Posts Tagged ‘SF Giants’

Excloo: Long-Lost “Apocalypse Brown” Tape Found

Monday, November 1st, 2010

On the bitter cold Friday night of March 28, 1980, outside the State Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, the famed film director Francis Ford Coppola produced a 30-minute TV infomercial that effectively ended California Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign for president.

For Brown, the production was a hideously embarrassing political disaster. It not only crashed his Democratic primary challenge to President Jimmy Carter, but also reinforced his Governor Moonbeam reputation and marked the start of a decade-long decline in his once-meteoric political fortunes.

Titled “The Shape of Things to Come,” the bizarre half-hour show was seen only by Wisconsin viewers who happened to tune in to the statewide broadcast, a pot-hazed crowd of 3,000 who showed for the event and a small group of political reporters who panned it the next day.

Dubbed “Apocalypse Brown,” after Coppola’s Vietnam War epic “Apocalypse Now,” the program has never been seen by most Californians, including even some of Brown’s closest associates.

Now Calbuzz has obtained one of the few known, converted-to-digital copies of the broadcast.

As a video artifact, the show offers both an extraordinary snapshot of a 41-year old, second-term Gov. Brown, and an intriguing glimpse of the times and culture that provided the backdrop for the rapid arc of success and failure that defined Act I of his long career in politics.

Despite our utter technological ineptitude and extraordinary cheapness,  we’ve found a way to make it available for the next 10 days on a file sharing site to any of our loyal readers with the patience to download it. Trust us, it’s well worth the 36 few minutes the process will take you. You can find it here.

We got our DVD copy from TV consultant and Calbuzzer Peter Shaplen, a freelance network news producer who now teaches video journalism at the Art Institute of San Francisco. At the time, he was covering Brown’s campaign as an ABC News producer. As Shaplen recalls:

The governor and I got into a heated argument the following day aboard the campaign plane. He maintained the audience would see beyond the technology snafu and hear his message, respond and vote for him.  I suggested that the audience was so busy laughing at the failure of any reasonable communication that it was impossible to listen and respond.

A Francis Ford Coppola Production: Using — or misusing — the technique of  chroma key compositing,  Coppola  projected impressionistic images both on a big screen behind Brown, which was flapping in the strong wind, and in the simultaneous TV broadcast.

The signature moment of the infomercial comes about 11 minutes into it with the sudden appearance over Brown’s right shoulder of an astronaut, clad only in white boxer shorts, doing somersaults, flips and other gymnastic moves inside a space capsule while in a weightless state.

Just. Plain. Weird.

Things were going badly well before that, however.

Right before the broadcast begins, a voice from the crowd says, “America has lost its environmental ethic and also Wisconsin doesn’t grow enough sinsemilla.”

Then the titles go up and someone types on a dateline, which is misspelled “Madisno, Wisci”  before being corrected; next an utterly grim looking Brown walks to the stage, wearing a serious trench coat apparently a size too big, and starts orating into a sound system that isn’t working.

“We can’t hear,” a few people yell, whereupon Brown is given a hand-held mic and ad libs: “Even the technology of this age needs some human assistance.”

Not long after, the stage lights go out for a while, as seemingly random images – a steel mill, a rural cabin, an old guy shucking wheat – appear behind Brown, while quadrants of his head mysteriously keep dissolving into gaping gashes of flickering black and white.

How the deal went down: Just three weeks before, Brown had appointed the 40-year Coppola, who’d by then won an Academy Award and produced, directed and written the first two “Godfather” movies, to the state Arts Commission.

Brown’s campaign against a Democratic president never really took off – not least because the late Sen. Edward Kennedy was also challenging the incumbent – but Coppola was doing his bit to help his political patron. The journalist Doug Moe years later reconstructed the event:

Brown felt the April 1 primary in Wisconsin — a state often partial to mavericks — held his last best hope. Coppola produced a few TV spots for Brown that ran in Wisconsin. Then, with primary day fast approaching and funds running low, Coppola suggested the Brown campaign attempt something radical.

The decision was made to have Coppola produce a live half-hour show that would air statewide on March 28, the Friday night before the April 1 Tuesday primary. That Coppola knew little about the technology of live television broadcasting — and less about political campaigns — was apparently of small concern.

The director arrived in Madison on Wednesday, March 26, some 48 hours before the scheduled live telecast, accompanied by an entourage of family and friends. Madison-based media writer Tim Onosko covered Coppola’s Madison visit for the Village Voice out of New York City. That first day, Onosko asked Coppola’s brother, August, what he felt his sibling had in mind for Friday night.

