Bohemian Flashbacks

A look at stories past

Greetings! The editorial brain trust has gone back through the Bohemian archives to help celebrate, commemorate and otherwise delineate 40 years of continuous publication of the paper. There are several Flashback sections peppered through the issue that offer reported highlights from ink-stained wretches of yore. Here’s some content from the wacky 1980s to kick off the Flashbacks, with many thanks to our hard-working colleagues Alex T. Randolph, Aiyana Moya, Candace Simmons and Geena Gauthier for diving through the dusty archives to unearth numerous giblets of journalism from years past. —Tom Gogola

January 19, 1989

Solar-Powered Luxury Home in the Works

A completely solar-powered, four-bedroom home, that will sell for $350,000 is being built in the Vinecrest Estates, a luxury home park in Windsor, by Solar Electric Engineering of Rohnert Park.

Ground will be broken on February 1, according to Gary Starr, of Sebastopol, president of the company, who said that the aims of the project are both profit and education.

“We want to show that a solar-powered home can be as spacious and luxurious as any home connected to the energy-grid with very little additional outlay that will be more than covered by energy savings,” said Starr.

For an added sales incentive, this house will also come equipped with a solar-powered robot who can be programmed to serve drinks or tell teenagers to get off the phone and other useful chores, said Starr.

—Jerry Weil

March 2, 1989

Editorial: Friends
of Doug Bosco

It seems that whenever you get Congressman Doug Bosco before a special interest group, he does a bang-up job of playing to the crowd. You remember last year when Bosco soke to the Petroleum Institute in Washington, D.C., his “we” versus “them” earned the oil lobby’s applause, and set the Congressman’s home district aides scurrying to limit the damage. Friday Bosco journeyed up to Ukiah, where he spoke to the Redwood Region Conservation Council, a timber industry group. According to published reports, Bosco took the opportunity to do a little environmentalist bashing before a beleaguered group that no doubt hung on to his every word.

Many environmentalists seem to be making “a career” of battling myriad causes, said Bosco. Berating groups such as Friends of the Coast, Friends of the River [and] Friends of the Estero, Bosco declared that “we have more friends than we know what to do with.”

Compromise on timber issues is difficult when the logging industry insists that there are no problems associated with massive clearcuts and the decimation of old-growth redwoods, despite alarming reports from state water and wildlife agencies, and several court battles won by environmentalists. Compromise? You first have to get the logging industry to the table. That takes pressure, Doug, not crowd-pleasing potshots that make you look like a gilded fob in a fat cat’s waistpocket.

June 8, 1989

Gays and Lesbians Claim Victory in Defeat

County supervisors Tuesday once more declined to endorse Lesbian and Gay Pride Week, despite moving testimony from more than 35 speakers calling for a repudiation of prejudice.

Organizers claimed the event nonetheless served to show gay people’s increasing determination to be recognized.

About 150 people largely in favor of the resolution filled board chambers as supervisors moved on an agenda that included a proclamation declaring June “Make a Wish Month.” But hopes that June 18 through 24 might be dedicated to the contributions by the “invisible” minority were dashed, 4–1.

Where gay men and lesbians take pride in a sub-culture born of ostracism and encompassing unique strengths, the board majority saw a divisive issue grounded in sexual choice.

Supervisor Janet Nicholas said she was voting for a county and country where people are not discriminated against for any of the standard excuses, including sexual persuasion.

“I believe this resolution moves in the opposite direction,” she told the gathering.

After a few weeks of hedging in the media, Fifth District Supervisor Ernie Carpenter reaffirmed his support of the measure. It was the second year the board had voted down a lesbian and gay pride resolution introduced for consideration by Carpenter. . . .

—Ilka Jerabek

August 24, 1989

ACT UP: Who are they? What do they want?

Ten activists arrested in county supervisors’ chambers last week during a dramatic civil disobedience action tell the story behind the death masks.

They are ten of 60 members of the Sonoma County Chapter of ACT-UP, an activist group that advocates better care for people with AIDS.

The ten entered county board chambers the morning of Tuesday, August 15 wearing black ACT-Up T-shirts, cowls and death’s masks, and throwing red confetti while chanting to the supervisors, “Blood on your hands.”

The board members reconvened in another room and demonstrators were allowed to stay if they refrained from damaging anything or attempted to leave and re-enter the room. They were arrested about six hours later.

Supervisor Ernie Carpenter used the occasion to make public an earlier decision to resign from the County Commission on AIDS.

One protester defied sheriff’s orders when she allowed several of her companions who had left the room to return by an unguarded door. Upon her arrest, the others surrounded her and insisted that they be arrested as well.

All ten are scheduled to appear for arraignment on the charges against them September 11.

–Ilka Jerabek

October 4, 1990

The Making of
an Activist

Sometimes Helen Libeu’s shoes don’t match. She has reportedly been seen wearing one green sock and one blue one, but Helen denies this. “I don’t wear socks,” says Helen. As for the unmatched shoes, “They kind of looked alike. They were both tan.”

