I only spent about four hours with Dick Gregory, and it’s one of the few times in my life I was actually starstruck. The Great Dick Gregory. Pryor before Pryor. Presidential candidate in that wildest year, ’68. A conspiracy researcher who had co-written the book Code Name Zorro (re-titled Murder in Memphis) on the MLK assassination (no, James Earl Ray didn’t do it) and spoken often about the JFK assassination and other topics in hidden history. One of the world’s great comedians and raconteurs.
I’ve had this weird and lucky life where I’ve met (and worked with) a lot of my heroes and I’ve appreciated every moment of it. That said, however, Gregory was on another level. He broke the Tonight Show in 1962, when the host was Jack Paar. He wrote an autobiography and called it Nigger. In the preface to his book, he wrote, “Dear Momma – Wherever you are, if you ever hear the word ‘nigger’ again, remember they are advertising my book.”
The book is amazing, by the way. It’s filled with stories that are hilarious and harrowing, and he really makes you feel his desperation. There’s a scene in the book where he’s driving his girlfriend’s car, low on gas, and her mother’s in the car, and she wants a Scotch for the road, and the kids are hungry, and he only has five dollars to his name. So he’s mentally calculating every single purchase to try and get everything he needs to get through the night, when his car gets stuck in snow. There’s a bunch of white boys willing to help stuck cars for five dollars a pop, and he can’t afford that. So he tells his girlfriend that he’s going to get it out himself. He gets out, trying to push the car. But he has to cover what he’s doing, so he says “I regard this as a personal challenge. Man must triumph over Nature.”
She responds that it’s only some snow.
Yes, he says, “But this is white snow.”
Nobody laughs, and in the middle of his frozen desperation, trying hopelessly push his car out of the snow, he allows himself to be a little upset about that. That was a good line, he thinks.
For me, I will just say that’s a very relatable story. And that’s Dick Gregory.
I interviewed him in D.C. for a documentary we were working on. We were actually there to interview the spokeswoman of the Newseum, where they were having a Kennedy exhibit, my mentor John Judge, and the ARRB expert Doug Horne. We got on Gregory’s radar thanks to Richard Belzer, who put in a good word for us after we had a good experience interviewing him at Dick Russell’s house in L.A. After trading many calls trying to solidify the interview, I got a confirmation but he would be arriving late – around 9PM. I was waiting outside the hotel when his car arrived and walked up to say hello.
For the next hour and a half or so, I spoke with him while the crew set up in the hotel room. He didn’t trust us. We offered him water, he turned it down. We said, it’s bottled water. “And maybe it has LSD in it,” he said. “I don’t know you.” All he knew was Belzer said we were OK. I told him I was a John Judge guy, and Mae Brussell. He started quizzing me. He had this bag with him, carried by his driver, and he would pull out folders with different stories in it.
I started looking through it. Research. I had boxes at home that looked much the same. All kinds of stuff. Nazis in America, fluoride, chemtrails, political assassinations. We talked about the Reagan shooting and the weird connections with John Hinckley. He wanted to know, I think, that we weren’t fuckups.
In some ways it was déjà vu. When I first met John Judge, we had breakfast for about two hours while he blew my head off with the most dazzling information I’d ever heard. Gregory was like that – these little asides that would make me stop and say “what?”
At a certain point he said OK and sat down where we needed him to sit. “I’ll take that water now,” he said.
We shot a couple of hours with Greg. At first, I started with some formal questions, but pretty soon it became a pretty loose conversation. He knew so much about so many different things that it was fun trying to keep up. I had a yellow notebook with me that I filled up with little notes about what he was saying.
We finally wrapped up the shoot (to the relief of our understandably grouchy camera and sound crew, because they had been going since the early morning) and I thanked him. His driver got his stuff and they started out, but then he waved for me to follow him into the hallway. “Hey,” he said. “How come you know fuckin’ everything?”
“Uh, well there’s John, and I read…”
“No. When’s your birthday?”
I told him. He asked for a couple more bits of information.
“Mmm-hmm,” he said. “Astrology is bullshit. When you meet the richest people in the world, you learn that they use numerology.”
He paused and said “You got more than you just like to read.”
“Thank you,” I said, because what else was I going to say?
An amazing experience, and he gave us great stuff for the film.
Since most of the obituaries are liable to focus on Gregory’s comedy, I thought it might be a good idea to put in a few quotes from his book Dick Gregory’s Political Primer. The man could write.
