Saturday, July 15, 2006


The Handbill War: As the Biograph Theatre's manager, when I was busted in 1982 for posting a handbill that promoted a midnight show, it was a bust I deliberately provoked. I wanted to beat The City of Richmond in court. For an amusing account of an incident in that trial, which I won, click here.
By keeping ordinary things like handbills, cohabitation, gambling, and other "victimless" crimes illegal, it means just about anybody can be harassed by the long arm of the law. But it's the ones with the unfashionable attitudes that feel the boot first.
This pen and ink cartoon of mine above was created in 1983 and first published as a handbill posted on utility poles in the commercial sections of the Fan District. Later it ran in SLANT in 1986. The 'toon was part of a five-year campaign, led by yours truly, to fight off the city's anti-handbill laws. Laws that politicians and yard sale promoters routinely ignored, but bands and clubs were getting busted.

For a while the cops left hand-billers alone. Then the busts resumed in late-1984. In 1985, SLANT's first cause was to once again frame the battle with The City in a freedom-of-speech context, while insisting the pop scene depended on flyers being posted in such a way, on the people’s utility poles, to exist.

In 1986 an ad hoc group of Fan District artists and musicians formed to pepper The City with a propaganda campaign. In 1987 the local statutes governing handbill-posting in the public way were changed. Essentially, we won. Freedom of speech prevailed.

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