In which we learn that an NBA Championship is a terrible thing to waste.
In which we learn that an NBA Championship is a terrible thing to waste.
Hey there Ass Kicker!
Did you know that we do live tours? That’s right! We can do PRIVATE TOURS too for small or large groups alike! Just email us at oregonhistorican[at]gmail[dot]com.
We have recently teamed up with PDX Pipeline and have TWO tours coming up on 12/7 and 12/14!
Or join us on The Naughtiest Tour of the Christmas Season! 12/25/2013 – Seedy, Seamy, Sinful Portland! The ONLY Walking Tour Guaranteed to make Baby Jesus Cry…
We have been doing a tour that is hosted by our friends at Know Your City called “Seedy, Seemy, Sinful Portland.” I like to call it “All of Portland’s Naughty Bits!,” and I think you get the idea.
Shanghaing, card rooms and other gambling, whores that have been dead for over a hundred years and strip clubs!! It’s a walking tour, and we are going to have a shit-ton of fun, and most likely be able to pick up an adult beverage on the way, or at least at the end of the tour! I hope you will consider joining me on this tour! (NOTE: If you came on our Double Decker Portland Bar and Brothel Tour, some of the information will be a review.)
But Wait! There’s even more tour videos!!
We do Bus Tours too! This is a video from a tour we did in January, and we called it the Historic Treasure & Loot Tour, and of course we spoke all about Golden Beavers. We handed out REAL LIVE Portland Treasure Maps, and had a Drunken Scavenger Hunt! Oh – and Fan Tan too! Double Decker PDX, Double Mountain Brewery and Eastside Distilling were all co-sponsors – and how happy we are to have those fine folks on our team!!! If you missed it – you can check out the video right here!
This review was written by our Embedded (and imbibed) Guest Correspondent, Joe Streckert.
Portland’s always been a city that’s loved bars. It stands to reason- this was a place initially filled with lumberjacks, sailors, and various working men with exciting mustaches. Booze was in demand, and if you wanted to get rich in Portland opening a saloon was a good way to do that. William Ladd, an early mayor, owned a saloon. James Lappeus, Portland’s first chief of police, owned a saloon. It was essentially a no-fail business strategy, and on the night of November 24th Kick-Ass Oregon History’s resident historian Doug Kenck-Crispin took me and a busload of other drunken nerds on a tour of Portland’s old-timey bars. Some were still around and some were gone, but the tour made one thing abundantly clear: Portland’s always been a town where you can get utterly plastered.
Our ride for the evening was the Cascadia Cruiser, an old bus with a paint job that would have made Ken Kesey smile in recognition. The interior was filled with lasers, sparkly lights, and plenty of beer from Laurelwood Brewing. The lasers and beer made it probably the trippiest, booziest history classroom ever.
Our first stop was not at any bar or tavern that still existed, but at an innocuous downtown street corner that housed a bustling saloon prior to Prohibition, Kunkle & Hoch. According to Kenck-Crispin, Portland got around 25% of its revenue from alcohol-related licenses prior to booze being banned. The end of (legal) alcohol in America meant that city, states and even the federal government had to look for new sources of revenue (like, you know, income taxes) if they wanted to stay afloat. It also meant that landmarks and local would get wiped off the face of the Earth. Places that had once been hives of activity were left deserted, and today nothing of the old saloons remain.
Speaking of which, no tour of Portland’s Old Timey Bars would be complete without a stop at Erickson’s, which used to be the largest bar in the entire town. The palatial saloon was run by August Erickson, a Scandinavian immigrant who presided over an empire of food, drink, and spectacle. The gigantic establishment (said to have a bar that measured well over 600 feet) featured huge lunches, plenty of beer, and more than a few working girls.
All that’s left today is a brick wall with the tomb like inscription “ERICKSON SALOON 1895” emblazoned upon it. The bustling space is empty now, and it’s very much what Kenck-Crispin calls a “ghost bar.” You can see what the location held, but only a shell is left.
The first real stop of the tour was Eastside Distilling, whose Burnside Bourbon features probably the most history-tacular of all facial hair. Ambrose Burnside’s sideburns were so adventurous and robust that people actually stopped calling them “mutton chops” and started calling them “sideburns.” Yes, the man whose name adorns Portland’s North/South divide changed the English language with his facial hair. He also has a pretty damn good bourbon named after him. Not a bad legacy, all things considered.
