Reporters are often criticized for racing to the next big story and forgetting the past.
Not us. At least not this week, where we play, “What the hell ever happened to that person?”
We’ve caught up with 26 locals who once dominated our headlines in music, crime, sports, theater, politics, business, religion and law enforcement.
We learned that James Canfield has moved from choreographing ballets to massaging rotator cuffs; Will Vinton thinks the next big thing isn’t plastics but something called Insulastics; the Suicide Girls remain both litigious and a force on the Web; and 2008 might be a big year for Tonya Harding.
And in case you run into any of these people, we’ve provided guaranteed conversation starters for each by giving you their current ages, a big moment in their lives and something else noteworthy that happened somewhere in the world on that same day.
So, take a break with us before we race to all the great stories ahead in 2008.
THE BIG MOMENT Nov. 24, 1971: Cooper hijacks a plane out of Portland International Airport.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: Inmates riot at a maximum-security prison in Rahway, N.J.
The short version: Cooper is still probably dead. The long version is more interesting. For a guy who disappeared after jumping out of a plane 10,000 feet above southwest Washington 36 years ago, the hijacker who called himself Dan Cooper has had a lot of press this year. First came an October New York magazine cover story raising the possibility that the man who leapt out of a Boeing 727 with $200,000 in cash on Nov. 24, 1971, was actually Kenneth Christiansen, a former paratrooper who lived in relative seclusion in Bonny Lake, Wash., until dying in 1994.
Then The Oregonian ran a front-page feature of its own, profiling FBI special agent Larry Carr, who has taken over the case and ruled out Christiansen as a suspect—wrong body type, too much skydiving experience. But Carr also revealed that since 2001, the feds have been holding onto a partial sample of Cooper’s DNA swabbed from a clip-on tie Cooper left on the plane.
So the case remains unsolved, with no leads hotter than the $5,800 in ragged bills found along the banks of the Columbia River in 1980. But if your grandpa keeps giving you funny looks and driving to the woods to “hit the ATM,” you know who to call.
THE BIG MOMENT May 18, 1980: It erupts.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: A. Volcano. Erupts. What more do you want?
“It’s spring in Portland and we have a volcano,” Barry Johnson wrote in an upstart 6-year-old newspaper called Willamette Week in April 1980. As the nation gawked at Mount St. Helens’ bulging north face, Johnson admitted his ownership claim was somewhat contentious. “The press, the Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, academia: they all think Mount St. Helens belongs to them. But no matter how many roadblocks they set up, how they pontificate, how self-important they seem, the volcano belongs to us.”
Twenty-seven years later, this provincial dispute has faded a bit. The mountain blew its top on May 18, 1980 (three weeks after Mark Zusman arrived at WW , though this was probably a coincidence), 57 people were killed, the surviving geologists had a field day, and Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was founded.
And yes, it’s still an active volcano. After sitting dormant for 18 years, the mountain erupted again in 2004. Seven lava spines inside the crater grew to 114 million cubic yards in 2006—“enough to fill Portland’s Rose Garden Arena 150 times,” according to monument manager Tom Mulder. This month, the National Volcanic Monument itself attracted heat. The closure of the visitors’ observation center at Coldwater Ridge to save money for the financially strapped U.S. Forest Service has inspired calls to turn Mount St. Helens into a national park, transferring jurisdiction over to the better-funded National Park Service.
So after all these years, the volcano does not belong to us. Which is probably just as well. Who wants a steaming pile of rocks with a price tag?
THE BIG MOMENT Feb. 13, 1982: “Harden My Heart,” the single by Marv Ross and wife Rindy’s Portland sax-rock band, Quarterflash, hits No. 1 on Billboard’s Rock Chart.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: A storm brews off the coast of Newfoundland that, two days later, will sink the oil platform Ocean Ranger, killing all 84 rig workers aboard.
“We made enough money in 1979, just playing bars, to buy a house,” says Marv Ross of Quarterflash’s predecessor, Seafood Mama. But playing “four or five hours a night,” he adds, “could turn you into an alcoholic if you weren’t careful.” As such, the band took a loan from Ross’ father, bought a “portable recording setup” and set up a basement studio. “‘Harden My Heart’ came out of the basement,” Ross, the band’s primary songwriter and guitarist, says fondly. And thanks to Rindy’s strong, soulful vocals and singular sax playing, the song caught on like wildfire, changing the Rosses’ lives.
