Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween from UMP

A few UMP staffers braved the still-a-little-cold downtown Minneapolis temperatures today in full Halloween spirit: (L to R) Erin Warholm-Wohlenhaus, editorial assistant; Rachel Moeller, production coordinator; Amy Smith, administrative assistant; Danielle Kasprzak, editorial assistant; Robin Moir, digital content manager; and Maggie Sattler, direct marketing coordinator.

Want to celebrate the season with a good book (or four)? Check out our now back-in-print Supernatural MN series by Thomas M. Disch. (And scroll down to the bottom of the link to get 30% off.)

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Monstrous Feminine*: Lady Gaga in a Meat Dress

Sharon Irish holds a joint appointment in the School of Architecture and the Community Informatics Initiative/Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign. She is the author of Suzanne Lacy: Spaces Between (Minnesota, 2010) and Cass Gilbert, Architect: Modern Traditionalist.

*Title is an ode to Barbara Creed's The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis (1993).


On September 12th, Lady Gaga (aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) wore at the MTV Video Music Awards an ensemble of shoes, dress and hairpiece made of raw beef that was designed by Franc Fernandez (photo, left, from Out of all her costume changes that evening, the meat dress made audiences agog, repelled and angry. Lady Gaga is a self-proclaimed “fame monster.” In "Teeth," from her earlier “The Fame Monster,” she demands: "Take a bite of my bad girl meat." Bad. Girl. Meat. Fame. Monster. So many threatening, gendered, sexualized images here! Still, Lady Gaga’s music videos and costumes have historical contexts worth exploring.

Lady Gaga is certainly not the first pop-culture icon to challenge gender norms and slam violence and sex together. Madonna, of course, comes to mind. But pop culture exists on a continuum with avant-garde art, such as the performances of the Vienna Actionists, and U.S.-based female performance artists in the mid-twentieth century. Because bodies enacted these often-bloody art performances, they were inevitably gendered—predominantly male for the Actionists (O. M. Theatre, 1957 on), female for artists such as Carolee Schneemann in Meat Joy (1964) (see also Meat After Meat Joy) or Suzanne Lacy in Anatomy Lessons (1974-78), as a few examples. So often did these artists use non-human animal bodies as stand-ins for their own mortal selves that references to dying and death, ritual and religion were woven into the complex meanings of these events. In 1987 when Canadian artist Jana Sterbak created a meat dress using heavily-salted flank steak and allowed it to “cure” on a mannequin in a gallery, her title overtly referenced the traditional vanitas imagery from art history that stressed the transient nature of life: Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic. We are what we eat (or do not eat, in some cases); our flesh will decay and die.

Suzanne Lacy used blood, guts, organs, and bodies to counter stereotypes about women, express rage and grief, represent violence, and enact new roles for herself and others. Lacy’s series Anatomy Lessons explored violence against women in these staged photographs that made her naked body appear eviscerated (one of the works was reproduced on the cover of Suzanne Lacy: Spaces Between, at left). Lacy floated on or beneath the surface of a pool with cow innards on or nearby her body. In another performance, she donned a leotard with organs painted on it as she reflected on body parts, violence, death, and evil. Beauty and horror intertwined in Lacy’s work; carcasses and organs represented destructive feelings and violent states, and also the vulnerability that attends them.

Lady Gaga in her meat dress turned herself inside out, but seemingly to enact her own power. To vegan Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga said: “If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And, I am not a piece of meat.” Lady Gaga was trying to make a political point, I think, about fighting for “our rights.” The Video Music Awards show occurred about the same time she made a direct appeal to the U.S. Senate and to youth to organize for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which forbids non-heterosexuals (LGBTQ) from serving in the military if they identify with or are outed about their sexual orientation. That repeal failed on September 21, and “don’t ask, don’t tell” continues to be the law, with controversial enforcement.