From Eastside we wound up at the Slammer, a bar in Southeast that’s apparently seen more than its share of booze-inspired altercations. For my own part, I mostly noticed that it had four player Pac-Man. You know. The kind where you can eat other Pac-Men. That one. You should try it if you haven’t already. That’s not historical, but whatever. I Pac-ed people while drinking. Fun!
The next stop was somewhat surprising. When I think of old things in Portland, I generally imagine places in Old Town and Downtown, but the Cascadia Cruiser stayed on the East Side and would its way up to North Portland to the Alibi, Portland’s own classic Tiki bar. The venue is well known for black lights, fake thatch, hula girls, and other bits of kitschy flair, all of which was preserved when the bar changed ownership decades ago. The original owners were happy to sell the place off but, as part of the deal, demanded that the new management keep the Island décor.
Kenck-Crispin handed out coupons from the 1960s, advertising steaks at the Alibi for less than two dollars. The coupons didn’t have an expiration date, and he dared the tour goers to attempt to redeem them. A few tried to. They were unsuccessful, but mostly because the Alibi doesn’t serve steaks anymore.
(Personal and unimportant side note: I used to live in North Portland, and have spent a good deal of time and dollars at the Alibi. They have karaoke seven nights a week, and if you go there on a Tuesday or something you and your friends can probably get a whole lot of chances to belt out Cheap Trick while drinking very strong Mai Tais. It’s great. Just don’t tell anyone about it.)
I don’t remember much of the end of the tour, as I probably had way too much of Laurelwood and East Side Distilling’s malty and boozy products. There were lasers. We were still on the Cascadian Cruiser. I think I tweeted at Kenck-Crispin about various heavy metal bands. The long and the short of it, though, is that we ended up at Mary’s Club, the oldest strip joint in Stumptown. We disembarked. I was kind of blitzed and decided not to take part in the gyrating naked women. I shook Doug’s hand and headed out. Based on everything that I learned that evening, I knew I was by no means the first Portlander to stumble home drunk and (if history is any indicator) not the last.
Dave and Heather enjoy some fruity fuckin’ drinks at the Alibi!
So I received an email today asking “Is there a DB Cooper party this year 2013???” from Ass Kicker William, and my quick response is “Oh Hells Yes!”
First things first – get the Straight Shit on the only unsolved skyjacking in US aviation history at “DB Cooper 101″ on Tuesday, November 19th at 7:30pm at The Jack London Bar (inside the Rialto Poolroom). The Resident Historian will give you the who, what, where, when and how (maybe not the why…), and discuss some of the leading suspects in the case. In addition, we will watch a little film about 727s and some of the strange things they did over “Indochina” in the late 1960s, and maybe some other, as yet to be unnamed, film too! It will be a night for those who ask “Who is this DB Cooper guy?” to the self styled Cooper Sleuth, who knows most of the details by now (This is a pretty complicated case, Maude. You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you’s.). AND we will have a Trivia Contest, with the winner receiving TWO tickets to the Washington State History Museum, which includes admission to their amazing COOPER exhibit! Hmmm… let’s see… “What drink special will the JLB run that night…???” So come on down and join us – you won’t want to miss this one!
Then, right after Thanksgiving, we head up to Tacoma to the annual DB Cooper Symposium, which will be held at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma! The WSHM has details of the events right here, but I can break it down for you… On Friday, November 29th at 2:30pm Geoffrey Gray, author of Skyjack: The Hunt for DB Cooper will be signing books, and then talking about his research and conclusions. Afterward, we are heading to The Swiss Pub and Restaurant to shoot the shit about Cooper-y stuff.
Then on Saturday, November 30th, the actual DB Cooper Symposium starts, at the Museum, at 9am. The Resident Historian will be the Master of Ceremonies, and in addition to Geoffrey Gray, presentations will be offered on the history of the skyjacking and airline image evolution by Cooper exhibit co-curators Gwen Whiting and Fred Poyner IV, along with other Cooper folks. AND there will be a large break in the middle of the day so you will also get the chance to tour this astounding exhibit, which is the subject of our latest podcast. THIS will be the DB Cooper event of the year, and you will not want to miss it!
