Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 19, 1974 · Page 59
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 59

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 19, 1974
Page 59
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Page 59 article text (OCR)

San led City By Colin Smith (c) The Observer, London SAN FRANCISCO - It is as if this city were the victim of a joint script by Woody Allen and the Marquis de Sade. a horror cocktail of the bizarre and the sadistically insane. Black separatists calling themselves Death Angels shoot whites in the streets, pushing the story of the millionaire's daughter taken along on a bank raid by her kidnapers on to the inside pages of her father's afternoon newspaper. The police department, very embarrassed, say they d i d n ' t code name the Death Angels "Zebra" for the black and white reasons everybody thought they did, but because it happened to be the only spare code on their radio waveband. It could have been worse: Most police forces use the international phonetic alphabet with "Z" as in Zulu. i The mayor, who happens to be running for state governor, is contacted by somebody close to the Death Angels who says he'll talk to no one but him and proceeds to link the 12 San Francisco killings with 59 other "motiveless" murders throughout the state of California since 1971. AT THE FIRST intimation of all this horror (made at a press conference to announce the winning design for a cable car medallion) the mayor says that, as candidate for governor, he knows people are going to read politics into everything he does, but he couldn't care less. He happens to be Joe Alioto, the chief executive of this city, not the archibishop of Canterbury. Undeterred, a, Los Angeles detective chief later accuses the mayor of making "political hay" out of the killings, while at the press conference the editor of a Socialist underground newspaper asks the chief executive if he realizes that Zebra is all a CIA plot. He hands out pamphlets stating "CIA put stripes on Alioto," and is then shown the door by the Mayor's bodyguards. The afternoon newspaper reports the outbreak of a gang war in Chinatown, where an assassin is described as about 15 years old. Ronald Reagan, the incumbent governor of California, says that he hopes the poor people who carried away steaks in the original $2 million Hearst food handout demanded by the Symbionese Liberation Army get food poisoning. A black man who broke into the home of a young white · couple, battered the bound husband to death, raped his wife for three hours and then set fire to the house, whispered to the surviving victim that he was Zebra (this was before anybody had heard about the Death Angels): Police said he wasn't. A detective is suspended for shooting a 12-year-old black child allegedly caught breaking into the policeman's girl friend's car. Two of the getaway vehicles the SLA used in their bank robbery are discovered nine days later, after their registration numbers have been widely circulated, in the underground car park beneath my hotel. The police insist that they checked the car park on bank raid day and they weren't there then; the FBI maintains a diplomatic silence. The SLA's operations are credited commando-like precision; yet one customer of the robbed bank told me that before the raid began he accidentally allowed the door to slam back on one of the girls and then watched with dawning horror as she scrambled on the pavement for dropped carbine magazines and loose bullets in a most unsoldierly fashion. A FEDERAL judge declares that random police checks on all blacks answering the description of two "Zebra" killers given by wounded survivors -- apparently one suspect has a moustache and one hasn't -are unconstitutional. What really upset the black community was the introduction of a police 'pass card' by which yo .ig mustached or unmustached blacks could show that they had already passed jrutiny. Some of the police patrols were holding blacks on charges completely unconnected with the race killings including unpaid traffic tickets. This inspired one black newspaper to editorialize, "Cash in your p a r k i n g ticket and collect your Zebra checks." Then seven Black Muslims are arrested for Zebra killings, four of whom are released within 24 hours for lack of evidence. The mayor, who used to be a prosecuting attorney, says they still have a right to their suspicions and somehow manages to work in the archbishop of Canterbury again. Sensitive to accusations of racism . a b o u t the randolVpolice checks he re- minds the electorate that the black community as a whole has a most lawabiding reputation and that Manson and the Nob Hill rapist were white. He also says that his own ethnic community has given American society a black eye from time to time; one sensed a certain gratitude for godfathers. Meanwhile, the FBI are getting closer to the SLA. A flat where the revolutionaries and their famous convert have been in hiding since the bank robbery is discovered six days after they moved out. It is about four blocks away from the underground car park where their getaway vehicles were abandoned, and first came to the attention of other tenants in the building when a brigade of underfed cockroaches slid out from under the door. A black shopkeeper in the area says she thinks she remembers