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I'm having a little fun with this blog post title alluding to the "alternative facts" touted by Kelly Ann Conway when she was challenged by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press back in 2017. New Press Secretary Sean Spicer had falsely claimed that Donald Trump's inauguration crowd was the biggest ever despite overwhelming photographic and anecdotal evidence that it, um, wasn't. When Todd wanted Conway to explain why Spicer had felt the need to lie, Conway "doubled down" and said Spicer had no choice and so he had put forth "alternative facts" to counter the narrative spun by the "nattering nabobs of negativism"-the Mainstream Media! Sadly, we still live in a world where established, provable facts are labeled "Fake News".

There was a time when "alternative" sources of information were quite relevant if "truth" was to be outed. There have always been "underground" press publications throughout our history--newspapers and magazines that reflected the views of a particular ideology and invariably called into question whether what was consumed by readers of the Mainstream Media was accurate at all. Too often in the 20th Century, one could not help but think of 1984's Winston Smith at his job in the Ministry of Truth altering history forever by depositing a revealing photo down a chute (a Memory Hole) to be incinerated. Many controversial issues had never been fully addressed given the pervasive censorship of the period, but in 1966, the Supreme Court extended free speech rights to almost any publication, no matter how scurrilous and shocking, and the alternative press was launched. Sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant. A new kind of investigative journalism flourished, in the tradition of muckraking journals of the past but now evident in the offices of the most respected journalistic organs. Remember, it was the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times that blew the lid off the government's blatant lying to the American people about the Vietnam War. And it was the "Cover-Up", not the crime, that brought Nixon down in 1974 thanks to the dogged investigatory efforts of the Washington Post's Woodward and Bernstein.

When I was in high school, there were any number of publications that advocated for the "Counter-Culture"--a term that gained purchase starting in the early 1960s. The most famous and influential was probably The Village Voice, published in New York's Greenwich Village. Journalists running the gamut from mainstream to "gonzo" reported on the critical issues of the day--often employing previously eschewed stylistic flourishes. The Voice came out weekly, and though it was probably most widely used to let people know which apartments had just become available, it became a tough-minded, provocative publication that gave great latitude to many quality reporters and writers. It also acted as a repository of incisive criticism for a variety of art forms. Some of the Voice writers were among the very best this country has produced, including Norman Mailer, Ellen Willis, Richard Goldstein, avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas, muckraker extraordinaire Wayne Barrett, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, music critic Robert Christgau, cartoonist Linda Barry, the great Nat Hentoff, and many guest writers. I loved the film section, with one of the deans of American film criticism, Andrew Sarris, as the primary critic. J. Hoberman was the number two critic, and he focused primarily on films outside the mainstream. I was fortunate to have Jim Hoberman as my professor twice when I sought my M.A. in Cinema Studies at Tisch, N.Y.U.

The Voice ran from 1955 to 2017 before folding, but it was largely defunct for twenty years before it published its last issue. The Internet killed it as it has interred so many publications (most recently Sports Illustrated). But in its prime years in the last decades of the 20th Century, The Voice provided the alternative "take" on local and national politics and took forward stands on issues ranging from civil rights to feminism to gay rights. It pushed buttons. It sometimes went too far. But it had an instrumental position in New York City life and it took its responsibility very seriously (And, as you can see below, they recognized Donald J. Trump as a target very early on!).

Of course, I have to mention the provocative personal ads that filled the back pages each week, not to mention the club advertising that often contained highly sexualized imagery of men and women in little to no clothing! One day, my father was stacking up the newspapers in the house for recycling and got a glimpse of the back pages of The Voice. He immediately came to me and wanted to know how his presumably moral son could read such perverted filth. I laughed and told him not to worry. I'm sure he kept his eye on me, and I kept reading The Voice religiously.

During the late '60s, I occasionally picked up a copy of one of the most famous underground publications--The East Village Other, a bi-weekly that was distributed between 1965 and 1972. The New York Times called the Other "a New York newspaper so countercultural that it made The Village Voice look like a church circular". I don't pretend that I understood everything they were debating, but I recognized that the tone and the often psychedelic art design separated it from anything I had ever read before. I also knew it was the kind of publication I would be "grounded" for reading if I was ever caught by my parents, so there was a frisson of rebelliousness associated with possessing the EVO. Many of the stories were designed to offend, whether through the employment of four-letter words (something that shocked me) or through the graphic imagery that accompanied the inflammatory language. Presidents of both parties (Johnson, Nixon) were skewered. The Other was probably my first exposure to the nascent Underground Comix movement, with its most famous

son--the legendary R. Crumb. Whatever the publication could do to promote drugs and sex while offending as much of the establishment as they could was the watchword. But as a lefty rag, it took progressive positions on women's rights and gay rights. Those movements, and the Black Power movement, offered many different subversive, provocative journals.