Then we will caravan off to Ariel, Washington for the annual Cooper Days Party. This is a really fun tradition (you can read about last year’s party here), and you will certainly want to join us for shitty beers in the cold-ass parking lot and partying like you were a fugitive from justice who just heisted 200,000 Gs.
PRINT up the comic panel.DRAW the rest of the story – What REALLY Happened on Flight 305???SCAN or TAKE A PHOTO of your finished comic.EMAIL it to email@example.comDo all this by NOVEMBER 24th, 2013.
If you don’t get some DB Cooper in ya these next three weeks, you just aren’t trying!
We want to be sure to thank our sponsor, Forge Graphic Works for assisting with our DB Cooper events!
In which Resident Historian Doug Kenck-Crispin gets a guided tour of the Washington State History Museum’s new Cooper exhibit.
All of our DB Cooper events for 2013 can be found here.
And in 2012, we reviewed the latest news on our Annual DB Cooper podcast.
A written review of the exhibit can be found here. Complete with Melissa The Intern jumping from the aft stair!
Here is the clip-on tie display discussed in the episode.
Stewart Holbrook is the Pacific Northwest historian that I hate to love. But I can’t hold it inside anymore- I really, really love him. And it’s much more that just just a simple mancrush. I was exposed to a side of his character this weekend that firmly moved our secreted affair into just straight up, unconditional love.
[If you are unclear who Stewart Holbrook is, or maybe need a little refresher, the Oregon Experience program "Portland Noir" does a great job introducing Mr. Holbrook at the 26:53 mark.]
Now Holbrook was an accomplished historian – he wrote piles of popular historical books that were incredibly well received in his era. He worked nationally, but was more or less based out of Portland, Oregon, and his books on our region’s history and culture are engaging and well respected contributions to our canon. He was a contributor to The Oregonian, in addition to other periodicals. Furthermore, in his stories of Portland’s Old Town – famous whores, Erickson’s Saloon and recounting the tales of Shanghai days (editorial note: in which never once did he pen the term “tunnel…”), we find a deep connection with Holbrook. These are the stories we really love to read at Kick Ass Oregon History, for this is one of the aspects of Oregon History that we truly are immersed in – “Portland’s Naughty Bits” as The Resident Historian is want to say. So you see intellectually, we are connected too, but there is a stylistic slant that we appreciate as well. Professing his works as ”lowbrow or non-stuffed shirt history,” there is a rustic, unassuming, one might say “accessible” character in Holbrook’s history that we definitely respect at KAORHST.
But he was also… I don’t know how to say it… not a bad historian – but he could have been a better historian. Maybe lazy is the word I am looking for? There are a few specific tales we have found in his record that are just straight up, not true. I’m not saying he made shit up – not at all. But if you’re hanging at Erickson’s Saloon, and you’re buying Spider Johnson drinks and he’s telling you that Bunco Kelly found 24 dead dudes in the basement of the Snug Harbor Saloon and sold them all to the Captain of The Flying Prince, it is your job as a historian to look into the matter and not just print it. But Holbrook didn’t do that – he just ran with this crazy story. And yes, he may have dropped a cursory “I’m not too sure on this…” but he also said the story was all over the news wires – and it’s just wasn’t. If you say “shit was on the wires,” you should really check to see if the shit was on the wires. And now, due to Holbrook’s laziness 80 years ago, this tale has been deeply thrust into Oregon’s heritage, and is now being propagated as “History.”
To sum it up: I have issues with Holbrook’s “History.” I am critical.
But this weekend, I saw a different side of Holbrook’s character. And it has made me step away from my seemily harsh judgement of him. I am fully enamored once again. That butterfly feeling in your stomach when you meet someone cute? It’s all smiles und sunshine, Baby! You see, while Holbrook was churning out these wonderful books and articles, writing anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 words a fucking day, he also found time to create some fantastic paintings, that were very well received, under the pseudonym “Mr. Otis.”
