“The beginning is always today.” — Mary Wollstonecraft
A TEABAG BY ANY OTHER NAME
Check out Mobutu Sese Seko’s take on all the premature obituaries for the Tea Party in yesterday afternoon’s Gawker.
The Tea/Me-ers aren’t going anywhere, Seko insists, because they’ve always been here — only under different monikers and flags.
That Mobutu Sese Seko
Anyway, Seko quotes extensively from Richard Hofstadter (no, not that Hofstadter, this Hofstadter), whose landmark article in the November, 1964 issue of Harper’s Magazine essentially defined the right-wing-nut movement then and for all time. The article, entitled “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” may well have served as a blueprint for the Tea/Me-ers.
It begins, “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”
Hofstadter goes on to list and define all the conspiracy theorists, psychotics, true believers, anti-Papists, Gold-Standard-ists, Masons, Illuminists, Birchers, and others who, today, might find a comfortable nest within the Big Tent GOP.
Funny how those moderate Republicans who two decades ago put out the call for the party to become a Big Tent might react had they known it would be one equipped with padded walls.
The Tea Party, according to Seko, sells doom — and in this holy land, doom has always sold well. “These guys,” he writes of the Tea Party, “can sell an apocalypse of anything.”
Once you’re finished with Seko’s take, wait a couple of days for Rick Perlstein’s Monday debut offering on his own The Nation blog. He says pretty much the same thing.
(And, believe me, I feel for Perlstein: There’s nothing worse for a writer than for another writer to beat you to a topic or a bon mot or a brilliant conclusion.)
THE KING OF AMERICA
Here’s more required reading for you. Bill Wyman writes in last week’s New Yorker about Michael Jackson’s life and his place as the ultimate crossover pop artist. Jackson, Wyman writes, virtually became America.
Anyway, doesn’t it seem as though we’ve pretty much forgotten Michael Jackson since all the folderol over his death petered out?
Lost in all the oceans of ink and streams of electrons devoted to the King of Pop’s reputed sex life is the fact that Jackson achieved what hundreds — nay, thousands — of black pop and genre musical acts strove for since the mid-1950’s. That is, pure, total, and unadulterated acceptance by white America.
Wyman deftly weaves Jackson’s physical metamorphosis in with his ongoing assimilation into the mainstream. He became white at the same time he was becoming white.
Wyman also apparently buys into the notion that Jackson died a virgin. That is, he not only never had government- and religion-approved sex with a woman, but he never actually had sex with all those little boys. Nevertheless, his non-orgasmic peccadilloes with pre-adolescents were unforgivable — or so goes that train of thought.
In any case, read the piece.
A little anecdote about this Bill Wyman — and then a little anecdote about that Bill Wyman or, more accurately, his band, to follow.
This Bill Wyman was the music critic for the Chicago Reader for much of the time I was writing for that one-time indispensable alternative weekly. In the late 1980s, a pretty and talented woman named Alison True was in the process of climbing the ladder at the Reader, an ascent that eventually saw her become editor, a position she held for nearly 20 years.
Alison True had blue eyes, dimples, light brown hair, and was tough as nails. Trust me, I once overheard her set some boundaries, fortissimo, for a recalcitrant immediate underling in what they thought was the privacy of the fire stairs at the Reader’s North Loop headquarters. “This is my paper,” she roared, “and we’ll do it my way!” A few moments later, she passed me on the way back to her office and flashed me a dimpled smile hello. You have to love a boss like that.
From 1983 through 2002, I was part of the sizable stable of Reader freelancers. Occasionally, we’d get together for a mixer or at a party thrown by some common acquaintance. At each of these, we’d ask each other if Alison True was going out with anybody, as if she’d deign to mix with the likes of us. No one could ever offer indisputable confirmation of her availability.
Then one Saturday night at a party thrown by jazz maven Neil Tesser, we freelancers watched, agape, as she entered, hand in hand, with Bill Wyman. Trust me again, Wyman rarely let go of her hand throughout that night. None of us blamed him. All of us loathed him from that point on.
Now, then, the other Bill Wyman. My old pal Eric Woulkewicz, as unique an individual as can be imagined happened to be walking down Milwaukee Avenue one late summer morning.
Just to give you a picture of the man that was Eric Woulkewicz, he once went for an entire several-year stretch with nothing in his wardrobe but second-hand jumpsuits and Aqua-Sox. Also, at this time, he lived in an old dentist’s office on the Near West Side, complete with reclining chair and spit fountain. A true friend, he offered me sleeping accommodations in the dentist’s chair one time when I needed new digs in a hurry.
He once concocted an idea that he was certain would keep him rolling in dough for the rest of his life. He owned two junky vehicles, a sedan and a Plymouth minivan. Making sure neither ran out of gas was, at times, his primary occupation. He planned to equip the sedan with a camouflaged pinhole camera and have it trail the van on a drive through Skokie, at the time a suburb notorious for its police officers stopping cars driven by black men for no good reason other than their color. He would drive the sedan and his friend named Mustafa, a large black man with waist-length dreadlocks, would pilot the van. Eric was banking on the Skokie cops pulling Mustafa over for no reason. Then, Eric would present village officials with photos of the stop and demand a cahs settlement, which he and Mustafa would split.
Eric even had a name for the camera-equipped van — the Freedom-mobile. Sadly, the scheme never got off the ground.
So, on the late summer morning in question, Eric was walking down Milwaukee Avenue and just as he was passing the Double Door, a hip live music venue near the North/Milwaukee/Damen intersection, he saw someone taping a handwritten sign up in the window. It read, “Rolling Stones tickets on sale at noon. $7.”
The Double Door, Chicago
Eric asked the guy what it was all about and was told the Stones were to kick off their 1997-98 worldwide tour in Chicago with an impromptu gig at the 475-capacity venue, just a lark on the part of the mega-band. Eric figured, hell, even if it’s all a scam, tickets are only seven bucks apiece. So he decided to wait until noon when he was the first person in line to buy two. The line, by that time, stretched around the block.
Oh, it was the real thing. Eric proceeded to sell his pair of tickets for $1000, a 14,2oo-percent return on his investment.
The wise financial strategem allowed my pal Eric Woulkewicz to keep the gas tanks of his junky sedan and Plymouth van filled for months.
UPDATE ON THE CHIEF
Looks like Chief Keef isn’t gracing the streets of upscale Northbrook, Illinois after all. At least not as a citizen thereof.
Chicagoans held their collective breath as news trickled out earlier this week that the under-aged hip hop star had purchased a home in Northbrook.
I, of course, added to the hysteria with my own smart-assed take on the relo.
Now, a Cook County Juvenile Court judge has ruled there is no credible evidence CK has taken up residence in the heretofore white haven from the dark inner city. A move by Chief Keef would have amounted to a violation of his parole for the crime of being way too hip hop.
Northbrook No More