Using the underground press as a gauge, the social ferment of the 1960s came late to San Diego.
It's time we said it loud and clear: San Diego is the armpit of the world. This town is middle class, stupid, mediocre, and boring. It is plastic, sterile, unhip, and sexually repressed; it is also militaristic; racist, exploitive, and arrogant. In short, it is both a drag of a town and a fascist town. Solid citizens of San Diego, you've had it; the next 200 years are ours.
— San Diego Free Press editorial, January 1, 1969
On Christmas Day 1969, someone broke into the Street Journal offices and destroyed $4000 worth of typesetting equipment.
The '60s radical press and the movement for which it spoke did not, of course, fulfill that bold prediction. San Diego's Free Press (later renamed the Street Journal) was defunct by the end of 1970; the San Diego Door came and went with the Nixon Presidency, 1968 to August 1974.The O.B. Rag fell silent in September 1975, after reporting the pullout of all U.S. forces from Vietnam. But while they lasted, these so-called underground papers made a dent in the city's political ironsides and now preserve a portrait of San Diego at a time when the city was growing through some of its most painful changes in living memory. The underground papers and their ragtag reporters got that story, which involved massive changes in politics, business, and culture between 1968 and 1975. It was a story that the city's mainstream press, for the most part, misled.
One of the El Barrio pages of the July 3 issue printed directions for constructing a Molotov cocktail.
One morning in early March of 1970, attorney Ted Burner took a call from an airline reservation clerk at Lindbergh Field. "I think the Street Journal would like to know that C. Arnholt Smith just boarded a plane for Washington. D.C.," whispered the clerk. Bumer immediately called stall' writer Lowell Bergman at the weekly newspaper's office at Fifth and J Street downtown and gave him the plane's flight number and arrival time.
Street Journal staffers weren't surprised. Since the paper's founding, story leads about local poobahs had been coming in via secretaries, lawyers, investigators, and even cops. "In those days in San Diego there was no other news organization for people to call and talk about something that was critical of the establishment," says 47-year-old Bergman, who is now a produce for Mike Wallace on CBS's 60 Minutes.
Frank Gormlie who helped establish the OB Rag had ended up in one of Herbert Marcuse's UCSD philosophy classes. He later became one of the "UCSD 21," who were arrested in May of 1970.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
After receiving the tip, Bergman called the Washington Free Press, that city's underground newspaper, which sent two of its reporters to tail the financier. As Smith's limousine left the airport, the reporters followed in a hippie van until the limo entered the back gate of the White House.
"Smith had gone to see his friend President Nixon to ask him to call the dogs off," Begman explains. And how did Bergman know Smith and Nixon discussed the federal and state investigations that eventually landed Smith in prison? "We had sources in the Justice Department that told us that," he says. The Street Journal eventually used the information gained through that tip in a story on Smith and his business dealings.
For the two years of its existence – November 1968 to August 1970 — the San Diego Street Journal used well-placed source to embarrass and harangue one of the most conservative cities in America. From its earliest biweekly issues when it was called Free Press (it became the weekly Street Journal in November 1969), the paper capitalized on the inability of the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune to see into the shadows cast by San Diego's leading lights. "It was a town without a First Amendment," muses Bergman, who was a graduate student in philosophy at UCSD in the summer of 1968 when a group of his confederates first began talking about an underground paper.
David Diehl: "The Rag attracted the most radical group."
Photo by Robert Burroughs
The first issue's editorial spoke out about the vacuum created in San Diego by the ultraconservatism of the Copley Press: "The objectivity of the Free Press will be disconcerting and come as a shock to many citizens, since they may have become accustomed to accepting an inverted picture of reality as Truth." The contents of the Free Press will be the antithesis of what the local dailies published, the editorial promised. "It...became clear that much of the fascist climate in the community was attributable to the nature of its mass bridge-building deal and one of its many beneficiaries, M. Larry Lawrence; it revealed Jim Copley's penchant for turning for FBI agents into newspaper executives; it investigated developer Irvin Kahn, who, according to the paper built the Los Penasquitos subdivision with a $6 million loan from the Teamsters Union pension fund, the first in a series of local developments kick-started with Teamster money; and it exposed the tactics of the local undercover police — both SDPD and FBI — who had infiltrated antiwar or organizations and the Black Panthers. According to Diepersloot, "Sometimes the information [tipsters] gave us even exceeded our biggest paranoid fantasies."
Dennis Doyle: "The Rag was a format for getting things started, it was the catalyst."
Photo by Robert Burroughs
One such fantasy was realized near the end of 1969, just after the Street Journal had published a story about C. Arnholt Smith that recirculated damaging material from the Wall Street Journal. According to the December 12, 1969 Street Journal, "An intimate of the Smith household, who feels some sympathy for the Street Journal, was present when Smith saw that issue of the paper." The source said that Smith then called James Copley, owner/publisher of San Diego's two main dailies, and the two men "agreed to crush the Street Journal by whatever means necessary."
Smith, fit at 93 and living in Rancho Santa Fe, says he vaguely remembers "a little throwaway that was raising hell about everybody, but I didn't talk to Jim Copley about it. How the hell could crush a paper! And to what purpose? They'd just start printing elsewhere." Whether anybody ordered a crackdown on the paper may never be known, but it is undeniable that shortly after that Smith's story appeared, the paper's office was burglarized and its typesetting equipment destroyed, a staffer's car was fire bombed , and police surveillance and harassment intensified.
Bill Maguire's interview with Janis Joplin was published in the Door less than ten weeks before her heroin-overdose death.
Photo by Robert Burroughs
The paper's long, angry reports of investigations were filled with little gems as well as big revelations. An early-1969, two-part series on the construction of San Diego Stadium offers the original meaning behind the San Diego Chargers' name. Barron Hilton was the owner of the team , which was based in Los Angeles at the time. Hilton also headed the Carte Blanche credit card company. Apparently he "decided to call his team the...Chargers in honor of his stimulating business."
Of course, the paper sometimes got carried away. The stadium story asserted that "in 35 years ...San Dieqo Stadium will look to us like the Whaley House looks to us now" and prophesied a citizen in initiative in the late 1990s to tear it down.
Vince Compagnone on the Door: "As desperate as we were for ads, we still had to wrestle with political correctness. Is this ad sexist?"
Photo by Robert Burroughs
Using the underground press as a gauge, the social ferment of the 1960s came late to San Diego.The Los Angeles Free Press, the country's first underground paper, was established in 1964. The Berkley Barb appeared the following year. Then came New York's East Village Other, followed by new papers in Detroit, Austin, and San Francisco. Dozens of papers were formed in 1967. In January 1968 the San Diego Door began publishing in La Mesa, and nine months later the Free Press hit the streets. While the Door roamed more common underground turf — rock and roll and sexual liberation — the Free Press devoted itself to politics, which was a natural development, given the paper's germination in Herbert Marcuse's philosophy classes at UCSD.
Marcuse was a European Marxist whose dense tomes — Eros and Civilization, One-Dimensional Man — dissected the repressive underpinnings of capitalism. His radical notion that tolerance of dissent in free societies was really a form of intolerance, "an instrument for absolving servitude," helped him gain notice by the New Left. Student demonstrators in Berlin and Paris began to invoke his name in the mid-'60s, and then a protestor in Rome was widely quoted as saying, "We see Marx as the prophet, Marcuse as his interpreter, and Mao as the sword." Though relatively few protestors made it all the way through his books, Marcuse was hailed worldwide as an inspiration for revolution.
Door staff and friends on the day before the move from Albatross Street
Marcuse had taught at UCSD since 1964, but it wasn't until 1968, when students protests and strikes became common at UCSD, that a rabid faction of San Diego patriots took notice of the 70-year-old German immigrant. The San Diego Union demanded an investigation of Marcuse on June 11, 1968 (Brute Krulak's first day as editorial director) in an editorial headline "This Is an Order!" San Diego Post 6 of the American Legion quickly raised $20,000 to buy out the remaining year of Marcuse's teaching contract.
Fanned by Union headlines reading, "Marcuse Says Marxism Not Radical Enough" and "Marcuse Calls for Revolution," the local fervor produced numerous threats and bags of hate mail to both Marcuse and the man who was to decide whether to renew his teaching contract, UCSD Chancellor William McGill.
On July 1, Marcuse received a written death threat from the Ku Klux Klan. "After the death threat from the Klan, we decided the immediate thing to do was to put armed guards around [Marcuse's] house," explains Street Journal founder Jan Diepersloot, a graduate student in linguistics at the time who also took some philosophy classes. "we rook turns standing guard, 24 hours a day. And the next thing to do was to start a newspaper, to spread out point of view."
Bill Ritter in a Door ad to discourage vandalizing of the street racks
Diepersloot grew up in Escondido. Bergman was from Brooklyn. They met a UCSD undergraduate named Dick Blackburn in classes and at antiwar rallies, and the three of them, along with several others, developed the concept for the new paper. Diepersloot says that there were many organizational meetings before it was launched, but they chose the name early: the San Diego Free Press. "It was mostly for name recognition — there was already an L.A. Free Press. But also, we felt San Diego was the victim of a controlled press."
After receiving a $4000 grubstake for start-up costs (Diepersloot still won't reveal the source of the money, though he does say it was someone associated with the university), almost all of the founders dropped out of college to work without pay on the paper. They survived on donations, communal living, and selling copies of the paper at 20 cents each.
Larry Remer: "We were not business oriented. We had one salesperson in L.A. and a half-time salesperson here. We had no business strategy."
Photo by Robert Burroughs
Diepersloot says Professor Marcuse never became involved in practical discussions about starting an underground newspaper. In fact the professor (who died in 1979) seems to have been rather conservative himself in some ways. "He always said rock and roll was fascist," laughs Winifred Golden, who worked on the Street Journal and is now a local literary agent at the Margaret McBride agency. She says she became good friends with Marcuse. "He was a very traditional kind of person. If the American Legion had just left him alone, maybe none of this would have happened."
