Watergate And Me!

Evidence! From deep in the Nuttycombe Photo Archives.

Evidence! From deep in the Nuttycombe Photo Archives.

Above is the envelope containing the role of film I shot at the Watergate hearings. I went there with the guitar player from my band, Bob Barnes. The trip might have been his idea. Watergate was the hip thing and Bob was a hip guy.

Bob Barnes, rocking in the free world.

Bob Barnes, rocking in the free world.

I remember at the time I was painting a mural inside a hippie-ish crisis call center in downtown Rockville but spending much of the day watching the hearings on the TV in the room. The hearings Bob and I attended were not the exciting ones, like John Dean or the revelation of the secret tapes. Instead, they featured the droning testimony of Maurice Stans, who had been the Commerce Secretary in the Nixon administration but was the treasurer for CREEP, the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

SIDE NOTE: I played a gig for CREEP. No idea how or why — my band was a typical Top 40 cover band made up of shaggy youngsters. Up With People we were not. But whoever booked us sent over a 45 r.p.m. disc of the campaign’s theme song, Nixon’s the One. We had to learn it for the show. Also for reasons I cannot recall, that record is not in my collection.

The gig was at some big building in Arlington, Va., maybe Crystal City. (Oh, sorry — “National Landing.” Bite me, Bezos.) Most of my memories are of button-down Republicans giving us the side-eye, or in one case tossing off the witticism, “Is that a boy or a girl?” The only positive attention, and it wasn’t much, came when we played Nixon’s the One. Man, I wish I still had that record.

[UPDATE: My pal Peter Gilstrap did a fantabulous interview with the composer of Nixon’s the One, Vic Caesar. It is one wild ride!]

don't buy books by crooks

“If the hero of San Clemente sells his books he’s gonna rake in plenty…”

SIDER NOTE: Years later I would play on an anti-Nixon song, Don’t Buy Books By Crooks, which was a protest over the disgraced president getting millions of dollars to write his memoirs. The group was featured on the Today Show but I didn’t feel like going to New York.

Anyway. I thought that I had taken photos inside the hearing room, but I didn’t. Probably because it was not allowed. I do have shots of people lined up outside the Capitol, some interior shots of the architecture, and shots of the many police overlooking the crowd. Plus Bob clowning around. And there are pictures of the hearings on my bedroom TV.

When the transcripts of the tapes were released, my uncle asked me to buy him a copy. Uncle Gene had been Nixon’s roommate in the Navy. (He was also Jimmy Stewart‘s roommate at Princeton. And my cousin went to high school with Martha Stewart. But I digress.)

My Uncle Gene with Dick and Pat Nixon on the 1960 campaign trail.

My Uncle Gene with Dick and Pat Nixon on the 1960 campaign trail.

Gene and Nixon remained friends. Here’s a picture of Uncle Gene welcoming Dick and Pat Nixon to Binghamton during the 1960 presidential campaign. He was on the reviewing stand for the first Inauguration. (At the same time that Led Zeppelin was playing at the Wheaton Youth Center!) I have the official button he wore.

So I dutifully stood in line at the Government Printing Office and bought two copies, one for Uncle Gene and one for me. Gene was a staunch defender of Nixon but after sending him the transcript book there wasn’t much discussion.

That book is in my archives. Still looking for a copy of Nixon’s the One.

"What did the photographer know and when did he know it?"

“What did the photographer know and when did he know it?”

Major political scandal being investigated, large crowd, police don't seem too worried. Those were the days...

Major political scandal being investigated, large crowd, police don’t seem too worried. Those were the days…

Was glued to the TV in my bedroom--couldn't get enough of those crazy hearings!

Was glued to the TV in my bedroom–couldn’t get enough of those crazy hearings!

I'm sure these school kids have fond memories of their visit to our nation's capital. How many returned on Jan. 6?

I’m sure these school kids have fond memories of their visit to our nation’s capital. How many returned on Jan. 6?

It Was a Time, What a Time It Was

Remembering Washington City Paper

Washington City Paper has ceased its print publication after 41 years. The final edition on May 5, 2022, was filled with memories from many of the stars who helped make the paper the legend that it was.

For reasons that my lawyers will surely discover, I did not get a call to contribute. But here are my thoughts anyway.

I worked at City Paper for two months shy of 17 years, one of the longer runs. I started as the typesetter, though that was a completely misleading title. My neighbors growing up ran a hot-metal typesetting business, laboring over some of the last of the behemoth Linotype machines, and I worked for them on weekends during high school. One of my tasks was melting pieces of old type in a furnace that turned them into long, thick slugs that hung from the Linotype and got melted back into type. I still have burn marks on my arm. So I know what typesetting is.

Is This Any Way to Run a Newspaper? The software that powered City Paper, XyWrite and Krohm.

