The Oral Freedom
Lurking inscrutably -- and
remarkably thinner from a diet of Scotch and yogurt, so I am
told -- in the pornographic neon canyons of New York is John Kois.
His efforts for Screw magazine now are
spreading over the land to settle in second-hand bookstalls
-- going for a quarter with their covers removed -- like the
Century News on Brady
If he has
nightmares they probably involve:
I suppose my nightmare would be that some people would get together to start a local publication -- any publication -- and they wouldn't ask me. And then it would be a towering success.
A vision of that sort got me involved with Kaleidoscope in the first place. No one did ask me, but I certainly didn't want to be excluded. For a while, it was the only game in town, if you had a feeling for the possibilities of personal involvement in a decentralized, anarchic press.
If K'scope wasn't ultimately successful, it made a mark significant enough in several worlds -- journalism, hip subculture and the East Side -- and made Kois more noteworthy than merely as the popularizer of the double cheeseburger, his preferred plate at Marc's Big Boy.
I would put 1966 as the year acid hit the East Side in quantity. Hippies and LSD and love power were linked in Time magazine and such. At the Journal Library where I worked nights there was scuttlebutt about an underground paper about to appear.
But I saw nothing in print except the occasional San Francisco Oracle, Berkeley Barb, East Village Other and the by-then venerable Village Voice, as the first Lake Park be-in on Sunday, April 30, 1967, faded as a memory.
The day after the be-in [when I smoked my last cigarette ever and heard Country Joe McDonald's Fish Cheer first chanted by a crowd], I started at the Welfare Department as a caseworker, thinking to finance some journalism courses and get into copy editing. I could chart the progress of acid on the East Side by noting, for example, that one night on walking into O'Reilly's on Franklin Place and Ogden Ave. that it was no longer necessary to check your drink for stray chunks of flying glass.
The bar fights had abated, and confirmed juicers were coming in, smiling at everyone, and ordering fruit- and soft drinks. Hostility was gone from the air. The Shags [later the Shag on their Capitol Records releases] were staying south of the same intersection on Franklin Place, across from my apartment building [the Coachlight]. An enormous hookah was kept going there, [with opium sometimes added to the pot] and black Cadillacs and white crosses could be had. It can be said that at least some of the comings and goings resembled the media's portrayals of hippie life. (Though I generally preferred to sit on my porch and sip large bourbons and admire the tree growing at the curb while traffic careened by, curving south past the statue of Bobby Burns.)
But no local underground press emerged for months, though George Johnson opened the Indianhead, with his wife Livija, and Mary Jo Hucek and Klara Meyer did the same with Bizarre Boutique on Lafayette Place. Psychedelia was in profusion.
Finally, in October 1967, the historical joining of [Velvet Whip's] Dan Ball's head to the negative image of the nude body of photographer George Lottermoser's wife Joyce -- in a multi-armed Shiva pose -- graced the first issue of Kaleidoscope.
Eventually, Morgan Gibson told me the editor needed someone to distribute the growing paper, now three issues old, for a small amount per copy sold [as well as the Chicago Seed].
Trucking around with the bundles in the Gibsons' VW Microbus naturally gave me something to write about, what with the abuse from all quarters. So I tried my hand at writing, though I hadn't ever attempted newspaper reporting before [eventually writing as myself and the ubiquitous "Kaleidoscope Staff"].
With the first three issues the paper had already achieved notoriety, and good sales, with its berserk departure from journalism as it was known. Many enduring names and trends were established early, while symptoms of the early burnout malady were already in evidence -- whether in writers, trends or topics.
But the striking feature -- perhaps the most important for adaptability and longevity -- is the sheer eclectic unpredictability.
As one might expect, the first issue, with all its shortcomings as a fledgling venture, received more response in the straight media, and came in for more scrutiny, than any of those that were to follow until the paper was well established.
This meant, just as predictably, that the most bizarre elements were hooted at in the Journal while any solid achievements, then or subsequently, were ignored.
Most of the local news, hard and soft, was straightforward enough, from the review, by the Velvet Whip's Dick Bussian, of the Shags' new Capitol recording, Melissa, to Barbara Gibson's personal, emotive account of an open housing march with Father James Groppi and the NAACP Youth Council Commandos to the South Side (reprinted below).
October 6-19, 1967
A DAY IN THE MARCH . . .
by Barbara Gibson
The paper says that today (September 9) the march will go "deep into the South Side." That scares me because I've heard what's happened there the past week. So of course I have to go. I have marched with them one other time this week -- from [Judge Christ] Seraphim's house on the East Side back to St. Boniface, holding my little daughter's hand the whole time.
The pre-march rally is scheduled for one o'clock but when I get to St. Boniface at 1:30 everyone is still outside the church, milling around on the grass and sidewalks. Dozens of policemen and several police cars, including paddy wagons, are gathered just across the intersection of 11th and Clarke. I see a few people I know, mostly white folks from UW-Milwaukee, and some old friends from CORE [Congress of Racial Equality]; neither they or I have been in CORE for two years.
A Commando, and I know he's one because his sweatshirt says so on the back, tells everyone to go inside the church. The sanctuary is large and light. An enormous, ceiling-high gold decorated crown stands on stilts over the altar. I don't much like the monarchic symbolism, but the form is impressive. The front and back walls are hung with fantastically beautiful felt banners made by the kids of the parish. The nuns have encouraged bright colors and bold designs and slogans like Uhuru, The City of God, the Spirit of the Law; Christ is Born; and one that turns me off: Mommy, Why Were Darkies Born? "Darkies"?
Some Youth Council kids get up in front and start chants and songs. The pews fill up fast. Father Groppi comes in and begins the mass.
I'm not a Catholic but I've attended masses in America and Europe and this is WILD. In fact I didn't realize it was a mass until the communion; I thought it was a freedom rally with a Christian slant. Groppi is wearing a black robe with gold embroidery (usually worn at funerals, the paper says the next day) and he explains that he's wearing it to destroy the myth that black is bad -- as in black ball, black lie, black Monday, black looks, etc. He says black is beautiful.
The scripture is from Isaiah and the story of the good Samaritan from the New Testament. Groppi links these with the fight for social justice in Milwaukee. He lashes out at the mayor, the councilmen, the church, and the white power structure. He tells us we are celebrating the feast day of St. Peter Claver, a 16th century freedom fighter against slavery. He tells us that every step we will take on the march today is a prayer.
Some young girls lead freedom songs and chants. Groppi says a short prayer, asking for courage in the march. There are some responsive sentences between him and the congregation but only a few people know them. He says "The Lord be with you" and the people reply "And with your spirit." Everything so far is in English. It's beautiful.
The freedom chants and freedom songs gave all the energy, sensuality and humor of rhythm and blues. The most popular chant, "Sock it to me, black power, oooh, ah! " is jazzy, contemporary and slightly ironic. The "oooh, ah!" part is accompanied by one fist then the other in the air -- a militant threatening gesture or just finger poppin'?
We sing all the old freedom songs (We Shall Overcome, Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, We Shall Not Be Moved) plus new ones the kids have invented. I hear echoes of Wilson Pickett: Na na no na naaa (Land of a Thousand Dances); a Harry Belafonte calypso tune: Day-o (Banana Boat Song); Want My Freedom and I Want It Now; a song from Milwaukee's successful R&B group the Esquires: Get On Up (clap, clap, and get your freedom, clap clap); and one from the Parliaments: I Just Want To Testify (What The White Man Done To Me). Several kids do a bougaloo motion to the chants and songs.
The singing and chanting begin slow, quiet, and build up to a terrific climax, with everyone in the church on their feet and swinging. You can't be unmoved. The squarest white folks I see (one guy with hippie glasses who can't keep the beat) are turned on, into it, getting down.
As he says the mass, Fr. Groppi has two Commandos beside him, and four others at the back, all in sweatshirts. (No one is dressed up, lots of girls have shorts and slacks on, and almost none of the women have their heads covered.) When he goes behind the altar table to prepare communion, the Commandos act as altar boys. All very casual, and yet it is more religious than most rituals I have seen. (continued next page)
[March - continued]
October 6-19, 1967
Fr. Groppi reads the communion service, raises the host and blesses the wine, makes a few ritual gestures, says a couple of Latin phrases and serves himself a wafer, which he chews (unlike most priests I've seen, who let it melt in their mouths). He's looking thoughtful as he does it. He comes forward and serves communion to about 40 people. They are mostly white and from the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago, according to their buttons. Fr. Groppi gives each one a few words and a smile and then pops a wafer on the tongue.
