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by Debra Keipp, January 23, 2013
Each summer during the 70s, there were basketball camps which sprung up in the frozen windy tundra tri-state areas of Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa (the hockey states playing the Canadian league!). Their aim? Making steady improvements in the game of “girls’ basketball.”
Iowa Girls Basketball was (formerly a three-on-three half-court game) and is (now a five-on-five full court game), a phenomenon like no other. Des Moines flooded in teenage girljocks trying to win the Sweet 16. Frantic parents in the audience suffering the occasional heart attack over cliffhanger tie-breakers, in toss-ups requiring triple overtime where neither team is better than the other. It’s difficult to describe the excitement achieved when these teams “make it to State” in Iowa’s “Sweet Sixteen” — Iowa Girls’ State Basketball Championship.
The Iowa game of girls’ basketball remained three-on-three half court in the ‘70’s. Some called it six on six, but by the old rules, at any one time, only half the team was getting any exercise. The argument in women’s college ball recruitment was that Missouri grads were better fit than Iowa ball bouncers, who couldn’t run full-court presses, having never had to dribble more than twice at a time by three-on-three rules. Our Iowa argument, true to not mincing words? Yeah, but several of us have halter tamed and trained a few thousand pounds of baby beef on hoof in 4-H, and could wrestle just about anybody right into the ground… If ya don’t let us play basketball, we’ll join the wrestlers! …By the ‘80’s Iowa girls who weren’t on a wrestling team were playing full court basketball, and professional ball talk was in the air.
Many high school girls who wanted to play pro ball, attended Parsons Ball Camp in Fairfield, Iowa. Nancy Lieberman (later of Martina Navratilova girlfriend fame) attended Parsons College Basketball camp. That’s where I met Molly van Benthuysen who went on to play for the short lived San Francisco Pioneers pro ball team. Her WBL score card for 1980 was 54 points per game. She reached the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1986. Machine Gun Molly had a lifetime average of over 32 points per game from the field with a refined knack for drawing a foul on her jump shots. She rarely missed a free throw, and relied on one point at a time to intimidate and foul-out her opponent guards. Molly went through guards like yesterday’s tissues. The slow draw from the foul line — machine gunner from the field.
When Molly went professional, I caught one SF Pioneers game … at the old Winterland. As Molly came out to warm up, it must have been awfully disheartening for her to see the stands relatively empty, such was the state of interest in Women’s Pro Basketball in 1981 San Francisco. To give an example of how die-hard Iowa basketball fans are, there were only half-a-dozen folks in the stands cheering for the SF Pioneers, and we were all from Iowa. How did I know? I recognized the Spevaks, who were doctors from Des Moines doing residency in SF.
As the San Francisco Pioneers came out to warm up, I almost didn’t recognize Molly. Her hair was fixed… Farrah Faucet style. Impractical, but very California of her, I thought. Molly had worn pigtail braids for Iowa ball. Trying to get used to her more mature look, I remembered back to high school when setting up for free throws during gameplay, Machine Gun Molly meant business, tossing each braid over her shoulders like Rhoda in The Bad Seed as she stood on the free throw line. She could make free throws all day long, and that’s how she practiced.
When Molly pulled aside to say hello during warm-ups of the Pioneers game, I couldn’t help but comment on the un-sporty-like nature of her new West Coast hairdo. She was kinda lookin’ more like Texas in her hair’s “bigness.” We both puckered our faces with an unspoken awareness of her immediate future: she’d be stickin’ to the floor with sweat-n-hairspray before the second quarter buzzer.
Molly’s best hair defense was that she had to do everything she could to promote the game of women’s pro basketball, even if it included bouncing up and down the basketball court in short shorts wearing that ridiculous hairdo, sticky in hairspray. And bounce she did, make-up and all. Molly understood marketing. If the game was going to survive, it had to sell. She was a cooperative partner in this new venture: women’s pro basketball.
Parsons College Basketball Camp in Fairfield, Iowa had a bunch of wooden yurts serving as dorms. We kept busy with basketball from dawn till dusk frequenting all of three buildings: the basketball facilities, commissary, and the yurts. Heidi Williams lived in Fairfield, and attended camp my last summer there. We were both 16 and she had a free pass to everywhere on campus, it seemed. She stuck out like a sore thumb because she resembled a short comedian rather than a tall basketball player. She was what a few folk singers in California looked like hunched over a guitar. Theatrical. Little round darkened prescription granny glasses, long straight brown hair, and played the heck outa “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” on her shiny new perfectly tuned 12 string classical guitar. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house on talent night.