Endless touring (with the likes of Linda Ronstadt and Elton John) and a few records later, Quarterflash began to “disintegrate,” as Ross puts it, due to lineup changes and expectations of future hits. Couple that with Sony’s purchase of Geffen Records—which David Geffen started with Quarterflash and three other acts: John Lennon, Elton John and Donna Summer—and you’ve got a classic rock-’n’-roll sob story. Says Ross: “[We], Cheap Trick and Aimee Mann all lost our deals in one day.”
Ross says he was trying to figure out what to do next when he got a call from the State of Oregon in 1991 saying, “It’s the 150th anniversary of the Oregon Trail, and we want to do a traveling show that re-creates music from 1850.”
The resulting brass-’n’-strings Trail Band, which was supposed to be a “one-off,” recently wrapped up a regional tour that ended with six straight shows at the Aladdin Theater. The band, which also counts Rindy among its members, opened Ross’ eyes to “this exotic, isolated culture just up the river that most of us know nothing about!” So began his 10-years-in-the-making labor of love, a musical called The Ghosts of Celilo .
Despite co-penning songs with Burt Bacharach and filming extravagant videos with flamethrowers and motorcycles, Ross says, “It [feels] like almost everything in my life [has] led to [Celilo ], and I couldn’t have done it without Quarterflash. It’s amazing, the 10- or 11-year-olds [in the show] know the song because it’s played on the oldies station—or the ’80s station—or on The Simpsons .” When asked if his musical’s audience knows he’s the “Harden My Heart” guy, he says with glee, “I don’t think they care!” (Read an extended interview with Marv Ross at Localcut.com.)
THE BIG MOMENT May 19, 1983: Downs becomes perhaps Oregon’s most notorious female criminal when she shoots her three kids—8-year-old Christie, 7-year-old Cheryl Ann and 3-year-old Danny—on a dirt road in Springfield. Cheryl dies at the hospital. Downs claims a “bushy-haired stranger” pulled the trigger. Christie later testifies Diane was the shooter. Diane is convicted in 1984.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life receives the Grand Prix Spécial du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival.
Downs continues to serve her life sentence for the murder of Cheryl and attempted murder of Christie and Danny. She’s now in the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, Calif., and is slated for a parole hearing in 2009.
Downs took a winding road to Chowchilla. She escaped from the Oregon Women’s Correctional Center on July 11, 1987, and was recaptured 10 days later at the home of a fellow inmate’s husband in Salem. As a result, Downs got shipped out of state to two other prisons before landing in Valley State in June 1995.
Prison spokesman Lt. James Neeley denied WW’ s request for a telephone interview with Downs, citing California regulations that restrict media access to specific inmates. Neeley does say Downs is in “good health” and has been well-behaved recently. She is assigned to support services in the prison, which performs things like janitorial duties.
Downs’ father, Wesley Frederickson, visits his daughter once or twice a year and still talks to her weekly by phone. “She thinks the law is in her favor; she says that she has two years, four months to go until she can be released,” Frederickson says. “My opinion is that they don’t ever plan to release her.”
Frederickson, who lives in Texas, also maintains a website, DianeDowns.com, which he says contains information that shows readers his daughter “was falsely accused and falsely convicted.”
The site doesn’t impress Ann Rule, who covered the Downs investigation and trial to write Small Sacrifices , her first big true-crime book. “[The website] is the same old, same old…I cannot see anything on that website that’s even vaguely true.”
Rule says Christie—who testified against her mother—is now 33 and a social worker. Danny—who remains partially paralyzed from the shooting—turns 27 on Dec. 29, and is working as a computer specialist. Both kids were adopted by the original special prosecutor for the case. Neither child chose to maintain communication with Downs, aside from a brief visit shortly after Christie turned 18.
Rule adds that she’s met at least a handful of men at book signings who say they correspond regularly with Downs. And Rule has two other worries: (1) that Downs might have a chance at parole eventually because “she’s been in there a long time” and “is the most intelligent and convincing killer I’ve ever written about,” and (2) that if Downs were released, recent medical advancements could enable her to conceive another child.
“Diane loves being pregnant, but she doesn’t love children once she has them,” Rule says. “I just hope Diane Downs never has another baby.”
THE BIG MOMENT September 1984: Sheela leads a plan to seize power in Wasco County for the commune of “Rajneesh Foundation International” by poisoning hundreds of county voters with salmonella.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED: Part of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City caves in, killing 113 people—one of the deadliest structural collapses in U.S. history.
In the hills of rural Switzerland lives Oregon’s most famous bioterrorist.
