Monday, May 30, 2011

The St. Louis Compass


Crystal Palace, St. Louis
"The third Compass to play St. Louis, again at the Crystal, was produced in the spring of 1962 and featured Jack Burns and Larry Hankin … Hildy Brooks (then known as Hilda Brawner), Martin Lavut, and Maggie Sullivan under the direction of George Sherman.” - Something Wonderful Right Away (Sweet, Jeffrey)
When I was enrolled at Ohio University, the head of the MFA Directing Program was George Sherman. It is a shame I did not return to O.U. to receive a Masters in Directing from him before he retired. Though I only took one course from him, he was a strong presence at the school, and I had great respect for the work he drew out of those in his program. He had a big smile, and a wonderful snorting laugh.

The one course I did take was Improvisation. Freshman year we received basic improv training from Denny Dalen, geared more in the direction of “club” improv. Though I grew remarkably as a performer under Denny’s tutelage, improvisation was George’s domain, and I soaked in experience during that one quarter course which has served me for the past twenty and more years.

However, it was before working with him that I got the idea to interview him for this paper I would write about improv for Mel Helitzer’s comedy class. It was probably Denny who suggested the idea, informing me that George had once been a member of The Second City, which is not entirely accurate. It was George who first told me of The Compass Players. Following the success of the Compass, and its offspring The Second City, branches of each opened in other cities through the late fifties and early sixties -- and, you know, even today in the case of Second City.

Compass originator David Shepherd had started a Compass in St. Louis in 1957 at the Crystal Palace, which went bust soon after. They tried again in 1959, and again it did not last long. And again in 1962. And that is where George comes in.

The fact is, I do not know where to proceed from here. I haven’t seen George since college, and I have only so far made a cursory attempt to find him. He’s not in the Athens phone book, we may assume he left some time ago.

Another fact is, I never finished my paper on improvisation. I interviewed George, who was very informative and interesting and spoke of many things I did not at that time understand. If there microcassette recording of the interview exists somewhere in my home, I have no idea where it is. But I recently found the notes, and they are spare but kind of interesting.

((These are not exact quotes, but reconstructions based on 23 year old notes.))

QUESTION: So, tell me about your work with Second City.

ANSWER: I wasn’t a member of The Second City.

QUESTION: Oh, uh, but I thought …

ANSWER: I was a director for the Compass Players. The Compass Players started in the late 40s or early 50s at a saloon near the University of Chicago by David Shepherd and Paul Sills. Shepherd was the intellectual of the bunch, in 1962 he started a branch of the Compass in St. Louis, we rehearsed in a big, airy basement. There was Alan Alda, Hildy Brooks, Jack Burns, Diana Sands …

Shepherd would create the premise for a scenario, we would perform object work, and create characters. He’d give us a place and time -- for example, in 1961 Jackie Kennedy gave the people a televised tour of the White House, that is a true story. So Hildy created a scene where she played Nina Khrushchev as this motherly type giving a tour of the “red House” in Moscow, or what have you.

QUESTION: This was an improvised performance?

ANSWER: No. It was developed in a workshop. Everything -- everything you see at Second City today, for example, it is all finished material, developed in a workshop.

{{2011 QUESTION: So, David Shepherd had a hand in the 1957 St. Louis Compass? Did he attempt to make it a “people’s theater”? What role did class and politics play in your work?

ANSWER: (Janet Coleman, “The Compass”) “Shepherd found … producer’s chores, as usual, unfulfilling. He was in a hurry to get back to scenario writing … he did not bear in mind Grotowski’s precept: the theatre belongs to whoever is making it.”

ANSWER: (Del Close, “The Compass”) “I’d had enough of his bullshit about ‘you’re an upper-middle-class housewife in love with a middle-class white-collar worker with lower-class parents.’ As soon as he left, things began to work.”}}

QUESTION: Where did the Compass perform?

ANSWER: We performed at the Crystal Palace in St. Louis. Hildy, Jack … Larry Harkin, he was tall, beautiful not verbal, Martin Lavut ... Lavut was quite knowledgeable, good with verbal styles.

The comedy comes from character. There is a sketch we developed that is still used today, the “Van Sketch.” Two people are driving all night in a van, and each tries to keep the other awake. It doesn’t work unless each has a well-developed character and is committed to the act of keeping the other person awake.

QUESTION: When I asked about improvisation in class, Mel said there is no such thing as improvisation. Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters, they prepare everything, it’s all a schtick, it’s all written and planned and they spring it on the audience and it looks like it came from nowhere.

ANSWER: Don’t tell me Jonathan Winters doesn’t improvise. In 1960 or something, he was cutting promos for a show, they just let the tape run for three or fours hour, huge improvised reams of tape. Sure, much of it would end up in some act. But he starts with, he draws on a character. And he can go anywhere.

Bert Lahr said “a comic says funny things, a comedian says things funny.” That is what makes a comedian more endearing than a teller of jokes. The Smothers Brothers routine couldn’t exist without it having grown out of their genuine relationship.

QUESTION: But I am confused. Is a Second City performance improvised or isn’t it?

ANSWER: Early in the week we would have improv sessions. Tuesday, Wednesday night, for people willing for something different. This would be pure improv. What works becomes polished in rehearsal. For the Saturday midnight show, everybody knows everything. We’d use lights to control the bits, wherever the scene was, we would end it on a huge laugh by taking the lights out.

If the show was dying, we’d dim the lights slowly. Lavut was hilarious, he refused to quit and the scene would become about the power going out.

