Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Radio Days

“Do you remember lying in bed
With your covers pulled over your head?
Radio playin’ so no one can see.”
    “Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio?” The Ramones

Like Vivian Carter for Henry Farag, deejay Joe "The Rockin' Bird" Niagara on Philadelphia station WIBG was my initiation into Rock and Roll.  Joe, later a payola scandal scapegoat, often played two versions of the same song – such as “The Twist” by Hank Ballard and Chubby Checker -  and have folks vote on which they’d like to hear again; almost always the r and b version won out. A black station – WHAT, if I’m not mistaken -  played rhythm and blues (that’s where I first heard the wonderful primal scream of Ray Charles) and broadcast rollicking Sunday church services.  From time to time they’d play tunes by “blue-eyed soul bothers” Frank Sinatra (“The Chairman of the Board”) and Johnny Otis, a Greek-American who sounded black and discovered such greats as Big Mama Thornton and Jackie Wilson.  Otis’s biggest hit was “Willie and the Hand Jive.”

Henry Farag wanted my critique, from one to ten, of Sunday’s Gardner Center performance of “The Signal: A Rhapsody.”  I said if the Aquatorium show was a 7, this was a 9, as there is always room for improvement.  Perfectionist that he is, he gave the first show a 4 and the second a 6 and demanded I tell him how to make it better.  I suggested a medley of songs that hooked Henry on doo wop, such as “Oh, What a Night,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and “Since I Don’t Have You.”  I also thought Henry could describe his debut as an Oldies concert promoter – putting on a show at Greek Hall featuring the Drifters – followed by a Drifters number, perhaps “This Magic Moment” or “There Goes My Baby.”  Henry wants a gig at IU’s School of Music, one of the best in the country, so I sent him the names and emails of three professors who might be interested.

Archives volunteer John Hmurovic’s article on Armanis F. Knotts launching horse racing in present-day Porter, Indiana, near the South Shore Railroad a century ago will appear in the next Indiana Magazine of History issue.  I urged him to send it there after Traces showed no interest.  I predict it will be the best IMH piece all year.  John has a flair, as seen in his 4-hour film on Gary’s history, based in large part on “City of the Century.”

L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling got himself into big trouble for telling biracial mistress Viviano Stiviano not to post photos with Earvin “Magic” Johnson or other African Americans.  On a tape he said, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.”  Magic, in town to raise money for “A Gary Promise,” which provides student scholarships, called for Sterling to be stripped of his team ownership.  NBA commissioner Adam Silver did just that plus fined him $2.5 million and banned him from games.  For three decades the Clippers franchise has been a laughing stock – compiling the worst record of any major professional franchise - but the team is having its best season ever.  Donald Trump called Sterling’s utterance “despicable” and labeled gold-digging Stiviano “the girlfriend from hell.”  A California law prohibits taping people with out their knowledge.

Good luck to Magic and “A Gary Promise,” but charter schools have
decimated once proud Roosevelt and Gary Lew Wallace, the latter rumored to be closing next year.  NWI Times reporter Steve Hanlon interviewed former coaches Ron Heflin and Benny Dorsey, who rued not only the decline of the schools’ athletic programs but the quality of teaching and learning.  Back where he led the 1991 Panthers to a state basketball championship, Heflin said, “This place isn’t what it once was.”  The pride is gone,” Dorsey added.
 Ron Heflin (l) and Benny Dorsey; NWI Times photo by Jonathan Miano

An interview Samuel Love did with opponents of the GEO Group turning the old St. Sava’s Church in Hobart into a prison for immigrants appeared in the publication “La Raza.”  “I’m stoked,” was his reaction.  GEO’s CEO George C. Zoley took over $22 million of taxpayer money between 2008 and 2012.  An ACLU report characterized one of its facilities in Mississippi as a cesspool, concluding: Prisoners are underfed and routinely held in cells that are infested with rats and have no working toilets or lights. Although designated as a facility to care for prisoners with special needs and serious psychiatric disabilities, ECMF denies prisoners even the most rudimentary mental health care services. Many prisoners have attempted to commit suicide; some have succeeded. One prisoner is now legally blind after EMCF failed to provide his glaucoma medications and take him to a specialist, and another had part of his finger amputated after he was stabbed and developed gangrene.”
above photo by Belhu Snanbria

Sam and Brenda are also demonstrating to halt BP from razing Marktown properties, supposedly in order to create a green space.  Protestors gathered at East Chicago City Hall.  The working-class neighborhood, where residents parked vehicles on sidewalks and walked in the streets, dates back 97 years.  On Facebook Thomas Frank wrote: It is a strange form of industrial cannibalism - one of the wealthiest industries in human history wiping out a very rare low-income historic community, when there is plenty of underutilized industrial land all around BP.”

Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies director Ray Smock wished Congress a Happy 225th Birthday despite “its current state of dilapidation and dysfunction” that has caused its approval rate to sink to six percent.  Led by James Madison, the first Congress in 1789 drew up the Bill of Rights and submitted the proposed amendments to the Constitution to the states for ratification. The former House historian wrote: The story of Congress is filled with charlatans and frauds and also with noble men and women who have defended the Constitution, understood the importance of the legislative branch as the fulcrum of our government, and devoted themselves to making government work on behalf of the American people.”

Republicans blocked a Senate bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by threatening a filibuster.  Their profligate use of such tactics makes it virtually impossible to pass any legislation without 60 votes.  This vote, 54-42, fell six votes short.  Democrat Michael Bennet of Colorado stated: “Right now, if you work 40 hours a week in America, in the greatest country in the world, at a federal minimum wage, you make barely over $15,000 a year.  Think about how crazy that is.”

Jerry Davich reported: “At a recent awards gala, I bumped into a region official who came across as arrogant, condescending and downright rude to several guests.”  Unless he named names, I feel, he shouldn’t have printed it.  Half the commenters thought Davich meant Speros Batistatos, who unilaterally moved the annual air show from the Lake Michigan shoreline to a farm downstate.

The Student Activities Board had a “photo booth” in Moraine that resembled a computer and could handle only one person at a time.  Part of the fun of the old-fashioned ones was squeezing in with buddies, and I was hoping to have Scott Fulk or his able assistant Jermel Nelson join me.  I managed to use it posing in a variety of computer-generated hats.

On Facebook Anne Balay invited students to drop by her office and help themselves to books still there; she closed by saying, “Thanks for 8 exciting years.”  Back at you from many, many of us.  Annie Duley responded: “ I’m so glad I left IUN when I did.  An IUN without you is no IUN at all.  Thank you for teaching me.  Thank you for supporting Connectionz!  We were so lucky to have you.”  I wonder if anyone will be brave enough to be the group’s new adviser.
James Wallace invited me to a Brother 2 Brother graduation celebration.  I sat with graduates Roy Cast, whom I had met in Steve McShane’s class, and Jesse Johnson, who had asked Anne Balay to come.  A 1971 West Side grad, Roy recalled no-nonsense  Principal Quentin Smith and legendary track coach Marce Gonzalez.  Keynote speaker Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe (above) gave an inspirational talk stressing the importance of education, interacting with the audience.  He referred to being from the same part of Mississippi as Mary Lee and having a willful mother like Chancellor Lowe, who chuckled appreciatively.   A survey on how African American college students spend their time outside of class revealed that studying alone in the library ranked tenth behind such other pursuits as playing video games, working out in an exercise room, pursuing a love life, vegging out (doing nothing), and rapping.  In contrast, Dejuan Devoe completed his degree in two and a half years, taking as many as 24 hours of credit in the summer.  Floyd Harper arrived late due to class obligations.  Jesse Johnson read Langston Hughes’s “Dream Deferred” poem.  Roy Cast thanked Anne for making him a more rigorous student and noted that Marla Gee, also in her early 60s, was headed to Valpo Law School.  Afterwards, Ava Meux, like Marla a Sixties classmate, asked her about applying to law schools.
Above, Roy Cast; below, Jesse Johnson
This post on Facebook from Anne: “I attended the Brother 2 Brother graduation today at work, because students asked me to. They talked frequently, and in one case publicly, about how my believing in them and challenging them helped them achieve. I managed to get to my car before crying in sadness and rage. WHY did the men who engineered my tenure denial see no need whatsoever to witness me teach, or to talk to my students? I know the answer, of course. But yes, it hurts. I did good work there, and instead of being honored, I was fired.”

I posted this update on Anne Balay’s tenure case and offered free copies of the new Shavings to anyone who desired one.  I got requests from both IUN professors and Facebook friends.

