The Last Facebook Messages of Adam Parfrey

adam parfrey facebook messages 2017-2018

Farewell then, Adam Parfrey. The details of your death are still being worked out. One hears variously that you died of a stroke or that you died of complications of a stroke.

Photo: Caffé Gelato Vero, San Diego, September 1991

I heard you had a stroke just before you were to come to the Françoise Hardy book launch in Manhattan on May 3, then I heard you had a stroke just before you died on the 10th, and elsewhere I’ve read you had a stroke on April 20. I first heard/reported that you’d died in Port Townsend, but lately the story is that you died in Seattle. Someone suggested that you died of sadness after your dog, Loki, died, but I find this a stretch since you seemed in good shape when I spoke to you a month ago.

You will be happy to know that your death occasioned an opportunity for some friends of yours to meet for the first time. (One at the NYT contacted me out of the blue.) You and I seldom spoke between 2009 and 2017. At one point I think you blocked me on Facebook. But we were still connected on another FB account. Last year, out of the blue, you messaged me, “How many Facebook aliases do you have?” You weaseled out an excuse that you were topped-up in FB friends and followers and had a backlog of 5,000 friend requests, but I felt that you were hoping to deep-six all your connections to me at once. Anyway, I checked the original account we were connected on, and you were nowhere to be seen. Apparently you’d blocked me years before. I wonder why.

When we last spoke, on phone and in Facebook messaging, you were trying to gather up steamy information on mutual acquaintances (and even on me!) for a proposed memoir.


You’re friends on Facebook

Works at Process Media and Feral House

Studied at UCSC

09/28/2017 12:09PM

You are now connected on Messenger.


[September 2017]

XXX, how many pseudonyms do you have on FB? And what are they?

09/28/2017 3:00PM

I really wouldn’t know, have forgotten most over the years.

I am alerted by FB that I can no longer have friends, that I have too many of them. It would be helpful if you could get me the names or your aliases.

Wow, 5000 friends? I’ll see if I can find some dormant accounts to free up.

and a thousand further friend requests, too

Uh huh. I shall look into this. I recall being connected with you only on this and maybe one other old acct going back to 2008 or so, however.

My error. Friends with you on this, but not on the older account.

I’m friends with you on another account

Then you’re not appearing for some reason.

What I do when pressing up against some social-media limit is, go through the Friends list and delete anyone i don’t recognize and who hasn’t posted lately. I have people in Friends who have actually been DEAD for 5 years.

10/01/2017 9:01AM

This could be right up your street. Tried to send it to you on my other account, but that of course was the one where you had BLOCKED ME.

Hugh Hefner and the World of Art –

The death of Hugh Hefner at age 91 hurled us headlong back into recollections of the 1960s and what Playboy was supposed to be about. If you weren’t a Playboy reader in those days—and few of us alive today were, let’s face it, since that implies you were then a male between 25 and 50 years …


APR 1ST [2018], 5:02PM

Greetings, XXXX. Contacting you at this time because I’m working on a memoir now that I have reached the advance age of 60. I was thinking of Keith Stimely today. Was he the reason you and I became friends? I’ll be writing about Keith in the book, so wanted to get things right about him. Did he appear in that California Reich movie, as he claimed? How did he get connected to IHR and become an editor with the journal there? How close was he to getting a book deal for his Yockey research. I know of that other book that ransacked his material. Do you recall what Keith had to say about me? Near the end of his life he made the claim that he was working for me, though he never did except for flyers he circulated without my permission. Didn’t he pass of AIDS? He denied having it when I asked him about it. In advance, thanks much for any help you can provide… My memory is failing me, but what’s the full name of that woman we were both seeing in San Diego? Laura something?

APR 1ST, 6:44PM

Yes, we can discuss this. Thumbnail summary: You and I nearly crossed paths in Manhattan and Hoboken. When I was going with Keith in ’88, you’d been in Portland but recently moved to Baja Melrose. The Blue Boys hoax and your piece in Hustler appeared about this time. Yes, he died of AIDS, had just been diagnosed in mid-1988. We used protection of course. After me he moved onto this older woman with the Sylvia Beach guest house on the coast in Oregon. Gudrun. When I was moving to SD he put me in touch with you. I visited you, completed the move, dropped out of law school, you hooked me up with the Reader. I was going through my lesbian period, had affair with Mary Lang (still in SD area, I see), then Laura Shepherd on the rebound. I don’t know about Keith appearing in that doco, but it sounds familiar. I know nothing about him circulating flyers or saying he worked for you. I should have been closer to him then, but I had my own crises. A little later you put me in touch with Kevin Coogan for his Yockey book. For better or worse I was not cited in the book’s acknowledgements. Keith had a high regard for you, and never said anything unfavorable. Somewhere in those last years, Keith met up with Greg Johnson at Powell’s in Portland. They were browsing the same section and struck up a conversation. This was probably about 1991.

My mobile is 929-2X8-40X4 if you want to talk. I’ve got a Skype somewhere too.

Thanks much… Mary Lang! There’s another Mary Lang I know who’s married to Poison Idea vocalist Jerry Lang.

Seems like Coogan wanted to avoid being tied in too closely to Keith

I had a couple stints in Portland

APR 1ST, 9:02PM

Mary Lang is now Mary Boles Allen, and sister Laura is now Laura Neal. I see Cynthia Heimel died. Bad years toward the end. She was a Facebook friend but I can’t say I knew her.

I recall that Opincar was big on Heimel.

Didn’t Mary marry some architect?

what does Laura Neal do?

Abe and Cynthia married in 1996, but it didn’t last long. Cynthia’s first marriage was also short-lived. I suppose Cynthia and I crossed paths at SoHo Weekly News but I became aware of her via Mary Peacock’s section at the Village Voice.

what a marriage that must have been

Mary’s previous marriage, I suppose, was to a Boles, and that must have been the architect. Last I heard she was working as a secretary at Point Loma Nazarene College and engaging in amateur opera. I don’t know what Laura’s been doing but she had an Industry job when she was married to Matz and I would guess she still does.

all these married names confuse me… I remember Mary begging me to be her boyfriend… didn’t sound good to me

My own ex, Laura, is now living in Vancouver, Washington. She has visited east a couple of times, and I saw her a couple times in Seattle and Portland. I get out that way every year or so, for xc meets or conferences.

I’m now trying to find a dead squirrel that the new kitty dragged into the house

Very slowly the SD Reader is putting its archives on readable format. I came across a fantasy that you headlined ‘Pulp Novel’ in 1992. A friend has encouraged me to write the rest of it.

Isn’t Vancouver the speed dealing capitol of the country?

I wish you would improve my Reader pieces

I can well believe, though Laura would not be engaged in drugs. Your HelLA was always just the right length.

Don’t know what became of Opincar.

Opincar is a heroin addict in Tijuana

No seriously.

After Judith Moore and Heimel passed, he has no reason to live

He was straight poison, but even an ill wind sometimes blows some good.

you and me ought to find him and convince to survive

I noticed the Reader moved offices from India St to Golden Hill.

what? they’re out of that building now?

did the boss get his way banning abortion?

Wonder if Holman is still at the helm. I guess development pushed the Reader out of Little Italy. That was an area long awaiting urban renewal. Though I did love the Prince of Wales pub.

I awaited a plane crashing into the Reader building

Holman now runs Comicon

Remember having tea with Tom Metzger across the street? About May 1993, just before I got the heave-ho.

what heave-ho?

I really liked Tom Metzger, TV repairman

I got exited in 1993. This was Moore’s doing, because my presence made Opincar and Lang uncomfortable. They continued to play dirty tricks afterwards. Came across my Reader business card recently. Cultural attachée. I’ve used that title since.

business card and all!

The sole surviving bc. In a stack of cards of me as Divisional Manager for a telecoms concern in London.

part of the UK, I hear

The uck. Can’t stand that. ‘Oh you’re from the UK? Where? Londonderry? Aberdeen?’

in respect to the Reader, I’m glad I quit the job when I did… I was very tired of it

Aberdeen is in Washington state… Kurt Cobain homeland

Some real weirdoes at Reader. Colin Flaherty was wise not to hang his hat there. He’s had an interesting afterlife.

was he a columnist?

my memory eludes me

when did Moore die? In the 90s?

Wrote feature and news stories. Mainly a PR star married to, then divorced from, Congressman Lionel van Deerlin’s daughter. After the reader he ran clients out of his home office then landed a rich developer who gave him a house in Orange County. The client went belly-up, and Colin went back home to Wilmington DE to pitch in on his brother’s radio show and write books about black violence.

I did a lot of freelance work for Colin back in the day.

knew nothing of him

White Girl Bleed a Lot

Judith Moore died in 2005 or 6. Colon cancer, I think.

I found it funny when one of the Penn brothers started to date some right-wing congressman’s daughter

didn’t know

Did the Reader go dark for a year?

Don’t know…didn’t hear. What did you hear? When?

out of touch with those guys… not enough interest to spur association once again

I found it curious to be associated in some ways with Holman…. strange

Colin always called Judith Moore the Sausage Lady because of a nauseating story she wrote about visiting a sausage factory.

I don’t know that story

I guess she couldn’t arrange a Man Bites Dog story.

but she could write a Nazi bites Jew saga

If so, I missed that one. She was a small-time writer from an East Bay weekly whom Abe brought aboard because of their shared interest in the outré. Holman bought a condo in Coronado for her to live in during her extended stints as Reader managing editor. She didn’t drive, never had a license. Not that that is unusual.

that is unusual for a writer in CA

what sort of outre? bad bakeries?

Rad Bradbury didn’t drive and was strident on the issue. Bizarre. Half the weirdoes that Moore & co. brought in didn’t drive. Remember the shopping-cart man who did a two-part cover feature on living among the homeless? Opincar and Moore liked twisted people with depressing tales. Your cripple-sex piece about the people in Lemon Grove was right on target.