Let’s assume fashion is not what’s on Helen’s mind—at least not when she’s thinking about nailing a bureaucrat to the wall over, say, the illegal corporate logging practices of the North Coast timber industry. . . .

—Frank Robinson

January 17, 1991

Radical Actions Force
the Issue

It’s a dreary afternoon in Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square as organizers of the biggest peace action ever in Sonoma County are preparing for the flood of marchers on their way down Mendocino Avenue.

A member of the group, the Action Coalition on the Middle East, has brought an American flag to the stage. Her thought is to hang the flag upside-down, a traditional symbol of a nation in distress. Other rally participants approach the stage to object to what they feel will be interpreted as an anti-American gesture. The flag is taken down, only to be replaced later in the rally by a group of students who plan to burn it. They are persuaded to forgo the action.

The incident in many ways reflects the larger debate among activists about the goals and tactics of the more than 20 local groups involved in peace actions.

The U.S. government’s response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait has forced people of conscience everywhere to act. . . .

—James Carroll

March 21, 1991

Author Randy Shilts Exposes Military Bigotry

The Paper: How did you choose the topic of gays in the military for your next book [Conduct Unbecoming].

Randy Shilts: Most heterosexuals don’t understand that genuine bigotry against gay people really exists, and that it really hurts people. I wanted to show the mechanics of prejudice in American society, and the military struck me as the ideal part of America to write about.

The Paper: Why does the military exclude gays?

Shilts: They no longer say that there’s anything inherent in gay people that makes them incompatible for service. Their basic argument is that it would undermine discipline and morale. People would not take orders from a gay officer; it would undermine morale. . . .

—Interview by John DeSalvio

May 16, 1991

Citizen of the World

Within 15 minutes of former CIA agent Philip Agee’s arrival at Los Robles Lodge, he was enthusiastically engaged in a conversation about olive oil and the vast, endless fields of olive trees in Spain, where he currently makes his home. There were other immediate clues—his sense of humor, his warm, firm handshake, and a clear, friendly manner of speaking—that here was a man fully engaged with life and the world around him.

Agee’s 17 years of exile and the endless attempts to by the U.S. government to silence his vocal dissent have not eclipsed what appears to be an unlikely optimism that warmed the sold-out crowd of 300-plus in Santa Rosa on May 1. Which is not to say that his perspective on the underside of our government’s activities has changed. . . .

—Michele Anna Jordan

April 1, 1999

Last Drop: Success sprouts a premium-grape shortage

If Paula Cole lived in Sonoma County, rather than singing about cowboys, her lyrical lament might well be: “Where have all the wine grapes gone?” Even though the 1998 harvest was the second largest on record in the Sonoma/Marin region, according to a preliminary report issued by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, there is a critical shortage of quality wine grapes in the county.

One consequence of the shortage is likely to hit consumers where it hurts the most: in their wallets.

Some 132,715 tons of grapes were harvested in Sonoma County last fall. That’s about 5,000 more tons than the 1996 crush produced, but well under 1997’s record 187,725-ton yield. And with most 1997 white wines now on the market and selling briskly, wineries, distributors and retailers are bracing for an extremely tight market once the more limited 1998 wines have evolved sufficiently to bottle and release.

What has spawned the upsurge of interest in local wines? Rick Theis, until recently the executive director of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, says the region’s reputation has been slowly building over the last decade-and-a-half.

“Fifteen years ago, people wouldn’t have thought about looking for a Sonoma County wine first,” Theis says.

Besides consumer demand, another factor is fueling the county’s grape shortage: big business. “A few very large wineries are buying as much fruit as possible, leaving everyone else to fight for what they can get,” observes Rod Berglund, winemaker for Joseph Swan Vineyards.

—Bob Johnson

March 4, 1999

Power Lunch

“Writers are, in a way, very powerful indeed,” William Burroughs once noted. “They write the script for the reality film. Kerouac opened a million coffee bars and sold a million pairs of Levis to both sexes. Woodstock rises from his pages. Sometimes, as in the case of Kerouac, the effect produced by a writer is immediate, as if a generation were waiting for it to be written.”

But despite of—or because of?—their enormous impact on the cultural life of the second half of the 20th century, the great American author William Seward Burroughs and his contemporaries Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were despised and reviled by the literary establishment for most of their creative lives.

Even now, the vast body of innovative literature created by this holy trinity of the Beat Generation is scorned by the academy and mainly denied its seminal influence on the course of creative writing since 1950, let alone its central role in the development of modern consciousness. . . .

—John Sinclair

May 6, 1999

Anatomy Lesson: Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’ puts women’s experiences in the spotlight

Eve Ensler assures me that once you say the word vagina 20,000 times, the odd sticky stigma around it disappears. She, of course, should know, having virtually made her career talking about vaginas, how women feel about them, how the world abuses them, how the word itself scares people.

“I think this is women’s time,” she says. “Women are going to come forward in the next 10 years and really move into a place of power. That’s my hope and my fantasy. The world of women will change when the world of their bodies changes.”

