Archive for April, 2011

“A Father of Two”

April 22, 2011

“A Father of Two”

Representative Jeff Denham of California’s 19th Congressional District seems like a very nice young man and I’m sure, as is true of all very nice young men, Jeff will be perfectly fine once he grows up.

I saw and heard Jeff, 43, speak last Thursday before a first class Luncheon presented by the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce at Sierra Meadows Country Club, a bit of a change in ambiance from my usual well-worn bar stool at the Oak Room. Since I have somehow gained a local reputation for progressive (“liberal”) (“left wing”) (“commie”) views — often expressed aloud and at length in public, I had promised Kathy McCorry and Angelo Pizelo my attendance would be accompanied by a closed mouth and open mind. I am pleased (and surprised) to report that I delivered on both.

I didn’t know what to expect.

All I had learned about our new Congressman came from media reports. 

There was last year’s corporate plane ride with Karl Rove in apparent violation of Federal Law and an ill-advised $150,000 “Public Service Campaign” in honor of American war dead which gained Jeff substantial local television exposure during last year’s Republican primary as well as the justified wrath of area veterans’ groups. Then there was that  $2,500 a person ($50,000 a table) fund raiser at Washington’s ever so fashionable “W” hotel headlining LeAnn Rimes on January 4th marking Jeff’s debut in Washington. The event took in $212,250 in contributions, but his committee claimed it cost  $212,900, meaning the whole lobbyist shakedown supposedly earned just 650 bucks. Stuff like that.

So I was impressed with and pleasantly surprised by a number of Representative Denham’s brief opening remarks. Comfortably and informally clad in a sports shirt and casual slacks, Jeff introduced himself and claimed his core identity, setting aside all else,  was being the proud father of two. Doctor Laura would have been proud. He discussed his initial organizational accomplishments in our nation’s capitol, spoke of possible federal legislation in support of those whose homes had been foreclosed through no fault of their own and even, when questioned about “New Deal” legislation under Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the ‘30’s, allowed that “make work” projects such as the Civilian Conservation Corp just might make lots of sense today. And, bless him, Congressman Denham even categorically stated that he wasn’t sure America was on the right path with all three of our current “wars”. He said they lack specific goals and policy purpose. Amen!

Then things started spinning a whole different way, pure fiction being woven into purported fact before our very eyes and ears. Jeff had clearly taken TEA with his luncheon tri-tip. It hit hard and heavy.

Ignoring historic weather data courtesy of Mother Nature, Jeff told our Oakhurst bunch that California’s “man-made drought” should be ended because of this year’s “200 percent of normal” snowfall in the Sierra, the highest estimated figure I’ve seen being impressive, but significantly less. Then came Congressman Denham’s allegation that President Obama is not telling the truth when he says that the United States has only 2% of the world’s oil reserves when it’s really a cool 65%. I googled it. Barack’s pretty much right, although some sources say it may be as high as 2.4%. Not even the entire Middle East has 65%. 

Warmed up, Denham then launched into Koch brothers approved, Karl Rove sanctioned, right-wing rhetoric straight out of the Ayn Rand lunacy bin.  Cut government spending. Stay in your station. Cut government spending. Kill not the King’s deer. Cut government spending. Bow to your betters. Cut government spending. Let flow an ocean of unchallenged, unabated, constant repetition to drown out all other voices, particularly those of the sane.

“We must cut corporate taxes to create jobs”, said our novice Congressman, praising the “New Republican 2012 Budget” even as it lowers taxes on the richest among us, destroys Social Security as we know it and kills Medicare for all under 55, a group which has faithfully contributed to the program ever since their very first day at work.

Among concluding comments, Jeff made the usual cliched promise to “take our country back” without mentioning why or from whom, emphasized the need for a “different” Republican party than that of honored American tradition and promised to do all he could not to raise the Federal Debt Ceiling — damn the torpedoes — full greed ahead.

We have reached a definitive point as a people. Our collective future is taking form. Only history will finally and objectively judge our father of two — even as this grandfather of eleven wishes him well. And wisdom. 

“Alas, Alice! A Madder One Yet!”

April 8, 2011

““Why, yes, I’m very fond of tea,” said Alice to the Mad Hatter.”

With politically progressive credentials clearly and publicly established through the years, my first reaction to formation of the “Tea Party Movement” was admittedly positive with genuine enthusiasm and hopeful expectation. Government, supposedly “by, of, and for the people”, hasn’t seemed at all that way in recent times. 

In the July 29th, 2010 edition of The Sierra Star, I even wrote:

Having enjoyed a lovely gathering at the July 4th “Family Freedom Fest” at Oakhurst Park, all concerned are due appropriate congratulations and recognition for successful organizational efforts and, mainly, for deeply caring about their country.”

I still feel that way now about the people, but not “The Party.” That’s not my cup of tea at all.

Let’s reflect on our very recent past.