It was supposed to be a cover story, but Holman almost refused to run it at all

I’m sure Moore liked it.

Now as to Lawrence Osborne…he skedaddled quickly. Think he bunks mainly in Brooklyn now.

I don’t recall which stories, but Moore told me she disliked the last few I wrote

Osborne was a Mary Lang fuck, was he not?

Osborne was definitely one of Mary’s quarries, but I don’t know the details. He came over to visit one night when I was at her place.

he writes travel books these days… a lot about Thailand

When/how did you exit the Reader?

I have Osborne’s latest. I was at Penguin Random House for a little while, took freebie copies of things.

I was still in Portland and found it increasingly difficult to do HelL.A.s

I stopped writing features, so the money was increasingly minimal… I heard rumors that my writing was increasingly disliked by Moore and Holman… My association with you was not looked on well.

I nearly moved to LA after Seattle in 97-98. Then I got invited to revisit New York, came, and got married, and have seldom left except for trips.

still in NY then? Brooklyn?

Manhattan. Near Trump Tower.

Remember when Lower East Side was trashy?

I lived on Ludlow St a few blocks below Houston

Very chic now, rather beautiful, just the thing for pedestrian culture.

also on 3rd between C & D

Know the area well. I was leading a young friend through there a week ago.

across the street from cooped up women being kept legal and unmolested

They slowly figured out that dressing up the waterfront was the way to go. Hudson River Park is beautiful. They also have a running/biking path down the East River. And ferries to Brooklyn.

I go to publishing distributor meetings down in those parts

I’m flying to NYC May 2 for a few days, including a big party for the Francoise Hardy book I just published, if you want to attend

can you read that?

APR 1ST, 11:35PM


if you’re interested I can get you a pass or two

That would be nice. I have no plans to be away. Thank you.

One or two passes?

If you could get two, I’d bring my husband.


they’ll be under your name

Maiden name? OK.

what name would you like it to be listed under?

Best just to leave it as xxx xxxx. As anonymous as anything.

  APR 7TH, 1:21PM

An unflattering pic of Keith and me in 1985. Though Doug Christie and Trish Katson look okay.

Is Keith on the far left there? Hard to tell. You don’t look bad at all!

That is Keith on the far left and we’re both mugging to the point of unrecognizability. I’ll send some more characteristic ones.

that would be great if you could

A face in the crowd, early Sept 1988, Portland OR.

Haranguing the crowd in Portland, Sept 1988. ‘We need more hats for the poor!’

what are these events?

We went to a Dukakis speech to heckle and spread flyers. Dukakis left and Keith scooted in.

We were a a friend’s place for my birthday in Sisters OR or someplace near there. This is Keith at the farm.

Nov 1988 in Keith’s apartment. I’ve just showered, have wet hair, but it’s around midnight and we’re going out for dinner at Hung Far Low. Check out the Apple equipment and software books. A blast from the past.

food was terrible at Hung Far Low… great pix, thanks

APR 7TH, 3:42PM

Mediocre Cantonese, like the China Dragon on University Ave in Hillcrest in SD (where I sat with Peter Navarro and others in ’92 after Peter won the mayoral nomination…Peter is still working his way to the big time).

Don’t know the guy

Mediocre is right

The Brasserie Montmartre wasn’t doing food after midnight, and Hung Far Low was the only place you could walk to from Keith’s place.

Peter Navarro: not quite famous, but getting there.

Navarro tries to calm farmers’ fears in tariffs battle

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Thursday tried to quell rising concerns among U.S. farmers by vowing that the Trump administration will protect them from harm in the global tariffs fight.

I liked the Brasserie

Who would ever want the Trump apologist position?

Forget your Trump issues, it’s good to have Navarro in anyone’s administration. He has a good head for tariffs and no one owns him.

No one understands tariffs

Mark Weber liked the Brasserie too, but we never crossed paths there. I think it was the first place K took me in Portland. Otherwise it was Hamburger Mary’s and Hung Far Low. We slept much of the day because he was a manic nightowl, running off to Kinko’s too print up his pasteups.

Kinko’s was still a novelty; I’d been to the original one in Isla Vista years before, then they were suddenly everywhere, the way Starbucks would be a few years later.

I had laid out books on a Mac via impossible software… Keith was impressed

Not Microsoft

Ventura Publisher? That’s what they used at IHR. Aldus Pagemaker was the desktop-publisher entry for early Macs. Then Quark of course. They used that at the SD Reader, when they were in their in-between techno stage where they were composing text and graphics with Quark and Photoshop but then pasting it up on light tables for photo offset.

Not Ventura, as I avoided PC software… I forget its name but it was solely available on MacWorld classifieds

  Sent from Messenger Chat Conversation End

Why Appoint an RUC – PSNI – MI5 – MI6 Garda Commissioner in Ireland?

(Archived from Wayback after the original site’s posting was suppressed.)

Why Appoint an RUC – PSNI – MI5 – MI6 Garda Commissioner in Ireland?

Posted by 


The people of Ireland talk in pubs and houses across the country every day of the week.  The topic in the last few months is getting more momentum but also more importantly it is getting to be more like deep concern.  The Irish people are not fools; the Brits for years had to learn this the hard way.  Now we have a situation where it is not going too far to say … Has Varadkar and the Clown that run the country right now put the same country into a state of a canoe trying to survive in dangerous waters (rapids) without a paddle.

Drew Harris (RUC) Deputy Chief Constable, now called the PSNI, is to be appointed Garda Commissioner in Ireland in September.  The silence in Dail Eireann and the Seanad not alone is deafening but causes deep concern.  To be more blunt, it is a major Cock-Up.  If ever this country needed a change of leadership in an Garda Siochana it is now in the year 2018, after all the scandals.  The biggest scandal now could be the appointment of Drew Harris and his baggage of RUC legacy and other hidden secrets yet to be revealed.  Donegal Co. Council sometime ago passed a motion opposing the appointment of Drew Harris and believe me they had some evidence to support the same motion.  During the Troubles, a Loyalist Gang of Thugs, murdered over 50 innocent Catholics in the Armagh and Tyrone regions of Ulster.  These Loyalist Thugs were given cover by the RUC at night and as the old saying goes during those Black years, RUC by day, Balaclava and Loyalist murderers by night.  This has been proven beyond any doubt through the dark history of the Troubles.  I want to go a stage further:  the IRA have their Dark history also that we cannot forget.


Drew Harris joined the RUC in 1983 and he moved up the ranks to Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI in the last five years.  His father was murdered by the IRA and this must have placed a condition in his attitude towards Republicans and the Irish in general.  Out in the general arena at the moment, the talk and the concern in relation to Harris is … His Allegiance is first and foremost with London (Official Secret’s Act) and the Irish Government seem to have walked into this appointment “blindfolded”.  Harris has a history of secrecy and dark shadows around him.  His links with MI5 and MI6 are well documented.  Here is an extract from that Council Meeting and reading it you will see the concerns that people have; not just our ordinary citizens but people in public life.

Mac Giolla Easbuig said he plans to hold public meetings to speak against the appointment in Dublin, Monaghan and Donegal.

The councillor explained that his reservations are based on Justice Treacy’s judgement last year and Harris having worked with MI5 as part of his previous role.

The council will now write to the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, to register its concerns about Harris’s appointment.

Harris has 35 years experience in policing. He is a former RUC officer and received an OBE in 2010. Before being appointed deputy chief constable of the PSNI in 2014 he was head of the department that targeted dissident republican activity.

He was also the officer in charge of the investigation that saw Gerry Adams arrested in 2014. The former Sinn Féin president was arrested by detectives investigating the 1972 murder of Jean McConville. He was released without charge. has contacted the Department of Justice about the motion but it has yet to receive a response. A spokesman for the gardaí said it does not comment on third party statements.


It is hard to comprehend why the Government appointed Harris but he must be feeling the heat also.  Now we have Brexit and this puts a whole different new ball game on the table.  I today am not accusing Mr Harris of any wrongdoing but what I am doing is trying to understand why an Irish Government would employ a former Spook and RUC officer to hold the highest rank in the Republic of Ireland’s Police Force, which means he will have access to the most sensitive records that protects the security of this small country.  Speaking to one senior journalist today, she also raised many questions.  Harris cannot be independent and this is a pure fact and his allegiance, not matter what contract he signs with Varadkar and the Clowns, will be with his cohorts in Belfast and London.  September is slowly coming upon us; also the most senior Gardai in HQ are not happy with the appointment of Harris so before he even starts Ireland has many problems.  We shall wait and see and gather our own information and write on this again over the coming weeks.

Addendum 1st September 2018

Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey yesterday morning had their offices raided and they were both arrested by the PSNI, Northern of Ireland, run by the British Establishment.  They had just completed a documentary with Alex Gibney some time back called “No Stone Unturned” into the shooting dead of 6 innocent Catholics in Loughinisland.  The dogs in the street know on that night that 6 innocent people were shot in cold blood by a Loyalist gang which had the clinical backup of the British “shadowy” Forces.  Collusion between Loyalists, UVF, RUC and British Intelligence all worked with efficiency in the night in question.  Why arrest the 2 journalists now?  Why is there now this threat against Free Speech and the people knowing the Truth?  Something is rotten to the core here.  Drew Harris would have been involved in this investigation all those years ago of the slaughter of these 6 innocent Catholics.

The same Drew Harris, at Midnight, on Monday night coming, will take off his RUC uniform and be installed as Garda Commissioner of the Republic of Ireland.  Maybe people in the Republic do not have the balls to say this – Worry and Worry a lot.  Charlie Flanagan came out today and stated that Drew Harris was a complete Irish man.  Why would Flanagan say this?  Does Harris have a personal identity crisis?  and the same goes for Flanagan?  When police in any country arrest journalists, they are technically attacking the core of the democratic right (4th pillar) of Free Speech and allowing the Truth to be told to the people they represent.  This is a chilling development even for the RUC and the British who are behind these arrests.  The Republic now should be very aware that Drew Harris, it is rumoured, is also coming down with a number of his cronies who will literally take over Garda HQ.  Journalists in the Republic should think long and hard from next Monday and protect their sources.

