Would you like to know how many people have read this article? Or how reputable the author is? Simply
sign up for a Advocate premium membership and you'll automatically see this data on every article. Plus a lot more, too.
The Triumph of the 1991 Libertarian Convention. The untold story.Initially I thought I would just publish this series on Libertarian sites. Then I realized I was missing a real opportunity to share stories about insights into Motherhood and other activist opportunities. Also, someine needs to explain Libertarians to the mainstream and the mainstream to Libertarians. Included in this occasional series will be the amusing stories about NeoCons I have personally known and the events that connect them to Libertarians and other people you would not suspect.
I warned my husband, Craig Franklin, that there was no way they were going to let him get the microphone while C-Span was actually live. It was not like I did not know the people running the Libertarian Convention in Chicago in 1991; I did. That is why I told him what to expect.
"They PROMISED that if I would buy four full packages (this was not cheap) and have someone else do the singing and provide entertainment at the cocktail party on Friday night that they would be delighted."
I knew why they had made the offer. They needed to augment attendance. Their top candidate was Andre Marrou, not the world's greatest excitement. Four packages can make a difference.
Craig was stubborn. He was also entirely addicted to the idea that somehow if he could only get to the right audience he, a dumpy software engineer, would suddenly be converted into a rock star. In the Libertarian Movement you meet many people whose premises would be better torn down so someone could start over. But I was married to him. I had signed up for better or worse (worse was much more prominent in the relationship). Part of that was making him happy, when possible.
"Craig, they are lying to you to augment their attendance. They will never let you or anyone else perform with a guitar live at the Nominating Convention."
Like I said, I knew these people. Mary Gingell, Williamson Evers, Michael Emerling-Cloud, Perry Willis, David Bergland. The names gurgled through my mind, the memories of previous encounters during the Bergland Campaign and elsewhere still, if not fresh, certainly had burned in enough to remain vivid. They never kept their promises. I had watched how they did fund raising for years. Promise them anything to get the bucks was standard operating procedure. Getting Libertarians to give down the cash and then changing the terms did not even strike them as cheating. Also, I suspected that their other requirements, that a video be produced of the show proposed, a singer hired, and other prerequisites that drove up the price, would fall on my shoulders.
"Michael is my BEST FRIEND. Would he lie to me? Would he rip me off?"
Craig looked indignant. I had been listening to Michael Emerling-Cloud con and rip off folks for 20 years. I tried to warn people but charm trumps truth every time. Michael had a line that was elastic and never seems to wear out.
"Yes. Without another thought. And you would forgive him because he amuses you. This would not be the first time, you know."
This caused a slight pause as Craig reflected.
"Not this time. He knows how much it means to me."
I sighed again. Having been a mother for many years I understood that when a kid wants something that much you can either let them get it, and hopefully learn a lesson, or live with the scowls and whining for the rest of your life.
"OK Craig. But when they tell you after we arrive at the convention that you can't do the performance live on C-Span I want you to remember I told you it would happen."
Craig was so bouncy and happy for a while it was almost worth it. Almost.
As the mother of five children at the time I had made sure that all of them encountered the concept of working in organizations and Community Charity Work early on. My son Arthur had gone through scouting and joined DeMolay. My daughters, Dawn and Ayn, had been girl scouts and were now very active in The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. That is, like DeMolay, a Masonic sponsored group. I liked it because, unlike Debs, it lets the girls take responsibility for projects so they learn organizing. One downside was the need for more formals than anyone can imagine.
Ordinary meetings for Rainbow take place with all the girls dressed up like a prom held in the 40s, though no scandalous low necklines or hems that do not touch the floor are allowed, naturally. They looked adorable. But my native thrift had driven me to make all of their dresses, not just to save money there but because of the dry cleaning bills.
Dry cleaning a formal can cost as much as the formal did in the first place. By making them myself I found I could pay slightly more for material and get dresses that lasted longer and could be tossed in the washing machine. In fact, Dawn's Worthy Advisor dress was embossed, beaded with seed pearls and so complex that it staggered the observer. But it washed beautifully turned inside out. It also went into the dryer. I set every stitch myself.
You are probably wondering what this had to do with a Libertarian Convention in Chicago.
Well, there was that requirement for an audience to demonstrate that a performance of the Song Craig wanted performed, Thomas Jefferson, would rock them off their seats.
Craig had heard Thomas Jefferson performed by the man who wrote it, Dean Ahmad, at a Libertarian event that took place in Boston in 1976 on April 13th, Thomas Jefferson's birthday. Dean wrote it in Jefferson's honor that morning, performing it at the event that night. Craig wanted the song so much he wrote his own version and one about Patrick Henry, too. The Henry song was so long that Homer might have been jealous. It also lacked the passion and beauty that Dean is able to get into his work. So the song Craig wanted performed was Thomas Jefferson. All the kids knew it by heart, having heard it continuously.