The main show is rehearsed, out of free-form work. We did not think it was fair for people paying top price to receive the rehearsal itself.

To be continued ...

Sources:
Something Wonderful Right Away (Jeffery Sweet)
The Compass (Janet Coleman)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Commemorative Superman Fence Damaged

Car hits decorated fence at Ohio 'Superman house'
May 26, 2011

CLEVELAND (AP) — A car has taken out part of a fence paying tribute to Superman around the Cleveland home where two high school kids created the Man of Steel.

The picket fence around the childhood home of Joe Shuster is decorated with large metal plates reprinting the first Superman story from a 1938 comic book. The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reports Tuesday night's crash damaged seven of the 15 color plates.

Neighborhood development director Tracey Kirksey tells the newspaper she believes a man who lives near the house hit the fence with his car. She says he wants to pay for the damage.

Last month, a historical marker honoring Shuster and classmate and Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel was stolen in the same Glenville area of Cleveland. It was returned undamaged weeks later.
Sources: Associated Press
The Washington Post

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mel Helitzer

Melvin Helitzer (October 18, 1924 - April 11, 2009) remains a legend at Ohio University, where for decades he was the professor of the Humor Writing for Fun and Profit course, in addition to other journalism classes. The class taught how to write for greeting cards, political speeches, cartoons. It's claim to fame, however, was the final exam which was five minutes of stand-up in front of a sold-out audience of their peers.

In the old days it was held in the Frontier Room, a bar. So the audience was drunk. When the campus went dry and the venue became the Front Room - a coffee house - the audience was still drunk but now also high on caffeine.

Prior to his "retirement" as college professor, Helitzer was one of the "Mad Men" (fo shizz) a Clio-Award winning advertising executive, though his work tended more toward and emphasis on toy companies, cereal and candy than cigarettes and bourbon. Mel was a WWII vet, and a hard-working journalist.

In spite of this sterling reputation, I was a young turk who thought he knew what's what about comedy, and saw Mel Helitzer and his class as Henny Youngman 101.

And so, I was a little confused when the director for Comedians (whose name I cannot recall) invited Mel Helitzer to participate in a symposium on comedy as part of the promotion for the play. I mean, in hindsight, duh, of course, he’s a nationally-known comedy instructor. He was an expert on writing comedy, for stand-up, for print, television, advertising, politics, public speaking. Good gracious, he wrote the Choo-Choo Charlie jingle!



But from my perspective a) he was representative of the kind of fatuous comedy that is sent up as reprehensible and empty in the play in question and b) this 20 year-old thought he was a hack. He did a few minutes of stand-up for our benefit, and every third joke was one I’d heard someone else tell before. It was unbearable. Take my life. Please.

Not to mention the fact that when the director in question did his own five minutes of stand-up at the symposium, it was like hearing watered down Robin Williams. And by 1988, I was already entirely done with Robin Williams.

Which is why, when signing up for winter semester classes, I enrolled in Humor Writing for Fun and Profit. Because in spite of my feeling like I already knew everything about everything, I had enough fire to try and beat the old horse at his own game.

It was challenging, it really was. I am not good at writing comedy. I don’t know how better to put it, but I find it very hard to slow down the thought process in my writing. I know where I am going with something, so I find difficult to spell everything out and bring people along. Gags I come up with seem so obvious I don’t even write them down, and then what I do put on paper is so obscure no one gets it but me. So that was an education. And Mel was invaluable in teaching me about the rule of three (okay, that one is easy) but also timing, set-ups, slow down!

But we had great, enjoyable conflicts about content. My routine was intentionally psychotic, half a series of jokes aimed largely at myself. I refused to make fun of others … except vague others like “ugly people” which could mean anything, and of course, Wham! Unfortunately, the Wham! joke was supposed to just be a weird twist on the old joke about separating the men from the boys in the Greek army, but in hindsight it comes off as homophobic. Sorry about that.

I think the real joke is that I love George Michael, and everybody knows it.

The second half devolves in this uncomfortable Oedipal shaggy dog story, which got laughs, and made people squirm. Mel hated that part AND YET was instrumental in improving upon my delivery. He didn’t like it, but he made it better.



Most people audit Mel’s class. But then you have to pay for it. I wanted to take it for a grade, but then in addition to the live performance, you also have to write a paper. I was going to argue the superiority of improv over stand-up.

To be continued …

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Comedians

"I should be drinking a toast to absent friends
Instead of these comedians."
Elvis Costello

My junior year was the year of comedy. Stand-up comedy. One of the main stage productions that fall at the Ohio University School of Theatre was Comedians by British playwright Trevor Griffiths. In brief, the play is about an older man who teaches an after-hours course in stand-up to working class guys in Manchester. The final exam is a five-minute routine at a local pub.

However, when the instructor’s old partner shows up, a very successful British comedian and talent agent, and announces he is scouting for new talent and will be attending that night’s event, well, that raises the stakes considerably, doesn’t it?

These two men of a certain age have differing opinions about comedy, and its uses. Morecambe and Wise vs. Angry Young Men, don’t you know. The guy in downtrodden, 1970s era Manchester, scraping his living, thinks of comedy as a time-honored art form best employed to divine difficult truths. The other gentleman is about entertainment and money -- If you can get everyone in the room to laugh at the fat kid in the front row, you win!