“If Picasso were to paint a picture,” August Coppola said, “then donate it to a cause, that would be his way of contributing. Francis will create a piece of his own, and this will be his contribution.” Wednesday night, Coppola made an appearance at Madison West High School and spoke about what had brought him to town…

“We’ll center ourselves by the Capitol building,” Coppola told his West High audience. “We’ll put up this immense television set and we’re going to go on TV live with the governor making a statement that he wants to make. I’ll be in a truck where I can make a live mix, making any combination of things … we’ll decorate the dome and make it very beautiful; of course, it’s a beautiful building anyway.”

The show would be titled “The Shape of Things to Come,” taken from an H. G. Wells story about a society undone by war and reborn through technology. The new technology behind the Jerry Brown half-hour from Madison was called chroma key, and it was being developed at Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios in California. It was a technique of blending images on screen by removing color from one image, rendering it transparent and revealing another image behind it.

But as Coppola told his West High audience that night: “I have no experience at this kind of thing. One reason I’m so excited about doing this little piece is that it’s live television. I get to say ‘cut’ and ‘dissolve’ and if I screw up it’s right there; everybody knows it.”


The Brown manifesto. The following Tuesday, Brown won only 15 percent of the primary vote and dropped out of the race. But the 25-minute speech he delivered during the program, overshadowed by the technical debacle, was framed by many of the ideas and attitudes he still holds – and a few he long ago dumped on the Krusty ash bin of history:

1-Paddle to the right, paddle to the left: Brown’s commentary on global and national political economics, the absolutely humorless tone of which is at odds with the counter-culture crowd on hand, is a case study of how he combines conservative and liberal views in his politics.

His theme was rejuvenating America’s economy, then beset by a crippling combination of high inflation, skyrocketing energy prices and widespread unemployment. He proposed a Japan-like “new economic order,” led by government but including both business and organized labor, that would rebuild the nation’s manufacturing capacity.

“A call to arms, not for war, but for peace – we can re-industrialize this country,” he said.

Among the left-liberal elements of this policy: a “coupon rationing method” for gasoline; a “ban on import of foreign oil by private companies” in favor of a government-run “U.S. Oil Buying Authority,” and new mandatory conservation policies to curtail “profligate, scandalous, unnecessary” energy consumption.

At the same, however, he sounded fiscally conservative themes: stop the government “printing press” of inflationary monetary policy; “balance the budget” by ending “fiscal gimmickry, borrowing from the future (and) huge deficits.” He also called for private-public sector cooperation to sell “re-industrialization bonds (and to) double research efforts into information technologies.”

2-The value of service: Brown’s remarks about himself and his reasons for pursuing elected office echo across three decades.

He recounted growing up in a household dominated by the career of his father, the late Gov. Pat Brown, and his revulsion at what he considered the demeaning nature of much political interaction – “the political language we hear is debased.” He said this led him to his time in the Jesuit seminary.

“I didn’t like politics…I wanted to find God,” he said, an experience that resulted in “development (of) a commitment to be of service.” Railing against “consumerism,” he said that as president he would manifest this idea, which remains a central thread of his politics today, by creating a “domestic Peace Corps” to channel young people into “voluntary service.”

3-The vision thing: Brown’s 1980 speech is also notable for how much it foresees mega economic and political trends that were just then forming.

Speaking of how we all live in “a very small global village,” for example, he foresaw globalization and trade policies a generation into the future, calling for a “North American Economic Community” including the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and enthusiastically describing the possibilities of “co-generation, solar, photo-voltaic” energy sources, as well as the need for “mass transit, bullet trains, fuel efficient cars.”

Also included in the speech are seeds of others arguments he makes in the current race for governor, sometimes in almost the same words:

“I have the skill, the know-how, the commitment,” for high office, he said at one point; when a woman asked him what he will do to assure the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, he presaged his get-them-all-in-a-room plan for solving the current budget deficit: “I’ll bring recalcitrant legislators to Washington and keep them there until they change their mind.”

Somewhat awkwardly, Brown concluded his remarks by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance – without inviting the crowd to join him. Then he left the stage, unaware that the technical meltdown of the program within a few hours would lead to widespread mockery of the event. Said Shaplen:

My impression was (and remains) that much of what the governor said was well phrased and at times prospective.  But the show reinforced audience stereotypes that he was a wild, untamed Californian unsuited for Washington.

