Wednesday, May 30, 2012

There's always something cooking...

Always something happening and nothing going on
There's always something cooking and nothing in the pot
They're starving back in China so finish what you got

-- From John Lennon’s “Nobody Told Me”

Fifteen years ago, when I was becoming addicted to being connected to the Internet, if you had asked me if the Internet would stimulate third party politics in America and eventually facilitate new regional, even nation political parties, I would have said, "Yes."

Well, mostly, I would have been wrong.

Still, I think it's somewhat strange that it hasn't happened. If you look at the status-quo-roiling effect the social media have been having in some other countries, it's easy to see how quickly movements can be put together.

When you look at how the Occupy/99% movement coalesced out of thin air in this country last fall, the potential of how modern communications might launch a new political party was certainly there for all to see. In this case, the spirit of the movement had little or nothing to do with trying to start a new political party, so only the potential was shown to us.

How experiencing the shared ordeal they endured will change the most dedicated of the demonstrators will be interesting to watch down the road. The full impact the Occupy/99% phenomenon will have on the electorate remains to be seen, but there aren‘t any signs that it will lead to the formation of a third party.

The Tea Party has turned out to be a fizzler for those who imagined in the beginning that they were forming a new national political party, well to the right of the big-spending, deficit-ignoring Republicans that made policy during the most recent Bush administration. Some of them must be bitterly disappointed that their noisy movement of 2009/10 was so easily hijacked and converted into a tool by the GOP's leadership.

In post-WWII American politics third parties became even more unfashionable in a nation already accustomed to two-party rule. During the Cold War Era ideology became so important it overshadowed issues. Everything had to be viewed through a liberal or conservative prism. But since it is issues that usually breathe life into third parties, over the last half-century we‘ve watched the various attempts at creating new political parties rise and fall, one by one, because both Republicans and Democrats have continued using Cold War rhetoric and old habits die hard.

In addition, in 2012, what seems to be working overtime to prevent new parties from emerging are two sides of the same coin -- apathy and impatience.

Most people are put off by the hurly-burly of politics and don’t care to engage. And, too many of those who do care about politics fall into one of two categories: 1. They are hopelessly partisan and wouldn't consider an alternative to the party they prefer. 2. If they do lean away from both parties, they are so impatient to get instant results they can’t stay organized and focused long enough to affect change.

While it would seem there's plenty of fertile ground between the Republicans and Democrats, in which to plant the seeds for a third national party -- a practical, problem-solving movement -- the passion to cultivate such a party's growth doesn't seem to be there.

So, we live with having to choose between two parties that are both better at fundraising and quarreling than anything else. Parties that routinely spend obscene amounts of money in the pursuit of power, all the while knowing they won't be able to get much of anything accomplished on the problem-solving front.

Strange days, indeed.

-- 30 --

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jake Wells: ‘Father of Richmond Movie Houses’

There are records of an exhibition of “moving pictures” having been presented at The Academy (the Mozart Academy of Music) at 103-05 N. Eighth Street in 1897. Built in 1886, that venue was generally considered to be Richmond’s most important and stylish theater, until it burned down in 1927.

It is said that in 1906 the Idlewood Amusement Park, which was across the street from the New Reservoir Park (later renamed Byrd Park) held regular screenings of “photo dramas,” open to the public for the price of a ticket.

George W. Rogers (writing for the Richmond News Leader in 1952) credited one showman, Jake Wells (pictured above), as having been the “…father of Richmond movie houses.”

Wells was a former-major league baseball player (1882-84). With his best days as a performer behind him, in the late-1890s, Wells — acting as player/manager of Richmond’s minor league baseball franchise in the Atlantic League — became a dashing figure in the local nightlife scene. He was one of the most popular men in Richmond.

When Wells suddenly lost that sports gig, his platform, 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,” as he called it.

The first venue thrived. A second version of the Bijou was built for Wells in 1905 at 816 East Broad, on the site of the legendary Swan Tavern. Occasionally, a short film was thrown onto a screen … eventually the films developed a following.

Films continued to play a larger role as time went on. With his brother Otto, Jake expanded into the Norfolk market, opening the Granby. In the early-1920’s the mighty Wells chain included 42 theaters sprinkled across the Southeast.