Regarding the 1916 American election and the Socialist party:
“To avoid the clear and present danger of all-out war, the Socialists offered a mind-expanding vision of peace, totally the opposite of the muscle-flexing proposals of the Democrats and Republicans. They called for checks on the power of the President to involve the nation in war, a halt to military build-ups, and a world congress to rationally arbitrate disputes among the belligerents.” (116)
On the buying of elections:
“Of course, if a kid is born with enough money, he can let his dreams run wild…Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York is a good example. He reported that he spent $5.2 million in 1966 to get reelected to a $50,000-a-year job…With that kind of money, I could run for God – and win!” (149-150)
On Spiro Agnew:
“I tried to convince Lyndon Johnson that if he was really smart, he would have picked me as his Vice Presidential running mate in 1964. That way, he would never have to worry about someone being crazy enough to assassinate him. It begins to look like President Nixon adopted my idea.” (203)
“Cats, on the other hand, do not seem to be a political asset in this country, though they are the favorite pets of kings and queens. And it is understandable, since cats do not evoke the same sentiment in the minds of the American public that dogs do. Dogs are loyal, obedient, and faithful. They are much like Boy Scouts in that respect. But although a person may be ‘playful as a kitten,’ anyone being particularly vicious or slanderous is ‘catty,’ and many a politician has been described as ‘ornery as a polecat.’” (226)
“Government research on food is usually handled by the breakfast-food industry, so you can readily see how ‘objective’ such research findings would be. The breakfast-food industry has been deceiving the American public for years concerning the nutritional value of their products…If Wheaties was really the “Breakfast of champions,” the American government would have fed some Wheaties to the South Vietnamese army and sent them back into Laos!” (264)
Rest in peace, Mr. Gregory.
This short essay first appeared in my book Dissenting Views, published in 2009. Reprinted here due to current events...
The Klu Klux Klan (from the Greek “kuklos” meaning circle) was founded by six Confederate officers in the aftermath of the Civil War. If you have ever seen old photographs of the Klan, they are frequently arranged in a circle facing each other – hence the name.
The very first Imperial Grand Wizard, bestowed in 1866, was a high-level Freemason by the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Another Freemason, Albert Pike, was named the Chief Justice of the KKK. Pike wrote the book Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, a virtual Bible of the Freemasonic movement.
When I was in Memphis the weekend of April 5th for the 45th anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, the keynote speaker for the Coalition on Political Assassinations was Judge Joe Brown. During Judge Brown’s talk, he noted that there had been a great controversy in Memphis surrounding Nathan Bedford Forrest. In addition to being the person Forrest Gump was named after, Nathan Bedford Forrest was a slaveowner as well as being the champion of the KKK. Indeed, the hotel we were staying in was just a few blocks away from the slave auction, which at one time was the largest in the United States.
There is a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in a public park in Memphis. I took some video of it during my tour of the city. He is in a heroic pose gazing at his enemies in the distance. I am of both Hispanic and Jewish descent, so one imagines that I would be among those enemies.
There is a statue of Albert Pike in the United States, too. It’s across from the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. He is the only Confederate soldier to have his own statue in our nation’s capitol. What an honor.
There is a great deal of controversy about Albert Pike’s identification with the Klan, because the first extant source that we still have dates back to 1905, 14 years after his death. There are a great many sources that identify him as such, however, and there is no dispute that Forrest was both the highest Klansman in the land and a high-level Freemason. In any case, there was no particular contradiction between the two.
Scottish Rite Freemasonry, incidentally, posits a religious doctrine reminiscent of the Egyptian cult around Horus and Set. Horus, the god of the sun, would rule the day, while Set would rule the nighttime. Similarly, Morals and Dogma preaches the worship of Lucifer (identified as the “light-bearer” or the “morning star” in the Bible) like so: “Thus, the doctrine of Satanism is a heresy; and the true and pure philosophical religion is the belief in Lucifer, the equal of Adonay; but Lucifer, God of Light and God of Good,is struggling for humanity against Adonay, the God of Darkness and Evil.''
By “Adonay” Pike means what most people take to be God – i.e., Yahweh or El. You may recall that in the story of the snake in the Garden of Eden, the snake tempts Eve with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That is to say, Lucifer is the god of Education, if you see what I mean. Whereas God, as depicted in the Bible, is a maniacal egotist who identifies himself as “Jealous” when speaking to Job and casually sends she-bears to kill those whom He doesn’t like.
Why in the hell are there statues in the United States of two Confederate “heroes” whose primary contributions to humanity are the destruction and enslavement of fellow human beings? How can we be serious about improving race relations while continuing to honor the psychopaths who took part in the slave trade? Is there a statue of Curtis LeMay or Robert MacNamara in Tokyo? How’s that shrine to Henry Kissinger coming along in Chile?
Honoring these men is insane. Those statues should come down.
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