TV cameras are crowding the aisles, getting it all on film .
Fr. Groppi leaves and there's more singing. I go downstairs to buy a sweatshirt. They cost $3 and all that's left is size extra-large. The shirts say "NAACP Youth Council" on the front, and on the back you have a choice: Remember McKissick; Black Power; Soul Sister; Soul Brother; B1ack and Beautiful. Remembering the sermon, I buy the latter. Wondering what I'll say if anyone challenges either half of the slogan. How about: "I may be white and ugly outside," but in my heart I'm black and beautiful"?
The kitchen is dishing out dinners -- beans and hot dogs, even though the sign says No Food Served Till After the March. Everything is free, but I leave a quarter in the jar for my cup of coffee. White guilt.
The first aid room has a half-life-size statue in it of saint and a little kid. Cheerful white ladies ready with Band-Aids and salt tablets. I suppose there are larger bandages for the the more serious many of the demonstrators have suffered, mostly at the hands of` cops. I know of at least two people from UWM who were hospitalized. I think to of the scene (as described in the papers and by friends) when the St. Boniface school yard (right behind here) was tear-gassed last week -- nuns passing around wet washcloths and trying to comfort choking weeping marchers.
I look at the people around me. Plump church ladies. Little kids. Tough militant cats with scars on their faces. Black teeny-bopper girls. White Madison types. Businessmen of both colors. Priests and nuns, mostly young. Suburban housewives. Young black men and women with African-style hair, beautiful faces. Vibrations of terrific energy and intensity. Some hostile looks, but mostly curious looks. That's OK, I get those on the East Side too.
The march is beginning upstairs. Dozens of Commandos patrol the march, keeping the line closed up and tight. We walk at a fairly fast pace and often we have to run to catch up with the part of the line ahead of us. It's physically demanding -- I can see why most of the marchers are young. The Commandos keep yelling "Tighten, up the line, keep it tight, don't let The Man get in, don't let the crackers in." I know who The Man is. I know who crackers are. They're the bad white folks; good to know they don't think we're all crackers.
The talk I hear is beautiful. I don't want to romanticize, but the black people's talk around me flows. The Commandos tell us: "You're looking good, baby, keep it tight -- uptight, our of sight." "Hey brother, sock it to me." "Looka here people." "Hey my man." The demonstrators yell to black people watching from their porches: "You be sure that standin' on that porch ain't gonna get you nowhere, sister." And "You all better get on up and walk now. 'Cause I know you don't
like keepin' your babies in that old house." And "We never got freedom just sitting around, brother. We got to walk for it, baby." It's hard to reproduce the music of this in print (you have to BE there, I guess).
On the East Side March there had been continuous taunting of the cop, (but I hear less of it today, perhaps because we need them more today?) and some of it was the funniest, most naturally flowing speech I've heard, though it made me slightly uneasy from a "moral" point of view. Most of the cops looked awfully tired, and as though they hated what they were doing. On the other hand they are free with words like "black Africans," "niggers," and worse. And they are free with their riot sticks, their, fists, their boots, their tear gas and their power of arrest. One bad cat near me looked down at the machinery in the [Menomonee] Valley: "Man, I'm gonna get me some of them choppers (sic) when we beat Whitey." [Gibson wrote me recently that she has no idea of what the "bad cat" meant by choppers, so it will remain a mystery.] We walked by a large pile of coal and he said, "Hey, that's pretty. That's the prettiest thing I seen today. It's so black, man. I'm not that black myself, man, but I wish I was. My momma didn't do right, though. Man, that black coal is pretty." He kept up a constant line of patter, including a few unintelligible but unfriendly remarks to me. I pretended not to hear.
I saw some white folks I knew but lost them again. Kids kept running in front of me and now I was near the end of the line. Feeling kind of lonely. I saw a black guy I know who's a draft resister and asked him about his case. He said he's been remanded back to the draft board for further investigation and he figures it'll take a long time before they sentence him. That cheered me up some.
About a half mile after the bridge we met our first hostile whites. They seemed in a holiday mood with their catcalls, and the marchers answered with enthusiasm. "Come over here, hunky, and say that again." "Hey hunky, go back to Poland. You just got here, baby; we been here a long time." Jokes about Polish sausage. The day and the situation seemed to me, all of a sudden, utterly without menace.
Many cops now. But no badges, and that was ominous. Dick Gregory had been pushing this issue for days, pointing out that the police take them off in a "riot" situation so they can beat heads without fear of getting sued later.
(Although Gregory was fiercely funny about the cops and certainly considered them, as did all the marchers, the main enemy, he also always counseled non-violence. At one rally he said: "Any brick-throwers here go form your own march. Anybody who'd throw a brick at a man with a gun got to be crazy . . . you marchers, if you see anybody throw a brick, hold him for the police. And if you see any cats in blue shirts with no badges come near the line, hold THEM for the police too."
(And then: "Remember. Let white cracker America know: non-violence isn't an obligation, it's a FAVOR!" Folks in the audience: "All right, brother. Tell it so we all can hear. Or simply "Speak, baby!")
Patrol wagons keep their doors open, so the cops can hop in and out fast. They have to walk a lot too, but not as much as we do. Every cop has his riot stick in hand and a plastic visor over his eyes. Helmets are still black from the riot nights but the paint is chipping off to white underneath. The news media cars have black helmets in their rear windows windows. The reporters walk some, often carrying heavy cameras and sound equipment, but mostly they ride.
I thought about the hippies approach to cops: hang flowers around their necks and turn off their anger. Impossible in this situation, I know. (continued next page)
[March - continued]
October 6-19, 1967
Anyway, my objections to this name-calling on the part of the marchers eventually diminished -- I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe because it's so funny, so skillful, so passionate. The favorite word for cop is "dog." "Hey my dog, roll over and I'll give you a milkbone." "Dog, dog, dog."
Most of the cops were impassive but some tried to retort. They weren't any good at it. The couple of Negro cops got it bad -- they were all named "Tom." (Negroes who are considered to have sold out are held in contempt: "Bill Cosby? If he ever bought a watermelon, he'd have them wrap it!" In other words, they're not ashamed of their heritage, their traditions, their life style.)
The yelling and taunting seemed to keep up the spirits of the marchers, many of whom had marched several miles every day for over a week. (On this day we were to march 18 miles in about six and a half hours, or so the paper said.) I thought about the old days of Milwaukee CORE when we held some of the first civil rights picket lines in this city, about five years ago. Our rules said no singing, no chanting and no talking to anyone. Girls had to wear skirts, and the guys were supposed to come in suits and ties. I remember someone getting censured for smoking on the picket line. But then the movement was small and vulnerable; now it's a mass movement.
We reached the 16th Street Bridge over the industrial valley -- this is the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall, the 36th Parallel, the Mason-Dixon line. It takes forever to walk across it, though it seems quick in a car. The people were quieter now, more conscious of the possible dangers ahead. I got separated from my white companion, and felt a few more hostile vibrations, even a few pushes, a few ambiguous remarks. I remained impassive (like the cops).
We stop at Kosciuszko Park and sit on the grass, singing and chanting. Groppi speaks. Around us the Commandos form a circle, facing outward, and the cops around them. Several hundred whites, but they look more curious than angry, most of them. Later we saw some wearing sweatshirts printed with Mafia, White Power and Polish Power. The hatred escalated, and on the way back past the park a bunch of white kids were holding picnic tables vertically so we could see them, having painted on them: White Power, and Black Nigger Pigs Stink. Cops looked at them but did nothing. "Isn't that defacing public property?" we asked each other. On the other hand, someone told me he saw a white girl separate herself from a group of screaming, jeering white kids, her friends and schoolmates,
and run over to join the line. That's courage, sister.
A Youth Council guy yells Are you tired?' and everyone yells "NO!" But I am. We're on our feet again, walking deeper into the South Side, just like they said, heading toward Humboldt Park. Now a crowd of whites is walking on the other side of the street, screaming at us. Our side is screaming too. One white guy with a big pot belly really gets it.
