August 28, 2009
With the demise of the Razz Revue
and my first marriage, in 1978 I moved from Tucson to Phoenix and went to work for New Times Weekly
at the princely salary of $110 a week (when I readily agreed to the paltry amount, Jim Larkin, the publisher of NT said, "Damn, I could have gotten you cheaper.").
As the art director, column writer (Scoops) and staff cartoonist I started attending the annual Arizona Press Club Awards, usually held at the Biltmore or Camelback Inn. They were stuffy, formal affairs with a boring slide show presentation. Sometimes they had a video presentation of the governor reading from a script about how the state house and Arizona journalists need to get along. It was very dry stuff.
In 1983, Charlie Waters, the publisher of the Prescott Courier
got involved and invited a motley crew of journalists to come to Prescott and produce a parody newspaper to be handed out at that year's Press Club Awards. Also invited, although not a member of the club, was Dan The Man Harshberger (he and I had co-founded the Razz Revue
and wrote, published and printed the humor magazomic from 1972-78, making zero money, although can you really put a price on nonstop laughter?).
Sometime in 1984 or 85 (as near as I can remember) I asked the officers of the press club if we might try and do a rock video. MTV, founded in 1982 was the hottest new thing and me and my friends were dying to do a cross between an MTV video and a Saturday Night Live satire comedy bit.
The original concept was built off of the traditional opening of a typical Press Club video: "Ladies and Gentleman The Governor of Arizona. . ." but then instead of a seated boring speech, he would stand up to reveal an electric guitar. And he would lead us into a totally insulting and rocking song that ripped the media in every possible way.
Gordon Smith, the circulation director at New Times,
quickly wrote the tune, while Dave Walker (a TV reporter for the Republic
and a drummer as well) worked on the lyrics with me and Gordon.
So we had the song, but there was only one problem: there was no way we had the juice to get Bruce Babbitt to agree to this. We were all part of the dreaded "underground hippie movement" (at least in the halls of state government) and we couldn't even get a phone call returned from the governor's office.
A bubbly, attractive reporter from the Phoenix Gazette
changed all of that. Her name was Michelle Beardon-Mason and she had the gift of gab when it came to movers and shakers. I'm not sure why, because she wasn't a big name reporter, but she could flat open doors. I think the first door to open was Fife Symington a developer who wanted to run for governor. He was getting heat for a controversial project at 24th St. and Camelback and perhaps he wanted to show he was a good sport. I don't know, but I got the call that he had agreed to a cameo appearance and we quickly drove over to his prestigious offices on Camelback (all of us had day jobs, so we shoe-horned in these assignments between our regular work).
The first thing I noticed was he had original oil paintings on the wall by Gilbert Stuart (you know, the famous unfinished George Washington image that hung in every school house in the nation). The second thing I noticed was that he had absolutely zero rhythm. It turned out he wasn't alone. I slowly came to realize that while me and my friends were learning how to do the Pony, the Frug and the Bugaloo, Symington, Babbitt and Goddard were going to Harvard and Yale and other prestigious schools to learn how to run the world.
A real gruff guy, Keith Turley (the guy in the video playing cowbell) was the head of Arizona Public Service. He also was taking grief in the press and I'm not sure why he agreed to do it, but he was delightful. He did his part in one take and then kicked us out of his office. I was very impressed with him. Direct, not afraid to let it hang out.
Carolyn Warner was a complete hoot. We got to her offices on the Capital Mall, and she had a blackboard set up with "Media Scum" written on it. We handed her an apple and she did the rest. She had kind of an uptight rep but Man, she could get down and boogie. I laugh every time when I see her rockin' with that apple.
As Michelle Beardon-Mason began to open more doors, more people heard about our secret little project and wanted to come on board. Bruce Spottleson, who worked briefly for New Times
and then the Mesa Tribune
, asked if he could do an accordion solo in the video. I told him there wasn't an accordion in the song, but he showed up with one at a night taping at Channel 12 (we had to sneak in video shoots on sound stages when they weren't doing news), and we graciously taped him, never thinking we'd use the footage, but in the edit room, every time we put him in the mix people laughed, so Bruce got his time to shine.
The three dancing girls worked at New Times. Michelle Connell was also in the Weaklies and that's her in the bridge sequence doing the "Scratch out their eyes" bit. She married our bass player Jim Rizzi and they live today in Salt Lake City where Jim publishes a newspaper. Bobby Ulloa is the girl on the right and I believe that's Suzette Hutchings in the middle.
Sgt. Allan Schmidt, the spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, had a beef with Tom Fitzpatrick, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist at the Arizona Republic.
Tom wrote some very unflattering things about DPS and so when we met the guy on a shooting range in south Phoenix, we were stunned. It was his idea to shoot a target with Fitz's photo on it. And his idea to wear the gas mask. And yes, he's shooting live ammo, both the pistol and the shotgun.
A short snippet shows Duke Tully, the disgraced Arizona Republic publisher who faked a war record until he was unmasked not long after this video was shot. When you see the newspaper healdine "You're Scum" and the paper drops to a desk and a guy looks at the camera. That's the infamous Duke Tully.
Also, watch for other long time Valley media scumpersons Eileen Bailey and Dewey Webb. And that's Captain Dave Walker doing the press briefing with the press club sign behind him.
The snippet of Barry Goldwater was dropped in from an outtake at an interview with the Arizona legend where an audio person hit the wrong button and a blaring piece of music shot into the senator's ear, prompting him to swear and pull out the audio ear piece and say this line. But it sure seems like he's commenting on Bruce's dancing, doesn't it? Ha.
OH, and when the video played at the annual Press Club Awards, everyone gasped when Bruce Babbit stood up and started strumming a guitar. It was a priceless moment and made it all worthwhile
And in case you missed the link, here it is again:
Media Scum Video
"Those times they'll pass you by. . .in the blink of an eye. . ."
—Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days