Gardai in the Republic have been making handy cash for years by giving certain journalists information about various crimes and sometimes this is very sensitive information to the same journalists, who we all know very well.  Peter Pan is one and Debbie is the other and I tonight can clearly state that they should worry when Drew Harris takes office at midnight on Monday September 4th.  I personally back the National Union of Journalists and like many others see these arrests as a most serious threat to democracy but there are a small number of journalists down here who play both sides of the coin and this is unacceptable to democracy also.  One journalist in particular is called Detective Inspector – it may be a joke among their own, but Peter Pan is a threat to the people because he covers up what rogue Gardai have been engaged in for years.

Drew Harris we know will be Commissioner Drew Harris when he attends work on Tuesday 5th September 2018.  We have a right to know what is his position as he is bound by the Official Secrets Act in the UK.  I ask the question tonight, it has been asked over and over again, over the years, about the murder of the innocent Sinn Fein man, Eddie Fullerton, and the collusion between British agents and Loyalists gangs who were free to come across the border into the Republic and receive a safe passage back to their holes of safety in the North of Ireland.  It is embarrassing to say that our Government of clowns down here, especially Flanagan in Justice, never queried the role Drew Harris played in the investigation in the murder of Eddie Fullerton.  Harris has baggage and he is taking down that same baggage with him to Dublin on Monday night.  Winter is coming and dark clouds are gathering not just over the skies of this Republic.

Reuters report on this:

To be continued:



Addendum:  3rd September 2018

Charlie the Clown Flanagan came out over the weekend with another outlandish statement which contained gross insults to Russia, the Russian Ambassador in Ireland and not forgetting North Korea.

Flanagan stated that Drew Harris is the complete Irish “Paddy”; he is not from North Korea or Russia – so you have nothing to worry about!.  I will get back to the RUC and Harris in a moment but first I ask why would Flanagan, the Clown, make a statement like this which is on today’s Fine Gael (sorry I meant) the Independent.  Flanagan has again put his two feet in his own mouth.  Why would you insult the Russian Ambassador to Ireland?  I was reading on tweet this morning where a Russian student studying at UCD was horrified at Flanagan’s statement in relation to his country, Russia.  He went on to say that Russia had held a fabulous World Cup; that Russia had no ugly rioting or for that matter anti-social behaviour.  He then went on to say that the Russian Police Force behaviour was impeccable.  He further stated that the corruption in Ireland, among some politicians and the Gardai, would make the KGB look like choir boys.  This student made a very valid point ie Why did Flanagan point out his country and Police Force?  I again re-iterate Why?

Drew Harris is completely the wrong man at the wrong time in the wrong place wearing the wrong uniform and changing Oaths of Allegiances.  The Clown Flanagan stated there was no conflict of interest.  Of course there is.  Harris signed the UK Official Secrets Act with London; he also has strong connections with MI5 and MI6 ongoing.  The people of Ireland have a right to ask the hard questions.  Now, Harris is installed as Garda Commissioner at a very pruned gathering at a City Garda station last night, being sworn in by a Peace Commissioner.  Harris will be driven around in a bullet proof car, especially made for his arrival, and hopefully quick departure.  Of all the applicants that came forward for the position of Irish Police Commissioner, Walt Disney could not write up this script.  The late father of Mr Harris, was murdered by the IRA in 1989 and reading former “Stamp Bomber”, Shane O’Doherty, now turned British philosopher, I would like to ask him, why re-write all the wrong-doings of the IRA and make not one mention of the British atrocities during the Troubles?  Shane, the Stamp, who now resides in Roscommon is the complete English Gent  and maybe a little bit of education at Trinity College Dublin has gone to his head making him feel that his rightful place now is in the House of Lords.  Well Shane, it is time you grew up and face facts.  Nobody groomed you.  You had a choice.  You took the path at that time and you got your sentence like many more people who unlike you are not whingeing today.  Given that you are now on a history tour, maybe you can tell us about Harris senior and his connection to the murder of those people of the Miami showband?

You cannot play two roles.  Drew Harris is doing this right now wearing the uniform of An Garda Siochana and yet still has the connections that will continue with the agencies of the British Establishment.  People in time will make up their own minds.  Can you imagine today, Sgt Bog McBride from Belmullet, being installed as head of the PSNI in the North of Ireland?  No you cannot and the reason is quite simple, the Brits would not trust a Garda (and possibly rightly so) from the Republic.  Yet, the Clown Flanagan has installed a former RUC officer as Garda Commissioner with the responsibility of protecting any threat against the Irish Republic.  This is scary territory and the clouds of darkness will hang over this episode in Irish history for a long time and there is a long road to go.  Ironically it parallels with Brexit.


The Kim Philby Thing You Seek Is Here!

Or just plain old URL:

The Sesame Street link you seek is here!

Facebook won’t allow links to American Renaissance. So here goes:

Cultural Amnesia on Sesame Street

The Link You Seek Is Here


(Something we wrote for the San Diego Reader in December 1992.)


Sinor was the last of the shaggy-dog columnists, a throwback to the gentle days of hot lead and warm Pegler, when one opened a newspaper not for titillation or a recitation of disasters but to check in with a familiar personality… Sinor’s appeal, like that of Dagwood Bumstead and Dwight D. Eisenhower, lay in his banality…

— Imaginary eulogy for John Sinor

The Best of Scribes, the Worst of Scribes

Sinor: his specialty was telling you how he’d spent the previous 48 hours.

The London funny mag Private Eye has an occasional feature called “Peter McLie, The World’s Worst Columnist.” Mr. McLie (a takeoff on some English hack) specializes in a fatuous babbling that’s more easily illustrated than described: “Have you seen the latest idea from America in the shops? They are called gloves, and they provide warmth and comfort to your hands during a cold spell. If you see a pair of these so-called gloves, I advise you strongly to snap them up, as they seem to be very thin on the ground just now.”

So much for London. Here in Sandy Eggo, some local journalists and word-watchers long maintained that we had a columnist every bit as bad as Peter McLie. His name was John Sinor, and he was a 30-year veteran of the San Diego Tribune when it folded into the Union last February.

Sinor’s specialty was to spend 500 words, every other day, telling you how he’d spent the previous 48 hours. One column he’d give you a blow-by-blow description of how he got up at two a.m. to raid the icebox; in the next he’d rattle on about how friendly school bus drivers used to be.

Then there was coffee. My collection of Sinor columns is far from complete, but it would appear that he wrote about Nature’s laxative at least once a week. Sometimes it was instant, sometimes it was spilled, sometimes it was keeping him up all night. Last January, in one of his last pieces, Sinor spent an entire column giving a recipe for making a righteous brew out of just four coffee beans.

Sinor was a poet of the commonplace but never seemed to pay much attention to headline news. Try to guess when he pecked out the following paragraph. “Whatever happened to all the gasoline anyway? Last year at this time they had so MUCH gas, stations were begging us to buy. Offering eight times the usual amount of trading stamps if we would fill up.”

That was February 1974. The height of the OPEC oil embargo. This obliviousness was honest and homespun, not an act, and it tickled Sinor’s legions of fans — and he had them, surely, else why would he have survived so long? But of course it irritated some young up-and-coming journalists who believed a hack’s first duty is to produce something called News You Can Use.

These up-and-comers entered journalism in the 1970s and 1980s and represented the first generation of journalists to regard themselves as high-class professionals (newspapermen having traditionally been a colorful but uncouth lot, drawn mostly from the same hairy-armpit castes that provide us with public-school teachers and private investigators). Knowing little about journalism’s gnarly past, these youngsters fancied that most people who wrote for a living were keen-minded, worldly wise folk who swallowed international affairs and public policy issues with their morning java. “Columnist,” to these youngsters, meant Mary McGrory and Anthony Lewis and other professional thumbsuckers who worried long and often about detente, racial inequality, abortion, and the bomb.

But Sinor’s worries seemed to come straight out of The Life of Riley: a flat tire, a son in Marine boot camp, a rec room that needed repair. Good material for a humor columnist. Perhaps if Sinor had packaged himself as a sort of male Erma Bombeck, the up-and-comers wouldn’t have hated him so much. But he wasn’t a joke-smith any more than he was a political commentator or a movie reviewer. He was an old-fashioned as-I-please monologist, in the tradition of Aleck Woollcott, Robert Ruark, the young Westbrook Pegler, and George Orwell before he got TB.

Back when we had about 17,000 dailies in this country, newspapers had more Sinor-type columns than Carter’s had pills. And the people loved ’em. But tastes change. In recent years, whenever two or more young reporters gathered in a San Diego watering hole, was a dead certainty that 20 minutes wouldn’t pass before someone started cussing out old John Sinor.

“We’ll, there’s one good thing about the Tribune folding,” seethed a 30-something reporter at a Tribune “wake” in September 1991. “Finally we’ll get rid of old Sinor and his mindless meanderings.”

There’s no room today in daily newspaper columning for the John Sinor type. His approximate successor at the merged U-T is Peter Rowe, a deadly earnest young man who cannot compose a two-sentence paragraph without reminding us that he knows everything that’s happening in the world and moreover also knows the politically correct stance to take anent each problem. One really feels for poor young Rowe: here he is, writing the “passing scene” column and striving so hard to be whimsical in the manner of the great Sinor — but producing, instead, tortured jokes that have all the gossamer gaiety of the “humor” page in The Masses, ca. 1930. One gathers that Pete is too proud to write the way old John did. People might think he was…stupid.

