FRUSTRATION TIME. Months ago, we filed FOIA requests with the ATF, the FBI, the Fort Bragg Police Department, and the Mendocino County DA in a quest for the files on the infamous Fort Bragg Fires of 1987. The ATF and the FBI were in Fort Bragg to investigate the grand night when conspirators burned the old Piedmont Hotel, the old Fort Bragg Library and adjacent to the Library, the old Ten Mile Justice Court. The FBI said they couldn't find anything on the unprecedented event, the DA simply ignored the request, the Fort Bragg Police responded promptly and professionally that their files have been destroyed because the statute of limitations had expired and there was no reason to keep them, and the ATF has just replied, “This is not a denial; rather it is to inform you that no documents were located based on the information provided.” The information we provided was complete, comprehensive even.
THE FILES were last seen — some 20 bankers boxes of stuff — in DA Susan Massini's office just before she left office after losing to DA Norm Vroman. She would have had a motive to take the case with her because the files would show she was guilty of dereliction of duty in not pursuing the flagrant crooks responsible. If she took them, she's also guilty of a felony. But if no one besides us even cares where the files went, that's the end of it, kind of like the non-mystery of the Bari Bombing: If no one in law enforcement is interested in matching up the DNA on the bombing's confession letter with likely perps, Mike Sweeney got away with blowing up his ex-wife. The bomb, as the confession letter tells us, was made and placed in Bari's car right here in Look The Other Way County, most likely placed in Bari's car not 60 feet away from the DA's office's back door.
THE FORT BRAGG FIRE files aren't in the DA's office now. DA Eyster himself told me they weren't there. No one was ever indicted for torching the historical heart of Fort Bragg, although there was more than enough to bag a fellow called Vincent Sisco, who also owned the restaurant in Ukiah's Palace Hotel earlier in the 1980s, which Sisco also is believed to have torched, not to mention his house and restaurant in Fort Bragg that he burned for insurance pay outs worth a lot more than the structures they insured.
WE ALSO THINK there was sufficient evidence of his involvement to indict at least one more perp, an even more central perp. These people burned down old Fort Bragg and much of Fort Bragg's history when the town's historical archive, stored at the Library and the old Ten Mile Courthouse, went up in flames. And they got away with it. The only record of the crime is the series of stories we wrote years later, now contained in Mendocino Noir, a book of local crime stories. The story of the fires is incomplete. There are people still around who know the whole story, two of whom begged us not to mention them by name because they're still afraid of the thugs who did it. We're exploring our options, as they say, but we seem to be out of them, and we don't have the resources to hire a lawyer to find out if we have other avenues.
CRAIG STEHR WRITES: “Warm spiritual greetings, As I was leaving the UC Berkeley campus near the Valley Life Sciences building a half hour ago, a threesome was walking by me. The couple was taking a video of a well-tanned student with her shirt open, exposing her voluptuous breasts! I threw my hands up and exclaimed ‘Fantastic!’ She whirled around and said ‘You approve? Here's a buttshot,’ scrunched up her jogging shorts, and stuck out her ass at me. I gave her right cheek a gentle pat, and the three proceeded onward laughing and filming, straight toward the Campanile. If this story delights you, I look forward to sharing another glorious California summer with you. Contact me for all appropriate parties. If this story does not do anything for you, I wish you well anyway.”
UC BERKELEY has named Edward Wasserman Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism. The announcement goes on to say that Wasserman, 63, is the Esteemed Chair of the Department of Whatever at the University of Wherever. Several other Esteemed Chairs of Whatevers at Wherevers were passed over for Wasserman. The passed overs included Ted Conover, who is not, so far as I know, an Esteemed Chair at Wherever U. Conover should have got the job, which wouldn't seem to be very demanding and pays a lot. He's a very good writer and, by any standard, a superior journalist. Ol' Wassy may be a great guy and know everything about journalism which, boiled down, is simply a matter of the journalist trimming his sails to suit the primitive opinions of whichever crypto-fascist thug, or syndicate of thugs, happens to own the paper. But in a university system run by a certifiable moron, Mark Yudof, overseen by a board comprised of corporate crooks like Dianne Feinstein's husband, a smart, lively guy like Conover is the last guy this apparatus wants around.
