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Hair Changed Everything: Music, Sex, Drugs and Music


Special To Topanga Journal

Producer Michael Butler talks about the groundbreaking musical Hair, June 12, 2007 at the Met Theatre in Hollywood, with Lee Ferris.

1968. The height of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, a time of peace, love and chaos. A year that held the death of RFK and MLK Jr., anti-war protests and a musical that changed lives, embodying core values resonating in self-worth and hope. The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the original Broadway show “Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.” It is a social-emotional, politically driven force of rights and voice. “Hair” parallels attitudes of the time it was born. The producer of the original Broadway show, Michael Butler, states, “the musical taught me about peace and love. I believes that ‘Hair’ is a work of God. It has such an effect on the people that work within it.”

Cara Robin and Richard (Dick) Osorio, General Manager of the Original “Hair” Broadway Production
Cara Robin and Richard (Dick) Osorio, General Manager of the Original “Hair” Broadway Production

Flower children, hippies, musicians, artists and revolutionaries are voices loud and strong; A part of history woven into stories of freedom, oppression, happiness and desire. Stories told through music, sex, drugs and politics. According to Butler “Politics are more serious now than when it opened. The war situation is much worse. America has become War Incorporated. The social point of view is that the rich are dumping on the poor. Politics are helping that. The President is out to lunch. Fascism is now a keyword in this country. “Hair” is more current today than it was in 1968.”

A reflection of counter-culture perspective, “Hair” opens conversation for future collaborations. This dialogue will start with Cara Robin, the production coordinator and second company casting director of the original Broadway show. Cara Robin is “an important part of the ‘Hair’ community and a light” beautifully expressed by Mr. Butler.  

I got into ‘Hair’ because Bobby Kennedy asked me to go to New York.“ Michael Butler

Interview of Music, Sex, Drugs and Music. Reflection: The 60s and 2018  

TJ – It is the 50th Anniversary of “Hair” – does its message still stand strong? 

CR – The musical still gives hope to a generation. It’s a sing-along of social issues by people looking for their identity, wanting a voice, and looking for the sun to shine in. It addresses topics with which we’re familiar: the military, air-pollution, love-triangles. Racism is alive and well. And people need people. 

TJ – What are the main musical messages of the 60s? 

CR – The explosion of rock n’ roll came via the Beatles’ early music, infectious and fun, pop lyrics with super style. It didn’t yet have the social messaging folk music had but grew and evolved to set the tone for the changing times. Bob Dylan’s evolution to rock n’ roll music were lyrics speaking to a new generation looking for change and feeling alienated from society and addressed their deep-held fears and hopes.  The closest sound to the energy and feeling of the 60s is the “Hamilton” soundtrack. Poetry in music via rap. “Hamilton” made me cry the first time I heard it. It has power, passion and skill of storytelling.

TJ – What was the reaction of gender assumption in relationships? Talk about the idea of free love and open relationships.  

CR – The counter-culture was quite liberal and inclusive. People didn’t seem to judge others because of their sexual preference. There was also a lot of sexual exploration going on in relationships. We’re addressing a specific group here – the counter-culture – where, yes, free love and open relationships was prevalent. People were exploring new freedoms and defying the “normal.”

TJ – Does free love exist in 2018?

CR – Free Love does not exist amongst my peers as far as I know. We are looking for committed relationships and strong friendships rather than free love. It could exist amongst the younger generation, but it’s not being shouted from the rooftops as it was in the 60s.

 TJ – What was the usage of drugs for self-discovery? 

CR – LSD was the main “self-awareness” drug, although it was usually taken for recreation rather than self-analysis. But the thoughts the drugs produced were quite mind opening, even though usually forgotten the next day. I had a friend that took LSD under a doctor’s supervision; so all of his experiences were recorded, which must have been quite interesting after the fact.

TJ – Is the usage of drugs for self-discovery is still a good idea? 

CR – Seems like more people use yoga for self-discovery these days.