Sinor and Morgan:The Dueling Columnists

The young turkeys sneered at old Sinor, but the joke was on them. He was the class act of the Tribune, a newspaperman completely lacking in earnestness, intellectual pretension, and public ambition. Best of all, he refused to allow himself to become engaged in ideas. Paul Fussell, in his satirical monograph “Class,” describes this kind of intellectual apathy as an unmistakable badge of the American aristocracy. It’s only the middle classes, with their subscriptions to The New Yorker and the New Republic and National Review and their eagerness to stay up-to-date with political fashions (saying “gay” for homosexual and “African-American” for Negro), and their ludicrous belief in Getting Ahead Through Education, who yearn to be intellectually trendy. Imagining Sinor as a warrior-barbarian whose only present concern is an early-morning raid upon Thanksgiving leftovers in the refrigerator, one immediately thinks of Henry VIII (or at any rate, Charles Laughton). Where’s the other drumstick, m’love?

Morgan (1953). always got the finest pickings from the mailbag, while Sinor had to make do with the crumbs.

“A mind so fine that no idea could penetrate it.” That’s what T.S. Eliot said about the grey matter of Mr. Henry James. And people are still reading stuff that James wrote over 100 years ago. We shouldn’t be surprised if, 100 years hence, folks are still perusing the morocco-bound essays of our own John Sinor.

As luck would have it, lack of ideas was a signal trait of the Tribune’s other veteran columnist, Mr. Cornelius (“Neil”) Morgan. No coincidence there. Like Sinor, Morgan was a self-made aristocrat from humble beginnings (Sinor had been a shoe salesman, Morgan a Navy lieutenant, before each entered the hurly-burly of the fourth estate). They ought to have been friends, and at times they were. But there is something poignant and heart rending about these two solons being stationed at the same journal. It meant that Sinor had to spend most of his working career laboring in the shadow of the other.

As the senior columnist, Morgan always got the finest pickings from the mailbag, while Sinor had to make do with the crumbs. An unfortunately high percentage of these epistolary leavings were semiliterate scrawls, in Crayola and carpenter’s pencil, on the backs of four-color postcards from Quality Court motels in Truckee, California, or Sparks, Nevada.

Thus Morgan’s “Crosstown” would shine with social notes from the local glitterati — Jim Copley’s baptism, Lizabeth Scott’s coming-out party — but Sinor’s columns would go for weeks with no mail. Finally, just when John was beginning to look like the loneliest man in the world, he’d publish some random correspondence under the heading of “Dear John Letters.” Sometimes these notes would give us glimpses of secret glamor in the life of Sinor. From the early 1970s: “Dear John: On a recent visit to relatives in Phoenix, I saw a documentary film on television on the building of the railroads in the east. One of the main characters looked remarkably like you, except he had a beard. Could it be? Do you moonlight as a film star? — Mrs. C.B., La Jolla.”

“Dear Mrs. C.B.: Well, I did make the film some years ago for Encyclopaedia Brittanica Films….”

We can well imagine what sort of gentlemanly rivalry must have existed at the Tribune during those rip-roaring days of the 1960s and 1970s, between Messrs. Morgan and Sinor. Sinor the film star, Morgan the nationally known writer. It was inevitable that sooner or later one would burn with envy for the other’s laurels. Since most of the laurels went to Mr. Morgan, the green mantle usually fell to John Sinor.

If you are of a mature age, you may recall that in those far-off days, Neil Morgan had acquired for himself some repute as a social historian. He wrote many books about California and the modern American West — Westward Ho!, Decline of the West, and California Here I Come! are just a few of them, if memory serves.

Sinor used to smart when one of these new titles appeared, which they did, regular as clockwork, on the average of once every six months. And who can blame him? John Sinor was a true Westerner, raised in the shadow of Sutter’s Fort (pronounced Sooter’s Fo’t). Whereas Neil Morgan was a slicker from the East (Mt. Pilot, NC) who happened into California only because that’s where his Navy boat chanced to dock one day in 1945.

Yet it was Morgan who now was setting himself up as a latter-day H.H. Bancroft, authority on all things Californian. Can you imagine the outrage in Morgan’s little piney-woods piedmont home town if John Sinor had presumed to go to North Carolina and start telling Tarheels about then own history?

Well, sir! It’s a good thing Mr. Sinor was an even-tempered sort. He chose to bide his time and then take his own journey to Northern California and Oregon. When he filed his dispatches it became dear that Sinor was the true son of Californee, and Morgan just a lucky interloper.

Neil Morgan would never have been able to furnish us with the understated, Hemingwayesque detail that John Sinor gave us at the end of 1964:

“Farther to the north and east, in the Tahoe country, the Truckee River is brown and roily and rumbles throng the ponderosas.

“On a summer day, a boy can wade in the Truckee and catch a fine big German brown trout. A few days ago, a boy waded in the river to save his dog and the torrent drowned him.”

A man who can write like that need never fear for immortality.


Carto and the Conservatives

For me, one of the great takeaways from the Willis Allison Carto Online Presidential Library—actually it’s—is watching the conservative mainstream drift off into the distance while Mr. Carto pretty much stayed in the same place. Beginning in the mid-Fifties and rolling through later correspondence, is like standing in the middle of “Pangea”—the theoretical original single continent of Earth—and watching plate tectonics gradually pull the continents away from the center.

In 1955, most “conservatives” espoused pretty much the same beliefs and attitudes that Carto & Co. would still be upholding 20, 30, 40 years later. Carto didn’t leave Conservatism, Conservatism Inc. left him.

Not everyone drifted far, of course. Avery Brundage was a good solid egg who knew enough to keep a low political profile. Westbrook Pegler used his column to praise the young Carto in 1955, and a decade later, forcibly retired, was still sending him funny missives. Revilo P. Oliver always remained cordial, though his experience with “the Bircher Business” made him chary of endorsing any organization larger than himself and his wife.

Even Bill Buckley was friendly till the early Sixties…and when relations turned chilly it wasn’t because of race or segregation (the two men were on the same page there for a long time), but rather over Free Trade, with Buckley taking the libertarian “market” side, against what I should consider the true-conservative endorsement of tariffs and any other practical and necessary types of trade protection. Buckley’s stance wasn’t necessarily a sincere, deeply held belief, but it was necessary to keep the libertarian ideologues happy at National Review. In a vague way, Bill imagined NR was carrying forward the torch of Albert Jay Nock, a sometime free-market and anti-statist hero of his youth. Bill had to exile Prof. Oliver from the magazine for very different, practical, reasons but I have it on personal testimony that the Buckley family remained fond of RPO.

For Carto, one can see storm signals arise in 1958, with a curious communication from the new editor of The American Mercury, William LaVarre. LaVarre returns an ms. to Carto, apparently unread. It may have been written by, or was of interest to, Lawrence Dennis, since Dennis is copied in the correspondence chain. Anyway, LaVarre completely balks at the submission, and obliquely hints that Carto has some dodgy “West Coast associations,” and consorts with “‘lunatic’ fringe” types and others who lack “community prestige.” Carto fires back a whaaat? letter, whereupon Mercury Publisher Russell Maguire warmly apologizes to Carto for his editor’s rudeness. But the questions remain answered: who are these bad associations, and who exactly is leaning on William LaVarre?

LaVarre took the editorship in 1957, around the time that Bill Buckley declared that anyone who wrote for American Mercury could not write for National Review. LaVarre may simply have decided to follow Buckley’s example, or maybe he was just encountering the same obstacles that plagued Buckley. Basically, it was a question of distribution. Most magazines did not depend entirely, or even mostly, on mail subscriptions. They needed newsstand sales. Magazines cost fifteen cents or a quarter: pin-money impulse purchases, you’d read ’em on the commuter train or after dinner. There were only a handful of distributors, and they acted as a cartel. I remember back in the mid-Sixties you couldn’t find Mad magazine in many newsdealers around New York because William Gaines was fighting with the distributors, who retaliated by giving Mad‘s shelf-space to Cracked and Sick instead. And Cracked and Sick were pretty terrible, let me tell you.

Likewise, National Review had distributorship problems in the Fifties and early Sixties because some NR writers were essentially on a blacklist as “anti-Semites.” Bill Buckley himself, in fact, was considered dubious because he was a Professional Conservative—strike one!—while his father was well known to the ADL for trying to keep Jews out of his corner of Connecticut—strike two!

When Gore Vidal libeled the Buckley family in the September 1969 issue of Esquire, it was just old news from Arnold Forster and his ADL hate-file. Anyway, Bill had to keep people like Prof. Oliver out of National Review because RPO had suddenly become a founding member of the John Birch Society. And the JBS, in 1958 ADL ideology, was ipso facto an aunty-seemite org. (Even after a million sellouts by Robert Welch and company, some people still do believe that about the JBS, even today.)

To keep National Review alive and in distribution, Buckley had to make nice with the Mephistophelean powers that were. No RPO, no JBS, no friendly letters to Willis Carto and Liberty Lobby. And thus, after a dozen years, Buckley finally scored a nasty Time cover (1997) with a caricature by David Levine.

But bringing The American Mercury out of purdah was a different thing entirely, a hopeless effort. It would always be this fringe magazine that William F. Buckley, Jr., George Lincoln Rockwell, and William Bradford Huie (checkbook journalist on the Emmett Till trial) once worked on, or wrote for. The hapless William LaVarre was snorting fire to no practical end at all.

Myself, I only discovered the still-extant American Mercury in the early 70s because my college library had been subscribing for 50 years and its octavo-sized issues were pigeonholed right next to the similarly shaped American Opinion slot in our Periodical Reading Room. By that point the Mercury had failed so badly it was now owned by Carto’s Liberty Lobby. If you subscribed to it, you also got Liberty Lobby’s Washington Observer newsletter, a sort of thin predecessor to The Spotlight (“The Paper You Can Trust!”). Not an awful lot of advertising revenue; often just back-cover ads for The Six Million Swindle, by Prof. Austin J. App (Scranton University; LaSalle University; PhD, Catholic University of America), probably published by a Carto publishing house on the West Coast.