Ultimately, Chancellor McGill decided to keep Marcuse on a year-to-year-contract, and the Union's attacks ceased after Krulak and McGill had a personal meeting on January 2, 1969. The hate mail and the threats dried up too after Marcuse disappeared from the pages of the dailies. But the professor continued to awe young people. "I told some members of a rock band that I was having dinner with Marcuse one night," Golden reports, "and one of them said, 'Wow! That's like having dinner with Plato!'"
Golden is 47 now. A native San Diegan, she met the dozen or so people who established the Street Journal in late 1968. She was a student and actress working at the avant-garde Theater 5, based in a small shop on Turquoise Street in Pacific Beach, across from the Lucky supermarket. (The building now houses the European Cycles store.) The paper took over the old bookstore offices next door to the theater, at 751 Turquoise. (The current occupant is a lighting equipment manufacturer.) "They were completely improvising them." Golden observed. "There was no planning. It was like spontaneous combustion, the Monty Python school of journalism." She eventually contributed as a writer, researcher, and editor.
From the beginning, advertising was skimpy. The first issue contained ads from businesses such as the Odyssey head shop in Ocean Beach; the Blue Door bookstore in Hillcrest; the Yellow Balloon clothing store in La Jolla, which specialized in handmade bellbottoms, ponchos, jewelry, "and other groovies"; and the Mangelsen alternative school in Pacific Beach, which advertised a teacher-child ratio of less than 1:10. With little ad revenue, much of the production cost was covered from street sales. Golden says there were also some donors in Rancho Santa Fe who secretly contributed cash to help it through tight spots.
Eventually a group of more than 100 street vendors hawked the paper. They got to keep half of the sales price. And for a while the paper was sold in newspaper boxes, primarily downtown, but most of these were vandalized and became useless.
But running an underground paper in a town that was a major staging point for the Vietnam War was a lot of fun, according to those who worked for the Street Journal. Golden remembers that even toward the end, when the paper "was totally under siege," a communal sense of humor kept the staff together as much as their anti-establishment values.
"Everybody was really young, in their early 20s, really bright, very attractive," Golden recalls. The Rolling Stones were always on the turntable, almost never the Beatles. If somebody wanted to do something, you said, 'Great!' One day I complained to Jan about something in the paper, and he said to me, 'Okay, you be editor, so I was editor for awhile. He once came up with this phallic illustration, and I said, 'Not in my paper!' But it ran."
Golden says that the theater and the paper influenced each other. "The theater became more political, and the paper became more theatrical."
From "Draft Dodger Attacks Veterans," Free Press, November 1, 1968:
Coach Max Rafferty [a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate], in a recent San Diego speech, whipped up his audience of 500 local patriots and then unleashed them on a 23-year-old Vietnam veteran ...
Rafferty's talk put down everything from "long-haired creeps" to "yellow-bellied war protestors." ... When Rafferty mentioned Eldridge Cleaver, Mike Kohler, a Vietnam veteran who spent 22 months on the front lines, stood to applaud Cleaver... Rafferty pointed at Kohler and called him a hypocrite.
The majority of the audience went wild — one observer reported seeing a middle-aged woman drool on herself...
As Kohler was pulled from the room, one onlooker hit him with the American flag and another hit him with a cane. Not once did Rafferty gesture to intervene and stop the violence...
Rafferty, who once told his former wife that if he saw that he was going to be drafter he would shoot off a toe, ended the evening speech. "We're going to end it all," he concluded. "You saw how they brought their violence here!"
In addition to the Rafferty story, the paper's first issue devoted a full page to excerpts from a speech given by Stokely Carmichael, minister of self-defense for the Black Panther Party, at an October 26 rally in Ocean View Park. The rally was in support of a black man who had been shot five times by sheriff's deputies when they came to evict him from his house.
That same issue compared recent San Diego speeches by Black Panther Information Minister Eldridge Cleaver, a Peace and Freedom Party presidential candidate, and George Wallace, who was then an independent presidential candidate. According to the paper's account, student protesters from UCSD and SDSU prevented Wallace from completing his speech at the Sports Arena because the "seductive nature" of Wallace's appeal to disaffected blue-collar workers was deemed a menace to the kind of radical change the paper's staffers were advocating. The demonstrators "felt a moral obligation to prevent this seduction. For the seduction in reality is rape; and we do not allow people to be raped."
So the demonstrators adopted a "simple but imaginative tactic: the students, dressed as hippies, sat in one section and cheered with gusto for Wallace. Pro Wallace buttons and stickers flashed from every lapel and hat, while colorful placards declared 'Anarchists for Wallace,' 'Hippies for Wallace,' 'Kill the demonstrators' and so on." After a short 40 minutes of interruptions and distractions, Wallace gave up and left.
Much of the material in the early issues came from the Liberation News Service or the Underground Press Syndicate, both of which made available at no cost the contents of underground papers all over the country. The Street Journal devoted full pages to briefs about the Vietnam War, conscientious objectors, economic issues, military contracts, the net worth of the UC Regents, long polemics on race relations, and early exposés about Richard Nixon's political appointees. Nixon's character was a subject of intense suspicion, a precocity that put the mainstream press to shame.
Aside from these national and international stories, the paper carried local movie reviews ("The moronization of the American people, the attempt to moronize us, will succeed as long as we permit ourselves to be amused by such trash as 'The Graduate'"), and a food column ("Dear Food Freak: What are mung beans?..."). A cultural calendar listed plays, lectures, classes, and pickets. As advertising picked up, rock radio station KPRI became a mainstay — the paper traded out space in return for free mentions on the air — as did handmade-clothing stores, head shops, and the Guild, State, Academy, and California movie theaters, and Theater 5. The Church of Scientology frequently placed ads.
Jan Diepersloot says that ad revenues, together with street sales of the paper (the masthead lists the price as 20 cents in San Diego, 25 cents elsewhere), eventually amounted to just enough to cover the printing bill for a press run of 5000 copies of the 16-page tabloid. Its center of circulation was downtown, and beginning in early 1969, its vendors began to be arrest in the Horton Plaza area for violation of Section 52.20 of the Municipal Code — blocking the sidewalk. Stories about these arrests and many other types of police harassment became a staple and a source of editorial outrage.
In its November 30, 1968 edition, the Free Press published the results of an unflattering UC Berkeley School of Criminology study of the San Diego Police Department. It quoted police officers in the report making racially derogatory comments and used the cops' own testimony to expose their "field interrogation" tactics: "Sometimes it is necessary to embarrass, let us say, one teenager in front of his friends," one officer reportedly told the Berkeley researchers. "If, for example, he can be put down, no matter how this is done, the rest of his friends will sometimes then follow his example, once he has been put in his place."
A January 31, 1969 editorial headlined "Off the Pig" attacked the police for other "harassment tactics" and announced formation of a citizen watchdog group also called Action for Better Law Enforcement. The editorial also counseled readers to offer themselves as witnesses to people undergoing a field interrogation, to "turn the harassment back around the other way." Readers were advised to carry a camera at all times — in order to photograph police "harassment and malpractice" in action.
In that same issue, the paper exposed the identities of local narcs by printing their names, hangouts, and physical descriptions. Unmarked police cars were identified by make, model, and license throughout the city; they also patrol love-ins, rock concerts, and all place where different people gather (that is, Blacks, Chicanos, longhairs, and political radicals)." A small story reported that a "brother" obtained one police officer's glove after a traffic stop and discovered that the glove contained an ounce of powdered lead in a small pouch above the knuckle. Another story listed police department radio codes. A League of Women Voters report critical of the SDPD received detailed coverage.
Street Journal staffers believe the police responded to this campaign of dissent by getting even tougher. By the fall of 1969 no San Diego county printer would print the paper. "I don't have any evidence of it, but I'm sure some police agency went to printers and talked to them about not handling us," remarks Lowell Bergman, who'd had experience as an apprentice typographer before he joined the paper's staff. "I was flabbergasted we couldn't find a printer." The printing boycott came about in October, just after the paper published an exposé on the financial and political ramifications of the building of the Coronado bridge. After that, the paper had to be driven up the L.A. Free Press printer in Long Beach.
Jack Pearson was a police detective in 1969 whose job involved monitoring New Left radical groups. He's now retired from the police department and from his long-time leadership role in the Police Officers Association. He runs a marketing business, pushing corporate time-management services and herbal food supplements. "We thought people with long hair were not real Americans," Pearson recalls. "There was a tremendous polarization at the time. The majority of police officers ex-servicemen whose dads had fought in World War II. Their attitudes about Vietnam may be different now, but at the time they were confrontative. The days were passing us by when you got into a car and drove around until you saw something happening, then you handled it. We needed to be proactive with these groups."
Pearson was part of the San Diego Police Investigative Support Unit that came to be known as the Red Squad in the underground press. The unit used undercover officers to spy on radical groups, including the Street Journal. Pearson acknowledges that secret files were compiled on the leaders of these groups and on active-duty sailors and Marines who were organizing a local chapter of the antiwar Movement for a Democratic Military. There was even a file on Ted Bumer, the attorney who represented the Street Journal in several court actions. The existence of these dossiers wasn't revealed until 1973, after SDSU economics professor Peter Bohmer and three others were convinced for placing burning timbers on railroad tracks in Del Mar as a war-protest act. After the trial, a separate hearing found that the police used an undercover agent to infiltrate private meetings of Bohmer's legal defense team, and the secret Red Squad files became public knowledge.
"It was a running gun battle with those guys," Pearson explains, "and we were dealing with some great minds." He claims that "there was enough going on of a criminal nature" to justify inserting spies into the leftists groups. "I thought it was a movement toward tearing down the structure of society," Pearson continues. "And there were some Communists involved, pal. We got information on that. It was my job to inform the police chief and the mayor of crimes that were to be committed, before they happened."
The more heat applied by the cops, the more determined the Street Journal reporters became and the deeper they probed into San Diego's civic leadership. Though only one of the paper's reporters — Mike Milligan — had ever taken a journalism class, most of the others were ex-graduate students who knew how to do research.
Lowell Bergman, who had participated in early planning meetings for the paper and then left in the fall of 1968 to take a teaching position at the University of Saskatchewan, returned to San Diego in the summer of '69. "I felt an obligation," he says, "to come back and do something." Bergman found plenty of sources for investigative topics. "There were a lot of honest cops who were our sources — state and federal. Some had looked in to the same areas we were looking, like Smith and Alessio, in the early 1960s and gotten nowhere with their material."