Eventually, Wells turned his back on what had made him a powerful man. He cashed in his movie theater interests to concentrate on becoming a real estate development tycoon. In 1927, caught in the grip of a nasty spell of melancholia, Jake Wells drove out to the countryside with a female companion, shot himself in the head — twice! — and died.

For more on Wells, the first baseman turned impresario, click here, and here. And, for you baseball fans, here’s a page with his Major League baseball stats.

-- 30 --

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bogus boundaries for arts district won't help

It says here that Mayor Dwight Jones and Second District Councilman Charles Samuels don't even understand why so many people go out to the galleries for the First Fridays Art Walk.

That ham-handed duo's finesse to do with art was much on display with the recent Art 180 snafu on Monument Avenue. Nonetheless, they’re both hoping there’s a way for some investors, people who've had nothing to do with building up First Fridays, to cash in on the phenomenon that has been steadily transforming a formerly moribund part of Downtown Richmond.

So, as it has been with pouring public funds into the bottomless pit that is CenterStage, this new help-local-arts-and-culture plan emerging from City Hall isn’t so much about art or performance. It’s more about real estate.

Yet, using decree to expand the unofficial Arts District label to cover parts of the city that have little in common with the gallery scene between Belvidere and 2nd will make the official map of the district’s boundaries seem bogus.

It's a stretch to extend it to 7th Street. Taking it all the way from Belvidere to 13th -- with "outcroppings" -- makes the label into wishful thinking propaganda, rather than a faithful description of reality.

If the City of Richmond wants to offer incentives to stimulate growth in various parts of town that’s fine. I’ve no quarrel whatsoever with that concept, in a general sense. But there’s no need to shanghai the name Arts District and render it vague and meaningless.

My guess is that establishing that deliberate falsehood won’t do much to really help Richmond’s arts scene, or its tax base, in the long run.

Hey, I’m all for helping Richmond’s creative class thrive, maybe I could make a buck out of that, but Downtown Richmond surely doesn’t need more phony deals.

What local political candidates ought to do is call for a big confabulation to be assembled this summer, to find ways for Richmond’s government to help bring more success to the existing galleries, clubs and theaters, etc., in Richmond's downtown area. What laws and policies should be changed, or even 86ed? What sort of incentives might really help?

Then some consideration of how to attract more galleries, clubs and theaters to Downtown Richmond would be useful. After all, isn’t it reasonable to assume conventioneers with money in their pockets might want to walk from the Convention Center to a gallery, club or theater?

The reasons you won't hear mayoral or councilmanic candidates drumming up enthusiasm for such a public exchange of ideas to take place this summer are simple: The poseurs among them don't want to hear what would be said. And, even worse, some of them wouldn’t like for the voters to hear it, either.

Will on Trump: 'Bloviating ignoramus'

Trump tweets back: "Dumbest..."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jobs? But first a little sodomy

 Del. Bob Marshall: 'Did you ever see water fountains 
in Virginia that say heterosexuals only?'

In spite of the GOP's incessant claims that the economy is the most important issue and creating jobs is their top priority, what do Republicans in Virginia choose to talk about at their tea parties?


Well, maybe later ... but first a little sodomy.
A week after making the assertion that “sodomy is not a civil right,” Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, stood by his remarks during a campaign visit to a Central Virginia tea party meeting and said being gay "cuts your life by about 20 years."

“If sodomy is a civil right, do we have to protect it? Do we have to fund it? Do we have to teach it? Do we have to encourage it? Do we have to facilitate it?,” Marshall said in an interview Thursday after an appearance at a meeting of the Jefferson Area Tea Party. “It is not a civil right.”
To read all of "GOP Senate contender Marshall says being gay 'cuts your life by about 20 years'" at the Richmond Times-Dispatch click here

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Biograph Artifacts

Program No. 21 (1974)

Program No. 42 (1977)

Program No. 43 (1977)

Program No. 47 (1978)

Midnight show handbill (1979)

Program No. 53 (1980)

Program No. 56 (1981)

Autographed (director John Waters) handbill (Nov. 1981)

Handbill for New Year's party 1981/82

1982 handbill for a mirthful Tati twin bill

Program No. 60 (1982)

The Artless Mayor

The Fan District Slant is a new space to discuss politics and popular culture, to air out opinions. No attempt will be made to artificially balance what will be presented there. Advocacy journalism will be practiced without apology. However, this doesn't mean fairness and honesty won't matter.