The Yudofs of academia always go for people like themselves, which also explains the state of things generally in this country, wouldn't you say? I think journalism schools are a big part of the problema of contemporary journalism, the bigger part of the prob being the quality of media owners, not that they've ever been much for forward thinking. But look around at the daily work product. I try to read the area weeklies, and I read all the local newspapers, but they all read pretty much like term papers. I wonder what editors do anymore, not that many of them write any better than the young drones writing for them. (The local exception being KC Meadows at the Ukiah Daily Journal; she's a very good writer, but other than the AVA's weekly line-up of journalo-heavyhitters, the only person in the County who regularly enlivens local media is Tommy Wayne Kramer, also of the Ukiah Daily Journal, and I doubt he'd be there if it weren't for Meadows, who still has high regard for talent in a town starved for it. A little farther north we find Alexander Cockburn, easily the best national journalist in the land. And there's Hank Sims, who's very, very good. To the south? The Talbot brothers, Warren Hinckle and, and… and no one.) Last time I visited Berkeley's School of Journalism — I only get invited to these places once — the classroom was organized like a tv newsroom to which, I guess, most of the students aspired, meaning a lot of them were already sluts, and here they were barely into their 20s. I know there's good journalism out there, especially at the magazine level, but if I were a kid trying to eke out a living writing stuff, I'd go out into the world beyond mumsy and popsy and Dude Think for some real life experience, reading books as I went, lots of books, which is still the only way to learn how to do it. College is a waste of time. Look what it did to Yudof.
DEPARTMENT OF UNINTENTIONAL HILARITY: The recent Mendocino County Grand Jury report said, basically, that Ukiah's school board and administration hadn't the foggiest which, given the edu-standards of Mendocino County, is certainly no surprise. But the GJ cited specifics, and the school board came back with “perceptions.” The GJ cited the inability of a couple of long-time trustees to master even the basics of school funding and wondered at departed Superintendent Lois Nash's management practices, which were widely “perceived” as ranging from opaque to invisible. The school board's response? The GJ was on a “witch hunt” and “The superintendent's leadership style was consultive…" and that anyway the school board was having a heckuva hard time responding to “apparently unsubstantiated perceptions.”
TEN YEARS AGO, John Roulac was fighting the US Drug Enforcement Administration over a banned shipment of hemp seeds he needed for his embryonic health food business in Sebastopol. Last week, Roulac was moving into a 200,000-square-foot building in Point Richmond to accommodate his fast-growing company, Nutiva, which sells hemp-infused protein powder, shakes and seeds, plus non-hemp coconut oil and chia seeds. Hemp, in its non-psychoactive cannabis form, has long since entered America's food chain, and Nutiva's products are on store shelves all over the Bay Area, including Whole Foods, Safeway and GNC's chain of vitamin shops. Its Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil ranks No. 8 on Amazon.com's list of best-selling grocery and gourmet food items. Remaining obstacle: The company could do even better if it didn't have to import its raw materials from Canada. While importing hemp food products is legal — after federal courts overruled DEA diktats — hemp farming in the United States is not, despite repeated efforts on the state and federal level to make it so. Two bills written by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, have been vetoed — one by ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and one in October by Gov. Jerry Brown — citing the federal ban. “Products made from hemp — clothes, food and bath products — are legally sold in California every day,” Brown said in his veto message. “It is absurd that hemp is being imported into the state, but our farmers cannot grow it.”
HANK SIMS WRITES: Police De-Furniture Occupy Eureka, June 18, 2012. — It’s not quite clear yet which police agency it was, but early this morning one of them descended upon Occupy Eureka over the night and removed all the chairs, couches and related furniture that has graced the courthouse protest these last few months. Protester Rebecca Stiles — in her “DEA — Drink Every Afternoon” cap — said that police arrived at the Occupation at about 5 a.m. She said they taped off all the furniture with yellow crime scene tape, then, when a truck arrived, loaded it all up and drove it away. According to Stiles, no one was arrested. She mentioned that officers told her that it had been determined that most of the sidewalk in front of the courthouse was Caltrans property. If this is the case, perhaps legal minds have finally resolved the sticky jurisdictional question that has accompanied the attempted crackdown on OE. Stiles said this morning that the officer she spoke to told her that: •Four feet of the sidewalk, from the roadline inward, is Caltrans right-of-way. •The courthouse lawn and steps belong to the county. •That leaves a tiny little strip between Caltrans’ property and the county’s that is policed by the city of Eureka… Curious, if true. Stiles, it should be noted, was in excellent spirits, despite the loss of comfortable seating. (Courtesy, Lost Coast Outpost.)
ERIC SUNSWHEAT WRITES: “Supreme Court Gives Anti-Casino Group The Right To Challenge Rohnert Park Casino. To: Honorable County of Mendocino Board of Supervisors (& Congratulations to outgoing County Counsel Jeanine Nadel, new Superior Court Judge) Public Expression Re: Pinoleville Casino/Hotel, StoptheCasino101 & today's US Supreme Court decision.