TJ – How did the musical “Hair” inspire you politically and emotionally? 

CR – It awakened me to the urgency of being present and aware, of recognizing goodness as well as danger in the political climate and society. Emotionally it opened my heart to love and accepting people for who they are, to acknowledge the warmth and light feelings of happiness.

MB – I got into “Hair” because Bobby Kennedy asked me to go to New York. When at a club, I saw a poster for the musical “Hair.” The faces in the photograph were of two interests, the Native Americans and being against the Vietnam War. It was the strongest anti-war image I had ever seen. The musical got well reviewed and was wanting to be something commercial. Would I like to do it? I said yes. I was in politics, running for US Senate, and I decided to produce “Hair” instead. These were the messages of anti-war that I wanted to be a part of. Emotionally the story of “Hair” is such a strong statement that I could get into. 

TJ – How do the political themes of the 60s compare to the political views expressed today? 

CR – Similar. Life seems to progress in circles, same issues with little resolution. Especially with regard to race. Hopefully we can change this in the next years, awareness is coming, people are getting woke. 

TJ – Were you involved in politics in the 60s? Are you involved in politics today? What is your main goal in working in politics?

CR – I participated in marches against the Vietnam War and worked briefly on Eugene McCarthy for President campaign, the anti-war candidate. Currently I am President of the West LA Democratic Club, Executive Board Member of the California Democratic Party, elected Member of the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee and Co-Chair of the Westside Democratic HQ. My main goal is to elect Progressive Democrats to every level of government and inform the public on issues and candidates through meetings and events. 

TJ – Talk about women’s rights in the 60s compared to women’s rights today. 

CR – In the 60s you had to be a strong woman to be heard, and as I was in a position of power in my casting work, I had a voice.  But not equal pay, the men always made more. Men were in higher positions in most areas in business, politics, fashion, publishing and the arts. Women have much more power and standing today than in the 60s. Women are at the top in nearly every field, and the fight for equal pay for equal work has made great strides. Women are leading the way in the political fights and protests.

TJ – How do we move forward politically with positivity? 

CR – We identify what is important in society – social justice, affordable health care, housing, debt-free education, immigration, gun control, people feeling safe and happy. We can’t discount the importance of feeling happy. Then we work to elect strong, conscious representatives that will move these ideals forward, and this can only happen when we take money out of politics. 

Remember to Love. “Hair” brings about a reason to care and an example of how. Through the topics of music, sex, drugs and politics we hear stories of a time that reflect the self and its current surroundings. “Hair” in lyric, style and production is a profound example of hope for the future. The messages of “Hair” will continue, the discussions of change and growth present new ideas of communication and a common ground of trust. Randy Brooks, Tribe from the original Los Angeles production of “Hair” expressed “what the show did was open my eyes to the unfairness and hate that needed all the love the show was preaching.” 

“Hair” will be the soundtrack for our lives for generations to come. Its impact is evident with the compassion it continues to produce. Remember to LET THE SUN SHINE IN! 

ON THE WEB:

https://youtu.be/P0Wh-ccZVfs


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Anita Hill To Receive the PEN Courage Award


Deborah K. Wilson, Chief Development Officer, PEN America

PEN announced professor, lawyer, equal rights advocate and chair of The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality Anita Hill will receive this year’s PEN Courage Award. The award will be conferred in recognition of her singular role in challenging sexual harassment in the workplace and the attendant abuse of power, and a career spent combating the silencing force of sexism. The award, which honors dauntless exercises of free expression, will be presented May 21 at the 2019 PEN America Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Deborah Wilson is the Chief Development Officer at PEN America.

By Deborah K. Wilson, Chief Development Officer, PEN America

“Anita Hill stepped alone into the glare of the public spotlight to call out abuses that others insisted be forgotten or overlooked. She has devoted her life since then to teaching, writing and speaking out — in the process, helping to catalyze a global movement that is essential to the achievement of equality,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America.