The Commandos are efficient. They are spread out every 30 feet or so along the line of march. When we come to a tavern door (big danger spot) or yard where there are whites standing, a Commando places himself in front of them. Protecting them from us and us from them, preventing fights. They run back and forth a lot, seemingly untired. I admire their discipline and organization. And their humanity, which comes out at the oddest times. Once I felt arms come around me from behind. A Commando was hugging his way forward through the line instead of pushing it.
At Humboldt Park a truck unloads sandwiches and big new garbage cans full of water. We line up for this and we need it -- we've been on the streets for almost four hours. Everyone lies around on the grass. It's pleasant. I rest on my back and look at the sky through tree branches. South Side whites look on, but from a distance. Police keep watch, but no one's uptight, everything's cool. It reminds me of the Be-In [Lake Park, Spring 1967].
I walk past the cat who was bothering me before. He's sitting with his back against a tree and he calls out "Hey black and beautiful." I know he's talking to me. I offer him water from my paper cup and he lifts up his face for it. He says thanks and I walk away. He calls me again, "Hey black and beautiful." I answer with what I hope is poised reserve. He gets up and takes me by the arm over to where some white South Siders are standing. "Now give me a drink." I start to hand him the cup, not understanding, but again he makes me hold it to his mouth. He drinks, then stops and shouts to the whites, "Hey that's black power. Black POWER, baby." They look rather stunned, as though it's happening on TV. Marchers around us are laughing. I laugh too, I feel good about it, even though I was being used. As we move out of Humboldt a young Negro man falls in beside me and starts a conversation. He's not bad like the other cat, he's nice. He has a lot of opinions, rather moderate ones. He asks me a question I've been asked a lot and I always hate it: Why did you get into civil rights? I answer with some irritation. I hope I'll never sound self righteous, never sound as though I think I'm doing something good. But he's an all right guy. Walking in front of us is a talented but obnoxious poet from Chicago I had met once at the [Avant] Garde [coffee house]. He doesn't recognize me, so I don't remind him. He's tall and wears cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. He barges into our conversation with his Oklahoma accent and delivers a long boring lecture on Negro History to my friend. I try to get a word in but his voice is louder. He thinks he's so militant, but he sounds condescending. We lose him eventually.
(continued next page)
[March - continued]
October 6-19, 1967
I can't hear what the whites are saying but I can see their contorted faces and their raised fists. A middle-aged white lady does an ironic, obscene dance on the street corner.
There's more screaming and we see bunches of fighting bodies -- can't tell what's happening, that's the worst of it. We're pressed between store fronts on our right and Commandos and cops on our left. I begin to feel claustrophobic. Someone says, "They've brought out the tear gas guns." Damn that really scares me. I don't want to get gassed. I heard about it from some friends of mine, who got it last week at St. Boniface. No good.
My black friend is still beside me and I'm beginning to feel very glad he is. Another white woman is on his other side and she and I have a sporadic conversation across him. She's been in Alabama, worked on a civil right; newspaper there. She seems like a person I'd like to know. All of us are scared now.
Suddenly a cop, red in the face and obviously nearly mad with irritation, turns toward the line with his tear gas gun and yells, "One more time like that and you're gonna get the gas." Shit -- one more time like what? I haven't done anything and I don't want any gas.
Wow. Commandos yell, "Keep moving, don't stop, keep the line moving," and we do. Down an alley I see a white kid, a heckler, face down on the ground, arms twisted on his back, a dozen cops over him. Damn, I hate to see cops beating anyone.
Heckling and taunting are getting worse, from both sides. "'Cracker," "Polack" and "Hunky" come from the members, in that order of increasing insult. "Peckerwood" sometimes too. Some very passionate remarks about peoples bodies, their parents, their probable sexual abilities, etc. These make me cringe inside. It's falling to their degraded level. And anyway, the whites are so pathetic around here, so poor, so pitiful looking, so ugly. Their lives, from what l can see, are much less rich, spiritually, than the lives of the black people in the ghetto. But I can't say that to anyone here.
My friend begins to put his hand on my back to help me along when we have to run and I begin to think, Uh-oh. But no, I don't believe he's moving in. It's beginning to get dark now and I'm getting very tired. My back aches. The white crowds are building up and people are getting tense. We're on Lincoln Avenue. We suddenly hear screams and shouts and see Commandos running forward and cops rushing into the line ahead of us, riot sticks flailing.
At the next comer there is panic. The line breaks completely and people run down the cross street, away from the cops. I run too, ashamed but more scared, sure that the tear gas cloud is coming. But Commandos run after us and herd us back. I find my friend and now we hold hands, tight.
I'm wondering why the hell I even came and wishing I was home. But there's a good feeling too -- a kind of freedom feeling. Like if something bad happens, it happens, and I guess I'll live through it. There's an exhilaration.
We see a Commando who's been hurt, holding his chest. Another is carrying a rag with blood on it. No one knows anything about what's happened. We see Groppi run along the line, a Commando at each arm, almost lifting him, and he looks OK, so I feel better. The younger kids on the march, though, are losing their tempers easily, even with each other. It looks as though they're dying to fight.
It's dark now and the white crowd is very large, hundreds. I see a racist newspaper with a headline in red type: Blacks Declare War On White Americans. You know it, baby. Some of our kids are pounding their fists on store windows and cars that we pass. I see them spit on a white woman. I see them pull another woman's hair. I don't like it.
I see cops roar into our line again, sticks thwacking. I can hear the sticks. My hand is wet with sweat -- mine or my black friend's? We seem to be rushing now. I keep expecting to hear shots. At one corner I hear the white crowd booing and yelling. The cops have sealed them off and won't let them follow us. But there are more ahead.
Finally we reach the 16th Street Bridge. We walk across. "This has got to be the longest bridge in the world," somebody says. All I can think of is getting to Wisconsin Avenue and the Number 30 bus home.
My friend says, "By the way, my name is Moses," and I tell him mine. We laugh because we've been through so much together and now we're being introduced. I tell him about my family and we arrange to meet the next day before the rally so he can meet them. I thank him for "protecting" me, for giving me the feeling that someone there cared whether I lived or died. We shake hands and say goodbye at Marquette [University] where the marchers have stopped to rest. I catch my bus and go home.
[Editor's Note: Recent commentary on K'Scope 40 years after each issue's appearance is found on Z-Blog. For more on the new Time Thump feature & the 1st issue click here.]
Introducing himself here also is the
last of the great existential rangers, Watt himself, as his
column was headed. Bob Watt was
known to many through his books of poetry and
He speaks for himself:
It's fitting that the same issue saw Rich Mangelsdorff's debut for this audience as a music critic. He and Watt continue as probably the two most recognized figures on the local underground scene. In Pop! A Background, he sets the local precedent for the type of analysis that forced the media to take pop and rock music seriously, when deserved, as an art form.
Kois, under one of his frequent
pseudonyms, Jay Richards (sometimes listed on the
masthead as Druggist or Ace
Reporter), contributed a favorable review of the
Corman-Fonda film, The Trip. Another review, the
Shankar-Menuhin West Meets East, was done by the Velvet
Whip's Dan Ball. This before the Whip-Kois feud, of course.
An example of the saner type of contributor -- generally those who were quickly frightened or turned off -- was Rikki Houston, a functionary for the UWM Union, who wrote about the Free University at UWM, starting its second year as "an alternative to programmed knowledge and the apathy of socially compulsive education." Local draft resistor Irv Kurki, for example (who went to Sandstone prison) taught on Conscientious Objection and the Draft, while Hiram Shaw covered Strategies for Urban Change.
Responsibility for the issue was given in the masthead to Kois, John Sahli as his assistant, Art Editor Gene Caldwell (later an editor of Wisconsin's Impact, under S. L. Poulter), News Editor George Johnson, Reitman, Madison Editor Pam Richard, [Photographer] Jim Bowers, and Friend George Richard (father of Pam).
But deliberately last in this examination is what might customarily be first: the statement of editorial aims. This is because the paper defined itself as it went along; there was no party line except within the broadest of sensibilities. The paper operated on a kind of consensus with respect for various opinions on a spectrum from anarchist to liberal.
Kois predicted the paper "will sell well, even in Milwaukee, but it'll be bought and read by more straights than freaks. The freaks are saving their bread for the Perfect Pill, which will dissolve the body and send a neon soul into the vacuum," and promised a calendar of events for the future.
Anybody could speak for the entity Kaleidoscope, as Peterson and Reitman did, without prior approval, though it required some sense of what Kois might edit out. Anything of more variance could be run, but was considered to be the opinion of the writer, perhaps to be contradicted in the same issue.