“Greetings. A Ukiah Valley casino may be a provincial thought in County government and the Ukiah Valley, with the foregone conclusion that nothing can be done to stop a Pinoleville tribe from siting a casino on land that the tribe owns or has the option to own. Outgoing County Counsel Jeanine Nadel now changing roles to become a Superior Court judge in Ukiah, went along with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation to allow that tribe be the lead agency for a Tribal EIR pursuant to a gaming compact which had been turned down by the Interior Dept, but not announced to the public while the TEIR was circulating. A new gaming compact was approved, and the TEIR Casino' Hotel plan focused on land which is not owned by the tribe, was never owned by the tribe, and is not in federal trust but instead pays local 'fee' property taxes, and is subject to local land use laws, thus cannot have class 3 gambling. A new legal development occurred today in US Supreme Court action on Patchak. Read details and legal briefs on related activities by Sonoma County neighbors organized as Stop the Casino 101 Coalition to revoke the federal trust status of the Graton tribe to build a mega casino in the marshy lands of Rohnert Park. http://www.stopthecasino101.com/id131.html Please derail the Mendocino Supervisors Ad Hoc Committee on Pinoleville Gambling Compact MOU as its simply reeling out of control of legal logic and legitimacy, except to site a gambling hotel on Tribal Chairwoman Leona Williams’ 2.8 acres in the floodplain, unless California goes through the proper steps to give its land into the federal trust.”
REMEMBERING CHRIS & STEPHEN
My radio mentor and friend Chris Stanley has passed on.
I wrote a story for AVA in around 2003 you were kind enough to print about being LOST IN THE LOSt COAST REDWOODS about traveling with my radio friends from KSAN, Stephen Coyote Capen and Chris CBS Newsguy Stanley. Capen died in 2005 at 59 of throat cancer, sad and ironical for a radio announcer. Now Chris has just passed, only 3 weeks after moving back to LA from NYC. He had found a little place in Playa del Rey with a patch of sea and a spread of mountains seen from his balcony where he planned to read books, retiring fulltime in October at 65 and live on his 45 years in radio AFTRA pension, he said. But he died in his sleep on June 6th in his new place. We grew suspicious when he missed a deadline for an interview he was filing for the "Arts Alive" program on KUSC classical public radio in LA. Chris never missed a deadline.
He was a professional. I met him at KSAN in the GNUS department in 1978, where his long blond hair, black cowboy hat and J Lennon wireless sun specs made it love at first sight — he was just the coolest newsman I'd ever seen. Those last creative heydays of "the jive 95" before Reagan came in and we all got blown out and the station went country-western....
What follows is from my eulogy, given yesterday with dozens of his friends at Jones Coffee Roaster in Pasadena, just across the street from KPCC/Southern California Public Radio HQ, also ironic in that they interviewed Chris in November with the idea to hire him as night news anchor....
And after it is one with more of Chris's history in it, given by BILL VITKA, former news director at WMMR Philly back in the day and Chris's running partner in NYC/ working comerado at Daily Planet, DIR, CBS and most recently....um, yep: FOX RADIO NEWS (syndicated on 400 stations, the only kowtow to Murdoch Chris claimed was having to say at the end of each 3 minute newscast: "Fair and Balanced.")
JUNE 16 HR: (DRAW BREATH) Well, here we are. (BREATHE OUT) As I arrived this evening, I was looking at everyone and thinking: Isn’t it great to be our age and not give a FREAKIN FRACK about anything, but our friends? And what's happening to them? Family of course...
Once I met this guy on a Grecian isle he did the goat dance very well...the island of Crete it was. Yes, yes, he was a Cretan and I'll never forget what he said raising a little cup of Greek coffee: “There is no paradise on earth my friends. The only paradise…is friends.”
Thank you to my new friend Tim Stanley, here from Youngstown. And thank you Bill and Elizabeth for coming from New York.
So dear friends…what can I say…Happy Bloomsday? (Explain Joyce's JUNE 16/ULYSSES) Bloom....not BLUME like "Blume in Love." One of Chris’s favorite Paul Mazursky movies. Oh he LOVED Mazursky.
And it was love at first sight, I first met Mr. Stanley (the Tigers baseball announcer, ERNIE HARWELL called him: "MISter StanLEHHHHH"), in 1978 …San Francisco, the corner of a great sandstone building —-oof!my nose! —it was, at the corner of Sansome and Sacramento in the downtown financial district, where a plaque on the wall read: “K-S-A-N: A SAN FRANCISCO TRADITION SINCE 1968.”
Chris came into the KSAN newsroom, popped open his briefcase and did this:
(SHAKE LONG BLOND HAIR DOWN FROM PONYTAIL)
Took out a hairbrush
(BRUSH STROKES DOWN LONG BLOND HAIR)
Cosmic Cowboy camel corduroy jacket whatever. 5 AM. I’m 23, thinking: "This is the coolest newsman I’ve ever seen."