“The award will be conferred in recognition of her singular role in challenging sexual harassment in the workplace and the attendant abuse of power, and a career spent combating the silencing force of sexism.” Deborah K Wilson

Deborah Wilson is the Chief Development Officer at PEN America.
Deborah Wilson is the Chief Development Officer at PEN America.

In her career as a university professor and scholar, Hill has been a steadfast champion of women’s rights. She is the author of two books (1997’s Speaking Truth to Power and 2011’s Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home) and numerous opinion pieces (including a New York Times piece entitled How to Get the Kavanaugh Hearings Right.) In December 2017, Hill was appointed Chair of The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality, where she is leading an industry-wide effort to identify and establish best practices and solve problems related to harassment, bias, equality, and diversity in the entertainment community. Find out more about Anita Hill’s advocacy here »

At our May Gala, we are also honoring women’s rights champions and Saudi writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan, imprisoned for opposing the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia and the female driving ban in the region, with the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. We are recognizing peerless investigative journalist Bob Woodward with the Literary Service Award and Scholastic Chairman and CEO Richard Robinson for his outstanding leadership in publishing. Comedian and political commentator John Oliver will host this year’s event. Find out more about the 2019 PEN America Literary Gala here »

In 1991, Hill served as a witness during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She gave her testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee of 14 white men and a global television audience. She described numerous instances of sexual harassment while working for the soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Other women who had made similar allegations against Thomas were not called to testify. 

In her career as a university professor and scholar, Hill has been a steadfast champion of women’ rights. She joined the faculty of Brandeis University in 1998 and in 2015 was named University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s Studies. She is the author of two books (1997’s Speaking Truth to Power and 2011’s Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home) and numerous opinion pieces (including a New York Times piece entitled “How to Get the Kavanaugh Hearings Right,” published during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh). In December 2017, Hill was appointed Chair of The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality, which was established by a coalition of Hollywood studios, television networks, streaming services, music companies, talent agencies, trade associations, and unions. In this role, she is leading an industry-wide effort to identify and establish best practices and solve problems related to harassment, bias, equality, and diversity in the entertainment community.

In addition to Hill, PEN America will honor other women’s rights champions at its May Gala: Saudi writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan, imprisoned for opposing the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia and the female driving ban in the region, will receive the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. Additionally, PEN America will recognize peerless investigative journalist Bob Woodward with the Literary Service Award and Scholastic Chairman and CEO Richard Robinson for his outstanding leadership in publishing. Past Courage Award honorees include student activists against gun violence (2018) and organizers of the Women’s March (2017). The Gala raises essential funds that fuel PEN America’s free expression advocacy efforts. Comedian and political commentator John Oliver will host this year’s event.

We hope you’ll join us on Tuesday, May 21 at the PEN America Literary Gala, and consider supporting our dynamic cultural programming and critical free expression advocacy work. If you are unable to attend in person, please consider making a donation to support this inspiring event and our salient work.

ON THE WEB:

https://pen.org


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Leslie Zemeckis Continues Filling In History with Feuding Fan Dancers


Special To Topanga Journal

Viewing the “fan dance” in the year 2018 is a quaint, cutesy activity on par with listening to an old radio play or riding a horse.

From the comfort of your own home, in front of the glow of your laptop computer, you can search for the dance online and get its general gist. The dance will involve a lady, maybe nude, maybe merely scantily clad, and she’ll be holding two large ostrich feathers in her hands. She’ll use the dual objects to cover herself, and now and then—purposefully or otherwise—she’ll allow a brief glimpse of skin to the audience’s prying eyes. That’s what the crowd—men, mostly—has been waiting for, and they’ll hoot and holler their approval at the sight. 

Rick Paulas

By Rick Paulas

It’s fun, in an outdated, mostly innocent, sort of way. It’s a hobby for the privileged or curious, largely unnecessary for the general public to know or understand, certainly with no role in pushing the world’s culture forward. It’s time has come and went, sort of like that old form of the English language with its awkward misspellings and phrasings. Interesting to see, but in an era when you can see literally anything from one’s smartphone, we’re well past the allure that the fan dance originally created. For better or worse, we’ve moved onto more outrageous forms of self-expression.

