Phillipe and Jorge’s Cool, Cool World: The Urinal, Ali and Happenings Around Town

Shrinkage

More lipstick on the pig of Fountain Street as Gatehouse Media continues to downsize The Urinal.

BlowJo Executive Editor David Butler, who will obviously say anything to anybody with a straight face, took to The Other Paper’s front page on June 6 with a “Note to our (remaining) readers” to inform his audience of exciting (honk!) new changes to Little Rhody’s organ of record.

The showcase of this earthshaking change was that the Business section would now be the cover of the paper’s third section three days a week, saying “(t)he move out of the A section will give local business and economy stories greater visibility and prominence.” Well, perhaps Mr. Butler might have chosen a better day to make his pitch for this new commerce-centric shift by his rag.

While section three that day did indeed have business news featured on its “cover” with a story on aquaculture, local titans of industry eager to sink their teeth into this hinted-at meaty approach to big business may have been disappointed when they turned the page to find that was case closed for the economic info. After the one page that Business occupied on a flimsy piece of newsprint folded over to form four pages — not even enough to light a fire with — the remaining pages 2, 3 and 4 devoted to such economy-oriented material as advice columns, puzzles and the daily horoscope (page 2); TV listings (all of page 3) and the daily comics (all of page 4). Wow. Bow-wow!

This blatant oversell was part of that day’s lightweight content that has come to be a signature of The Incredible Shrinking Paper as it cuts back on staff.  The full paper that day was equally impressive … as a fly swatter with about 19 pages of real content.

Perhaps Mr. Butler has some new ideas about how to sell the fact that at $2 per copy, The BlowJo is now charging more than 10 cents per vapid page for its awesome news coverage. And you thought pay toilets are an insult to the public.

Suggestion: Read Motif instead, even if it does take more than 10 minutes.

PC Ali

Muhammad Ali was a boyhood idol and hero of Phillipe and Jorge, and invoked frequently as a short duration personal savior as the years rolled along. There is not much P&J can add to what has already been said about “The Greatest” except that he was just that, one of the most courageous and inspiring people in our lifetime. We were teenagers in February 1964, a month that, upon reflection, changed the world in so many ways. That month, the Beatles first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion of the world. The day after his victory, he announced that he was a member of the Nation of Islam and his name was now “Muhammad Ali.”

One of the most famous of his lines quoted on TV and in print from the usual gang of chattering idiots who became instant Ali BFFs upon his death was from the incident when Ali refused induction into the US Army, saying, “Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”  The sheer simplicity of the logic — and rightheaded thinking behind it — became an undertone of many young people’s view of this absurd and inevitably unwinnable war.

But the line about his turning down the offer to head off to Viet Nam, and easily the most sharp-edged and potent, was one that was shunted behind the curtain by almost all the mass media P&J encountered, with the exception of Sports Illustrated, when Muhammad declared at the time, “No Viet Cong ever called me ‘nigger.’”

This political correctness is indescribably lame, but this is just PC America at its worst. Perhaps its utter truth, and what it said about America at the time, was a little too close to the bone for the desperate, scared-to-offend milquetoasts that masquerade as journalists these days.

Ali was drawing on his experience growing up not just in the South, but what he saw nationwide.  At its core was an accusation demanding accountability and an attack on the hypocrisy of racial discrimination in a country that was obviously just mouthing the words to that sad song. Despite the widespread admiration of the heavyweight champ, the majority of Americans then still longed for that Great White Hope who could shut up that uppity boy — never mind a black Muslim who didn’t worship “our” God.

Muhammad Ali showed he had the ability to win over the hearts of teenagers not just through dazzling skills that could shine through any cloud, but whose eyes were opened to whatever that war it was we were fighting somewhere we couldn’t find on the map, and prompted the simple and innocent question of Why?

“No Viet Cong ever called me ‘nigger.’”  Poetry even more poignant than “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” A man for all seasons, and situations, who will be remembered and admired forever.  Thanks for showing the way, champ.

Summer Solstice Festival in Cumberland

 Congratulations to Russ Gusetti, head ramrod (aka executive director) at the Blackstone River Theatre who, for the 6th straight year will also be producer of the Blackstone River Summer Solstice Festival, taking place at Diamond Hill Park, Rte. 114, Cumberland, on Saturday, June 18 from 11am to 7pm.
This year there will be five stages running with Celtic & World music and dance, an Irish music session tent and lots of food and craft vendors. Rain date is June 19 but, take it from P&J, it ain’t gonna rain. For knowledgeable Vo Dilanduhs who know their Celtic/World music, Pendragon, Atwater-Donnelly, the Vox Hunters and the Gnomes will all be performing and it will be an opportunity to see and hear Ireland’s John Doyle, Barrule (a trio of young musicians from the Isle of Man making their first appearance in New England), Girsa, Marie Black and others acts well known in the Celtic/folk/world music community (riverfolk.org/brtssf401- 725-9272).
Remembering Steve Brown
 
On Sunday, June 5, at Fort Getty in Jamestown, there was a gathering of old friends and colleagues to remember the late Steve Brown, associate publisher and all-around father figure of the Providence Phoenix who tragically passed away near the end of April. Phillipe & Jorge, who have both been dealing with health issues (but are doing just fine, mind you) were unable to attend the memorial celebration of Steve’s life, but we talked to a number of our former colleagues who were there and said it was a moving and fine tribute to our fallen leader. Senator Jack Reed spoke and also in attendance was Phoenix founder, Stephen Mindich. Our continued thoughts are with Steve’s wife Jeanne and their daughter Jessica.
Glenn Laxton
 
Your superior correspondents were saddened to hear of the passing of Glenn Laxton, the veteran (and Emmy award winning) television news reporter and all-around good guy, on June 6. A graduate of Hope High School and Emerson College, Glenn had served in the Army National Guard for 20 years, wrote three books, played piano and was a member of the Pink Tuxedos doo wop/a cappella singing group. We got to know Glenn over the years through both his news work and involvement with music. He was greatly loved by those who knew him and will be missed.
Tony Drops By
 
Tony Lioce, The Providence Journal‘s former and highly regarded music critic who moved out west, initially to write for the Los Angeles Times, stopped by the Biggest Little last week and had a boisterous reunion with a bunch of old ink-stained friends at Nick-a-Nee’s on June 7. For those who have not been following Tony, he went from the Times to Orange County Register  where he was arts and entertainment editor until the shit hit the fan there and the now traditional “massive layoffs” took place. Like a number of other great newspaper scribes, Tony no longer works for a daily paper but can be found slinging drinks at Vesuvio, a legendary bar in San Francisco. He does occasionally do a freelance article like the story he wrote for the New York Times about Lou Reed a few months after his death in 2013.
It was great to see Tony and to report to you that no, he hasn’t changed: wild hair, crazy sunglasses and a ton of amazing stories.

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