Sunday, 25 February 2024

Arts & Life

February always weighs heavy on my mind.

It's not the day the music died though I was only 14 and not far away from Clear Lake, Iowa, at the time.

It's not Gertrude Stein's birthday, on Feb. 3. But she did famously once tell a complaining editor: "There are no commas PERIOD"

It's not even Old Abe's real birthday on Feb. 12 before the advent of all those Nixon holidays for overextended people. Though Abe does weigh more heavily still on those of us from "The Land of Lincoln."

It's not even George Washington's real birthday on Feb. 22, even if he did have wooden teeth and once crossed the Delaware.

(To get to the other side?)

No, no and no; but it is Feb. 22, particularly Feb. 22 at 2 a.m. in the morning in 1975 when I and all my fellow Bugle American staff members received the ultimate letter to the editor.

Someone, Milwaukee Neo-Nazis or the Milwaukee Police Department (isn't that or at least wasn't that an oxymoron? – see The Violent Femmes' "Harold Brier") blew us up.

I worked 'til midnight that day in the spacious corporate offices of the Bugle, in an old storefront on Bremen Street where there were still bars on the corners.

This was Milwaukee, after all.

I had just fallen asleep when the phone rang. It was judi jacobi (that's how she spelled it; she chastised me only a few years ago for spelling it wrong), the paper's news editor. “Gary,” she said, “there was a bomb. The building is gone.”

A lot of us just weren't the same for the next 48 hours or so, salvaging what we could, receiving visits from many eastsiders, even a contribution by check from George Reedy, Lyndon Johnson's former press secretary and then Dean of the School of Journalism at Marquette University. He even showed up to help us move and remains a particular hero of mine.

The Society of "Professional" Journalists' chapter at the Milwaukee Journal (we called them the Milwaukee Urinal and scooped them a lot) held a special meeting, declared us "not a real newspaper" and voted not to send us their $50.

You wouldn't catch me dead at an SPJ meeting to this day.

It took a week but with a little help from many friends we gathered back copies of the Bugle, a few supplies, the exacto knives we always swore we could put a paper out with. One of those and a piece of sidewalk is all it takes.

The issue planned for the week of this unscheduled visitation came out only seven days later than it should have.

That week, Leonard Cohen, another hero of mine, held up a copy of the Bugle and said: "Some Things Don't Burn!" That was on the cover of the first issue after the big boom.

And as that copy came off the presses someone literally rushed a paper to Bryan Ferry who flashed it to the audience at a Roxy Music concert. (Just when is "Dylanology" coming out and why aren't you a "Sir" yet? I can't wait. Sir Brian Ferry and Sir Brian Eno.)

But my real heroes are and were my colleagues. One time over 80 people came to one of our community meetings. Most were volunteers; those of us who got paid finally earned the princely sum of $110 a week and got to live at the Bugle Commune with the wonderfully named daughter of the publishers, Tobi Jacobi.

The Bugle lasted three more years until it bit the dust, another victim of unpaid advertising bills and the growing ennui of the late 70s. We had insurance; we had survived several offices in Madison and then Milwaukee ... but ...

Maybe Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane crash was the point of no return. I woke that morning as the alarm went off and the first thing I saw while the radio blared the news was that Skynyrd cover with the band in flames.

I'd just interviewed Ronnie Van Zant and he was a happy man with a new daughter, which was pretty much all he talked about. So I told him about mine, who was also pretty much all I talked about.

I trust she knows how much her daddy loved her.

The graduates of this revolving school of journalism by free records, press passes, concert tickets and access to "rock stars" went on to bigger and better things.

Tony Cappacio worked as Jack Anderson's right-hand man for 10 years, then became the editor of Jayne's Defense Weekly. You can catch him on C-SPAN many a morning.

Tony once camped out at the Stones' hotel for 24 hours. He only took one bathroom break and that was when Mick and Keith came through the lobby.

Greg Kot went on to become the Chicago Tribune's rock critic and to Rolling Stone. I once saw him trying to explain the death of Kurt Cobain to my shocked children and others on TV.

Tom Davis, one of the most brilliant writers I've ever known died young, of cancer. A lot of people came to his funeral.

The photographer, Debbie Milne, also left us way too soon as did the Bugle's esteemed editor, Dave Schriener, who taught me and a lot of others everything we know about journalism and much of what we don't.

judi jacobi became one of my favorite people. The only swing dancing lawyer I know from Tuscon who's currently living in Hawaii.

Mike "Scoop" Jacobi founded the Fox Valley Patriot and worked for a while as did Schreiner with Denis Kitchen, the most famous underground comix publisher in America, other than those good folks at Kitchen Sink Press' and Krupp Comics Works' only rival in San Francisco.

Bob Bordon, the "first ex-husband of my second ex-wife," started the Jemez Thunder in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, and later built a spaceship house there. (The Thunder's motto: "We cater to the radical middle!") Its publisher is the great poet Kathleen Weigner, also a Forbes "writer at large."

Rob Fixmer ended up at the New York Times, Doug Rossi at Newsday, Kathy Gubi I know not where but I soon won't forget her or her photos, Ed Goodman and Britt Zastrow are at a paper, called, I think, The Republican, somewhere in Connecticut.

Ed always won the many pun contests and Britt was my first ex-wife's best friend. The Bugle was like that.

This was after Ed penned the rock opera, "The Wrath of the Ringworm," never performed, with the late poet and godfather of Milwaukee's music scene, Jim Spencer. It was dedicated to me and another "character" from the eastside.

The first Violent Femmes album is dedicated to "Jim Spencer." Brian Ritchie and Gordon Gano and others became The Violent Femmes.

Gordon was thrown out of high school for singing "Permanent Record" at a school talent show. Brian Ritchie, a brilliant writer and bassist, spent some of his formative years sleeping in what had been my office at the last Bugle building, probably near where the dental chair had been. He was a 17 year old

runaway and Joy Division fan.

Ace photographer Mark Goff worked for a Congressman for years and now runs Mark Goff and in Wauwatosa, Wis. His mother went to school with Liberace, maybe even Brother George.

There are and were so many. I can't list them all and I apologize to those I didn't.

Someone dissed me for not mentioning them in the piece I penned for Dave Schreiner's memorial, read by another ex-Bugler in Madison, Tom "Toots" Schaefer.

Toots once wrote about Louis "Saskatchewan" Reed. Lou gave his son, Nathan King Schaefer, his autograph anyway and Nathan later nabbed the only interview, mano to mano, given by the "Boss" on his 1977 world tour. Nathan was 7. The "Mighty Max" was his favorite E-Streeter, though he got to meet them all.

The Bugle was my J-school. The people were all wonderful and I have several pictures of them on the dresser next to my spiffy high speed computer.

I'll be thinking of them on Feb. 22 at about 2 a.m. The Bugle only violated its motto: "Never Blow Retreat" but once, at its closing in 1977.

The Buglers never did.



Eric Patrick and Bill Fredricksson perform in Greater Tuna. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
Somewhere southeast of Lake County ... about 1,200 miles southeast of Lake County ... is a place where everyone knows everyone else's business—and then some. Tuna, Texas, has one radio station, lots of farms and at least 20 very interesting individuals whose lives are tightly intertwined with the rest of the inhabitants of La Salle County.

It didn't smell like Belmont.

The Launch Party for the Summer of Love's 40th Anniversary at 2B1 Records in the Mission in San Francisco seemed more like the last Lynyrd Skynyrd concert I attended.

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03.02.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Special Olympics Polar Plunge
03.03.2024 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Pianists Benefit Concert
St. Patrick's Day
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Tax Day

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