Among the many things to unpack about Lady Gaga’s public persona, at awards ceremonies or in music videos, is the “why” of her transgressive behavior (see "Lady Power," by Nancy Bauer). There are situations in which a transgressor is so narcissistic that actions are not strategic but merely naughty, pointless, or worse. But while Lady Gaga seems to contradict herself, and does not often link her politics clearly to her art, her elaborate, surreal, sometimes hideous performances may well communicate to her peers the mixed-up dysfunction that is today’s society. She certainly grabs the spotlight with her confounding self-objectification, feeding her “fame monster.” While her flesh-and-blood outfits owe something to past artists, her slender body, superstar status, and ambiguous stances on feminism, patriotism, and power seem remarkably mainstream. And profitable.


Sharon Irish is author of Suzanne Lacy: Spaces Between. She has also created a video for the book, which includes footage of Suzanne Lacy's The Crystal Quilt (Minneapolis, 1987).

The author would like to thank Bronwen Welch, Meadow Jones, and Carol Inskeep for their assistance with this post.

UPDATE: Not only is Lady Gaga's meat dress now on sale for $100,000, it has also become one of the year's most popular Halloween-costume requests.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Remembering Paul and Sheila Wellstone: "Together, they touched countless lives."

"The future will belong to those
who have passion,
and to those who are willing
to make the personal commitment
to make our country better."
—Paul Wellstone (July 21st, 1944 - October 25th, 2002)

The following is a piece by Walter F. Mondale about the late Sen. Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, who died in a plane crash eight years ago today. This piece appears as a Foreword to Twelve Years and Thirteen Days: Remembering Paul and Sheila Wellstone (2003).


Paul Wellstone was one of the most valiant public servants I have ever known, and he and his wife Sheila were among the most impressive public couples in America. Paul considered Sheila to be his cosenator and they fought to change this country and affirm the democratic ideals that we cherish. Together, they touched countless lives.

Paul came seemingly out of nowhere to defeat a well-funded incumbent senator in 1990, but his victory was not a fluke: he built a winning campaign by encouraging thousands of Minnesotans to organize and become involved in the political process to demand a government that truly served them. Minnesotans voted for Paul because they knew his concern for them was genuine and he truly would represent "the little guy" in Washington.

During his twelve years as a U.S. senator, Paul championed the causes of working men and women, family farmers, seniors, children living in poverty, and veterans. He worked to maintain and strengthen environmental protections. He resisted efforts to privatize Social Security. He fought for affordable prescription drugs for seniors and decent health care for everyone. He collaborated with Republican members of the Senate to pass legislation mandating that mental health care be covered by Medicare and insurance providers. Sheila was a tireless advocate for victims of domestic violence and, with Paul, coauthored the first Violence Against Women Act in 1994.

A few weeks before Election Day in 2002, when Paul was again locked in a tough reelection campaign, I asked him, "Paul, are you going to win this election? What do the polls say?" And he said, "Never mind the polls. I've got a secret weapon that they don't know about. I've got the best kids that any candidate ever had in a campaign, and on Election Day they will show us how to win." Paul had proven twice before that grassroots politics is a winning politics, and I think all Minnesotans knew that Paul was going to win that election.

When his plane went down on the morning of October 25, it was as if the world had been suddenly turned upside down. While we grieved over such an enormous loss, we knew that Paul would want us to carry on the fight. I was deeply honored when David and Mark Wellstone asked me to take their father's place on the ballot even though to begin a political campaign at one of the saddest moments in Minnesota history felt almost unseemly. Yet someone had to carry Paul's torch and make certain that this tragedy did not end in futility.

We kept the faith and fought the good fight. I am very proud of the campaign that we ran and proud of all of the volunteers and staff who regrouped and gave all that they had. I know Paul would have been proud, too. On the morning after the election, I told the many young people who worked so hard on the campaign that one's ideals are often tested more in defeat than in victory. This was not the end but the beginning of what they could do for our state. More than anything, Paul would want us all to stand up and keep fighting.

Terry Gydesen spent many hours on the campaign trail in Paul's now-famous green bus. She photographed Paul greeting people on the street and in cafes, speaking at political rallies at union halls and colleges, encouraging his campaign volunteers, and celebrating his remarkable victories with his family, friends, and supporters. Terry captured the infectious enthusiasm, spontaneous joy, and boundless energy that Paul brought to doing what he loved best: meeting people, laughing and crying with them, listening to their concerns, and striving to earn their trust as their public servant.