A more businesslike assessment than Kois' musings surrounding the birth of the paper wasn't to be found until more than a year later, in the first anniversary issue. It's called A Concise and Somewhat Accurate History of Kaleidoscope.
Unsigned, but it could only be by Kois. It begins with an account of the city's recent past, the 1967 riots, the candidacy of David Walther, a young and liberal lawyer, for mayor [who lost to Henry Maier], the start of the PAC, the beginnings of Summerfest, and K'scope itself, on a borrowed $250:
Nothing spectacular, perhaps. But
steady improvement in the range of writers and artist to
draw on, inauguration of the calendar (done for several
years by the never-seen Craig Kois, John's younger
brother and a Gas Co. spokesman) an expansion of
advertising in the natural market, like Roger Chapman's
[another longshoreman, later a
well-known salvage diver] new Shrunken Head on Brady
Street, the doomed Yellow Brick Road, L'Atelier
But writers left, too, as the inevitable conflicts over policy seemed to materialize -- Bonnie Berglund (later involved in Midwest Art), Dorleski Manske (then involved with [the East Side's favorite cab driver] Pooch), others. Some from lack of interest and other commitments, and over conflicts -- "apparent" in the sense that there was room for differing points of view if you stayed and wore down or sneaked around the opposition, but not if you blew up and quit in a huff or in sorrow. (A lesson I was to ignore years later in a hassle over my allegedly sexist review of a female folk singer after seeing her perform in the back of the Loser's Club, now the Y-Not II.)
The most deep-seated division was the split between the political Radicals and the alternative-culture Heads. While revolution on the one hand and dope, sex and boogying on the other are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the paper always got tagged as promoting violence if it let political interest groups legitimately analyze events from their perspective.
But the general feeling of those who did most of the editing was that these writers -- unless the name of the paper was actually invoked -- were speaking for themselves and could be judged accordingly. (Some of these long political analyses also got labeled another way: boring.)
My explanation to anybody who cared to ask about either of these views was that the paper was open to just about anybody who cared to do the work, and that it was a newspaper of individual voices, not a party organ. If it was sometimes scholarly (Manuel Gottlieb [a UWM professor], Art Heitzer), that just showed it was more than a smut sheet, after all; some readers appreciated it.
Jumping ahead, it is this aspect that always baffled me; some essentially peaceful people or at least only theoretical socialists did most of the day to day work on the paper. But frequently someone would take exception to some rhetoric that spoke favorably of smashing the state or offing the pigs, and leave. This would only make it harder for the rest of us to contend with the militants who thought we should be a showcase for their ideas (in print and in the office) alone.
Thus, at the height of the Water Tower riots and Kent State and Cambodia eruptions, we were trying to emphasize cooperatives, day care centers, non-violent resistance as practiced by Dave McReynolds and Dave Dellinger [of the Chicago 7]. But few noticed more than the Black Panther and Yippie columns.
This not to say that we were trying to discredit the revolutionaries, so called. But it was easy to sense the lack of popular support more than a few blocks from the East Side, even in the mass of summer soldiers who once trashed their own turf on Brady Street when tricked into it by police deployment in the Water Tower Park demonstrations.
At any rate, these schisms were always present, though in the beginning drugs, and sex -- and the extremes of weird humor of the new cartoonists, and the still-pervasive aura of psychedelia -- set the tone. The ultimate arbiter of what got published remained John Kois.
This power came simply from the fact that Kois -- until Linda Akin came along --was the only one who could use with any proficiency the IBM executive typewriter to justify the right-hand margins of the copy. Ordinarily, this involves typing every line twice, but Kois could eventually make the margin even by sight and mental calculation (an admirable feat). By any method, it involved a prodigious amount of typing for each issue.
The second issue
saw -- while Watt was getting into "bull
rush and cow withdrawal" and its
variations -- Morgan
Gibson's first Provincial
Anarchy column, its opposite
for rationality and relevance. His first topic
was the news from the coast that HIPPIE IS DEAD (reprinted elsewhere in
this issue) [that is, the Bugle American
counterculture issue of 1976, now restored below]:
The news of the time, though, reflected little of the withering away of taboos except as practiced in the hip community -- poetry readings, be-ins, musical events. The hard news, though anti-war and anti-draft actions hadn't nearly the intensity they had in such places as Oberlin and Madison, involved the realities of repression. [Rt: Anti-War Coverage]
If Morgan dealt in theory, outstripping our poor realities, the intellectual demands (perhaps as opposed to Barbara's human warmth) he placed on others and his own creativity as a poet, publisher, poetry editor (Arts In Society) earned him much respect. As a teacher, he was recognized with an award at UWM; as activists, the Gibsons were free with their time, their house, and their money for almost any progressive cause or simply in the name of friendship. Many friends were on the fringes of poverty, but sustenance was always to be found in the big house on Maryland Ave. and Park Place. They came here in 1961, with daughters Julia [later a Yippie herself] and Lucy. As an aftermath of the UWM strike of 1970 in which they participated, [George] Morgan was stripped of his tenure and Barbara fired. He was said to have disrupted a class, and she set off a fire alarm in the library. He left to teach at Godard College in Vermont [then to Japan], she to teach women's studies in Michigan [later moving to Olympia, WA to work as a counselor until retiring]. They divorced; she took her mother's first name to write as Barbara O'Mary, with a feminist/lesbian orientation.
The chronicles of repression, at any rate,
begin with R. Lovelace (George
Johnson) and the Indianhead, which he
founded with Tom Hanke:
So it went, in any spot where people could gather, from the Garde to the Water Tower. Though a newsman and accomplished poet, Johnson had to spend an increasing amount of time on the shop and left the post of K'scope news editor in January 1968.
Ultimately, the shop lost its lease due to organized pressure by the East Side Mothers on landlord Perry London, clearing out its stock by February 29, including hundreds of moccasins that Johnson was never able to peddle. (He was finally reduced to pulling off the soles to convert them to his own lifetime supply of bedroom slippers.)
The reasoning behind the "vicious telephone campaign by some area cranks," as I wrote then, was never clear, since the owners stated "nothing has ever been sold under the counter there, and everything on display is available at various stores on Wisconsin Avenue. This includes such things as beads, posters, bells, pipes and incense." And cigarette papers.
But the extent to which the authorities would go was shown in Johnson's obscenity bust (a felony charge) for selling the now-famous Yab-Yum (sexual lotus) poster (reprinted in this issue). All who have seen the poster would term it innocuous, with no sexual organs and indeed no sure indication of any sexual contact taking place between the parties. Ample expert testimony -- Professors John Colt and Irwin Rinder of UWM, and others -- was ultimately available to establish its artistic seriousness of intent, if not merit, and lack of pornographic qualities.
Johnson was eventually vindicated, but harassment exacts many costs. For one thing, the closing of the store meant the loss of a primary distribution point for street vendors. As the distributor (and news editor when Johnson left) this affected me as my cut of the 25� price depended on volume. Even then, when I ran my share up to $25 or $35 (over two or three weeks), money to pay me was often not there, so I took my salary in more papers to sell in bars like the Tuxedo and Hooligans.
By that time (February 1970) Gary Ballsieper [obit] had taken over distribution, and then big Fred Krause donated his efforts as longshoring would permit. Dennis Gall had made his impression on the eardrums of Milwaukee as circulation manager and champion hawker and then gadabout reporter. Gall also left and came back; the second time we both got salaries of $35 to $50 in good weeks [though I had to let Bert Stitt use my old Beetle, acquired for my previous stint as a reporter in Waukesha, as part of the deal.]
Ad Manager Bert Stitt (instrumental in starting the Bradystreet Merchants Association and the Brady Street Festivals) was expected to earn his $100 a week salary through increased advertising, a gamble on Kois' part as revenues dropped way below expenses, on a $50,000 a year or more gross income.
But the days when the paper could
afford any salaries (beyond Kois' house rent and
cheeseburgers for the staff) were far in the future from the
experimentation and expansion that marked the first year.
Reitman's (and then Jim Sorcic's) poetry layouts were
a staple, featuring local and national talent, sometimes a
profusion of names, sometimes spotlighting one writer.
There was much overlapping, naturally, in poetry with the small press, regional and academic efforts appearing then in such quantities. Some names have been mentioned here and elsewhere in this issue, such as Reitman, Sorcic, the Gibsons, Rich Mangelsdorff, Jim Hazard.
