Jim Spagg was one of the main reasons I moved to
Portland, and you can either bless his newly departed
soul or spit on his grave because of it.
years ago, on vacation from city-in-flames Los Angeles,
Istumbled upon the specter of Spagg’s tiny
naked flopping penis as it filled the entire TV
screen in the Rose Quarter motel where Iwas staying.
Anyone who’s ever viddied more than a minute
of Spagg’s rancid psychedelia will never be
able to forget it, whether they want to or not.
But there was a FREEDOM there...not the “free
speech” bullshit in which Spagg nauseatingly
cloaked himself, although it should be anyone’s
right to publicly display their micro-genitalia,
I mean, it shouldn’t even be an issue...but
the freedom to be as insane and dysfunctional as
most people tend to be when they think no one is
watching, but to then FILMit and BROADCAST it without
fear of recrimination. At the time, not knowing
what Iknow now, Portland seemed like a highly tolerant
place. “If this town can handle someone like
this,”Ithought to myself, “it should
have no problem with someone like me.” And
so I moved here.
was, Portland was never able to handle me OR Spagg.
its self-image as a Lighthouse of Tolerance, this
burg has perfected a Stepford Wives brand of dissociatively
cruel liberal repression. Spagg was forced off the
airwaves shortly after I moved here, and Ifaced
so many public calamities, someone should make a
movie about it. Oh, wait—they are...
Portland’s mostly fat, almost
entirely repressed denizens still become visibly
upset at the mention of Spagg’s name, which
in turn upsets me. How can they not LAUGH at the
entire project? Here was a man who recently tried
running for Mayor “to try to awaken those
of the real world to the reality that there is no
God. “ And he was SERIOUS. He truly believed
a Mayor’s first order of business was not
crime prevention or balancing the budget, but to
instill atheism among his minions. Well into his
sixties, he was still THATnaive. He was also serious
about his “Humanity School of Understanding”and
the idea that he was a “free-speech warrior”
and the notion that “Nudity is not dirty!”—when
it was so tragically obvious that in Spagg’s
case, nudity was INDEEDdirty. And it was that sort
of retarded sincerity, the propulsive yearning to
prove that he was something more than a homely man
upon whom Mother Nature played her cruelest joke,
which made Jim Spagg a worthwhile human being in
the tiny booklet where Ijot down the name of worthwhile
humans. Like a three-day-old puppy blindly groping
for a nipple, Jim Spagg squirmed around this world
seeking some higher meaning which tended to elude
I still own about thirty hours of
his cable shows from ‘94 and ‘95 on
VHS, but for now, it’d be a little too depressing
to watch them. My favorite episode—yet one
which Idon’t own but would be willing to trade
favors for—is the half-hour show documenting
Jim’s various run-ins with the “Indian
welder”who lived next door and stole Spagg’s
wife while Jim was in the pokey. Choice clips included
Spagg throwing hot water at the Injun over his fence
and Jim stumbling around filming his own bloody
nose after kemosabe walloped him. Few men are brave
enough to admit they’ve been played by a woman.
Fewer still have the cojones to film it and share
their heartache with everyone else for the purpose
of...free speech?Honesty? Rank exhibitionism?Doesn’t
matter—it was pure entertainment, even at
someone else’s expense. And it was the most
heartbreakingly poignant “reality TV”
I’ve ever witnessed.
A crucial part of Portland culture
has died, and I’m holding you all responsible.
It was your cruelty and lack of humor which killed
Jim Spagg, Portland, not leukemia or crab lice or
whatever the coroner’s report said it was.
We, the Few Brave Souls, try to teach you a better
way of living, P-Town, and all you do is wind up
pooping on our heads.
Jim Spagg was unafraid to be an
idiot, and thus he was less of an idiot than most.
May the Lord bless and keep you, Spagg. In heaven,
dick size doesn’t matter—only the size
of your heart. And you were the John Holmes of heart.