Welcome to the jive 95 KSAN GNUS DEPARTMENT. Spelled G-N-U-S. Nobody knows why. Early animal rights advocates, mebbe.
We were in the last creative heydays of FM progressive freeform with Gnusmen Larry Bensky, Dave McQueen, Travus T Hipp, Joanne Rosenzweig and where on Scoop Nisker’s Last News Show the slogan was: “If you don’t like the news, go out and makes some of yer owwwwwn!”
All of us fired of course, soon after, blown out of there when Reagan came in and the station went country-western.
The Last time I saw Chris he was still working hard as ever, moving his Penske truckfull into the new little Playa Del Rey place, where he had a patch of sea and a spread of mountain from a little balcony. He was giving his address to the Verizon SOMEONE, he was SO FRUSTRATED he really was, he couldn't get connected but : “8614 SARAN…S-A-R-A-N…like the gas!”
Many people here know Chris through his newscasts..but at KSAN and Later at K-ROCK, WXRK in NYC where his great great friend and radio comerado Steve Capen and I worked, Chris would call in as various characters: “Johnny Longhorn, speaking," that was corporate head of Megalomeaningless, which is what we called station owner Metromedia at that point..
[PLAY TAPE ON CASSETtE MACHINE: "PACKUPANDCOMEON" from the NYC Tourist Bureau, reporting on 'Adnan Kashyogi and Donald Chump' et al]
"FATBOY" was another who called up, it always ended with: "YOU KNOW WHAT FAT BOY WANTS DONCHA? FATBOY WANTS...MOAH!" CLICK].
I think Chris, he always wanted more, from his government, our leaders. Maybe not from his friends, although he could be what folksinger Claudia Schmidt called “a hard love.” (Side comment to front row: You don't know Claudia Schmidt? Garrison Keillor said "When Claudia sings a song, it stays sung."
But I gotta tell ya: This Verizon thing. He could not understand why Verizon couldn’t give him the wifi bundle thing before the NEXt THURSDAY—Chris said he could not believe getting competent service could be AS FUCKED UP IN LA as it was in New York. If ever there was a man who did not suffer fools without RAGING, it was Chris. And he may have given it to those fools good, what he gave to me was his goodness.
Chris got me two jobs in radio, in New York and here in LA. He was a mentor and a friend, a true companero.
In adventures in places like Arid Zone A and The Lost Coast.
1988, Chris and I flew from New York to meet Capen in Bisbee Arizona, "ARID ZONE A" Capen called it; we went to plan a radio show. It had always been a dream of ours to get Capen into satellite radio, I guess this was years before it was invented. (I'm not sure, somebody ask Murdoch). Since this was 1988 there was a presidential campaign on and Chris had arranged a few minutes with Bruce Babbitt, candidate for the Democratic nomination. All three of us in his office and I think we all got tape! I remember told us: “If I’m elected President, I will spend a week every year helicoptered into the most remote corner of the Grand Canyon, just to...reflect....”—As soon as we were clear and in the elevator Chris started calling him “The Prince of Tuscon!” (He felt like such Arizona Royalty you know? Later he became what, Clinton’s Secretary of the Interior? Must’ve been a come down….but no chance, right? Wonder if he still went to the Grand Canyon. He must have, right?)
Chris and Capen and me we drove through the desert, listening to caravan tunes by Van Morrison and Robbie Robertson…and ideas were grokked by "Coyote" who became Capen's persona on K-Rock in New York. Because he laughed like a coyote, or something.
A year later, after six months of Bush-Dukakis jokes, we got blown out of K-ROCK after the pd said we were "doing too many Exxon Valdez" routines or something.
[READ IF TIME, TWO TRIBUTES IN FROM SITTING DOG IN OREGON and TRISH ROBBINS IN SAN RAFAEL. Trish, a great deejay from KSAN and KTIM in Marin County and beyond said she met Chris on New Years eve 1978 into 79 when she was deejaying and dancing around — this was at KSAN—dancing through the hallways, the only one at the station—she thought—until this head of long blond hair under black cowboy hat rolled backwards from out of a studio and said: "WHAT THE HELL!" And they ended up pals and traveling together—she said to tell you to have a good ol' Irish Wake on Bloomsday for Chris. And SITTING DOG, the old KSAN guru who lives on a commune in Oregon told me when hearing the news, quote: "A large dark hole has opened up in front of us..."
[REVERSE ORDER OF TWO STORIES]
Another time, around the turn of the century the three of us went into the redwoods. This time Coyote and CBS ended up in a story sent to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, about this road trip up the 101 five hours from the Bay Area into Humboldt County—because, for some reason, Chris or Capen needed to see Alexander Cockburn. Cockburn the great columnist in THE NATION. Their political guru, just slightly to the left of Christopher Hitchens at that time lived in Petrolia, just north of Honeydew. Not far from Eureka, Humboldt State University...all that. You drive through Laytonville, Guerneville, Garberville, into Mendocino into Humboldt and what straddles both counties with redwoods, THE LOST COAST.