“When it was first introduced, the fan dance was notorious and titillating. It was the inevitable next iteration of the showgirl spectacle, and like any innovation, that meant there was a large profit in it. This meant, like every other invention throughout history’s long game of leapfrog, there was a fight over who started it, and therefore, who owned the right to perform it.” Rick Paulas

But of course, this wasn’t always the case. When it was first introduced, the fan dance was notorious and titillating. It was the inevitable next iteration of the showgirl spectacle, and like any innovation, that meant there was a large profit in it. This meant, like every other invention throughout history’s long game of leapfrog, there was a fight over who started it, and therefore, who owned the right to perform it. 

For the fan dance, this culminated in a battle between Faith Bacon, “the world’s most beautiful woman,” and Sally Rand, one of the world’s most famous showgirls of all time.

This fight is the driving force throughout Feuding Fan Dancers, Leslie Zemeckis’ fascinating and page-turning dive into the lives of Bacon and Rand. But the book isn’t so much a stodgy legal thriller satisfied with merely picking the nits of creative ownership, but rather widens its scope to become a meticulous, behind-the-scenes analysis into the intersection of show-business and femininity in post-Depression America. 


I won’t spoil the ending, or announce who prevails, other than to say, it doesn’t really matter all that much. What matters is that here, finally, is the story of these two largely forgotten women. Part of that is because of the lack of media affordances that didn’t yet allow the ease of recording, but largely it’s been due to publishing gateways frankly not really caring all that much about the stories of women. The book’s ultimate goal—and increasingly the goal of Zemeckis’ work—is correcting those wrongs by filling in history’s blanks.


Leslie Zemeckis has been on a hell of a roll. Her 2015 book, Goddess of Love Incarnate, told the story of Lili St. Cyr, the so-called “highest paid stripteaser in America,” while her recent documentary Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer highlighted Mabel Stark, the world’s first female tiger trainer. With Feuding Fan Dancers, it’s become even more clear how Zemeckis sees her role in the cultural discourse.

History, it is said, is the story of the winners, but really, it’s the story of those who storytellers consider powerful. Historical analysis has long been dominated with the stories of men, for the obvious reason men have largely held positions of what’s been considered power. But contrary to the inherent narrow framework of storytelling, power is not a top-down hierarchy. Kings get dethroned, managers retire or are ostracized, congressional officials retire or get impeached. Actual, real power comes from those changing society at its base. And one arena for that shift—the one that Zemeckis has chosen to focus on—is the world of popular entertainment. When it’s at its most potent, that is the true nexus of democracy and organizing, of creating and spreading propaganda strong enough to change the world.

It’s this lens that makes Zemeckis’ work important and vital, particularly in today’s post-Trump era, when the world’s most powerful positions are held by overtly feckless buffoons. The emperor has no clothes, but never really did, and there was never really a true emperor at all, just someone who happened to be sitting in a big chair. Now, like always, true power resides in the largely nameless figures who push the cultural football further down the field. They don’t campaign to get elected, or own billion-dollar businesses, or live in castles. They take what once was, and make it what it will be. Quite often, contrary to high school history classes, these figures are female. And now and then, they may even wear nothing but enormous ostrich feathers.

ON THE WEB:

http://lesliezemeckis.com


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Democratic Superstars Mingle With Activists In Topanga


Special To Topanga Journal

It was a star-studded Democratic Saturday afternoon in Topanga as a green lawn was rolled out for the progressive elected officials and activists. Before the program began activists and legislators mingled on the deck enjoying vegan Thai food and drink, marveling at the view and enjoying the company of fellow progressives.