Holbrook supposedly never admitted publicly that he was Mr. Otis, but served as a sort of a spokesman for the recluse painter. One writer his called his style “a bizarre blending of Grandma Moses and Salvador Dali.” The paintings were shown fairly widely in such far off places as New York and New England. Locally, Mr. Otis had showings at Erickson’s Saloon and the Portland Library – but the Portland Art Museum refused to exhibit his work. But that didn’t stop his odd project from gaining recognition – Macmillian published a survey of his works in 1958, with a lengthy introduction by Holbrook (as in NOT by Mr. Otis).
The Portland Museum of Modern Art, located inside Mississippi Records at 5202 N. Albina avenue, has a wonderful temporary collection of works from Mr. Otis. The curator of this gem of a museum, Libby Werbel, has put together an exhibit of original selections on loan from the University of Washington special collections, and the collection of Brian and Gwyneth Booth. The gallery is an intimate, well lit space to enjoy these rarely seen works. In fact, Werbel thinks this is the largest showing of Mr. Otis’s work in the Portland area since his 1964 death. As much of the collection is kept in storage in the archive (and not open to public view) of the University of Washington, this is a very rare opportunity to see these pieces; an opportunity not to be missed!
Now, The Resident Historian is a Public Historian, NOT an Art Historian. Nor am I an art critic. So safe to say, there will not be much interpretation of the art pieces to be found in this missive. None the less, I enjoyed Holbrook’s playful use of color, and his folksy themes. There was much humor to be found in his work, and it seemed obvious that this whole project was very tongue in cheek. As a Pacific Northwest Historian, I very much enjoyed those themes that Holbrook placed into his paintings, such as can be found in The Logger Well- Content and The new Rigging Crew at Dosewallips, Washington. And for us history geeks, of course Holbrook’s, er, uhhh, Mr. Otis’s work has historical figures well represented, like Jesse James was Always Kind to His Horse and James G. Blaine makes several appearances in the gallery.
I was lucky enough to have Werbel take me around the exhibit and discuss some of her favorite pieces, and others that were indicative of Mr. Otis’s style, a school which he named the the Primitive-Moderne. OPB wrote a little on the show, but Werbel noted that The Oregonian hasn’t said much at all. Which is kind of a shame – considering that Holbrook was a frequent contributor to that rag for something like 35 years. This showing is significant for readers of one of the most influential Pacific Northwest historians in the last 80 years, and it should be visited by anyone who has ever enjoyed a Stewart Holbrook yarn.
Soooo…. to sum it up – It’s Free (although I HIGHLY encourage you to make a donation to the museum while there – Werbel is doing a Kick Ass job with that space!). You’re likely to not see an exhibit like this come around to P-Town again for decades. You have until November 24th, 2013. Be sure to check out the Mr. Otis showing!
Sources and Resources:
University of Washington’s Guide to the Stewart H. Holbrook Mr. Otis Paintings Collection, 1947-1962
Holbrook, Booth (Ed.), Wildmen, Wobblies & Whistle Punks, (OSU Press, Corvallis, 19992).
“Who is Mr. Otis” brochure from Portland Museum of Modern Art.
October 21st, 2013 saw the broadcast of “Portland Noir,” Oregon Experience‘s latest episode on OPB (click the video above to see the entire show). The Resident Historian was invited to participate in the program – a huge honor indeed, and an enjoyable process to boot! Part of why it was so enjoyable was how different of an experience it was than what we are typically used to when it comes to “making the history.”
Kami, the producer of the program, had come on my Seedy, Seamy, Sinful Portland walking tour. She was the one furiously scribbling notes as we walked along a drippy Old Town Spring day – stepping over junkies sprawled across thresholds as we talked of crimps, Really Long Bars, and gambling at The Lotus Cardroom. In addition, Kami had listened to our Shanghaied in Portland! podcasts, and was indeed well versed in the information we presented. In May, she contacted me and said the she would like to film me in the OPB studio, answering some questions about all the naughty shit in Portland’s past (my words – not Kami’s), as well as filming a “mock tour” of the relevant parts of the Seedy Tour that concerned Shanghaiing, Erickson’s Saloon, Whores and the like. Sounded like a good time to me, and right up our alley to boot!