Also in 1988, when Tom Hanks was still willing to risk playing an asshole, he starred in the film Punchline, which might be my favorite role he’s played. A middle-aged housewife (Sally Field) is having a midlife crisis and wants to try out stand-up. Hanks' character is a moderately successful, workaday comedian, kind of a dick troubled character, and takes her under his wing.

"But, doctor ... I am Pagliacci."
Comedians, it turns out, are not happy people. They are bitter, angry people. The best ones can be charming, lose themselves in the content of their “character” and who can cleverly cut down everyone around them but remain adored. Caustic, scorched earth comedians offend everyone and most often flame-out. I don't need to name them. The ones with the longest self-life are beloved, unknowable clowns. Who is Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Johnny Carson? Who cares, they’re funny.

That school year was also my year of graphic novels. The daily comic strip I had written during my sophomore year had been cancelled, but as a result of that experience I had begun delving beyond strips and books, and into what Art Spiegelman called “comix.”

Junior year was when I began reading Harevy Pekar, Spiegelman’s Maus and Raw, and Watchmen, an underground comic posing as a superhero book. Watchmen famously features a character called The Comedian, an psychopathic mercenary who plays the American system to the hilt, G. Gordon Liddy with the expertise, style and strength of Batman. He wears the iconic “smiley face” button that is the signature gaphic for Watchmen. It’s also his blood that gets splattered on it.

He’s The Comedian. He gets the joke.
The second act of Comedians features all of the younger performers presenting their schtick. To the playwright’s credit (and the abilitiy of the actors) the routines actually do make the audience, the actual theater audience, laugh -- or not, if they are supposed to be lackluster. All the student had been instructed carefully to look into themselves, to find the humor within. When one comedian’s work begins to flag, he starts making racist jokes which are unfortunately hilarious. Win! A team of brothers have a melt-down onstage, however, when one of them tries to pull the same thing in the middle of their act, and the other refuses to.

The final comedian, Gethin Price, is entirely balls-out bizarre. It’s more like performance art, it isn’t "funny", it’s a grotesque lashing out against the upper class. It is COMEDY. I wasn’t in this production, but I was very interested by it, read the script in advance. I had made acquaintance of the guy playing Price -- he was an O.U. Alum, a visiting artist -- and gave him a Watchmen pin I had gotten from the Uptown Mini Maul. He was thrilled, and got permission from the costumer to pin it on costume.

I like comedy. I like funny. I do not like comedians. In general, I find them to be misanthropic, mean-spirited people. And the only thing worse than a comedian is an improv comedian.

To be continued …

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gleason's


William "Jap" Gleason (Cleveland's most successful impresario! The man that finds and makes the stars!) opened his jazz joint at 5219 Woodland near East 52nd St. in 1942. Blues were also a heavy favorite of the owner's, and attracted artists like Bo Diddley and B.B. King. Legend has it a young James Brown, in addition to singing, would sweep up to make a few extra bucks.

By the early 50s it was the home of interracial mixing to enjoy rhythm and blues. By 1952 WJW disc jockey Alan Freed was calling the stuff "rock and roll" and he and his entourage could regularly be found at Gleason's having late night supper and listening to the likes of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Muddy Waters and Big Maybelle Smith.

The advertisement above features The Metronomes, an r&b group (made up of several John Adams High graduates) that won Gleason's Fame And Fortune Contest on March 4, 1954. Their prize was a week-long engagement.

My father told me that when he was in high school he would frequent jazz clubs where the segregation apparent virtually everywhere else in the city was ignored. I need to ask if Gleason's was one of them. One local jazz trumpeter named Earl Douthitt described Gleason's as "a jamming joint, a good spot with no problems, an orderly crowd that came to listen to the music."

Sources:
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Jazzed In Cleveland (Joe Mosbrook)
Marv Golderg's R&B Notebooks

Monday, May 23, 2011

100 Days In Cleveland

Hot Sauce Williams on Carnegie

This is why it pays to be friends with Larry Collins on Facebook. Today he posted a link to 100 Days In Cleveland, which is now my favorite blog in the universe. Julia Kuo has a mission to draw or paint her favorite places in Cleveland, one day at a time for 100 days.

Make it a year, Julia! Please! These are utterly beautiful and every one of them makes me so happy.


Marc's on Coventry

If you hadn't noticed, I keep a Cleveland-oriented blogroll at left (Cleveland: It's Fun!) Please feel free to suggest others. kliːvlənd recently announced its own demise. Wimp.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chef Boyardee


 My investigation into the 1950s seems to involve a lot of cheap food products.

Ettore "Hector" Boiardi (October 22, 1897–June 21, 1985) was born in Piacenza, Italy and passed through Ellis Island when he was 16 years old. By the time he was 20 years-old he was the head chef of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Really? That's what it says. Amazing, there's your American success story for you, right there. His abilities attracted the attentions of the owners of the Windham Hotel, who lured him to Cleveland. He must have been some kind of business entrepreneur because in 1924, before he was even close to 30, Boiardi has opened his own restaurant, Il Giardino d'Italia (The Garden of Italy) at the corner of East 9th and Woodland. He lived at that time at 2501 Arlington Road in Cleveland Heights.

Now, the foods we traditionally think of as "Italian" in this country are based on the simple, inexpensive meals prepared by the poor immigrants who were looking for a new way of life. Italian cuisine was and is diverse and interesting - in Italy. But in the United States in those days it meant pasta and sauce. Experiencing the relative cheapness of the basic ingredients only made the portions larger, not more adventurous.

