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xmag.com : June 2004: Remembering Jim Spagg

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.

Ten 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.

Truth was, Portland was never able to handle me OR Spagg. Despite 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 him.

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.





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