You read the percentages down, not across

Giants fans for Jerry; Rangers fans for Meg: Our friend SF pollster Ben Tulchin came up with some fun data in a survey of 700 likely voters Oct. 25-27 wherein he found Jerry Brown leading Meg Whitman 45-37% and Barbara Boxer leading Carly Fiorina 48-40%.

But the much more interesting data were in the crosstabs with Ben’s findings on the SF Giants and Texas Rangers. Phil Matier and Andy Ross at the SF Chronicle had this first, but thanks to the geniuses managing the Hearst Chron, their article isn’t available online until Tuesday because it’s stuck behind the Chronicle Firewall Designed to Make You Buy Their Dying Newspaper. Which is fine, because M&R screwed up the story by misreporting the crosstabs.

Here’s what Tulchin found: California voters are rooting for the Giants over the Rangers 53-15%; Giants fans support Brown over Whitman 56-32% while Rangers fans support Whitman 51-29%. Giants fans also support Babara Boxer over Carly Fiorina and they oppose Prop. 23 (the measure to undo California’s climate-change law) while Rangers fans support Fiorina and Prop. 23.

The Boyz read the crosstabs (and Ben’s memo) wrong, reporting that Brown supporters favor the Giants 56-29% while Whitman supporters favor the Rangers 51-31%. (That was wrong, too: if you were going to misread the chart properly (!) you’d have it 51-32%).

UPDATE 11/1 12:15 pm: At our request, Tulchin ran a crosstab looking at how the supporters of various candidates are rooting in the World Series (which is what M&R thought they were reporting). Turns out Brown voters are for the Giants over the Rangers 65-10% while Whitman voters are for the Giants by a smaller margin, 47-22%.  Boxer voters favor the Giants over the Rangers 65-10% while Fiorina voters back the Giants 44-22%.

Bottom line: Go Giants!

Field Poll: Why Brown is Ahead, Willing to Go Positive

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Gaining hugely among women, independents, and Latinos in the past month, Democrat Jerry Brown now leads Republican Meg Whitman 49-39% among likely voters in the governor’s race, according to the authoritative Field Poll – widely regarded as the most accurate political survey in California.

Despite spending $38 million from Sept. 1 to the middle of October – and many millions since – Whitman has only made herself more unpopular, while Brown, who spent about $24 million in the same period, saw his popularity improve slightly. Whitman’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating is now 42-51%, slightly worse than her 40-45% standing in September. Meanwhile, Brown’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating now is 47-47% compared to 44-47% in September.

Team Krusty, it seems, has made the election a referendum on Whitman’s character while the Armies of eMeg have been unable to force voters to focus on their narrative about Brown’s record on the issues, which they calculated would frame the race.

Essentially, Whitman’s extravagant TV campaign, overseen by veteran GOP strategist Mike Murphy, has failed either to make his candidate popular or to knock Brown off his stride. But Brown’s guerilla advertising, made by longtime associate Joe Trippi and his shop, have driven up Whitman’s negatives while making Brown seem more authentic and knowledgeable.

The Brown campaign unveiled a killer ad on Wednesday, this one simply clips from the Women’s Conference interaction on Tuesday among NBC’s Matt Lauer, Brown and Whitman in which Brown agrees to take any negative ads off the air if Whitman will do the same. But she refused.

On Wednesday, the Brown campaign gave Whitman 24 hours to decide if she would accept the no-negative-ad challenge before putting the ad on the air (although it’s not really a negative) and said he’d call on all those groups supporting him to take down their negative ads if she would agree to do the same.

“Jerry Brown’s phony pledge is just what you would expect from a cynical career politician,” replied Whitman spokeswoman Andrea Rivera. “Jerry Brown is hypocritically pledging to take down negative ads, while his allies are launching new negative spots at the very same time.”

Brown’s comfort with taking down all negative ads reflects his lead in public and private surveys. In today’s Field Poll, Brown is pulling about eight in 10 Democrats while Whitman has about three-fourths of the Republicans. But among independents – the crucial, cross-over voters who determine statewide elections in California  – Brown has taken a commanding 49-33% lead, up from a 38-38% tie in September.

Brown also has captured a big-time lead among women – 51-35%.  Asked Wednesday on a conference call with reporters, why Whitman is doing so poorly among women, Steve Glazer, Brown’s campaign manager replied: “Through words and deeds she’s been unable to connect and create any credibility and trust.”

