Sunday, July 19, 2020

My Favorite Dick Perry Story

One of Dick Perry's 20 books, a history of Cincinnati radio station WLW.
(WARNING: No Bourbon Content.)

Dick Perry was a journalist in Cincinnati and Chicago, the author of 20 books, six plays, and hundreds of articles. When I knew him, I was in college at Miami University and he was living in Oxford, stringing for the Cincinnati Post. We got to know each other when he was reporting on the campus anti-war demonstrations in which I participated (1969-1973). We became friends and I always enjoyed seeing him. He was the classic ink-stained wretch, in a shabby trench coat, always lurking inconspicuously just around the corner like the pro journalist that he was. He was about the same age as my dad.

My favorite Dick Perry story took place on election night, 1972. I was covering it at the Butler County Courthouse in Hamilton for WOXR in Oxford, and he was covering it for the Post. At some point in the evening, Dick caught my eye and motioned for me to follow him. He led me through the dark corridors of the empty courthouse until we came to an office. The door wasn't locked so we entered. Dick turned on the lights. He motioned for me to sit, as we both did.

"Chuck, as you know," he said. "It is illegal to consume alcohol in the Board of Elections on election night. This, however, is the Board of Education." From the pockets of his trench coat he produced two bottles of beer, which we proceeded to open and consume before returning to our work in the Board of Elections.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Crazy Conspiracy Theories Are Nothing New

1851 logo for the Proctor & Gamble Company.
(WARNING: No Bourbon Content.)

Crazy conspiracy theories like Pizzagate, spread by followers of QAnon, are nothing new. They even pre-date the Internet. Here is one example from the 1980s.

Proctor and Gamble (P&G) is a very large American consumer goods company. It is also a very old company by American standards. It was founded in 1837, in Cincinnati, Ohio, by William Proctor, a candlemaker; and James Gamble, who made soap. They were also brothers-in-law.

Today, P&G is a gigantic international company that makes household-name products such as Bounty, Crest, and Tide.

As a 19th century company, they had a very 19th century logo. The thirteen stars represented the original thirteen states and the man in the moon was a popular decorative device. Pictorial 'brands' were important at a time when literacy was not universal.

Although deemphasized and simplified over time, the company continued to use the logo in small ways well into the modern era. Then the rumors started that the symbol was satanic, that the curls in moon man's beard were an inverted 666, the 'mark of the beast.' The curls at the top and bottom of the beard were Satan's horns. By playing connect-the-dots with the 13 stars you can make '666' emerge for a second time, and everyone knows the reference to the Beast's number in Revelation is in chapter 13.

This, of course, led to more rumors, such as the persistent one that the president of P&G pledged the company's profits to Satan on an episode of the Phil Donahue Show (he didn't).

P&G tried to debunk the rumors but it only fueled the fire. The corporate logo wasn't a very important part of the company's marketing, since all of their brands had strong individual identities, so they simply retired it.

That was, of course, a distant 40 years ago. People would never fall for something that ridiculous today.