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The Society Page

Jonestown Remembered

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In 2005 I was emailed a submission for the Herald reminding all us of us what a tragedy (or rather, act of evil) the 1978 Jonestown Massacre was. It made an impression, bringing back memories of the Seventies, a decade someone once summed up as the Hangover from the Sixties' Party. Though “Drink the Kool Aid” was routinely used in popular lexicon (even though the cult followers really drank poison-laced Flavor Aid), the actual massacre wasn't. Odd, really, as it was the largest single loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001.

The author of the submission was Tom Kinsolving, son of Lester Kinsolving, the journalist who warned the Bay Area about Jim Jones, the diabolical cult leader of the Peoples Temple, until it was too late.

Shortly after the email Tom, his sister Kathleen, and I think their father (I could be wrong) flew out from back east to attend Berkeley Rep's production of a play about Jonestown. I didn't attend the play, but I went with them to a Q and A event made up of journalists who covered the Peoples Temple in the Seventies. After the panel answered a few questions, implying the local press tried doggedly to expose Jones, Tom politely called out from the audience that their answers weren't true, and backed his assertions with old newspaper clippings, telling them that they “blew it.”  The journalists onstage were left speechless. One even hung his head in apparent shame.

Below is a very interesting article Tom and his sister Kathleen wrote about what really happened, and how the powers-that-be let it happen for their own benefit. It should put to rest any of the “Jim Jones was a nice man until he went crazy near the end” nonsense, or the usual Your Hit Parade-type countdown of trite conspiracy theories.

Madman in Our Midst: Jim Jones and the California Cover-up

By Kathleen and Tom Kinsolving

Jim Jones sermon clips

Audio from the Peoples Temple

Jim Jones' vulgar rantings

Recording of Jim Jones' last words

Most recordings just cover the last five minutes or so of his farewell. This one is longer.

KQED report 2 days after the massacre

Willie Brown summed up the Peoples Temple as another organization that could “deliver bodies” – an interesting way to put it. Yes, Jones  had a knack for getting people to show up at the rallies of politicians who supported him. Also interviewed is Al Mills, a Peoples Temple defector whom host Belva Davis mentions was under police protection at the time. In 1980, he and his wife Jeannie, along with their 16-year-old daughter Daphene, were murdered in their Berkeley home. Police originally suspected assassins from the Peoples Temple. In 2005 they arrested Al and Jeannie's son Edward Mills, who was 17 years old and in the house the night of the murders. The charges were dropped and the case remains unsolved.

Tapes and transcripts from the Jonestown Institute

I originally included the Jonestown Institute link as it seemed very informative. Then I read Tom Kinsolving blast it on his Jonestown Apologists Alert Blogspot.

Stanley Nelson, who survived the Jonestown Massacre (and whom Kinsolving considers a Jonestown apologist) made this movie...

Lester and Tom Kinsolving confronted Mr. Nelson at a screening of his movie...

HE'S ABLE – Peoples Temple Choir

It would be nice to think - when we see what happened to the unfortunate souls who bought Jim Jones' Social Justice Snake Oil - that something like this could never happen again. But if Jones was alive today can you imagine how many Occupy protesters would join the Peoples Temple?###

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I originally didn't want to include the Jonestown story in The Society Page, as it was obviously a lot more serious than the usual features in this column, but I did. And as I type this, on December 14, 2012, I'm listening to radio reports of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. When I heard the president giving a speech about a shooting earlier today, I thought it was for the massacre that occurred a few days before at a shopping mall in Oregon. But yet another shooting had happened. Like the British officer says at the end of The Bridge on the River Kwai: “Madness!”


This issue's “Forgotten But A Goodie”:

Michael Stipe (of R.E.M.) and Natalie Merchant (of 10,000 Maniacs) singing this 1993 duet called Photograph:


John Giaccone, my fellow emigrant from Long Island who now lives in Seattle, apparently has a new band called Signal Flags. Here is their album...


You've probably heard that 80 year old Newsweek magazine (the perennial second banana to Time magazine) is ending its print edition and going online only. You may not have heard that 27 year old Spin magazine (the perennial second banana to Rolling Stone magazine) is going online only as well.

