October 9, 2009
Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” is on track to be one of the top 5 grossing documentaries of all time.
I’ve known Mike for more than three decades.
I am particularly proud of Michael and his new film.
Far more than dollar signs, my enthusiasm over initial box office figures is driven by this major indication that a very important message is getting out. For your reading convenience, I thought I would offer several excerpts from “Local DJ” and other writings which track a few of our mutual adventures through the years. Names have not been changed. There are no innocents.
“Michael Moore came by the station in February and I helped
him put together some production for his “Davison Hotline.”
Michael enjoyed the distinction of being the youngest elected
public official in Michigan state history. He had become a member
of the Davison Board of Education at the age of 18, offering
to annoy the establishment as his most specific campaign promise,
and surprising many with his win, including himself. He had
established the “Hotline” as an intervention service for teens,
and had started publication of a “Hotline Newsletter” which
was gaining wide circulation.
Michael and I had met several times before at Township
Meetings when officials were trying to put both of us out of
business for separate, although similar, reasons. A common enemy
establishes instant alliance. Michael was Irish too. He was
at one time on his way to the priesthood, and eventually might
have been Bishop of Buffalo, were he not asked to leave his
seminary. He had been listening to a transistor radio, under his
bedsheets, as the Detroit Tigers eventually beat Saint Louis in
the 1968 World Series; such nocturnal activity was forbidden.
Michael felt he would have been better regarded for simply
masturbating to Playboy by flashlight or candles. He testified this was a pastime not completely unknown in theological environs.”
“The Federal Communication Commission suggested that
a certain amount of weekly programming be devoted
to discussion of community issues and other non-entertainment
features. This was felt to be a meaningful demonstration of serving
the public. In reality, it was nonsense. This is why Sunday
mornings at many radio and television stations were cluttered
with religious broadcasts, informational features, public affairs
discussions, and other nostrums. If a station buried everything
in a single block, they could devote the rest of their time providing
what the public really desired, as opposed to what it was
supposed to want. Sunday mornings were normally the trash heap
of the broadcast week.
“Might as well throw all the shit there, Burt!”
So they did.
We had to make things more interesting.
Michael Moore of Davison Board of Education and
“Hotline” fame had approached the local Public Broadcasting
Station about doing a program addressing matters of interest
and concern to young people. The station, wishing to be safely
hip, allowed Michael to write and produce several broadcasts.
A number of guidelines were given. Michael wanted to talk
about abortions, contraceptive devices, sexual freedom, law
enforcement harassment and drug use. These were beyond the
guidelines. The station wanted to inform, not offend.
Michael and I had discussed the problem and had experimented
with a program called “Radio Free Flint” on WTAC. It
was recorded in advance, and ran very early Sunday morning.
When I moved to WWCK, I decided to invite Michael along.
Radio Free Flint moved too, except it was now broadcast live
with open phone lines. Everything was approved for discussion
and debate. From an FCC perspective, it was Public Affairs
Programming. In reality, it quickly became the hottest radio
talk show in Flint. It might be 8 a.m. on a Sunday when Michael
hit the air, but our 12-line switchboard would light-up like a
Grateful Dead crowd.
Al MacLeese was a columnist for the Flint Journal. I had
read several superb pieces he had written, and had dropped
him a note expressing appreciation for his wit and style. He had
called me and we had lunch. He was a grizzled old time newspaper
rogue, and was not unknown to heavily partake in liquid
stimulants from time to time. I mentioned that Syracuse, New
York, was my hometown. He mused.
“I remember finishing the last of my gin at five in the morning
in the middle of the lobby at the Howard Hotel in Syracuse,
while feeding what remained of my plastic Florida driver’s
license to a light-brown hamster hurriedly spinning his rusty
wheel in a tarnished, old, copper cage.”
This was all narrated without pause and in a single breath.
I received a Christmas Card from Al the following week.
I’ve kept it ever since with other treasured memorabilia. There
are but four handwritten lines:
“Roses are dreary,
Violets are sick;
Did you kill Christ,
You Irish prick?”
Al’s column was called “MacLeese Unleashed.” I envisioned a radio version on WWCK right after “Radio Free Flint” on Sunday morning. I spoke with Al and then we both had dinner with his editor. The Flint Journal approved his participation.
In terms of chemistry, there was one additional perspective.
Al MacLeese thought Michael Moore was an “ignorant street
punk” and Michael regarded Al as a “typically untalented
Flint Journal slug.” Both had often expressed their views in
print. For what more could I hope? To bring heat to searing
levels, I thought it would be nice for Al to make his debut
at the end of Michael’s show, and then feature Michael as
guest on the radio version of “MacLeese Unleashed” for a
few minutes. I carefully coached Michael on sensitivity, attitude
and decorum. Al was a seasoned pro, deserving of
respect and courtesy. Michael reverted to his altar-boy and
Seminarian days, and couldn’t have been any nicer. As soon
as Al’s program began and he was in charge, he called
Michael an “asshole.” There was no tape delay. Michael just
laughed. Al was off and running.