As the Depression stretched on, spaghetti and the entire Italian food craze was in full swing, and Il Giardino was a hit. Citizens clamored to take home Boiardi's sauce, which he was happy to sell to them, originally in milk bottles with a bag of dry noodles and parmesan cheese to go with. He soon built a factory to keep up with demand.


"Hello, may I come in?"
Chef Boyardee TV commercial, 1953

You make it look so good.
World War II was where the Chef really hit the big-time, creating easy-to-prepare canned spaghetti for the Allies. By this time, his well-known canned pasta products were selling under the name "Boy-Ar-Dee" in a successful attempt to get everyone to pronounce his name correctly.

Like so much else that gave "our boys" comfort during the war, demand continued when they returned to the States.

DID YOU KNOW ..? Self-adhesive stamps were designed to provide to soldiers during the 1991 Persian Gulf War because gummed stamps were useless to carry around in the deserts of the Middle East -- and that their domestic introduction was due to, you guessed it, demand from Iraq War vets? True story.

Though operations moved to Pennsylvania during the 1930s, he remained a dedicated Cleveland restauranteur, opening Chef Boiardi's in 1931, and becoming a part-owner in several other local establishments.

Chef Boyardee died in Parma. And haven't we all, at least once?

Sources:
Wikipedia
Cool History of Cleveland
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Cleveland Heights Historical Society

Friday, May 20, 2011

We're going bowlin' ... so don't leave 'er in Solon.


Ladies and gentlemen ... Charlie Mosbrook.

We are having a big Cleveland weekend.

Tonight it's Noblefest, the annual PTA fundraiser/carnival held at my daughter's elementary school. It was cancelled last week due to (what else?) rain, and Hell or highwater, literally, it will be taking place this evening. Come join us!

Tomorrow at noon begins the Hessler Street Fair. Time to buy a big, fat pea pod sandwich and a lemonade, get the boy a new tie-dye, straightarm the Communists and listen to the hippie-dippie stylings of Charlie Mosbrook

Charlie goes on at 2 PM people, be there.

If we have been left behind at 6 pm, then the Great Lakes Theater Festival Stratford-Upon-Avon High School Prom is my next stop ... I am playing Vice Principal Shakespeare and the girl will be attending as one of my sprites. Just spent the morning fixing up Gray's Armory in anticipation of the event.

I need to post about the Armory some time soon, it's fascinating.

Sunday, the boy celebrates his sixth birthday in Full Cleveland style, having a big old bowling party at Freeway Lanes in Solon.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Day the Earth Stood Still


During the week of February 17 - 24, 1954 President Eisenhower was enjoying a golfing expedition in Palm Springs, CA. On the evening of February 20, he was not to be found, having "disappeared" from his itinerary. The official explanation was that he had broken a tooth while consuming a chicken dinner.

He was actually at Edwards Air Force Base, meeting visitors from outer space. The President, with Howard Hughes, examined the visitors vehicle, which they accidentally crashed on Earth, and met with the extraterrestrial crew.

On the evening in question, the Associated Press reported that "Pres. Eisenhower died tonight of a heart attack in Palm Springs." AP retracted this information two minutes later.

The aliens, of a type referred to as Nordics or Aryans because of their, pale, human-like appearance, made a Day The Earth Stood Still-type offer: to impart technology and wisdom in exchange for mankind giving up on nuclear weapons, the employment of which have damaging effects which reach far beyond our own atmosphere, even as far as their home in the Pleiades.

Eisenhower turned down their offer.

The Day the Earth Stood Still was released in 1951.

Source:
Billy Booth, about.com
The Washington Post
Wikipedia

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chip Sheppard


Samuel Reese "Chip" Sheppard (b. May 18, 1947) was sleeping in the next room when his mother was savagely bludgeoned to death. It happened some time before 5:50 in the morning, when his father called the neighbors over to the house. It was Independence Day.

Sometime before 7 AM young Chip was taken from the house by his Uncle Richard while police officers, neighbors and journalists invade his home, touching and looking into everything they own. All this seven year-old boy was told was that his mother had "gone to be with the angels."

His father had been injured, his mother was dead. Due to extensive publicity, the boy would not be allowed to attend his mother's funeral three days later.

Happy birthday, Chip.

Sources:
PBS.org
Sam Reese Sheppard: Seeking The Truth

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stouffer's

Stouffer's Shaker Square

Abraham and Lena Stouffer had a farm in Richfield, 28 miles from downtown Cleveland. They started a coffee shop in the Arcade in 1922. Lena's apple pie is credited with giving the family name its great reputation.

The first Stouffer's restaurant opened in the Schofield Bldg. on the south-west corner of East 9th & Euclid. Sons Vernon and Gordon expanded the business into a flourishing chain of restaurants in Cleveland, New York, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia -- every important city in America.

The first "suburban" Stouffer's restaurant opened at Shaker Square in 1946.

Their nation reputation was based on the distribution of "partially cooked" meals which could be prepared at home in limited time. In 1953 they opened a plant on Woodland Avenue to develop these "frozen foods." This brand of their business was a separate corporate entity, in 1954 named the Stouffer Foods Corporation.

The "TV Dinner" was originally a brand name, which later became a genericized trademark, created by C.A. Swanson & Sons in 1953. You know what that is, a pre-packaged meal, complete with meat dish and sides in an aluminum tray that you can heat up quickly in the oven. Stouffer's, however, tried to set itself apart from Swansons by touting the "high-end" quality of its frozen food products.

