It was about six o'clock in the evening of February 9, 2010, the sun was gone and there was a threat of hard rain in the cold crisp air of the Berkeley evening. I was wearing powder-blue jeans with a dark blue T-shirt, black sneakers, and black socks. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober and I didn't care who knew it. I was on my way to the Pacific Film Archive to see "Pull My Daisy" written and narrated by Jack Kerouac.
In a video introduction, film maker Alfred Leslie told the audience about a time when the film was just being shown for the first times. In San Francisco, Lucius Beebe hosted a social event, at a restaurant he owned, for the beat poet/novelist and the film maker. Leslie told about how the two were sulking at the bar when actor David Niven arrived and was escorted to a table which would obviously be the social hub for the evening's activities. Niven quickly invited Kerouac and Leslie to sit at his table and immediately offered a toast for the guests of honor. It was at that point, according to Leslie's anecdote, the film maker and writer both realized that they had just been anointed into San Francisco's high society and had graduated up from the ranks of the bikers, beatniks and bay area bohemians.
Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg had been Berkeley residents and so we wondered if any of the graybeards in the audience were living links to the celebrated hitchhiking legend from the past. We wondered if the Digihitch web site would cover the PFA program. We were disappointed to note that the proprietor of the Beatnik Museum over in Frisco was, as best as we could tell, missing from the audience.
"Pull My Daisy" is a specialty item. The film would not hold much interest for anyone who was not interested in the subject of "The Beats." For those who do like that particular era of literary history, the thirty minute long film was a chance to see members of the famed writing group when they were young and vibrant.
On the walk back to the World's Laziest Journalist Headquarters, we noted that Berkeley had also been a hometown for Philip K. Dick and since he was the author of "The Man in the High Tower," Berkeley could legitimately make a claim to being where the cottage industry producing fictional alternative history was born.
[It seems that this columnist is the only person in the universe who thinks that "The Man in the High Tower" accurately predicts the role Hunter S. Thompson would play in the history of the state of Colorado.]
Riffing on the idea of alternative history, we turned our back to Sproul Plaza and started walking down Telegraph Avenue. We wondered: If he were still alive would Fox News hire Lenny Bruce as a political pundit? That idea seemed absurd, which consequently made it seem like something Fox News might try.
Our expectations of Fox News after the midterm elections are that they will increase the level of subtle racism in their attitude towards and coverage of the 44th President. How would Lenny Bruce be fitted into such a strategy?
Wasn't Bruce a free speech martyr who got arrested and thus became synonymous with a nasty four letter word? Didn't George Carlin and the United States Supreme Court collaborate to prove that Bruce's favorite word had to be bleeped off the airwaves? Today that word is splashed all over the bleeping Internets and would be of no use to the Fox News game plan. Unless . . . ? Is there one word that Bruce could say and maybe get arrested on the air for using?
[Back in the Sixies, this columnist saw a local new reader in the New York City area get arrested on air, for possession, immediately after displaying a marijuana cigarette which had been sent to his station. It looked a bit contrived. Why did a cop just happen to be in the TV studio? Who was that guy? How did the case play out?]
Let's see. Could Bruce get arrested for calling the President a nincompoop, nitwit, nefarious or a nematocyst? Nope! Is there some other word that could produce a dramatic freedom of speech arrest of (hypothetically) Lenny Bruce these days? NNNNNahhh? Wait, what about if Bruce uttered a one word racial slur? That might, with a bit of preparation on the Fox News producer's part, work.
How would liberals react? Would they back the attack him or would they defend their darling? If the Liberals defended Bruce for using the word, they'd look like racists; if they attacked him (in this alternate history case) they'd look like hypocrites. Either way Fox News could just sit back and chortle.
Fox likes to lull their audience into a hypnotic state and then download some Republican talking points so that they can be activated later, Manchurian Candidate style. Lenny Bruce liked to shock and push things to the limit. Could Fox use Bruce's psychological quirks and drives to seduce him into their studio to say the most outrageous imaginable thing possible? Wasn't his specialty breaking social taboos? Wasn't he compelled to be bad when he faced any taboo? How could the bad boy inside him decline any such invitation from Fox?
WWPKDD? What would Philip K. Dick do? It seems like many (most?) of Dick's tales start with someone going somewhere (just as this column did?) and then running afoul of the fascists in charge of the country. Their destiny seems to be a doomed existence. It seems likely that Dick would endorse the idea of Lenny Bruce becoming a free speech martyr again, only this time as a pawn on the set of Fox News for a cause he didn't believe and to prove the complete reprehensibility of "selling out to the establishment" by doing it.
Ursula K. McGuinn (who was born in Berkeley) has been quoted as saying: "What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?"
Now, in an effort to prove that he's a hep cat and familiar with the contemporary music scene, the disk jockey will play Daisy Dares You's "Number One Enemy," Me$ha's "Kiss and Tell," and Seasick Steve's "Cut My Wings." It's time for us to go take a nap. Have a "you are a card, sir!" type week.