MacLeese lasted for 16 weeks on WWCK and only retired
from the airwaves when a Sunday morning broadcast
became too much to expect from an old hamster-feeder such
as Al. Hangovers were bad enough without sharing them
with 10,000 listeners. The fact remains that he was as gifted
a broadcaster as he was a writer. Sometimes, they just come
With Al’s departure, Radio Free Flint expanded to two
hours. Michael continued the program through late 1985, even
as he expanded the “Hotline Voice” newspaper into the “Flint
Voice,” which became the “Michigan Voice.” Then Michael
Moore left Flint. He was hired as editor of “Mother Jones” in
San Francisco, a major radical magazine of national notoriety.
Michael was too radical for the radicals. He published stories
by Ben Hamper, the “Rivet-Head.”
Ben was a Flint factory worker who had written about life
in the shop for the Flint Voice. At my request, Ben had also
appeared on WWCK doing “News in Your Face” as a regular
morning show feature. The owner of Mother Jones had more
than he could handle with Michael and Ben. There was discussion
of Hamper’s proposed feature article entitled: “Faces of
Death”/”A Humorous Overview.” It was a question of “sensitivities.”
Hamper got drunk. Moore got the boot.
Mike returned to Flint, and spent most of his time at the
movies. He figured he should make one. He shot tons of
film, then decided what to do. He worked for more than a
year arranging, editing, chopping, adding and revising. The
basic thread was a search for the Chairman of the Board of
General Motors. Michael theoretically wanted to bring him
to Flint for enhancement of social awareness. Roger Smith
was always unavailable. Had he not been, it would have
fucked everything up. Michael hoped his documentary might
qualify for a shot with PBS or something. He entered the
final product in several film festivals to gain exposure and
recognition. No one could believe how good it was. Warner
Brothers paid $3 million dollars for distribution rights.
“Roger and Me” went on to earn over $20 million in global release.
Later to come was “TV Nation” and “Canadian Bacon,” John
Candy’s final film. “Downsize This!” established Michael as
a successful writer in late ’96. “The Big One” in theatrical
and video release, and “The Awful Truth” on Bravo saw him
safely into the New Millennium. Sometimes they just come
1980 had started with the death of Bon Scott of AC/DC
in February and continued with Zeppelin’s John Bonham in
September. The year ended with the shooting of John Lennon
in December. We presented twenty-four hours of tribute on
WWCK. Michael Moore, Jeff Lamb and our entire staff combined
forces to hold a Memorial Gathering at the Capitol
Theater, followed by a silent, candle-lit march through downtown
Flint. The theater was filled to capacity.
We watched selected moments from edited Beatles’ footage on the screen, and many speakers rose to offer their own thoughts and reflections. A microphone was placed on the stage, and members of the audience were invited to express their feelings openly and publicly. Many did so, with eloquence and passion.
It was a very strange year, opening an even stranger decade.
“The word Renaissance (French for ‘rebirth’) was first used to define an era that
followed the Middle Ages and preceded the Reformation, roughly the 14th through the 16th century. Its primary feature was the revival of intellectual exploration through the advancement of science. Renaissance is sometimes referenced to describe other important moments of historical and cultural significance.
“I just had this weird cool thought. I don’t think any of us realize just how momentous the whole time was and not just in the context of . “Oh, wow! That was “The ‘60’s!” I honestly believe that historians and anthropologists will look at our time the way we look at The Renaissance and that these moments only occur every few hundred years.”
Michael Moore – 2002 – Michigan writer, author, producer, director & Former WWCK talk show host.
In the 40th Anniversary Edition of Rolling Stone Magazine, Michael elaborated:
“I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done if I hadn’t grown-up in an area that had such a vibrant and rebellious political and cultural scene. The music was so integrated into your experience as a teenager. Everyone knows about Woodstock, but we had our own mini-Woodstock every Wednesday, every summer, just outside Flint. It was called Wild Wednesday. It was in a field with a big pond, and it was the first place that people saw so many of these groups, like MC5, Iggy, Seger. We’d literally be there every Wednesday from Noon to Midnight. Thousands would show up. And out of that grew the protests.You’d have a group of high school students planning a walkout. Maybe it was just over how lousy the food was at the lunch counter at school. It wasn’t like, “Here’s the political thing.” It was all woven together in the same sort of rebellious, rock & roll attitude. When you said rock & roll, it wasn’t just the music. You meant it as a way of life, as a coat of armor against everything that was coming at you. It was a force to be reckoned with. In my mind, there would be no “Roger & Me”, no “Fahrenheit 9/11″ if I had not been one of thousands participating in that moment. And the millions who go to Fahrenheit carry that with them as well. They were there at Wild Wednesday too.”
You can see a drawing of Mike on my website, wildwednesday.com, under “Contact”. He’s at the very bottom, holding up all the rest. Michael’s like that turtle of ancient Onondaga Indian lore carrying all of the earth on his back – “This Place” on a shell. Underneath, I’ve written:
“Moore is a Well-Behaved Young Man Who Plays Nicely With Fellow Concert-Goers” –J. Edgar Hoover (1970) .
That’s something I made up, just as the Onondagas did that Turtle. Even at 16, Michael Moore would never waste any time with J. Edgar Hoover.
Hoover was homosexual, cross-dressing head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation just about forever (1924 to 1972) and, speaking of head, lived on the closet closest of terms with Assistant Director, Clyde Tolson, both of them constantly on guard against gays in the Bureau. When Hoover died, Tolson inherited everything and moved into Hoover’s house. J. Edgar hated Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and John Lennon.”