For those of you unaware because you haven't read Fast Food Nation or because you simply haven't been paying attention, "flash-freezing" food products (chicken, potatoes, what have you) virtually erases all discernible flavor, and so most pre-packaged meals are jacked up with salt, fats and artificial flavoring.

FYI - The Stouffer's name would not be added to the hotel on Public Square until 1978.

Sources:
Wikipedia
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Ohio History central
Stouffers.com

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bearden's (1954)


One of the iconic images of 1950s Americana is the drive-in burger joint. When we have visited car shows I have pointed out to my children the trays that some of the cars feature, often original "Big Boys" trays, with a clip to secure it to the window, with the tray facing either into or out of the window. I help them imagine what it might be like to drive up to a restaurant, park, and not have to get out of the car, to have it brought to you.

Never having sat in a car with seats a comfortable nor as large and unrestrictive as a living room couch, I do not believe they actually think this would be an enjoyable experience. And the truth is, I am too young to have actually experienced this phenomenon myself. A drive-in move is as close as I get,

My parents would have visited the original Bearden's in Rocky River, 19985 Lake Road. Anyone who has been there knows about the model train, set up high on a ledge running around the entire dining room, which was a feature left over from its original owner, Charlie Jackson. Then the place was known when it first opened in 1934 as Jackson Limited because of that train (and Jackson.)

When Ross Bearden operated the place in 1948, and changed the name, he kept the train. It's a great gimmick, as a kid I always thrilled to visit the place with the train. You will notice the restaurant was not renamed in honor of Gene Bearden's performance as pitcher in the 1948 World Series anymore than the team was named after an actual Indian.

From the website:
The 1950s were the heyday of the drive-in restaurant theme and Bearden's was no exception. Staying open until 2 or 3 in the morning on Friday and Saturday nights and having police direct traffic and provide parking lot security was the norm. To this day, we still hear stories of high school romances, first dates and hot cars. The popularity of the drive-in theme waned in the early 1960s and soon "Curb Service" was a thing of the past.
The food itself wasn't legendary, a greasy burger wrapped in paper, a milkshake and a basket of onion rings, but aren't those things everybody wants, after all?

Three years of extensive construction on Lake Road combined with a flagging economy forced the present owner to close Bearden's doors in December 2010.

UPDATE: Following a brief closure, Bearden's reopened in Fall 2011 !!!

Sources:
Bearden's Homepage
cleveland.com

Friday, May 6, 2011

Communist Activities in the Cleveland, Ohio, Area (con't.)


TUESDAY AFTERNOON—JUNE 5, 1962

United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee of the Committee on Un-American Activities, Washington, D.C.

PUBLIC hearings

The subcommittee of the Committee on Un-American Activities reconvened at 2 p.m., Hon. Francis E. Walter (chairman) presiding.

Subcommittee members present: Representatives Walter, Doyle, Scherer, Johansen, Bruce; also present Representative Schadeberg.


The Chairman. Call your next witness.

Mr. Nittle. Would Julia Brown please resume the stand?

TESTIMONY OF JULIA C. BROWN— Resumed

Mr. Nittle. Mrs. Brown, the committee would like to turn briefly to the organization of the Communist Party structure in Cleveland, Ohio. This committee last November received a great deal of testimony with respect to the Comnuuiist Party organization nationally and with respect to its international ties. Your long experience in the Communist Party would indicate that you miglit well add some details, at least, to our store of knowledge, or miglit confirm certain conclusions that can be reached based upon such testimony. The evidence indicates that the party today persists as it was originally conceived by Lenin, and slavishly operates upon the principles laid down by him. Lenin pointed out that the party was not a party of reform. He confirmed that it was not a democratic party, but a revolutionary organization, organized for rebellion and agitation and must therefore be, and I now quote Lenin :
* * A small, compact core, cousistiug: of reliable, experienced and hardened workers, with responsible agents in the principal districts and connected by all the rixles of strict secrecy * * *
He further stated that it must consist of people who "will devote to the revolution not only their spare evenings but the whole of lives," and must consist chiefly of persons engaged in revolutionary activities as a profession. This kind of party, he declared, must be organized "from the top," a "strictly centralized," chain-of-command type of organization, and disciplined like an army. We should like to record your experience, and in order to establish your further competency to testify, at least with respect to certain echelons of the Communist Party hierarchy, I ask you the question : Did you obtain an official position of leadership of any kind in the Cleveland area organization of the Communist Party?

Mrs. Brown. I was treasurer of five clubs in the Northeast Section, and also treasurer of the Sojourners for Truth and Justice.

Mr. Nittle. As treasurer of five clubs, you may well be described as section treasurer ; is that correct?

Mrs. Brown. Yes. That is right.

Mr. Nittle. Who was the chairman of the section during the time you were section treasurer?

Mrs. Brown. Jean Krchmarek.

Mr. Nittle. When did you become section treasurer?

Mrs. Brown. In the middle l950's.

Mr. Nittle. And remained as section treasurer until when?

Mrs. Brown. Until 1960.

Mr. Nittle. And did Jean Krchmarek, who is the wife of Anthony Krchmarek, the Ohio party chairman, remain also as section leader during the period you were acting as section treasurer?

Mrs. Brown. Yes, she did.

Mr. Nittle. Was she acting in that capacity at the time you left Cleveland and went to the West Coast?

Mrs. Brown. She was.

Mr. Scherer. Is that the witness who just testified here a few moments ago?

Mrs. Brown. This afternoon she testified.

