1972 - Bill Clinton Home
As you know from the Ted Kaczynski encounter I had left California in late August of 68 to go back to the U of Ill campus where I proceeded into my drop out hippie mode for 3 1/2 years. I moved into a commune with Vic and 6 or 7 other friends and dropped out. I had written a letter to the draft board asking to be drafted saying I would resist when I was drafted so I was expecting a draft notice and around February of 69 it came.
I was to report to Chicago for a physical. My friends became worried about me, and Dan, a high school classmate of mine who was living in the commune, came to talk to me. Dan came to the U of Ill after serving in Korea and I had introduced him to Vic. Dan said the commune members had talked it over and they didn't want to see me go to Vietnam or jail and that they had an idea.
Their idea was for me to claim to be a homosexual. I had met several homosexuals through Vic's contacts in the drama department and there was one living in the commune that I knew so the idea did not totally freak me out. I thought about it for a couple days and figured out a plan of action. I would claim that I was rooming with Vic and that we got drunk on New Year's Eve and had an affair. I knew from my being around homosexuals that the key to convincing someone you were gay was not to act gay but to treat the relationship just as you would a heterosexual one. That is to just say you were in love with someone of the same gender, so I just figured I would tell them I fell in love with Vic. I didn't tell anybody what I was going to do, but I'm sure Vic would have been amused.
In “Alice's Restaurant” when Arlo went for his draft physical he suggests that anyone in his situation just sing a verse from the song - “You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant” when they meet with the psychiatrist. It was looking like I was going to have to improvise a little on that.
The day came and I went to Chicago on a bus with a bunch of other victims. I went through all the tests and finally had to put down on a form that I was requesting a homosexual deferment. I was segregated into a waiting room with a half dozen other young men while we waited to speak to the psychiatrist. No one said a word. The psychiatrist began to call us into his office one at a time for a consultation.
Finally he called my name and I went into his office, sat down, and began to answer his questions. I told him my story and as soon as I said I thought I had fallen in love with Vic it was all over. He signed the form and told me to give the form to someone back in the general population room. As I got there this sergeant told me to sit down next to two other young men who were either homosexuals or doing the same thing I was and the three of us sat there as the rest of the inductees were slowly filing by in their underwear to sign some documents on the desk behind us. This must have been the “Group W” bench Arlo mentioned in “Alice's Restaurant” where he was segregated until they could decide if he was moral enough to burn villages.
While the inductees filed by in their underwear the sergeant yelled "THESE GUYS ARE QUEER, THEY'RE GOING HOME WHILE YOU GO TO VIETNAM." I'm not sure what the purpose of that was other than to shake out guys like me, but none of us reacted and within five minutes after signing another form we were out of there.
When I got back to the bus I made the mistake of telling everybody what I had done. I guess I figured they had seen and I was telling them that I wasn't really gay. I was sitting next to this guy that I knew who was a well-known SDS member and activist. On the way back he tried to hit on me and I had to tell him that I wasn't gay again. When I got back I told Vic's brother Verne about him and asked him if he knew he was gay and he said he did.
In 1970 I moved out of the commune and into an apt with Vic's half-brother Tommie. I went on unemployment and after that ran out I worked at a restaurant washing dishes, a car wash, and by 72 I was driving a cab. Around Feb I picked up a news correspondent from the New York Times who was covering the democratic primaries and had come to campus to report on Ed Muskie who was giving a speech later that day behind the student union. As I drove him to the student union we had a conversation in which I told him how I had a degree in EE and had dropped out to protest the war. He seemed really impressed by that. We got around to Muskie and I told him that I didn't think Muskie was a serious anti-war candidate and that I trusted McGovern much more on that issue as he had come out first and strongest against the war.
Later that day someone got me high on some really good hash and I was walking to the rear of the union and stopped at a counter to buy something when I heard Muskie speaking over the loudspeakers out back in the quad. As I purchased the item and started to walk toward the back doors to go check it out, I heard the clerk comment to his coworker, "Did you see the phony spaced out look on his face"? He was talking about me but the look wasn't phony. I was really pretty high and it showed.
The next thing I know I was standing in front of the glass door and Ed Muskie was standing on the other side of the door looking right at me with a frown on his face. He was wanting to pass through the door but was hesitating. The sight of a stoned out long haired hippie standing in front of him probably was disconcerting. I stepped to the side and motioned him through. He came through the door followed by his bodyguards and aides. He seemed irritated. One of his bodyguards moved up in front of him so that wouldn't happen again.
Some weeks later I learned that George McGovern was coming to campus to speak at the auditorium. The night of the speech I talked my girlfriend into going over to the auditorium. The sound was being broadcast outside so we could hear the speech without going inside. When we arrived there was no one else around outside and I could hear the commotion of a full auditorium over the speakers. I assumed that George was already in the auditorium.
Just then on my right I saw two people briskly walking toward the auditorium. As they got closer I noticed that the one on the right was George McGovern and I told my girlfriend that that was him. On his right was a young man in a sweater and sports jacket with long hair who appeared to be coaching him. As George passed within 20 feet or so of us before walking up the steps to the auditorium he looked right at us and I thought about saying something to him. But I was there to check him out to see if his anti-war credentials were real and I didn't want to seem encouraging until I heard what he had to say. So I just stared at him as if to say "This better be good."
I must say he surprised me that night with his rhetoric - it was quite radical. I realized that he had tailored his speech for his audience so I still had a little doubt in the back of mind where he would stand if push came to shove, but I went away convinced he was as strong a candidate as we were going to get against the war and determined to vote for him.
As for the young man accompanying George, I'm convinced it was Bill Clinton, since he was a state campaign manager for George at the time and was of a similar build as the young southern man who checked my draft card in 1967 in front of the Pentagon. He had just let his hair grow out some as I had. I don't know if Bill had found out what university the draft card burners were from or not, but if he did it could have had something to do with George's decision to visit there. Also the Times correspondent could have written about his conversation with the cab driver who trusted McGovern more than Muskie.
In April of 72 I moved to Naples, Fla where my parents had bought a home. I started working as an electrician's helper and sometime that summer I sent $25 to George's campaign explaining how little I made and how much that money meant to me and how I had been the person in front of the U of Ill auditorium and had heard him tell the students what they wanted to hear and that I had decided to drop back in after realizing that he was going to be the democratic candidate for president. I told him that I was finally proud to be an American again.
Some weeks later my dad and I were watching the news when George was interviewed. He had just given a speech at some Jewish function and was still wearing a yalmalke. It was only a few weeks before the election and it was obvious George was going to lose. The interviewer asked him if he had any encouraging signs to report. George said that he had received a letter from one of the "God is Dead" generation who was rejoining society because of his candidacy and then he talked about healing the nation. As I sat there I knew he was talking about me, but I didn't say anything to my dad. As one of George's campaign manager's I have to wonder if Bill didn't become aware of my letter and inform George about my burning my draft card in front of the Pentagon.
(See Bill Clinton-3)