When Terry learned of the plane accident she immediately went to the Wellstone campaign office in St. Paul. She photographed the stunned reaction of campaign staff, volunteers, and supporters who gathered there. She poignantly captured the grief and outpouring of affection for Paul and Sheila, which was especially evident in the impromptu shrine that grew along University Avenue day by day outside the office. Terry traveled with Joan and me just as she had with Paul and Sheila, documenting our remarkable and brief campaign as we endeavored to succeed our martyred senator. When it became apparent that we had not won, Terry was also there to capture our disappointment.

Paul and Sheila Wellstone will live long in the memory of Minnesotans and people throughout the world who share their commitment to democracy. May this simple and elegant book of photographs help keep their memory alive and inspire us to be the active trustees of their legacy of social justice and decency.


Read more about Paul Wellstone and the legacy he has left.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dizzy.

Google decided to be awesome today (and, well, always) and create an ode to jazz mastermind, bebop inventor, and founder of Afro-Cuban rhythm Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993) on what would have been his 93rd birthday.

About 1 3/4 years ago, UMP brought back into print Gillespie's towering 550-page memoir, To Be, or Not ... to Bop, written with his longtime friend Al Fraser and intertwined with memories from those who knew him, including Miles Davis, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald. Here is an excerpt about Gillespie's early days in Philadelphia from the chapter "Becoming Me ...":

Before I came to Philly, my family had been telling everybody what a good musician I was and asking people to look out for me when I came up from South Carolina. They didn't realize how soon that would be, so Mama, Mattie, Genia, Wesley, his wife, and I were all living there in this one apartment. Three and a half rooms at 637 Pine Street. Bill, the barber, Mattie's husband, lived with us too. Bill was a sport. He had a Cord automobile, gold teeth, and he owned the barbershop right down the street from us. He was a hustling cat and made late hours at night, but he was really nice to me. The first week after I arrived in Philly, Bill took me up to Harry's Pawnshop and bought me one of those long trumpets. That was the first horn I ever owned. I think it was a Pan-American, and it cost him $13. He bought it on time for me, and I really appreciated that, but he didn't buy me a case for the horn, so I started carrying it around in a paper bag. For about two or three weeks, I was carrying this horn around in a paper bag. All the other musicians thought that was real funny.

Within three days after I got to Philadelphia, Johnny, an alto player who lived down the street, found a job for me playing for $8.00 a week at the Green Gate Inn at Twelfth and Bainbridge in South Philadelphia. That place was rowdy. Later on, they named it Pearl Harbor. A blind guy owned the place then, and I was playing trumpet in a trio with Fat Boy, a drummer, and a piano player whose name I can't remember. ...

Another guy offered me a job at Twelfth and South for $12 a week, so I put in my notice at the Green Gate Inn and went out and joined the union. There was a colored union in Philadelphia at the time, and Frankie Fairfax was the secretary. I kept working at Twelfth and South for about five weeks, feeling good about making $12 a week. I used to give Mama some of that. My name started getting around, and Frankie Fairfax decided to give me a tryout for his band. Frankie Fairfax had a beautiful band then, one of the best in Philadelphia. Bill Doggett was his piano player, writer, and musical director. I was lucky to get a tryout with a big band like that so soon.

When the audition came, I didn't even feel nervous. I was used to reading stock orchestrations and could read my ass off, but I had never read any music written in pencil and with such poor notation. In music, a perfect copyist is a very important man, but these cats would take a pencil, and boom-boom-boom, make a line across, a line down, another line across the note and call it an eighth note. And the way they made an eigth rest was--boom--just one line.

Guys had gotten used to reading this bad notation, and when I got up there and they put that music up before me, I started playing eighth rests for notes, sixteenth rests for notes—everything came out wrong. It ended up with them thinking that I couldn't read music and they wouldn't give me the job. Bill Doggett was the main cause of my not getting the job. "That little dizzy cat's from down South," he said, "carries his horn around in a paper bag. You know he can't read." I must have sounded so weird playing all those rests and everything that everybody else agreed. I told them I could read, but they wouldn't believe me. The name didn't stick, but it was the first time someone had called me "dizzy."

More about To Be, or Not ... to Bop.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What's next -- Pink Cigarettes for the Cure?