—Simone Stein

May 20, 1999

Slow Down

The newest issue of Slow, the official journal of the worldwide Slow Food movement, which seeks to preserve biodiversity and nurture craft foods, presents a roundup of quality American food crops and products that belong on the metaphorical “Ark” of food and crop diversity. Thanks to the efforts of local Slow Foodie Barbara Bowman, several Sonoma food products would be first in line to board the boat. Among the growers and producers listed in this first-ever U.S. showcase are Devoto Gardens (the Gravenstein apple), Vella Cheese Company (dry Monterey jack cheese) and Tierra Vegetables (of chipotle chile fame). . . .

—Marina Wolf

June 17, 1999

Sonoma, Naturally!

It’s hard to believe that little Amy, the baby whose birth in 1988 inspired the famed local all-natural frozen foods company, will be 12 in November. Proud parents Andy and Rachel Berliner started the namesake Amy’s Kitchen in Petaluma after their daughter was born, and out of necessity. They wanted healthy, tasty, and easy-to-fix alternatives to the frozen convenience foods and TV dinners packing the grocery freezers. Thus their line of vegetarian organic frozen foods was born. Favorites include vegetable pot pie, vegetable lasagna, and black bean enchiladas. In addition, the company has introduced a line of organic canned soups. . . .

—Paula Harris

August 5, 1999

Smoke Screen: Will the easy access to online drugs open the door to a depraved new world?

It came in a plain brown wrapper—two varieties of high-grade marijuana totalling a quarter ounce, delivered to a downtown San Francisco office building via regular mail. The pot had been ordered [from] an Amsterdam website, which is designed to look just like a Dutch coffee-shop menu. The site offers two types of weed and five types of hash, all pictured and listed on a pull-down order form with boxes to let buyers specify how many grams of each kind they want. After ordering, customers receive an e-mail with an address on it. They’re instructed to send cash. . . .

—Michelle Goldberg

December 30, 1999

Nostradementia: Predictions for the fabulous century to come

2005: Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to Jewel.

2007: USA Today, New York Times and Los Angeles Times merger. The new daily journal calls itself Complete Lies, in order to pique the sense of irony of the sought-after “Generation Z.1” market—the most ironic generation in human history. The strategy backfires: As a title, Complete Lies could conceivably be true—and therefore unironic. Sales plummet. The new national paper fires all of its writers, rejiggers its image and re-debuts, calling itself Absolute Truth. Now satisfied with the irony, young readers make Absolute Truth “their” “paper” “of” “record.”

2021: Scientists gather at Antarctic Sands beach resort to debate existence of global warming.

—Richard von Busack

January 14, 2009

Open Mic: Triangulated Presidency

The progressives who remain eager to project their worldviews onto Obama are at high risk for hazy credulity. Such projection is a common hazard of Obamania. Biographer David Mendell aptly describes Obama as “an exceptionally gifted politician who, throughout his life, has been able to make people of wildly divergent vantage points see in him exactly what they want to see.”

But in the long run, an unduly lofty pedestal sets the stage for a fall from grace. The best way to avoid becoming disillusioned is to not have illusions in the first place.

Barack Obama never promised progressives a rose garden. His campaign inspired tens of millions of Americans, raised the level of public discourse and ousted the right wing from the White House. And he has pledged to encourage civic engagement and respectful debate. The rest is up to us.

—Norman Solomon

January 28, 2009

The YouTube Democracy

Anyone who doesn’t yet understand what an unstoppable cultural force YouTube has become should consider this latest bit of news: Even while it was pursuing a billion-dollar lawsuit against YouTube’s owner Google for copyright infringement, Viacom was secretly uploading promotional videos to the site. They may hate it, but they need it.

The allegation was made by Google in papers filed in federal court, and when corporate executives suing a supposed copyright pirate recognize that they need that pirate to survive, it illustrates how far behind the curve intellectual-property law has fallen in the digital culture of the 21st century.

One man who was making this very argument years before most people even knew the subject existed is Mark Hosler, founder of the pioneering Bay Area–based group Negativland. Negativland’s history of making music by pushing the boundaries of sonic form opened up the very notion of what “music” was allowed to be in the formerly verse-chorus-verse rock world, paving the way for artists like Danger Mouse, Girl Talk and an entire generation of mashup artists. . . .

—Steve Palopoli

February 4, 2009

Sex in the Suburbs: Porn is alive and well (hung) in Rohnert Park

Most people don’t know that a porn industry exists in Sonoma County, let alone thrives. Yet the discovery that Rohnert Park is the hub of our local porn industry makes a strange sort of sense. It’s always the faceless, homogenous suburbs, like the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, that generate the masturbatory materials for the rest of the world.

Turk, a 24-year-old gay “twink,” says, “A lot of [porn] companies, they don’t even ask, they just pop it to you—Viagra, Cialis. It works, but you do get side effects.” . . .

—Gabe Meline

February 18, 2009


The gay porn story truly lacked balance. Viagra? You must be kidding. Missing from the story is the meth, blow and crack. It is a sad day in paradise when adult gay porn is a front-page story and drugs are not mentioned.

—Diane Kane

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