The studio portion of the production was just kind of weird for me. Beyond cable access and live TV News studios, I had never been on a real soundstage before, so it was just a brand new experience. It felt awkward and, well, staged. But there was a GREAT silhouette backdrop of the Portland marquee from the Schnitz, and the feel of the set seemed to be in line with the theme of the show. Kami had sent me two pages of an outline of what she would like me to be prepared to chat about. For example:
“SAILORS – who were they, what were their lives like, what was it like for them at port? What were crimps? What is blood money? Briefly – how did the system work? Who were some of the most notorious Crimps? What rights did the sailor have?” That sort of thing.
I sat there for an hour, talking about the topics featured in the program, but as regular attendees of our events, and listeners to our podcasts know… I tend to swear. A lot. Especially when I get excited about a topic, as I am want to do with Seedy shit in Old Town. I pity the poor OPB editor who had to wade through my testimony of Olden Days, looking for segments absent a “fuck” or a “goddammit.” I owe you a beer, dude.
The filmed “tour” was a ton of fun! I sent out an invite to about 30 or so regular Ass Kickers from our events and such, asking them if they would like to come on a free tour, subjected, of course, to the expected “walk this way now, please” and “can we do that one more time?” It was a lovely May afternoon, and I was quite pleased that even with the expected demands of the film crew, I could still conduct a Seedy Tour that still gave a pretty true facsimile of the original, unchoreographed tour. It was a challenge, but I think it was a good example of a “not-staged tour.”
Fast forward about 4 months. The program reaped a good amount of press before it was screened. Allison Hallett of the Portland Mercury wrote about the October 11th premiere screening at The Mission Theater. And before the OPB Television premiere, Kristi Turnquist of The Big O listed “Portland Noir” as one of the TV Picks of the Week.And rightfully so! Kami and the rest of the OPB team made a fun documentary that really presents the the theme of the program quite well!
The screening at The Mission was a fucking blast! We saved about three rows in the balcony for Ass Kickers to be seated in, and even more were spread throughout the theater. We had a decidedly naughty time – and I am SO appreciative to everyone who came out for the screening! The Mission was packed, so packed in fact that they had to close the doors and turn folks away. From a personal stand point, it was REALLY weird to see 20 foot high DougZilla pontificating about Bunco Kelly and Stuart Holbrook and Loggers Who Had Just Become Sailors. It was frankly uncomfortable. I honestly had NO idea what the final production was going to look like, nor any sense of what words that I spoke had be chosen for the final episode. As a total Event Control Freak, it was beyond nerve wracking to be sitting in that little theater chair as the program played out before me.
In Hallett’s post, she described the OPB production as more “buttoned up” than our usual KAORHST productions. This is absolutely true. Which brings us back to the whole “Public Historian” thing. At Kick Ass Oregon History, Andy and I absolutely view ourselves as “Guerrilla Historians.” We want to bring The Public good, real history – The Straight Shit – without all the trappings normally associated with “Academic History.” We don”t need the academy, the hallowed halls, the stuffy, staid talking head presentations in the lobby of some museum. We feel those associations are not necessary to enjoy these stories of our State. We also don’t need permission. And besides the rigid creed of the historian to be accurate when presenting the past, we don’t really follow rules very well. We want our history to be a bit like an Old Town drug deal; a sense of urgency and contraband. Something in demand. We want to spay paint a building wall with “Some History Happened Here!!!” with a QR code interpreting said event. We want to tell historical tales to bars filled with drunken enthusiasts of an engaging, but true story. I don’t mean to sound like a goddamned hippie here, but we want to bring History For The People, maaaannnn…
So how does this foray into “buttoned up” history mesh with our current mode of “making the history?” To be perfectly honest, I was a little frightened of how my Television Historian Persona would compare with my KAORHST Resident Historian-ness. But I have to say, I think the blending of those two personas worked well. If you had never heard of KAORHST and watched “Portland Noir,” you would have no idea of the true ribaldness that could be. But I think Ass Kickers watching the program will still be able to see the Resident Historian under all those “buttoned up” trappings (I even chose a tie for the studio setting I did NOT buy at Ross or Goodwill!).
