Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INT: To what extent were the defense able to try and make a mockery of the proceedings?
BF: That was an interesting court proceeding. You had people standing up, yelling at the judge, court bailiffs sitting people down, restraining them in their chairs. Just disruption. You know, a federal court is supposedly a place of great decorum: you know, everyone comes in suits, ties and... you know, we're all gentlemen here and everyone will be quiet, and we'll all abide by the rules. Well, they didn't want to abide by the rules, so decorum was shocked. And the judge, I think, had a very hard time, and we see it by all the contempt. You know, just... he couldn't control his courtroom, and that was his job, to control that courtroom and have a court and trial run the way it should be run, according to the law. And he... I think he had more contempt convictions than any other judge in one trial. So, you know, they disrupted the court. The trial should have been a lot shorter, but their disruption slowed it down.
INT: Going back earlier, you were telling me last time we met about how the Cold War impacted on your life - you know, training for civil defense. Can you tell me about that?
BF: Oh, the lovely "duck and cover" films. There you were, a grade schoolchild - every Tuesday the alarm goes off, the air-raid siren, so we all crawl underneath our desks, stick our rear end up to the sky, pull those lovely shades - I think they must have been made of lead to stop the radiation from coming in. Anyway, you prayed to God that, you know, the big bomb wasn't coming down. And, you know, every Tuesday that siren went off, and every Tuesday you remembered that... you felt that, "Well, gee, maybe the Russians could bomb us." You know, (unclear words) they probably could have. And the things you were doing were utterly useless, but it instilled upon you something that... you know, "There's an enemy out there, and we're going to have to protect ourselves from them." And I think that carried over. I think a lot of people my age and, you know, a little bit younger, a little bit older, they remember, you know: eight years of grade school, every Tuesday morning, throwing under a desk and, you know, hoping that you're going to live through an atomic bomb. I don't know if they'd do it in Chicago, but... (Laughs) it was something you lived with.
INT: How scared were you?
BF: I don't know... as a kid, you... I don't know if you're scared or not. It's ingrained into you - you know, "This is going to save you." Well, as we learnt later on, it wasn't going to save anybody. But you... it was psychological at the time. You know, there's a bad enemy out there and, you know, we have to prepare for 'em. And I think that generations just felt that, "Well, yeah, we've got to prepare for 'em. You know, we have to watch out." That was definitely what the Government wanted: to build up, you know, at least a fear of Russia. I mean, if you go back in Russian history, what do we figure they lost, six million people in World War II, six million soldiers minimum? I mean, it's a huge amount of people. You know, the Government was worried, as it should be. You know, you didn't have the most, I think... we won't say patriotic but, you know, Stalin definitely wasn't a nice man: you know, he killed a whole bunch of people; and, you know, Khrushchev was probably a little bit better, but, you know, I'm sure we still had people that were missing after a while. So you just had a government that you couldn't trust, plus a government that had taken over all of Eastern Europe - that was the other part. Here we have a peace treaty that, "Well, we're going to take the West and let them vote, and you're going to take the East and the Russians'll them vote - and gee, they all voted the same way." Surprising (Laughs) how that happened. And you had, you know, one communist country after another, and I really think the US and Western Europe were worried. I think they felt that if Russia ever regained itself after World War II, would be able to invade; and I think we saw a bunch of little worries in Africa; you know, the French colonialists versus Russians or Chinese. You know, these were all actually tribal wars. You know, one tribe would be supported by Russians, the other tribe would be supported by supposedly the free West, and they were fighting over land that they had both lived at, or... the Belgian Congo decided that "This is going to be your new land. Well, gee, our tribe was here, your tribe was here. We don't like each other, we've never liked each other, and now you've made it as a nation that we're going to fight." So I think we saw a lot of small wars like that. You had the US and Russia fighting, and Cuba was the same way. You know, here we have a government 90 miles south of the border that's a communist government, and we're worried about an invasion. I think we found out that the invasion never happened, but it was always a worry - although it could have been a political ploy too: "Well, we'll give them Cuba - this'll give us something to look at, and we can say that the Russians are bad, because look how close they are, and they were going to put missiles there, and we're all in danger." So what do you have? You have your puppet regime there, trying to export communism, that didn't do too well in South America, or even Central America, for the most part, and it was something to focus on. It brought it much closer to home than, you know, looking at, you know, communist Hungary or Poland, you know, for even that fact.
INT: You had lots of changes in the 1960s in this city alone: race, sex, drugs, the whole business, music.
INT: How did that impact on you, all these changes, as a young man?