One such case involved Johnnie Alessio, a C. Arnholt Smith protégé and owner of Tijuana's Agua Caliente racetrack. Bergman and Diepersloot say they received assistance from an IRS investigator in their stories on Alessio and his brothers. The first of these stories concerned the Alessio connection to construction of the Coronado bridge. It was published October 1, 1969, and written by "M. Raker."
(None of the writers ever signed their names to stories. "We were trying to live in a communal existence." Diepersloot explains. They also weren't eager to expose themselves to retribution. M. Raker was a composite of various reporters, including Bergman, Diepersloot, Richard Blackburn, and Mike Milligan.)
The four Alessios owned the Hotel del Coronado in the early 1960s, when plans for the bridge were being drawn up. The bridge story asserted that in 1964 California Governor Pat Brown lobbied Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to overrule the Navy's opposition to the bridge, in part because Brown was beholden to the Alessios, who had contributed money to this campaigns. Although the Alessios had sold the hotel to M. Larry Lawrence in 1963, the story claims that "financing [for] the second and third trust deeds were picked up by the Alessios."
Once the bridge was begun, the Coronado Cays and the Coronado Shores developments went forward. "All of this speculation and money making by and for elements of San Diego's ruling class is considered 'legitimate' business," the bridge story reads, "There were some deals, however, that were more questionable."
The story reports that Angelo Alessio Motor Sales, at 1990 Main Street, was one of the properties in Logan Heights that had to be condemned to make way for bridge on-ramps. The property was purchased by the state for $158,750, and the state also paid Angelo's moving costs. Street Journal reporters tried to discover the market value of the property by tracing public records; "however, since the state had bought the property, the records had been removed from the County Assessor's Office," the story read. When reporters went to the tax collector's office to see how much property tax was paid, they were told there weren't any tax records on the property. "Either no taxes had been paid or somehow the records had disappeared — something the lady at the tax collector window didn't think was very likely."
So the reporters approached the person who owned the land next door to the Alessio tract and computed from his property and another piece nearby that the market value of Alessio's land was about $70,000. "It seems that Angelo made a profit from [the state] of $80,000 plus. Where did the money go?"
From "From Wealth to Gluttony on the Big Blue Bridge," Free Press, October 1, 1969
What makes this whole deal questionable, according to several local prominent Democrats, is that the Alessios contributed heavily to Gov. Brown's campaign fund. We called the County Registrar of Voters to get the records on.... campaign contributions for the years 1958 and 1962 for Gov. Brown. After searching for it, a Mrs. Carlson told us that they had the records for everyone else but Gov. Brown for those years. The information that is available on this matter makes the whole thing a suspicious case of conflict of interest, but the information that is not available can only add to our suspicions. From what we can estimate, the Alessios invested a few thousand dollars in Gov. Brown and make tens of thousands in the Motor Sales land transaction on the bridge and undetermined millions through speculation in Coronado. Coincidence? Don't count on it!
By November of 1969 most of the underground paper's staff were living together in a Victorian house at Second Avenue and Thorn Street. That month they formalized their living arrangements into the People's Commune. While some of the women in the group oversaw the production of the paper, laying out stories and coordinating deadlines, most were involved in opening the commune's coffeehouses and a folk arts store, where the sale of handicrafts would help support the group.
By the middle of the following summer, the men and women were polarized. "There wasn't a conflict over resources — there weren't any resources to fight over," Bergman explains. "The conflict was between the group running the store and coffeehouse and the group running the paper."
Jan Diepersloot says the women's liberation movement created a desire among the women to have more power within the collective. "A lot of infighting developed, and the cohesion was destroyed. I wouldn't blame the women's movement, but it was a factor."
On November 28, 1969, as the commune was being formed, the name of the paper was changed from the Free Press to the Street Journal, and it became a weekly. At the same time, the paper's offices moved downtown to 360 Fifth Avenue at J Street, in a midrise building that housed a small hotel. (The office is now a batik clothing boutique, next door to Dick's Last Resort bar.) "If you look at the issues before the name change," says Diepersloot, "it was very, very militant. If you're too heavy, too doctrinaire, you turn people off. We wanted to bring an element of humor, lighten things up a bit." But each new issue brought more reports of questionable arrests, heavy police surveillance, and over-vigilant building inspectors.
The December 12 Street Journal reported that its new landlord had received death threats and had ordered the paper, the coffeehouse, and the sore to move elsewhere. The landlord, J.J. Olsher, was quoted as saying, "The extremist, the Nazis, are going to kill me," and "I'm not going to die for you people."
But their efforts to move were still thwarted, according to the December 18 issue. The paper reported that Detective Jack Pearson of the Red Squad had approached a landlord who was about to rent new offices to the Street Journal and allegedly told the man to think twice about his prospective tenants.
The first issue of 1970 reported that on December 28, while the Street Journal was about to move, the new landlord, Billy Jo Reeves, was arrested on suspicion of murder. According to the published story, he was released on his own recognizance "five minutes later." But "possibly the weirdest thing in the whole episode," the story reads, "Is the police description of the gunman: 5'8" to 5'10", 168 to 175 lbs., dark complexioned black man. Billy is black but has a light complexion; he weighs 114 lbs., and is 5'3". Reeves was never tried for the murder, but he decided not to rent to the Street Journal after all.
Jack Pearson still recalls that story. He denies ever intimidating Reeves into not renting to the paper. "Why would I do that? What for?" he asks.
On Christmas Day 1969, someone broke into the Street Journal offices and destroyed $4000 worth of typesetting equipment. The Friden Justowriter, a machine that sets type in even columns, had its guts smashed and other parts ruined by solvent. Ted Bumer, the paper's lawyer, claims to have later found out positively that the culprit was connected to the police department. "You can quote me on that, I don't give a damn," he declares today.
Pearson, responding to Bumer's accusation, retorts, "Bumer must have better sources than I do. We never could find out who did it."
The next issue of the Street Journal came out in the early January. Coverage of the vandalism seethed with anger. Headlines were crudely printed out by hand. Copy was typed out on a typewriter then cut with scissors and laid out. The paper blamed the town's most powerful men, reminding its readers of the paper's recent criticism of C. Arnholt Smith. "Would Copley and Smith stoop this low? We believe they would."
From "Journal's Equipment Destroyed!" Street Journal, January 1970
San Diego has been a town in which information detrimental to the well being of they military-industrial complex has long been suppressed. A point in the Establishment's favor that it will jealously guard even if it means squashing a little weekly newspaper....
Police protection is nil... What about other law enforcement agencies? Just as nil. For example, DA Don Keller has long been the handmaiden of the Smith-Copley-Alessio complex in San Diego. Even before Keller announced his forthcoming retirement, Smith had retained Phillips-Ramsey, the largest advertising agency in San Diego, to start working on the public image of Bob Thomas, presently assistant DA, to fill Keller's shoes.
Similarly, a guy named Frank Price, former head of the San Diego branch of the FBI and currently a head public relations man for Copley Newspapers, will run for election as county sheriff....
It is common knowledge among area newsmen that James Copley has a $1 million slush fund on hand, the sole purpose of which is to suppress and attempts by others to start a competing daily newspaper...
The next issue, January 9, 1970, carried a cover story detailing the firebombing of the commune's 1966 Volvo. The incident occurred in front of their house in Hillcrest on the night of January 3. Police investigators found a flare inside the car, which had been used to set off the gasoline that had doused the car's interior.
The January 16 issue reported a burglary at the Free Door, another underground paper that had been scrutinized closely by the police. About $1000 worth of the Free Door's equipment had been destroyed. "More shocking that his," the story reports, "several hundred names, phone numbers, and addresses of local people were stolen from the Door's files. What these perverts intend to do with this information is frightening." In addition to wrecking a headline machine, IBM typewriter, and a mimeograph machine, vandals poured paint thinner all over the office. They were evidently interrupted by one of the paper's advertising clients, who had dropped in on the office before the vandals could strike a match.
Next to the story about the Door's troubles is a recounting of some of the numerous times Street Journal staffers had their cars impounded by police. One of these incidents soon received national publicity.
From "Continuing Saga of the Street Journal," January 16, 1970:
The next morning Officer Papenhausen had another of our cars towed away, saying that it had been parked on the street for over 72 hours.
Now, either Papenhausen is gravely inaccurate (the car had been driven throughout the time he said it was parked or he is grossly dishonest. We suspect the latter.
He said he set a pebble on top of one of the car's tires January 5 and on January 9, the pebble was still there.... What the office of the law didn't know is that one member of the commune got a traffic warning January 6, at 4th and Market downtown (the same car that was impounded). We still have the warning in our possession.
Wow, when Papenhausen puts a pebble on a tire, he really does a righteous job.
This incident was noted in the March 23, 1970 issue of Time Magazine, which printed a story about the Street Journal's exploits. Time wrote that the paper was "intelligible and far from salacious, it manages to denounce pollution and corruption without invoking Mao Tse-tung." The magazine went on to call San Diego "prototype John Birch country.'
After the burglary and the firebombing, Lowell Bergman tried to get the city to investigate the crimes and harassment directed at the local underground press. His efforts resulted in an investigation by city manager Walter Hahn. But after Hahn looked into Bergman's accusations, he issued a report on February 16, 1970, claiming that many of the harassment charges were unfounded. The paper printed Harhn's memo to the city council.
From "Complaints related to underground newspapers," memo to the city council, Street Journal, February 16, 1970
In a few cases it was determined that police officers had been provoked into responding somewhat sharply. For example, a young man waved a Viet Cong flag in the face of a police officer who is a veteran of Vietnam.
In our opinion, San Diego police officers have reacted with restraint and professionalism to the great majority of provocations by the persons connected with the underground newspapers. In cases which are the exception, the officers have been advised of the Department's standards and expectations.