There were other alternative publications that I rarely saw or had little desire to see. The most famous (or infamous) was probably Screw, published by Al Goldstein, who was always in hot water with the legal system for his many attempts to take pornography out of brown wrappers and put it onto newsstands everywhere. I wouldn't want to forget that cities like Boston and Philadelphia all added Voice-like publications of their own. I loved getting copies of the Phoenix every time I visited Boston and The Scene when I entered Cleveland. Although I rarely had the opportunity to read a copy, The Los Angeles Free Press was even bigger than the Voice for a while. Eventually, underground papers could no longer turn a profit and became free weeklies available in kiosks on city street corners.

There were regularly published alternative magazines as well. Many of them focused on the profound changes in popular music during this turbulent period. Among the most notable was Cheetah magazine, a journal about rock music dedicated to the countercultural experience. It began in 1967 and concluded its run in 1968, but it published many fine analyses of the zeitgeist, especially as channeled through the music of the day. Writers such as Ellen Willis and Robert Christgau naturally gravitated to the Village Voice when the magazine closed up shop. I still own a couple of issues of Cheetah, including the bottom issue pictured below. In that edition, there is a gatefold poster mocking the administration's leaders of the Vietnam War. I believe there were posters in most issues. That was very much a thing, and the walls of my bedroom were often bedecked with such poster art. There were record reviews of Country Joe and the Fish and The Buffalo Springfield, as well as a disquisition on the new Rolling Stones release: Their Satanic Majesties Request. Following that were book reviews, a tribute to Woody Guthrie, film reviews (including that counterculture classic The Graduate), a lengthy study of Bob Dylan, and a paean to a subversive puppet troupe. There were a variety of other offbeat stories, lists, and cartoons. In my other issue, from April of 1968, there is an excerpt from Tom Wolfe's new book The Pump House Gang--required reading for advocates of the New Journalism. A someone named John Gabree submitted a story suggesting that the Beatles were overrated. Ahem. The poster in that issue was a fold-out of the real Bonnie Parker. She did not look very much like Faye Dunaway, the pulchritudinous star of Bonnie and Clyde. Notice that the cover of the December 1967 issue below was created by Peter Max, who was by far the most important illustrator of the period. His colorful, psychedelic, kaleidoscopic style could be found in magazines, posters, clothes, advertising--even museums. He was a god of the Pop Art movement. Some readers may recall that I had a classic example of Pop Art in my classroom with a nine-sheet framed poster of Jean-Luc Godard's film Two or Three Things I Know About Her (See below).

A more mainstream countercultural publication was eye magazine. Someone realized that creating a four-color glossy magazine for young people might be profitable, so there were much higher production values than one found in most magazines or newspapers directed to youth. There were only fifteen published issues and I purchased and read and reread most of them when I was in high school. As an adult, I bought the entire collection through eBay! I still have a couple of issues. Many of them came with extras. One was a small comic book attached to the cover with a relatively new but neurotic superhero--Spiderman! One issue had a wax 45 single of two songs by Blood, Sweat & Tears, including a song I loved called "God Bless the Child". At 16, I had only heard the name Billie Holiday, so I just thought it was a terrific tune by a popular rock band (See my blog post on Miss Holiday for more on this song). There were pop-art posters of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin (See below), Jimi Hendrix, and the Beatles. Interview subjects didn't "answer questions"; they "rapped" about their lives! Some of the stories were fluff (such as which car is right for you based on your astrological sign or whether you had the innate potential to be a witch or a warlock!) and there were wild fashion spreads of miniskirted women and male models in psychedelic garb. But there was fiction by the likes of Bruce Jay Friedman (see earlier post), and an excerpt from the book Hitchcock/Truffaut which altered my life forever. It was a fun journal of its time.

If you attended a "progressive" high school in the 1960s, as I did, you not only had a student newspaper (in my case, Syosset High School published The Pulse--an award-winning student-run newspaper with Mr. James Bailey as advisor), but you might have as many as four "alternative" student newspapers, printed secretly and distributed anonymously so that the Thought Police wouldn't be able to quell the coming rebellion against authority! Granted, maybe some of the issues discussed in these mimeographed issues were less than national in scope, but both The Pulse as well as the high school's "scandal sheets" dealt with such topical issues as whether non-Union lettuce and grapes should be served in our cafeteria (prompting an eventual sit-in that blocked the doors of the cafeteria) and the national walk-out on May 4, 1970 to protest the war in Vietnam, a day when a couple of thousand students exited the building simultaneously and marched en masse to the town's main drag.

Yup. I still have a copy of The Pulse from 1969. I was in the journalism elective that contributed about four pages worth of material to this issue, including three cartoons and two articles by yours truly. This issue contained interviews with Simon and Garfunkle and Catch-22 author Joseph Heller! I remember going to the city with my professor and a few editors to interview Woody Allen for the next issue. It was a GOOD student paper. Yet, students felt the need to create alternative publications--where the real truth would out! (By the way, the school has to rid itself of its Native American mascot this year or lose state funding!)

Below are some images of alternative publications located in a museum dedicated to their commemoration. I will leave you with this pithy thought: "Power to the People!"


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