serving Patty Hearst, but she couldn't be sure since all these white folks look the same to her. The SLA dumped most of what they couldn't take with them into a bath full of cyanide solution. They also left some grafitti including a poem about loading their guns with magazines of dreams. The Downtown Residents' Assn., prominent citizens all, complains that the number of crime films being shot in the city is giving the place a bad name. ·»· AS CITIES GO, it is small, with a declining population of 715,000 losing out to the magnetic tinsel of Los Angeles, 200 miles to the South. After its greedy goldrush beginnings, it developed a cultured tolerant reputation, perhaps the most European city in the United States. Cab drivers have been known to hold the door for you. Tall, three-story wooden houses called Victorians cluster around the encroaching skyscrapers. Even the shock of f i n d i n g the Golden Gate Bridge painted a dusty industrial orange doesn't spoil the view of the bay. The Haight-Ashbury hippie scene is as dead as a pressed flower and on the Berkeley campus the militancy which spawned the SLA died for most students with the draft. People's Park, where police fought the Vietnam War's home front against the children of the middle class, is now known as people's parking lot. But traces of the beat generation, born a decade before flower power, remain. The sound of bongo drums can be heard on Fisherman's Wharf where tourists take boats to Alcatraz Prison Museum to shudder for 30 seconds in darkened isolation cells where tough men once spent 30 days. A young man in a top hat plays jazz on a piano wedged into the back of a parked pickup truck ensloganed, "Help put this boy through music school." Sandwiched among the neon topless palaces on North Beach there are still heavy drinking spots where serious poetry readings take place and age-struck beatniks fight one another for obscure reasons. A black man noticeable for pink plastic hair curlers and sequinned slippers eyes my pinstriped suit and says "cool." At the City Lights Book Store and Publishing Co., where Kerouac and Ginsberg first went into print, their new star is a middle-aged local author called Charles Bukowski, who generally tries to do for alcoholic sex what Hemingway did for the blood sports. He has just brought out a collection of short stories called, "Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness." »· I FOUND Patty Hearst's fiance, Steven! Weed, the world's most publicly jilted lover if the SLA are to be believed, asleep on a couch at 10 o'clock one morning at the flat of an old college friend near Fisherman's Wharf. They had dismantled the telephone because he wanted to have a rest from the press (the Italians had been particularly persistent), but he bowed gracefully to a fair cop. Only when my companion, a BBC radio reporter, produced a strange, thin, stainless-steel directional microphone that looked as if it might be something to do with advanced surgery, was there a moment's doubt. "I've never had anything like that pointed at me,' said Weed. Black cotiee was served in mugs bearing the crest of Princeton University, their alma mater. His friend nervously watered the potted plants together with a Joan Baez LP lying on the coffee table. H;Vv fiancee -- they formally announced their engagement last December -- was dragged screaming out of the Berkeley apartment they shared shortly after dinner on Feb. 4. He was clubbed over the back of the head four times with a full bottle of red wine, the wound bled for three days and he spent a week in hospital. At one point, as he lay on his stomach with his hands bound behind him, the girl who appeared to be leading the kidnap said he was too dangerous a witness to leave alive. "I got up and started to run around the flat screaming. I thought that if I shouted for help or something they'd shoot me, so I pretended to be right off my head." Out of the hospital, the ordeal was far from over. The FBI found radical connections in his Princeton days -- he once quarterbacked a victorious Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) football team over the officers training corps -- and there were suggestions, since completely dismissed by the federal investigators, that he was somehow involved in the plot. ONE OF the first questions in his lie detector test was had he had sexual intercourse since the kidnap. The fact that 'Weed' and a telephone number were written in a captured SLA notebook raised more doubts, until it was discovered it simply referred to a marijuana dealer. For three weeks he stayed with the Hearsts, but he felt things were getting crowded and moved out. Since then he has moved around between relatives and friends. When the philosophy student's old blue Volkswagen, with its historic McGovern sticker, turns up at the Hearsts' home, clothes and a sleeping bag'are usually on the back seat. His relationship with Randolph Hearst seems cordial enough and they say lengthy goodbys on the orchid- trimmed steps. The f a c t t h a t P a t t y called him a "sexist" and an "ageist" (contemporary, if ambiguous, revolutionary rhetoric for those who discriminate by age), and says other unkind things to him on the latest tape, is more than compensated for by the fact that she's able to say anything at all. In any case, he says the word "sexist" was always a bit of a joke between them. He is convinced that Field Marshal Cinque, escaped black convict Donald DeFreeze, has a death wish and would like Patty to go down with the rest of the gang in one last Sundav Gazette-Mail urrent c Affairs Chai IE · eston, West Virginia. -- Mav 19. 