What’s missing from the Carto website is correspondence from sometime Richmond News-Leader editor and veteran columnist James J. Kilpatrick. That is too bad, because Kilpatrick is one of the few classic American conservatives who stayed the course until the pressures became unbearable, and they had to start paying lip-service to race-egalitarian nonsense, if they wished to keep their newspaper or syndication alive. In Kilpatrick’s case this seems to have happened around 1970. As a reward for his sellout, Kilpatrick got to become a popular television personality, trading barbs with Shana Alexander on 60 Minutes‘ “Point-Counter-Point” segment…and then being lovingly parodied by Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin during the early Michael O’Donoghue genius-era of Saturday Night Live (“Jane, you ignorant slut!”).

But Kilpatrick did not completely sell out, or  disavow his roots. There came a time when certain Washington columnists (mainly the “Washington Merry-Go-Round”‘s Drew Pearson, and his Igor/successor, Jack Anderson) decided to attack Willis Carto for having masterminded or subverted a 1968 Youth for Wallace movement. Their columns were relentless, full of cheap shots, but they had detected that the Youth for Wallace had been transformed into something called the National Youth Alliance. Pearson and Anderson wouldn’t give up. In 1969 they ran continuous exposés in their columns about how Willis A. Carto was behind the whole thing, and he was using it to push a subversive tract by Francis Parker Yockey, called Imperium.

James J. Kilpatrick treated it all as a joke. He was often used by syndicates as a substitute columnist when William F. Buckley, Jr. was on vacation, and so this column, May 29, 1969, went far and wide. “The next edition of the Liberals’ Demonology is likely to see Willis Carto elevated to the position of Number One Devil.”

Today we’ve long known that the National Youth Alliance was the early edition of the National Alliance, but in 1969-71 it was easy to frame it all as a sinister fad, something masterminded by one Willis Carto, of Washington DC, Sausalito, and points south. There was dissension in the post-Youth for Wallace movement, with one faction going for a populist-conservative movement, friendly to the YAF and NR types, and the other side going for a radical, Yockeyist point of view, calling itself the National Youth Alliance.You can decide for yourselves which side, if any, succeeded.

I have a sentimental attachment to this fracas, because it was what first brought me into some kind of vague kind Rightist movement, a few years later. National Review had run an out-of-left-field article by one C.H. (“Chris”) Simonds, attacking Willis A. Carto (September 10, 1971 issue). Shortly afterwards, advertisements began to appear (in popular magazines, not National Review), warning young people to avoid youth alliances of all sorts, particularly those promoting the sinister bible called Imperium.



Tall Tales from the ‘Draft Riots,’ July 1863

“It is an actual historical fact,” says retired professor and history writer Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., “that the greatest mass murder of African Americans in United States’ [sic] history took place during the New York Draft Riots of July 1863, which were the greatest riots in American history.”

That’s what he said, this historian: “an actual historical fact.” Not only the greatest mass-murder of African Americans, but it all got to happen during the greatest riots in American history! Now, Prof. Mitcham is merely promoting his little book, The Greatest Lynching in American History: New York 1863 (Shotwell Publishing, 2020), so perhaps we should permit him some hyperbole. Still, I doubt anyone who remembers Watts or Detroit or Newark in the 1960s—or the nationwide BLM/Antifa riots of 2020—could agree with that last part. Greatest riots, truly?

As to “mass murder,” documented sources can name only about 10 negroes (as we all used to say until about 1972) who were beaten to death or lynched in New York City between 13 and 18 July 1863. Mitcham declares there must have been 200 blacks killed, on no basis other than his own fevered imagination. And even 200 isn’t that big a number in comparison with the hundreds of phantom deaths that black activists Ida M. Bell and W. E. B. DuBois used to conjure up a century or more ago, when ringing up the totals from race riots: they counted any missing negroes as lynching victims.

Mitcham’s little book is thus another entry in the genre of Lynching Porn, along with such dubious, inventive pulp-histories as Herbert Asbury’s The Gangs of New York (Knopf, 1928) and Barnet Schecter’s The Devil’s Own Work (Walker Books, 2005), both of which Mitcham leans heavily upon for source material. Mitcham is also totally wild on the subject of how many people were killed in the riots. Careful scholarship and documentation have long since pinned that number down to a hard 119, including soldiers, police, and accidental deaths. Mitcham wants to believe it’s somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500. Those were estimates floated by the NY Metropolitan Police and the War Department in the immediate post-riot hysteria, before anyone took the time to check the records.

What’s weird about Mitcham is that, to judge by his other writings, he’s not some anti-Copperhead crackpot who wants to hang Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree. He’s something of a Southern patriot, in fact, as are many authors in the Shotwell Publishing imprint. I just don’t get it. Perhaps Mitcham imagined that deriding pro-Confederate New York City could be a good way of sticking it to the Yanks.

James Gordon Bennett Jr. of the NY Herald used this cartoon, depicting July 1863, for a piece honoring the New York Metropolitan Police in 1884. Constantin de Grimm was a famous European satirical illustrator.

“The Sky Was Black!”

A few years back I wrote about the burning and sacking of the Colored Orphan Asylum at Fifth Avenue and West 43rd Street. This conflagration often figures as a gleaming centerpiece of the July 1863 “Draft Riots” narrative, in spite of the fact that no one died in that arson, nor was anyone ever prosecuted for it. Since much of the surrounding neighborhood was also put to the torch—including a hotel, a stockyard, and an ice cream parlor—local cognoscenti maintained it was all part of an urban-renewal plan. The City wanted to get rid of eyesores and low-rent tenants on City-owned plots between 42nd Street and the lush new Central Park at 59th, soon to be the most expensive real estate in the world. About the only building in that region that still stands today is St. Patrick’s Cathedral—then unfinished—along with its Tuckahoe-marble rectory and parish house: all built on private land donated to the Archdiocese.

But even more renowned than the burning of the black orphanage (which was actually a fee-paying, partly charitable boarding school) are the endless fables about innocent negroes being suddenly plucked off the streets and strung up on a tree or lamppost. “The sky was black with hanging negroes!” runs an ignorant cliché. However I have found only about a half-dozen of these documented in news reports of the time, and they mostly follow a similar pattern: negroes shoot white people, they get captured, beaten, and often hanged.

As reported in the New York World of July 14, 1863:

An intense excitement was created in the vicinity of Bleecker Street and Sixth Avenue last evening [July 13], in consequence of a white citizen being shot while passing up Bleecker Street… A gentleman…was going to his home, when he was accosted by a partially intoxicated negro, who was so abusive in his language as to provoke a quarrel. Some altercation ensued from this abuse, when the negro drew a pistol and shot the white man, who soon after died. [A crowd gathered, chased the negro to the old St. John’s Cemetery on Carmine Street, beat him, hanged him, cut his throat, and built a fire beneath him.]

And in the Daily News—same day, same neighborhood:

About eight o’clock last evening four negroes were seen running down Carmine Street, with a large crowd in close pursuit. One of the negroes being overtaken, turned and fired upon his pursuer, shooting him with three bullets, and killing him instantly. The negroes then separated, each taking a different route. [The crowd] pursued the first to near the corner of Varick Street, where he was secured and very badly beaten…then hung from a tree. The field was then left to a party of boys, who amused themselves by building a fire…

Which Paper Do Ya Read?

It made a big difference which paper you read. Henry Raymond’s stridently Republican New York Times appears to have combined elements from both the above stories and added extra details, while leaving out the crucial fact that it all began when a negro shot and killed a white man. The imaginative spin is breathtaking:

There were probably not less than a dozen negroes beaten to death in different parts of the City during the day. Among the most diabolical of these outrages that have come to our knowledge is that of a negro cartman living in Carmine Street. About 8 o’clock in the evening as he was coming out of the stable, after having put up his horses, he was attacked by a crowd of about 400 men and boys, who beat him with clubs and paving-stones till he was lifeless, and then hung him to a tree opposite the burying ground. Not being yet satisfied with their devilish work, they set fire to his clothes and danced and yelled and swore their horrid oaths around his burning corpse. [July 14, 1863.]

The Times is really winging it here. “Not less than a dozen negroes beaten to death”—we don’t know where or how, but that’s our story and we’re sticking to it. Similarly, when writing up the Colored Orphan Asylum’s destruction, which happened around the same evening, the Times claimed that the school housed “600 to 800” colored children, although the true number was 230.

Then you have personal reports in letters and diaries, equally imaginative and based almost entirely on hearsay. An elderly Columbia chemistry and botany professor, John Torrey (1796-1873), saw no mob violence in the street, but he heard tales and readily believed what people told him. As Torrey wrote in a letter on July 15th:

This morning I was obliged to ride down to the office in a hired coach. A friend who rode with me had seen a poor negro hung an hour or two before. The man had, in a frenzy, shot an Irish fireman, and they immediately strung up the unhappy African. At our office there had been no disturbance in the night. Indeed the people there were “spoiling for a fight.” They had a battery of about 25 rifle barrels, carrying 3 balls each, & mounted on a gun-carriage. It could be loaded & fired with rapidity. We had also 10-inch shells, to be lighted & thrown out of the windows. Likewise quantities of SO3, with arrangements for projecting it on the mob. Walking home we found that a large number of soldiers—infantry, artillery & cavalry are moving about, & bodies of armed citizens. The worst mobs are on the 1st & 2nd & 7th Avenues. Many have been killed there. They are very hostile to the negroes, & scarcely one of them is to be seen. A person who called at our house this afternoon saw three of them hanging together.

Professor Torrey in the 1860s.