Mr. Nittle. What was the location of this section? What area did it cover in Cleveland?

Mrs. Brown. Well, the central area was included in the Northeast Section, and it was in the Glenville area of Cleveland.

Mr. Nittle. May we refer to the section of which you were treasurer then, hereafter, as the Northeast Section of the Communist Party organization in Cleveland?

Mrs. Brown. Yes.

Mr. Nittle.. Did you have what was known as a Section Committee?

Mrs. Brown. Yes.

Mr. Nittle. What did that consist of?

Mrs. Brown. It consisted of the heads of the five clubs and officers of the section.

Mr. Nittle.. The Section Committee, did I understand you to say, consisted of the heads or leaders of each of the five clubs and the section officers?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Nittle. When the leadei-s of tlie five clubs would meet together with you and Jean Krchmarek, that was known as a Section Committee meeting?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Scherer. These meetings you are talking about — can you distinguish them from the social gatherings that you talked about?

Mrs. Brown. Yes, sir. Yes, indeed.

Mr. Scherer. Were they entirely different?

Mrs. Brown. Entirely different. The section and club meetings are secret meetings that no one else can attend.

Mr. Scherer. But the social gatherings, you said this morning, are attended by Communists and non-Communists?

Mrs. Brown. Well, mostly Communists; a few non-Communists.

Mr. Scherer. That is where you said they raised money?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Scherer. I was wondering how they raised money at these social gatherings.

Mrs. Brown. Well, they sold liquor and food.

Mr. Scherer. Sold liquor?

Mrs. Brown. And food ; drinks and food. They sold them by the drinks.

Mr. Scherer. Did they raise their money any other way?

Mrs. Brown. Well, they did have a donation at the door, too.

Mr. Scherer. Is that all?

Mrs. Brown. Well, that is all I can think of at this time.

Mr. Nittle. The club leaders who met with you and Jean Krclimarek at a meeting, which would be called a Section Committee meeting — would that group have any privileges with respect to laying down club policy?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Nittle. What matters would you discuss in section meetings?

Mrs. Brown. Well, just how to operate the clubs, and the distributing of leaflets, and the different social affairs that were to be given to raise money for the clubs and the Communist Party, and what places to infiltrate, and directions for infiltration.

Mr. Nittle. Who told the club leaders in the section meetings what was to be done?

Mrs. Brown. Jean Krchmarek was the head of the section, and the orders came from Jean Krchmarek.

Mr. Nittle. Do you mean to say that the final decision rested with Jean Krchmarek, when you say that orders came from her?

Mrs. Brown. Yes, for the section ; yes, indeed ; and then they were handed down to the leaders of the clubs.

Mr. Nittle. So that the section meeting was simply a means of bringing the club leaders into conference with Jean Krchmarek, so that she could direct them as to the activities they would undertake?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Nittle. Now, where did Jean Krchmarek get her orders?

Mrs. Brown. Well, I didn't see anyone give Jean Krchmarek her orders, but I am sure she got them from the next top, which was the state, or the district.

Mr. Nittle. Was that her husband, Anthony Krchmarek, chairman of the Communist Party of the State of Ohio, that you are referring to?

Mrs. Brown. Anthony Krclimarek is the husband of Jean Krchmarek, yes.

Mr. Nittle. Where would her husband, Anthony Krchmarek, get his orders?

Mrs. Brown. Anthony Krchmarek would get his orders from the national office, in New York.

Mr. Nittle. So that the orders originated at the national headquarters of the Communist Party, were then transmitted down to the Ohio District of the Communist Party, the chairman of which was Anthony Krchmarek. He would pass that order down to the section leader, who was Jean Krchmarek, and she would pass this order down, then, to the club leaders, who wouki inform finally the people who constituted the clubs, the rank and file.

Mrs. Brown. That is correct. That is correct.

Mr. Nittle. I might note for the record, Mr. Chairman, that the committee hearings last November showed where the National Committee of the Communist Party got its orders. I think the hearings conclusively established that the orders to the headquarters of the National Committee of the Communist Party in the United States came directly from Moscow.

Mr. Doyle. As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the registration and disclosure provisions of the Internal Security Act of 1950, in its recent decision in the case of the Communist Party of the United States, Petitioner v. Subversive Activities Control Board (367 U.S. 1), decided June 5, 1961. At page 111 f ., the Supreme Court pointed out that the Congress in 1954 enacted the Communist Control Act (68 Stat. 775), which declares in its second section : The Congress hereby finds and declares that the Communist Party of the United States, although purportedly a political party, is in fact an instrumentality of a conspiracy to overthrow the Government of the United States.
. . . [T]he policies and programs of the Communist Party are secretly prescribed for it by the foreign leaders of the world Communist movement. . . . [I]ts role as the agency of a hostile foreign power renders its existence a clear present and continuing danger to the security of the United States. . . .
At page 112, the Supreme Court declared : First: We have held, supra, that the congressional findings that there exists a world Communist movement, that it is directed by the Communist dictatorship of a foreign country, and that it has certain designated objectives, inter alia, the establishment of a Communist totalitarian dictatorship throughout the world through the medium of a world-wide Communist organization, §2(1), (4), are not open to re-examination by the Board. We find that nothing in this violates due process.

Mr. Nittle. As section treasurer, did you actually have anything to do with party policy?

Mrs. Brown. No, indeed, I did not.

Mr. Nittle. Did you get your orders also from Jean Krchmarek?