With Anne Balay’s book “Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers” having been published by University of North Carolina Press to great acclaim, IU Northwest should be celebrating the 50 year-old English professor’s achievement.  Instead, on the direction of Bloomington administrators, the university will have no choice but to terminate her at the end of spring semester unless President Michael McRobbie has a change in heart. 
Though no open lesbian had ever been awarded tenure and promotion at IU Northwest, Anne Balay nevertheless had felt confident about her chances upon submitting her dossier. Her case for excellence in research included numerous scholarly articles that appeared in the top refereed journals in her field, plus a book dealing with Northwest Indiana steelworkers that historian John D’Emilio, co-author of “Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America” termed “breathtakingly original.”  Winner of several teaching awards, with above average student evaluations, Anne had extremely positive letters from ten faculty observers, including the senior member of her department and the assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs. 
     Balay’s case seemed ironclad, but she had engaged in activities that a few detractors considered controversial and not in fitting with the deferential behavior expected of non-tenured faculty:
   *Adviser to the LGBT group Rainbow Connectionz, Anne marched in Gay Pride parades with members; after one complained that a Health and Human Services instructor docked her a letter grade because she looked too “butch,” Anne complained.
   *Serving as an Office of Diversity and Equity representative on a Chemistry Department search and screen committee, Anne spoke up when members were about to reject an applicant for being too old and again when they ignored Affirmative Action guidelines.
   * Anne began researching gay, lesbian, and transgendered steelworkers despite Chairman George Bodmer’s recommendation that she stick to writing articles in her field of children literature.
   * She and other junior faculty opposed Chairman Bodmer’s re-appointment due to a lack of department meetings or mentoring (beyond the mantra, “Publish, publish, publish”).  Their effort failed, but a senior faculty allegedly warned Anne that she better start looking for another job.
Anne’s chair, rejecting the unanimous opinion of his department committee, recommended against granting tenure, claiming her teaching to be inadequate, based on alleged student complaints, including comments on her course evaluations that by his own admission represented a small minority of the total.  In the end President McRobbie chose to side with Anne’s chair even though IU Northwest’s Chancellor and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs recommended her.
In “Steel Closets” Anne Balay wrote that her shabby treatment at IU Northwest “made the steelworkers’ hostile work environment uncomfortably personal.”  Although the two workplaces share little in common, both are hostile spaces for un-closeted LGBTs, with newcomers better off hiding their “queerness” and concentrating on fitting in.  At a university that would mean not making waves, keeping one’s nose to the grindstone, being deferential to superiors, and accumulating published articles that few people ever read. 

At the bowling banquet former teammate John Bulot made a surprise appearance.  Recovering nicely from several forms of cancer, he works out daily and expects to be back with the Engineers next season.  I asked if his lady friend was still cooking for him, and he responded with a twinkle in his eye, “Which one?”  Until his health problems worsened, he lived in an apartment where women outnumbered men six to one.  Recently he asked one to spend the weekend with him, and she inquired, “Is the plumbing still working?”  After one visit his prostate specialist said he had a present for him; it was Cialis.  A printout confirmed that my average improved 11 pins from the year before, the result of a better delivery.  Robbie is heading to Kansas City with a group called Roads Scholars (formerly Elder Hostel) and will hear from historians and visit, among other places, a blues club, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, and the Truman presidential library.

1 comment:

  1. "these yorkers are the vilest of people. their vices have not the palliation of being manly. they resemble bad schoolboys who are unfortunate at play: they revenge themselves by telling notorious thumpers. even the new england men say that (rufus) king's character is detestable...a perfect canvas for the devil to paint on; a groundwork void of every virtue." the journal of william maclay 1789-1791. july 3, 1790.

    "...i feared the cabal of new england members in the senate; and that, if they were not gratified in some measure on their favorite article of molasses, they would join with every member who objected to any single article, and promise him gratification in his particular humor if he would join them. by these means, all discontents being united, and indulgence given to every caprice and whim, the bill would be lost."
    maclay's journal 12 may 1789

    read old bill maclay's journal of the first congress and any concept of nobility simply vanishes from the start...these are mild compared to some other comments about the venality of the "nest of vipers" he made. in the introduction to the edition i have charles a. beard suggests that, "...maclay's journal is a piquant and dangerous document, to be read only by a select audience, behind closed doors..." bullshit...pass it around, congress has earned its reputation since the very first day...everyone needs to know.