Even a partial list of those of some merit should include Harland Ristau (a high school teacher long active in poetry), Jeff Hinich (now a longshoreman and north woods pioneer), Peter Brunner, Jau Billera, Margaret Moos, Suzanne Woods, Edith Meinecke, Anonymous, Don Mercer, Cheri Burnett, Susan Spaulding, [UWM sociologist] Irwin Rinder, Myldrethe Miesel, Cynthia (Coffin) Dahlke, Chuck Bonamer, Rik Ollman, Leon Mainwright, Frances May, Charles Bukowski, Peter Wild and Doug Blazek.
And Cleveland's d.a. levy -- of course -- and Kathleen Wiegner, Jim Hart, Dianne Jarreau, Mary Wells, Joan Miller, Marcus Grapes, Pam Richard, Julie Gibson, Margaret Bowers, James Bertolino, Robert Leverant, James Wright, Douglas Flaherty, Mary Dryburgh, Jeff Winters, John Sahli, Bill Olsen (one of the Pretty Mama poets), Carl Woestendiek, Phil Perry -- and that's representative of only the first 20 issues, or from October to the first monster State Fair Issue, featuring Sex In Wisconsin.
All this poetry occasioned internal hassles, with many staffers convinced that nobody but other poets read it. Others (who, not so oddly, usually considered themselves poets) fought for it on the grounds it was a cultural obligation and that it tended to bring the community together.
It certainly didn't hurt circulation to have a dedicated group, even though small, who would do anything to get the paper every time it came out just to see if they got in. But Bev Eschenburg [who had worked with me at the Journal Library] -- for one -- hated it, and the conflict was never resolved, though poetry was played down with the passing of time [especially once she became Kois' girlfriend].
Another striking feature of those days was an editorial cartoonist who could contribute a panel on almost any topic we hit on -- from censorship to venality to religious hypocrisy -- even though he had been dead for a great many years. Sahli could pull an appropriate drawing by Heinrich Kley out of an old book at will.
By the third issue, several improvements could be noted. The paper went to two sections. Local and hard news were in one part and features, national cultural news, material by "names," Liberation News Service (LNS) and Underground Press Syndicate (UPS) reprints from sources we exchanged with, not tied to local events, were in the other. This division worked successfully, and was utilized especially when K'scope set up in Madison, Omaha, Fox River Valley and even Chicago as branches. The local news was used with Part II for features; Part II was also sold outright as a supplement for other underground operations. All of which -- like Interabang Bookstore and the Granfalloon [coffeehouse] -- showed Kois' talent for building pyramids on quicksand.
The cover, generally an important part of the visual package, to the extent that it was often completely irrelevant to the contents but enjoyable in itself, for the first time had an index of sorts, a clue to what to expect. Teasers cut the artistic impact, though, and were often sacrificed for that reason, perhaps to the detriment of sales.
(Some covers, like Rick Wetzel's series, were slickly professional in that they seemed commissioned -- as indeed they were, in meetings at the Five & Ten Tap, though no money was involved -- for the occasion, reflecting a theme. Wetzel's portraits of Martin Luther King -- appearing right after his assassination -- Mayor Maier in Confederate garb, and Lyndon B. Johnson subtly transformed into Hitler's visage, show his ability to capture what was needed.
(Other covers, like [recent County Board Candidate] Mark Goff's montage of Randy Anderson's face rising like an apparition over the firebombed A&P were fortuitous creations, the kind a photographer could sometimes come up with almost as a special blessing, though this was exceptional in effect. And then there were the desperate, last-minute searches for anything usable that produced some abominations best forgotten.)
The third issue, with the index, had
another previously untried aspect that was to work many
It was the first "theme" issue, in this case a special marijuana issue, containing the first realistic appraisals of grass and its effects and the legal and social implications of its use and unwisely prohibited status.
It was simply straightforward, the kind of information that one likes to think is at least beginning to pay off in enlightened legislation after all these years. Certainly it marked a beginning of a long, slow turnaround. [Well, maybe not.]
A nice, anti-hysterical note that spoke to the uninitiated, and older, crowd in a way that no attitudinizing hipster could was the Confessions of a Middle-Aged Pot Smoker. It was unsigned, not from a lack of courage but so as not to prejudice the reader, who may have had an opinion of the woman from her other visible activities.
But though Margot Longgreen (of the East Side's well-known Longgreen sisters) dismissed it at Barney's with: "Who wants to read about Barbara Gibson's sex life?" it was the first and one of the most reprinted UPS pieces, picked up by such as the Berkeley Barb. [Right]
The next several issues saw an expansion of coverage of movement- related events as a simultaneous intensification in hip cultural phenomenon occurred. Who could doubt that sympathetic exposure to an interested community spread the word and conferred a needed recognition of existence in the minds of the participants?
There were such things as the anti-Dow demonstration, the first major draft board picketing (powered by Madisonian know-how); the Indianhead and Yellow Brick Road hassles; visits to bookstores and even skin-mag outlets [which carried the paper] by the vice squad with not-so-veiled hints; harassments of students for merely having or sometimes selling K'scope.
Culturally, there was a poetry reading
by [UWM Professor] Jim Hazard [then] of Oshkosh,
a performance by Jim Liban's New Blues (later A.
B. Skhy) reviewed, Kois' Leads and Changes column of record-land
tidbits and musical reviews and miscellany well-launched,
narcs identified by name and sketch, and a visit by Paul Goodman whom I cornered for some
comments on the underground press at (where else?)
In retrospect, I realize I had what could be called an exclusive here, and in fact these remarks by one of the handful of truly monumental men of letters this nation has produced were reprinted in UPS papers. But I took the following very casually at the time, though it conveys his major quality of speaking directly to whatever was asked of him without pretension, and always in a graspable context:
That Kaleidoscope was reaching a wide audience was shown in the same issue (No. 5, with Jim Barker as Santa Claus on Jim Middleton's cover), which recounted the confessions of a chemist-turned-snoop and his electronic bugging (or buggery). The man dropped into the office after being sickened by his eavesdropping to warn how easily available the technology was, to be used by divorce lawyers (bed-bugging), car salesmen, industrial competitors, voyeurs (audeurs?) and the authorities.
But even if detractors didn't notice contributors' capabilities that went unrewarded as each issue was labored over, some solid achievements were made in the nature of information much neglected by the straight press until the bandwagon of fashionability began rolling by.
Perhaps the first was information on VD, in all its forms. As with many of these public service topics, we attracted persons skilled in research, though the ability to report news was a skill not found as often.
So we offered a survey/essay on what was sadly unmentioned in the daily press. In this case, local film-maker Earl Bodien first broached the subject of cause, treatment and perpetuation of venereal diseases.
Similar in genesis was the first comprehensive birth control feature, by Linda Akin [who later reported for the Bugle-American in Madison] writing under the name of Kristel Higrass. Old hat, or old diaphragm, you may say now.
Then 28 and divorcing from my wife, Susan Shippee [see G.
Johnson photo, below], we had been married a
year after living together two years or so as students,
beginning when she was 18. Yet our knowledge of contraception
had been based on Ladies Home Journal ads
for Norforms and teen-age lore (on my part) concerning
rubbers. Then a chance remark by Brenda Ford
[who at one time had dated Milwaukeean singer Al
Jarreau], manager of 1833 N. Prospect,
[a famous party building] where we lived, led us to
Emko foam. Only word of mouth about a liberal doctor
who would prescribe the new Pill to the
unmarried saved us from ignorance and
If all this is unexceptional today, when the UWM Post carries vibrator ads, it wasn't then.
A third and related area to be
first explored this way, by Jim Gibbons, and then,
when court decisions made it a legal right, by Beverly
Eschenburg, was abortion. The intermediate battle was
covered in Kaleidoscope, with an understanding seldom
found in the daily press. When abortions became legal out of
state, Eschenburg became a part of the supportive
network that offered counseling, reached through calling the
paper or numbers published each issue. [The staff was
not untouched by her efforts; my own girlfriend of several
years, the late Priscilla Vettel -- daughter of a
conservative Wauwatosa insurance executive -- had to
travel to New York for her abortion the first year of
Long before the birth control feature, Akin had grown in importance on the staff, from general office-helper and cake-baker to be titled such things as coordinator and dragonlady -- but never assistant editor, which was what she was. A competent writer, though not a journalistically trained one, she could learn to do almost anything, from taking over justifying duties to handling billings and supervising subscriptions.