In national polling data from early April, 55% of us urged compromise on major issues, including 69% of Democrats, 53% of Independents and 50% of registered Republicans. In contrast, 68% of those identifying themselves as “Tea Party Supporters” shunned any form of negotiated agreement, preferring a government shutdown and subsequent horrors over not getting their absolute way — placing principle over precipice plunging.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) , a Tea Party treasure, drafted and drove to approval (220 to 202) a hopelessly pretentious House Resolution –”The Government Prevention Shutdown Act” — which revealed Cantor’s inexcusable ignorance of basic Constitutional Law. In the bill, cynically named to disguise 61 billion dollars in social spending cuts, Cantor inserted language which stated that the measure would become the law of the land if the Senate didn’t quickly approve it. And never mind a Presidential signature. Cantor, who apparently never completed Third Grade Social Studies, thought it was a great, “serious” idea.

But Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis) leaves Cantor in the dust when it comes to hypocrisy honed to the razor’s edge. Representative Ryan is House Budget Committee Chairman and has just introduced his masterpiece, a “ Path to Prosperity”, your official Republican Budget Proposal for Fiscal 2012 and beyond. On this path, according to Kaiser Health News, seniors and those with disabilities would pay much more for Medicare. Specifically, “By 2030, typical 65 year-olds would be required to pay 68% of the cost of their coverage, which includes premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs.” In addition, traditional “Medicare” would DISAPPEAR by 2022 and shift beneficiaries into private insurance plans operated by “for profit” corporations. And he’ll be bringing back that “Donut Hole” so retirees can pay more for drugs again. And all this under the Holy Tea Party Grail of “Cutting Government Spending”

How about “Increasing Government Revenue”, even though Congressman Ryan, now self-defined as the Doctor Kevorkian of Medicare, also wants to lower taxes for the rich from 35% to 25%?

Right here in California, an interesting statistic from Tulchin Research offers breathtaking hope. A survey taken in March suggests that nearly eight out of ten California voters (78%) favor raising income taxes by 1% on the top 1% of Californians in order to help balance the state budget and prevent deeper cuts to social services. 89% of Democrats like the idea, 79% of Independents think that’s a fine suggestion and even 60% of Republicans would support such a measure. This single act would raise 2.5 billion dollars for the common good. Hah! An increase to 10% would completely eliminate our entire currently projected state budget deficit and restore many programs, safety nets and jobs recently ripped away by alleged necessity.

Please bear in mind, our “Top 1%” just received a 9 billion dollar tax decrease from the Federal Government at the end of last year with President Obama’s extension of the Bush tax breaks. Over the last ten years, they’re billions and billions and billions ahead. How ‘bout you?

Locally and nationally, our collective problem is not loss of private wealth, but lack of political will.

As Led Zeppelin would urge — Let’s “bring the balance back.”

And as for “The Tea Party” with Sarah, Michelle, Eric, Paul and now even “The Donald?”

““At any rate, I’ll never go THERE again!’” said Alice as she picked her way through the wood.” *

* Chapter Seven –”A Mad Tea Party” — from — ”Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll (1865)

Note — I’ve had several inquiries regarding my reference to Led Zeppelin above in the context of bringing “the balance back.” This phrase appears in “The Battle of Evermore” from “Led Zeppelin IV” (1971) — “The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back.”

Robert Plant is a great fan of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” from which he drew considerably inspiration in “Battle of Evermore”, available below with a click of your magical mouse.

2-04 The Battle Of Evermore

“Goodbye, Goodbar, Goodbye!”

April 5, 2011

John “Mister Goodbar” Smith
October 20, 1936 – April 5, 2011

I am saddened to report that my friend John “Mister Goodbar” Smith passed away in his sleep at approximately 1:20 this (Tuesday) morning (EDT) at Briarwood Rehabilitation Center in Flint.

John had been transferred to Briarwood only last week following several weeks of convalescence at McLaren Hospital after a fall at his home.

John was 74. At this time, there are no plans for formal services.

John had come to Flint in early 1969 as manager of the then new Flint Cinema Theater on South Dort Highway, eventually becoming Advertising Director of Butterfield Theaters of Michigan in the late ’70’s. John then left Butterfield to become a radio talk show host on WTRX and, subsequently, WFDF. “Mister Goodbar” was quite active in early Flint Rock ‘n Roll, including involvement with Sherwood Forest and Mt. Holly Concerts and support and encouragement of many local musicians.

I was honored to have enjoyed and treasured John’s friendship and counsel for well over four decades. He was one of the nicest individuals with whom I ever enjoyed the pleasure of association. And wisest as well.

I referenced “Mister Goodbar” several times in my book, “Local DJ”, but a more extended version appeared in the original, unpublished draft, made available here:

Bob Vanderweil and John "Mister Goodbar" Smith -- Sherwood Forest -- 1974

“On Saturday, November 4th, 1972 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.”

Michael Moore and John Smith -- Flint, Michigan -- 2002

Thoughts From The Internet:

Michael Moore — “I am very sorry to hear this. He was such a good guy to me. And smart. He knew his movies. Wouldn’t let me pay.” 