The Street Journal staffers redoubled their efforts to expose what they considered to be a corrupt city in the grip of a few rich overseers. Their second Alessio story, published March 20, 1970, investigated operations of the Agua Caliente racetrack. It began, "This is a report on such incredible corruption and decadence that it will make you sick. You'd better read it though, because it's important." It wen ton to accuse Alessio of fraud and outright theft from the bettor's pool. It ended by stating John Alessio was "nothing," that he had gained social status by buying the track, and in a final dramatic flourish, added that "the only change that has taken place is that through being exploited he has become criminally insane, in the largest sense of the word."
From "The Character and Activities of John S Allesio in Connection With The Caliente 5-10 Racetrack, by M. Raker, Street Bureau of Investigation, Street Journal, March 20, 1970:
Judging from the photographs in the [5-10] winners gallery, it is surprising how many of them are of Mexican origin and/or nationality... The reason for this is that many of the Mexican winners are frauds. In reality, they are track employees; in reality, the money they've won is pocketed by John Alessio. From their angle, they are told by higher-up track officials that they can make an extra $50 to $500 bucks if they agree to "stand in" for an American winner who does not want to be photographed... The American who does not wan the publicity is always a close associate of John Alessio's. For example, in the picture below, Jose Velazquez is shown as the winner of $39,047.20. Actually he works on the track in the capacity of groom and is not afraid, when asked properly, to say that he did not win that money at all, but that he stood in for an American who did not want the publicity; the American turns out to be none other than John Alessio's niece!
This last big Alessio piece was published April 10. For cover art, a staff artist drew jail bars in front of a picture of John Alessio, expressing glee over the Alessios' fall. Inside was the story of the federal grand jury indictment of John, Angelo, Dominic, Russell, and Tony Alessio for income tax evasion. The paper opened, correctly, that "the fall of the Alessio family marks the beginning of the end for the Smith empire which has ruled San Diego for the last 25 year." It alleged that "Kingfish Smith" had failed in his attempts to pressure the Nixon Administration to quash the indictments and concluded, "The reasons for this shape up to a major internal battle within the national capitalist power structure."
The authors believed that locally, two younger bankers, Bob Peterson and Dick Silberman, were poised to replace Smith atop the corporate and political tree house. Under Silberman's picture was the caption "Sly Silberman."
The power vacuum thus created by the disintegration of the Smith-Alessio empire will be filled by the local young Turks, the Peterson-Silberman-Schunemann bunch of the Foodmaker Corporation and the Southern California First National Bank. These men are more i line with the national corporate structures, and, as corporate "liberals," preferable to feudalistic and reactionary nature of the Smith-Alessio empire... It cannot argued with any validity that this takeover will be beneficial for the People of San Diego. On the contrary, the young Turks are smoother, slicker, and smarter in what they do... But they are doing exactly the same things: Big Business empires that grow and accumulate profit through the perpetuation and exploitation of people's economic and sexual frustrations.
In the wake of the Alessio indictments, the Street Journal staffers began to suspect there was a rat among them. Twice they were able to positively identify, by name and address, cops who had infiltrated the group. One officer had wormed his way into the Movement for a Democratic Military. The MDM was composed mostly of former and active-duty Navy men pushing for military reforms and a withdrawal from Southeast Asia. The Street Journal covered the MDM's activities, and the People's Commune helped produce Duck Power, the MDM's paper. The police informant who infiltrated the organization called himself Jay King, but he was discovered to be officer John Paul Murray of the Red Squad.
Lowell Berman says suspicions were roused initially because King "would just hang out, he never developed a job he was interested in doing on the paper." Bergman chuchles when he recalls that King was the only one who long hair always seemed to be washed. He always had gas in his VW too, which in retrospect should have been the real tip-off. But an odd coincidence finally blew his cover.
From "John Murray, the Pig Exposed," Street Journal, March 1970:
Murray checked in his wife at a La Mesa hospital and signed the papers as John Murray, SDPD. A brother who is an orderly there saw him and said, "Hi, Jay."
Jay acted as though he didn't know him. The brother got wise and checked the admission records. Bingo!...
Murray was ready to go pretty far to protect his Amerika from the commie threat, to the point of breaking the very laws he was supposed to enforce. Perhaps Murray would like to explain to State College officials why, during a strike, he screwed up the locks on the doors of the Business Administration building by putting epoxy glue in them. And why were the chains that were ripped off from the kids' swings at State in the trunk of HIS car?
The function of the agent provocateur is to provoke, to set up busts for 'undesirables, unpatriotic elements' by pushing people into illegal activities. Why else did 'Jay King' urge the people to confront the armed guard at North Island NAS...? Why else did 'Jay King' want to go on a window-breaking rampage during the last month's antiwar demonstration downtown? Why was 'Jay King' trying to talk people into blowing up the Coronado Bridge?
After discovering King's identity, the orderly immediately called the MDM and the Street Journal to tell them about his discovery. In the resulting story, the paper reported that the police soon surrounded the orderly and threatened him. And within minutes after receiving the call, the Street Journal reported, it received another call from someone who stated that if they exposed Murray, staff members would be executed. The caller gave a list of names of the paper's workers who would be marked for death. "that's how we found out for sure that our phones were tapped," says Bergman.
The story that appeared in defiance of the death threats, blowing Murray's cover, reported that a house occupied by a group of the paper's vendors was raided shortly after the orderly's call. Two people from the MDM were also arrested about the same time on "phone charges of possession of grass, teargas, and mace, as well as grand theft, auto, for good measure." The story claims that the suspects were interrogated in jail by Jack Pearson and Murray himself. Pearson, whose home address was included in the story, "grabbed [one of the suspects] by the throat and told him that if anything happened to Murray, his wife or kid, [the suspect] would be dead."
Pearson says he doesn't remember that incident but acknowledges that "I talked to a lotta guys, and I probably threatened a lotta guys. If it was between them and John Murray, they lose." But he's quick to state that he wouldn't do anything illegal to protect his undercover officer. Pearson also declares that the SDPD did not have a wiretap on the Street Journal's phone. "That takes a federal court order, and if there had been one, I'd have known about it."
As for the allegation that his officer was inciting violence, Pearson denies it. "john Murray's safety could have been compromised by something like that. The talk of blowing up the Coronado bridge was not coming from him. We wanted to keep our people close enough to the decision-makers to find out what was being planned, but not so close as to be one of the actual decision-makers."
Pearson goes on to ask, admiringly, "Did you see Murray's picture in the [Street Journal]? He really looked the part, didn't he?"
Another of the Street Journal's favorite topics was the Copley Press. A two-part series in the spring of 1970 proffered numerous startling tidbits about Jim Copley and his lieutenants. After losing the California governor's race in 1962, Nixon advisor Herb Klein, then between stints as editor of the San Diego Union, is reported to have told associates, "Nixon is a madman. He's dangerous and I won't work for him ever again."
Klein would eventually become Nixon's White House communications director in 1969. Copley men Gerald Warren and Dick Capen also wen to work in the Nixon administration. "But [Jim] Copley was a dodo," reports the first story in the Street Journal series. Copley had wanted the job of Secretary of the Navy, because "Daddy was a congressman, and eh had to be Something too." But "sources close to Copley report that he was offered a 'low position' in the Department of the Navy, a position he had to refuse."
From "The Rise and Fall of the Copley Press, Part One: The Corporation As Zoo," Street Journal, March 1970:
Ten years ago the Birch Society was getting big press and the idea of supporting and/or joining it en masse was being kicked around at Copley headquarters in La Jolla. Irv Reynolds, president of Copley International, joined the National Rifle Association Board of Directors, which is close to the Birchers and the Minutemen. [Former Copley executive] Dick Capen, now Assist. Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Nixon Administration, was passing out NRA literature. The Minutemen could count on the Copley combine for good press if not outright support....
Paul Terry was made head of Copley Educational Services. This outfit, one of the many propaganda outlets for the Copley Press, deluged San Diego city schools with right wing literature and speakers, Terry himself was the main speaker. Paul Terry is a former FBI agent... He brought the passion of the zealot anticommunist fringe to the La Jolla offices. He was so outspoken and insane that he began to embarrass Copley himself...
As the spring of 1970 drew to a close, the Street Journal's tales of perfidy in the city administration and police department became a frenzied, sensational series. C. Arnholt Smith was reported to have visited President Nixon at least twice, and maybe four times, to beseech him to intervene in federal investigations of Smith. Inside information was published concerning the Yellow ab Company's payments to city council members and assistant police chiefs. Editorial sneers accompanied details of police chief O.J. Roed's wiretapping city manager Walter Hahn's telephone during police officer salary negotiations.
And the paper published verbatim most of the state attorney general's 1970 report that found the SDPD vice squad officers and other cops had taken bribes and extorted sex from strippers in the mid-1960s. The paper claimed that the report kicked around behind closed doors for 16 months and was rewritten several times by state lawyers to screen out any officers then on the force.
Early in the summer of 1970, just as the Street Journal was running out of new civic abominations to report, a cop's dream-radical walked through the door. Carlos Calderon, a leader of the militant Brown Berets, had recently returned from a six-week tour of Cuba. Freshly radicalized by Cuba's rural Venceremos Brigade, he began to talk with the Street Journal about linking forces. "Carlos had been working at a photo engraving shop. He was an offset camera operator who sometimes did things for us for free," explains Bergman. "That's how we met him. Then he got absorbed into us."
Calderon became editor of a new section of the paper called El Barrio, whose cover was printed on the back page of the Street Journal. In the July 3 issue an El Barrio editorial stated, "Three weeks ago the basis of a Street Journal-Brown Beret coalition was laid marking the first Chicano-Anglo alliance in the history of the Movement.... A Brown-White coalition thus creates a distinct potential threat to San Diego's capitalism-racism and presents the only political alternative to the present decadent structure."
One of the El Barrio pages of the July 3 issue printed directions for constructing a Molotav cocktail, including a diagram. It recommended using Ripple bottles and cautioned that if rocks were to be placed inside the dirt mixture on the bottom of the bottle, "make sure they're big enough to break the glass from the inside." The purpose of printing the instructions was explained this way:
Carnales, the time has come when we must stop all the bullshit and get down to the real task of dealing with the pigs. And I mean pigs not just the ones that low-ride through the barrio in their squad cars, but the fat capitalist punks who own the stores and businesses which exploit our people. To start dealing with these people we are going to start printing a few handy recipes for homemade products which can be used to off the pig.