BF: Let's see. Drugs I was never really impressed with. You know, I... can't say like the President I never inhaled: I just never got a thrill out of it. Sorry. And, you know, that was sort of expected, and I guess ... I says, "Hey, you know, sometimes I might be put in the situation." "Well, you know, do what you've got to do." "OK." I was never really turned on by it. I saw people on acid and I thought that was funny to watch, but didn't want to look that funny myself. You know, downers didn't really impress me, and speed, I just... saw people doing that and I thought, "I can't talk that fast." So I never really impressed by drugs. Sex - well, sex was nice. But sex was always there; the only thing was, during the Sixties it was talked about more. It really was. It wasn't that during the Sixties, premarital sex came about. I think it was a little bit more open; the mores were changing a little bit, and I think that worried people. Music - during the early Sixties, folk music came in. Then, you know, rock 'n' roll was more public, and music changed when the Beatles came in. Then you changed into acid rock. The mainstream was... British groups in the mid-Sixties. And then you came in with a harder rock, and then you always had folk music, which was still there. But then, you know, folk music had been around for years; it made a resurgence in the early Sixties, and then just carried through the movement, almost till about '70, I think, and then slowly died off.
INT: You must have heard people like Baez - or if not Baez, certainly Phil Oaks - he was in Chicago in '68...
BF: (Overlap) Phil Oaks was here.
INT: Did you like that kind of music?
BF: Folk music - it depends on who it was. I was more a Dylan fan at the time - you know, usually something with a message, and Dylan's message was different. You had your ... your anti-war folk music, which was definitely movement-oriented. I... you know, very nice music and very harmonic, enjoyable to listen to. Probably one of the few songs that people could actually understand most lyrics to. So that played a little part, but then, you know, folk music goes back to the Thirties. But I think it was more associated with the movement then, too; you know, it always had a movement overtone to it.
INT: The Beatles released a composition called "All You Need Is Love" in 1967 - did that have any resonance with you?
BF: 1967? The idea of, you know, "Gee, all we need is love and everything will be fine" - well, it sounds nice. I think, unfortunately, that they were making a lot of money off of it, and people were buying it, so money had to play some... you know, some idea there. You know, it's a very nice thought, and (it'd work greatly?), but unfortunately you need a job and, you know, a roof over your head. Love only goes so far for you.
INT: So dropping out never appealed to you?
BF: No, dropping out never appealed to me. Something about, a couple of meals a day, you know, put a little gas in the car, having somewhere to live, things mattered a little bit. I don't think I could be nomadic enough to start crashing in people's houses, you know, for a few days or a few days, or ... just... it didn't look like a whole lot of fun.
INT: Why do you think it appealed to so many of your contemporaries?
INT: ... you didn't turn off and tune in, or whatever it was, and drop out?
BF: ... why? It... motivated, you know, just by what you said, you know: tune in, drop out - you know, that's great, except it'll only work for a while, because somebody has to work to put, you know, a roof over your head to pay your rent, you have to have food from somewhere. So it was... in a communal spirit, everybody had to do something; somebody had to have a job for a little while. It was something to do. It was, "I'm not going to lose school or summer vacations. I'm just not going to do anything, and I'm going to crash in people's houses and go to communes, and then in September I'm going to have to go back to school and I'm going to be drafted." And then you had people that were just lost, people that just went from place to place to place to place, had no permanent residence, had, you know, nothing, couldn't be found ever - you know, that just completely dropped out. And... you know, there's probably still some of them sitting in Colorado in a commune somewhere, and, you know, just waiting for whatever's (Laughs) going to happen. You know, but that's human nature, that, you know, a certain part of the population are just... you know, they enjoy that lifestyle, and enjoying it, they're going to keep on doing it.
(Phone rings. Cut.)
INT: The unofficial sort of anthem of America is "God Bless America". Does that tune... do the thoughts there, and God blessing America strike a note with you?
BF: It... you know, the separation between church and state has always been there. But, you know, when you were a child, every morning you'd pledge allegiance to the flag - you know, "God Bless America" was the song. It does - you're just brought up that way. I really think that schools have changed, where, you know, being American isn't pushed that much. But there has to be some sort of national pride. Of course, it's one of the few countries, if you don't like it, you can protest. You know, if you don't like it, you can leave; where in Russia, protest didn't really work that well at the time, and if you wanted to leave, I'm sure they could send you somewhere where there's a nice salt mine you could work for a while. So, you know, at least here, you know, you had a duty to the country, but you also, if you wanted, you could protest at it. So it was a two-edged sword. I think the majority of people actually enjoyed... you know, not enjoyed, supported the war in Vietnam. The majority of people supported the Chicago police and convention. I think there was a poll afterwards where about 78% of the people in the US supported the Chicago police. Completely different than the media aspect had it. But, you know, you're dealing with a media that definitely wanted controversy. I can remember seeing film quotes afterwards, especially in '69, where you'd have a cameraman and a reporter out there saying to one another, "OK, start jostling me around when the crowd walks by, so it looks like we're really involved," just to get movement in the camera. You know, everybody was playing a game, and they wanted to get involved. But I think the vast majority of the people, you know, were against the protesters, you know, supported the police - you know, even the over-reaction of the police they supported. And I think that was probably more out of concern for the country than it was for, you know, any demonstrator who had his head cracked open for the wrong reason. So I think you did have a lot of support there.
INT: Bill Frappoly, thank you very much indeed.
BF: You're welcome, sir.
(A bit more chat. End.)