Here's an excerpt from the new web site's first essay:
Pretending to care in a convincing way is something any ambitious politician has to be able to do. Mayor Dwight Jones’ problem is that when it comes to feigning an interest in some things he doesn’t care about, such as art and baseball, well, he’s not such a good performer.

Art first, baseball later:

When I first read Jones’ interview in Style Weekly (May 9, 2012), I laughed a couple of times at what I thought were funny answers to Don Harrison’s questions. It was a quick reading. A week or so later, a second reading had me wondering why Jones ever agreed to do an interview for which he was clearly unprepared.
To read "The Artless Mayor," which reacts to that interview with Richmond's Mayor Jones, click here.

As Virginia is a so-called "battleground state" this year and Richmond is in the middle of the commonwealth, I figure the Fan District must be ground zero. So, with no more permission than that the propaganda that surrounds issues and elections (local, statewide and national) will be examined and demystified at The Fan District Slant.

Comments are welcomed but will be moderated.

General news and notices about politics won't be posted there. Submissions of original OpEd style essays are welcomed. Please keep the length of them between 500 and 1,000 words. And, by the way, if all you want to do is simply parrot what is already being said at Fox News or MSNBC, don't bother. The Fan District Slant will post submissions from people who do their own thinking.

And, yes, please submit your original political cartoons. Good ones will be posted, no matter who is the butt of the joke.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Five Favorite Protest Songs

Great protest songs, originally written and sung before my time, paved the way for the folk-rockers, rhythm & blues artists and early punks who addressed their attention to war and social causes with pop culture music in the late-60s and early-70s.

Protest songs are on my mind today, as I take in the news from the Windy City, images of Chicago that bring 1968 back to mind.

Over the years my taste in music has evolved (or perhaps degenerated). So I can’t say for sure what would have been on this list of five favorites, had I complied it 20 or 30 years ago. Today my five favorite protest song cuts from my time of learning to appreciate such a genre are:

I Ain’t Marching Anymore” by Phil Ochs (released in 1965); written by Phil Ochs
People Get Ready” by the Impressions (released in 1965); written by Curtis Mayfield
Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (released in 1969); written by John Fogerty
Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (released in 1970); written by Neil Young 
Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who (released in 1971); written by Pete Townshend

OK, I cheated by including the John Lennon video. Nonetheless, over the years it seems to me all five (six) picks have held up fairly well, as music.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rams jilt CAA

Writing for AP, Hank Kurtz analyzes VCU’s move from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Atlantic 10.
"Premier universities are premier across the board, and that includes athletics," Rao said. "We need to be willing, and we are certainly able, to compete at the very highest levels, and we look forward to doing that in the A-10."

He acknowledged that $5 million is a lot to walk away from, as is a conference tournament played just down the street from the university.

"The expected returns are far greater that the short-term losses," Rao said, and the increased expectations despite a move to a more competitive league are welcome.

"We wouldn't have it any other way," Rao said. "We play to win. We expect it win. We have been winning."
Watching VCU president Michael Rao’s press conference (live) on video was revealing. I came away from it thinking Rao doesn’t know much about basketball, or sports, in general. I could be wrong, but he didn’t sound like a guy familiar with the footing on which he was standing to opine. That doesn’t mean the move to the Atlantic 10 is a bad move, or a good move. With the flux that conferences are in today, only time will tell.

Me? I’m thinking about Aesop’s fable about the dog on a bridge that dropped his bone, to grab after an illusion of a bigger bone in the water.

As far as men’s basketball is concerned, if VCU goes on winning at the rate they have since Shaka Smart was hired by Rao’s predecessor, Eugene Trani, it probably won’t matter all that much which conference VCU calls home.

However, I can say that Trani understood college basketball. During his presidency he was a frequent visitor in the media room after games and he traded observations with reporters in a way that demonstrated his ability to grasp events on the fly, without someone writing a script for him.

In addition to walking away from guaranteed money, VCU is trading away its intense CAA rivalries with William & Mary, George Mason, Old Dominion, James Madison, Drexel, etc., for potential A10 rivals. Thus, VCU hopes to create meaningful relationships with Duquesne, Fordham, Saint Louis, Xavier, Massachusetts and George Washington.

Longtime Rams fans probably hope there will be a way to continue playing Mason and ODU, at least, in future basketball seasons.