Tastes differ. What group could I get to be the enthusiastic audience required by The Convention Committee? I was not sure that was possible to rock anyone but getting people to sit still long enough meant I needed a group of real people.
This story could actually take us into the recall campaign in 1992 for David Roberti, and sometime I may tell you about that. But what you need to know is that I had joined The Order of Eastern Star, another Masonic group for women, so I could attend the otherwise closed meetings of my daughters' Rainbow Chapter. I had there met the human dynamo, Dolores White, who would successfully run the Roberti recall, although at the time she was not interested in politics. That was my fault.
Dolores was a trustee for the Eastern Star Retirement Home in West Los Angeles. I had visited the place with her. It was a gorgeous facility in a kind of Moroccan Spanish style with a room that was perfect for performances and would hold a couple of hundred people. It occurred to me that these ladies did not get much entertainment and were too polite to leave an ongoing performance, even if they could walk. Perfect.
The singer I found had a gorgeous voice. She was also a former Worth Advisor from the girl's Rainbow Chapter who would work incredibly cheap since the idea of getting paid to sing was astonishing. Rainbow requires music. It is always donated.
I made the dresses in the very appropriate colors of Red, White, and Blue. I borrowed the camera from Jerry Corbetta, the songwriter who actually wrote, "Green Eyed Lady," and played with Sugar Loaf and the Four Seasons. Jerry had become a friend after we went through a natural childbirth class together. He was sort of interested in politics and I persuaded him to produce the song we did the next year for the Perot Campaign titled, "The H. Ross Cannonball." I got a credit because I blew the train whistle. Jerry now tours with Greats of Rock and Roll. Very nice guy.
So, camera, me to run it, singers, programs for the event, a light buffet for the ladies transported in my Tupperware containers and produced at home for $18.00. Craig to play his guitar and a lovely afternoon event is taped. The ladies were a little confused about what had happened. They thought we were another family singing group and were missing a few members, but they had a good time.
The video tape went off immediately.
Vicky, our singer, had just turned 20. We also took my daughter, Dawn, who was then still in high school and 17. Dawn was the most interested in Libertarianism. At that point in time the rest of the kids avoided Libertarians.
Chicago was hot, hot, hot. I did not expect that to matter since when at a Libertarian Convention you never leave the hotel. It did sort of make me sad to see how happy Craig was. I knew what was about to happen but had made up literature for him to sell his tapes anyway. His eyes had gleamed with delight, the promise of Super Rock Stardom about to be realized.
The happy mood lasted through to Saturday morning. They had let him perform for the cocktail party although it was noisy and no one much listened except me.
He came back to our room staggering like someone had hit him across the head with a two by four to tell me, obviously stunned, that they had decided the performance could not go on with C-Span live. Maybe sometime when the convention hall was vacant perhaps?
At a moment like that there are so many things you can say. I didn't. Instead I said,
"Congratulations, you are running for President."
Eventually we settled for Vice President.
I designed his flyers, printed them up at the local Kinkos, got the signatures, and helped Craig endure the questions about why he had developed this sudden interest in running for office. Since Libertarians routinely make up reasons for insane behavior this was not hard. There were lots of questions.
The kids at home in Los Angeles were watching the coverage and went into shock. The threat of being dragged into yet another Libertarian Campaign loomed heavily in their minds. They remembered my involvement in various campaigns and when I had run myself. Warnings that they would not be available for collating parties or doorbelling were left on the answering machine in our hotel room.
The bylaws of the LP allow candidates 17 minutes for their nominating speeches while the cameras are live. I figured we had to go through the motions. The Committee was frantically looking over the bylaws trying to figure out how to stop what they recognized as an end run.
Nominating Speech. Check. That was me. Seconding Speech. Check Lee Nason, "I rise to second the nomination of Craig Franklin. for the Libertarian nomination for vice-president." Very short, leaving more time for the singing.
The second Seconding Speech was Craig with his guitar and Vicky. It was actually a good show and got a standing ovation. It was doubtless the high point of his life.
My job was over. Mary, Bill, Jack Dean, Emerling and various other people were angry at me. They had immediately identified that it was not Craig who had outflanked them. It served them right.
At that point in time I still thought of Craig as someone worth while. I should have realized that anyone who would have Michael Emerling as a best friend was probably suspect. So many things change during our adventures with life and so many things, like character, are constant.
Stay tuned for the story of how Melinda used the Americans with Disabilities Act to save Craig from the IRS. Incredible, but true and potentially very useful for you!
Melinda Pillsbury-Foster is the author of GREED: The NeoConning of America and A Tour of Old Yosemite. The former is a novel about the lives of the NeoCons with a strong autobiographical component. The latter is a non-fiction book about her father (more...)