Likewise, among Latinos, who had flirted with Whitman until learning that she had unceremoniously fired her housekeeper of nine years and would deny a path to citizenship even for undocumented college graduates, the Attorney General has soared to 57-27%, driving Whitman’s margin below the campaign’s target of one-third of Latino voters.

The only broad categories in which Whitman now leads outside of the poll’s 3.2% margin of error are Republicans, Southern California outside of Los Angeles (50-37%)  and inland counties (47-38%). But those inland counties only account for 29% of the vote and in coastal counties, which make up 71% of the vote, Brown leads 53-25%. Much of that comes from Brown’s huge 58-30% lead in Los Angeles County and massive 61-28% margin in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Because voting-by-mail has already begun in California, the Field Poll was able to break voters into three categories: 1) permanent absentee voters (known in the trade as PAVs)  who have already voted (21%); 2) those PAVs who will vote (34%); and 3) those who plan to vote Nov. 2 at their precinct (45%).

Among all PAVs, Brown leads 48-40%, including by 48-41% among those who have already voted. He also leads 49-38% among those who plan to vote Nov. 2. The element of certainty among those who have already voted, coupled with the very tight ratio of Democrats-to-Republicans in the likely voter sample – 44% D and 39% R (compared to a 13% spread in official registration) – already incorporates effects of the so-called enthusiasm gap that is said to favor Republicans this election cycle.

Moreover, Field’s likely voter sample contains just 51% women, while many pollsters, including last week’s Los Angeles Times/USC Survey, anticipate that women will comprise 53% of the total electorate. If that is accurate, then the Field Poll could actually be understating the vote for Brown. In addition, Field’s likely voter sample contains 16% Latinos – a proportion that is three percentage points below registration.

The Field Poll interviewed a random sample of 1,501 registered voters, listed in the Secretary of State’s voter file by landline or cell phone, depending on their listing in the official file. From them, Field culled 1,092 likely voters who said they had already voted or who said they were “absolutely certain” to vote and whose voting history – if they were not newly registered – suggested they were likely to vote. Likely voters in Field’s survey constitute 73% of the registered voters who completed interviews.

Interviewing was conducted in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese in two waves: Oct 14-19 and Oct 20-26. The margin of error for the overall likely voter sample is +/- 3.2%.

Calbuzz obtained the Field Poll from sources because our offer to become paid subscribers has been refused.

Can’t anybody here play this game? The Giants won ugly to open the Blue State-Red State World Series on Wednesday, drubbing the Texas Rangers 11-7, but the Calbuzz MVP of Game One was Joe Garofoli of the hometown S.F. daily.

While many others fell for eMeg’s tired stunt of placing a joke wager with a politician from the rival state in the Series,  Joe Ballgame alone called out the candidate for shameless band wagon pandering by trying to associate herself with the sensational story of the Giants’ unlikely run into the Fall Classic.

Among his other well-placed criticisms, he noted that she phoned Texas Governor Rick Perry to make the phony bet from a surf shop in San Diego, a town represented baseball-wise by the Padres, the club San Francisco beat to get into the playoffs.

Now we strongly suspect that, if Her Megness actually ever did show up for a ballgame, she’d a) be wearing a cashmere sweater tied loosely around her shoulders; b) order a glass of chablis from the beer guy; and c) ask at the concession stand if she could get a tofu dog on a whole wheat bun. All that aside, however, we can only shake our heads at the breathtaking presumption of a rookie pol, who’s never been elected to anything, not only poaching on the perquisites of California’s actual governor but also anointing herself head cheerleader for a ball club, let alone an entire state.

Instead of just accepting the brushback pitch that she clearly deserved, and that Garofoli quite properly delivered, however, Team Whitman thought it a good idea to pick a fight over Joe’s original item.

Insisting eMeg’s status as a Giants fan was long-standing, they sent him a clip of an interview with a San Diego TV station in which she said she was rooting for the G-men in the playoffs, apparently to demonstrate her willingness to take a tough stance even if it meant offending viewers in Padre-town.

Only problem was, the interview happened on Oct. 18, 15 days after the Giants beat the Padres on the last day of the regular season to win the National League West division crown and knock the San Diegans out of the post-season.  Sheesh.

As such an avid fan, Meg, here’s some Giants slang you’ll no doubt appreciate: Grab some pine, meat.