Samantha King is associate professor of kinesiology, health studies and gender studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. She is author of Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy.

This article first appeared on the Breast Cancer Action Montreal's Fall 2010 bulletin.


With the annual pinkfest that marks October -- Breast Cancer Awareness Month -- once again in full swing, the time is ripe to review some of the most audacious pink ploys of 2010. After all, breast-cancer marketing is now a year-round industry.

KFC’s Pink Buckets for the Cure campaign, in partnership with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, was probably the year’s most prominent -- and scrutinized -- fundraiser. Launched in April 2010, opposition to this effort quickly sprung up, with one Facebook group asking what would be next: cigarettes for the cure?

Truth be told, I wouldn’t be surprised. After all, just last year Smith & Wesson released a breast cancer gun -- complete with interchangeable bubble gum pink grip. And gas stations across Canada and the U.S. regularly emblazon their forecourts with giant pink ribbons. Handguns? Gasoline? Hormone-inflated chickens? Known threats to public health are clearly not a primary concern for some breast cancer charities. Indeed, it appears that organizations like Komen may have lost sight of their core vision “to achieve a world without breast cancer” as they scramble to attract commercial sponsors.

Perhaps because of a broader and frequently moralizing societal panic around obesity, as well as increasing recognition that food quality is an important component of good health, the Buckets for the Cure promotion elicited a quicker and more vexed response than other dubious endeavors brought to the North American public by the Komen enterprise. If high-fat diets are linked to breast cancer (an unsubstantiated but nonetheless widely held belief), what is the self-described “global leader of the breast cancer movement” doing promoting a fat- and sodium-laden product? Komen claimed that KFC offers a range of healthy menu options and placed responsibility squarely with the individual: “Consumers ultimately have a choice about what they will eat,” spokesperson Andrea Rader told NPR. More pointedly, Komen’s partnership with a corporation embroiled in a lawsuit with California over the use of a known carcinogen (PhIP) in the preparation of its chicken brings into question Komen’s legitimacy as an organization dedicated to saving lives.

But KFC is likely laughing all the way to the bank. With the promise to donate fifty cents for every bucket sold (although the small print notes that “customer purchases will not directly increase the total contribution”), their fundraising target was $8.5 million. This means KFC would have had to sell 17 million pink buckets of chicken over the five-week campaign to reach its goal. (Just as well they were only committed to a minimum of $1 million.) As San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action asked in its response to the promotion: “How much does KFC stand to gain from this campaign?” Couldn't KFC, owned by the world’s largest restaurant company, afford to donate this amount without making it conditional on a sales drive?

If there is one glimmer of hope to be found in this story, it is that it has piqued the interest of a broad range of activists who might not otherwise have paid attention to the problems with breast-cancer marketing. It has also highlighted how the struggle against the disease is connected to other social issues. Some critics have pointed to the underserved communities Komen claimed to be reaching through its campaign and have asked why the foundation doesn’t instead partner with community clinics and other organizations concerned about the health of marginalized populations. KFC has a reputation for inserting itself in neighborhoods without grocery stores, where food insecurity is endemic. Wouldn’t Komen’s efforts be better channeled towards changing these conditions? Meanwhile, animal welfare advocates have drawn attention to the ghastly treatment of birds at KFC processing plants while other commentators have questioned the working conditions of those who process and serve these chemically-saturated avians.

Does public outrage over Buckets for the Cure suggest that the sheen is slowly fading on the pink-ribbon marketing machine? I sure hope so.


Find out more in Pink Ribbons, Inc., which includes a chapter on the National Football League's "Real Men Wear Pink" campaign as a national sponsor of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Uncovering myths of the Minneapolis and St. Paul underground

Ever hear the myth about how Pierre "Pig's Eye" Parrant (namesake of Pig's Eye Beer) founded the city of St. Paul at Fountain Cave? Or about "Smuggler's Cave" of Minneapolis, which was supposedly used during the Prohibition to smuggle liquor into the city? Author Greg Brick (Subterranean Twin Cities) has been exploring and writing about the Twin Cities underground for more than 20 years. He discusses these myths, his research, and his early interest in exploring the underground in this post and the slideshow that follows.