Well, the good Dr. Cockburn wasn't home. We walked on a windy beach where the Elk River emptied into the Pacific, pulling driftwood around and shouting over the sea at each other. I think there’s a reason they call it the Lost Coast. By the time we woke up after one night and got back down to the Bay Area, disappointed and besodden by all kinds of chemicals, CBS and Coyote were at each other's throats; I remember I had to break up, in between cars in the parking lot a knock down drag out punch up between the two of them.
Volatile. These are wild volatile animals. Whaddya gonna do? We’re radio people, we know what a minute is worth how much one can fill it with. It can get intense. Right? ANd this was the dangerous mix of no Cochburn no guru and now no method to our madness.
[Remember the Firesign Theater number, “Temporarily Humboldt County”? (Capen would play it on the radio betimes) ]
As I was saying, anyway after the story appeared in the Anderson Valley Reporter or whatever, both Capen and Chris liked it. Right?
And when another cultural hero Abbie Hoffman died we were on the air in New York. It was 1989, and Capen called Wavy Gravy to get his reaction, thanks to a contact number Chris had. Wavy said: “It’s like Charlie Brown: Good Grief. Good Grief.”
Well, maybe for Abbie and fellows in their 70s and God Bless Wavy Gravy at 75 and Paul Krassner at 80, but with Chris I’m thinkin': Not good. This grief this time.
In her Nobel acceptance speech, author Toni Morrison said: “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That my be the measure of our lives.”
Listening to Chris, what he had to say, what he said to me every time we were together…it measured up.
Vox Populi. The voice of the public expressed by Chris on the hundreds of stations he was syndicated on as a public speaker, casting broad. Off the air Chris was a town crier, too. His anger was righteous. Of biblical proportions, although he would never use that term.
And as an everyman, he was frustrated by technology—have I mentioned Verizon was driving him crazy! Nothings worse than a tech problem, right? So frustrating. When the machines don’t do what we want them to. Well, it gets frustrating. But what’s that mean. Turn to each other. What I'm trying to say is I think we would have and perhaps feted Chris at some kind of retirement blowout in October…as my friend Irving said:"You gotta do these while these people are alive, folks!" ) and I think he’d say we should lissen to each other's stories and argue and have intense fun and after a drink and a smoke...it would end in some kind of a brawl.
No... I’m talking about his gift of oh what’s the word: gregariousness. Chris had a people - persona, he learned that from his dad Mitch (same name as his last News Director at FOX btway) who had a TV STATION in Youngstown, WFMJ, the first NBC affiliate there. But he isolated himself after he moved out here and had no job to go to every morning...I could hardly get him to come out and do stuff, he was set on settling in...he wasn't going ANYWHWERE. Although, after two weeks there were NONE of his favorite movie posters —POINT BLANK, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, A THOUSAND CLOWNS, on the wall and none of the boxes had been unpacked.... such-a-waste!]
So there’s so much we didn’t know about Chris. Like for instance I never knew he was a fan of [HOLD UP CD] Radiohead. "OK Computer" this lp from a few years ago I found in his place and listened to on the drive out here today — maybe he liked it cause they sound a lot like Pink Floyd in it, and I knew he loved Floyd. And Zep too.
Subterranean Homesick Alien I heard with Chris one night over here above Dockweiler Beach on some New Years Eve, I don't even remember which year it was so yuck, we sat in the front seat of my car —he couldn't go near a bar he said—and watched kids send up fireworks from the sands over the sea, and he was drinking from a short bottle of Vodka and telling me how fucked up everything was, who the assoles were and Chris, he was always taking names and numbers. Sign of a good reporter.
Oh and "kicking ass." That’s how that goes, "taking name and kicking ass." Mostly his own. And as Rod Stewart sang: “And that’s what really hurts!” Because think of the energy, the creative fount of brilliance Stanley was —all that "brilliant consciousness" as Gail said—and then applying it creatively OUTward instead of inward destructively.
Okay, sorry. I'm —I won't say winding the stem, but wending my way, somewhere, you see I'm so angry and feel so robbed, because I been working on this idea with Chris, we had made plans get his memoirs down on paper now that he had no job to go to and we both found it odd and yet inspiring that on his drive out here from New York, little more than a month ago now, he had turned it into a trip through parts of his past, even at one point tracking down his old Acting Coach from when he was 19 and with a traveling theater troupe in a bus and truck tour of Shakespeare and Chekov. And he found the guy, now in his 80s....
