Monthly Archives: December 2015

Movie Review: Trumbo


Disturbing parallels between the 1950s ‘Red Scare’ and now

by Dell Franklin

CULTURE.TRUMBO.imagesAs a small boy back in the 1950s, I remember my mother talking to my dad about Dalton Trumbo, the author of  the anti-war novel, “Johnny Got His Gun,” and the premier screenwriter in Hollywood. We lived in Compton, California, so the magical aura of filmdom was very near, and we were all movie fans, my father, as a pro baseball player, seeing every Western ever made on nights after day games, and afternoon matinees before night games. Only reason he never saw double features, he said, was because “a ball player’s got to save his eyes so he can see the goddamn ball when he’s at the plate.”

My parents were both educated, though dad was a jock who never resembled anything near an intellectual. Mother, who had read all the Russian and British masters and our greatest American writers, as well as history, was a closet intellectual who during quiet time listened, eyes closed, in the darkness to classical music.

“She’s emoting,” dad would say, winking at me, intimating mother was an egghead, like Adlai Stevenson, who’d lost badly to Ike in the Presidential election. But dad was keenly aware of the Red Scare, and people like McCarthy and Roy Cohen (an original pal of Donald Trump) and especially Richard Nixon, who’d destroyed Helen Douglas for a California senate seat in 1950 by implying she was a communist.

“I ran across Nixon in the Navy, just when I was getting out in 1945,” dad said. Dad had been in the South Pacific 20 months while Nixon never left the country. “He was the kind of weasel who had his nose up the brass’s ass and lorded every bit of authority he had over anybody below him, a real prick, he just looks like a prick, got the kind of face you wanna hit.”

Mom was totally engaged in the goings on in politics, and let me know early on that the people being persecuted by the petty ambitious politicians and phony patriots like Hedda Hopper were intellectuals, professors, scientists, actors, writers, our most valuable, brilliant and creative people, all of whom had the temerity to actually question our system of government, and for this were being forced to rat on their friends as to their stature as communists.

As a kid running in the streets with nothing on my mind but sports, I had no idea of the darkness settling in on our country, knew only that dad agreed with mother’s opinions as an Eleanor Roosevelt Democrat. We heard it at the dinner table. And we heard about it in government class. And we read about it, but we had no idea the suffering many people were experiencing, and especially Dalton Trumbo and the nine artists who made up the Ten who had once been members of the Communist Party and were going to jail for refusing to name names and made a folly of the power-hungry inquisitors at the congressional investigations.

Well, for all those who missed out on this sordid era, the movie, “Trumbo,” is a mesmerizing and moving history lesson as well as a mesmerizing and powerful performance by Brian Cranston as Trumbo. You watched formerly affluent families rendered penniless and beggarly. Old friends were pitted against each other, having to choose a side to merely survive, not to mention losing out in their ambitions as creative artists. Lofty men like John Wayne and Ronald Reagan (as president of the screen actor’s guild he turned people in) waved the flag and heaped scorn upon the so-called communist sympathizers. In a confrontation, the smaller Trumbo mentioned to a towering Mr. Wayne that he had been a war correspondent and pointed to fellow writers who had fought in World War II, and said, “While you were on the set making war movies.” John Wayne, who never wore the real uniform of an American soldier, and made sure he was always the blood and guts hero in his war movies, was unmoved.

When we moved from Compton, where I went to a huge integrated high school of blacks, Latinos and whites, to a sterile all-white suburb in Orange County, I experienced my first dealings with fanatical members of the John Birch Society. They were in school and they lived all around us. They hated and feared John F. Kennedy, a true war hero, and adored Nixon, who had become Vice President and was now running for the highest office only because he had trampled his political opponents with the Red Scare.

In classrooms I found myself arguing vehemently with students and even fellow jocks who were surprisingly engaged in politics and maintained startling venom toward Roosevelt’s safety net programs, bashed unions and claimed “white is right” when it came to desegregation. Some were on the warpath over gun rights. These were high school kids. I was confronted, told I was soft, sadly in the dark about threats boding everywhere, and especially in our own government.