Kriss Perras, Publisher & Editor Malibu Arts Journal

By Kriss Perras

When the program began progressives were elated to hear Alan Minsky has taken the helm as Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). US Representative Ted Lieu gave the first award as the program got underway. He had arrived early and was swarmed by activists and constituents. US Senate Candidate Kevin De León, who was receiving an award,  comfortably mingled with activists and constituents. The annual event garnered about 200. California State Senator Ben Allen, awardees Jackie Goldberg, Ani Zonneveld, comedian and Zonneveld’s friend, Mona Shay, Alan Minsky, Lila Garrett, Harvey Wasserman, Mimi Kennedy, Susie Shannon, Russell Greene, RL Miller, Michelle Sutter, Larry Gross and even CODEPINK was in the house! 

“My disappointment has turned to outrage. Complicity and capitulation will not shield essential human rights from Donald Trump and the Republican enablers marauding on Capitol Hill.” Kevin De León

Congressman Lieu was there to present the Tim Carpenter Courage Award to activist and honoree Zonneveld from Muslims for Progressive Values. Shay treated the activists to a mini roast of Zonneveld, who then spoke of her work for women’s rights to free Muslims imprisoned in their home countries. She ended her talk with an inspirational song as the audience cheered her on. Goldberg received the Lifetime Achievement award for her long-standing career as a leader and activist both inside and outside the party. Her award was presented by activist Gross from Coalition For Economic Survival and Director of Region 12 off the Democratic Party. Goldberg got the crowd going with her fiery speech encouraging them all to increase their activism. 

DNC member Shannon and environmental activist Miller, early supporters of de Leon’s Senate race against Feinstein, presented his award. De León spoke on progressive values and the hard fought passage of his bill SB100 all the way to Governor Brown’s signature and enumerated many of the other bills he had passed as a California legislator and leader of the California Senate. Toward the end of his speech he donned a dark blue cap with the gold embroidered numbers 100% to symbolize the bill’s renewable energy goal by the year 2045. This was historic because no other economy as large as California’s has committed to 100% clean energy. Feinstein had refused to debate de León and after his speech the reasons were obvious. Most recently he laments the leaderless Democratic Senate on the Kavanaugh hearing. 

“My disappointment has turned to outrage,” said De León in a statement. “Complicity and capitulation will not shield essential human rights from Donald Trump and the Republican enablers marauding on Capitol Hill. I would sooner walk out into the streets and protest with people we represent than remain in that Senate chamber where diplomatic bluster is worth less than the paper the members’ talking points are printed on. We deserve better because too much is at stake.”

The event was held at the Topanga home of Dorothy Reik, President of the Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains (PDSMM). Attendees were treated to a clear view of the city lights of Los Angeles below and the stars above as the sun set.   

ON THE WEB:

https://www.kevindeleon.com

https://lieu.house.gov

http://www.mpvusa.org

http://climatehawksvote.com

 


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Nazi Hunting: The History Of Topanga Journal Part II


Special To Topanga Journal

In May 1942 Hugh Harlan launched Topanga’s first newspaper, the Topanga Journal. As a project of the New Deal’s Newspaper Writers Project, the weekly newspaper joined other area publications to employ unemployed L.A. writers. Mechanically, like an old Model T Ford climbing to the top of the S-curves in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Topanga Journal labored dutifully. 

Kriss Perras headshot by Alan Weissman

By Kriss Perras

As supervisor of the Federal Writers Project in Los Angeles as early as 1937, Harlan’s tenure as editor and publisher of the Topanga Journal revealed a tendency to take advantage of a federal program while publicly denouncing it. Even though the newspaper was a direct beneficiary of a politically and economically progressive program, neither its text nor cartoons reflected such politics. The front pages from 1942 through 1945, in particular, displayed editorial cartoons highly critical of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), labor, and the New Deal. Harlan’s decision to publish such cartoons belied his willingness to pay himself from WPA funds, which were sufficient to cover the cost of his $100,000 Topanga home (adjusted for inflation, that’s an approximate $1.4-million home today). 

“Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, … tell you … a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.” President Roosevelt

Harlan earned like a criminal while he mocked Roosevelt, publishing Nate Collier’s critical cartoons. One, titled “Loaded Logic,” showed a worker swinging an ax toward the head of an upper-class business owner who held a newspaper that read “Wage Increase” as he sat at a desk, his title enshrined on a plaque that read “Labor Board.” Another showed a cook with a chef’s hat labeled “Organized Labor.” With one hand he stirred an overflowing pot of prices, while with the other he poured from a bucket labeled “Blanket Wage Increases.” Behind him stands a woman wearing a skirt labeled O.P.A., for the Office of Price Administration, which had been formed to control inflation and stabilize prices after the outbreak of WWII. Titled “What’s Cookin’?,” the cartoon blamed inflation on organized labor’s push for a living wage. Harlan consistently fought for policies that would keep wages low for the American worker.

Troops fighting three fascist dictators made $50 per month in 1944. Common laborers in large cities made 70.7 cents per hour. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), the country’s first minimum wage law, had set the minimum wage at 25 cents per hour and a maximum work week at 44 hours. The night before signing the bill, President Roosevelt said in his radio fireside chat, “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, … tell you … a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.” 

In published editorials, Harlan bashed the New Deal, while he accepted money for his role as head of the Federal Writers Project. Known to fight against censorship in a union-like battle inside of the Writers Project, he nevertheless continued to publish cartoons critical of union organizing for those very rights.

His duplicitous behavior begs the question, was Harlan a job creator or a WPA leach? In respect to his own newspaper, Harlan makes no bylines in Topanga Journal. He has only two attributions on the masthead: one as editor and publisher, and one for his wife, Virley Harlan, as Women’s Department editor. There are scant existing sources on Harlan’s work on the Federal Writers Project and the Newspaper Writers Project. 

Critical of Roosevelt and his New Deal, the Topanga Journal was also notable for its silence on the brutal dictators of WWII. Not until October 27, 1944, was there any mention of Hitler, and this came in the form of a front-page cartoon where Hitler is depicted as the face of a carved pumpkin. The caption reads, “with apologies to all pumpkins.”

Why would a newspaper so critical of President Roosevelt and his policies not cover his death or the major events of WWII, such as the dropping of the atomic bombs or the discovery of the Nazi death camps? 

“Many newspapers printed stories about the Holocaust, but they put them in the back of the newspaper not in the front,” said Steven J. Ross, a history professor and author of Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America. “I would imagine a local newspaper like this just wouldn’t deal with it at all. You can find stuff in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, but it’s not going to be on the front page. If you wanted to know about the Holocaust, and you were willing to look hard, you could find information, but it wasn’t easy to find information.”

In the San Fernando Valley Oral History Project of California State University, Northridge, Virley Harlan said that she and Hugh had founded Topanga Journal to “help get [the] word out to those who were afraid during the war effort.” Yet there’s no mention of Hitler or Hirohito until 1944. And although there were ubiquitous mentions of war bonds and stamp drives for the war effort, the editorial content barely covered the war.

Meanwhile by 1944, one of Harlan’s fellow Topangans, John Schmidt, and his wife, Alice, had developed a skill in uncovering Nazi activities  in Topanga. Ten years prior, Schmidt had identified several dozen local Nazis, calling them out  in the Los Angeles Superior Court before Judge Guy Bush in the case of Otto Deissler et al. v. Max E. Socha. That case centered on sedition charges against the defendants. Known for his willingness to testify in 1934, Schmidt then was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in Washington, DC, as a star witness in 1944’s Great Sedition Trial, which had some of the same characters as the Superior Court Case. However, he never made it there. Twenty days before he was to testify in a sedition proceeding against several well-known Nazis, he died mysteriously. He had gone out to eat on a Friday, fallen ill, and perished of suspected poisoning the next Monday. Yet the Topanga Journal remained silent on Schmidt’s subpoena and on his mysterious death. 