The story drew the attention of the 1970 county grand jury. It took testimony from respected local journalist the late Harold Keen, who worked for Channel 8 news and wrote for San Diego Magazine. Keen willingly brought in his notes from an article he wrote on Calderon for the August issue of the magazine. Ted Bumer, pro bono representative for the Chicano activists, points out that "reporters were going to jail to protect their notes in those days. And Keen brings his in and reads from them! I never spoke tot hat S.O.B. again."
Additional information was provided by Manny Lopez, an SDPD Red Squad member who had infiltrated Calderon's group. Now a private investigator, Lopez declined to be interviewed, saying, "you may open a big can of worms for people who are still with the department."
The grand jury indicted Calderon and two other men for possession, manufacture, and distribution of a fire bomb. Calderon was also charged with soliciting murder for using the phrase "Off the pig!"
The DA charged all three with "criminal syndicalism" under Article 4 of the California Penal Code, an old anti-union law that criminalized any doctrine or precept that taught or abetted sabotage or advocated acts of violence as a means of "accomplishing change in industrial ownership or control or effecting political change." In November, Calderon pleaded not guilty, and the Street Journal staff scraped together the $6250 to bail him out.
"We hocked all of our cars, gave the pink slips to the bail bondswomen, and we raised money from everybody we knew," Bergman explains. "My policy was, if somebody got put in jail, we got him out, no matter what. Carlos got out but the bail bondswoman then skipped town and sold all of our cars. Financially, it made it impossible for us to print anymore, and that was that."
Early in 1971 Calderon's murder solicitation rap was dropped for lack of evidence. The following October the criminal syndicalism law was declared unconstitutional, and Calderon was cleared of all criminal charges. He said to now be writing for boating magazines in the Northwest.
In the end, it would appear that the establishment succeeded in driving the Street Journal out of business. But Bergman and Diepersloot didn't see it that way. "Who'd have thought that Smith would go to jail and we wouldn't? Bergman remarks. "To survive and to flourish since then means we won. And we had a lot to do with changing the consciousness of the city."
Diepersloot feels the paper can take credit for hastening the demise of the old, ossified San Diego, and he only gives partial credit to the police and right-wing extremists for the Street Journal's collapse. "There was a lot of infighting within the commune," he reflects, "and people became less willing to expose themselves to violence. A lot of very smart people had worked together cohesively for a while. It was alike a manic high, and we couldn't sustain it indefinitely."
Winifred Golden's recollections of the final days: All of the women segregated themselves into a separate house within the commune. Lowell Bergman entered one of the commune's house's one day and saw five new members he'd never met. And a fateful cookout in a new branch of the commune that was undergoing formation in Southeast San Diego. Just as a pig-roasting pit was being dug in the front yard of the house, the cops began arriving. "The police had totally surrounded the block that day," Golden recalls. "Jan took a few of us upstairs and said there was a $10,000 price on our heads. I asked if that was $10,000 each of $10,000 for all of us. What could you do but laugh? Everyone left town after that."
After the Street Journal folded in August of 1970, its name lasted another year on a paper run by a group of avowed socialists who had no connection with the original Street Journal. Half a dozen other underground papers also circulated in San Diego at the time. Martumba was a revolutionary "humanist" paper directed at Third World peoples. Goodbye to All That! was a feminist paper that had followed It Ain't Me, Babe. Dare to Struggle followed Duck Power as the organ of the Movement for a Democratic Military. East County high school students published The Two Week Leak. The Free Door was changing hands and shifting from a sexual liberation/rock and roll journal to more of a politically oriented paper. And the O.B. Rag was just starting up.
Frank Gormlie and a group of friends established the Rag in September 1970, in what he called the Haight-Ashbury of San Diego." Ocean Beach was a youth ghetto where longhairs and students were beginning to outnumber the established residents and was the site of regular clashes between hippies and police. "Little riots were breaking out," Gormlie recalls."
In late 1969 a short-lived underground paper called the O.B. Liberator printed a photo of Assistant Police Chief Ray Hoobler, fresh off the golf course and still in his golf shirt, directing his officers in a house-to-house search for instigators of a water balloon fight that had erupted into a rock-throwing melee. In 1970, police insisted on the removal of a short retaining wall at the corner of Newport and Abbot Street because the wall frequently was used as cover by people throwing rocks and bottles at patrol officers. "There was a lot of intensity and fear," says Gormlie. "You had to wonder if you could make it over to a friend's house without being stopped by the police."
Gormlie is 44 now, a soft-spoken family man with a trim beard. He works as a community organizer for the private nonprofit City Heights Community Development Corporation. A 1966 graduate of Point Loma High School, in 1968 he was a West Point cadet who resigned from the academy "because the contradictions got to me. Friends were starting to grow their hair long and protest the Vietnam War. I felt the American people knew more about the war than the cadets did."
Gormlie entered UCSD and, like the Street Journal brain trust before him, ended up in one of Herbert Marcuse's philosophy classes. He joined Students of the Independent Left, precursor of Students for a Democratic Society, and later became one of the "UCSD 21," who were arrested in May of 1970 for blocking Chancellor William McGill from his office. (It cost Gormlie five days in jail.) He protested his own graduation in June 1970. "A bunch of us walked out and did an alternative graduation. I wore an Army coat with a big red fist on the back." He was introduced on the podium at antiwar rallies as "Free Fucking Frank."
By then Gormlie was sick of books. "I wanted something real," He thought of moving to Ocean Beach and starting a political collective. "if you really wanted to stop the war," he declares, "you needed to go to the community and act." He decided the best way to influence the community was to start a paper just for Ocean Beach.
O.B. activism was swimming awake at the time. "The O.B. Free School and the Rag became the two dominant organizations in the early '70s," says David Diehl, 49, who was a young lawyer and leader of the O.B. Ecology Action Committee. "But the Rag attracted the most radical group."
As the Rag was being planned in the summer of 1970, Diehl was a leader in the effort to kill the 1700-foot-long jetty that was being built into the ocean from the beach near the end of Brighton Street. He says the city planning department denied that the jetty was the first stage in construction of a marina that was planned for the Dog Beach area, the centerpiece of a massive commercial makeover of O.B. But then a man named Sam Stanson, whom Diehl describes as "an eccentric loner who took everybody by surprise," discovered a model of the marina and the surrounding high-rise condo towers that had been displayed at city planning department meetings.
Young O.B. residents, angered by what they considered official subterfuge, commenced night raids on the beach, filling in trenches that the Army Corps of Engineers had dug for the jetty during the day. One Friday in August, as jetty boulders were being positioned, "500 people stormed the job site and climbed up on the cranes," explains Diehl. "We held the site for six or seven hours." Shortly after that, superior court Judge Byron Lindsley heard arguments in a civil lawsuit brought by O.B. activists (Diehl was a plaintiff) alleging that the San Diego City Council had violated the Brown Act when they bumped the jetty off the council agenda one day during lunch at the Westgate. Lindsley ruled in the activists' favor, and the jetty project evaporated.
"The Rag was at the heart of everything that was happening then," Says Diehl. "If you had a radical position, the Rag was to the left of you. But it was only paper that covered this stuff." It also published fiery polemics against the Vietnam War, and, according to former police officers, the Rag, like all the local underground papers, was read closely by police intelligence unit members. It also received some of the same rough police treatment as did other San Diego underground papers. Gormlie says an undercover cop attended one of the early organizational meetings; vendors were harassed; the office phone seemed to be bugged. At night the police would drive slowly by the house on Etiwanda Street in northeast O.B. where the Rag was produced and shine a spotlight through the windows.
After the first few offset-printed issues (the press run of 2000 papers cost about $20), in the autumn of 1970 the paper became a small flexi and then a biweekly tabloid. But no printer in San Diego would handle it. The staff had to travel to Riverside to get their 5000 papers printed.
In early 1971 the Rag began editorializing against a community plan that would have leveled large portions of O.B. to make way for "super blocks" of high-rise apartment houses. A business association called Peninsulans, Inc., had developed the plan, which had included the defunct jetty. Proposed zoning laws would have allowed a density of 400 units per acre (today's allowable density in most of Ocean Beach is 18 units per acre), and the plan would have made one-way streets of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and West Point Loma Boulevard. "It would have been like crossing little freeways to go to the beach," explains Dennis Doyle, and O.B. activist who also wrote for the Rag. "We investigated the people behind the plan, and it turned out to be developers, realtors, insurance people, O.B. business owners who were setting themselves up to get rich."
Local activists demonstrated their opposition to the plan by picketing any high-rise construction project in O.B. These demonstrations, fomented and then covered by the Rag, expanded the base of people willing to work in community organizations. In addition to the People's Food cooperative and the O.B. Free School, the Child Care Project, a cooperative day-care system, was also established by local working parents. "The Rag was a format for getting things started, it was the catalyst," Dennis Doyle declares. Legacies of that period include the Child Care Project, as well as the five-story apartment building at the foot of Pescadero Street, where in 1970 picketers marched every week during construction (Diehl says they drove the builder into bankruptcy), and a pile of out-of-place boulders — the base of the defeated jetty — in the surf line south of Dog Beach. The Ocean Beach Planning Board, the first democratically elected community planning body in the state, was formed in 1976 as a direct consequence of the Peninsulans, Inc., planning debacle.
Another O.B. preservation cause taken up by the Rag in 1971 led to one-year prison sentence for Gormlie and the distinction of being the only underground journalist in San Diego to be banned from working on his own paper. The issue was the preservation of Collier Park West, at the corner of Greene and Soto streets, on the south side of Nimitz Boulevard. What happened there on Sunday, March 28, 1971, is known as the Collier Park Riot.
For months before the confrontation, the Rag was reporting on the efforts of the Ecology Action Committee to prevent the past portion of the park being sold by the city to developers. The 60 acres became dedicated park land in 1909 but remained weedy until 1956, when portions were de-dedicated and transferred to the school district for Collier Junior High. The park was subsequently whittled down by construction of Nimitz Boulevard, a city maintenance lot, a church, and a Salvation Army. The city also gave small portions of the land away to developers for street construction.