Mrs. Brown. Yes, I did.

Mr. Nittle. What were your duties as treasurer of the section?

Mrs. Brown. Well, when we would have the section meetings, the heads of the clubs would pay dues, give me the dues from the club members, with 10 percent taken out; and then I would take out 20 percent and give it to the state treasurer.

Mr. Nittle. Who was the state treasurer?

Mrs. Brown. Betty Chaka.

Mr. Nittle. C-h-a-k-a?

Mrs. Brown. Yes.

Mr. Doyle. Who got the 10 percent?

Mrs. Brown. The chibs kept the 10 percent and the section kept 20 percent ; and we used that for parties and

Mr. Doyle. Did you handle that money, or was it someone else?

Mrs. Brown. I handled the money that I received. I always kept the 20 percent, and the other was given, whenever I felt like taking it to her, Betty Chaka, the state treasurer.

Mr. Nittle. Who was the husband of Betty Chaka?

Mrs. Brown. Ed Chaka.

>Mr. Nittle. Also known as Edward Chaka?

Mrs. Brown. Edward Chaka.

Mr. Nittle. Mr. Chairman, I think the record should show that Edward Chaka was a member of the National Conunittee of the Commmiist Party, and that he was in attendance at the 17th National Convention of the Communist Party in December 1959, which was held in New York City. He attended that convention as a delegate from the Ohio District of the Commmiist Party. Did you know Edward Chaka?

Mrs. Brown. Yes, I did.

Mr. Nittle. How long have you known Edward Chaka?

Mrs. Brown. I have known Edward Chaka since 1948.

Mr. Nittle. Did you deliver this money personally to Betty Chaka?

Mrs. Brown. I certainly did.

Mr. Nittle. And she was the state treasurer?

Mrs. Brown. She was.

Mr. Nittle. Could you tell us the names of the leaders of the five clubs in that section? I just want the names of the leaders.

Mrs. Brown. Ruth Lend was one.

Mr. Nittle. You have already identified her, yes.

Mrs. Brown. Harry Spencer.

Mr. Nittle. Of course, you have stated he was a Communist club leader.

Mrs. Brown. That is right. Sally Clark was a chairman.

Mr. Nittle. Sally Clark, C-1-a-r-k?

Mrs. Brown. Yes. And of course Bert Washington, who is deceased.

Mr. Nittle. Bert Washington was at one time a club leader? When did he die?

Mrs. Brown. Well, sometime in 1960. And there were Laura and Fred O'Neal.

Mr. Nittle. Was Jean Krchmarek a club leader, as well as acting in her capacity as section chairman?

Mrs. Brown. Well, you hardly knew what leadership Jean Krchmarek was in, because she led everything and everyone, as far as the clubs were concerned.

Mr. Nittle. Was a gentlemen named Hugh Statten in your area?

Mrs. Brown. At one time Hugh Statten was in the club, in a club office. But he moved back to Chicago.

Mr. Nittle. Wlio succeeded him, if anyone?

Mrs. Brown. Well, it was the central area that Hugh Statten had charge of. He was sent from Chicago by the Communist Party to Cleveland, to reorganize the Negroes in the central area and in Cleveland proper.

Mr. Nittle. I believe you have also spoken of a Harry A. Spencer, did you?

Mrs. Brown. Yes.

Mr. Nittle. What position did he occupy?

(At this point Mr. Walter left the hearing room.)

Mrs. Brown. He was one of the leaders of his club. I think it was the 124 Club.

Mr. Nittle. In what section was that located?

Mrs. Brown. In the Northeast Section.

Mr. Nittle. That was in your section as well?

Mrs. Brown. Yes, it was.

Mr. Nittle. You mentioned an Edith and Lloyd Gaines as being active in the party.

Mrs. Brown. Yes.

Mr. Nittle. Were they in your section?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Nittle. Would you regard them as club leaders in that area?

Mrs. Brown. Oh, yes.

Mr. Nittle. Now, did you have occasion to attend any state conventions of the Communist Party?

Mrs. Brown. Yes.

Mr. Nittle. The state convention was the next highest level above the section?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Nittle. This is where leaders obtained their information as to party policy to carry down to the section level?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Nittle. So that as treasurer and a section leader, you were selected as a delegate to the state convention?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Nittle. Was it at the state convention that the delegates had an opportunity to learn what orders the state party chairman was instructed to give you?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Nittle. Then at the state convention, the only matter you would debate was how to carry out the orders received from higher headquarters, which was the national grouping?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Doyle (presiding). And you were elected to attend the state party convention in Ohio while you were an FBI informant?

Mrs. Brown. Oh, sure. That was the only time I did my work, when I was with the FBI.

Mr. Doyle. Did not any of your brother or sister Communists suspect you were an informant for the FBI?

Mrs. Brown. Well, I am very sure they didn't know it. One or two had accused me of writing names down at one of the state conventions, and claimed that I was under suspicion, but they never let up on me. They still kept using me.

Mr. Nittle. You have indicated that the Communists in party meetings usually met secretly. How did they maintain their secrecy when they would have to meet in larger numbers at a state convention?

Mrs. Brown. Well, you had to be known us a Communist. You had to be a Communist, and somewhat of a dedicated Communist, to be elected to the state convention; state meetings, if you want to say. And there would always be someone at the door to let you in, and they would know always whether you were a Communist or not.

Mr. Nittle. Were you delegates, who attended the state convention, ever explicitly informed or clearly informed of the place where the meeting was to convene?

