Why do I do what I do? Specifically, why am I making available on my website [hidden in the Blank Verse category (erroneously named)]: the work of Lytton Strachey virally available elsewhere if you care to perform a Google search (if you care)?
The link above is to a LibriVox recording of Eminent Victorians by Giles Lytton Strachey read by Margaret Espaillat.
“On Modern Library’s list of 100 Best Non-Fiction books, “Eminent Victorians” marked an epoch in the art of biography; it also helped to crack the old myths of high Victorianism and to usher in a new spirit by which chauvinism, hypocrisy and the stiff upper lip were debunked. In it, Strachey cleverly exposes the self-seeking ambitions of Cardinal Manning and the manipulative, neurotic Florence Nightingale; and in his essays on Dr Arnold and General Gordon, his quarries are not only his subjects but also the public-school system and the whole structure of nineteenth-century liberal values.”
[Note: I first read Eminent Victorians in 1972 at one of those moments I have had in life where I was recovering from a disaster. The disaster in this case was my first divorce after my wife left me for a taxi cab driver in New York whom she met at an evening class in Chemistry. My reaction was to follow my friend David Phillips’ suggestion and move to San Francisco where we lived as roommates in a wooden red house in the Bernal Heights section–an area so steep that when I left the house to pursue free-lance writing assignments and women, I had to walk sideways.
[In times of stress, I turn to literature. One day David handed me Eminent Victorians saying, “This was written by the man who invented the New Yorker profile.” I went on to read Strachey’s biography of Queen Victoria and became immersed in the Bloomsbury Group, especially Virginia Woolf and eventually the multi-volumed autobiography of her husband Leonard. Strachey’s words especially were a great comfort, reading someone who could write so well and leading to the fantasy that someday I might acquire that ability.]
This is a press pass to the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco which nominated former Vice President Walter Mondale and Representative from New York Geraldine Ferraro to run against President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George [Herbert Walker] Bush.
Guess who won?
This press pass and more significantly a better press pass I also obtained secured my access to the floor of the Democratic National Convention in 1984 where I was talking to the head of the Montana delegation while he announced that the State of Montana was casting all its votes for Walter Mondale.
The delegation head was a Native American in full ceremonial dress. While he voted, he talked to me about Japanese timber interests in Montana.
The Senate press gallery issued me the passes.
At the time, I was a registered at the gallery as a journalist for The New Republic and before my marriage in 1981 had asked the administrator of the Senate Press Publications Gallery out for a date.
Details of the passes are significant because another journalist, a native Japanese, contested the issuance despite objections from my editor in Tokyo.
Only after an emotional hearing was I allowed to keep the passes, with a warning from a higher official at the Senate, “We know you, Joel, but we don’t know him. If there is any hanky panky, we know where to find your ass.”
You have no idea how hard it was for me to obtain these passes each of which made it possible get past noisy demonstrators and nervous police through the heavy metal search machines at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco in the summer of 1984.
I was covering the convention for Gendai Monthly, published by Kodansha, the largest publishing house in Japan. Here is a photograph of Kodansaha’s headquarters in Tokyo:
New York Governor Mario Cuomo gave a well-received keynote speech. The speech is available online at American Rhetoric’stop 100 speeches, number eleven. Mondale’s major rivals for the nomination, Senator Hart and Rev. Jackson, also gave speeches.
Jackson also attempted to move the party’s platform farther to the left at the Convention, but without much success. He did succeed in one instance, concerning affirmative action.
The candidates for U.S. president earned the following numbers of delegates:
Jesse Jackson unsuccessfully called for the suspension of the party’s electoral rules to give him a number of delegates closer to the 20% average share of the vote he garnered during the primaries. The system tended to punish shallow showings as yielding no delegates at all, hence Jackson’s smaller delegate count than would be expected (12%).
Geraldine Ferraro was nominated as the first woman to receive a major party nomination by acclamation on a voice vote.
Until he was garishly murdered on November 17, 1978 , George Moscone was Mayor of San Francisco. The Convention Center was completed in 1981.
The details of Moscone’s murder and its aftermath had significant consequences to the outcome of the convention and the election.
To repeat the obvious, Ronald Reagan was running for reelection in 1984. Traditional family values were a mainstay of his support. When Reagan had been governor, he and his wife Nancy conducted a purge of homosexuals working for him.
As President, Reagan was clear about his opposition to homosexuality. In 1984 that position was popular with the electorate, which had yet to experience George Bush II’s blatantly right-wing conservative vice president Dick Cheney.
Cheney was openly supportive of his gay daughter. Whether that support which was amplified by his fellow Republicans later made a difference or simply reflected a changing view, homosexuality no longer had the political stigma that existed in 1984.
When the 1984 Democratic convention began, Walter Mondale, who had been Jimmy Carter’s Vice President, had enough delegate votes to win the nomination on the first ballot. The press had already dubbed Mondale the “nominee presumptive,” a term and concept that had no influence on my editor in Tokyo–a major factor in the outcome of this story.
Later, I will explain about my editor.
A convention in which EVERYTHING has been decided is boring.
There was one major decision not decided.
Who was Walter Mondale going to choose as his running mate?
One of the short list names was Diane Feinstein, who became Mayor of San Francisco when George Moscone and Harvey Milk were assassinated.
Milk was a member of the Board of Supervisors. He was the first openly gay Supervisor.
Moscone and Feinstein, who was then President of the Board, supported Milk in creating landmark gay rights legislation.
Dan White, a former policeman and fireman, served on the Board in open opposition to homosexuality. White had been forced to resign for business reasons. When White later asked the mayor to reappoint him, he shot the mayor several times and repeated the multiple shootings on Harvey Milk.
Feinstein was the first person to be at Harvey Milk’s side when he died, feeling for his pulse and without realizing it, putting her thumb into one of Milk’s many gun shot wounds.
Would Walter Mondale name Diane Feinstein as his vice presidential running mate?
The media were consumed with that question when I arrived in San Francisco in July, 1984.
My wife (at the time) Diana was anxious that I be back in Washington, DC in time to be in the delivery room for our first child. The due date was August 15th. When I decided after the convention ended to fly to Tokyo, Diana understandably became more anxious.
Here is a photograph of Diana and me at our home in Washington while Diana was in her first trimester of pregnancy.