Quite a bit to unpack here. A frenzied negro is said to have shot an “Irish fireman,” and was immediately strung up. Is the story true? And if so, how and why did he draw a bead on the “Irish fireman”? And how did Torrey’s friend know the victim was Irish? Because most firemen were? Or because that fit in with a current narrative? No matter: Torrey and friend agree the negro gunman shouldn’t have been hanged, but rather should have got off scot-free, just on general principle. Torrey seriously thinks negroes are being hanged all across the city, and readily believes a visitor who claims to have seen “three of them hanging together.”

The side note about Torrey’s office crew at the downtown Columbia campus is also amusing. They’re preparing to defend themselves with rifles at the windows, globular bombshells, and sulfur trioxide, which I take to be an early and very painful version of tear gas. Another science-professor whiz at Columbia, Richard Sears McCulloh, also liked to build gas bombs, and soon would leave New York City for Richmond, to develop such dainties for the Confederacy. So it appears this was an ongoing research interest at Columbia College.

As for that encounter between the negro and the “fireman,” the newspapers give us a “synoptic” version of the story. It appears the excitement got started when the negro shot and killed a veteran of the “Fire Zouaves” (a now-disbanded Union regiment of firemen also called the 11th New York Volunteers).

From the Daily News of July 16th:

At half after six yesterday morning a middle-aged negro, named Potter or Porter, was passing quietly down Thirty-second street, near the [Seventh?] avenue, when he was met by a fireman, an ex-Zouave, named Manney, who hailed him, asking where he was going. The negro not understanding, apparently, what was said, made no reply, and Manney, with the most kind intentions, told him that the excitement was very great, that the mobs would certainly be around today, and would doubtless kill him or severely beat him, if they should catch him. Still, apparently misapprehending Manney’s intentions, and probably misunderstanding his language, the negro drew a revolver and discharged it with fatal effect. He shot twice, certainly, each ball striking Manney full in the forehead, and entering his brain. He then started to run, but was soon overtaken by a crowd of excited and infuriated people, and by several of the firemen residing near by, who chased him a short distance, and soon overtook him. The heart sickens at the recollection of the fearful and


which followed. The negro was pounded, battered, kicked, pummelled, stoned, thrown down, trampled upon, and fairly bruised into a jelly. A bloody pulp was all that was left of the mistaken murderer in a very few moments; but even this was considered slight revenge, and the mutilated mass of blood and bones and quivering flesh was carried brutally to a tree, to a limb of which it was hung, amid the cheers and jeers of the indignant crowd.

Poor Manney had the best of medical attendance, but probably for naught…

No good deed goes unpunished! West 32nd Street seems to have been a hotbed for this kind of shooting/lynching. On the evening of the same day (July 15) there was a crowd of “between four and five thousand men” gathered near the corner of Eighth Avenue, per the New York Herald. They were awaiting the arrival of Federal troops fresh from Gettysburg, and they weren’t sure whether to welcome them or take to the barricades.

But first there was a distraction. From the July 16 New York Herald:

A negro unfortunately made his appearance, when one of the men called him an opprobrious name. The negro made a similar rejoinder, and after a few words the indiscreet colored man pulled out a pistol and shot a man. With one simultaneous yell the crowd rushed on him. He was lifted high in the air by fifty stalworth [sic] arms and then dashed forcibly on the pavement. Kicks were administered by all who could get near enough. Some men then took hold of his legs and battered his head several times on the pavement. Life was now nearly extinct and a rope was called for. The desired article was in a moment produced and the black man’s body was soon after suspended from a neighboring lamppost.

There are also instances of white people being shot by negroes who manage to run away. But these accounts are much shorter, as there’s no payoff in the end, and little newsworthiness.

The ever-tasteful Thomas Nast caricatures Governor Horatio Seymour, blames him for the negro lynchings and the burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum (in background).

Is There a Backstory?

Needless to say, these narratives are repetitive and maybe tiresome, apart from their stilted and amusing turns of phrase. And they leave a lot of open questions. For example, how is it that all these angry negroes happened to be “packing”? Well, one obvious answer is that in those days you could buy handguns in your local hardware store. And while I haven’t found precise documentation for this, it seems very likely that New York City negroes had been encouraged to arm themselves, both by white Abolitionists and by firebrand black preachers such as Henry Highland Garnet. The excuse presumably was that the white people in New York would soon be murdering all the blacks they saw, so you’d best prepare. (Often “white” would be euphemized as “Irish,” so as not to offend Caucasian Abolitionists. But as the majority of white people in New York were Irish—whether immigrant or first- second-, or third-generation—this was an frivolous distinction from the negro point of view.) John Brown himself, who definitely wished to arm all blacks for a bloody revolution, had close ties to New York through his local ally James Sloan Gibbons, whom he visited shortly before his Harper’s Ferry raid in 1859.

Gibbons, a financial writer by profession, was perhaps the leading Abolitionist intelligence operative in New York. Supposedly his home had been one of the major safe houses in the Underground Railroad. He was certainly an effective propagandist. He wrote the lyrics to one of the most thumpingly gleeful songs to come out of that war, “We Are Coming, Father Abra’am, 300,000 More,” an 1862  ditty that inspired a half-dozen musical compositions, including one from Stephen Foster, though Foster’s was not the best. Friends of Horace Greeley, the Gibbons family owned a marvelous five-floor townhouse on West 29th Street, then also known as Lamartine Place (a romantic 1840s dedication to the French poet and statesman). The neighborhood still exists today, as fashionable as it was in 1850.

The memory of James Gibbons is enshrined in a memoir written by his daughter, Lucy Gibbons Morse, “Personal Recollections of Draft Riots of 1863.” A not-for-profit calling itself the Riot Relief Fund gives out a little book, The Riot of the Century, to donors and well-wishers, and it contains this peculiar little essay. The writing is full of interesting biases and evasions, but it gives a flavor of Abolitionists’ self-righteousness and sentimentality. The bullying friends of terrorist John Brown are now feeling the terror of the persecuted. As “Riot Week” progresses, little Lucy and her sister hear their house is going to be attacked—they’re just a few blocks from those mobs on 32nd St.—and so they’re preparing to move out of the city. But too late! Their father is off attending strategy powwows at the Fifth Avenue Hotel on 23rd St., so he isn’t there when a mob ransacks the house and drags off their books and pots and piano. The girls watch disconsolately from a top-floor window.

Finally they’re rescued by a family friend, young celebrity lawyer (and future Ambassador to Great Britain) Joseph Choate, who takes them to his house. Lucy and her sister marvel at the “quiet restful order” of the Choate domicile:

It was beautiful—we did not know how beautiful until they told us they had five colored refugees in the kitchen!

Besides this sort of smarm, the essay is distinguished by the deceitful pose of the narrator. She is depicted as a dizzy, befuddled young girl of about nine or ten, or so I thought. It comes as a shock to discover that little Lucy Gibbons was actually born in 1839 and at the time of this tale she an adult, a 24-year-old music teacher.

In the immediate aftermath of the Riots, most press treatments dwelt were shot through with the lurid and sensational. Newspapermen seldom did on-the-spot reporting, preferring to write up incidents they didn’t witness but learned about via telegraph from the police stations and other newspapers. The telegraph was the internet of its day, with all the cop shops and pressrooms wired in to each other. And so the reading public were encouraged to believe that hundreds if not thousands of innocent negroes were being immolated and hung from lampposts, while drunken rioters looted every dry-goods shop they could find. Actually the only notable clothing store to get wrecked was Brooks Brothers on Catherine Street, and that was for a reason that went beyond theft and vandalism. Brooks Brothers was a notorious war profiteer. In 1861 it supplied the New York Volunteers with uniforms made of shoddy—fabric scraps rolled and glued together in a semblance of cloth. Running back from their Bull Run defeat in the rain, these Federals found their clothes disintegrating around them. (Zouaves kept their uniforms on, I believe; they’d used a different vendor.)

A Pause in Sensationalism

The atrocity tales were eventually forgotten by the public, and even newspaper commemorations of Riot Week turned sedate. Every July, for about 25 years after the war, the Associated Press ran a potted recap of the events, penned by Western historian J. H. Beadle. No gratuitous lynching of black men in the Beadle telling; now the victims of violence were mainly brave police and heroic militiamen. All across the country, in the Cedar Rapids Gazette or the Baldwinsville Gazette and Farmers Journal, readers could thrill year after year to the story of  how Police Superintendent John Kennedy was beaten within an inch of his life by a mob outside the draft office on East 46th St.; how doughty Colonel O’Brien was dragged and stamped to death in his own yard at 32nd St. and Second Avenue; and how the great anti-war, anti-negro agitator, Mr. Andrews of Virginia, was captured in a brothel with his colored mistress.

Sensationalism returned in the 1920s with the pulp-fiction histories of Herbert Asbury. Asbury discovered that one could cobble together spicy “true crime” stories by pillaging old newspapers at the New York Public Library. He researched an article that began as an architectural history of lower Manhattan but quickly turned into a fantasia about low dives and large harlots. After this piece was published in The American Mercury, as “Days of Wickedness,” Asbury expanded it with dubious legends of 1830s street ruffians. He called the new manuscript The Gangs of New York. To give the book extra piquancy he put in a long lurid section about the “rioters” of July 1863, and added every atrocity he could research or invent. In Asbury’s telling, most of the rioters lived in Five Points in Lower Manhattan, rather than Chelsea, Kips Bay and Midtown, as the records show. (Five Points’s heyday was actually around 1812.) And many rioters apparently were madwomen who liked to mutilate dying negroes, slice open their “quivering flesh,” fill the wounds with oil, and set them aflame. Contrary to The Gangs of New York, most people in the so-called “Draft Riots” weren’t gang members at all, just as few were protesting conscription. (Most were ineligible for the draft anyway, due to age, sex or nationality.) But this didn’t seem to matter, since Asbury was making up much of his narrative. He secured a very fine publisher, Alfred Knopf, but the book was taken to be light entertainment. No one confused it with serious history.