WW spoke by telephone with Sheela Birnstiel (once known as “Ma Anand Sheela”) from Maisprach, where she’s run two small nursing homes since 1990. That’s a long way from her years of notoriety in Oregon when she was sect leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s right-hand woman. Sheela served as spokeswoman for the international sect when it moved to Oregon in 1981 and helped turn a 64,000-acre land parcel in Central Oregon into its home base. The Bhagwan’s Rancho Rajneesh was probably the only place in Oregon with shiny, big-ass Rolls Royces, an outdoor disco and people in bright red and orange robes doing transcendental meditation with pictures of a bearded man hanging around their necks (not unlike the “Movementarians” on The Simpsons ).
As spokeswoman, Sheela had no qualms about calling Oregonians bigots and rednecks. She even flipped Ted Koppel the bird on national television. The Rajneeshees collected guns and ammunition, and took over the government in the nearby town of Antelope (pop. about 50), renaming it “Rajneeshpuram.” They bused in over 4,000 homeless people in a foiled plan to register them to vote in local elections for the Bhagwan.
When that didn’t work, the Rajneeshees contaminated food with salmonella bacteria at 10 restaurants in The Dalles. It was the largest bioterrorism attack in American history. Nobody died, but 751 people got sick; 45 went to the hospital.
In 1985, when the commune fell apart, Sheela fled to Germany. Wanted by state and federal authorities, the United States extradited and convicted her of several crimes, including attempted murder, arson and illegal wiretapping. Sheela served two years in a federal prison before being released and emigrating to Switzerland, where she married Rajneeshee Urs Birnstiel and obtained a Swiss passport granting her immunity from subsequent extradition. Sheela was also convicted by a Swiss court of plotting to kill former U.S. Attorney for Oregon Charles Turner in the 1980s, but she was sentenced to time already served.
Urs Birnstiel died in 1992 of AIDS, which Sheela says he contracted after their separation. She never remarried. Sheela has no children, though she has two dogs—an 11-year-old Labrador named Raja and a 3-year-old greyhound mix named Cora. Her life these days: She awakes around 7 or 8 am and does paperwork at the nursing homes before caring for her 31 patients.
“My life is just as full, just as wonderful, as it was in Rajneeshpuram,” she says.
Sheela no longer maintains any connections to the Bhagwan organization, but says her patients “profit from my wide experience…and the training I had with Bhagwan.” As for her time in Oregon, she calls Rancho Rajneesh “a wonderful dream, a beautiful place that Bhagwan and his people had built.… Such experiments should not be allowed to be destroyed by mediocrity.”
Asked if she had a message for Oregonians, she simply answered, “Say hello.”
THE BIG MOMENT Nov. 6, 1984: Bogle is elected Portland’s second (and, as of 2007, last) African-American city commissioner.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal reportedly dies of a heart attack in Baghdad, where he’d been given asylum by then-U.S. ally Saddam Hussein. Reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated—Abu Nidal lived until 2002.
After Bogle lost re-election to Charlie Hales in 1992 by finishing third in a five-way primary, he left politics. The defeat freed him to pursue other loves, including jazz, journalism and photography.
For a time, he hosted a Paragon Cable show on Northeast Portland issues and took pictures of jazz musicians. Today, he’s a volunteer DJ on KMHD 89.1 FM, hosting a jazz program every other Monday from 10 am to 2 pm. He also writes a CD-review feature, “Dick’s Picks,” in The Skanner and a regular column in BOOM! Boomers&Beyond (formerly Lifestyles Northwest ), a Pamplin Media Group lifestyle magazine. And he’s the Oregon correspondent for Down Beat magazine, a monthly about jazz, blues and roots music.
This was not Bogle’s first foray into journalism. In 1968, after an eight-year stint as a Portland police officer, Bogle took a job with KATU-TV as Oregon’s first African-American television journalist. In 1984, two years after Bogle left TV to work as an aide to City Commissioner Mildred Schwab, the visibility he’d gained as a reporter and later as anchor helped him win a City Council seat. (His re-election campaign in 1992 was freighted by a couple of troubles: He reimbursed the city $20,000 for its settlement of a sexual harassment claim filed against him by a former aide, and $1,500 for unaccounted travel expenses.)
Bogle, a fifth-generation Oregonian, and his wife, Nola, moved two years ago to Vancouver, Wash.
Oregon’s black exclusion laws (which weren’t removed from the state Constitution until 1926) drove Bogle’s great-grandparents to move to Washington. Bogle says his more recent migration was driven by property taxes and cost of living.
Now he’s thinking about volunteering for the Portland Police Bureau to crack unsolved murder cases. “What,” Bogle quips, “could be a better retirement than playing jazz and solving murders?”