John "Mister Goodbar" Smith, MIchael Moore, Eileen Cavanaugh, Peter Cavanaugh, Roy "Roy Boy" Guidry -- Whitey's -- Davison, Michigan -- 2000

Nancy Dymond — “So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. Can’t believe he was 74.”

Neil Kearney — “Sorry to hear of his passing, Peter.”

Pat Clawson —Very sad news, indeed.”

Dave Barber — “Peter, I don’t know what to say. Although we spoke of John’s situation by
phone – it’s still so hard to deal with the reality of his death. YOU were such a good friend to him. My heart is heavy with sorrow during our time of loss.”

Brad Norman — “So sorry for your loss, Pete…you always spoke highly of him. Remember the
great times you had together.”

Tom Rose — Sorry Pete.”

Ellen Light — “Sad to hear Peter. My thoughts and prayers are with all of his family and friends at this difficult time.”

Kevin Pollock — “So sorry Pete.”

Jim Meltzer — “He was a great guy.”


Tony Clark —” I remember John from my WTRX days and Flint Nightline. Nice guy…sorry to hear about his passing.”

Michael J. Thorp —” I worked with him as well. Ran the “Butterfield Theaters” in the area for years and always had a classy sound on the air. He was a natural, and very bright. He could comment intelligently on almost anything. Sorry to hear of his passing.”

Charles Walker — “It sucks to lose old friends.”

Jim Baade — “He use to fill in for Dave Barber over at WFDF back in the 90’s. Nice guy, sorry to hear of his passing.”

Bill Pearson — “Although John’s persona was that of a hardcore rock ‘n’ roller, truth is he enjoyed and appreciated ALL types of music. He called me at WFNT a couple of years ago to tell me how much he enjoyed hearing “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” by Nat King Cole on one of my Christmas shows. A great guy…He will truly be missed.”

Tom Rose — “Sorry, Pete.”

Dennis Preston — “He seemed like a great Bud to you, Pete. I’m glad I met him at my Posters Exhibition in Lansing a few years ago.”

Doug Sanders — “Sad news, Pete. I’m sorry for your loss. His face is in my memory.”

Jon Broadworth — “Sorry to hear of John’s passing. He was very helpful to me during my short stint with radio. My condolences to his friends and family.”

Jeff Olds — “Sorry to hear that John has passed, he is in my prayers.”

Cameron Smith — “John was a great guy. I worked with him at WTRX. He will be missed.”

Tim Owen — “Sorry to hear… best to John’s family and friends…”

Bill Groves — “Good bye Mr. Goodbar! As a Plumber of some experience it’s my belief the that
the sewer system of this space ship is clogged beyond repair
and sage that he was, John choose to leave before the shit got above his chin.”

Johnny Burke — “John Smith was an enigma, wrapped in a joint! I always loved the way he
talked…hardly ever understood what he was saying. He had a way of “boiling it
down” that I studied, and attempt to emulate to this day. RIP old friend.”

Rob Namowicz — “John became my pal when he was still operating Butterfield theaters in Flint and Ann Arbor. We had met at various music venues in town. John helped me to understand and appreciate film by encouraging me to go to his theaters. One of the earliest movies I saw at Johns’ insistence was ‘Performance’ with Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg. We were both big fans of the soundtrack album that featured much slide guitar and some electronic music which we both dug immensely.

At the theater on South Dort, John would wind his Dorian locks beneath his hairpiece to create a visage of normality for the patrons. We would sit in his office and chuckle, munching good popcorn, then at moments before the film start, smoothly enter the rear of the theater. After we would repair to his apartment, Goodbar Manor. Whilst listening to the myriad albums John had purloined from radio stations in Flint from promo men and program directors wide ranging topics would be discussed, from the arctic to the tropics, from the Democrats to the Republicans, the anarchists to the totalitarian.

Several years into our friendship out little band had rented a block of buildings in downtown Holly, acquired giant piles of West Amplifiers, and set up a recording studio. Odd Fellows Hall studio was the scene of many wild happenings, among them visits from Mr. Goodbar when he would appear with 71/2″ reels of tape, selections he had made with art on the cover of the tape box labeling them ‘Welcome to the Crazies.’ Our playback system at the time afforded John the chance to hear his favorites at more than concert audio pressure. He and I and anyone else who could take the sound levels would plop down in comfortable chairs in front of the speakers with all manner of mood enhancement to hear Goodbars’ selections. His taste was various and eclectic, and widened my horizons on every visit.

John was not shy with his opinions in conversation and would not let a bad idea go unchallenged. His retorts to either my youthful altruism or latent conservative outlook would get peppered by his barbs. Always thoughtful, he helped to elucidate an unusual world view based on his wisdom and experience. I will always be grateful to have known him.

On visits during this last hospitalization, after they pulled some of the tubes out of him so he could speak, he had lost a lot of ground but not his sardonic wit. He poked fun at his own condition, remarking he had told the doctors to ‘just give him the needle and set him out by the back door.’ I perceived that as a ‘rally’ for John, but alas, it was not to be. Godspeed old friend, break on through to the other side. Don’t give St. Peter too much guff.”