It was the 70s, man. My good friend and fellow musician Dennis Gordon told me that there was an opening at the “underground” newspaper, The Chicago Express, for which he served as a copy editor. The job was a column, “Pick Hits,” in which the writer would list events happening in and around the Chicago area.
We changed the name of the column to “Pick Hits by Blue,” reflecting the nickname I still answer to. But very quickly I got bored with the format. I proposed to Dennis that I start making up stuff: fake events, turning the column into humor instead of information. Go for it, Dennis said.
One of my first fakes was something about the actor Mary Lou Henner appearing at a coffee house on Lincoln Avenue, to try out a singing act involving her newfound religion (totally made up). It was plausible, as Henner had appeared in Chicago in the very first production of “Grease,” when it was staged in a storefront theater with a twenty-seat capacity.
But I listed the wrong address for the coffee house. Back came a letter from a nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital: “You can go to that address, but you’ll get a thermometer up your ass and a lollipop.” Sure enough, I met the nurse, we posed for a photo, and the readers loved it.
I wrote that Bob Dylan was in town (true) and would be handing out promo free tee shirts for his new album, at the Lincoln park Zoo (false). The Lincoln Park Zoo had a one-day spike in attendance and a lot of explaining to do.
Next, I wrote that the kidnapped Patty Hearst would be traveling along Interstate 80 (true) south of Chicago, and that such and such a rest area would be along her route at such and such a time (false). Sure enough, some hippies drove to that rest stop and reported back the next week on “seeing” Patty. After that, my column was totally made up.
Two weeks before the Fourth of July, the staff met to discuss the cover art. We were riding high on comedy and satire, so we wanted something funny but patriotic. I suggested that seven of us have the words “FUCK COMMUNISM” painted on our bare butts, with one butt cheek serving as a space.
The idea was funny, but the actual process of butt painting was not. No one wanted to be in the room with anyone else in the painting phase. So, each of the seven got painted privately, bright red paint of course, two letters per six butts, one butt with a letter and a space.
On the day of the shoot, staffer Neil took photos of us clothed and set the camera just so, so that the naked moment would be quick and with as little embarrassment as possible. We would disrobe, run to our marks, and on the command “Bend over,” we would do our thing.
The guys stood to the left and disrobed, and the girls walked to the right and did the same, and we swore like sailors and made the worst jokes possible, and we all covered our groins with our hands (so much for sexual liberation) and waited for Neill.
The order came: “Go!” We ran to our spots, turned our backs to camera. “Bend over!” We bent over. Click. “Hold it, guys,” Neil said, “Another shot.” Click. “One more. I need you to bend further.” “Neil,” Neil’s wife Denise scolded, standing naked next to me—I was the ‘CO’ and she was the ‘MM’ of ‘COMMUNISM’—cut the shit!” “Done!”
We ran for our clothes. And had a party, and after a few inhales of weed, started mooning our fellow anti-communists, and laughing—pardon the expression—our asses off.
But. Neil, after looking at the photos, decided that “FUCK COMMUNISM,” while funny, might offend some readers. Plus, in an era before photoshop, Neil couldn’t remove certain other bits that were in the photos. One of us had completely shaved the “area,” (it wasn’t me!) the rest of us were various degrees of hairy. Save for Denise, none of the naked posers ever saw the photos.
There is no record of the event. Neil is dead, old lady Denise is somewhere out there in that vast land of ours. And I am Mr. Fake Story. So some of you say.
Happy Fourth, and don’t embarrass your grandchildren.