THE BIG MOMENT Nov. 22, 1992: In Day One of the beginning of the end of Packwood’s Senate career, a story appears in The Washington Post, alleging he’d sexually assaulted at least 10 female lobbyists and staff members. He resigns nearly three years later.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: The Oregonian reports then-Portland Congressman Ron Wyden’s advising then-President-elect Bill Clinton: Don’t rule out sending daughter Chelsea to a Washington, D.C., public school.
Packwood, a former Republican U.S. senator from Oregon, has spent the years since his resignation from the Senate as a well-paid lobbyist and consultant. In the U.S. Senate from 1968 to 1995, Packwood is proud to have led the deregulation of the trucking industry, stopped the construction of the Hells Canyon Dam on the Snake River, and passed the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
And in today’s GOP, Packwood would be virtually unrecognizable. He was a moderate, strongly pro-choice and one of two Republicans to vote against Clarence Thomas’ confirmation to the Supreme Court. “The Republican Party has become infinitely more conservative on social issues than I am,” says Packwood, who backs Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president.
But Packwood is best known by most for the scandal that ended his career. Just after his 1992 re-election, The Washington Post reported numerous claims from female ex-staffers and lobbyists that he’d groped them or otherwise assaulted them in elevators. Soon other women came forward. The Senate Ethics Committee subpoenaed Packwood’s diaries, and made parts of them public. On Sept. 7, 1995, the day the Ethics Committee recommended his expulsion from the Senate, he resigned.
An ignominious career end for one of the most powerful men in Washington, yes. But like so many other ex-lawmakers, Packwood enjoys a successful second life as a lobbyist. Packwood’s Sunrise Research Corp. was taking in $1 million or more a year up until 2003, as reported to the Senate Office of Public Records. Last year, Packwood’s reported lobbying revenues dropped to $540,000. (Sitting U.S. senators, by comparison, make $165,000 a year.) Clients have included FedEx, Mariott, Northwest Airlines and Freightliner; healthcare companies; the Oregon Restaurant Association; the State of Maryland; and the Building&Construction Trades Council of the AFL-CIO.
Packwood says lobbying receipts are down because he’s gradually scaling back, intending to retire.
He and Elaine Franklin, his wife and former chief of staff, split their time between two residences—one in the Dunthorpe neighborhood just outside Portland, the other in Washington, D.C. Says Packwood: “Now the politician in my family is my wife.”
THE BIG MOMENT Jan. 6, 1994: “The whack heard ’round the world”—figure skater Nancy Kerrigan gets hit on the side of her right knee with a crowbar at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, just before the 1994 Winter Olympics. The whack is traced to a bizarre plot concocted by Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. Harding later pleads guilty to a charge of conspiracy in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: The U.N. Security Council agrees to double peacekeeping forces in Rwanda, bringing the number of troops in the genocidal country to almost 3,000.
While Portlanders decked the halls with boughs of holly on a recent Friday evening in mid-December, the area’s most infamous female athlete presided over an event where people were literally decking the…well, they weren’t halls.
On Dec. 14, 2007, Harding, the rough-and-tumble figure skater who exploded onto the national ice-skating stage at the age of 21 with her über-athletic triple axel, was the featured guest at the National Guard Armory in Kansas City, Kan. She wasn’t skating, however. No, she was signing autographs for $10 apiece at a mixed martial-arts event warmly called “Season’s Beatings.” According to The Kansas City Star , nearly 500 people showed up to catch a glimpse of the once-shining skate star.
Violent sports aren’t new to Harding; she’s been in the boxing ring herself since at least 2002, once going head-to-head with another infamous woman of the ’90s, Paula Jones. In the same way, notoriety isn’t old. It’s followed Harding like skate marks on an ice rink since the 1994 melee at the Detroit arena.
This year, Harding made headlines locally when, in March 2007, she called police from a tow-truck company in Yacolt, Wash., to complain that trespassers were trying to hide weapons outside her nearby home, The Columbian reported. Just a few hours later, police received a second call from someone else who said Harding was “tweaking out.” Police chalked the events up to an unexplained medical condition.
In Portland, 2008 could be a big year for Harding. Tonya&Nancy: The Rock Opera , a stage production focused on the rivalry between Harding and Kerrigan, premieres at the World Trade Center theater in February. And Harding may be heading to the altar again. Earlier this month, WW reported that Harding was engaged to a 30-year-old lumberjack named “Bradford.” When asked to confirm this, Harding’s agent, Linda Lewis, said, “I can’t talk. Thank you.”
THE BIG MOMENT Oct. 30, 1996: The Portland Trail Blazer is cited for smoking pot out of a soft-drink can in the back of a car in Lake Oswego.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: America Online starts charging a flat $19.99-per-month fee for use of its services.
