Jerry Comes Out

Our favorite local AG candidate finally comes clean on gay marriage; friends of Cold War analyst Bill Mandel agitate to get his show back on KPFA.

It’s not every day Bottom Feeder gets an unsolicited call from Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. The mayor can be a tough guy to get on the phone, especially if you’re calling about, say, horny bald Frenchmen who used to work for him. But apparently the mayor had overheard Feeder talking to his press aide, Gil Duran, about a lunchtime protest waged against his 10 p.m. curfew for parolees. Now Jerry was on the line offering quotes. Feeder didn’t particularly care what the mayor had to say about the curfew, but there was something he’d been dying to ask him directly: “Does Jerry Brown support legalizing gay marriage?”

For a politician known for speaking his mind, Brown has been conspicuously silent on the issue ever since Rosie O’Donnell and thousands of others flocked to the West Bay to get hitched more than a year ago. A likely reason is Brown’s candidacy for state attorney general. It sounds good to be tough on crime, but to be soft (or, for that matter, hard) on homosexuality — well, you come out sounding downright queer either way. Also, like incumbent AG Bill Lockyer, the state’s next lead prosecutor may have to defend the voter-approved state law defining marriage as being between a man and a woman against legal challenges. Earlier this week, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled that California’s gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional. The ruling will no doubt be appealed all the way up to the state Supreme Court — a process that could take quite some time.

None of this has stopped Brown’s Democratic opponent for attorney general, state Senator Joe Dunn of Orange County, from openly supporting gay marriage. As those old queens at the Chronicle, Matier & Ross, pointed out last month, Dunn turned up at a same-sex marriage fest last month while Brown was a no-show. The columnists added that Brown “has not taken a position on the gay marriage issue.”

Until now, that is.

So, is Brown cool with making gay nuptials legal? “I don’t have a problem with that,” the mayor coolly replied. He did qualify his remark by adding that he hasn’t signed onto any bills yet — bills such as Assemblyman Mark Leno‘s AB 19, which would make marriage gender-neutral. Dunn, by the by, is backing Leno’s bill.

Now and Zen

History buffs out there might recall that in 1977 Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill (AB 607) that codified marriage as being between a man and a woman (thirteen years before voters did so by passing Prop. 22). But, hey, those were different times. Back then, permabachelor Jerry had his sights set on the both the presidency and Linda Ronstadt‘s neckline. And the arguments against gay marriage, which stressed the importance of breeding, now seem as dated as, well, Linda Ronstadt. Nonetheless, conservatives are still pushing the same Adam-and-Steve-can’t-make-a-baby argument through the courts. Judge Kramer tossed aside the procreation argument in his decision this week, pointing out that heteros who are sterile or too old to have children can still get hitched. Kramer’s rationale is interestingly the same one proffered by gay-rights activists nearly thirty years ago when Governor Moonbeam banned same-sex nuptials (see Take Out).

Where, Where the Hell Is Bill?

Ten years ago Bill Clinton was president, baby backpacks were fashionable, and Sovietologist Bill Mandel was a fixture on KPFA, your left-wing, listener-supported local radio station. Maybe you’ve heard of this 88-year-old broadcast legend. Many people have — people whose names look better and more important in bold than yours or mine, like Pete Seeger, Ed Asner, Alexander Cockburn, and Daniel Ellsberg. All of these folks have signed a petition demanding that KPFA management give Mandel his old show back — the one he had a decade ago before being shitcanned for blabbing about internal station politics and violating the station’s gag rule, or so the story goes.

The Monday before last, thirteen Mandelphiles, including dissident members of KPFA’s Local Station Board, turned up at the Berkeley headquarters to present the aforementioned petition to Roy Campanella II, the station’s relatively new general manager. One problem: He wasn’t around. New to the area — Campanella migrated north from KPFK in Los Angeles — he had to run off to deal with the home-movers at the same time the Mandelphiles had told him they’d be coming by. “I was a bit shocked that he didn’t come,” agitator and LSB member Riva Entee says. “I really think it was disrespectful.”

But Campanella, son of the Hall of Fame catcher, doesn’t get why anyone was surprised by his absence. “I talked to Bill the night before,” he explains, “and he understood why I couldn’t be there.” As to whether KPFA would give Mandel his old show back, Campanella made it sound highly unlikely. The GM did note, however, that soon after he got the KPFA job he approached Mandel without any prodding and offered him the chance to do on-air commentaries again. Mandel refused because he wants to have his regular talk show again, and nothing less, Campanella said.

Asked why he turned down Campanella’s seemingly reasonable offer to do three-minute spots, the venerable radio diva sniffed, “I’m not a sound-bite artist, but an analyst.”

Missed Connections

Talk about your liberal guilt.

The Express recently received the following public apology letter addressed to the “people of Berkeley” from left-coast resident Steve Ongerth: “Today [Wednesday, March 2, 2005] at approximately 12:50 p.m., I was driving northbound on Sacramento Street between Bancroft Way and University Avenue. I was not paying attention and I almost hit an elderly Afro-American woman pedestrian who was legally crossing Sacramento from east to west. Although I missed hitting her and nobody was injured, I have no excuse for my actions. A white woman in an SUV with a peace sign followed me, issued a middle-fingered gesture in my direction, and called me an ‘a–h—.’ In that instant, she was justifiable in doing so. If she hadn’t done it, I might not have thought twice about my regrettable actions. After crossing University Avenue, I made a legal U-turn at the first available opportunity and tried to find the elderly pedestrian whom I had just missed hitting to personally apologize for my careless and thoughtless actions. I couldn’t find her. Therefore, I do hope she is reading this. I am profoundly sorry.”

Sorry, Steve. Feeder can’t guarantee she’s reading this. But I am. And let me just say this on behalf of all of us more boorish motorists out there: Shut up and drive, ya big wuss!

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