That was 1928. A few years later the Riots figured in a piece of fiction by Robert W. Chambers, clearly influenced by Asbury’s imaginings. The story was written as a movie treatment for a Civil War film starring that celebrated comedienne, Marion Davies (Operator 13, 1934). Alas, the New York scenes were cut.

So far as I can tell, the “Draft Riots” reentered mainstream consciousness in the 1960s as a sort of rationalization for the many race riots and civil-rights protests during that turbulent decade. It was a way of saying, “It’s okay if Negroes need to let off a little steam; in the 1800s white people (or ‘the Irish’) did it too.” That was in fact the basic pitch of James McCague’s The Second Rebellion (1967), one of the first serious attempts in modern times to treat the July 1863 events as history. Unfortunately McCague drew too much upon the Asbury version. And like Asbury, he was defeated by a mare’s nest of scattered, inconsistent, and highly politicized newspaper stories.

Some Cases of Mistaken Identity

Both Asbury and McCague introduce us to a supporting player who is almost—but not quite—totally fantastical. That is Colonel H. J. O’Brien, or perhaps Col. Henry J. O’Brien. He is a foolhardy, or maybe intoxicated, man on horseback who leads 150 raw recruits down Second Avenue to face a mob at the corner of 34th Street. It is July 14, 1863. The Colonel’s men set up howitzers in the street and, like Napoleon in 1795, offer the crowd a whiff of grapeshot. Many are wounded, some die. O’Brien fires his pistol and orders the crowd to disperse. Unfortunately he shoots and kills a woman holding a baby. Some hours later, O’Brien returns to this neighborhood with a cart—he lives a couple of blocks down the avenue—to see if the mob have looted his house. They have. He goes to his friend Mr. von Briesen’s pharmacy on the corner of 34th St. for a drink of water, or maybe something more fortifying. The crowd apprehends him when he exits, and they beat him to a pulp. The Rev. William Clowry of nearby St. Gabriel’s Church strolls by, sees O’Brien is dying, gives him Extreme Unction. O’Brien gets dragged into his own backyard, where the mob beats him again. Finally Father Clowry returns with a wheelbarrow and takes him to Bellevue Hospital, where he is pronounced dead.

That’s as clear an account as you’ll ever find. However, there is no such person as H.J. or Henry J. O’Brien who fits the time and place. There was no Col. Henry O’Brien at all. There was a Lt. Col. James O’Brien, of the 48th Massachusetts, recently killed during a heroic assault at Port Hudson on the Mississippi. Our unfortunate fellow with the horse and cart is most likely Mr. Henry F. O’Brien, 43 years of age, address 559 Second Avenue. Still a British subject, but he recently filed for naturalization. Henry F. was briefly commissioned as lieutenant, then captain, at the end of 1862, but he only lasted two months and saw no action. I hear Fredericksburg was a huge black pill for Union morale. He resigned.

Anyway, a few months later Henry F. comes up with the idea of reconstituting the 11th New York Volunteers—the Fire Zouaves! I don’t know if they were planning to wear those snazzy French-Algerian Zouave outfits. The 11th had a very poor record during their one year of existence, but if Henry F. gets enough recruits for his new regiment he can style himself a colonel!

This is right after the Union defeat Chancellorsville, and the Federals seem willing to take anyone. And thus we get the legend of Col. Henry O’Brien…a figure yet unknown to the Adjutant General and War Department.

O’Brien’s terrible, though probably deserved, death brought Henry F. a measure of international fame. Somebody in Sheffield, England read the gruesome tale and thought he recognized an old neighbor. As reported July 29th in the London Telegraph:

The correspondent of a Sheffield paper expresses his belief that the Colonel O’Brien who was lately hanged to a lamppost in New York, cut down before he was dead, and then brutally murdered by the mob, was the Colonel M. D. T. O’Brien who had been a resident in Sheffield for some time, and who was well known to many of the leading families in that quarter under the name of Thompson, his mother’s maiden name. The colonel had formerly seen some service in the Crimea, and had been in Italy with Garibaldi. In December he sailed for New York and was slightly wounded in the battle of Fredericksburg.

If only the “Colonel” could have lived to see this!

Pap Finn Tonight!

Huckleberry Finn’s father is such a towering, terrifying figure of American literature, it’s a wonder no one’s ever built a drama around him. Maybe we should put together a one-man show. “Pap Finn Tonight!”

Like that “Mark Twain Tonight!” entertainment that Hal Holbrook wrote when he was at Denison University in the 1940s…and then kept revising and reviving to moderately amused audiences…for the next seventy years. That is, until 2017, when he was 92, and decided to take a rest and focus on more serious dramatic roles. “Mark Twain Tonight!” had begun as a jokey college project, but over the decades it turned into a tidy nest egg. We all remember Hal Holbrook from TV shows and movies from recent decades. The Firm, 1993, with Tom Cruise, is what always comes to my mind. But actually Hal’s career didn’t take off big time till he was, like, 45. Or maybe 50, when he played Deep Throat in All the President’s Men, 1976.

But in the meantime he kept doing his Mark Twain thing. “Mark Twain Tonight!” was a honey of a property because it required no supporting cast, practically no props, and no rights-clearance at all. All Hal Holbrook had to do was edit and recite stuff that the great man himself had scripted for endless lecture tours in the 1890s and 1900s. Seems Twain had gone bankrupt from numerous crazy schemes, and needed to make his fortune back.

All this was on my mind many years ago when I was with a comedy troupe in the 80s, and actually did write a piece called “Pap Finn Tonight!” This was just a five-minute skit, an obvious takeoff on Hal Holbrook, though slightly edgier. I seem to have conceived it around the time that Vanessa Williams, our first black Miss America, was shamed out of her crown when Penthouse ran some old nudies of her. So Vanessa Williams was on the cover of People magazine, around mid-1984. And in my conception, this magazine is what sets old Pap off. He picks it up and waves it around, and does some drunken raving based on his actual rant in the Huckleberry Finn book, when he’s taken Huck to the cabin and he’s all whiskey’d up. Something like:

They call this a govment? Oh this is a wonderful govment, wonderful. What’s this nigger doin’ on a magazine cover? Oh they say she’s a free nigger. So free she sells naked pitchers of herself. What’s the country a-coming to? I know about these free niggers. One o’ them wouldn’t-a give me the road if I hadn’t shoved him out of the way. I says to the people, why ain’t this nigger wench put up at auction and sold? They call that a govment?

At this point the audience should be really alarmed and intrigued by Pap. So now the “Stage Manager” comes out, he’s dressed in a black suit and a top hat like the Mute in The Fantasticks, and he stage-whispers to Pap that it’s time get off. Pap berates him the way he berates Huck:

Why ain’t you a sweet-scented dandy? You got top hat, clean suit. I never seen such a son. Why, there ain’t no end to your airs. I’ll take some o’ these frills out o’ you before I’m done with you. I’m a-standing about all I can stand now. So don’t gimme so sass…

During this last bit of monologue, the Stage Manager has gone to get his crook. He hooks Pap around the neck and hauls him off the stage as Pap continues to rant. Exeunt.

As a very short, broadly comedic number, the skit bears some similarity to the “Royal Nonesuch” entertainment we read later on in Huckleberry Finn. That’s when the old bald guy with the white beard—the “King,” the one who claims to be the Dauphin of France—paints himself in multicolored spots and stripes, and for a minute or so cavorts naked on all fours before an audience of Arkansas yokels, who think they’ve come to see a grand theatrical offering from Edmund Kean. (I could tell you what happens next, but that might be a spoiler.)

So “Pap Finn Tonight!” was never produced, alas. Because—well, just because. When we did our Sunday afternoon script readings, jaws dropped. I think my colleagues missed the humor mainly because they just didn’t know Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They couldn’t relate to its manic outrageousness. Back around 1980 SCTV did skits about poor, starving Okies in the Depression, and they were entirely based on the film version of the The Grapes of Wrath. They were hilarious if you knew the source material, but mean and mystifying if you didn’t.

My “Pap Finn Tonight!” has had a long afterlife in memory. One of our company, who decades later would win an Emmy Award for writing a politically correct comedy show about two colored guys, would laughingly complain to me: “Every time I move, every time I have to go through all the scripts we have—there it is, staring at me, right on top of the pile! ‘Pap Finn Tonight!'”

Ironically I myself haven’t had a copy of the script for many years. I was just improvising up above. In the course of a half-dozen transcontinental and trans-Atlantic moves, most of my juvenilia went up the spout.

In my old troupe—which shall remain nameless because a lot of these people still have careers and families—I not only wrote scripts, I was a performer and I built props. We performed in downstairs- and upstairs-cabarets in Manhattan. Sometimes on TV. Our live sketches were interspersed with video segments, because a lot of our work was simply not feasible on a live stage late at night. For instance, we might have a big number set at an amusement park, and we needed a genuine roller-coaster in the background. Well you just can’t build that on the stage at the West Bank Café on West 42nd Street (a favorite venue, where our compère was the young and ever-pissed-off Lewis Black). So we put televisions on the side of the stage to show the video skits. It was professional  quality video, because one of our number ran the A/V department at AT&T. I’m giving you all these details in case you ever want to run a comedy cabaret yourself.

I was particularly fond of my “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” sketch, which was all-video. This had a car-front prop I built out of posterboard and acrylic paints. The premise here was that Ian Fleming’s famous kiddie book was also his greatest James Bond story. In one scene (I recently came across it, I think on YouTube) we have the 007 character in bed post coitum, smoking a cigarette, asking Chitty in a Sean Connery voice, “Was it goood for yoou?”