Little did I realize this was all an extension of the Red Scare, the same super patriots who despised the so-called liberal elite, the egghead intellectuals and professors, the writers, the actors, our scientists, our most brilliant and valuable people, people with the capacity to think, to question, to criticize, to protest. They were part of a conspiracy by left-wing media that controlled all thought in the country and tried to brainwash the population into thinking we were safe when in fact there were threats everywhere.

In “Trumbo,” the blacklisted writers, led by the courageous Trumbo, surreptitiously, under the cover of darkness and bathed in paranoia, survived by writing screenplays under aliases and turning them in to movie studios, some of which were intimidated by people like Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and John Wayne, America’s biggest box office draw and hero, and one that wasn’t, a maverick company making B films called Kings. Even after serving time in prison they were scorned and harassed by neighbors and scarred for life.

And so, after seeing “Trumbo,” you ask yourself, what kind of country were we, and what kind of country are we today?

An entire Congress, with few exceptions, was bullied into starting a war that has turned out to be perhaps our greatest disaster because they were afraid to look weak. The film industry, so liberal, is disparaged by the right wing as super-rich dilettantes out of touch with the real America for believing in climate change. The scientists who have spent their lives proving there is climate change are a conspiracy group undermining the economy, and especially big coal and industries polluting the atmosphere, led by billionaires like the Koch brothers. Mexicans are depicted as sub-human parasites and criminals trying to sneak into our country to soak up our social gravy train while in truth they have become our hardest workers, stellar citizens and finest soldiers.

And now we have Donald Trump expertly stoking paranoia against all Muslims after terrorist attacks by the fanatical faction of ISIS, lumping them all together; divvying up the good guys and the bad guys, terrifying the hordes. Pretty soon it’s possible you might be deeply suspect as a Muslim sympathizer if you happen to have a friend who is Muslim, or if you are seen on the street talking to somebody who resembles an Arab, and there is any proof from emails or phone conversations or the observations of suspicious citizens that you might actually know a Muslim, or know of a Muslim….

Watching “Trumbo,” and then going home and thinking about it, is downright scary. I’m sure most folks on the right wing will want nothing to do with such a film and label it liberal propaganda written by those film industry sympathizers, or, better yet, charter members of un-American activities. §

Dell Franklin writes under several aliases but lobs his best salvos against hypocrites and liars under his real name. He lives in Cayucos, Calif., with his rescue dog Wilbur, who may actually have descended from the suspected Communist sympathizer, Lassie.

God, tapering off of anti-depressants

Proclamations from the hermitage
became fewer and still more desperate
as he sequestered himself from even
the slightest affirmation or critique.

Alone at his worktable, nearly empty
bottle of rye at his feet, he doesn’t
even scribble solutions anymore,
thinking, thus it began, and thus

will it end. From nothing to nothing
again. Freed of the guilt of creation,
he slowly, hesitantly lays his head
in hand, sighing. The telephone rings.

—Todd Young


Central Coast assholes

A day in the life of a retired cab driver

CITY LIFE.crazy_old_man

This area, slow and tranquil as it is, can be deceiving. There are pockets of hermits, social outcasts, borderline outlaws, and anarchists living in sheds, motor homes and old dilapidated ranch cabins a few miles inland from the beach.

by Dell Franklin

I was cruising along the frontage road in north Morro Bay, bordering Highway 1, around 10 in the morning, having just hit the tennis ball for over an hour with a friend, and headed toward Spencer’s Supermarket, on my way home to Cayucos, when a very big Army green military-type van was suddenly coming up fast on me, and hugged my tail with an over-sized, rather menacing looking bumper. Driving a 13-year-old Toyota, I glimpsed in my rearview mirror at the driver, who owned a large, bulbous face and wild grey hair sprouting in various directions, like a nest of snakes. He was so close I feared he was going to ram me, and I was driving close to the speed limit—40mph.

He seemed pissed off, and I figured it was my KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD and GREENPEACE bumper stickers that had him riled. I’m pretty sure he saw me eyeing him in my rearview mirror, and he was kind of snarling, his mouth crooked, teeth flashing like some sort of carnivorous feral animal on the prowl. I guessed him to be around 55 or 60.

I kept my eye on him all the way down the road, slowing to 35 the last quarter mile, because I was not about to be intimidated by a bully, and he stayed right on my ass as I turned right into Spencer’s massive parking lot beside Taco Temple Restaurant and tooled slowly toward some parking spots while the van veered past me and then cut in front of me and wove between gaps of parked cars and halted in a spot. I took my time and parked a row over and sat and watched him get out of his car and head in long strides toward the market, eyeing me the whole time as I sat in my car with an extremely malignant, nodding, knowing glower. He wore black Army boots like those we wore in the 1960s, cut-off cargo pants with multi pockets, and a tank-top. He looked work strong, probably three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier and 10 years younger than me, and he was still twisting his big head of shoulder-length snakes in my direction as he ducked into the market.

There were big canisters on his vehicle, meaning he was probably some kind of survivalist living in the hills, growing crops and weed and sitting on a porch with a vicious guard dog and a rifle, and shooting anything that moved when he wasn’t hunting wild pigs to barbecue and share with his beast. This area, slow and tranquil as it is, can be deceiving. There are pockets of hermits, social outcasts, borderline outlaws, and anarchists living in sheds, motor homes and old dilapidated ranch cabins a few miles inland from the beach, who come in every week or so for provisions.

I walked toward the market, holding a biscuit for a dog named Cinnamon who sat mornings with a bunch of ancient military veterans wearing ball caps signifying their outfits when they were in wars and gave the biscuit to the dog before entering. Inside, I headed straight to the bakery to secure a muffin to have with my coffee and LA Times when I got home to my dog, Wilbur. After securing my muffin, I wandered toward the deli section, looking for something special in case I wasn’t in the mood to cook, and ran into Cloyd, an old pal who used to frequent Happy Jack’s Saloon, where I tended bar for eight years back in the 1990s.

Pudgy and grey, Cloyd has clerked in a Morro Bay liquor store for 25 years at least, lives frugally in a mobile home, takes a walk on the beach every other day, and otherwise lives a life of quiet, cautious contentedness. We exchanged greetings and questions as to our health, and he was telling me how it’s cheaper to get his blood pressure medicine through the VA than Medicare when the driver of the Army-mobile was suddenly directly in my face, inches away, as Cloyd, not a swift-reacting person, quickly moved away to a safe position.

The snake-head held a small basket for his purchases, while I held my cloth grocery bag. Up close, as he gazed into my eyes, I recognized crazed hostility. He tilted his head this way and that, as if to further appraise me. Cloyd peered at me in a manner questioning what was going on between us. Shoppers skirted us, aroused, concerned.

The guy’s eyes seemed to glitter and scoured every pore in my face, and then, shaking his head sadly, as if dealing with a hopeless idiot, he said, loud enough for Cloyd and everybody in the vicinity to hear, “You cut me off.” Before I could retort, he said, “You’re an asshole.” He flashed me one last look of disgust and contempt and walked off in those long strides.

Cloyd stepped over. “What was THAT all about?

“Hell if I know.”

I headed for the meat section. He was down there, too, looking over the burger meat. When he finished, I got my burger meat and some American cheese and frozen French fries. I spotted him heading to the check-out line. I was done, but I waited until he was out the door, then checked my stuff and walked toward my car, saw him standing arms-folded against his dusty, dirt-encrusted Army-mobile, waiting, watching me.

I got in my car. I took my time. He stared at me—ugly person out of an Appalachian horror movie. I started up. I drove slowly, in a crawl, turned down the lane where he stood against his Army-mobile, watched him straighten up as I approached. I slowed almost to a stop, rolled down my window, and issued him the finger, making sure to thrust it at him with conviction and hold it a few seconds to make my point, and rolled slowly away at a snail’s pace.

He came unglued, shook his fists and cursed me violently, spittle flying from his trap. He challenged me to get out and fight, ran after me in an awkward, unathletic gait as I cruised away staying just ahead of him while he foamed at the mouth and threatened my life. I pulled away very slowly, my finger still out the window, gazing at him in my side mirror as he finally halted, obviously winded.

He was waving his arms at me and delivering the finger like a madman as I turned onto the frontage road, my finger still out the window. Soon as I was out of view, I hit the gas. §

Dell Franklin also puts his fingers to good use as a writer, blogger and commentator from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog Wilbur. For more of Dell’s original writing, visit his website,, where this article first appeared.


Ibrahim Ahmed speaks out on Trump’s disdain for Muslims


Soon after Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested we bar all non-citizen Muslims from entering the U.S. and participating in American culture and life, Ibrahim Ahmed, a poet and contributing author to The Rogue Voice, who has been with us from the beginning, even during the worst of the Bush years, went into hiding.

Never before has Ibrahim, a naturalized citizen of the U.S., felt compelled to remove his face from the public square, not even during the spike in attacks on Muslims in the U.S. after 9/11.

Some of his enemies claim that he’s put on a hijab and is posing as a woman, working the streets of Las Vegas as a high-rent hooker and robbing people once he gets them into their motel rooms; others say he’s become one of the world’s first Muslim transvestites to come out of the closet and is on his way to do a TV special with Caitlin Jenner before he has “The Procedure,” both of which he would find offensive if he was as much of a hater as Donald Trump is. But Ibrahim is not a hater, and we caught up with him in Fresno, where the farmers there think he’s a Mexican, and where he’s living in a mouse-infested trailer and for the last week has been working in the fields as a farmhand. The trailer is set back deep behind a stand of old oaks beside a dried up creek bed and was probably once used as a meth lab but the crusty hovel keeps Ibrahim safe from, and out of view of, Muslim haters—at least for now.

THE ROGUE VOICE: Ibrahim, it took us awhile to track you down, why did you go into hiding? Why the sudden disappearance? We’ve been worried about you. And…how did you find this shithole?

IBRAHIM AHMED: First, let’s just say up front that I’m not a jihadist, I’m a Muslim. My religion is a peaceful one. Second, I’m not hiding. I live in a different shithole in Grover Beach. I came to Fresno to meet some friends, go have a few drinks, and maybe go dancing, and the next thing I know, I wake up and here I am, sleeping and working with a bunch of Mexicans who are really nice, not rapists. Can you help me get the fuck outta here?

RV: Seems pretty obvious to me, ‘Rahim, that you’re not a “jihadist.” Why would anyone think that?

IA: Americans are a deeply divided and fearful people. They always have been, from the very beginning. Slavery and elitism made certain of that. Even the Founders warned of how divisive this nation might become because of inequalities between slave and free. Remember the Civil War? Then, there’s ignorance, of which there seems to be plenty in America. Americans, especially Republicans, tend to be less educated than the rest of the world and have not benefited from their isolation from other nations, or from their lack of military service. Most Americans speak English only and eat their meals watching Fox News or MSNBC, and many would be considered slow or “special” in other parts of the world, and I don’t mean in the “exceptional” sense of the word where Americans think they are better than everyone else. In most cases, they are not. Does that make me a jihadist? Can we go now?

RV: ‘Rahim, federal agents from ICE visited your home recently and brought your wife in for questioning after you disappeared. I guess they’ve been monitoring your calls and reading your poetry and building a case against you, claiming you are not really who you say you are. Are you not guilty of spewing anti-American propaganda and stirring up unrest in Grover Beach, questioning the values of our political system, and calling it a rigged game for the wealthy?

IA: Well, I did not say any of those things, and my wife…she doesn’t know where I am, does she? Oh, Allah, she’s going to kick my ass when I get home. Maybe we could stop for some drinks on the way outta here. Whaddya say?

RV: Um, well, I guess your wife was pretty pissed off about you going on a drinking binge in Fresno with your friends without talking to her first about it and she told the agents that you’d flown to Syria to join ISIS, and that you could go fuck yourself for going the way of the devil. Go ahead and blow yourself up, for all she cares! The feds put out a bulletin to all local law enforcement with your mug on it. They’re looking for you, ‘Rahim. You could be in danger. It might not be safe to go home.

IA: Christ! I mean, all praise and glory to you, Allah! This is all Donald Trump’s fault. If he hadn’t declared an American jihad against Muslims, I wouldn’t be in this mess right now. I could go home and straighten things out with the wife, maybe lift up her burka and…oh, forget it! Goddamn it! This country has turned into the land of pussies not the free! Even Obama is considered a pussy now, according to Fox News. A buncha scaredy cats who wouldn’t know the difference between a Muslim, a socialist, or a jihadist, even if they met one. If you live in a free country but you’re always scared of refugees and children, you’re not really free, are you?

What’s wrong with this country, I ask you? I’ll tell you. People stopped being decent to one another. There’s no decency, not in the media, not in the social networks, not on talk radio, not in the government…have you ever tried driving LA freeways? No one talks to anyone any more. No one listens. Everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs, honking their horns. The rich started crying and whimpering and complaining, and the working class started crying and whimpering and complaining. Where does it end? Who’s going to fix it? I’ll tell you as soon as we leave this Allah-forsaken place. Can we go now?

RV: One last thing, ‘Rahim. It’s getting dark soon and we can leave under cover of darkness. OK? Until then, what advice would you give Americans who think we should keep Muslims out of the country?

IA: I would say, yes, be afraid, America, be very afraid, but do not fear the Muslims; fear instead the Donald Trumps, the haters, and the small-minded, who would convince you that we all are jihadists and work for ISIS. Americans must understand after all that ISIS has killed more Muslims than Americans and Europeans. But the Donald Trumps do not tell you that. They say we are all dangerous, that we pose a threat, that we must shut down our mosques, but then a crazy white guy goes into a health clinic or a school and blows a bunch of people away. Who can you trust? Be afraid.

RV: You can trust me, ‘Rahim. Let’s get outta here! And leave your gun here, don’t take it with you. Give it to your Mexican friends. Come on, let’s scram! §

Stacey Warde is a farmhand and publisher of The Rogue Voice. This interview was not recorded and no notes were taken.

Slapping hats with Ted Hendricks

CULTURE.SLAP.hendrickshby Dell Franklin

I was sitting on a stool at the end of the bar at Brennan’s Irish Pub in Manhattan Beach, where I was employed as a bartender, and winding down from a two-day-plus binge celebrating my fortieth birthday, when, through the front swinging doors, Jim Plunkett entered, followed by Ted Hendricks, Dave Dalby, Bob Nelson, Steve Sylvester, and Matt Robinson, all of the Los Angeles Raiders, who had moved down here from Oakland and just broken camp in Oxnard and were experiencing their first sample of beach bar life.

It was a late Sunday afternoon toward the end of August, and beside me was Lita Colandrea, my most-of-the-time female companion who was trying to convince me to stop drinking before I killed myself, but I kept insisting on one more and the bartender, Donnie Sipka, continued to serve me beers and shots as he chuckled at my relentless mindlessness.

The Raider crew passed behind me and sat down five or six stools down, along the rectangular bar, facing the entrance. I told Sipka I had their first round and to welcome them to Brennan’s. After they were served beers, each new Raider raised his mug and nodded at me, thanked me, and after Sipka conversed with them for a few minutes, Ted Hendricks, all 6-feet-7 or 8 inches, stood and walked over to me and said, “I hear it’s your fortieth birthday.”

“That’s right,” I said

Hovering over me, he said, matter-of-factly, “Forty’s big.”

“Yes it is,” I agreed. “I’ve been at it for two days worth of big.”

He nodded. Then: “I like your hat.”

I was wearing my yellow cap with elongated bill, a very, very long duck bill. I had about ten other caps and goofy hats in front of me, as a person celebrating his fortieth needs a variety of headwear over the long haul.  

“Thanks,” I said.

Ted nodded toward my headwear. “I’m a hat man, too,” he explained.

“So I’ve heard. I have about thirty-some hats and caps, Ted.”

“I have around a hundred” he said, offering me his huge hand. “You know me, but I don’t know your name.”

“Dell, Ted. My name’s Dell.”

“Would you be too offended if I asked to try on your hat, Dell?” he asked. “I know I get irritated when people ask to try on my hats, but since we’re hat men, I thought it might be okay.”