1974 showdown with the FBI. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Bonnie and Clyde -- it's all the American dream." the thick walrus moustache that grows well beyond the lower lip quivers slightly as he speaks. Behind his back the Hearst family call him Toothbrush. Strangely, the moustache makes him look younger than 26, like a child in a Christmas disguise. THE SLA has brought on nothing but paranoia among most of the local New Left. The general consensus is that Donald De- Freeze is a CIA stooge, out to discredit the white revolutionary movement so that popular opinion will welcome heavy repression. David DuBois, editor of the Black Panther's newspaper, ran a detailed account of DeFreeze's easy escape from Soledad, when he apparently walked away from an unguarded boiler room and conveniently found a change of clothes in an area almost entirely inhabited by prison officers' families. Even the Berkeley Barb, after its initial euphoria, did a complete turnabout in its next issue, when they also discovered that the SLA was part of the military plot for that final fascist takeover. A lone voice in the underground is the Phoenix, a San Francisco fortnightly edited by John Bryan, a former Hearst news- paper man who stood in the food queues for his share of the Hearst ransom meat ration. A few weeks ago, Bryan, who has been publishing what he likes to call "alternative" newspapers since the early sixties ran a hoax interview with the SLA, coupled with an analysis of what they had revealed about themselves through their verbose communiques". . . .The most fantastic goulash imaginable of politics and psychology, old and new left rhetoric, Afro-American nationalism, berzerkeley future vision and current time-warp, 60s movement frustration. . . .The most stoned-out south campus dopers hallucinatory mix of marxism, mythology, street shuck and jive etc." A few days later he received, much to his astonishment, a genuine SLA commu- nique -- the authenticity vouched for by half of Patty Hearst's driving license -plus a dozen red roses. Since then he has become the only journalist in town to establish contact with the confessed SLA "soldiers," Joe Remiro and Russell Little, who are housed in the county jail here. They were arrested in January, month before the kidnaping, charged with the murder of a black Oakland school superintendent, last November. Bryan holds long telephone conversations with them and his wife Joan goes to the jail to collect their letters. He would like to go himself but says he owes $200 worth of parking tickets and would be arrested. A New York publisher has already shown interest in a biography he plans to write of 27-year-old Rerniro, who turned revolutionary after two tours of duty in Vietnam. "If it hadn't been for the war he would have probably ended up managing a supermarket." However, at the moment the relationship has cooled on the prisoners' shocked discovery that Bryan, a veteran of the civil rights marches, is a pacifist. THE RACE killings have not exactly been good for the night life of the town, either. Coyote -- " a loose women's organization" -- which is San Francisco's official union for prostitutes, reports a minor slump similar to the Christmas recession or tax return time. Margot St. James, a retired member of the profession who is probably in her late 30s, founded the union over a year ago and took the name from an acronym for "Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics." It now has about 6,000 members in California, many of them honorary, and has opened a branch in New York called Pony -- Prostitutes of New York. Margot. who is of French-Canadian and Indian descent, travels the state lecturing women's organizations, writes magazine articles and has Doubleday interested in her autobiography. At the moment Coyote's slogans are . "Let '74 be the year of the whore" and another one about getting into politics instead of the politicians' bedrooms. Members raise funds by selling Coyote button badges for as much as they can get for them -- the highest recorded payment is $10. We met in a north beach restaurant favored by writers and journalists. Most of them seemed to know her. Margot said her most immediate aim was to legalize prostitution in San Francisco -- a city that has always been famous for its sportin' women -- if only on the grounds that it would save the taxpayer the upkeep of the local vice squad. She carried a camera with her most of the time, in order to neutralize agent provocateurs from the squad by passing their pictures around to the girls. She also has a team of lawyers willing to help members in trouble. "One of our main problems is the cops working part- time hotel security jobs, who are always hitting the women for a free piece -- bedroom bail we call it." Yet she doesn't dislike the local force, and gets her early morning exercise jogging around Golden Gate Park with a sports-minded mounted policeman. "There are at least eight cops in this city who have divorced to marry hookers." Margot grinned. "But we find firemen