My memories of Spin:

Taking out a classified ad for my 'zine in 1990 and getting about 5 responses (including one from a teenager named Casey Ward of Defiance, Ohio, who wrote that Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”) and me were his favorite cartoonists. Yes, I know what you're thinking now - “Calvin and who?”

Visiting the Spin magazine office in New York - later in 1990 - and meeting the funny, flirtatious classified ad manager who took my ad over the phone. I forgot her name, but I was flattered that my PR photograph was hanging on her bulletin board. Yes, a PR photograph for a cartoonist – I'm wearing a black leather jacket for it, too. Hee Hee. I figured if I hyped something enough it would be successful. If only I had heard Milton Friedman debunk that theory by citing the Edsel I would have just joined the post office. I remember seeing Bob Guccione, Jr walking around the office and the classified ad manager telling me that he was mad at her because she wouldn't get him coffee, or something like that. I called the Spin office a year later and was told the classified ad manager had moved to Lake Tahoe here in California and gone into catering. Good for her. She must have known the Internet was coming. (Ms. Uri Geller.)

I just re-read the above two memories and realized Spin magazine did a lot to falsely inflate my ego. Thanks, Spin! It's been all downhill from there.

Oh wait, I remember a third one: Reading an article in 1989 or 1990 about the controversial scientist Peter Duesberg at UC Berkeley, who claimed that HIV was a harmless passenger virus and that AIDS was a syndrome of self-inflicted diseases caused by drug use. Ten years later I interviewed Duesberg for the Herald and since then that article has been reproduced numerous times over the Internet.

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The Fifth Anniversary issue (from 1990) of Spin magazine, available on eBay for less than $30. Don't get it for the cover story about Sinead O'Connor, or the article on Midnight Oil, or NWA – get if for my classified ad.


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Killing them with kindness at Caffe Frascati (the Bohemian center of San Jose).


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Mangal Turkish Cuisine should be transformed into Burlingame's only wine bar by the time you read this.


I remember seeing the trailer for this movie (over 6 years ago now!) It looked interesting, but I never saw it. Aside from Roger Ebert who gave it 4 stars, it got awful reviews and disappeared quickly. It was Sofia Coppola's follow-up to Lost in Translation...


Our own Ace Backwords sent a letter (he said it was a letter but I'll bet it was an email) in to a radio program that the hosts read on the air. As it turns out, Ace and I are both big fans of this morning show, Armstrong and Getty, heard locally on KKSF, 910 AM. Here's the hour where they read his letter (or email) on the air...


A few years ago I woke up and caught an illegal alien trying to break into my car. I chased him down the block but he got away. I whipped out my cell phone, called the cops, who showed up with the dogs, but the creep got away from them, too. SF Herald columnist James Dylan arrived a bit later. The authorities were searching the area, so a policewoman asked him if he had business on my block. James told her, “I'm with the Feds, we'll take it from here,” and walked past her (well, that's what he told me, as I recall.)

After James and I finished giving information at the police station, we drove down to Los Angeles so he could catch a flight from LAX. On the way there, we stopped for the night in Santa Barbara. A TV station was playing a rerun of a program I had always heard of but never saw, The Jack Benny Show.

So even though the day got off to a lousy start, it ended pretty well. Below is a link to the episode that was broadcast. It guest stars Jack's good friend Johnny Carson, who turned out to be a much more versatile performer than most people would imagine. The show starts off slow but gets better and better along the way, and the ending may remind some of you of the late, great Ernie Kovacs.


Hope you like this edition of the Herald. The Mr. Fabulous story from over ten years ago has been reprinted. I remember when it came out. Kimberlye and I shook our heads and branded Steve Capozzola, who wrote it, “a weirdo”. We weren't laughing when we said it, either. We were rather disturbed by the piece.


Things haven't been going so great lately (to put it mildly) if you listen to the news, but keep the ol' chin up, like Alec Guinness in The Bridge on the River Kwai.

As the great poet Charles Bukowski wrote to our own Ace Backwords years ago, “There's a lot of agony and shit out there.” See you next time.###

All contents © 2011 by Gene Mahoney