“Pussy Cheer”

fitz

CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

PUSSY CHEER

On August 22nd, our last “Wild Wednesday” of the summer headlined the English band Flash and Bob Seger. Attendance was a little over five thousand and we had posted Sheriff O’ Brien’s big “Narc” sign at the park entrance as promised. Everything appeared to be completely under control.

The only slight annoyance was a State Police “Safety Inspection Team” which had been stopping a few vehicles near the park on Richfield Road for several hours, ostensibly looking for balding-tires, bad-brakes or improper tail-lights. They halted one hundred vehicles and made three arrests. It was only a marginal hassle, except for my friend Michael Kahn. Mike had pulled onto Richfield and had seen the inspection team looming ahead. He knew what to do. He opened his glove department, retrieved a dozen joints and swallowed them all with barely a chew. It was a questionable call. Two minutes later, a State Police Sergeant approached his vehicle. Michael looked too responsible to bother with a search. He was waved right-on through. Michael later reported the day lasted longer than “Seven Thousand Woodstocks”.

The media aftermath of the “O’Brien Raid” had  given positive press to the Sheriff, primarily since he had been allowed to run his rap without contradiction or clarification.

The cops knew better. Cops talked with cops. There was serious snickering.

In law enforcement hierarchy, status is generally based on the size of governmental unit represented. Chief Boyce was employed by the relatively small city of Davison and used several adjacent township and village forces to augment his forces. There was joint jurisdiction between the Sheriff’s office and other departments and a variety of agreements had been reached. There were still many areas which were definitely “gray” with specifics unresolved. Sherwood Forest’s concert operations had become a question of “ownership”.

Shortly before sunset, Chief Boyce approached me with fire in his eyes. He was most embarrassed and genuinely apologetic. He was also understandably shaken. A dozen Genesee County Sheriff’s Department cruisers had just pulled into Sherwood Forest. A Deputy-Chief was in charge, Sheriff O’Brien being out of town on “official business”. The Deputy-Chief had been ordered by O’Brien to lead fifty armed, helmeted deputies, dressed in standard riot-gear regalia, into the concert area and surround the crowd. They were to make no arrests, but were there to “observe” and offer a “display of strength”.

THIS WAS MADNESS!

I attempted to reach Stewart Newblatt by phone, but he was unavailable. There was no time to obtain a Court Order. Chief Boyce was powerless. There was no other option. I would resort to open honesty.

I charged the stage and, as Savage Grace completed their set, brought them off with thanks. Bob Seger was next to perform.

I begged the crowd’s forgiveness and asked for their serious attention.

I explained the situation. I spoke of how jurisdiction over Sherwood Forest had become a “big, fucking deal” with Sheriff John P. O’ Brien. I said the “P” stood for “Pussy”. John O’Brien was a “Pussy” for running away and beating a path up the driveway at the prior concert when things got scary. He was having other men do his dirty-work. Innocent officers were being exposed to danger and distress. I told the crowd that Sheriff O’ Brien wanted them to “take on” his cops, who were being forced to encircle the audience. The Sheriff was risking the well-being of his very own men. I stressed that the deputies were only doing their goddamn jobs. Being there was not their fault. They were there because of the “PUSSY WHO STAYED AWAY”!

I led the crowd in a “PUSSY” cheer.

Sheriff O’Brien is a –?”

“PUSSSSSSSSSSSSSY!”

“That’s right. John  P. O’Brien is a–?”

“PUSSSSSSSSSSSSSY!”

“And the “P” stands for what?”

“PUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSY!”

I then introduced both Bob Seger and the riot-squad. Both received loud, warm, friendly applause.

Seger went right into “Who Do You Love” as the police slowly encircled the gathering. People were smiling and welcoming them. There were handshakes and pats on the back. Seger greeted the deputies and dedicated his next song to them. It was “Turn The Page”. He continued with his performance in the most normal of fashions. After fifteen minutes, the deputies filed-out without a hint of trouble.

Litigation started immediately. The following day, Stewart Newblatt filed a motion in Circuit Court to permanently enjoin Genesee County Sheriff John P. O’Brien from any further “dangerous and precipitous actions on peaceful assemblies at Sherwood Forest”. The Sheriff filed motions to permanently prohibit any further outdoor concerts at Sherwood Forest. Obviously, sides were taken.

There had always been objection toward the concerts by a segment of the community based solely on general principles. A number of church organizations were particularly negative and had referred to me as a “Pied Piper of Perdition” in several leaflets and pamphlets which had been distributed about. On the other hand, virtually our entire WTAC listening demographic was fired-up against the Sheriff and for Sherwood Forest.

Ironically, the dispute turned out to be an excellent station promotion. The WTAC call-letters were in the paper and on TV all the time connected with the affair. My quotes on “democratic principles”, “generational prejudice” and “free enterprise” made red-hot copy. I had intentionally refrained from any further personal comments on the Sheriff’s methods, motives or manhood after my concert rap. The lawsuit said it all. It had also been brought to my attention that the “Pussy” label had really stuck, particularly among a number of younger deputies.  It is always best not to overstate an accepted observation. Chief Boyce reported that the “snickering” had reached a roar in the townships.

After several weeks, I felt another meeting with the Sheriff was in order.
I had learned that the “Pussy Cheer” had rendered him apoplectic. I was not alarmed. He was a dangerous man. And a pussy.

He reluctantly agreed to a meeting.

The first thing I did upon arriving was request an explanation of his orders on the 22nd. He asked me for an apology regarding the “pussy deal”. I responded that had been solely precipitated by his orders and had been intended to diffuse crowd hostility against his officers. I had directed resentment against an inaccessible target. I pointed out that it was nothing more than basic mob psychology, a subject in which he had much to learn. He angrily emphasized that he deeply resented being called a “pussy” in public. He just wouldn’t let it go.

The conversation went on for an hour. I had completely cooperated and he’d fucked me, so I’d called him a “pussy” in public. I was prepared to establish an agreement now that we were even. I also played the “Irish card” and pointed-out that it was just this sort of thing that had brought about English rule and driven our great-grandfathers into starvation and emigration. Pride had gone before the great fall. It was all quite true and he knew it. Since he had so strongly gone on record against the concerts, I would not expect him to suddenly reverse himself. However, if he dropped his litigation, I would drop mine. There would be no further outdoor concerts for the year in any event.  I certainly expected no problems as we moved back indoors come October.

Announcing that the issue had become a moot point, Sheriff O’ Brien dropped his lawsuit the next day. I came through on my end. The next “Wild Wednesday” would take place June 26th the following year and would he held in full cooperation with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department. It would also be the last.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be at all surprising that, in the midst of the swirling  controversy surrounding outdoor “Rock ‘n Roll” concerts at Sherwood Forest, I was allowed to proceed with a different kind of event without the most remote opposition.

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