Update: ODU leaving CAA to join C-USA.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

VCU to A10 on July 1, 2012

From VCU's athletic department:
RICHMOND, Va. (May 15, 2012) – Virginia Commonwealth University announced today it will join the Atlantic 10 Conference effective July 1, 2012.

VCU examined several options, including remaining in its current conference home, the Colonial Athletic Association, and multiple factors led to the decision to leave the CAA and begin competing in the 21-sport league that is considered one of the best conferences in the country.

"VCU believes the A-10 represents the best opportunity to meet our long-term aspirations for national academic and athletic achievement,” said VCU President Michael Rao. “As a Division I, nationally competitive athletics program, it is critical that VCU seizes the opportunity to further elevate its athletics as it raises its overall academic profile as a national research university."

Rao said that VCU’s Quest for Distinction strategic plan calls for excellence in everything the university does, including athletics – and moving to the Atlantic 10 Conference supports that quest for higher standards of excellence in VCU’s athletics program.

“The Atlantic 10 is a conference that gives us an opportunity to not only build our national brand, but also be associated with and compete against great institutions with tremendous profiles, both athletically and academically,” said David Benedict, VCU’s interim director of athletics. “We believe that the transition to the A-10 allows us to enhance the experience of all of our student-athletes.”

Rao and Benedict said the university’s 17-year membership in the Colonial Athletic Association was mutually beneficial to the CAA institutions and to VCU.  However, with tremendous changes in the college athletics landscape, affiliating with the Atlantic 10 Conference at this time best supports VCU’s long-term strategic goals.

“It is my privilege to be able to announce the addition of VCU to the Atlantic 10 Conference. It is an institution rich in tradition, academic excellence and broad-based athletic success,” said Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. “One of the driving forces and priorities of the A-10 is to further enhance our national prominence in men’s basketball, build our brand and strengthen our current footprint.

In addition to bringing in well-rounded sports programs across the board, VCU solidifies the A-10 academically and athletically.”

Rao said the financial considerations involved in the move to the A-10 are not insignificant, but that any financial analyses or projections prepared now are based on projections and highly variable factors. Offsetting these costs are several potential financial benefits to VCU by joining the A-10, including increased annual revenue sharing.

“VCU has made substantial investments in its athletics programs in recent years, and a strategic facilities plan is under development,” Rao said. “Moving to a major, basketball focused conference will enable VCU to build on its commitments and successes while also continuing its rise on the national sports scene.

“The addition of Virginia Commonwealth University to the Atlantic 10 further strengthens us as the nation’s premier basketball-driven conference,” said Father Michael J. Graham, Xavier University President and Chair of the Atlantic 10 Council of Presidents. “Accepting VCU’s application makes sense on two important levels -- their emphasis on the quality of the student experience of their student-athletes, especially in the classroom, and their commitment to the highest levels of competition. Both ideals square perfectly with the identity of the A-10 and all of its member institutions.”

Other members of the Atlantic 10 Conference are the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of Dayton, Duquesne University, Fordham, George Washington University, La Salle University, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s University, Saint Louis University, Temple University and Xavier University.  Butler University will join the conference in 2013-2014.

Does Bob Marshall speak for you?

Because of Tracy Thorne-Begland’s sexual orientation, Republican senatorial hopeful Del. Bob Marshall (depicted above) believes the Richmond prosecutor should not be a judge. Marshall apparently believes a gay man is incapable of being honest and fair-minded.
Given his activist record on matters to do with sexual orientation, Marshall should make clear his views on which Constitutional rights and protections apply to all citizens and which Constitutional guarantees do not apply to Thorne-Begland, because he is (openly) gay.

Therefore, Marshall, who would like to win Sen. Jim Webb's seat in the U.S. Senate, should provide his complete list of jobs in government that Thorne-Begland’s sexual orientation makes him unfit to hold. Legislator? Teacher? Firefighter? Dogcatcher? Commonwealth’s Attorney?

