by F.T. Rea Editor’s Note: Last week’s episode, which includes the author’s foreword, is here. The words that follow are those of Rebus, the story’s narrator. Part Two: To begin with, let me say hello to my old fans, those who remember me from my work for the Biograph Theatre and SLANT. Then, please allow me to […]
by F.T. Rea
Editor’s Note: Last week’s episode, which includes the author’s foreword, is here. The words that follow are those of Rebus, the story’s narrator.
Part Two: To begin with, let me say hello to my old fans, those who remember me from my work for the Biograph Theatre and SLANT. Then, please allow me to introduce myself to readers who don’t remember Richmond’s long-lost repertory cinema, or the quirky little periodical that SLANT was.
My name is Rebus. I first went to work as the spokesdog for the Biograph in its initial year of operation, which was 1972. In those days, in some circles, it was cool to believe in truth, justice, the American way, and cartoon dogs, such as the one depicted above — moi.
In his capacity as manager of the theater, Terry Rea (who goes by F.T. Rea when he signs art, or for his byline), gave me that job 37 years ago. Which meant that in addition to my regular work in comic strips, etc. I appeared on Biograph handbills, programs and so forth, on behalf of the cinema.
My credibility on the street, with my natural underground look, was a good fit for the Biograph in the ‘70s. In those days if I said the theater’s motto, “have a good time,” once — oy vey! — I must have said it a thousand times.
Please note that I was not onboard in any capacity when a post-Biograph Terry Rea ran for City Council in 1984 and lost to Chuck Richardson. As well, I had nothing to do with Rea issuing his strange Briley Brothers trading cards with bubble gum in the pack.
However, when SLANT was published regularly, say 1986-93, Rea had me with him to act as spokesdog for the ‘zine. Which means I was there during the Godzillabrook vs. Sherwood Luck brouhaha in 1987.
Up front, I have to say the “brouhaha” was probably more to blame on know-it-all Rea, the publisher, than it ever was on poor old Luck, the lovable movie critic/booze hound. To grasp the utter absurdity of a huge hospital chain trying to crush a warmed-over beatnik magazine, with a weekly readership of about 5,000, today’s readers need some measure of context. A sense is needed of what SLANT and Godzillabrook were seen as, before their names were linked in headlines over news stories about a $300,000 lawsuit and freedom of speech.
To begin with, SLANT was the third-best known periodical being distributed in the Fan District, Carytown and Downtown corridor in 1987. Online publishing was still just a dream then; in some ways, SLANT was a forerunner to blogging. At this same time STYLE Weekly had been around for five years and its power was still waxing. Although ThroTTle had built a steady following in its six years of monthly editions, it’s peak was about three years behind it.
While its number of pages and its press run increased for a while after 1987, that same year was probably the zenith of SLANT’s influence on Richmond‘s popular culture.
SLANT, Vol. 1, No. 1 (see below) was printed at Kinko’s on one side of a piece of ordinary bond paper. Under panels of a comic strip and a mission statement blurb, it displayed a couple of advertisements. Copies of that launch edition were stapled to utility poles. Others were posted in shop windows or on bulletin boards in retail settings. Small stacks were also placed in strategic spots in a few restaurants.
Rea published SLANT twice a week for its first three months. His point in putting them on poles was to invite the police to bust him for violating the existing local laws against doing just that. With volunteer attorneys (friends) and expert witnesses (more friends) at his side in 1982, Rea had beaten the City of Richmond in a courtroom over the same issue. Since then the statutes had been rewritten to ban handbills again.
Rea, the dreamer, believed fliers for live music shows, yard sales and social causes — when lumped together and seen as part of an information system — were tantamount to pages of a newspaper; at least, they were to a segment of the community that distrusted the mainstream media. Rea, the provocateur, relished the idea of knocking the local laws against posting handbills in the public way off the books for good.
So, SLANT began its run as a defiant gesture. (more…)