I pushed the envelope whenever I could, and so my scripts were often shot down as too risky and offensive. For example, “Tard School,” a script for live performance. This was a takeoff on Dale Carnegie courses, which teach nervous losers how to present themselves smoothly and make themselves likable. Maybe even “Make Friends and Influence People,” as the saying goes. I was attuned to such things because I had no social graces whatsoever, and nearly signed up with Dale Carnegie. But I had this theory that most retards were like the rest of us. And so, instead of teaching them to make brooms or whatever, we should teach them to recite a script, put up a big front—present themselves as outgoing, friendly, articulate people. “Hey, I’m glad I’m here, I’m glad you’re here!”

I still believe this was a brilliant idea, and should be implemented in the teaching of the mentally retarded. Life is mostly an act, after all. Sincerity is something you fake. I grew up near a posh boarding school for the retarded, the Devereux Foundation, and we often used their grounds and buildings for parish barbecues and scouting events. We’d occasionally run into some of the inmates, or students, or whatever we called them. Mostly from rich, often celebrity families. They weren’t all that feebleminded or helpless. They were just inept. Maybe a bit spastic, perhaps autistic, though we didn’t know about autism then. What these kids (some of whom looked to be 23) really needed was the Dale Carnegie touch. And that was the moral of “Tard School.”

Nevertheless “Tard School” frightened the pants off a couple of our folks—specifically, the one-and-a-half Jews in our company. This surprised me, because I’d have expected such folks to dig its offbeat wackiness, and the faux humanitarianism that “Tard School” espoused. But that’s asking for too much. They problem was simply that my script was about…retards. They’d apparently received some ukase from the Community Relations boys, telling them never to mention the feebleminded in a humorous context. So even in the mid-80s, certain subjects were being declared verboten. The fact that I’d probably had more experience with retards than most of my colleagues wouldn’t really carry any weight, so I didn’t argue the matter.

* * *

When I was little, a cousin of mine was given a boxed set of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, a lavishly illustrated (by Donald McKay) pair of editions that Grosset & Dunlap originally brought out in the 1940s. I think Book of the Month Club was giving them out as a subscriber bonuses around 1960. Anyway, said cousin received the books from his grandparents, who later asked if he enjoyed them. Always eager to please, he responded that he particularly enjoyed Huckleberry Finn because Pap Finn would get drunk and beat up Huck…just like his own father beat him up!

I believe this was an accurate description—the parent did indeed say things like, “I never seen such a son,” though presumably with better grammar. But it must have caused a lot of embarrassment and further abuse in that family. Confusion, too, because this drunken father would completely black out on what he said or did and honestly had no memory of it.

My cousin was seven years old at the time. His father had read Huckleberry Finn when he wasn’t much older. So the character of Pap Finn had embedded, insinuated itself into the father’s mind, way back in 1929, and it came out spontaneously when he was intoxicated and encountered his little son.

“Why ain’t you a sweet-scented dandy?”—there were remarks like that too. This was not a family tradition; they didn’t all go around channeling Pap Finn, swilling rye and beating each other up. The abuser’s father was in fact a very gentle, if somewhat remote, corporate executive and engineer. It’s not true that abusers were all abused as kids. Abusers might abuse just because they can.

Was Pap Finn a role model for child abusers? It sounds absurd. He’s such a terrible loser, drunk and dirty and determined to grab the fortune that his son somehow lucked into. (Huck owns $6000 in gold, 1839 dollars, because of treasure he discovered with Tom Sawyer in the first book.) But strange things can come out when people have a load on.

A question that’s easier to answer is where the hell Pap Finn came from. If he was 50 years old in 1839, then he was born about 1789. One somehow doubts this birth was in Philadelphia, Baltimore or Boston; and Missouri would be highly unlikely, as it wasn’t even a state until 1820. Pap was most likely born in a western territory, perhaps along the Ohio River in the future states of Ohio, Indiana or Kentucky. And how did he come to be in a small river town in Missouri? (“St. Petersburg” in these books, presumably based on Twain’s hometown of Hannibal.) Was there a billet for Town Drunk that Pap decided to apply for?

No, the likely answer is that Pap is just an old Kaintuck. A onetime boatman from the flatboat days, before steamboats came to dominate Mississippi travel in the 1820s and 30s. Goods traveled down from the Ohio and Mississippi rivers via flatboats. The boatmen got to Natchez, or New Orleans (after Louisiana was part of the Union), sold their goods, and then pretty much had to walk back north via the Natchez Trace, through Mississippi and Tennessee. Pre-1820 these boatmen largely came from Kentucky, hence they were all called Kaintucks. If Huck was 14 (my estimate) in 1839, then he was born about 1825, right about the time that the flatboat-sailors were being phased out in favor of the new steamboat trade.

Pap most likely washed up on the Missouri waterfront in the 1820s. Presumably he married, and worked odd jobs till he was just too sorry and drunken and unemployable. Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens would have seen such people in riverfront towns when he was growing up.

Huck’s mother died somewhere along the line, probably when Huck was very young, as neither Huck nor Pap make mention of her. Then Pap went away, following the promise of a job, a few years before Adventures of Huckleberry Finn begins. Then he heard rumors that his abandoned son came into a fortune, and so Pap comes right back to St. Petersburg.

And that’s his story, near as I can make out. Pap Finn Tonight!

The Gay Black Birdman Bully of Central Park

The feast day of St. George Floyd, Holy Martyr, passed on May 25 without much  commemoration in the news media. Actually I didn’t see any commemoration at all—unless you count James Fulford’s mention of him in his Memorial Day piece. But I did come across something much better in the New York Times. (I’ll link it down below.)

You may remember the “Central Park Karen” incident. That was also May 25, 2020. But early in the day. It dominated news and social media even more than the George Floyd story did. It certainly contributed to the BLM riots that broke out soon after. To refresh your memory, here’s the typical news spin we got:

A white woman was walking her dog, off-leash, in a hilly wooded area of New York’s Central Park, called The Ramble. A large black man came from behind a bush and yelled at her to leash the dog. The woman was terrified, and took out her mobile phone to call for help. She said she would tell the dispatcher an “African American man” was threatening her and her dog. The “African American man” videoed some of this, sent it to his sister, and it soon went viral on social media. The woman was thenceforth denounced as “Racist Central Park Karen.” A couple of days later she was terminated from her job as insurance portfolio manager at Franklin Templeton.

In short order the news media began to inform us that this large black man was some kind of local hero. He’s a birdwatcher. He’s a Harvard graduate in his late fifties. He used to write for Marvel Comics. He’s even gay! (Coincidentally or not, The Ramble is a famous cruising area in the Park.) Christian Cooper is his name, and National Geographic television has given him his very own birdwatching show, due to premiere in mid-June.

And it gets better. He’s just published a book at Random House, Better Living Through Birding, in which he tells of his lifelong passion for his fine feathered friends, and his struggles with being gay and black, and his encounters with Central Park Karen and other exponents of racism. He even compares himself to Emmett Till, that martyred harasser of white women.

Mr. Cooper treated us to a short-form version of his life story on May 26 in the New York Times. (May 28, print edition.) He tells us how he wasn’t happy about that May 25, 2020 encounter…but he’s glad it led to his getting a TV show. He now finds himself “living an absolute dream.”

But as you’ve probably guessed by now, Christian Cooper is no hero. He’s a bully and serial harasser. He even writes in his book that he still harasses white women with dogs—and videos them. And though it may not be in the book, he also harasses and threatens white men with dogs. And black men with dogs. There are several reports of physical altercations. One of them was with a 30-year-old black man—Mr. Cooper is an equal-opportunity bully—who gave a statement to NBC News after the ‘Karen’ story broke. That was three years ago. NBC asked for the testimony, but they’ve been sitting on it ever since.

This statement is quite an eye-opener. It turns out Mr. Cooper’s modus operandi was the quite the same with this young black dog-owner as it was with “Central Park Karen.” When Mr. Cooper sees an unleashed dog in a leash-only area, he chases down the owner, acts in a threatening manner, and then takes doggie treats out of his pocket—presumably drug-laced if not actually poisoned—and goes, “Here, doggy!”

After the “Karen” encounter, he even bragged about it on Facebook. As we read in the statement to NBC News, Mr. Cooper said he told her, “you’re not gonna like what I’m going to do next.” As our testifier comments in his statement:

That’s a threat. And she [‘Karen’] has no idea if this man is pulling out a knife, a gun, or a treat that laced with a rat poison.

This assuredly is not the only report to contradict the media spin on the ‘Karen’ tale. A year ago Megyn Kelly did an extensive interview with podcaster Kmele Foster, who deep-dives into the facts and absolutely destroys the media narrative. Two years ago the Deseret News did a similar, less detailed takedown of the “racist ‘Karen’ in Central Park story.” (This opinion column, from Salt Lake City, erroneously assumes that the ‘Karen’ video surfaced after the George Floyd event, when it was actually circulating on social media earlier the same day. George Floyd, as it happens, was just more fuel on the fire.)

And now we come to the ‘Karen’ herself. How is she doing? Her real name is, coincidentally, Amy Cooper. Well, she didn’t get her old job back at Franklin Templeton. She sued them for termination and lost…even though her lawsuit included reports that Christian Cooper was a known harasser of dog owners in Central Park. Presumably the investment company was leery of PR fallout if they reinstated the “racist” Central Park Karen.

Of course PR fallout works both ways, and coincidentally or not Franklin Templeton was rated the worst-selling fund manager of 2020 (Source: Financial Times) and was still in the middle of a debt-fund crisis in 2022. Franklin Templeton has made some bad acquisitions in recent years, but it’s nice to think their brutal, peremptory treatment of Amy Cooper led some investors to transfer their portfolios elsewhere.

It’s also nice to think that Franklin Templeton made some kind of confidential settlement with Ms. Cooper, probably accompanied by a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Anyway, rumor hath it that she’s out of the country now…pitching tent in a non-English-speaking land where no one will have heard of Central Park Karen.


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