Monday, 16 December 2013

The (ST)Inky's Long and Most Unhappy Unhappy Lives

Dan Rottenberg's superb and elegant obit for a crappy daily that shit too much reminds me of involvement in the creation of the Annenberg Congratulation School,1957-61, began with my Ph.D. from Western Reserve where two fellow students, Ray Ginger and Harvey Goldberg, taught me by example how to be radical and objective simultaneously. They made me the first president of the Thomas Jefferson Forum, because they erred in thinking a Jesuit University (Detroit) could be a soft touch leader. They never knew I won the Midwest Provinces annual essay with a rant entitled "Needed: More Red-blooded American Catholics" by which I meant opposed to segregation as the local Communists were. They didn't know either that my girl and I dated the Senior Program with a black couple.

I got a Carnegie Postdoctoral grant at Penn to create the first Mass Culture course in America, spooked by that intellectually crazy Canadian Catholic Marshall McLuhan. As a UD undergrad I read every essay he wrote 1946-49 in the lay Catholic weekly "Commonweal" as well as the weekly Jesuit "America" . Those essays made the second mass culture Bible, "The Folklore of Industrial Man" (1951). The first was Gilbert Seldes's "The Seven Lively Arts" (1924).

It helped that this Philly Jew (immigrating from his father's experimental farming around Atlantic City graduated poor from Boy's High but earned scholarships to Harvard. He took over editorship of "The Dial", the intellectually hippest mag in the twenties. So when Annenberg gave Penn $2 million to start, "faute de mieux" I became the "gofer" getting the plot to boil! The first official meeting of the Annenberg School opened on the Monday after Walter had splurged with a Sunday edition of new comics. As President Gaylord Harnwell, Walter, and I waited for the rest of the committee to gather, I decided to tease Mr. Big: "Is this the way you plann to raise standards in American communities?". Harnwell looked like was about to piss his presidential pants. Walter looked dazed and completely silent! Amazed that a new assistant professor without tenure would tweak his balls.

Later, when my Greenbelt neighbor Leon Sullivan complained to me Saturday at the community pool that the Inky had not printed a word about his six-month old strike against TASTYKAKE. "Hire us blacks or we'll avoid your cakes." Monday, bright and early, I was being frisked for weapons for the first and only time in life as I took the elevator to his 13th floor eeyrie. First he called Dimmitman who argued that they had hired a black boy the summer before, but he hadn't cut the mustard. And his lawyer came next. (His wife was working on a Ph.D. and often visited me in my office, absurdly believing this would ease her Ph.Deification. I warned them that "The Reporter" was publishing a story on their censorship the next week, and if they had any honor they'd beat their star lady reporter into print. They didn't.

I taught the history of media until David Riesman recommended me as the first director of the brand new Institute of American Studies at the East-West Center in the University of Hawaii. It was the best job I've ever had--until I discovered that my No. 2 Seymour Lutsky had been in the CIA since his Iowa Ph.D. ten years ago--to silently police Asian and American lefties. I quick on the spot when I offered a full professorship and English chair at Beaver College.

We happily reoccupied our Louis Kahn house in Greenbelt Knoll. By the way, Penn had promised the right to return, but Veep Charles Lee (born Levy) and Walter decided I was a threat to their Dream! I've lived happily ever after.

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