My very earliest recollections of a serious interest in the urban underground date back to my student days in London, 1981. I recall being puzzled by the Serpentine, a famous pond in Hyde Park. Water flowed into it, but there was no surface stream draining out. Taking up the challenge, I worked out the path of its subterranean drainage below the city. I later began exploring Minnesota caves in 1988 as a member of the Minnesota Speleological Survey (MSS), a local chapter of the National Speleological Society (NSS). The MSS has been exploring local caves since its founding in 1963. From them I learned the basics of caving, a background that I think would be of benefit to many urban explorers today, many of whom do not seem to be aware of the significant safety risks that face them.

I spent the summer of 1994 doing research at the St. Paul Public Works Department, where I acquired an intimate familiarity with the underground of my native city. My favorite files were the old aperture cards of sewer structures and the “P.H.” file, the initials, written on the documents, standing for “Pigeon Hole,” and this was where I found many historical items of great value, including the earliest complete map of Fountain Cave, dating to 1880. After a while, long-time employees of St. Paul Public Works began asking me where to find various records. I recall how the sewer maintenance workers told me of jobs they had been on, places where they had seen caves in the sewers, and interesting places that I might want to investigate. I carried out similar, though less extensive, research in the Minneapolis Public Works Department. Although the Minneapolis records were organized very differently, one thing I loved was the old engineering sketches. Some of them were real works of art. For example, the North Minneapolis Tunnel, one of the city’s oldest tunnels, was sketched at the scale of one inch to five feet, and the details of geological layers painted in watercolors.

The following presentation is a brief visual summary of Subterranean Twin Cities, which recently won the 2010 Heritage Preservation Commission Award presented by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (PDF). The sequence of images begins with the “baptismal font” of Minnesota caves—Carver’s Cave, in St. Paul, and moves upriver to another natural cave, Fountain Cave, the supposed “womb” of the state’s capital city. The subterranean rivers of the Metro area are shown, followed by a tour of Mushroom Valley, with its mushroom, beer, cheese, and entertainment caves, such as Mystic Caverns, all dug in the St. Peter Sandstone. The Subterranean Venice embraced by the Minneapolis mill district, with Chute’s Cave, and the Nicollet Island caves, follows. The extensive utility labyrinths are shown, and finally the “Pluto’s Kingdom” of deep caves under Minneapolis, Schieks and Channel Rock Cavern.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jay Weiner on Election Day 2010: Anyone ready for a recount?

From The New Yorker to the Star Tribune bestseller list, author and MinnPost reporter Jay Weiner's new book This Is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won the Minnesota Senate Recount has been getting a bit of attention. We recently checked in with the author to get his input on the current election atmosphere.


As Election Day 2010 approaches, the possibilities of recounts across the nation looms and the emergence of Sen. Al Franken as a Democratic fundraising and campaign workhorse is clear.

Not to place or name drop, but we had a This Is Not Florida book launch party in Washington, D.C., last week. There, a bunch of election lawyers, government agency staffers and inside-the-Beltway know-it-alls gathered. While the context was the 2008 Franken–Coleman recount, the real chatter was which U.S. Senate races and which House seats would trip into the recount zone.

Your humble author, of course, is rooting for recounts from Maine to Arizona. Many of the lawyers at the cocktail party at Johnny’s Half-Shell – on the first floor of the same office building as Fox News!! – were also preparing for recounts. That’s how many of them make their biggest paydays every two years.

For now, the race that everyone is looking to is the Nevada Senate battle. That’s where Majority Leader Harry Reid is in a too-close-to-call campaign with the very conservative challenger Sharron Angle. In a bit of historic irony, a younger Harry Reid was involved in a recount in 1998, and a couple of the key characters in This Is Not Florida, such as Marc Elias and Chris Sautter, were part of Reid’s legal team. One would have to assume that Elias and Sautter would be on the ground in Reno if this race goes into recount overtime.

On the House side, Real Clear Politics, the superb website that monitors elections, has listed 39 “toss up” seats in Congress. You can go to the Real Clear site and navigate through each race and see how close polls claim these races are.

