By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Jack GouldIf there's one thing we love more than an Irish bartender softly cooing our name, it's political speeches. Still, we weren't expecting television's Robert Blake—best-known as the cockatoo-wielding Baretta—to bring tears to our eyes with his eloquent evocations. That's right: Baretta made us cry.
The occasion was Sunday's star-studded Special Fund-raiser to Honor Tim Carpenter—and sure, they could have come up with a catchier name, but they couldn't have found themselves a better Leftist to honor (there he was in a China-red no-nukes shirt), nor could they have outdone themselves in terms of tiger shrimp, of which there were 40 pounds. And the beer was free! Yee-ha!
Carpenter, a fearsomely leonine man who has nonetheless managed to catch himself a pretty wife and produce a pretty daughter, is generally recognized as trailing only Princess Dianain terms of saintliness and selfless love for humanity. However, he has also been saddled with degenerative arthritis, which has done all manner of icky things to his health and made him walk, in Blake's words (the actor, not the crazed, drug-addled 19th-century poet), like a crab. Blake also pointed out that for the Great Peace March—remember that? Melissa Manchester and Mr. Misterplayed at the grand kickoff?—Carpenter crabbed his way across the country at the brisk clip of 20 miles per day.
The fund-raiser—which netted a cool 50 large for Carpenter, who needs some piddling operation or three—was held at the glorious Corona del Mar home of John Denver-look-alike Mike Kaspar's mom and dad. Rising above the ocean, in a back yard filled with irises, bougainvillea, roses, gladioli and tiger shrimp, the home was opened to bearded ancient hippies, young gay activists sporting purple contact lenses, and power brokers. Everybody mixed (but briefly and respectfully because really he's not a warm, welcoming kind of man; indeed, he's very serious and somewhat scary) with current Oakland Mayor and former monastery guy/Linda Ronstadtescort/governor of California Jerry Brown. (Commie Mom has had a yen for Brown for several lives now. She can be clearly spotted in the Bill Clintoncampaign documentary, The War Room,chanting, "Let Jerry speak!" at the New York Democratic Convention—where, by the by, Carpenter was also a Brown delegate and was the person chosen to speak for Brown until Brown himself came on and said in that sexy hoarse voice of his, "My name is Jerry, and I've come to speak." And how much did Commie Mom go wild? Probably a lot!)
Brown looked good; that eagle face of his ages well. Tom Hayden, on the other hand, looked like hell—you know how he has always looked sort of boiled?—but he has a stunningly sexy, young peacenik wife, Barbara Campbell, who even brought out a guitar and sang anti-nuke calypso songs about not fooling around with the atom and the isotope if you want Mississippi to stay where it is, which is a good thing in our book, and not because we're making some offensive, prejudiced, keep-the-Southern-crackers-far-away joke but just because, well, you know, large land masses shouldn't be moved. It's just not right.
As Hayden sat cross-legged on a low wall and picked his ear, former presidential candidate and current Irvine City Councilman Larry Agranread a proclamation from Irvine Mayor Christina Shea, congratulating Carpenter on his work for the homeless—and how that must have galled her!—and thirtysomething's David Clennontold some story about an Irish wake, which made us a bit nervous because Carpenter's not dead. Then Jeanne Bernsteinremembered back to when Carpenter was a "pubescent kid in the grip of terrible raging gonads." We love speeches! And then Blake came on and talked about how as a half-assed, over-the hill celeb, he's often asked to come raise money for something. He talked about Carpenter walking like a crab and never shutting up all the way across the country. And he talked about the '50s and '60s, when "regular folks" were taking to the streets and the grape fields with Cesar Chavez.
And Blake got misty. "I guess because our leaders were all shot and killed, the regular folks didn't want to come out anymore and go to the test site or Diablo Canyon. . . . The streets were empty," he said. And then Blake reminisced about being Carpenter's cellmate. "My heart always felt great when they would lock our asses up and put us on the bus and we'd have to pee in sandwich bags because they wouldn't stop," he said. And we all got misty thinking about those pee-filled sandwich bags, and Blake kissed Carpenter on his big face, as Italians do, and we cheered like Commie Mom seeing Jerry speak. Damn! Baretta! Who knew?
Then Hayden came on and said some stuff and was very funny about how plastic "grassroots" activism has become, like when at the Chicago Convention(the most recent convention, not '68—ho, ho, ho, get it? You see, Hayden was one of the Chicago 7. . . Oh, never mind), delegates were handed signs vetted by Clinton henchman Harold Ickesand printed to look like a child's scrawl, but that Carpenter had smuggled in a "FREE IRELAND" placard in his own crude hand. "Always outside the box," Hayden observed of Carpenter, which oddly enough is exactly what OC Democratic Party chairwoman Jeanne Costales said about him, except what she said was that he and other Catholic Workertypes are "out of the mainstream." Shockingly, Costales didn't attend to honor the county's most effective liberal organizer.