So I been thinking about, learning actually, how it's really true as the song says life is a dream. (Row Row Row...etc) All my dreams of doing things with Chris, a big dream of doing: satellite radio with our KSAN Comerado Capen and failing that, now were working on a radio documentary about his KSAN comerado Capen, and eventually Stanley’s Memoirs, with a chapter in almost every state or a state of mind he went through one per chapter. And nobody would call this guy’s stories: Chicken Soup for the Soul, know what I mean?
So it occured to me that life is but a dream since our dreams are gone because Chris is now dead, so life must be a dream, right?
You know I just can't stop thinking about how FRUSTRATED he was with that Verizon thing. I mean really, it was driving him NUTZ.
Because Chris was all about connection...
And he was connected to a lot of my dreams. He was my connection to so much and to all you...and all of this…and I miss you Chris.
Here’s the one by Vill Vitka
Chris Stanley had a story for everyone.
There was no story too small or too large.
But there’s one story he never told us.
When Chris was in the Air Force, his first assignment was counter-intelligence.
As his brother, Tim, tells it when they found out about Chris’ politics, he was reassigned – to supply.
He was stationed in Thailand, there at the same time the US Government was conducting a secret bombing campaign in Laos.
Chris was at the very air base from which the planes were launched.
In Thailand Chris was already behind the mike, Armed Forces Radio. He worked at the station at that air base. ‘Good Morning Thailand!’
One day, a returning plane from the bombing effort crashed at the base. It plowed into the radio station — think of it as a radio tent — everybody at the station was killed.
Chris — that day – had called in sick.
I had thought when I began this that I would split this tribute, this epitaph, into two parts.
One for the casual reader – or listener – and one for the rest of us.
But there was nothing casual about Chris.
This is the deep end of the pool. If you expected less, you didn’t know Chris.
Some facts are good. Some things we don’t know as much as we’d like.
But if Chris were here he’d tell us to report what we know.
Some of those facts:
He was born in Rhode Island, Woonsocket
He grew up in Ohio. He thought of Youngstown as home. He has two brothers. The older is Mike, the younger is Tim.
His father was in radio. He moved on to television. One of Chris’ fondest memories of his youth is of movies. Back in the 50’s, he saw, by his own count, every bad and good and every very bad science and monster movie made. They ran on his dad’s TV station. And his father set up a projector at home and the Thing from Another World, It Came From Beyond Space, and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers all unspooled in front of his eyes both on the small screen and within the private walls of home sweet home.
Maybe the seed is there, the broadcasting seed — dad’s TV station and dad’s work in radio — then, it germinates in Southeast Asia.
But as well and before the Air Force, he’s on the air in Goldsboro, North Carolina: WGBT — a top 40 deejay. Chris Stanley: DJ. Try to picture him answering the phone taking a request from a listener.
It’s after the Air Force that he becomes a reporter: WIVK and WNOX in Knoxville.
Now somewhere in this mix is a theater troupe. Chris studied drama at Pepperdine. The troupe barnstormed across the Midwest and parts of the south one summer. On his way West just a few weeks ago, Chris hooked-up again with one of the key players with whom he walked the boards back then. Hank Rosenfeld, a good friend of Chris’, thought that final road trip might have been Chris revisiting his own resume, his own past. Theater wasn’t the only thing on his mind on that trip.
On the radio history ledger, I believe Green Bay is next. Don’t know the calls. But something happens there. He meets folks from Texas. They tell him to come on down. In very Chris fashion, he uproots himself and his life in Wisconsin gets on a plane with a toothbrush, and he’s in Houston. At KPFT, and now News Director, he’s digging the cosmic cowboy days that spilled over Austin.
As Eben Brown, a colleague of Chris’ from CBS and Fox, astutely notes: Chris may be the only radio journalist to have worked at both Fox News and Pacifica.
After Texas, Chris heads to San Francisco. From cosmic cowboy to psychedelic – and Chris waspsychedelic. Not a drug casualty. But the boy – he was in orbit.
Hank Rosenfeld remembers the first time he laid eyes on Chris. Walking into the KSAN newsroom at 5 AM letting his freak-flag hair tumble down like a waterfall. Like a lot of us. It was a different time. It was the time of Hunter Thompson and Ken Kesey, the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane This is not nostalgia. That’s wishing for something that wasn’t. That was. If you’re honest, you know it. Maybe you don’t tell your kids about it but maybe you lived it. And you know it was real. It was the world we lived in and not a place of make-believe.
Though – make-believe had a role to play. Chris had characters that he would play on the air. He’d call in when his gumba, Steven Capen, who has also joined that Heavenly Radio Choir, was on the air. He’d call himself “Fatboy,” Corporate Head of Meglomeaningless. The bit would be different but the signoff was always the same: “You know what Fatboy wants? Fatboy wants more.”
Chris wanted more – more of his friends and more of his country.