Rider’s name rarely comes up among lists of great Portland Trail Blazers, but he is certainly remembered for other reasons, namely as the poster child for the once-beloved team’s descent into the “Jail Blazers.”
In his Blazers career from 1996 to 1999, the talented 6-foot-5 guard was often late for practices, and was suspended for such violations as refusing to enter games, entering the stands and spitting on a fan. His off-court troubles included arrests for assault and marijuana possession.
We wish we could tell you the 1994 NBA slam-dunk champion (remember the “East Bay Funk Dunk”?) had put his troublemaking days behind him after being cut by Denver in 2001.
In February 2007, Rider was sentenced to seven months in California’s Marin County Jail for offenses that included cocaine possession, battery and evading a police officer. Rider was also convicted of kidnapping an ex-girlfriend. In court, Rider said the troubles were brought on in part by the condition of his mother, who was in a coma at the time. Rider was scheduled for release in September but was barred from leaving because of his failure to sign up for a court-ordered drug program. His current release date is unclear.
When asked via email for an update on his client, Rider’s attorney, Garrick Lew, had little encouraging news: “His life has spiraled downward, and he is presently incarcerated in a local county jail,” Lew wrote. “To explain all the problems would take hours, and I do not have the time to do so.”
THE BIG MOMENT Nov. 25, 1996: The two Grant High School students hold up a Baskin-Robbins on Northeast 39th Avenue—the first in a yearlong string of armed robberies that eventually land both in prison.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: O.J. Simpson testifies in a civil lawsuit filed by victims’ families that he can’t explain cuts on his hand or blood found in his car after the 1994 slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
In the decade since the best friends were arrested in 1998 on suspicion of committing 19 armed robberies, few other Portland crimes have generated as much sensation and unease. Curtis was senior class president at Grant. Thrower was a track star who sang in an elite choir. Curtis had an academic scholarship to attend Iona College in New York, and Thrower was also college-bound on a scholarship.
Today, Curtis remains in the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, serving out a 12-year sentence that began in May 1999.
Thrower was released from the Columbia River Correctional Institution in Portland on Aug. 4, 2006, after serving seven years and three months of an 8 1/2-year sentence. But his whereabouts are unknown, and attempts to reach his family were unsuccessful. Pat Birmingham, the lawyer who defended him in court, says he hasn’t heard from Thrower since his release 16-plus months ago. Oregon Department of Corrections’ Wendy Hatfield says Thrower isn’t allowed to speak to the media as a condition set by his parole board. “They just don’t think it’s beneficial for him at this point,” Hatfield says.
As for Curtis, he responded to WW’s request for an interview with a brief, handwritten response postmarked Oct. 9: “Although I have no doubt that you would write a compelling and objective article, I must respectfully decline your offer. I would appreciate it if you and your paper did not write an article at all.”
Prison records show both inmates had discipline troubles behind bars, though none so serious as to add time to their sentences.
Thrower spent seven days in segregation in 1999 for going to the restroom, which disobeyed a guard’s order to stay in his cell. Then, in 2004, Thrower did 42 days in segregation for submitting a diluted urine sample after guards became suspicious he was using an illegal substance. The records don’t indicate which substance. Curtis spent seven days in segregation in 1999 for refusing to return to his cell from the prison dayroom. Later that same year, he spent 28 days in segregation for fighting with another inmate during work duty in the prison scullery.
Records also show both were involved in work and educational programs behind bars. Curtis took computer training, religious classes and anger management. Thrower was involved in sports, leadership training and religious programs.
THE BIG MOMENT April 17, 2003: Vinton is fired by Phil Knight from Will Vinton Studios, the animation company Vinton founded.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: Robert Atkins, creator of the Atkins diet, dies.
By the 1980s, Will Vinton had made his name in Claymation. Now, 32 years after winning an Oscar for Closed Mondays and five years after being forced out of his own studio by Phil Knight, Vinton is back with one word: plastics.
Actually, the word is Insulastics. That’s the name of the corporation the godfather of clay animation has founded with Hollywood production designer Bill McAllister. The two men are digging into their own pockets—and will begin seeking investors in the spring—to fund a process of recycling plastic by shredding it and turning it into construction materials: building insulation, stand-alone exterior panels and foundation structures.
Insulastics Inc. received the last of its 25 utility patents Nov. 7, and Vinton is eager to discuss his latest venture. “Not because I’m all that enamored with plastics,” he says, “but because I’m really excited about reusing this stuff. It drives me nuts, in fact, to throw stuff away.”
