Steve Conliff: A legend has passed away but his spirit is with us
June 1, 2006
Editor's Note: Founding editor of the Free Press, Steve Conliff died today, June 1, of cancer. His alternative and underground writings pre-date the founding of the Free Press in 1970. Conliff had just compiled the first seven volumes of the Free Press for an anthology book project for CICJ Books. We will get his work in print as soon as possible. Our condolences go out to his wife Suzie Bird-Conliff and his family, particularly his son Byron who has worked closely with the Free Press this year. The following article is re-run to highlight one of the reasons Conliff is a legend in this town. Yippie, what a great life!
Steve Conliff's website
Read Steve's last remarks to the Free Press Awards Dinner
On pies and Rhodes
May 1, 2001
I still remember the shock of May 4, 1970 after hearing the news of the shootings at Kent State Ė the unnerving feeling that they were coming for me and my friends next -- as a Detroit 9th grade hippie greaser/MC5 listener/White Panther Party supporter. My rage grew in high school fueled in part by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
By the time I became a college radical and activist in the fall of í73, and a mistaken supporter of Eldridge Cleaver, I firmly believed that the students should have been better organized with well-armed militias and shot back. Hell, I dreamed about getting down to it, as Neil Young advised. Itís one of the reasons I spent the 70ís boycotting Wendyís -- you know, the Rhodes/Dave Thomas connection -- and fighting to stop the construction of the gym at the death site at Kent State. I have these vivid flashbacks of October 1977, tear gas everywhere, and I swear Dana Beal and a group of yippies emerged from the fog to line dance wearing gas masks. It still makes me smile. Or in 1980, the rousing speech by Kwame Ture, formerly Stokeley Carmichael, saying he welcomed all honest reformers into the movement, because an honest reformer by nature will become radicalized once they grasp the injustice of the neocolonial western corporate capitalist system. Again, vivid memories of one line of marchers beneath the black flag of anarchy, courtesy of the North American Anarchists League, flanked by the red flag of revolution and another group of marchers led by the Revolutionary Communist Party, making their way for one last assault on the gym site.
The systematic destruction of radical and revolutionary movements, and the subsequent thunder by the radical and white supremacist right under Presidents Reagan and Bush in the 80ís and early 90ís, has greatly switched the public debate in this country. Rhodes was lucky enough to live into his 90ís, dying with little fanfare and customary ass-kissing by the mainstream corporate media. Still the Free Press, founded in the aftermath of the Kent State shootings in the fall of 1970, has a long-standing adversarial relationship with Rhodes. Perhaps Iím most proud of the fact that former Free Press Editor Steve Conliff pie-ed the governor at the Ohio State Fair in 1977. Sure, itís not an indignate and democratic people rising up to reclaim democracy by force of arms, but it was great political theater and a form of yippie justice being served.
Big Jim so clearly perjured himself as a witness, contradicting his own statements, news footage and defendant photographs that the jury went very easy on Conliff, as he later wrote: ď. . . The jury recognized the squirming governor as a liar Ė he couldnít even meet their eyes Ė and found me not guilty. They didnít approve of me, of yippies, flinging pies at governors, but they realized that Big Gym was lying to them and I wasnít.Ē
I approve, Steve. In fact, I think we ought to resurrect the tradition of pie-ing the Rhodes statue every May 4, just like in 1990, when the statue took a direct hit in the face by a strawberry cream pie. I think in the name of diversity, pies should be of every flavor and variety, including pies of color to show the universal loathing of Rhodes by the best and brightest activists of our generation.
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