There’s a thread – with voice work – with theater — that picks up years later in New York. Chris would call in to Capen when Capen deejayed at KROC in New York. There, he was the voice of a travel agent urging people to visit the Big Apple for its many sights and sounds: ‘Donald Chump’ and Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi black market arms dealer involved in Iran-Contra.
Chris kept his feet on the ground — most of the time. But we’re not here to pretty things up. Chris was a man. He had flaws and failings. He could be a danger to himself.
Sometimes, I think he felt too much.
He had a talent for being in the right place at the wrong time, and at the wrong place at just the right time.
Chris could also soar. And Chris in flight could take his flock to the right place at the right time, just where they needed to be.
Chris Stanley not only wanted to report on the moment. He wanted to be in that moment.
I met Chris Stanley in l979. I worked with him in San Francisco. He hired me away from WMMR in Philadelphia. Our relationship started in peculiar fashion.
The job was the Daily Planet, based in the City by the Bay. I put everything I owned in a U Haul, dragging it off to the Left Bank. We put programs on vinyl and they were mailed out to affiliates. I had a gig for about five weeks. There was a new owner, High Times Magazine. They changed the locks and pulled the phones out of the wall. Nothing like job security. None of this seemed to matter to Chris. As though a storm was going by and the sun would be out later.
There’s one detail worth mentioning. Chris and I worked on one show together there for which we shared a DuPont/ Columbia Citation award and a Clarion Award for radio documentary on the Guyana massacre.
I ended up going back to New York. Unbeknownst to me, so did Chris. We found ourselves working together again: DIR Broadcasting. Again, programming on vinyl brought to you by the pony express.
Another odd coincidence follows. I left to work for WPIX-FM and then, departed to work for NBC Radio News. WPIX needed a newsman to fill my shoes. That guy turned out be Chris Stanley.
CBS Radio is next. He was there first. I followed.
Chris had a good run: 1982 to 1998.
For Chris, KNX is next: 1998 to 2007
He met Gail Eichenthal there. Gail played a large part in Chris’ life. The two of them shared a Golden Mike for their Oscar coverage in 2003. In 2004; Chris won a Golden Mike and an Associated Press regional award for his series on Ronald Reagan. He also won a Golden Mike in 2002 for a series on the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death.
Ed Pyle who was the skipper at KNX then says he and Chris would have shouting matches. At the end of it, he says, they would be laughing. Ed says “It didn’t make sense to be mad at a talent like that.”
Fox News Radio follows: 2007 to just a few weeks ago.
I need to relay some other anecdotes:
These are not in order, there’s no chronology.
Dave Clark, who worked with Chris at CBS, and while now in a different division at Fox, Dave was there when Chris was at Fox News Radio. He remembers meeting Chris in the late 70’s. A protest to shut down the Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire. Dave was the News Director for a Bostondisco station. Chris wanted a ride to where the action was. The ride was a disco van – painted appropriately with fat red lips on the side. And there was Chris: waist-length hair. And I bet a quarter: San Francisco battle dress. They all crashed in a seedy motel room – and by Dave’s account – had a blast.
Flash forward to Fox where Dave says he couldn’t imagine a more square peg in a round hole than Chris at Fox, and Dave adds: “but above all else, Chris was a pro.”
Chris was a pro, let that sink in, even if his death – hasn’t.
There are other stories about Chris, other memories.
Larry McCoy, Chris’ boss at CBS Radio News for so many years, says what made Chris so special was that he cared.
Cared about the news, cared about what we, in the business, label as news. The line is blurred these days. Larry says it’s upside down. Gossip and trivia in competition with the real events and policies that shape our lives.
Chris was keenly aware of how much BS has entered the arena. When Chris was here, with us, it was easier to see where that line was. That’s a loss we share, all of us. That’s a loss the public shares. There’s one less keen eye. One less sharp mind. One less voice of experience.
You hear it all the time: what people want to know. What do people need to know. Chris Stanley knew where that line was.
As Larry says: Chris loathed those who thought broadcast news should be arm of show business or a faucet for a political philosophy.
Larry also touches on something else: Chris was not always easy to work with. Run-ins with Chris, he says, were triggered by his passion for reporting, doing it straight, and under great time pressure.
Before Chris left New York and was packing up for California, he wanted to set his house in order. A few of us met for one last dinner. I saw him after that but alongside us at that dinner was Larry McCoy, Larry Cooper (the former Vice-President of Radio News at CBS) and Charlie Kaye who is still the Executive Producer for the CBS Radio News operation.
Chris deeply respected Charlie and it was mutual.
Charlie says of Chris that he was simply one of the smartest journalists he has ever known.
Charlie also makes the point that that is now a double-edged sword, a blessing and a curse — at those times when Chris encountered people who did not grow up in that world where intellectually curiosity was required in journalism.