As in any operation depending on volunteers -- who were often maladjusted to the straight world, which was still no sign that one could get along with other misfits -- there were always personalities in conflict. Coupled with financial problems -- most sources of support that individuals could get by on dried up eventually -- this forced people to move on.
Akin was one of those, but she stayed a long time. Only Gall (at least in my quick analysis) was more important to the fortunes of the paper, excepting Kois himself, after John Sahli had to quit. Akin was instrumental in my favorite early issue, one that demonstrated-- the kind of expose a good underground could get into, given the resources and some luck.
It was No. 9 that pictured (thanks to George Lottermoser's ingenuity) DA Hugh O'Connell on the cover, his features replacing those of a jack (knave) of diamonds. He is holding a bottle of bourbon in one hand and a mortgage in the other.
All were references to the web of O'Connell's affairs and his connections with a Judge Steffes and shady financier Harry Kaminsky in a tangle of corruption, favoritism and dereliction of duty. This was compounded by O'Connell's personal drinking habits -- very inappropriate for one campaigning for circuit court on an anti-drug stance in anti-K'scope public appearances. The details might as well be left forgotten, since the Journal saw fit to investigate them, with the benefit of our documentation, and do nothing. O'Connell, of course, won handily against Dominic Frinzi [now president of the Italian Community Center], the kind of opposition against whom it is easy to win.
The research that made the story possible was in large part Akin's, representing long hours at the register of deeds and with public library Journal files (these clippings subsequently disappeared). I remembered earlier cases in which O'Connell's office had "lost" files and declined prosecution in connection with forged mortgages, and had filed away related stories while working in the Journal library. So we had a solid story and began going to O'Connell's public campaign talks to confront him. He soon stopped attending these talks, sending flunky Asst. DA Cannon instead.
At any rate, I suppose that issue was the high point of the first year for me, showing what could be done with some digging (and inside information from anti-O'Connell sources in the Courthouse).
Certainly the period saw Gall's development as a reporter, though he had started by building circulation while his wife Donna (now Pogliano) [since divorced again] was the more involved, helping with layout and covering some demonstrations and [East Siders'] Town Hall meetings at the First Baptist Church, guided by the gently electric Don King, pastor.
A UWM graduate with a degree in history [and now a public defender], Gall improved steadily as a writer through sheer output, at times covering virtually every significant event and turning out the immensely popular Funny Judge column on Christ T. Seraphim at the same time. Many of Christ's transgressions, if suitably outrageous, and properly witnessed, were reported in the straight press, such as the time he had a bailiff cut off a crippled, longhaired vet's insignia in a courtroom.
Gall had the advantage of writing about the hundreds of little insults and injustices that could be witnessed in the courtroom by observing for hours. Then there were the personal insights that straight reporters traditionally ignore since a gentlemen's agreement operates to keep press-judiciary relationships mutually accommodating.
One of the personal items:
[And of course he was finally removed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and then defeated when running for re-election.]
Many of the legal hassles the paper
encountered at the time involved Gall and his efforts
to sell it freely as the Constitution intended. The
battles were many, with the result that the paper could be
sold anywhere but private property when the owner objected.
Requirements for permits were invalid, except in one
setback, in which the Industrial Commission could not
be forced to issue permits to sellers under age 18.
But the major controversy took more than four years and an appeal to the US Supreme Court to resolve. This, unfortunately, was longer than the life of the paper.
The issue, as we
saw it, was whether K'scope was a legitimate
newspaper entitled to the protection of the First
Amendment, by which standard any alleged obscenity
or nudity would have to be judged according to the Roth
decision, by considering the paper as a whole. Wisconsin
saw it differently, as the condensed history
presented in the unanimous
June 26, 1972 decision
The Court then rejected the contention that the article was merely an excuse to print the pictures, noting that "A quotation from Voltaire in the flyleaf of a book will not constitutionally redeem an otherwise obscene publication." The photos, however, "in the context in which they appeared in the newspaper (shows) they were rationally related to the article which itself was clearly entitled to the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment . . . The conviction on count one must therefore be reversed." As for the second count:
In a separate
concurring opinion, Justice William O. Douglas
Though the later issues of K'scope contained some very explicit material, notably photographs and drawings of penises and sexual activity (largely homosexual) that would surely have been prosecuted without Judge Reynold's restraining order, and which could now be considered protected, the fight is far from over.
It is precisely the Roth standards that a self-respecting press will have to fight; that is, that there is a form of speech and expression that is not protected because it is obscene. This is a notion that should be as repulsive to adults as it was when the Milwaukee Motion Picture Commission under Valentine Wells dictated what could be seen in theaters and Assistant Milwaukee DA Richard Surges tried to suppress The Tropic of Cancer in 1961.
As important as this attempt at
censorship was, the circumstances that thrust K'scope into
the national consciousness, from the Los Angeles Times
to LIFE magazine, involve not intimidations of its
editors or sellers, nor its publisher, but its printer in Port
It was there that the man usually described as "wealthy Grafton industrialist" Benjamin Grob instituted a boycott among advertisers in the three weekly newspapers published by Port Publications, Inc., in June 1969. Grob said he was "smut peddling," according to The Milwaukee Journal.
This despite the fact, widely publicized by owner William F. Schanen Jr. and area media, that Port Publications was merely the paper's printer, with no control over the content. Schanen noted that he "could not censor the interchange of ideas just because they might contain four letter words."
He pointed out in an interview in the Journal that to stop printing K'scope "would have been a denial of my right to print what I want to print. That would be taking away my right as a printer."
The boycott of Schanen's newspapers was crushing, with a revenue loss of up to 90%, forcing a cutback to one paper, the Ozaukee Press. He sadly remarked during the course of the boycott that only 2% of the weekly papers in Wisconsin supported him. And at the same time, some industrial leaders were pressuring others to block job printing orders as well as advertising in his weeklies.
It is to Schanen's everlasting credit that right until his untimely death at 57 from a heart attack [attributed to the boycott and its attendant stress by his daughter Micca] he continued to print K'scope, an act continued by his son, William Schanen III [though I came to suspect, after working as the only news reporter at his paper after leaving Kaleidoscope myself, that he would gladly have been rid of the honor of crusading for his rights, concentrating instead on carefree yachting on Lake Michigan as the publisher, also, of Sailing magazine, while enjoying the respect of the community, if only his father hadn't saddled him with a burden that left him little choice.]
After the first year of the boycott, the elder Schanen had to recognize that he had switched from "newsman to printing executive," as Alex Dobish reported in the Journal. With publicity for his stance, Schanen was taking up much of the slack through job printing orders from many sources. Ironically, though once the printer of the American Legion's magazine, Schanen began receiving contracts for a wide variety of underground and movement publications that lacked a sympathetic printer closer to home, and subscriptions from all over the world with the aid of publicity from [Waukesha resident] Marty Christianson's Committee for a Free Press in Wisconsin. [She was later hired herself, before my tenure there, as a reporter by Schanen, who described her her as "fearless," if not much of a journalist].
Before and after his death Schanen was recognized for his dedication to a free press -- and he was doubly harassed for being a liberal voice in a conservative community since founding Wisconsin's [& the country's] first photo-offset paper in 1940 -- through a variety of awards and tributes.
Among these are the 1970 Elijah Lovejoy Award for courage in journalism and Wisconsin Newsman of the Year in 1971. This no doubt encouraged Schanen's son to continue in the tradition of his father after taking over, though the hard line he took on not extending credit to Gall for printing bills was the immediate cause of the paper's death.
Indications in August 1971, seven months after Schanen's death, were that the perseverance of the family in defying Grob (including suits and counter-suits for libel totaling $5 million) was paying off, with local merchants and banks again advertising and circulation slowly rising.
But even the worst period (gross revenues declining from $4,000 to $700 a week) brought a wide response of moral support in national media and financial help in contributions and subscriptions for the printer.
But if the legal hassles for Kaleidoscope
-- the ones mentioned plus those involving the paper's right
to be sold at the State Fair, county parks, Summerfest
and in municipalities like Waukesha, Watertown,
and others -- and the boycott were major challenges to the
paper's existence, its day-to-day problems continued as
The paper floated unpublicized around the East Side, locating for a time at a lower flat on Franklin Place. One night I was visiting, while Reitman, then at WTOS, played Kois' favorite song at the time, in which the Beatles asked, '"Why don't we do it in the road?"