Early in 1971, O.B. activists learned that a developer had purchased the old Door of Hope maternity home and planned to build a large apartment house there. The activists, including Diehl, his roommate Tom, Gormlie, and members of the Pt. Loma Garden Club suspected that a city-sponsored real estate appraisal of the rest of the land was step one to the sale of what remained of the park.
Today, the apartment house squats incongruously between sloping tree-lined Collier Park on the west and a native plant reserve above Nimitz to the east. Its two-story, tan stucco walls enclose 60 units, whose rents range from $625 to $800 a month. But on that Sunday in 1971, only construction stakes marked the proposed foundations. Gormlie organized group of about 500 people had rallied at the beach to hear antiwar speeches and watch guerrilla theater. They marched up Voltaire Street in the midafternoon to be served free food while they cleaned up the asphalt and concrete chunks, the broken glass, and the weeds from the park. The organizers were Gormlie and other neighborhood activists, including O.B. resident and SDSU economics professor Peter Bohmer, an outspoken antiwar leader who was later accused by college administrators of giving bad grades to conservative students (he was acquitted in hearings but got fired anyway in 1982).
The Collier Park demonstration was going to be a statement of opposition to selling the land off for development, but it was also one of many events in which radicals from different parts of the city were coming together to coordinate the disruption of the upcoming Republican presidential nominating convention. Although it wasn't officially announced until July, everyone knew that the Republican convention would be coming to San Diego in the summer of 1972. Activist alliances were being formed and were making plans to turn the event into another Chicago '68. Police detectives like Jack Pearson were using informants and undercover cops to infiltrate these groups.
On a recent afternoon visit to the park, Gormlie reconstructed events that ended with his going on the lam that day. His five-year-old daughter played with his shoelaces as he recounted the story, "When we got up here, people started getting into the food lines, over there where the apartment house is now," he explained, gesturing up the hill on Greene Street. "A local band was setting up across the street at that house." He pointed to 2271 Greene Street. "People were milling around, waiting fro the band, when all of a sudden the police arrived en masse, all decked out in riot gear. We could see columns of them at the top of the hill."
The police ordered the street cleared, and Gormlie says he acted as a mediator in helping to move people out of the street and into the park. When that was accomplished, he says he was stunned to hear the lieutenant in charge call over his bullhorn, "This is an unlawful assembly. You have 30 seconds to disperse."
The crowd fell silent. Then bottles and rocks came flying from behind the gathering and crashed into the street. "The police charged the crowd, swinging their sticks, and all hell broke loose," Gormlie recalls.
In riot-edition "extras," both the O.B. Rag and the newly resurrected Street Journal (run by a group of socialists) claimed that police had caused the violence. The fracas continued into the night, as cops chased young people through yards and alleys. "As the fighting continued toward the beach," the Street Journal reported, "People came out of their houses and joined in against the police. The police then began their policy of mass busts, round up individuals off the street, going into people's yards and houses, arbitrarily arresting people." Eight police cars were reported damaged, and eight officers required medical attention. Fifty demonstrators were arrested.
Before dark that day, Gormlie had left town. Just after the riot started he had retreated down Greene to Etiwanda Street, then stopped when he saw a confrontation between officer Kenneth Anderson and a young man who had thrown a chunk of concrete. "The cop starts wailing on the kid, and without thinking I went over and jumped in." Gormlie had been carrying a shovel to work on the park, and he used it to hit the cop. "We had a duel in the middle of the street. I hit him with the back of the shovel, he got up, I blocked his baton blows with the shovel, then the kid ran off, and Anderson chased him. That's when I split."
Anderson is 56 now, retired and living in Clairemont. In 1971 he was a 34-year-old motorcycle cop, a veteran of many peace demonstrations, rock concerts, and protest marches. "The motorcycle squad, being very mobile, was moved in to a lot of the demonstrations," Anderson explains. At many of these demonstrations, Anderson says, rocks and bottles were thrown at the police, especially in O.B. so he wasn't surprised the rocks started flying at Collier Park. "Police Chief Hoobler was firm and outspoken," Anderson recalls. "When things got out of hand, he wanted us to stop it. I learned that when you were in military formation and tried to disperse a crowd, a lot of rocks got thrown. The best way to avoid the rocks was to get in among the crowd."
Anderson says officers were on hand to control traffic during the march up to the park from the beach. once the crowd reached the park, he says the motorcycle squad, made up of 28 officers and 4 sergeants, marched up onto Greene Street in a square formation. "I think trouble had been promised by the opponents," Anderson recalls. "They put the word out that they were going to protect the park by force if they had to."
He remembers being "within a stone's throw of the crowd, literally," standing in front of the formation on the street as rocks and bottles began to fly. "It started with one rock, then a few seconds alter another one. We stood there a long time, maybe five minutes, as the rocks kept coming. Them [SDPD officer] Irish O'Neal got hit in the face with a jagged piece of concrete about the size of a softball. It put his eye out.
"I saw a kid in front of the crowd throw another piece of concrete, and I went in after him. He had a buck knife and dropped to the ground, unopened, and as he reached for it I swung my baton at him. I'm not sure whether I hit him or not. At the same time, out of the corner of my eye I saw some movement, and I was hit with the shovel."
Anderson felt the flat part of the shovel strike the front of his helmet above the visor, and he went down, stunned. He says he got up quickly but doesn't recall dueling with Gormlie in the street. He says cops and demonstrators were running everywhere then, and he chased some kids for a short time, then left. "I went to Sharp Hospital to check on Irish O'Neal."
Gormlie knew as soon as he'd hit Anderson that he would be pursued for assaulting the cop. "I thought I could not get a fair trail in San Diego," he says. He ended up working construction outside Aspen, Colorado, where the FBI tracked him down in December 1971. He was brought back in handcuffs and charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer. Ted Bumer represented him.
Daily newspaper stories quoted the prosecutor claiming Gormlie had tried to cut off the cop's head with the shovel. As in all the trials of people arrested that day, the loss of Irish O'Neal's eye was emphasized. Gormlie was convicted and sentenced to a year in state prison.
Anderson says the Rag "was the official media of that Ocean Beach group," so it was no surprise when judge Jack Levitt decided that the Rag was partly responsible for what happened in the park, and as a condition of probation he ordered Gormlie not to write for or associate with the O.B. Rag for five years.
"If that isn't a violation of free speech, I don't know what is," Gormlie says now. "How could I not associate with my best friends or my publication?" He wrote for the Door from jail, and when he got out he continued to write for the Door, as well as the Rag under the name Molly McGuire.
Frank Gormlie, in the Door, January 25, 1973:
I was in jail for about seven and one-half months. Upon my release I am now subject to extremely stringent probation conditions that I feel violate not only mine but also the Rag's First Amendment rights. I have been barred for five years from having any association with the Rag or its staff (even though the make-up of the staff has completely changed since the riot). I have been ordered not to write for the Rag or help with its production and/or distribution. I cannot greet any person who works on the paper.... In a very real sense the Rag has been told what it cannot print.... If my probation conditions are allowed to stand, then others coming under the controls of the judicial process can be coerced into noninvolvment with the radical movement or alternative papers. I have been intimidated for political reasons into becoming less an activist, becoming less a journalist than I was, in fear of being sent to prison. My freedom of expression has been severely repressed. An example was made of me. And I feel it.
The Rag went forward without Gormlie until the summer of 1975. Meanwhile, in 1972 the Door was just beginning to specialize in political muckraking. For most of its existence, beginning in 1969, it had been devoted more to reflecting and celebrating the hippie culture, with special emphasis on sexual liberation — "Peace, pussy, and pot," as '60s realists put it. The Door was founded in January 1968, nine months before the Street Journal. It would have started a month earlier, but the Encinitas printer decided at the last minute he wanted nothing to do with it. The publisher, Dale Herschler, was forced to get the first few issues printed in Los Angeles. "But they would only print a minimum of 5000, and we weren't even selling 1000. The paper recycler on Commercial Avenue was our biggest customer."
Herschler is 81 now, and he plays a lot of basketball and has a ready laugh. He lives alone in a cobwebbed house on Vanguard Way in Lakeside, among his self-published books of social commentary and atheism. He still wears a ponytail, as he did 25 years ago when he set up shop in La Mesa and began publishing the Door.
Why call it the Door? "I had to call it something," he shrugs. Other names he considered included the Groove, the Koolit, and the Drop Out.
Who were his readers? "Kids and hippies. The Street Journal was put out by college boys, and they were showing up the Union with investigative reporting. Our paper didn't go in for that. We were hippies, into music, and we backed every liberation movement that came down the pike. The hippies didn't know a Marxist or Maoist from a go-go dancer. To many people, music was the revolution."
Herschler snorts when he tells that one of the Street Journal's financial angels had made his fortune in oil company stocks. The only angel the Door had was Herschler, who'd retired in 1960 after selling his trailer park business in Ohio. He says he had always been a radical thinker and writer, and in 1967 when he read a story about the underground press in the Wall Street Journal. "I said, 'Now there's something I could write for!'"
At the age of 55, he was an unlikely publisher of an underground newspaper. He had no experience, so in early 1967 he spent several weeks in the downtown San Diego library, studying books on the subject. He also visited Detroit and talked to editors of that city's underground paper, the Fifth Estate.
His first few issues — published every other Thursday — used clip art and psychedelic-style illustrations and concentrated on such stories as Mexico's refusal to allow longhairs to cross the border and sailors being busted aboard ship for possession of marijuana. There were stories on where to get abortion advice, at a time when abortion was illegal in California. Herschler commissioned two comic strips. "The Adventures of Dan Smutt" and "Roachman." He wrote his own column, "Bag of Beads," whose usual topic was sexual freedom.
In late 1968, he began running some of the syndicated columns available to the underground press, like the medical advice column "Dr. HIPpocrates." That same year Richard Russell started writing a column of personal musings for the Door. Russell today lives in La Jolla and is an internationally known investment adviser who publishes "Dow Theory Letters." The paper also began running interviews with whatever rock and roller happened to blow through town on tour.
The paper went through several name changes. Initially it was the Door to Liberation, then it merged with a small underground paper at San Diego State called Good Morning Teaspoon and in May 1968 became the Teaspoon Door. It returned to the Door to Liberation in March 1969, and finally in late 1969 it became the Free Door.
But no matter what it was called, there was usually at least one picture of a nude woman displayed in each issue. If radical politics is what led to the Street Journal's demise, it was the other 1960s fixation, sexual freedom, that precipitated the Door's travails.
A peek at the classifieds page in the December 20, 1968 issue, beneath ads from men looking for women "who enjoy French and Greek culture," reveals two columns of copy detailing a woman's promiscuous escapades at a local orgy ("...what she wanted was to merely grab the desired gentleman by his extensile member and say, 'Come on, Big Boy, let's you and me fuck.'"). There are gay ads, photographers looking for nude models, and couples soliciting other couples for swinging and for "experimental photography work." Several men advertise for daytime dates. An ad stating, "I have just found out I am a dominant female. And ideas, anyone?" is laid out next to a more sobering announcement from the publisher: "Teaspoon Door being evicted for political reasons. So we are looking for an office with attached living quarters... Prefer to buy — fuck these landlords."
In January 1969, Herschler's landlord on University Avenue in La Mesa had become frightened and asked him to move out. Herschler suspects that the landlord had received telephoned threats from the Minutemen, ultraconservative vigilantes who made it known that they hated pornography almost as much as long hair. The Minutemen had also been harassing the Street Journal, and someone had pasted on the doors of both papers Minuteman stickers — a circle with crosshairs and the words "Communist Traitors Beware — even now the crosshairs are at the back of your neck — MM."
Herschler also says that sheriff's deputies had his newspaper office under constant surveillance. And although the Door's offices were vandalized four times, always within days of similar destruction at the Street Journal, "the police never seemed to be around when our offices were attacked," Herschler observes.
But deputies were on hand Thursday, January 2, 1969, to witness a 15-year-old boy steal a stack of Doors out of a rack in front of the offices — which led to Herschler's arrest the next day for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. "They shoulda arrested the kid for stealing my papers!" Herschler howls.
He was acquitted in June 1969 by an El Cajon jury that deliberated 45 minutes. "The idea of spending all that taxpayer money on my trial was to make me shut down the paper," Herschler believes.
But he didn't. In January he had moved his operation to a house he'd bought at 6411 Imperial Avenue. He didn't stay there long. The seller had neglected to tell him the house had been condemned. So the Door moved a few doors west, into a vacant furniture warehouse.
People who worked at the paper also lived in the building, and after the commune's panel truck had its tires slashed in late 1969, Herschler moved his cot downstairs and slept by the door with a gun under the mattress. "Then I got a call from the same guy who'd been giving us death threats, saying maybe I ought not to be sleeping by the back door," Herschler comments.
In a 1976 interview published in the Los Angeles Times, Howard Berry Godfrey, the man who was coordinating the harassment of the two papers and the leader of the local chapter of the Secret Army Organization (nee the Minutemen), admitted that he had organized the reign of terror against the Door and the Street Journal. He also confessed that he was a paid FBI informant receiving $250 a month from the Feds.
Although he didn't mention it in the L.A. Times interview, Godfrey recruited some SAO members from the ranks of San Diego police reservists, according to former Street Journal writer Lowell Bergman. Other reports state that the SAO's San Diego mailing list included about 250 compatriots, several of them high-ranking members for the Mormon Church. Godfrey told the Times that some of the personnel files and mailing lists he stole from offices of leftist groups were first copied by the Minutemen and the SAO, then turned over to the FBI.
In early 1969, Herschler says, the Door received a packet of crudely drawn cartoons. One set ridiculed the rival US (United Slaves) organization. "it didn't make sense, because both sets were obviously drawn by the same artist, so we didn't print them," says Herschler. "Later we found out the FBI had sent them. The FBI was starting a war between the black radicals, and they were supporting the right-wing terrorists too. The Minutemen and the SAO were as bamboozled as we were! They thought they were right-wing terrorists; they didn't know they were working for the FBI."
The U.S. Senate's 1976 Church Committee investigation into domestic spying discovered a memo about the phony cartoons mailed to the Door and the Street Journal by San Diego FBI agents and established that the agents encouraged the interracial violence that ended in the execution-style murders of three San Diego Black Panthers.
By late 1969 Herschler realized the hippie era was over. The beginning of the end of Herschler's involvement in the the Door was the December 1969 Altamont music festival, at which bikers working as security men for the Rolling Stones ended up beating a kid to death. The whole movement had gone sour," Herschler observes.
In the spring of 1970, tremors from the underground papers to the north also were rattling at the Door. "At that time the Berkley Barb staff had rebelled, and a few months later the same thing happened at the L.A. Free Press," Herschler explains. According to The Underground Press in America, a book by Robert Glessing published in 1970, the Barb staff walked out and formed another paper, the Berkeley Tribe, after they learned that Barb founder Max Scheer may have been netting a $5000-a-week profit. The book reports that Scheer then sold the Barb for an estimated $200,000, and early issues of the short-lived Tribe called him "a corrupt prophet and a greedy fascist pig." Similar epithets were hurled by L.A. Free Press staffers at publisher Art Kunkin, who had built the paper's circulation up to 95,000.
"Then these stupid asses on my staff had to follow the herd, so they started calling me a capitalist pig." Herschler reports. "The paper wasn't making any money. It was costing $1000 or $2000 a year to keep it going. By then I was fed up with it anyway. It had been a great education for me, two fo the best years of my life, but I figured it was a dead horse. When I sold it to these other guys, damned if they didn't beat the dead horse for another five years!"
Herschler backed out of the paper in May 1970. As reported in the May 27 issue of the Street Journal, under the headline "Free Door Goes Girlie," the paper was purchased by Vaughn Finch, owner of the strip club Les Girls. "The change apparently came about because Dale Herschler, the present owner-editor, has received several threats provoked by the Door's sexist and exploitive advertising policy," reads the Street Journal story.
Bill Maguire, who became a full-time Door volunteer after learning pasteup in the parts catalogue department of Convair, says Vaughn Finch never owned the paper. "Finch was just an advertiser who wanted to keep the paper going so he would have a place to advertise Les Girls," explains Maguire, now 49 and living in Encinitas. Maguire says he and two female staffers made up a committee that funneled Finch's money to Herschler. "There was no publisher then, and nobody owned it. It was a truly free-floating community concept."
According to Herschler, the committee "gave me $400 or $500 that I put into an escrow account. The money was to cover these subscription obligations I had to fulfill. If the new owners didn't fulfill them, I would have given the subscribers their money back." But the subscriptions were honored, and in a few months Herschler says he returned the money to Finch.
Once Herschler pulled out, there was less profanity and fewer photos of naked girls published. Gradually the classifieds were also cleaned up. But the music coverage remained strong, complementing the concert and record ads, the paper's main source of revenue. (Tickets for a Derek and the Dominoes show at Cal Western gym on November 22, 1970: all seats, $4.25.) Maguire says that several hundred copies of the paper were distributed in Los Angeles record store, giving the Door visibility in the music industry. He believes that when he sold a contract of six full-page ads to MCA Records in 1971, it was the first time any local underground paper outside L.A. had landed national advertising.
In addition to selling ads and doing pasteup, Maguire also conducted most of the interviews with rock musicians. His interview with Janis Joplin was published less than ten weeks before her October 4, 1970 heroin-overdose death in Hollywood.
From Door interview with Janis Joplin, published July 16, 1970:
As we walked into Janis's dressing room, she was rapping with friends...
Janis: I'm at that age where a woman's supposed to be having children and learning how to bake oatmeal bread and all that shit. I don't have that.... All I've got is music. That's my old man.
Q: That's pretty important to you, isn't it? To have a man in particular that you can trust....
J: Ain't found one yet.
Q: Is there any one thing in your life that you really want to accomplish that you haven't accomplished yet?
J: No, because the only thing I want is to have a good time and not lie.
Q: Is there anyone in particular who's been an influence on your music?
J: I don't think I've been influenced to that degree. All I'm trying to do, man is tell people to be free and to be true, right? In other words, have consideration for other human beings, plus be real, don't lie, don't play games... Like, if everyone in the world was concerned with being righteous unto themselves, and to everyone else, they wouldn't be out there killing each other. That's what I think, I don't know.
Q: What did you think about Woodstock?
J: It was muddy. And it was very fucked up in arrangement.
Q: Janis, when you sing the blues, do you feel that as a woman, that you're singing for all other women, how they feel?
J: I just try to sing like one woman. I try to sing like me. I assume other women know what I'm talking about. But, if they don't, I'll just sing for myself.
Q: Are you going to do anything besides music?
J: Some people are trying to get me into some movies.
Q: Do you have any long-range plans?
J: Just trying to have a good time!! Get laid and get stoned, that's all I'm trying to do. THat's my three ambitions in life, and I'm doing good at all three too.
In April 1971 Bill Maguire and another staffer named Sioux Shannon took over complete business and editorial responsibility for the paper. Later that year, the staff voted to give Maguire the title of publisher. The Door kept its cultural focus but became more serious. Richard Russell's column was retitled "Bread Man" and offered advice about the economy and personal finances. Throughout 1971 the paper remained a biweekly, with emphasis on record and concert reviews — some of them penned by Lester Bangs, who went on to become one of the most celebrated music writers of the early rock era. Cameron Crowe, now a movie director, was 15 when he started organizing the Door's calendar listings that year. (At 16, he would be writing for Rolling Stone.
At the same time, the Door continued reporting on police harassment and protest marches. "The music coverage was the draw," Maguire explains, "the excuse to bring people the political and economic stories. Where else could you sell a story about recycling in 1971?
By early 1972, as the upcoming Republican convention began to attract more political activists to San Diego, the Door became more political. It bannered stories about racism at the Camp Pendleton brig and the FBI trying to censor PBS documentaries that were unflattering to the federal government.
The January 13, 1972 cover story reported the wounding of Door staffmember Paula Tharp while she was sitting in the living room of SDSU economics professor Peter Bohmer's Ocean Beach home. Howard Berry Godfrey, leader of the Secret Army Organization and an FBI informant, later confessed to driving the car from which shots were fired into the house on January 6. He was never tried. The triggerman, SAO zealot George Hoover, was eventually convicted and served time. Steve Christianson, the San Diego FBI agent who took the gun from Hoover after the shooting and hid it under his couch for six months, was fired in 1973.
In May 1972, the Republican convention was moved from San Diego to Miami. Vince Compagnone, a photographer for the Door, traveled to Miami with another of the paper's staffers and received press credentials for the convention. "We told 'em it was a college paper," says Compagnone. When they got back to San Diego, Compagnone says the Door became even more politically oriented than it had been, and just as egalitarian. "We all did everything — pasteup, layout, we took pictures, sold the paper. Nobody was getting paid. If you needed something, like work on you car, you went out and did a trade with a garage for an ad in the Door. If you needed some money, you'd grab a stack of papers and go sell them outside the midnight movies at the Academy Theater."
The political consciousness at the paper could be cumbersome. "Meetings would drag on for hours," says Compagnone, now a photographer for the Los Angeles Times San Diego County edition. "As desperate as we were for ads, we still had to wrestle with political correctness. Is this ad sexist? It wasn't majority rule; everybody had to be part of the consensus on everything. So you can imagine how long the meetings were."
"As the paper became more political, it became less economically successful," explains Bill Ritter, who began working fro the Door late in 1972 after he returned from protesting the convention in Miami. Ritter had been a leader of the antiwar movement at San Diego State University, where he disrupted classes in the spring of 1972 — an offense that resulted in the school filing criminal trespass charges, for which he was suspended as a student. He is now a television reporter and anchorman for the new weekend edition of ABC's Good Morning America. Ritter says by the time he, Larry Remer, and former Street Journal reporter Doug Porter became the editorial backbone of the Door, publisher Bill Maguire was a casualty of burnout.
Maguire observes, "Yeah, there was a lot of energy — a lot of energy expended." He left the paper to try to heal himself through nutrition and muscle manipulation, of a chronic back problem.
The Door staff continued running the paper as a cooperative after Maguire left. "Nobody really 'owned' it," Ritter remarks. The new staffers aggressively reported stories about the undercover police who had tried to head off disruption of the Republican convention in San Diego. The Door writers investigated the criminal activities of the Secret Army Organization, who, in addition to wounding Paula Tharp, had also bombed the Guild Theater (with explosives supplied by FBI informant Godfrey) on Fifth Avenue in Hillcrest in June 1972.
The Door, like the Street Journal before it and the Reader after it, also frequently ridiculed that easiest of targets, the Copley Press. Larry Remer, who came to San Diego from New York to protest the Republican convention, says, "I didn't come to San Diego expecting to spend my first ten years covering Copley, but I walked into a medieval situation. The Copley papers were basically as protective of the town as the bishop would be protective of the biggest landowners in his diocese. We reported that Copley News Service in Latin America was a CIA front. We also reported how Union-Tribune photographers would turn over their photographs of antiwar demonstrators to the FBI."
When the Door needed a local angle on the Pentagon Papers (first published by the New York Times in June 1971), Lt. Gen Brute Krulak (Ret.), Copley editorial director, filled the billet perfectly.
From "Krulak: USMC, the CIA & Copley," by Bill Ritter, the Door, May 11, 1973:
Krulak served as Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities to the Joint Chiefs of Staff from February 1962 to March 1964.... SACSA itself.... was entirely CIA oriented...
According to the Pentagon Papers, OPLAN 34A is defined as "an elaborate program of covert military operations against the state of Vietnam." The plan was initiated on February 1, 1964, which means it was all Krulak's brainchild.... The clandestine nature of these operations was to anger the North Vietnamese into 'relating,' therefore giving the U.S. an excuse to conduct full-scale bombing of the North. This was the line Krulak had always spoken out for and, in fact, OPLAN 34A was responsible for the Gulf of Tonkin farce that ensued in August 1964.... If the American people had known about the baiting scheme of OPLAN 34A, they would never have bought Johnson's Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. But they didn't know, and thanks to Krulak and the CiA, genocide was no longer clandestine.
Ritter is especially proud of a piece written in June 1973 by him, Remer, and Porter, which first revealed a summer 1971 visit to San Diego by Donald Segretti, the mastermind of dirty tricks for Richard Nixon's re-election campaign. "A source who had split from the SAO called me collect and told us everything about Segretti's visit," Ritter recalls. "A White House operative comes to San Diego, meets with a right-wing organization led by the FBI, and figures out ways to disrupt the convention and blame it on the Democrats. That was the hight point. I was 23, doing national stories. The New York Times picked up that story and credited us."
Throughout 1973 the Door ran photographs of undercover cops who posed as antiwar protesters. The photos were laid out to look like trading cards with the heading, "Don't forget, kids, collect the whole series! Trade with your friends!" The pictures invariably showed a sharp-eyed character trying to blend into the crowd at a rally. A caption under the picture named the fellow and identified his police status. Most of the photographs were taken at demonstrations by Vince Compagnone.
"The first in our series is this casual-looking character with the unlikely moniker of Steve Smith (Why not John Doe?)," reads one undercover trading card caption. Another states, "Although Les Cochran has been bumming around the Red Squad for quite some time, we felt that an updated photo might be appropriate. you see, Les's not-so-curly locks were quite a bit longer last spring, and he had a beard covering those cute dimples.... Seriously, folks, this man is armed and dangerous. He is usually seen driving a light green Mustang with a black vinyl top." Eventually the paper ran a contest to decide the 1973 Undercover Agent of the Year. It has won by Jack Pearson, head of the SDPD police intelligence unit, about whom the Door reported, in January 1974. "There are no less than five people who claim Jack Pearson threatened to kill them."
That story was a long and detailed report tying together the local secret police apparatus with the SAO shooting of Paula Tharp and the June 1972 bombing of the Guild Theater. It detailed how the SDPD had gone overboard in its zeal to put dissidents under surveillance, citing the December 1973 bugging of a confidential meeting between Peter Bohmer and his lawyer during Bohmer's trial for blocking the railroad tracks in Del Mar. (Demonstrators were trying to halt trains carrying war munitions between San Diego and Los Angeles.) The piece carried four bylines — Bob Hartley, Doug Porter, Larry Remer, and Bill Ritter. Remer says today, "I've written a lot of stuff in my life, but I think that's one of the best things I've ever done."
From San Diego's Watergate: Secret Police Exposed!" The Door, January 17, 1974:
Calling it a "golden opportunity," Richard Nixon urged San Diego, his lucky city, to accept the GOP 1972 Convention. The wheels of law enforcement quickly started to turn.... Fearful of "thousands of hippie hordes" that would be descending on the city, Federal, State, and Local agencies began planning. With more than half a million dollars pledged from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, the following equipment was ordered to welcome people to San Diego:
30 qts. of pepper fog formula, 7 grenade launchers and 300 cartridges, 100 triple chaser grenades, 100 speed heat grenades, 100 ferret shotgun rounds, 150 knee knockers, 5,000 plastic handcuffs, 1,000 plastic batons, 100 14-kb. body shields, 12 flak suits, 2 metal detector hand friskers, 157 gas masks and helmets, 20 cassette recorders, 10 Sony videotape machines, two telephone recorders, 2 binocular camera, and an Econoline van.
Most of the paper's staff lived in the Door commune in a Victorian House on Albatross Street that rented for $295 a month. In late 1973 they were asked to move by the landlord, Patrick Kruer, a local developer. Kruer wanted to tear the house down to make room for condos. The paper tried mightily to get the house protected as a historic structure. Failing that, the staff decided that Kruer would not profit from selling any of the building's fine accouterments.
As they were being evicted, "The Door had a party and trashed everything," Ritter recounts sheepishly. "every window was broken, the chandelier was dismantled, every crystal doorknob was taken, and somebody even took the mantle off the fireplace. Pat lost a lot of money. It was the beginning of the end for the paper. It was all downhill after that. When the Nixon era ended, so did the Door era. And the Reader took off."
The Door offices and commune moved to a house at 22nd and E streets in Golden Hill. By the summer of 1974, putting the paper out was an act of financial wizardry, due to the lack of money for the printing bill. "It was so hand-to-mouth," Vince Compagnone explains, "that we'd literally be waiting by the phone for a call from our ad salesman in L.A. saying he sold a full page to a record company so we could print the paper."
By 1974 the majority of underground papers throughout the country had disappeared. Withdrawal of record company advertising was a major factor. "Rock concerts weren't underground anymore," says Ritter. "The mainstream dailies were starting to cover rock. Record companies had more cost-effective ways to advertise. They could reach a large number of people who had money by advertising in the daily papers and the monthly music magazines."
Many former underground staffers believe more sinister forces were behind their demise. They still wonder about the rumors that Nixon secretly threatened the record companies with antitrust suits if they did not stop advertising in the underground press.
In July 1974 the Door dropped to a monthly. The small ads for waterbeds and blue jeans and backpacking equipment weren't enough to cover the costs of color printing. The trade-outs for ads were catching up to the paper, according to Ritter.
"I was editor," says Remer. "I might have called myself business manager. It was a company but it had no real assets." Remer believes the paper folded for two reasons: The ad base of music and rock shifted to other papers, including the Reader and the Union. And secondly, "We were not business oriented. We had one salesperson in L.A. and a half-time salesperson here. We had no business strategy." Ritter recalls that "we were much more interested in raking muck than in raking in the buck. We went to liberals asking for handouts but never made the transition to being self-supporting." In retrospect, Ritter sees that the bad habit of relying on financial angels for support, rather than concentrating on developing advertising, hastened the demise of the underground press.
Both Ritter and Remer lay a small part of the blame for the closing of the Door on the Reader, which was established in 1972. "The original Reader was a joke; we laughed at it," Ritter recalls. "It was just a calendar and classifieds. Then they started getting ads we couldn't get, and it wasn't funny anymore." Ritter says that the Reader sold itself to advertissers by promising, an delivering, a return. "But the Door said, 'Invest in our paper, because we do good work.' THat wasn't realistic anymore."
The Door folded in August 1974, the same month Nixon resigned the presidency. By then many of the might had also fallen in San Diego. The Alessios had gone to jail, C. Arnholt Smith's empire had crumbled, and Jim Copley was dead.