Tagged: Abe Peck

Mike Gold: Peter Pan, Revolutionary

Never Land will always be / The home of youth and joy / And liberty

I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up

Not me! Not me! No sir! Not me!

I just returned from a family reunion, and it was just about the only type I’d go to. It was a reunion of the various staff members of the Chicago Seed, the high-circulation “underground” newspaper published between and 1974.

This gathering of geriatric hippie revolutionary writers and artists was prompted by the recent deaths of two Seedlings: Snappy Skippy Williamson and Jayze Jay Lynch . I discussed the passing of my two long-time friends in this space; click on the above links if you missed those columns or if you have the desire to commit my words to memory.

Joining the Seed staff in January 1969 was the single most important step I have taken in my life, short of marrying Linda. I was 18 years old, a political organizer, a professional writer (thanks to those $5.00 checks from the Skokie News), a counter-cultural warrior and a kid tired of being pushed around by the jocks and the holy-holies. Within a few months, I was recruited to join the staff of the Conspiracy Trial. By the end of the year I was on radio as well. I did a whole lot of travelling and speechifying and fundraising for the Conspiracy Trial, all the while continuing to write for the Seed, as well as for New York’s East Village Other, the Los Angeles Free Press, the Berkeley Barb and, later, the Berkeley Tribe, the New York Rat (awesome name, edited by the gifted Jeff Shero), Liberation News Service, and the Black Panther Party newspaper.

Yes, you read that last part right. In 1970 it was easier for a white hippie boy to write for the Black Panther Party than, say, a black person to write for the hallowed-but-hypocritical Village Voice at that same time. If all you know about the Black Panther Party is what our popular media reported back then – largely quotes from the professional liars at J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I. – then you don’t know shit about the BPP back then. But I digress.

I was fortunate enough to work under the tutelage of Abe Peck, the finest editor I’ve ever had. He went on to work for Rolling Stone, The Chicago Daily News and The Chicago Sun-Times before becoming a full professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

I would have attended this reunion if Abe had been the only person there.

Like many such publications, The Seed was a combination of left-wing politics (as defined at the time) and the then-burgeoning youth culture. I covered both sides, as did most of my cohorts. Under the tutelage of editor Abe and, later, Marshall Rosenthal, I became a better writer. I also learned layout and design and I learned how to edit comics though my work with Skip and Jay and others.

Almost 50 years later, I look back at those seminal days with fondness and pride. But, as fate will have it, I doubt I’d seen most of those folks in the past, oh, 40 years or so.  Walking in the Atlantic Bar’s party room was a bit of a challenge: all of us were five decades older, and most of us kinda look it. We had name tags, but our eyesight was no longer strong enough to make identification easy in the darkened bar. Many were retired or semi-retired. Most of us had kids, many had grandkids. Of course, Jay and Skip weren’t the only ones too deceased to make it to the party, and that’s sad. Some of us had seen others of us at sundry memorials, but in the aggregate the roll call for the dead was excruciating. That’s part of growing up.

But… That’s the one thing most all of us still had in common. Not just our politics and our many, many shared experiences, good and bad, but the fact that hardly any of us grew up completely. It was clear that we maintain the strong and important values we held back in the Sixties, tempered somewhat by experience.

Otherwise, we are still Peter Pan, flying through the skies with pen – well, laptop computer – at the ready, trying to help make the world a better place. We continue to grabble with the concept of “fairness,” which is something kids bitch about as they realize the world is not fair and something adults tell kids is just the way it is.

It is not. The adults are wrong. We Peter Pans know better. We know what should be and we have a good idea of how to get there. If you think that’s a foolish or unnecessary journey, wait a few months and ask any of the 24 million people who no longer have health insurance. Ask any of the women and men who had been dependent upon Planned Parenthood for significant portions of their health care. Ask any native-born American with a Muslim or Hispanic heritage.

We need more Peter Pans.

ComicMix readers should get this. We all want to fly.

Mike Gold: Jay Lynch – Um Tut Sut!