For the past five years, Vinton’s life has been a rebuilding project. In 2002, Will Vinton Studios—the Northwest Quimby Street Claymation empire where Vinton and his animators created the California Raisins, the Dominos Noid and many talking M&Ms—was usurped by Nike kingpin Phil Knight.
Vinton was forced out within six months with less than $60,000 in compensation for his studio, a slap he’s still reluctant to talk about. “I was probably just really naive in dealing with somebody like Phil,” Vinton says. “I had these really Pollyanna ideas about everybody being solid and good.”
Vinton says he bears no ill will toward Laika, the renamed studio—“I’m delighted that Laika is here and has a deep pocket, frankly”—and adds that his departure has afforded him the freedom to pursue his own ideas. One of those is Jack Hightower , a series of graphic novels about a 10-inch-tall superspy, published earlier this year by Dark Horse Comics. Vinton’s Freewill Entertainment, his new company, produced its first short film in 2005. The Morning After combines live action and computer animation in the same frame, and tells the story of a woman who wakes up after a one-night stand with a bear—“a really lovable, really affable bear, but a bear nonetheless,” Vinton explains. “It’d make a great sitcom.” However, these projects—and speculative work like a Christmas television special called The Minstrel Tree —aren’t very lucrative. “I don’t make much money these days,” Vinton says. “That’s the plight of the independent producer.”
Vinton’s trademark handlebar mustache is still a common sight in the Pearl District—he’s an artist in residence at the Art Institute of Portland, and has a gig with a blues band called Free Will. And he hopes to be very busy with Insulastics Inc., which he says isn’t such a departure from his Claymation heyday. “Clay is normally thought of as this really earthen material,” he says. “In truth, what we used was plasticine clay. So it already was a little plastic.”
THE BIG MOMENT June 9, 2003: Cole gets—and loses—his dream job.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: OHSU names Dr. Joe Robertson dean of its med school. Today, he is OHSU’s president.
Nobody could accuse Gary Cole of laziness.
In the past couple of years, the former Portland corporate lawyer-turned-theater impresario has published a memoir, Artless: The Odyssey of a Republican Cultural Creative , penned two novels (as yet unpublished), started a new regional theater festival in his new North Carolina home, and nearly finished a second memoir.
Oh, and he still practices law part-time, serving Portland clients from his new home in Raleigh, N.C.
“I’m billing about one-third the hours that I did when I was at [Portland law firm] Ball Janik,” says Cole. “But I’m having a lot more fun.”
For years, Cole, a founder and current board member of CoHo Theater in Northwest Portland, combined his legal practice and love for the arts with political activism. Unlike most theater folk, however, Cole’s politics were Republican.
Cole served as George W. Bush’s Oregon campaign chair in 2000. After Bush won, Cole became a finalist for a top job at the National Endowment for the Arts, where he would be responsible for handing out about $60 million in grants annually. But Poona the Fuckdog barked and Cole’s appointment vaporized. Poona was a satirical play produced at CoHo and captured on film for resale by a company Cole started. Although the play’s content was no more more risqué than politics, Cole is convinced the title submarined his appointment.
He moved to Raleigh in August 2003 and threw himself into new pursuits, including writing the memoir about his Poona experience and founding an annual Theater of the American South in nearby Wilson, N.C. Count Cole as happy the way things turned out after Poona . “The upshot of the debacle is that I decided I was going to do what I really wanted to do—theater and writing,” Cole says.
THE BIG MOMENT June 2003: Canfield leaves his high-profile position as the artistic director of Portland’s Oregon Ballet Theatre. His legacy: 13 years of titillating and scandalizing ballet lovers with rock-scored, sexually charged dance works (and, in 1998, weathering allegations of the OBT dance school’s mental cruelty toward students, some as young as 13 years old).
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED: Scientists genetically engineer chickens to grow teeth.
When Canfield said “so long” to Oregon’s largest dance company, he had offers from three other ballet companies to run their artistic programs. Instead, the vivacious, contentious dance czar turned ’em down, hopped a plane to Hawaii and ended up managing a Chevron gas station on Maui.
“I needed a time-out,” he laughs. “The anonymity of [living in Hawaii] was completely rewarding.” The choreographer’s island sojourn ended in 2004 when he resettled in Portland to attend East-West College of the Healing Arts. He’s now manipulating local bodies in a different way, as a sports-oriented massage therapist and physical-therapy aide with a full roster of regulars. He’s even worked on a few Oregon Ballet Theatre dancers.