Is This Any Way to Run a Newspaper? The software that powered City Paper: XyWrite and Krohm.

At City Paper, the job was to convert the DOS-based XyWrite word processor files from the writers to the Krohm publishing system and then print out long strips of slick paper that would be pasted on boards and sent to a printer. So medieval. And that was the reason I got the job–I knew Krohm. I had worked for the Washington Business Journal, which was one of the only other newspapers to buy Gary Krohm’s arcane product. And I knew Mark Jenkins from when we both worked at Unicorn Times, and he knew that I knew the mysteries of Krohm.

Codes Make the Man! Before HTML there was Krohm--and I actually understood it.

Codes Make the Man! Before HTML there was Krohm–and I actually understood it.

And those codes were close to what would become HTML, the instructions that powered the early World Wide Web. So in 1996, when some of the smarter set were buying Dot-Coms, David Carr decided that I would be the guy to run City Paper‘s online presence as the Webmeister. (CP already had a Webmaster, Eddie Codel, who was the IT guy. Eddie was so sharp he was able to snag eddie.com.) (Parenthetical: I had also written some early Internet fanboy stories, including one about an Al Gore chat on CompuServe, and I was a regular contributor to the Washington Post‘s glossy tech supplement Fast Forward. Almost every CD-ROM I reviewed for them would destroy my computer.)

A Bit Ahead of Myself. This ad never was never published.

A Bit Ahead of Myself. This ad was never published.

So most of my years at City Paper were spent as the editor for the music-focused online section, inDC. And for almost all of that time the owners in Chicago were not particularly interested in this new online world. They rightly saw it as a threat. Indeed, I made a promo ad to announce our shiny new website, in the form of what’s called a “tombstone ad” (Irony!), with a single quote: “Print is dead.” –Dr. Egon Spengler. I figured our hep audience would get the Ghostbusters reference and the general snarky attitude.

As with all house ads, it had to be faxed to the owners in Chicago for approval. No sooner had the machine stopped then my phone rang and Mike Lenehan was on the line screaming at me: “That will never run in our paper! Destroy it!” And on and on.

But Lenehan, et. al., finally, grudgingly, agreed to this online-only addition to the brand, eventually adding the cover story and Loose Lips columns to the site. And, once again, part of my job became converting QuarkXpress files to HTML and uploading them one by one after the paper had been put to bed. Wednesdays were very long.

New Kids on the Blog: inDC opened up City Paper to more voices.

New Kids on the Blog: inDC opened up City Paper to more voices.

inDC featured a weekly band interview, the Spot the Drummer contest that I first came up with as a print feature, and several columns, among them What Goes ON, by Mark Jenkins. I wanted Mark’s voice for the site and because these were the days of Internet euphoria he was able to negotiate a very handsome fee. I contend that he did some of his best work with What Goes ON, mostly because he didn’t think anyone was reading, so he could lighten up — as much as Mark ever lightened up.

There was also the extremely vibrant message board, inDCent eXposure, that saw many friendships formed, bands created, concerts organized, and marriages arranged and dissolved. And some bestiality photos that slipped by before we disabled the ability to post images. Eventually 50,000 unique visitors came to the board every month. This is back when dial-up was still prevalent. The sales department never even put a banner ad on the page.

The same 1996 technology powered our message board for 11 years. And letting everyone speak was, mostly, a good idea.

The same 1996 technology powered our message board for 11 years. And letting everyone speak was, mostly, a good idea.

 

My email address, webmeister@washcp.com, was on almost every page of the site, which meant that I also became the defacto online receptionist. A fair amount of my time was spent dealing with happy and unhappy readers, forwarding emails to the proper recipient, including story tips to writers, and sending T-shirts to those I deemed worthy.

When a reader emailed a thoughtful response to one of Jenkins’ columns, I expected it to run on the Letters to the Editor page. An argument ensued and I was told that the letters page was only for discussion of stories appearing in the paper. OK. The editor making that decision was Erik Wemple. David Carr had left for the online-only venture Inside.com. Wemple would eventually leave for the online-only site TBD.com. OK.

So I had my little fiefdom and enjoyed the perks of being largely ignored. And now completely erased–because all of that work vanished in one of the many post-bankruptcy moves that City Paper went through after the goons from Creative Loafing bought it. I still have almost all the inDC files and could upload everything to my site but that’s a lot of unpaid work.

I wore many hats at City Paper. Because I was not technically a staff writer (though on the masthead twice with a Contributing Writer credit), I could get away with writing advertorials. When Sales started ad sections targeting the tech and auto markets, I was tasked with providing some text between the many ads they hoped to sell. I interviewed a Channel 4 weatherman about how the TV graphics were put together. (Where I first heard about GIMP, the open-source alternative to Photoshop.) I went on a test drive with a top salesman at a car dealership to get the scoop on tricks of the trade. The sections didn’t last too long; newspapers were already under siege.