My view is this: the Democrats came into Minnesota in 2008 still smarting from the Bush–Gore presidential recount loss in 2000; you can bet your bottom dollar the Republicans will come into any 2010 recount kerfuffle smarting royally from the Franken–Coleman defeat. Whatever recounts get going next month, the cloud, the lessons, the anger, the power of the Minnesota recount will hover above and around them.

Meanwhile, it looks as if Sen. Franken is hitting his stride. Remember, he didn’t get into his seat until July 7, 2008, a full six months after everyone else in his new class of senators. He vowed then – and was advised then – to keep his head down and get to work, shedding any celebrity baggage he brought to Washington. And Franken did just that.

Now, in the trenches of the first mid-term campaign since he took office, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is deploying Franken to key races to create buzz and support candidates. On the "most fun" list has got to be his recent visit to Delaware, where Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell is challenging Democratic nominee Chris Coons. Turns out, way back in 1997, Franken and O’Donnell debated pre-marital sex on Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” TV show. (He was for it, she was against it.)
Get the full story from Fox News.

Franken has also been mentioned as a “darkhorse” candidate to be the new chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee because of his mind-blowing ability to raise money; after all, for his 2008 Senate run and recount, he had to bring in more than $30 million.

“The Fix,” the influential Washington Post blog, noted recently that Franken is coming “out of his shell.”

When Election Day comes around, and a dozen or more races are in the recount zone, you can be sure that Franken’s name will be repeatedly invoked. He is the poster boy for a candidate who allowed the pros to oversee his recount. Franken won and, two years later, he’s become a real player on the Washington scene.


Track the entertaining play-by-play of the Franken–Coleman recount in This Is Not Florida. You can also find event photos and quiz questions on Facebook, or download an infographic timeline of events (below) and a readers' discussion guide.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Remembering British punk icon and former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren

On April 8th, 2010 (six months ago today), former Sex Pistols manager and proclaimed inventor of punk Malcolm McLaren passed away at age 64 after a battle with cancer.

The following material was posted to writer and interviewer Jon Savage's blog a few days after McLaren's death. This material is reprinted with permission from the author.


April 22, 2010: The 'anarchy' bus travels through Kentish Town en route to Malcolm McLaren's burial at Highgate Cemetery, London. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Posted April 13, 2010, at

Like a lot of people, I’m still coming to terms with the news of Malcolm McLaren’s death. Without him, there would have been no British Punk, and no most of us in our present form. Sure, something would have occurred in 1977, but it would have been a slightly sharper Pub Rock, without the art, the danger and the depth. McLaren wanted to shake up the English as hard as he could, and – thanks to the talent and courage of the Sex Pistols – he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. His legacy will be discussed and assimilated during the months to come, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the interview I did with him for England’s Dreaming in summer 1989. He’s talking about a possible movie script that ties into his managerial obsessions:

Malcolm McLaren speaks
in Plymouth, England,
October 6th, 2009.
Photo courtesy of
Wikimedia Commons.
"I want to make the first real truly, gangster movie, along the lines of Long Good Friday, within the context of rock’n'roll. Doing it like Once Upon A Time In America, and doing that whole robber baron trip, from the outskirts of Wolverhampton to London to the big world, the big toughie going to America and acting the big toughie and getting away with millions of pounds and landing in Lichtenstein with further problems and winding up somewhere else in some gigantic wonderful tragedy, a Danton-Robespierre of rock’n'roll history set from the point of view of the London thug entrepreneur, gay managerial circuit. Larry Parnes meets Peter Grant meets Brian Epstein meets Brian Jones meets Tom Watkins.

"Grant is the core, and he’s a most magnificent character. He’s a Faustian, in a sense, and there’s a fabulous movie there. It’s something that people have touched upon in the odd rock’n'roll almanac, but not given it the true gangsterism, because they can’t associate rock’n'roll with the Richardson Gang. But we can, and we can do it in a gallant way. Just as America made The Godfather, and made the Mafia heroic and interesting and intriguing, something that everyone was obsessed by.

"Rock’n'roll has always been treated in a kitschy, campy, happy-go-lucky or silly, looking upon it as some dreadful tragedy. They haven’t looked at it as tough, hard-nosed gangsterism with style. Performance got a little like it, but I think Performance did it in a 60s idiom, but we want to talk about that it ran from ’55 to ’76 to ’85 or whatever. Something that ran the gamut, that gives us a genuine trail. Once Upon a Time in America.