It was a HUGE milestone for Kick Ass Oregon History to be invited to participate in an Oregon Experience program. While it is not an entirely exclusive club, nonetheless, to be interviewed an “an expert” by OPB was a great honor, and I again want to thank Kami and everyone at OPB. While many great Oregon historians have been featured in the series, many other worthy historians have not. Being seated for the program denotes a certain level of seriousness, commitment and devotion to the craft of presenting Oregon History. Much like writing a book… Hmmmm….
In which we learn the story of an Oregon forest, burned down before it could be cut down. (But that’ll happen, too.)
“Tillamook Burn Haiku” by William Reagan.
Here is a picture of a steam donkey from the Tillamook Forest Center.
One year ago to the day, I made a call out to everyone interested in The Shanghai Tunnels. The call to action was simple – please send me any information you have have, as tenuous as it may be, that might substantiate this theory that dudes were drug through subterranean tunnels to waiting ships on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.
And the silence was deafening…
Not one first hand account was submitted to me. Not one passing reference in a dusty, tattered newspaper. Not one “iffy at best” blog post. Not one goddamn shred of anything – evidence or gossip – that might help to substantiate this Tunnel Business. And you know why I didn’t receive anything?
Because it’s all BULLSHIT…
Maybe you’re not yet hip to The Straight Shit that we brought you a year ago [You can find our two podcasts about this Shanghai Tunnel Bullshittening here and here.]. We are not arguing that shanghaiing didn’t occur. It most certainly did. What we are arguing is this assertion that it occurred in a network of tunnels, that were dug under our fair city, and that that were used to drag drugged up loggers and canners and hobos to awaiting ships on the river.
“Eventually what developed was a deliberate network used primarily for shanghaiing.”
There are a few folks in our fine town that have made a SHIT TON of money perpetuating this myth. That pay Old Town Pizza for the opportunity to take tourists down into their dusty basement to stand around as they spin these yarns. And, don’t get me wrong – it is a Kick Ass Fable! And some of these tour guides claim that they have documentation that supports their outlandish assertions. They claim that they are holding these documents until the release of some book or something (one has been claiming “a forthcoming book” for literally decades). Well, we call bullshit on all of that! Let’s see it now – because nothing, nothing I have run across in my exhaustive research on the topic substantiates one tiny piece of these crazy claims. As I stated on the podcast…
I hope I’m wrong. I really do. As long time listeners to this broadcast will tell you, there is nothing I love more than a home-grown Oregon Kick Ass Tale. And it just doesn’t get much more Kick Ass than drugging some poor bastard logger, keeping him in a cage for a few nights, and dragging him through some subterranean tunnel to a sailing vessel gently bobbing on the shit filled Willamette, ready to take this poor, barefoot and bearded soul to China, Australia, or France. It is a fucking awesome story, and it has evolved over the decades into a truly identifiable yarn in Portland’s heritage. But what I really yearn for with Kick Ass Oregon History is TRUE tales, and I just can’t find much documentation on this legend that we are now encumbered with.
I do look forward to someone proving me wrong, and if they do, I will fully recant this trepidation I have with embracing this fantasyful romance. When presented with convincing documentation of something akin to a planned, designed and engineered system of tunnels created for the purpose of ferrying unconscious folks to ships, I will cheerfully craft a Special Edition Kick Ass Oregon History podcast, and let everyone know how these myths are substantiated, and then why they should now be considered a part of the historical record. Hell, I’ll even blog about less-than-convincing documentation that we invite you to pass along. If there is any validity to these tales, any at all, let’s take them out of the shrouded darkness, in the basements and the shadows, and bring them to the light of day – for everyone to enjoy. In a podcast, baby! But unfortunately, and quite sincerely do I say it, unfortunately, until that point, I think we have to lump the Shanghai Tunnels into the same category of “history” as Bigfoots and UFO Oregon Coast monoliths and other oddities of unsubstantiated Oregon History…
I’ve shown you mine. Now it’s your turn to show me yours…
Daughter of Resident Historian with her ghost finder thingy, at the epicenter of The Bullshittening (The Basement of Old Town Pizza. Please note the cans of tomato sauce in the background). She really, really enjoyed the Shanghai Tunnel Tour. Too bad it was all bullshit…