Almost immediately we walked out in time to see Kois' red Simca in the road go up in flames while another car sped away. [And bullet holes had earlier appeared in his front door, when we still published from his house. But then, even the relatively uncontroversial Bugle-American editor's house was later burned out -- killing one dog -- presumably by arson].
Eventually the Oakland House, as it was known, became office and living quarters for a small staff, in one of the coldest and least encouraging winters imaginable [in contrast to 1967, which had been very mild, making it easy to deliver my bundles of papers and vendors to operate on street corners]. Jim Sorcic -- some times known as Jim the House -- conducted for a time a column called Second Floor, that captured the flavor of existence in that period. As one column put it:
With that, Sorcic promised to interview each staff member in a following column, though this was actually only done with Religion Editor and cavy freak, Sister Janis. Previously with Bruce Publishing Co., she stayed with the paper for a long time, starting as a typist but eventually writing news. A high point of her career was being named "Miss Fairy Marijuana" by the staff at the State Fair, joining without invitation (but very picturesquely) in a fairground parade. There, the vendors were helping circulation hit a record total of 25,000.
The news of the period, with the first rumblings at Water Tower Park beginning with warm weather, was moving away from the early petty harassments and self-help research pieces to some larger concerns: the preparations for and then the ugly realities of the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968 and the YIP [Youth International Party] counter-program, which was by no means blindly endorsed by us, inasmuch as Kois rightly predicted a bloodbath. And the extensive coverage of the Milwaukee14's draft-record bonfire and trial, the founding and tactics of the local White Panther [a radical white group modeled after the Black Panthers, though sometimes mistaken for their racist adversaries] and YIP factions, and the cover that featured the Tac Squad's infamous Sgt. Frank Miller on a wanted poster. Sgt. Miller was ultimately removed from that post, though not before the K'scope benefit at the Bastille on S. Howell Ave. was raided by his men, with disorderly conduct charges for Kois and others resulting [such as Akin for carrying pepper spray in her purse].
Before moving in the winter of 1969
to more business-like quarters and temporarily better
fortunes, new ground was broken with the Nov. 7 issue,
Liberation Special. It
was edited by Eschenburg with assistance from Jennie Orvino, and sold out within three days. (See related story on the women's movement.)
Other special sections on women were forthcoming, with the women on the paper forming a powerful faction.
While this period was financially lean, and I heard the tale of Eschenburg doing layout wearing mittens until Gall expropriated the last $40 from Kois for fuel oil, sales and ad revenue picked up. The paper finally surfaced in quarters on Brady Street, above the A & P store [now Ace Hardware].
There was also whimsy then in the special trucking-hat issue [which could be folded and worn], as there had been in UWM Professor Justin Replogle's spoofing letter to the editor about the Oral Freedom League in the wake of the paper's own hoax that had reported on a non-existent Sexual Freedom League and its naked dawn meetings in Lake Park.
But in 1970, a time of serious conflict, of solidarity and turmoil, began.
With the second anniversary issue (that is, No. 52, actually 28 months into its life), K'scope again broke new ground with a gay liberation supplement on Feb. 13. A highlight of the issue was Journal cartoonist Bill [Doc] Sanders' specially-commissioned caricatures [at $1 each] of Judge Seraphim, Ben Grob, Chief Breier and DA Cannon, for which Sanders received two weeks suspension without pay from the Journal.
The issue marked the emergence of gay consciousness (mostly male) as a factor to be treated seriously in the underground press, a stand that was not retreated from, though it probably alienated more readers than it appealed to.
Not long after this I was able to move in above the office on Brady Street and take up news editing (a job nobody else wanted) and reporting again, along with Gall, who had left over personal conflicts, then was taken back by staff vote.
At this time the staff was mostly preoccupied with a tedious, top secret project. This turned out to be typing the name and address of every member of the Milwaukee Police Department, a list that became part of the special police issue of March 20. Phone numbers taken from the book were included.
It was an act for which the L. A. Free Press (in their case, using the state narcotics bureau roster) was hit with criminal charges of receiving stolen property (the list itself) and a multi-million dollar invasion of privacy suit. Publisher Art Kunkin wound up facing a judgment of some $15,000, and the death of his newspaper, at least in spirit.
But though there were demands for investigations into how we got the list and wild claims that police and their families were being harassed at home with phone calls, no action was taken. We did not, in fact, urge any harassment, though since duty assignments were given, it would not be surprising if vice squad officers were hampered in their entrapping activities in drug and sex activities, which we of course did not regret.
The paper quickly
sold out the first printing of 10,000 and went to a
second printing. Ironically, the best customers were
city officials -- the city attorney's office, for
example, used it for preparing court
A well-known local dealer turned informer also provided me with an extensive interview for the issue, exposing "the sick, corrupting and plainly ineffective methods used by cops to give the appearance of dealing with the so-called drug problems."
In appearance, the paper was more formal in style, a bold black and white throwback to days of tabloid headline wars, and an effective eye-catcher. This was not always the case, since there were remarkably few persons with journalistic training available -- Kois literally hadn't known the difference between a masthead and a logo -- and so reinvented journalism terminology and practices to fit the homemade photo-offset process. Headlines were often obscure or meaningless, seldom functional.
By this time Geoff Wietor had begun the "three dot journalism" column, Weeds, looking . . . like . . . this, to capsulize some of the enormous amounts of information we were getting through the UPS exchange papers. It was a mountain of tidbits that he hated to do -- preferring to write poetry, which was sometimes printed -- but a unique service. He also took over the calendar.
Despite repeated inquiries, "legitimate" distributors like Milwaukee News wouldn't touch the paper. The largest factor, I feel, in achieving a circulation of 50,000 or so would have been to put it in every supermarket and drugstore like the National Enquirer. Relatively few people would make the trip downtown to buy K'scope at Schroeder's or Schwartz's bookstore, but it could have captured readership with wide exposure. This always proved impossible, while street sellers -- when they turned out at all -- consistently ripped off the paper for $8,000 or more a year.
Excellent photographic work, always a strong point, was coming at this point from Mark Goff [now a PR guy and political consultant] and Marc Ponto. Goff [who defected to the Bugle] could also be counted on for good copy, as with his firsthand accounts of the alternate media conference in Vermont, and the Woodstock festival.
The summer of 1970 brought the
media conference, specifically press, to a farm [owned by
the late Ogre] in Mequon. It was patrolled by
freaks with radios and shotguns at the perimeters, while
everybody from Art Kunkin to UPS founder Tom
Forcade to collectives from LNS, Great
Speckled Bird in Atlanta and others to representatives
of Kudzu, San Diego Door and a miscellany from
everywhere mingled and conferred and partied. The results
were inconclusive [though it's lucky we weren't raided and
killed by the local law].
In May, the Warren Street block party was a success, setting a precedent for the Brady Street Festivals to follow, but at UWM and Nicolet High School and around the country schools and colleges were erupting in the strikes that followed [the] Cambodia [bombing] and Kent State [shooting of four student protestors]. The kind of movement news that the alternate press could cover in detail was cramming the paper and a sense of activism caused the staff to swell and sometimes get into the excitement as participants.
The rages of the day were kept going through the hot nights as the Water Tower Park conflict ignited [over the right to gather at the fountain, especially by the under-21 crowd, after 10 p.m. to socialize and play acoustic music], the shooting of Randy Anderson marking a temporary plateau at a peak of hostility.
The final phase
of underground journalism was well under way.
In this we followed the strategy outlined in the East Village Other, before calling for the ghettoization of the East Side as Tom Hayden suggested in Ramparts. YIP and the White Panthers sprang up after they got publicity without even existing. But we knew they would exist.
By the summer of 1970 it all had a life of its own, which couldn't be just ignored by mainstream journalism or merely patronized by more interpretations of the hip lifestyle.
But as I mentioned, many of us on the staff tried to tone down the rhetoric, and much that was public service and in the nature of peaceful cooperation was printed. East Side Community Center and East Side Projects, the Food Co-op [once of Kane Pl., now Outpost Natural Foods on Capitol Drive], switchboards and clinics, useful phone numbers and a community bulletin board: all were given exposure.