Who, what, when, where and why. It’s what we were taught – not out of a book, but taught by life itself. Taught by the work.
Charlie makes another point: that when warranted — a reporter’s job meant challenging authority. Chris’ standards of ethics and integrity were impeccable, Mr. Kaye notes. And knowing Mr. Kaye I can assure you there is no higher standard – or praise to be extended – not in broadcast journalism. But here’s where Chris – or any other honest reporter — could get bit in the rump. Heaven help him or her if they tried to lower the bar. Chris did not willingly compromise.
When Chris blew it — and there were times when he failed his standards – failed himself — he would come round a few days later and own up.
Chris could be generous and gentle, even innocent, but never bashful and always fiercely loyal. He spoke his mind when others held their tongue.
They’re qualities — as Charlie points out — that are not always conducive to job security. Charlie makes another point, one that many of us who knew Chris, know to be true: he was a man who battled personal demons, sometimes with success, sometimes without.
The last safe harbor Chris had was at Fox News Radio. I brought him in. It’s Mitch Davis’ shop.
Mitch says that for four years, the radio division was blessed by Chris’ presence. He calls him the embodiment of a professional broadcast journalist, noting his passion for truth and accuracy, his honest reporting, his fierce advocacy for the beliefs he held dear. Mitch says he was one of the best he has ever worked with.
Now what do we say at the end?
When Chris Stanley was in the room you knew he was there.
He could be a gentlemen but he wasn’t always polite.
He was blunt, loud, insistent, adamant, abrasive, in-your-face. He was REAL. He gave no quarter. He welcomed challenge. He may have needed it.
When times changed, when the world changed and reporting with it, Chris changed – from local to national, from vinyl to digital. The old dinosaur changed because he wasn’t ready to be written off.
He learned. He adapted.
He was proud of all of his work — from his time in Green Bay to Fox. Chris could not do what he did and not take pride in it. That was his way.
One thing never changed. Chris believed in the verities. Sometimes, I think, he believed in angels. That no matter how far he went they would protect him. I don’t think Chris let the angels down. But they may have let him down.
Let me tell you how we knew Chris had died.
He was in LA, at his new home in Playa del Rey — from which he told me — he could see the mountains and one tiny patch of ocean. He was working on pieces for KUSC. Chris’s big plan was to get to October 27th – his birthday when he’d reach 65.
There was a deadline for the segment he was working on for KUSC on Joel Grey. Chris missed the deadline. That’s when a red light went off for Gail, the woman with whom Chris had a long relationship – and KUSC is Gail’s station. Chris Stanley, she thought, missing a deadline?
That is radio. That is when the bells go off. If he was alive, there’d be no missed deadline.
I need to say some other things. Steely Dan is one. Chris loved that band. He loved Elmore Leonard. He loved Al Pacino. He loved Mailer. He loved Vonnegut. He loved to read. He loved movies, probably from the time he could watch them on a reel-to-reel projector dad brought home. He loved the day he interviewed Gore Vidal in Vidal’s home in LA. He loved shooting the breeze with Edward Albee at Albee’s home in New York. He loved his two dogs, the two dogs he shared with Gail. He loved snaring an interview with Abbie Hoffman when Abbie was on the run and the cops couldn’t find him. He loved Gail’s son. He loved not having — things; the idea that he could throw all of his belongings into a suitcase and four boxes and just head out.
He loved California. He hated winter.
He loved political conventions. He covered six of them – and he came away from one campaign in particular — after riding the bus with Pat Buchanan – telling all who would listen then, “Ride to the sound of the guns.” All his life, Chris rode to the sound of the guns.
So many people have ended up living their life guided now by a manual that is the opposite of the one that had been their compass. Chris was not one of those.
He thought, fought, breathed, lived for everything at the end that he did at the beginning.
Several people have told me they were envious of Chris’ drive and talent.
Everyone has told me they will miss him.
Me — I can’t believe he’s gone.
He came from a world that when you had a story, you worked that story. You worked it that hour, that afternoon, that night, you worked it all that day and you worked it the next day.
If you knew Chris, you had arguments. You had fights. Not school yard fights. Bar fights. They were knockdown drag out.
But here’s what’s also true: I trusted Chris. I trusted his reporting. I had the chance to watch at close range for 33 years. There are very few other people in my life that I can say that about or will ever be able to say that about again.
We are at the end. This ending, at least.
If I can paraphrase Hemingway: you only know what you’re fighting for when you’ve lost. We’ve lost something – we’ve lost someone.
At the very end of Touch of Evil, the Orson Welles-directed film noir, Tana, the character played by Marlene Dietrich says, “He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?”
We can say this about Chris Stanley. He was a reporter.