The man who set a ballet to Pink Floyd (Go Ask Alice ) admits he’s not “gonna be a millionaire” working as a massage therapist, but he enjoys working with people and their bodies. And he isn’t out of the choreography game entirely. In 2006, local dancemaker Sarah Slipper invited Canfield to create work for the Northwest Professional Dance Project, which gives young dancers the chance to work with established choreographers. The next year he suspended a live cellist from the rafters of the Newmark Theatre for a work about sexual issues and interracial relationships.
Canfield also choreographs for companies outside of Portland (in 2008, he’ll choreograph a piece for Nashville Ballet), but his relationship with the local dance scene is one of respectful distance. “I don’t see much dance here in town,” he confesses. “I can’t sit there and enjoy myself because too many people wanna know what I think.”
He says he’s proud of “his child” OBT, which has reverted to a more traditional tone since Christopher Stowell took over, but he doesn’t miss balancing the business end of a major arts organization with creating choreography. “That’s probably what wore me down,” he explains. “I wanted the ballet to evolve. I [always said], ‘If ballet does not evolve, then it will die.’ It needed to evolve, and so did I. And it has…and so have I.”
THE BIG MOMENT Oct. 22, 2003: Spooky (Sean Suhl) and Missy Suicide (Selena Mooney) move SuicideGirls.com, their booming Portland-based alt-porn website, to Los Angeles.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: The U.S. Senate votes 97-0 to crack down on spam emails. (Insert Viagra joke here.)
There’s more litigation between Suicide Girls, its upstart competitors and former models (see “Suicide Defense,” WW , Jan. 11, 2006) than you can shake a sparkly pink cat o’ nine tails at.
Last year, Suicide Girls sued God’s Girls, LLC—another goth-punk pinup site, which is backed by an Arizona-based porn conglomerate. Among the allegations in the lawsuit filed in Portland, which sought unspecified damages: GG used the color pink—SG’s signature hue—and employed a number of disgruntled ex-Suicide Girls.
God’s Girls, in turn, sued Suhl and Mooney’s company last April in a Los Angeles County court, seeking declaratory relief (essentially, a defensive measure asking the court to assert their rights). Then, in June, Suicide Girls took its case to Los Angeles, suing God’s Girls; its parent company, Offworld Media Group; its founder, Annaliese Nielsen; and former SG starlet Katie Gilbert (who writes on her blog, “Just because I pose nude on the net does not mean I’m a slut”).
The result of the L.A. suits are still pending; both are scheduled to go to a jury trial early next year.
Mooney and the Suicide Girls’ press reps did not return calls for comment. SG’s Portland-based attorney, Paul E. Loving, declined comment. And the telephone number for Offworld Media in Tucson, Ariz., was no longer in service.
But we can conclude the tattooed tarts’ torts don’t seem to have hurt business much.
According to trafficestimate.com, SuicideGirls.com is still getting nearly a million site visits a month—six times as many as GodsGirls.com, and 10 times as many as the upstart user-generated soft-alt porn site Zivity.com. Suicide Girls: The Italian Villa , the follow-up “documentary” to 2005’s Suicide Girls: The First Tour , began airing last year on Showtime, and is available on DVD. Amazon customers who bought this item also bought Satan’s Baby Doll and Playboy’s Girls of MySpace.
THE BIG MOMENT Oct. 22, 2005: An anonymous WW reader sends Stanley to his first music recital, where he hears the Oregon Symphony tackle Tchaikovsky and Chopin and is led backstage to meet world-renowned guest conductor James DePreist.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander Jr., of Killeen, Texas, becomes the 2,000th U.S. military fatality in Iraq.
When I first met Stanley in the summer of 2005, I had enough experience with classical piano to know that his was a story that needed to be told. Totally self-taught, struggling with a tense home life and without any musical guidance, 17-year-old Stanley was playing Chopin, Beethoven and Liszt on the piano at the Matt Dishman Community Center near his Northeast Portland home.
After his story appeared in WW (“Untapped Waters,” Sept. 21, 2005), Stanley’s world changed. The Stanley Waters Music Education Fund (donations can still be sent to WW ) raised more than $5,000 that fall, which continues to fund Stanley’s lessons with piano teacher Gloria Wiley. One reader mailed in a box of sheet music, another a metronome; one sent in a ticket to the Oregon Symphony, several others wrote personal notes of encouragement.
One reader even donated a piano to the Dishman Community Center, where Stanley most often practiced. Then, in June 2006, Wiley worked with Sherman Clay general manager Mitchell Paola to secure Stanley an 88-key digital Kohler piano. (A full-sized piano would not fit in Stanley’s bedroom.)
