“Finding Mister Goodbar”




John "Mr. Goodbar" Smith -- White Horse Tavern -- Flint, Michigan 2009

More “Wild Wednesdays” graced Sherwood Forest on July 12th, August 2nd and August 23rd. At the last show we featured “The Raspberries” from Cleveland. Their “Go All The Way” had gone all the way to #1 on the charts.

With artistic triumph and financial disappointment, I brought Ravi Shankar in September to Flint’s most prestigious facility, Whiting Auditorium. Ravi had taught George Harrison of the Beatles how to play sitar. George would have been a better draw. It was a very elegant act and got great reviews in the “Art Section” of the Flint Journal. We went out for Chinese food after the show. It was the closest thing to Indian cuisine north of Detroit. I had a marvelous conversation with Mr. Shankar. He was tremendously knowledgeable and quite spiritual in an Eastern sort of way. I lost several thousand dollars, but gained cultural insight.

That insight brought me to try another promotion at Whiting in October. This time it was “Cheech and Chong”. It sold-out. They said “fuck” a zillion times. Roy Bower was the manager of Whiting Auditorium. He was pissed. I was pleased.

“They said “fuck!”

Chief Ed Boyce wasn’t even there and could have cared less if he was. It was out of his jurisdiction.

Whiting worked on a guarantee against a percentage of ticket sales. Cheech and Chong had brought in a substantial bonus for the facility. Ravi had not. Business was business. Roy listened-up. Capitalism was calling. It said: “Fuck!”

Later that night, we heard that John Fogarty had said “Fuck it”. Credence Clearwater Revival was no more.  John split from the band, never to return.

Charlie Speights had become involved with the Genesee County Democratic Party in assisting George McGovern’s campaign for the Presidency. When McGovern flew into Flint on Tuesday, October 24th for a speech at Bishop Airport, Charlie introduced him to the crowd. He did a fine job. I later met Senator McGovern and shook his hand. He patted my seven year-old daughter Laurie and six year-old daughter Colleen on their heads and said they were “lovely children”. He also shook hands with my wife Eileen and observed that two year-old Candace must have really enjoyed his address. She was sound-asleep in her stroller.

On Saturday, November 4th, President Richard M. Nixon flew into Tri-City Airport in Saginaw for a rally. I had been cleared through the Secret Service for press credentials and was waiting on the tarmac when Air Force One landed. It always provides an impressive arrival, regardless of occupant. Nixon walked within five feet of me on his way to a hastily improvised podium. Saginaw was one of seven stops on that day’s itinerary, and he was on the ground for less than thirty minutes. I was surprised at how big a man he was and how well he carried himself. I was most struck by his eyes.
They were steel-cold. The only other eyes I had ever seen radiating such hard, furious intensity belonged to Chuck Berry.

Eileen and I voted on Tuesday, November 7th. It was dreary, dark, wet, early evening in Flint as we arrived at our polling place. Several long-haired McGovern supporters were standing drenched in a cold rain, passing-out last minute flyers. “He’ll bring our brothers home”, they pleaded. Eileen voted for George and I wrote-in a vote for Mr. Goodbar.

Mr. Goodbar was truly John Smith, but which name is more believable?

John was the manager of a first-run theater , The Flint Cinema, on South Dort Highway and had premiered most major new films arriving in fair Flint. John looked like a college professor and kept nearly two feet of anarchistic hair neatly tucked-in under a seditious wig. We had first met when I was doing a live WTAC remote broadcast from his theater in 1969 for the Flint opening of “Easy Rider”.

During my last break, I had commented that “Easy Rider” was unbelievably great and, unlike many commercial pronouncements, actually meant it. I also ad-libbed that if “2001” by Stanley Kubrick was a “Space Odyssey”; “Easy Rider” was a “Spaced Odyssey.” I thought it was a superior line.

John Smith walked over, gravely introduced himself as the theater manager, and somberly suggested that I come to his office before leaving.  Great. A right-wing asshole. I was ready for a speech on “family image”, “corporate responsibilty”, or possibly “the encouragement of youthful decadence” as I knocked on the office door with a resigned sigh. Keeping clients happy was a practiced skill and besides, it was his goddamn movie.

Mr. Smith was sitting at his desk. He looked up and simply said: “Lock the door.” I did.

“Try one of these headin’ home!”

John tossed a round, full, generously-packed joint in my direction. It was rolled like a mini-baseball bat.

He placed his hand to his head and removed what I then knew was camouflage. I was looking at Jerry Garcia in a three-piece suit.

“It’s a special “Goodbar” blend.”, beamed John.

That it was.

Goodbar was the product of prolonged parochial education (Sacred Heart/Immaculate Heart of Mary/Precious Blood/Jesuit) and had spent several years working in Ann Arbor. He was acquainted with John Sinclair and the MC5 and all their cohorts. He was skeptical of their revolutionary pretentions, but thought the music was acceptable if “one enjoyed melodic hysteria”. His critique of the new Yoko Ono single, produced by husband John Lennon, was that it “sounded like the woeful wail a beagle having its dick nailed to the floor”. John was arrogantly  intellectual and pleasantly subversive. A perfect companion!

A prominent cartoon figure in many college campus “underground” newspapers of the day was a character called “Mr. Goodbar”. He had nothing to do with candy-bars or a later movie wherein he was sought. “Mr. Goodbar” was several dimensions ahead of normal reality and light-years advanced in cosmic perception. Whenever someone brought a mundane, ordinary, commonplace problem to his attention (or one which he considered such, which was almost anything), he always offered a single, simple, eloquent  piece of advice. Anyone who read “underground” comics knew what Mr. Goodbar said.  Mr. Goodbar would always say:

“Go Fuck Yourself.”

“Mr. Goodbar” was John Smith’s alter-ego and true identity.

To me, John Smith would still make an excellent President and did proudly and patriotically inhale. Mr. Goodbar believed that Vietnamese weed was the only good thing being brought out of the conflict and smoking it was a gesture of appreciation and thankful salute to otherwise unheralded American troops. “At least those Commie pricks can’t get high on this one”, John would seriously philosophize as we sat around three-room “Goodbar Manor” at 4 a.m. listening to Bill Cosby play jazz piano with “Badfoot Brown”. I believe he was on tape.

In spite of my ballot, Mr. Goodbar was not elected President in 1972  nor was George McGovern. Bob Seger summed it up.

“Tricky Dick, he played it slick. Somethin’ I’s afraid he’d do, back in ’72.”

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