The Washington Post reports
Marshall, the Family Foundation of Virginia and others who raised concerns about Thorne-Begland’s nomination said they did not object to him because he is gay, but because of his outspokenness on the subject of gay rights.
“I would guess — law of averages — we’ve probably nominated people who have homosexual inclinations,” Marshall said. He faulted Thorne-Begland for coming out as a gay Naval officer on “Nightline” two decades ago to challenge the military’s now-repealed ban on gays openly serving in the military. He said that the action amounted not just to insubordination, but to a waste of taxpayer dollars, since it resulted in his dismissal from the Navy. “The Navy spent $1 million training him,” Marshall said. “That’s cheating the country out of the investment in him.  
Marshall and the Family Foundation speak for many Republicans in Virginia. In addition to speaking on behalf of their anti-gay agenda, they routinely speak out in favor of controlling the behavior of women. Do they speak for you?

Monday, May 07, 2012

Billy Snead's last words

From Billy Snead's Caring Bridge web site:
Mr. William “Billy” Roland Snead Jr., 76, of Richmond, VA, died May 6, 2012.

Billy is survived by his loving wife of 53 years, Evelyn Casey Snead. He is also survived by his daughters, Sande Snead (Martin Brill), and Mary Ellen Snead (Chuck Irving), and Jill Shimp, and a son-in-law, Kevin Shimp. He leaves behind four adoring grandchildren – Brittany and Nicole Fulk and Casey and Logan Shimp. Billy was preceded in death by his parents, William R. Snead Sr., and Lilly Tiller Snead. Also surviving are his sister, Pat and her husband, Jack Marshall, his brother Brian and his wife Sue Snead, and his sister, Brenda and her husband, Ray Crostic. He will be dearly missed by a host of nieces and nephews and their children as well.

Billy wrote the following.

Billy Speak:
“A life without love is not worth living.”

“There is no second, third or fourth place.”

By far the most important thing in my life was my family. Both the one that brought me here and raised me at Stafford-On-Alley and the one that Ev and I created together in our long marriage. I was blessed with a caring and faithful wife who kept me civil – most of the time. She was my granite. I am also proud of my children and of theirs. I was fortunate to have many close long-term friends. Other credits are minor by comparison, but I will list them anyway:
·      Chosen as the first ever “Sweetheart of the Cinderellas” – A Teejay sorority
·      Promoted to the rank of Corporal in the National Guard – three times
·      Held a certificate of completion in Basic Oxy-acetylene Welding from the Richmond Technical Center
·      Inducted into the Fan District Softball League Hall of Fame
·      Lead “singer” for the “Franklin Art Reparatory Theater (FART)”
·      And seven-time co-chairman of the Egg Toss at 4th of July block parties

I said they were minor.

One of my passions was playing sports, although I was not endowed with size, speed or talent. I played as hard as I could in every game I ever got in. I truly love my city, state and country.
Now, my time on Earth is done. Life here was most fulfilling. I know not where I go from here, but ere now, The Troll has left the building. 
 Special thanks to the entire staff of the Dalton Clinic at Massey Cancer Center, especially the nurses for putting up with Billy. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m., on Thursday, May 10 at Bliley Funeral Home, 3801 Augusta Avenue. The funeral will be at Patterson Avenue Baptist Church, 4301 Patterson Ave., at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 11.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or Hospice of Virginia.

Billy Snead, RIP

  Billy Snead at the Biograph Theatre's 20th anniversary party in 1992.

My friend, Billy Snead, 76, died on Sunday, May 6. His family was at his side when he drew his last breath.

If you were lucky enough to have known Billy, who grew up in the Fan District, you may have a sense of how universally well liked he was. I’ve never known anyone who balanced his life better than did William R. "Billy" Snead Jr. He was careful, loyal, generous and spontaneous. He was a devoted family man; his wife and three daughters are delightful company. Yet he still had plenty of time for his friends of all ages. He quietly did nice things for people that most of us never knew about. Although he was rather successful, I can’t remember Billy ever seeming to look down on anyone.

When others couldn’t see through fogs of confusion and self-interest, Billy remained a man who knew by pure instinct what was right, what was wrong.

A long time ago, we spent many an hour playing sports together; Billy was a teammate and a coach. We spent even more time around tables with semi-rowdy groups of friends, swapping salty stories over beers, after the games were over. For a legion of his friends, Wednesdays at Chiocca’s will never be the same without him. When it came to Happy Hour comedians, with his impeccable timing Billy usually said less and got more laughs.

A Yiddish term comes to mind, when I think of the Billy I knew for nearly four decades: Billy was a mensch.

Click here to read a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch article, penned by Bill Lohmann, about an unusual friendship Billy nurtured for over 50 years. 