You were starting to do that epic myth with the Swindle, weren’t you?

"Well, the Sex Pistols was more us preventing the whole thing from turning into a dreadful tragedy, and turning it into a fantastic rock’n'roll enigma. That’s what we tried to do, to lie incredibly. We did it quite successfully. Under psychoanalysis, it would probably come out that I was living out my childhood, which is in some respects true, but that’s not what we really cared about at the time. What we were concerned about at the time was just fucking running riot, man. The irresponsible nature of it all was the key to it, and once people started becoming responsible… we prevented it becoming responsible for as long as we could hold out. You never wanted to be part of the New Wave, rock’n'roll liberal tradition, looking like you were doing good things. I never believed that was behind Eddie Cochran, or Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley was a punk rocker, and so was Gene Vincent. So was Marilyn Monroe. So was anybody who was irresponsible and lived their lives in a way that you felt bigger bolder and better than you could. They were punks, they were anti-establishment, and they were gods. Marilyn Monroe today is bigger than ever, and so is Sid Vicious. I don’t see Johnny Rotten in the Lower East Side on a t-shirt. I see Sid Vicious all the bloody time. That’s got to be the difference.

"Rotten thought the Sex Pistols were his but the Sex Pistols were nobody’s. If they had any relationship, they had it with Reginald Bosanquet, who came in and bought black rubber knickers from Jordan in the shop, and went on News At Ten wearing them, and when he gave a slight smile, Jordan was supposed to believe it was for her. He was subversive, he was drunk, he was the guy that we all thought was a punk, giving out News At Ten. He was the direct relationship to the SEX shop, in turn a great relationship with the group themselves. It wasn’t the group themselves, it was everybody who was in the path of the media, or had a sense of power that we would consider gods. Old women consider those newscasters gods. We considered him a poor geezer, when he used to come in every morning and give us flowers for Jordan. We loved this guy, even though he was often so drunk he could hardly speak, he was red-faced, dreadfully infatuated with Jordan, and he couldn’t give a shit, and he was a wonderful, wonderful character. It was that character which was part of the SEX shop, of which the Sex Pistols were also a part.

"That sign said, in those big pink sponge letters, ginormous letters, making you think that this is not just another shop on the King Road, selling some third rate St Martin’s fashion school designs, this was a shop selling things you would normally be sending for, mail order, from the small ads of the Observer, and getting it back in a brown paper bag, you didn’t have to think in such a voyeuristic fashion. You could come in and buy it first-hand.

Didn’t Steve have that attitude as well?

"Yeah, because Steve was a street kid. If it wasn’t for Steve there wouldn’t have been any group. Steve was the kid that was constantly thieving out of my shop, the one I had to constantly rally behind, and grab, and ultimately, through that grabbing, there was some fatal eye contact. It was like Fagin to the Artful Dodger. You thought, here’s another rogue. Less articulate, but can certainly run faster. It was a character that you couldn’t do other than admire and like. I was seduced by him. It was like Larry Parnes looking at Billy Fury, except that I didn’t go to bed with him. That was the only real difference. You had this marvellous, secret eye contact. You didn’t have to talk about Whistler, or Wilde, or TS Eliot, or Gene Vincent. You didn’t have to talk about any of those things, there was just a sense of understanding. That’s what kept me afloat in that whole gang. It was that. We always went back to it, whether it was the Anarchy in the UK tour, or pissed off in America, you went back and sat next to Steve Jones, and it was alright.


Find more material from Jon Savage at

The full, uncut interview between Jon Savage and Malcolm McLaren (New York, summer 1989) appears in The England's Dreaming Tapes.

For more memories of McLaren, see this April post to Robert Ebert's Journal.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another year, another busy MBA -- this time with more paparazzi.

From a glowing endorsement from Walter Mondale to a very busy booth day, the 2010 Midwest Booksellers Association meeting left us with much to be excited about.