I Was a Member of Advertorials Anonymous!

I Was a Member of Advertorials Anonymous!

Similarly, I was on the marketing committee. Surveys showed that the average CP reader was a 41-year-old white male suburbanite. And that none of the college kids on any of the many area campuses had heard of City Paper. Not at all what the publisher wanted to hear. The decision was made to ignore the people who enjoyed our product and go after the ones who were ignoring it. Ultimately a lose-lose situation.

I was also involved in Nosh Mobs, live events that grew out of CP‘s Restaurant Finder. A true innovation, Restaurant Finder was a pre-Yelp site that catalogued almost all of the city’s restaurants, each one geo-tagged thanks to the exhaustive months-long efforts of Chad Molter. So, for instance, you could search for sushi within four blocks of the 9:30 Club. I came up with the idea of printing postcards to distribute to popular venues, with a list of some of the dining options nearby. And of course our URL. Years later, I was in the offices of the AFI Silver Theater and saw one pinned to a cubicle.

Restaurant Finder postcards were a successful promotion item. Venues kept asking for more.

Restaurant Finder postcards were a successful promotion item. Venues kept asking for more.

A few thousand people signed on to be Restaurant Raters and leave reviews of the places they ate. Every so often, we’d reward them with invitations to exclusive visits to happening eateries. I was one of the hosts and sent out the invitation newsletter. Once we scheduled a Nosh Mob on a Jewish holiday. There were no Jews on our planning committee. And, reader, we did the same thing a second time. Diversity matters.

When Youtube appeared in 2005, I started shooting videos, covering the annual Crafty Bastards gathering, as well as the first Capital Fringe and DC Shorts festivals. Just before the Creative Loafing hammer fell, my title became New Media Editor. Here’s a video I made for an annual meeting, full of inside-jokes, starring many of the bold names from the final print edition: “The Passion of the City Paper.”

Vlogging became a thing and I already had a spiffy miniDV camera.

Vlogging became a thing and I already had a spiffy miniDV camera.

Being at City Paper and managing inDC was the best job ever. The remembrances (here here here here here here) captured the spirit of the place. Though stalwarts Mike Dolan and Mark Jenkins are mentioned, I’m surprised they weren’t included. Or Clara Jeffery, now editor of Mother Jones magazine, and Jandos Rothstein, who finally killed Krohm when he introduced something called “desktop publishing” to the paper, a decade or so after all other publications were doing it.

Finally, every few years City Paper would conduct a reader survey. Questionnaires would be inserted randomly into papers and several hundred responses would find their way back to the office. I always read them, every one. In addition to the usual reader complaints about not covering some stories or writing too much about others, the main complaint was that the cover stories were too long. Editorial always ignored this advice, rightfully so.

While there was often praise for the writing, the only name that regularly appeared on the surveys was Darrow Montgomery. Everybody loved his photos. But the last survey I read contained a surprise: My name. (And Jessica Gould, who I believe was a recent hire and I apologize but I don’t recall her well.) Somebody, and I swear I have no idea who, wrote, “I love anything by Dave Nuttycombe.”

"Fool's names and fool's faces always seen in public places." --My Mom.

“Fool’s names and fool’s faces always seen in public places.” –My Mom.

Thank you, mystery person. I loved everything I wrote for City Paper.

If you enjoyed this stumble down memory lane, please buy my posthumous memoir, So Close and So What? Pissing Away White Privilege: The Dave Nuttycombe Story. You’re welcome.

Dave Nuttycombe’s Suburban Mysteries

As a crusading digital journalist, I often take to the streets in search of mysteries. And, like my heroes Frank and Joe Hardy, I find them each and every time.

Here I present my latest discovery, a mystery so deep that even I, a crusading digital journalist, may have difficulty solving. Once again, if you have any tips (and by tips, I mean cash), feel free to send them my way via the convenient Paypal page.

You’re welcome.

I Dared Click On Facebook Scam Ads.

For a few days last week, almost my entire Facebook newsfeed was taken over by a series of similar ads, sometimes identical except for the name of the advertiser. Indeed, there were more of these ads than posts from my friends. All of the ads offered musical instruments for sale and claimed–in the same slightly off language–that the companies were poorly run, going out of business, and thus many guitars and drumsets could be had for amazingly low, low prices.

Say goodbye to the old factory. And your money.

Say goodbye to the old factory. And your money.

For instance, a Taylor 818e DLX electro acoustic guitar could be yours (or mine!) for just $96. This model sells at Guitar Center for $3,499. The $97 “special offer” Fender American Precision bass retails for $1,499. Likewise, the $94 “special offer” Gibson Les Paul Classic T will set you back $1,950 in any real music store. You won’t find such deals even on eBay.