The multiple facets of the paper allowed movie reviews by Art Oster [a Sentinel copy boy] and Bob Adams to survive along with articles with the wildest rhetoric. Art spreads by Dennis Brulc -- harking back to the days of Art Editor Harry Titus -- and tasty layout by Duane Unkefer co-existed with the trashiest jumbles.
One could speculate that the balance was tipped when Gall decided, as he told me, that he believed the revolution was really coming. Though not a captive, certainly, of Jim Albers and Pat Small of YIP, his writing at its worst resembled that which they put in the new Street Sheet. Eventually Street Sheet segments were a feature of the paper, but who could tell the difference?
The hard news was there, and deserved
sympathetic coverage: the Math Research Center bombing
in Madison, Madison K'scope Editor Mark Knop's
jailing for contempt after refusing to tell what he knew
about the bomber's statement, which both papers published,
the Indian resurgence of cultural identity with Gall
becoming the Indian specialist.
But reorganization and radicals who thought we should parrot a party line -- not sometimes but continuously throughout an issue -- made coping difficult. My approach would have been to quote YIP and other leaders generously, and let support for their policies catch up with their platform. But all the sloganeering was deadly.
The reorganization was a move by Kois -- perhaps out of weariness, perhaps out of sincere conviction that a new society was building in this direction -- to open up the paper to all elements.
The staff was collectivized, titles replaced with groups: shit-workers, writers, graphics, photos, women, advertising and business. Bylines were moved to the end of the story to de-emphasize ego as well.
structure, women -- including by this time Anne
Turim, Linda Knutsen and [my girlfriend and
housemate of several years, now dead of brain cancer] Priscilla
Vettel -- had a double voice, by virtue of
having a role in graphics or writing or whatever and by
being in the women's group [men, of course, did not
have a group].
This consciousness led to the final fights about sexism: a huge meeting debating whether we should distribute the erotic Avant Garde magazine, [and accept their ads] at a showdown vote on the flat roof of the apartment building overlooking Brady Street, and sex solicitation ads in general. No one claimed to favor sexist ads, of course; the dispute was whether eroticism was inherently sexist, as it was usually practiced, and whether denying the personal ads (some admittedly sick) amounted to suppression of free speech.
The vote did not split along gender lines, but the Avant Garde sex ads were banished. Copy and all advertising were expected to meet the new standards. [Tobacco ads were unacceptable, though the move to ban alcohol ads was squelched; I personally praised beer as a gift to be treasured.]
Of course, this
brought a loss in revenue, though how much is only a
guess, at a time when staff and office expenses were
huge. More important, local and national advertisers
were pulling out with the escalation in destructo
thinking. National record ads, sometimes a lucrative
source of cash, found the FM market a less
But K'scope remained vital, achieving weekly status by September 1970. And though the old-timers were running low on energy, the new street people like Julie Gibson and Dave Friedman, Albers and Small and Paul Yippie (finally revealed as Dana Beal, revolutionary from New York when captured on a grass charge in Madison) were willing workers.
And a sort of second wave in papers was underway, with Lalo Valdez getting La Guardia going for the Spanish-speaking community, using our facilities, and the Catholic Radical people and YAWF [Youth Against War & Fascism] doing the same. In Madison about this time the Bugle American [which lasted until 1978] was conceived by [the late] Dave Schreiner, Ed Goodman, former UWM Post Editor Mike Jacobi and cartoonist Denis Kitchen, who eventually had a terrifying encounter with the feminists of K'scope over his fondness for drawing huge breasts when it later moved to Milwaukee].
My favorite memory of the late middle period was playing Mr. Inside to Gall's Mr. Outside at the violent Spiro Agnew welcome demonstration Downtown at the Auditorium [which I infiltrated wearing a sport coat and ID badge obtained from WOKY's Bob Sherwood], that closely followed Gall's exhaustive coverage (more detailed than anything the Journal could do) of the Milwaukee Two (down from Three) trial.
And though the Three were hampered as a journalistic cause by virtue of their unfortunately guilty state -- it seems they did shoot a cop from their moving car -- Randy Anderson was a different matter.
This time the straight press showed its willingness to participate in a whitewash of a murder, while K'scope eclipsed them journalistically and humanistically in its efforts to keep the facts from being glossed over. Anyone reading Gall's analysis would surely have realized the police informant was one of the participants himself, Gary Schmidt [and that the cops, having been tipped off, waited and ambushed Anderson instead of stopping the fire-bombing of the A & P Store, then the target of criticism by Black activists for jacked-up prices in the inner city and discriminatory hiring and promoting practices].
We stopped pressing the issue only
after Ed McManus of the ACLU said the family
was going to file suit on the grounds that Anderson's rights
had been violated, and they needed no more publicity for a
while. [Ultimately, nothing came of this effort.]
Summerfest was confronted in an effort to bring action on the creation of the Alternate Site -- or Czolgoscz Park, as some anti-imperialist activists proposed, for President McKinley's assassin [at the Lakefront, for music] -- while local bombings were first revealed on our pages, as were many women's actions -- from trashings of sexist billboards to an invasion of the Journal offices.
My own involvement, except for a freelance article near the end, ended with a review of the id & eggo folk-haven at the Loser's Club. I wrote favorably of the physical appearance of a Kathy Leibsch, this was attacked as sexist by Janis Wisniewski (who said she wouldn't type it), and the battle was on.
Though some of the women approved what I contended was an educational approach to de-emphasizing looks as superficial while recognizing that performers traded on this appeal and therefore could be reviewed this way, the men wouldn't add their support.
It was seriously argued that in the new society, all makeup, deodorants and such would be gone, along with hair curling and such practices, and that we had to set the example. Gall and Kois remained mute.
So I quit -- being broke again, anyway -- and went to work for Schanen in Port Washington [he eventually fired me for my erratic work habits; I would write all night, sometimes sleeping on an office table, before driving home to West Milwaukee the day we would go to press]. But I at least had access to every issue, a privilege ironically denied by Schanen to his printing shop workers, and stayed in touch.
By the time Kois, then 30 years old [and estranged from his wife, Mary,] had left, the paper was very thin, and Gall was forced to restructure things for a final thrust. He bought the assets of the paper for $1 in May of 1971, leaving Kois to try to salvage the Interabang bookstore [on Warren Ave. south of Brady St.] and the Granfalloon while carrying some $8,000 of debt. Gall assumed about $7,000 in obligations.
The staff was merely listed as an aggregate, and included Robin Lakes, Dave Novick who wrote, as always, professional copy, as well as the Leads & Changes column on the music scene begun by Kois, Karen Anderson (UWM deejay), Rick King and Rosalind Cich.
The ultimate downfall was money. When the printer [Schanen] cut off further credit, Gall was out of ideas. All the liberal sources had been tapped and the paper was $15,000 in debt.
The paper had 42 creditors, including six lawyers, when Gall filed for bankruptcy. Lawyers, primarily [the late] William Coffey, Robert Friebert and James Shellow, had been instrumental in keeping the paper alive through courtroom battles, as had the ACLU, and they had gone further as guarantors for most of a $3,588 bank loan.
Ed McManus of the ACLU and Bob Sherwood, then a WTMJ newsman, were also co-signers for the notes. The attorneys were Harry Peck, Curry First, Timothy Casgar, Jack Porter, Robert Goldstein and Sander Karp.
But as Gall said at the time, "I'm tired of begging." It was too late to redefine the paper, freeing it of the factionalism as he had wanted, and as John Kois had wanted before him.
[Kaleidoscope's successor, journalistically and culturally, is the long-established Shepherd Express. For one writer's overview
of Milwaukee's underground scene and K'scope's place
in it & bohemianism in general, try Brian Marks' somewhat
dismissive history here. A general account is in Wikipedia. The
Shepherd, uncontroversial though it may be in today's climate -- though certainly exhibiting the freedoms available to the alternative press -- would not exist except for K'scope's perilous groundbreaking.]
It was four years on the calendar from the date of the first issue when the final Kaleidoscope of Oct. 7, 1971 came out. It was an impressive length of time in the history of the alternative culture, a history that left its imprint. Not finding in the conventional journalism of the community an institution to be trusted or to be responsive to its needs, a culture found its own voice and created its own record in every underground newspaper -- colorful, bold, radical, contradictory, erotic, liberal, confused, idealistic -- but above all, committed.
That commitment, that dedication, was to a struggle rarely felt in this century by the established press: to exercise truly the freedom of unpopular speech and expression, the right of a free press, the right to exist.
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