Row 1: Photos from the author's breakfast, which featured speeches from Jonathan Evison (West of Here), Laurie Hertzel (News to Me), Walter Mondale (The Good Fight) and Antonya Nelson (Bound). Photo #2 was taken after Walter Mondale made a beeline over to Laurie Hertzel to have his copy of News to Me autographed. Photo #3 is Chris Livingston, manager at The Book Shelf in Winona, MN, who introduced Laurie before her speech.

You can listen to Laurie's 9-minute talk here (with introduction from Livingston):

Row 2: Our book signing with MPR's Peter Smith, and the huge line of fans waiting to get their copies of A Porch Sofa Almanac autographed.

Row 3: Announcing our newly back-in-print books in Thomas Disch's Supernatural Minnesota series (The Businessman, The M.D., The Priest, and The Sub); author Michael Nordskog (right) and photographer Aaron W. Hautala autograph copies of The Opposite of Cold; caffeine-hungry MBA attendees visited our booth for an afternoon jolt.

Row 4: Our lineup of the day's events; the Read Minnesota mugs we gave away and the multiple boxes we brought; and stacks of books at the MBA author breakfast.

Row 5: Author Jay Weiner (This Is Not Florida) chats with a fan as editor Todd Orjala looks on; author Laurie Hertzel (News to Me) signs books; author Gayla Marty (middle, Memory of Trees) poses with publicist Heather Skinner (left) and marketing director Emily Hamilton.

Want more MBA info? Check out Claire Kirch's writeup in Publishers Weekly.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Laurie Hertzel series, final installment: While journalism has come a long way since my Duluth years, the fundamentals have—and will—stick around.

This is the final installment in our monthlong series by Star Tribune books editor and News to Me author Laurie Hertzel. The series has moved chronologically through Hertzel's early years and adventures in writing to her adventures while on assignment at the Duluth News-Tribune to her post-Duluth years to the present state of journalism and its future. You can find links to previous entries in the series at the bottom of this post.


Since my book has come out, I have heard from a lot of people. I talked with a guy who worked at the paper in the early 1960s; he remembers hot type and the composing room like a foundry, as they melted down the printing plates each day from the night before. I got an email from a guy who was a reporter a few years before I was; he remembers a city editor who kept a pistol in his desk.

And I have heard from students, and from young journalists, who are trying to understand what the current change is about, and what it all will mean for them—the internet, and blogs, and 24-hour news cycles, and so much competition. They wonder if they should go into some other career—if journalism is a dead-end.

My book looks back, but they are looking forward.

It seems to me that the fundamentals of gathering the news and then shaping it into some kind of interesting and balanced story won’t change, and haven’t changed, and I tell them that. I tell them that a democracy cannot survive without a free and vigorous press, and that I am certain that newspapers will survive in some form.

But mostly what I tell them is that journalism is a great profession to go into because it is fun. You get to meet people you never would meet otherwise, and go places where you would not otherwise be welcome. And sometimes, truth be told, you go places where you are most definitely not welcome.

You get to tell stories—stories that amuse and delight and aggravate and incense and spur people to action.

You get to make a difference, sometimes small, sometimes quite large.

I wish I were a soothsayer, but I’m not. I can’t tell people the answer to the big question: Will print newspapers survive? I think they will, but I’m sure somebody out there thought that 8-track tapes would survive, too. But I am absolutely serenely positive that journalism will survive, and that’s the important thing. One thing that working on this book has shown me is this: the newspaper business has been in flux pretty much from the beginning, and it has always weathered well the changes.

Radio didn’t kill it. TV didn’t kill it. So far the Internet hasn’t killed it. I have lots of hope.


Thanks for following Laurie Hertzel's blog series. If you haven't already, check out other entries in the series:
-Part 5: When I Was ... 38 and embarking upon a new career adventure.
-Part 4: When I Was ... 30 and stumbled upon the biggest story of my life.
-Part 3: When I Was ... starting out as a reporter at the Duluth-News Tribune.
-Part 2: When I Was ... 19 (and a newsroom clerk at the Duluth News-Tribune).
-Part 1: When I Was ... quite young, an avid reader, and an aspiring librarian.

Laurie Hertzel is author of News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist, published by University of Minnesota Press.

Click here
for more information, including a list of upcoming Minnesota reading events and links to Hertzel's website and Facebook page. And if you haven't already, be sure to check out the News to Me book trailer: