March 9th, 2005 Caryn B. Brooks, Steve Forrester | Special Section Stories
 

1974

     
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That's No Lady!

BY CARYN B. BROOKS

It's 1974, City Commissioner Frank Ivancie is railing against "homos," and, frankly my dear, Darcelle doesn't give a damn. Walter Cole opened Darcelle XV, a frolicking supper club featuring female impersonators, after an amicable split with his wife (the gay thing kinda got in the way). As soon as the lights hit the stage at 208 NW 3rd Ave., Cole becomes Darcelle, a saucy Mae West type who commands a cabaret of ultra femmes à la La Cage aux Folles. Darcelle's willingness to spit in the wind has made her the unofficial ambassador of attitudinal adjustment through all swaths of Portland society. "I'm invited to perform at everything from groundbreaking ceremonies to weddings," Cole says.

Ivancie the Terrible

BY STEVE FORRESTER

Before there was Neil or Bud or Vera, there was Frank. And Frank Ivancie was a fearsome presence in 1974.

If you came to Portland as the '60s were ending, you might easily have concluded that Frank Ivancie was Portland. As the loudest voice on the City Council and the presumptive next mayor, Ivancie exemplified a xenophobia that pervaded City Hall-a xenophobia that extended to ideas as well as people.

Ivancie assumed power in the time-honored way. After teaching at Rigler School, he became Mayor Terry Schrunk's executive assistant and was appointed to fill the vacancy left by retiring Commissioner Ormond Bean in 1966. With a campaign war chest filled by backroom power brokers, such as lawyers Ray Kell and Clifford Alterman and Portland Meadows owner Paul Ail, he was elected to the council in his own right, ran unsuccessfully against Mayor Neil Goldschmidt in 1976 and finally won the mayoral race in 1980.

When he joined the council, Ivancie was in his 40s-a relative youth in what had become a gerontocracy. Commentators described him as the voice of the next generation, even as a bit of a liberal. A native Midwesterner, Ivancie was active in the Democratic Farmer Labor Party of Minnesota in his early 20s and had been exposed to Minneapolis' reform-minded mayor, Hubert Humphrey.

But on matters urban, Ivancie lacked the imagination of a reformer. In a 1976 WW story, one of Ivancie's assistants expressed his boss's view: "I don't think the city should be involved in social services."

Ivancie's law-and-order leanings first emerged in the battle over Lair Hill Park, an obscure patch of green off Southwest Barbur Boulevard that had become a beacon for denizens of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. At Ivancie's behest, the City Council responded to the hippie gathering with a curfew that was twice struck down as unconstitutional.

But the defining moment in Ivancie's career came when Vietnam War protests filled Portland streets with demonstrators. The Police Bureau's heavy-handed response culminated in a bloody clash between police and college students in the Park Blocks at Portland State University in May 1970. Although Mayor Schrunk gave the order, Ivancie was most closely identified with the police response, and the incident became part of his public persona.

Ivancie was more than just a hippie-hater: He also led the fight against gays and lesbians in city government. "I'm not going to support homos in firehouses," he declared during a 1974 council debate.

It would be a mistake to say that Frank Ivancie offered a vision that differed from Goldschmidt's or Vera Katz's. The truth was, Ivancie did not have a vision of Portland. He was merely the heir to an old-boy network that had run the city for decades, the last in a line of self-generating successors. In those days, public council sessions were strictly pro forma: The real business of the council was done in private, over lunch at the Congress Hotel. If there was a vision in that clubhouse, it was this: Keep business happy, and don't make waves.

There were, in fact, two distinct sides to Ivancie's personality. In private, he was smiling, chipper and unfailingly courteous. In public forums, however, he was a bully, mocking the legitimacy of groups that came before the council. (He was also a master of mangled metaphors. During a council meeting, he once said, "You've buttered your bread, now lie in it.")

In the good old days, Ivancie's public side would not have been so sorely tested. But the social ferment of the '70s tested anyone in public office. There was new emphasis on planning, which Ivancie shunned, and on such innovations as community policing, which he scorned.

A relic of the era of backroom deals, Ivancie's reign was decisively cut short in 1984 when voters threw him out in favor of a bar owner named Bud Clark. But thanks to the beneficence of U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield, Ivancie found a safe haven at the Federal Maritime Commission in Washington, D.C.

History belongs to those who adapt. Portland's politics morphed during the 1970s. The times changed. Ivancie did not.

Former WW managing editor Steve Forrester is now the editor and publisher of The Daily Astorian.


* The year opens on an ominous note, with heavy storms pounding the state. Flash floods wash out roads, bridges and railways, prompting Gov. Tom McCall to declare a state of emergency. Adding to the gloom, President Richard Nixon vows he won't resign.

* As the nation is gripped by a coast-to-coast trucking strike, arsonists firebomb a North Portland truck depot, setting off a three-alarm blaze and destroying seven trucks before firefighters bring the conflagration under control.

* Charles Jordan becomes the first black man ever to sit on the Portland City Council. Jordan will be assigned to reforming the Police Bureau after a series of racially divisive shootings. His salary: $24,500.

* The Portland Trail Blazers draft a 21-year-old center from UCLA by the name of Bill Walton.

* Traffic police crack down on teenagers cruising the "circuit" of Southwest Broadway and 6th Avenue, issuing 340 citations the first weekend. Merchants complained of noise, auto fumes and danger to pedestrians.

* Portland lawyer Philip Lowthian is arrested outside the Benson Hotel for wearing a President Nixon face mask in violation of an obscure city ordinance forbidding the public use of masks or disguises. District Attorney Harl Haas later drops the charge.

* Hang on to your hot tubs-the invasion has begun. Californians are now moving to Oregon at the rate of more than 2,000 a month, according to DMV statistics.

* Cub commissioner Charles Jordan lobbies for a citywide ban on jackets and ties during the summer months. "We need to hang loose," Jordan says. "We all get so uptight about mass transit, freeways, solid waste." Predictably, the idea goes nowhere.

* Barely a year after abortion was legalized, 12 employees of Lovejoy Specialty Hospital break away to form their own abortion clinic, Westover Community Medical Center. The two clinics account for three out of four abortions performed in Oregon.

* The Portland Police Bureau hires its first black woman patrol officer, Carmen Sylvester, a 20-year-old divorced mother of four.

* Disgusted by Watergate, voters around the country elect reformers to clean up the mess in Washington, D.C. An apple-cheeked lawyer named Les AuCoin becomes the first Democrat to hold Oregon's 1st Congressional seat since district lines were drawn in 1892. In other political news, Democrat Bob Straub is elected to succeed Republican Tom McCall as governor.

* First issue of WW rolls off the press. Its mission: "To redefine print journalism." Among the top stories: the likely effects of Measure 13, an anti-porn bill, on Portland's massage parlors and dirty bookstores. "We don't know what we'll do," says an employee at Peek-A-Rama. "Hell, the people spoke."


30th ANNIVERSARY MENU: INTRODUCTION

TIMELINE:
1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004

FEATURES: Hell on Wheels: John Callahan | Neil Goldschmidt's Web of Power | Gus Van Zant: The Camera Man | Homer's Odyssey: Matt Groening | Quadruple Expresso: MAX Makes Tracks | Nike's Achilles' Heel | Biting Our Time: Restaurants Revisited | Highway to Hell

 
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