are better lovers." Then she gave me a button badge and forgot to ask for the money. During the first month of the kidnaping, the psychic search for Patty Hearst was intense. Edgar Mitchel, the ex-astronaut, coordinated the efforts of four psychics through his parapsychology research center in Palo Alto. Others went straight to the family. Of these some seem to have been straightforward cons, like the man whose $500 bill for a week at the Hilton included $300 on alcohol. Others appear to have been genuinely muddled. One spent two hours tracking Patty on her chart: "Along a freeway. . . .adjacent to an airport. . . .across from a high school. . . .1 hear snoring, too." But it was Randolph Hearst who had fallen asleep. You Had to Put the Coal in the Bathtub L.T. ANDERSON Capitalists are always ready to abandon capitalism when the moment seems right, as witness the creeping socialism of the people who run aircraft factories and unprofitable railroads. Capitalism depends upon working people for its popularity. It requires an attachment to the work ethic, which means greed combined with a belief that hard work can make capitalists of us all. I spring from a long line of peasants -forelock tuggers and oatmeal eaters. The work ethic laid hold of me by the time I was 10 years old. There was a touch of pride in my father's voice when he spoke of my laziness, and then added, "but he will do anything if he gets paid for it." HE WAS RIGHT, too. When I awoke on a nonschool day to find snow in the streets I would hurry through breakfast, grab a shovel, and start knocking on doors. At 10 cents per front sidewalk, it was possible to make a dollar before midafternoon by furiously shoveling snow. Boys in my economic circle also would stay on the lookout for piles of coal on the sidewalk. This meant a householder had bought coal but could provide the coal dealer no easy access to his place of coal storage. We would race to the door, seeking the job of carrying in the coal a bucket- full at a time. Once when I had successfully bid en a half-ton job the lady of the house told me to put the coal in her bathtub. I found nothing unusual about it. She lived in a frame apartment building which, with the slightest encouragement, could have been a slum. It would have cost her an additional two dollars a month in rent to have a coal house. My youthful devotion to the theory that the laborer is worth his hire very likely was responsible for two expensive spinal operations in later life, after it finally dawned on me that working is absolutely the worst way to earn a living. ». ANYWAY, THE memory of coal in the bathtub swam across my consciousness when a young fellow in the sports department asked me if, as a Senior Citizen, I could tell him what was funny about Will Rogers. I was unable to do so. It would have been -necessary for him to recall the national mood in the days before his birth, during the Great Depression. Some of Rogers' wit is suited to the political climate of today, but mostly it relied upon the peculiar comradeship of Americans facing disaster together. If it weren't for World War II and the Great Depression, my generation would have nothing to talk about. We missed out on the dazzling good times of the 20's and we're too old today to understand pot and unisex. Of the two great events in our lives, the Great Depression made the deeper mark. Because of it, I am spiritually buoyed by a new pair of shoelaces, have two Christmas Savings accounts, and keep out of my paycheck only one dollar a week for spending money. · WILL ROGERS gave us the cynical laugh, which is a substitute for crying, or shooting yourself. He identified with the desperate masses of unemployed or those clinging to miserable jobs and he blamed their troubles on pompous bunglers in high places. It is going to take a lot of rewriting of history to repair the damage inflicted upon Herbert Hoover by Will Rogers. "He was kind of like Mort Sahl," I said, striving for common ground. Then, "No, he wasn't." All I could think to say was that if you're going to be cast adrift on perilous waters it is helpful if a funny fellow is in the same boat. In my family, which suffered more from fear of what might happen than from actual 1 deprivation, the Rogers column was read aloud every evening in the same kind of search for inspiration that goes into religious readings. »- THE INQUIRY about Will Rogers kindled the frustrations which afflict the old who feverishly desire to tell How It Was Then. How could the young sports writer believe that beggars knocked on residential doors every day? Or understand the hopelessness of a father who saw his name removed from an ever-dwindling seniority list: There were jokes about the plethora of house painters, as unemployed boilermakers and machinists turned to the kind of work which could be provided by neighbors who still received paychecks. You had a choice of slitting your throat or getting a bitter laugh from a Will Rogers report that the fatheads in Washington were urging trust in the industrial leadership that had made this country groat. The fact is t h a t the resurrected W i l l Rogers columns, presently being republished by some newspapers, aren't very funny. You had to be there, I suppose. You had to put the coal in the bathtub.

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