My sister and brother-in-law founded the Old Creamery Theater Company in Garrison, Iowa, where I spent summers in the ‘70’s babysitting their two kids while they worked on creating a community of “theater people” and artists. The Old Creamery Theater Company consisted of several founding artists and actors, mostly from the Theater Departments at Iowa and Iowa State Universities. They had Iowa Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts grants awarded them, and I was meeting a lot of professional actors touring through the University systems at Iowa and Iowa State at the time: Mercedes McCambridge, Henry Fonda who had his own familial theater interests in nearby Omaha, Nebraska… seasoned theater actors who later became famous in “the movies” and who toured through Iowa with all the major touring philharmonic orchestras playing the University circuits, orating narrative performances to orchestral arrangements.
Heidi acted much like many of the young professional and academic theater people I’d known through the Old Creamery Theatre in Garrison. Even at 16 she was oddly beyond her years, raised in academia. It didn’t seem strange, then, the night Heidi checked a few of us out of our dorms for her tour of campus. Fairfield, Iowa in the ‘70’s was (and probably still is) a relatively safe town. When she drove us by the stadium after stopping for shakes, Heidi told us her father used to be a professor at Parsons, …before he tried to parachute into the stadium and his chute didn’t open.
You never know if what folks tell you is true. I didn’t question it, but she did appear to be in camp on a freebie. She was no ball player. Formerly associated with the college through her dad, she said her mum had just finished her last year as Parsons’ Dean of Women, and Heidi always wanted to play ball, so they let her into camp with all the serious ball players. Heidi turned out to be quite handy at imparting spontaneous musical crowd control with her bard routine. I could see she had a future in music, at least.
Finally, on the last day of the last week of camp, the program director came to us, whistle around his neck and basketball under his arm, informing us that we just participated in the last summer of ball camp at Parsons College. The Love Brothers of Beach Boys fame had purchased Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa as the new home of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi U. Indeed. There would no longer be any summer basketball camp or regular classes at Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa. It would from then on, be a center for transcendental meditation. Yogi U!
So, it was with interest when I heard radio reports in November 2012 of former Gualalan, Gerhard Hanneman’s arrest in none other than Fairfield, Iowa, for transporting enough pot for sale (220 lbs.) to give him a ten year prison sentence from that State. We remember him on Mendocino’s South Coast for his infamous four days of “I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore” radio broadcasts, taunting and haranguing fellow culprits and authorities.
After spiraling into years of sexual and methamphetamine addiction on the South Coast of Mendocino, Hanneman was busted by a helicopter swat team at his ridge top home above Gualala. What followed were at least 2.5 days of really good live radio where Hanneman locked himself into, and commandeered the controls of his own radio station in Gualala, where he named names and gave out numbers while spewing venom high as a kite on (at least) methamphetamine. All recordings with an effectively exaggerated underlayment of heavy combat helicopter propeller sounds; reminiscent of his own bust, which Hanneman would re-enact, critique and mock every few hours LIVE on his own personal radio station in a kind of childish, but listenable, “You’re not the boss of me” radio tantrum, with nary a soul to stop him.
By the end of day three Hanneman started to run out of meth and names, and began slurring the numbers. By day four, a few of those named had already moved out of town. As for his radio presence on day four? Man down. It was a sad let-down as can only be expected when the drugs wore off, reality and paranoia set in, and Hanneman met his own stalemate. That’s the day that radio died in Gualala. It’s never been as good since.
I was babysitting editor and writer, Carolyn Cooke’s sleeping children around the same time — 1994, out on Red Tag Road when her home, which had previously been owned by Point Arena’s former Mayor, Raven B. Earlygrow, was buzzed for way too long (considering they weren’t finding any pot!) by one of the marijuana eradication teams — COMMET. Not a grower, Carolyn wrote an article about the impact of the ear-splitting uninvited hover for the Anderson Valley Advertiser. The copter that day flew so close to my cabin of sleeping babies, that I could see from where I stood inside my back door, the pilot’s sadistic smile as he circled just above the redwoods. I remember the helicopter sounds went on long enough that day to give me dreams that night of helicopter combat, and I have no personal war experience from which to equate. The helicopters’ thunderous percussive attack having impacted my visceral memory, therefore?
It was the layered helicopter sounds that made Gerhard Hanneman’s broadcasts the best four days of really exciting, truly inspired LIVE radio I’ve ever heard. And, he stayed LIVE for four days until he slowly and gradually ground down to a halt right in front of our very ears, LIVE on the radio! Even that was a unique experience in actual-time radio. Most radio personalities would be yanked off the air long before meltdown. Hanneman rode his radio station hard: to the bitter end.
More recently, leavin’ on a jet plane to serve ten years’ time in another state, Gerhard Hanneman may not be aware that he was arrested in the transcendental meditation capitol of the United States, while trying to make transcendental medication capital in Fairfield, Iowa.
(If anyone has tapes of those four days of Coastal radio, please duplicate copies for me!)