Just Say Now: Help Stamp Out Nostalgia; Pink-Slipped Publisher Sues Chicago Times | Media | Chicago Reader

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Just Say Now: Help Stamp Out Nostalgia; Pink-Slipped Publisher Sues Chicago Times


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Just Say Now: Help Stamp Out Nostalgia

We checked in with Eugene Dillenburg and found him railing at Bob Greene. "Sunday, Bob Greene was rattling on about Howdy Doody again! Someone should call him up and tell him that network TV has been going on the last 30 years and Howdy Doody has not been part of it!"

Eugene Dillenburg is the eloquent spokesman of a social rebellion that has matured to a stage that can be described as "inchoate stirrings." Dillenburg seeks to liberate the present.

"We're basically just a grass-roots organization," says Dillenburg, "Just a bunch of people very tired at having the 60s shoved down our throats all the time. We don't have any agenda. We don't have any order of business. We'd just like Bob Greene to shut up for a little while."

By "bunch," Dlllenburg, who is a 29-year-old records officer at a small Chicago college, is referring to himself, his pal Bruce Elliott in LA, and Elliott's pal John in New York. Dillenburg can't remember John's last name. Their movement advances under the banner of the National Association for the Advancement of Time (NAFTAT).

Dillenburg and his cohorts are sick of baby boomers and the undigested 60s, "This huge generation is obsessed with themselves, obsessed with their own past, and that's why we have this classic rock and crap like The Wonder Years. If they want to wallow in their own past that's all right, but the problem is they're making us live there, too. I was born in 1960. I know people younger than I am who know even less about the 60s than I do and they're obsessed by the 60s. They're as obsessed by it as these hideous old boomers are, they've been brainwashed. They see all this crap on television--25th anniversary specials of things that weren't important then and certainly aren't important now--four Englishmen on television, give me a break! About Rubber Soul--the Beatles are interesting, but 'I Want to Hold Your Hand'?--give me a break! You can dance to it but it's not the meaning of life."

NAFTAT's origins go back two springs to a night at a new-wave bar in Detroit, Bruce Elliott's hometown. "We're listening to this industrial rock band, really enjoying it, then we're listening to the Cure, and from the Cure the DJ slips into the Rolling Stones. And we just look at ourselves and say even here! We stood up and started screaming over the balcony, 'The 60s are dead and they're not coming back!'"

Dillenburg tells us that Bruce Elliott and John are plotting some sort of "big media blitz." But for now the elegance of NAFTAT's message exceeds their success in getting it across. Dillenburg is particularly fond of a couple of Elliott's images. "The Unisphere was the symbol of the '64 world's fair in New York," he explains. "It was a shining symbol of what the future was going to be. Twenty-five years later, it's just a rotting hunk of metal. Bruce thinks it's just a great symbol of what the 60s have become."

The other nifty image is the peacock, which Dillenburg tells us "is able to amuse itself for hours by playing with its own excrement."

Then there are the slogans: "Just say now." "We want to end the 60s in your lifetime." "Help make nostalgia a thing of the past." "All decades are created equal." And the war cry "Get a Life!" Passage of these sallies into the national consciousness is limited to the circulation of Dillenburg's leaflets.

The latest one meets head-on the obvious rejoinder that yesterday is riding high because the present is so much wilted celery. "America is mired in a tar pit of nostalgia. At a time when Western Europe is taking bold strides toward forging a new unified identity and the Soviet Union is undergoing a radical restructuring of its entire economic and political system and Japan has already laid claim to the 21st century, America is listening to 'classic rock,' watching The Wonder Years, and wishing it had gone to Woodstock."

Is it a failure of nerve? we asked Dillenburg.

"Could be," he mused. "I don't know if it's a fear of the future or laziness or simply a desire to stay with the safe and secure rather than going forward into the unknown. Granted, that's scary, but hell, the clock doesn't care. The clock keeps ticking."

In search of allies, Dillenburg has sought out the self-described "neo-futurists" who are doing something called Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind weekends at Stage Left Theatre. What the neos do is rip through 30 plays in 60 minutes. Seizing on their omnivorous need for fresh material, Dillenburg pounded out a snappy drama of his own and has contributed it to their repertoire. His dialogue is two-fisted:

JANIS: Leaders of vision.

Janus: Spiro T. Agnew.

JANIS: Robert F. Kennedy.

Janus: J. Edgar Hoover.

JANIS: Martin Luther King.

Janus: George Wallace.

"Now, there were a few good things with the 60s," Dillenburg tells us. "Civil rights, the space race, a few other things. But the people from that time are missing it, they're so concerned with lava lamps and plastic furniture and the meaningless fad trash."

We see eye to eye with Dillenburg about much of this, especially The Wonder Years, a sitcom about that haunted and haunting time that our 11-year-old daughter adores. We applaud Dillenburg for his spunk and passion and we'll pay him our highest compliment: back in the 60s, when people got pissed off at really serious things, he'd have cut the mustard, But we suggested that to further his cause he should look to columnists who can really help, national figures like Bob Greene, for instance.

"Bob Greene is like the Antichrist for us," Dillenburg explained. "I'm sure he's a nice guy, but we're so opposed I don't know if I could remain civil with him."

Pink-Slipped Publisher Sues Chicago Times

The upheaval at Chicago Times has moved into the federal courts. Todd Fandell, the deposed president and publisher of the bimonthly magazine, and four other minority stockholders are suing the Small Newspaper Group and members of the Small family individually. The Smalls own most of the magazine's stock and booted Fandell out last month.

The plaintiffs were all original investors in Chicago Times who in December of 1987 and January of '88 exercised options to purchase additional common stock and promissory notes. Fandell's suit alleges that by this time the Small family already intended to impose Tom Small on the operation but was keeping its plans quiet, thus committing securities fraud.

This is so, says Fandell's suit, because Small "has no experience as, and is unqualified to be, a magazine editor. He is not qualified to be an administrator or the manager of a business entity of the magnitude of Chicago Times. He is deficient in leadership and the art of communicating with others, and he is a disruptive influence in an office."

Tom Small, who's 40, had been running a Small Newspaper Group paper in suburban Sacramento. But he left that paper in 1987 and moved to Chicago. Says Fandell's suit, "In January 1988, almost immediately upon his taking up residence in Chicago, [Small] began appearing at the offices of Chicago Times in uninvited and unannounced visits, in spite of the fact that he was not then an officer or employee of the company. On numerous occasions he used the conference room to read his personal mail and do his college homework." (Small had enrolled at Roosevelt University.)

Last August, Tom Small became chairman of the board of directors and assistant secretary of the Chicago Times Company. Last January, Small, complaining that the magazine wasn't coming close to meeting its original circulation or economic projections, stepped in to veto Fandell's choice for a new editor and instead name himself "editorial director." A few days later the family-controlled board stripped Fandell of his offices.

Small acted "without any qualifications, office, or authority to do so," alleges Fandell's suit. It asks U.S. District Court either to boot out Small and reinstate Fandell or at least to reimburse the plaintiffs for their investments. (The board had offered to buy back the stock at the original purchase price in return for a promise not to sue, but redemption of the promissory notes was not part of the offer.)

We asked Small his reaction to the suit. "I think it's--maybe 'frivolous' is the wrong word, but it's totally unfounded," Small said. "The theory behind the suit is pretty ridiculous. It has two assumptions, doesn't it? One, that I am so incompetent that the magazine will inevitably fail if I have any managerial position here, and the other, that there was a conspiracy to install me in a managerial position here. I think both of them are ridiculous."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Booz.

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