Every town must have a place / Where phony hippies meet / Psychedelic dungeons / Popping up on every street • Frank Zappa, “Who Needs The Peace Corps?”

The late Sixties really did live up to its reputation. In my home town of Chicago hippie central was the Lincoln Park neighborhood around the iconic Biograph Theater, where, 34 years earlier, the FBI allegedly shot John Dillinger to death. Today, hippies can’t even afford to drive down Lincoln Avenue.

The area sported many blues and folk bars, giving such local talent as Steve Goodman, John Prine, Hound Dog Taylor and Harvey Mandel a place to strut their stuff. It was Mecca to the storefront theater movement, creating world-renown companies such as the Steppenwolf and the Organic Theater a home for newcomer writers and actors like David Mamet, Joe Mantegna, Laurie Metcalf, John Malkovich, and John Ostrander. A mile down the street was The Second City, then-home to John Belushi, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and dozens of other people who would draw a multicolored mustache on the face of comedy.

A mile further south found you at the office of the underground newspaper the Chicago Seed, a paper so underground it sported a circulation as high as 48,000 copies. I was fortunate to be part of that outfit, initially working under the brilliant editor Abe Peck, who taught me more than any credentialed teacher ever could. Wonderfully, The Seed was across the street from the gargantuan Moody Bible Institute, although I spent more time at the Saucy Weenie scarfing down some great Italian beef and hot dogs.

Creativity flowed down Lincoln Avenue and if you weren’t swimming with that flow you were bathed in amazement. This, in January 1969, is where I first met a one-time Second City employee named Jay Lynch.

Most certainly, cartoonists benefited from the freedom and opportunity that brazenly replaced oxygen. The Chicago Mirror, a black-and-white “counter-culture” magazine that debuted in 1967 and was mostly sold at “head shops” (Google it) such as the Mole Hole. Less than a year later, editor/publisher Lynch turned it into an all-comix publication called Bijou Funnies. It featured the work of Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Gilbert Shelton, Jay Kinney, Justin Green, Kim Deitch, Ralph Reese, Denis Kitchen and his forever pal, Skip Williamson… it, like Zap Comix that premiered shortly before Bijou, was a who’s who of the comix movement.

As the hippie crusade started to age out, Jay – often known as Jayzey – expanded his horizons. He did color separations and 3-D adaptations for Fred Eychaner, then a printer, a major hippie employer and a contributor to The Seed. Jay was among the many underground artists recruited to write and draw for Topps Inc., contributing to the iconic Bazooka Joe and engaging in a life-long relationship with Wacky Packs and Garbage Pail Kids. In 1976 he created Phoebe and the Pigeon People with Gary Whitney for the Chicago Reader and syndicated to alt-weeklies all over. Several reprint books were published by Kitchen Sink Press; the feature ran for the better part of two decades.

I worked with Jayzey and his BFF Skip Williamson off and on for years, and we saw each other at comics conventions, stockholders’ meetings (that one’s a long and litigious story), and, well, memorials to fallen friends. When FM rock radio and poetry slam pioneer Bob Rudnick died in 1995, a wake was held at Mike James’ famed Heartland Café. It was a wonderful reunion of long-haired gray hairs, and, sadly, was the last time I saw such wonderful people as Marshall Rosenthal and Eliot Wald. Jay was still living in Chicago but I had moved to the New York area nearly ten years previous; we talked for more than an hour catching up and pontificating on the status of the comic art medium and what we should be doing about it. We continued that conversation for 20 years, mostly in bits and pieces at conventions but also through the modern miracle of the Internet.

Jay Lynch died of cancer last Sunday at the age of 72. These days, that’s young enough to be thought of as dying too young. Of course, for vital creators such as Jayzey no age could be too old. Unlike many of us hippies Jayzey eschewed drugs – Denis Kitchen pointed out that was true only if you didn’t count nicotine – but he got chopped down early nonetheless.

Jay Lynch was a quite pioneer. His work speaks for itself; his work screams for itself. A much-loved man, he leaves friends stunned and saddened all over the world.

Eras end all the time. Jay Lynch’s work will endure.