I don't want to pay, I want to bang on my fake drum all day.

I don’t want to pay, I want to bang on my fake drum all day.

The names of the sites you were invited to click were odd, too: pxfresh.com, babalunsa.com, jiaodm.com, encarcha.com, and mutjean.com. Double-checking two others — eurekahub.info and colorpalette.vip found they had disappeared. The happy-sounding site winwinlook.com that advertised complete Alesis electronic drum sets for $84.99 (actual retail $579) is now offering golf club sets for $45 (actual retail $349). And if you hoped to pick up a Gretsch drum set for $120 (a $600-$4,000 value) at montyme.com, you’re too late, site’s gone.

More like poor management at Facebook?

More like poor management at Facebook?


The sites that remain as of Aug. 10, 2021, all look alike, using the same bland template with a grid of photos of high-end guitars and a Paypal logo. (There’s lots of chatter from 2020 on a Paypal message board from people who fell for the scam.)
Lookalike sites come and go as scams are discovered.

Lookalike sites come and go as scams are discovered.

The sites these ads all link to look alike because an ICANN lookup of domain registration finds that they’re all from China. Jiaodm.com is registered by eName Technology Co., Ltd, the “#1 domain name marketplace in China and the preferred platform for all Chinese domain investors.” Encharcha.com was registered through PocketDomain.com, which is located in Room 747, 7/F, Star House, 3 Salisbury Road Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Mutjean.com is registered through Alibaba Cloud Computing, Beijing.

So, yeah. We know the Chinese can make things cheaply. But not this cheap.

We also know that Facebook has issues with disinformation and scams.

I MADE A SONG!

The Exciting Backstory: So I decided to update my WAV editing software, Sound Forge, which I bought as discs from a computer software store when that was a thing you could do. Over the years, the original program was bought and sold, became Sony SoundForge, and finally is part of the Magix family of whatever. That’s where I found the upgrade.

I can haz musix

But with the upgrade came something I didn’t ask for, a music-making program called Music Maker. (Of course!)

Music Maker seems like Garage Band with pretensions to Logic Pro. When I opened it up there was a sample tune ready to go, which was stupid, but enticing enough that I clicked around and managed to create this sick little ditty. It took almost no time. That there was even a vocal track available is proof that nothing matters anymore.

The bad news is that now I’m one of those music-illiterate people who can use a computer to create sounds that put actual musicians out of work.

The good news is that I can’t figure out how to make another song with the program. Guess it was just magix!

Enjoy this greatest song ever produced.

The Lure of folklore

Yes, I’m on record as being a huge fan of Taylor Swift‘s new album, folklore. Not normally any kind of Swiftie, I discovered the music thanks to the kind algo-bots on Youtube (Hi!), who blessed my feed with the lyric videos when the album first “dropped,” as the kids and marketers say. Intrigued, then hooked, I quickly bought both the digital files and physical CD, and I’ve been listening nonstop since. It’s a good record to do the dishes by.

But then a new Youtube rabbit hole appeared: Insistent, ardent folklore cover versions. As with the 300-plus fan versions of Shallow that I found shortly after A Star Is Born was released, there is no shortage of reverential performances by happy Taylor fans. More intriguing are the many, many rewrites and answer songs. These are not attempts at Weird Al japery, these are deeply felt, sincere efforts to make Swift’s music even more resonant than it already is.

Most are based on the “teenage love triangle” of tunes on the album, cardigan, august, and betty, a mysterious triptych of angst, regret, and remembrance, which Ms. Swift is known for and excels at.

So here’s some of the more interesting videos I found. As usual, they come from people with thousands of subscribers and views to those who barely register double digits. But numbers belie talent; so many of these ladies could be the next Taylor Swift. All of their efforts are heartbreakingly wonderful.

Betty seemed to provoke the most response, with many gals leaping to provide Betty’s point of view:

And a ukulele version, but gender-swapped:

Speaking of gender-swapping, there’s a fair amount of reworking Swift’s songs to be explicitly LGBT-centric. Here’s betty, again, reworked to that effect:

And illicit affairs:

august from Jame’s POV:

This mashup combines the trilogy into one:

As does this:

This person seems to be rewriting the whole album!

cardigan

the 1

this is me trying:

Finally, here’s an amazingly deep analysis about the whole Betty/James relationship that is positively Sherlockian!

I’m On a Podcast!

me-raimi-spider-man

I was delighted to be a guest on Jason Klamm‘s fascinating podcast about the world of film extras, The Professional Blur. We talked about me sneaking onto the set of Airport 75, almost killing the president in a made-for-TV miniseries, and being cut out of the first Spider-Man movie by my good friend Sam Raimi (pictured). Among many other topics.

Listen to the episode here.