Blab-TV’s new “Mondo City,” got much more than he bargained for Tuesday night with the appearance of two members of the shock rock band GWAR. After taking their sexual references too far on the live cable TV show, the two men were taken off the air following orders from Blab-TV management.

“Part of what is attractive about live TV is that anything can happen,” Rea said yesterday. “That edge is something that Blab-TV and other live presentations have in common.” Rea [said] that GWAR led him to believe they knew the boundaries of the show. “In spite of that, they managed to go too far.”

“We want to assure viewers this behavior and conduct will never be tolerated on television again,” said Ann Smith, Blab-TV‘s general manager. “On the upside, we hope our viewing audience, especially parents, took notice and that this broadcast did expose GWAR for what they are.”

Well, Mike Morchower went ballistic on the telephone that night. He fired the show’s director -- perhaps for bad judgment, in particular, with a close-up of an aspect of a musician’s costume -- while the program still had a half-hour to go. Soon afterwards naughty Oderous and Beefcake, plus their entourage, fled the studio when they learned the Henrico County police were on the way.

Tapes of that bizarre show -- considered a minor “underground” classic in some circles -- in which columnist Mark Holmberg also appeared, have been circulating ever since. By the way, Holmberg and I finished the hour-long show without further incident.