“I’ll admit it,” Stanley told me later. “I cried.”
But the real world isn’t all shiny keys and progress. These days Stanley, who just turned 20, is juggling a full-time, $8.50-an-hour job as a housewares associate at Linens ’n Things in Jantzen Beach with classes at Portland Night High School, an alternative school for students who hold day jobs. Between getting up at 4:30 am for his eight-hour shifts and pushing through classes that meet at 5:45 pm in the basement of Grant High, Stanley has found no time for lessons with Wiley in months.
Still, he shrugs off sympathy. He’ll jump back into lessons soon. And at the end of the day, he is playing. Constantly. While forcing himself through scales and finger drills, Stanley’s appetite for difficult music has only grown. He recently has taught himself—largely by watching videos on YouTube—several new pieces, including Chopin’s Black Key Étude, Opus 10, No. 5 .
“For the longest time I wanted to learn it and had the music and everything, and just could not get it down,” he says. But as soon as he saw one woman play it, and watched her hands closely, “It was like, OK, this song makes sense now.”
Stanley laughs a lot, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. His passion is infectious. He knows his story is unique, but he also realizes the amount of work required if he is to make music more than a hobby. For now, Stanley is taking life day by day, piece by piece. And then?
“Music pedagogy,” he says, his eyes wide with hope and caution.
—Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Chopin’s Black Key Étude, Opus 10, No. 5
Chopin’s Trois Nouvelle Études No. 3
THE BIG MOMENT Dec. 5, 2006: When Michael and Naomi Hebberoy’s local restaurant empire ripe implodes in April 2006 due to epic financial mismanagement, Morgan Brownlow, chef and co-owner of ripe’s lauded clarklewis, also gets burned, and finally calls it quits in December after butting heads with new clarklewis owner David Howitt.
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED THAT DAY: Knut, the first polar bear cub to survive infancy at the Berlin Zoo in three decades, is born.
“It was like getting on a roller-coaster ride that was three or four years long,” Brownlow says about his time at clarklewis. “It was crazy.” That’s an understatement from the man who was in some ways the hurt, angry public face of the ripe fallout. The freefall ended with a lawsuit from investors and vendors calling for Michael Hebb’s head after the “food provocateur” skipped town—leaving a stack of unpaid bills. (The couple ditched their joint name, “Hebberoy,” when they divorced in 2006.)
Brownlow now says he lost $150,000 in clarklewis legal fees and other costs in 2006. “When I opened that restaurant, it was like buying a house,” he explains. “That was all my equity, and I lost all my equity. That really sucked.”
Luckily, the ripe experience didn’t sour the native Oregonian on cooking. WW spoke to him while he was en route from Portland to a farm and raw-milk dairy on Washington’s Vashon Island. There, Brownlow hosts a weekly supper club for 20 people, with meals created from the livestock and seasonal produce on hand. “Everything comes from the farm with the exception of salt, pepper, flour, sugar and wine,” says the proud chef, who splits his time between cooking and butchering on the island and trying his hand at making art—mostly paintings—at his home in Southeast Portland.
His next project may keep him in town more often. “It’s not a restaurant,” he hints about a venture that’s got him looking for 4,000 square feet of PDX space. “[But] it does revolve around pork.”
Despite the clarklewis fiasco, Brownlow has even “reunited” with Michael Hebb. In January 2007, he cooked for Hebb’s new Seattle-based supper series, One Pot. The pair has since collaborated on nearly 20 dinner events this year. “[After I quit clarklewis], Michael gave me an opportunity to, once again, cook. He’s a very firm believer in my talents and my skills. He’s pretty much like a brother to me,” Brownlow explains. “I did say some nasty shit [when ripe melted down], but when we talked, there were no hard feelings,” he continues. “He’s great…even though people think he’s a shyster and a scapegoat for the whole [ripe] thing. The blame should be shared by everybody [who had ownership].”
Although the chef remains upbeat about his ripe experience, he hasn’t been back to clarklewis, which local restaurateur Bruce Carey bought last March. “I did take 75 orange T-shirts to Goodwill last year,” he says with a quiet laugh. “Hopefully someone around Portland is wearing them…besides construction workers.”
Editor’s Note: If you see any of the following at your New Year’s Eve party, thank ’em for contributing to this package: Kelly Clarke, Casey Jarman, Nigel Jaquiss, Lance Kramer, Amy McCullough, Don McIntosh, Aaron Mesh, Elizabeth Armstrong Moore, Corey Pein, James Pitkin, Jonah Sandford, Rachel Schiff, Beth Slovic and Amanda Waldroupe.