HUAC’s Great Sedition Trial indicted 30 suspected Nazis. The 1943 indictment accused them of many acts of sedition, declaring that by pamphlets, books, and circulars they had sought since 1940 to spread word that democracy was decadent; a Nazi or fascist form of government should be established; and a Nazi revolution was inevitable in the United States. Other seditious ideas promoted in their publications were that the major political parties, Congress, and public officials were “controlled by Communists, international Jews and plutocrats,” and that the United States had deliberately provoked war with the Axis nations, which sought only to live in peace with the rest of the world. 

The Nazis against whom Schmidt was set to testify were part of a three-year plot to incite mutiny in the armed forces, unseat the government, and establish a Nazi regime. They included Reverend Gerald Winrod, a far-right Kansas evangelist who secretly worked with the Third Reich’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda; Elizabeth Dilling, a Nazi propagandist from Chicago, author of The Red Network, and a member of a Nazi Legal Defense Fund; Robert Noble, an organizer of the L.A. Nazi group Friends of Progress (FOP), had been described by the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle in 1944 as a “silver tongued orator from California”; and Ellis O. Jones, another FOP organizer.

“Pro-Nazis, fascists and American Firsters were meeting before Pearl Harbor in Topanga in people’s homes in secret cells,” said Professor Ross. “John Schmidt, who is one of the heroes of my book …  was living up in Topanga. He wrote [to an acquaintance] that in fact they were meeting up there. That Nazis, people from the German American Bund, were organizing. Those who felt similar about Jews, Communists, blacks and Catholics, were meeting in Topanga to plot against the Roosevelt Administration.”

Was Harlan acquainted with these cells? His publication record hints at a connection. He published anti-semitic images, as shown by the Collier cartoon here titled “The Man Who Came for Dinner,” which appeared on May 26, 1944. What appears to be a bearded Roosevelt sits in his wheelchair reading a book titled “How To Take Over Everything,” while the people peeping over his shoulder are captioned “Industry,” “Free Enterprise,” and “John Q. Public.” Such imagery reflects the conspiracy theory that Jews seek global dominance and ongoing profit from the financing of wars.

In an editorial on October 27, 1944, titled “The New Deal Smear Sheet,” Harlan calls all of Hollywood reds, pinks, and Communists. This is several years before the McCarthy Era and the Hollywood Ten. 

“It was common for Republicans, particularly, to call Hollywood pinks, reds, and Communists,” said Professor Ross. “They were doing that in the ’30’s.” Harlan’s rant was triggered after all Topanga residents received a copy of the Free Press newspaper, a publication of the Hollywood Democratic Committee. Harlan, being a hard-right Republican, smeared the Democrats and     played their policy like a baller, all the while saying they were using smear tactics against him. He wrote that the Free Press was one of the New Deal’s smear sheets. “It stinks,” he opined.

One of the first recorded uses of the pejorative term pinko appeared in Time Magazine in 1925. It was used to describe a person who had left-leaning political sensibilities. Derogatory terms like pink parlor or pinks and reds all implied a lack of allegiance to the United States, but right-wingers used the terms to refer to supporters of Roosevelt and the New Deal.

Harlan and Collier were anti-semitic in the same tone as a good portion of the nation at the time. Despite the major investments in fighting Nazism   fighting anti-semitism abroad—e.g., $86,000 per smoke screen and $55,000 per anti-aircraft gun—it was acceptable to use pejorative terms against a hard-left-leaning thinker and call him a pinko even though the Communists were our ally against Hitler, who was killing Jews   and others by the millions. Communists, however, had been demonized in the U.S. since shortly after WWI. The secret Nazi cells in Topanga prior to and during WWII discovered by Captain John Schmidt and his wife Alice were more socially acceptable than being a Communist. Americans were dying fighting Nazis, and yet it was socially acceptable to be one and publish anti-semitic material on a weekly basis here in the United States. 

SEPTEMBER ISSUE: We will have an in-depth article on Captain John and Alice Schmidt and their efforts to stop the secret Nazi cells here in Topanga. 

 


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