“Sure,” I said. I handed him the cap. He tried it on, pulled it tight, and pointed to one of my many caps, which included a blue one with elongated bill but also with earflaps in red letters, “BULLSHIT PROTECTORS.” I often wore this cap when a woman was taking me to task, carping at me, and pulled down the flaps when they ranted, lifting them when I had my say. I explained this to Ted while I tried it on as Lita sighed and shook her head in a longsuffering manner and Ted nodded in complete understanding. Then Ted asked me to stand, if I was able, so we could slap bills. I stood, and big Ted leaned down and we slapped bills, bobbing our heads in rhythm, making a bit of a racket as his teammates looked on. When we finished slapping bills Ted motioned to Sipka and ordered two shots of wild cherry brandy and two shots of anisette. He turned to me. “For your fortieth.”CULTURE.SLAP HATS.DELL

“Ted,” I said. “I’m on my last legs, man.”

He issued me a look I’m sure terrified all offensive players in the NFL for almost 15 years and said, “Forty’s big,” and lifted his shot of wild cherry. I tinked his glass with my shot and we downed our shots, and repeated the process with the anisette. Then he took off my cap and handed it to me. I told him he looked good in it and could borrow it if he wanted to, as I was content with my earflap cap, but he said, ”No, I can’t because those guys over there and the guys in the locker room’ll destroy it. But thanks.”

“I understand completely, Ted,” I said. “Thanks for the shots.”

He wished me a happy birthday and returned to his teammates who, on the second round, sent me down a beer and a shot, and I pulled the earflaps tight and raised the shot and downed it while Lita tried to get Sipka to cut me off.


A week or so later,  Lita—a New Yorker and person without peer as a thrift store scavenger finding treasures—and I were in Santa Monica visiting old-world clothing stores. In one of these stores she discovered, among a batch of headwear, a ball cap with the exact elongated bill as my yellow one, only in black, with silver letters on the crown that read MADDEST HATTER. Silver and black were the Raider colors and I quickly purchased it and brought it to the bar and placed it in one of the cupboards.

By this time, Ted had found an old, very used limousine and hired a rumpled, usually out-of-work handyman local to serve as his chauffeur who parked it across the street from Brennan’s at the more upscale Pancho’s while Ted did his drinking in both bars. On an early Monday evening, this limo pulled up across the street and Ted got out, accompanied by a pretty lady, and started to go into Pancho’s. I bellowed out his name from my station behind the bar. He turned and spotted me through the open doorway and I motioned him over. He came across the street with his gal and when he arrived at the bar I placed the black cap before him.

“For you, Ted,” I said.

He looked at the cap. He picked it up. He looked at me. He read the crown. He looked at his lady. He looked at me. He seemed unable to find words. Then: “You actually thought enough of me to buy me this great hat?”

“I saw it, and it said Ted Hendricks all over it,” I explained.

He tried it on. A perfect fit. He looked at his lady. She nodded her approval, smiling. He looked at me. “Thank you,” he said, pulling out some bills. “I’d like to pay you…”

“It’s on me, Ted. Us hat guys, we stick together.”

His lady caught my eye and issued me an understanding look that was somehow confidential. Ted said, “You still have that yellow hat around?”

I wore a variety of headwear at work on weekend band nights because all of us bartenders were clown acts and borderline comedians and chameleons, part of the scene at a very hot bar. So I retrieved the cap and put it on and Ted said, “Let’s slap bills.” I leaned forward and Ted leaned down and we slapped bills, renewing our perfect rhythm as we bobbed heads up and down while the crowd looked on. Then Ted placed a big bill on the bar and said, “Two wild cherry brandies and two anisettes.”

I poured out four shots. We tinked glasses twice and downed them all and then Ted very quickly turned and headed across the street toward Pancho’s, leaving the big bill. His very classy and pretty lady looked at me and said, “You have no idea how moved he is that you thought enough of him to buy him that beautiful hat. He loves it.”

I watched big Ted, known as “Kick ‘em in the head Ted,” and “The Mad Stork,” which he hated, enter Pancho’s, future Hall of Famer, rated as one of the two or three greatest outside linebackers in the history of the NFL, a man so notoriously hostile on the gridiron that he’d become a living legend.

“I thought he might cry,” I said.

“He’s that way,” she said, and walked across the street to meet him. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur. For more of his work, visit his website,, where this article first appeared.