The Post-Charlottesville Reality

My photo of Richmond's Lee Monument (2007).
The Unite the Right movement came to Charlottesville with a mission. Ostensibly, its publicity stunt was to designed to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee on horseback from a public park. However, we can now see the planners' scheme was more ambitious – the movement's leadership wanted to unveil itself as a new player in today's roiling political milieu.

On the Friday night before the alt-right-designed assemblage of white supremacists and their ilk, torch bearing marchers served clear notice of where this new force is coming from in 2017: “Blood and soil,” they chanted, “BLOOD AND SOIL.”

Note: If those words have a scary ring to them, well, they were borrowed from the Nazis. The original Nazis.

In Charlottesville it was a coming out. Neo-Nazis openly strutted along side of flaggers and other staunch defenders of the Lost Cause. Rather than something to keep denying, to keep bothering to hide, apparently they now see their shared hatreds as the very thing to display. On the new amalgamated haters bandwagon that's emerged from the melee in Charlottesville, the Ku Klux Klan is merely one of several franchises.

Let's get real: The new normal in this country simply can't include the acceptance of white supremacists, or white nationalists, as legitimate players. They can't have a seat at the table of honest citizens who want peace, freedom and equal rights for all. Hey, if you're carrying a pole festooned with a Nazi or a Confederate flag you have excluded yourself from society's important discussions.  

Let's get local: I hope the city's leadership is now facing a post-Charlottesville reality. Any hate group's application for a permit to assemble a large group on public property must be treated differently now. This proposed event on Sept. 16, 2017, to be staged by the Virginia Flaggers, won't be the Easter Parade.

So let the amalgamated haters assemble and march up and down Jefferson Davis Highway. Let them convene a big-ass confab at the Richmond Raceway and chant “blood and soil.” Maybe mill around some with torches.

But drop a spoiling-for-a-fight mob onto the intersection of Monument and Allen Avenues ... have them wave flags that symbolize hate at all the lenses focused on them ... throw in lots of firearms ... don't forget the folks who'll show up to hurl insults at the flaggers and their cohorts ... what could go wrong?

Meanwhile, I hope Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Mayor Levar Stoney will soon announce that for public safety reasons no hate groups or bands of terrorists will be allowed to stage a rally anywhere in the Fan District (where I live).

Biograph Times: The First Year

Biograph Times
by F.T. Rea with notes by Rebus

Part One
The Intro 

Note from Rebus: “Have a good time,” was one of my first lines on a Biograph midnight show handbill. By the end of the initial year of operation that same advice had been established as the theater's slogan/motto and I had become the theater's official cartoon spokesdog. 

My name is Rebus. In the illustration above, that's me as I appeared as part of a Richmond Times-Dispatch OpEd piece published in January of 2015. If you're wondering what my name means, a rebus is a puzzle that uses graphic symbols for the sounds of syllables. For example, if the viewer sees a line drawing of a person's open eye. Then a plus sign. Then the letter “C” and another plus sign, followed by the letter “U.” Decoded, that rather simple rebus puzzle means, “I see you.” 

If I look vaguely familiar, but you can't place why, you may have seen me in my breakthrough appearances in comic strips in the Commonwealth Times’ special all-comics issues of Fan Free Funnies in 1973. Or maybe you saw me on any number of posters promoting rock ‘n‘ roll shows, or various other schemes. 

First at the Biograph, then afterward in countless projects, I’ve worked for the guy who wrote the stories that follow my comments here. F.T. Rea, who goes by Terry, likes to say he keeps me around because I’m a lucky charm. Well, I know Rea is a little superstitious, but I think it has more to do with real charm. Although his memory is getting more fuzzy every day, my boss is still smart enough to know that most folks have always liked me better than him. 

Naturally, I told him to put more funny stuff in these Biograph Times stories, but Rea rarely listens to me these days. Mistake. Now that he sees himself as more of a writer than a cartoonist, take it from me – he doesn’t spend all that much time at his old drawing table, anymore. Another mistake.


Biograph Times: The First Year

Thanks for the words, Rebus, wise and otherwise. Now on with the stories:


In the fall of 1971 the chance to become the Biograph Theatre's first manager was offered to me. That opportunity blossomed some five weeks before my 24th birthday. Of course, I accepted and soon the role fit like a glove. Promoting the Biograph and protecting it from whatever threats came along became an overshadowing mission for me in those salad days. For some people who dealt with my various inspirations and antics back then, well, that job was the horse I rode in on. 

Naturally, selected events, such as opening nights for important first-run movies and a few of the parties, stand out because of the colorful stories they spawned. Consequently, in some cases my memory of a particular occasion may lean more than it should on how I've told the story, or heard it told. C'est la vie.

More about those stories later, but when I pause to remember being in that building, I frequently recall being alone at my desk in the second floor office. Maybe reading about films, old and new, or writing a radio commercial. Alone at my drawing table, designing a program or handbill. For what it's worth I can still feel the mood of sitting in the dark auditorium in the after-hours, alone, feeling my youth passing.

About four months after being told I'd won the competition for the best job in the Fan District – over 100 people applied for the position – on February 12, 1972, Richmond's Biograph opened for business at 814 West Grace Street. Programming-wise, our plan – as shown by our bill of fare listed on Program No. 1 – borrowed entirely from a list of art house workhorses that had played well at the Biograph in Georgetown.

My bosses called our method of operation “repertory cinema.” Now the term seems to be interchangeable “revival cinema.” However, when I managed the Biograph, “repertory” was intended to mean a clever mix – a smorgasbord of good movies, old and new. As we weren't part of a theater chain, we had little clout with the distributors, so we were obliged to scramble to book whatever product we could to fill the screen.

My bosses and folks supposedly in the know in Richmond all seemed to be buying the wishful thought that the little bohemian commercial strip that surrounded the Biograph was about to become a second Georgetown. So on that first day of business, I had no sense of how different Richmond would prove to be from D.C., movie-market-wise.

Yes, dear reader, there was a lot to be learned. 


Note from Rebus: Since the mid-'60s Rea had felt drawn to the beer-fueled bohemian nightlife scene on West Grace Street. In 1971 a few old friends were already running businesses in that little commercial strip as the theater was being built. So Rea was delighted to be parachuting into the spotlight for Richmond's hippie nightlife scene.  

To be continued. 

What John Moeser said

In the last few years much has been said about what to do in/with Shockoe Bottom. But not much has changed. At least the ballpark idea seems to have dried up and blown away.

Anyway, I like what John Moeser has to say in his RT-D OpEd -- "The case for memorializing the entire Richmond slave district" -- about that important aspect of Richmond's landscape. 
With the soon-to-be completed $48 million redevelopment of Main Street Station into an events center, tourist welcome center, and retail marketplace, which in turn will be connected to a revamped farmer’s market, more pressure will mount to convert remaining property into office and residential development. Our foremost consideration, however, is the preservation of one of our nation’s central places associated with our own American holocaust, namely, the enslavement and slaughter of Native and African Americans...

Still, it seems to me a new farmers market could be situated almost anywhere withing a mile or so of its old location and it would work fine. So, as much as we can, why not free-up the landscape of what was the slave market area, to be devoted to a park (much like Moeser outlines in his piece) and a slavery museum?

At long last, I believe Richmond has an obligation to reveal the whole truth about its slave market days. Following more than a century of willful denial, this city should set about to atone for literally and figuratively covering up evidence of what went on in that neighborhood. So maybe the museum could include active archaeological digs, as well as indoor and other outdoor exhibits.

Moreover, I think that if it's done right the whole shebang would become a worldwide tourist attraction that would be a boon to Richmond's economy.
attraction that would be a boon to Richmond's economy.