Billy wrote down a few of his more colorful stories about his formative years. He loaned me a stack of them to read a few years ago. He seemed genuinely pleased that I liked them, as if my opinion mattered. Some of them have been collected and posted by his daughter, Sande.

Click here to read and smile … perhaps with a tear in the corner of your eye.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Living in the Moment

The blistering heat added to the growing sense in the air that anything could happen. Before the program of speakers and singers began, as the burgeoning crowd was being funneled into the grassy ellipse south of the White House — the designated demonstration area — the morning’s temperature had already reached the upper 90s.

It was Saturday, May 9, 1970.

Five days earlier four students had been shot to death by members of the Ohio National Guard on the Kent State University campus during a Vietnam War protest rally; three days later two more students were killed at Jackson State.

The White House grounds and Lafayette Park were surrounded by DC transit system buses, parked snugly end-to-end. Cops in riot gear were stationed inside the bus-wall perimeter every few yards.

Estimates ranged widely but most reports characterized the size of the crowd at well over 100,000. Home-made signs were everywhere, including a sprinkling of placards that denounced the mostly young war protesters. The smell of burning pot gave the gathering a Rock ‘n’ Roll festival feel, too.

Unlike the other large anti-war demonstrations of that era, which were planned for months, this time it all fell together spontaneously. People who had never marched in protest or support of anything before had been moved to drop what they were doing, to set out for Washington, D.C. — to live in the moment.

As a convoy of military vehicles drove into the park area many in the crowd booed. When it turned out the uniformed troops were bringing in bottled water for the thirsty, the booing stopped. Dehydration was a problem that cloudless day.

After the last speaker’s presentation the ever-present police stood by watching thousands of citizens spill out of the park area, to stretch a line of humanity all the way around the wall of buses. The idea was that whether he liked it or not President Richard Nixon, who stayed inside the White House, would hear the crowd’s anti-war chants.

The demonstration flowed north, then west, from one block to the next. Long lenses peered down from the roofs of those distinctively squat DeeCee buildings. An untold number of fully-equipped soldiers were crammed into basements, visible in the doorways, awaiting further orders. Many of them must have been scared they might be ordered to fire upon their fellow Americans.

Hippies who had been wading in a fountain to cool off scaled a statue to get a better look. A few minutes later a cheer went up because a determined kid had managed to get on top of a bus to wave a Viet Cong flag. When the cops hauled the flag-waving disposable hero off, a commotion ensued.

Soon the scent of tear gas spiced the air. This story’s teller was making a record of what he saw with his new 35mm single lens reflex.

The next day I was back in Richmond for yet another gathering of my generation. Staged in Monroe Park, Cool-Aid Sunday featured plenty of live music. Information booths and displays were set up by the Fan Free Clinic, Jewish Family Services, Rubicon (a dry-out clinic for drug-users), the local Voter Registrar’s office, Planned Parenthood, Crossroads Coffeehouse, etc.

Although it was not a political rally the crowd assembled in Monroe Park, while much smaller, was similar in its look to the one the day before in Washington.

As I remember it, there were no reports about anyone being seriously injured at Saturday’s tense anti-war demonstration. Then, ironically, a 17-year-old boy — Wilmer Curtis Donivan Jr. — was killed on Sunday in the park in Richmond, when a four-tier cast iron fountain he had scaled suddenly toppled.

The photograph of Donivan falling to his death that ran on the front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on the next day, May 11, 1970, is one I’ll never forget.

No doubt, the convergence of strong feelings from the extraordinary week that had preceded Cool-Aid Sunday had set the scene. Shortly before Donivan fell, I remember seeing him on the fountain, seemingly caught up in much the same spirit as the hippies climbing on statues the day before.

Without that week’s unique momentum Donivan probably wouldn’t have felt quite so moved to demonstrate his conquest of that fountain. Witnesses said he was rocking it back and forth, just before it crumbled.

The way that Sunday afternoon’s be-in ended was burned into the memory of hundreds of Richmonders who were gathered in Monroe Park to peacefully celebrate being young and alive.

In those days the USA was becoming ever more bitterly divided over the Vietnam War. Every night on the televised news the death counts were announced -- numbers appeared next to little flags on the screen that represented the armed forces at war. It was a time in which living in the moment was killing off the young and unlucky … wherever they were.
-- 30 --