Lord of the Lumpen Proles
Photo by Jack GouldIn 1993, Nathan Callahan and Mike Kaspar wrote, edited and published the paperback "Shut Up, Fag!" Quotations from the Files of Congressman Bob Dornan by Nathan Callahan. With its unsettling title and contemptible subject matter, the book became a second-tier cult success. TV and radio interviews followed. The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN—nearly every member of what Dornan called the "dominant liberal media culture"—kept copies of Fag on their desks, and with good reason. The book is thoroughly documented, with sources, page references and dates for every great moment in Dornania. For example, there's this October 19, 1990, Dornan quote from The Congressional Record: "You can get elected by proclaiming you are a sodomite and engage in anal sex all the time." (Callahan noted, "It is a measure of Bob Dornan's own high principles that he has not yet taken this easy pathway to even higher public office.")
The success of "Fag" helped dethrone Dornan. With Callahan and Kaspar sniping and snapping at his heels, the nine-term congressman was run out of office in 1996. Now Dornan is back again, announcing last week that he'll challenge Congressman Dana Rohrabacher for his Huntington Beach seat in the upcoming GOP primary.
Callahan is back again, too. He was upbeat and charming when I interviewed him aboard his yacht, Lesbian Spearchucker.
Nathan Callahan: As a political performance artist and author of the definitive book on Bob Dornan, how does the ex-congressman's reentry into politics effect you?
Nathan Callahan: I'm ecstatic, Nathan. Dornan's been money in my pocket from day one. Since his announcement last week, "Shut Up, Fag!"sales have skyrocketed and I've received tens of thousands of additional hits on my website. With each sale, I say, "Thanks, Bob. You may be one crazy motherfucker, but I love you."
Nathan Callahan: Are you serious?
Nathan Callahan: . . . as a heart attack.
Nathan Callahan: But doesn't that make you a crass opportunist?
Nathan Callahan: I like to think of myself as a crass opportunist with a cause.
Nathan Callahan: What's your fascination with Dornan?
Nathan Callahan: He's one of kind—a walking encyclopedia. His head is filled with facts and numbers that he can regurgitate at will—birth dates, bomb poundages, kill ratios, regiment numbers, cargo-carrying capacities. But unfortunately, the facts and numbers come out of his mouth irrationally. It's as if that amazing memory is linked to a random-number generator. Or a Bingo machine. He's a man of lucid incoherence.
Nathan Callahan: How did he ever get elected?
Nathan Callahan: He had Hollywood connections and right-wing money. And to exist in the political world, he created enemies and conflicts—homosexuals, communists, communist-homosexuals. Without them he's just a well-connected lumpen. Surrounded by make-believe threats, however, he's Lord of the Lumpens. Here's an example: Back in 1995, Bob gave a speech to the House of Representatives accusing President Bill Clinton of giving "aid and comfort to the enemy during the Vietnam War." I'm not kidding. His House colleagues responded by stripping Dornan of his floor privileges and expelled him. The late Sonny Bono, who was a Republican congressman at the time, asked Dornan why he did it. And to his credit, Dornan was totally candid. He said, "I'll be on C-Span every hour. Who cares?" Bono said later of Dornan, "He doesn't care when you talk to him, what you're saying, why you are saying it, or even if you're there. I've never seen anything like it." Dornan is unique. I've never seen anything like it either.
Nathan Callahan: What's your proudest Dornan-related moment?
Nathan Callahan: Well, Nathan, that would be in 1994, when Colorado Congresswoman Pat Schroeder took the Speaker's Chair in the House of Representatives and read from "Shut Up, Fag!" There were shrieks of laughter. You can't beat that.
Hear Nathan Callahan and Mike Kaspar onWeekly Signals on KUCI-FM 89.9. Tues., 8-9 a.m. To buy a copy of "Shut Up, Fag!" visit www.nathancallahan.com.
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