Mrs. Brown. Not often. Maybe once I was informed. But I have stood on the sidewalk in the cold and snow for hours, waiting for someone to pick me up to take me to the meeting. They don't tell you where the meetings are. They have them at secret places, and the members are picked up and carried to this place.

Mr. Nittle. I noted you indicated that the club meetings usually took place in private homes.

Mrs. Brown. Yes.

Mr. Nittle. I believe some of the evidence here has indicated that these meetings lasted into the late hours of the evening and the early morning of the next day.

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Scherer. Which ones went on that long? The social, or the business meetings?

Mrs. Brown. Well, they had social affairs and business meetings, mixed. They would have a business meeting early in the evening in the party, and then after the party was over, they would have another meeting, sometimes in the early mornings, 6 and 7 o'clock, where some would go from the meeting to their jobs to prepare for meetings the next evening.

Mr. Scherer. What would you do all that time?

Mrs. Brown. Well, they are just like termites. They are working all the time.

Mr. Nittle. What kind of place would be selected for the state conventions?

Mrs. Brown. Some hall, secret hall, where they thouglit no one would know they were there, very often some hall — that is what I learned — on Kinsman Avenue. And then they began to stop them from having it there, and they began to have it at some other secret place where I have been at least three or four times. But as a rule, I never went directly there on my own.

Mr. Doyle. What do you mean by that answer?

Mrs. Brown. Well, I mean that most of the times I was picked up by a Communist and driven there in their car.

Mr. Scherer. You mean you didn't know in advance where the meeting was to be held?

Mrs. Brown. No, I did not.

Mr. Johansen. Well, how many persons out of a group that were meeting — how many of those individuals would know where the meeting was? Just one person?

Mrs. Brown. Well, maybe a few of the heads, the state heads, would naturally know ; and maybe Jean Krchmarek would know.

Mr. Johansen. It would be one of your superiors in the hierarchy?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct, yes. That is right.

Mr. Doyle. But there would not be a large attendance at these meetings? Perhaps 25 or 50 people?

Mrs. Brown. Well, 50 would be a large attendance. Maybe 20; and never over 30, I don't think they can trust 50 of them.

Mr. Nittle. This is the assemblage of what Lenin has described as the hard-core workers, the hardened workers, who were bound to rules of secrecy?

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Nittle. Persons you have described as dedicated Communists ; termites was another expression you used to describe them.

Mrs. Brown. That is correct.

Mr. Scherer. Were there more women than men, usually, at these meetings?

Mrs. Brown. Just about 50-50.

Mr. Nittle. Can you recollect some of the persons who were in attendance from the Ohio area at the state convention meetings with you?

Mrs. Brown. Well, Frieda Katz, Dave Katz, Jean Krchmarek and Anthony Krchmarek, and Martin and Sally Chancey, the Winters girl, Sally Winters, Pearl Levin, Regina Sokol, and others.

Mr. Nittle. Did Ethel Goodman attend any of the state convention meetings?

Mrs. Brown. Yes, Ethel had attended.

Mr. Nittle. Counsel, the reporter is asking for a 3-minute recess, so the committee will stand in recess. That will also give the witness a short rest.

(Short recess.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Circle Mirror Transformation

I really did not think I was going to like this play.

I have read one play by Annie Baker, The Aliens, and that I did not expect to enjoy either, and I enjoyed reading that very much. I was looking forward to Circle Mirror Transformation because it features one of my friends of co-workers in this Dobama production and I was very proud of her and happy for her, and then I heard it was about a drama workshop in Vermont and I began to feel oogy.


Now Playing

The postcard did not help. Everyone on the floor, heads together. It took a moment for me to realize, okay, all right they are doing a floor relaxation exercise, and that it wasn’t just a horribly cliche group theater shot, but that only made me feel worse.


Guerrilla Theater Company, Summer 1992

Are we going there again? Is this play a bunch of theater exercises, that theater people know only too well and can laugh at because ho-ho-ho, we’ve all done this haven’t we and “civilians” (I use the term ironically, you can tell by the quotation marks, ever since my first acting class in college I despised the pretentious use of the word “civilian” to describe non-theater people … I might be a beatnik but theater people don’t generally put themselves in mortal danger for the sake of national security and therefore have the right to distinguish themselves from those who have the freedom not to) can just sit back and laugh because those touchy-feely, promiscuous theater nuts sure do a lot of craaaazy things, training to do whatever it is they do.

I saw Alan Parker's Fame when it was first on cable, and that was my first experience with theater exercises. I was thirteen. I was enthralled but also found it humorous. Finding that those were things people really do, and then being asked to do them made me more self-conscious than if it had been a new discovery. We do, actually, need to feel self-confident enough to do, well, anything, really, to create performances that are worth people laying down money to watch. And these exercises help. Unless you feel like a clown doing them. So making fun of them as part of a play, a play about learning how to act … you get my point. It has the potential to make me unhappy.

Let’s change the subject for a moment. Dobama. The new Dobama. Just bizarre. It looks like the old Dobama, on Coventry, for the most part. Seating on three sides (though the dimensions are different) featuring red chairs ripped from a defunct movie house (different movie house, different chairs - still red) so the illusion of the same place. And my emotions for that house run deep. The old house, the one on Coventry, not this place, in the library, in the former Lee Road YMCA swimming pool, where we did so many amazing things late at night. I left my 20s in that theater. I am glad I am no longer that person. But it was exciting.


Dobama's Night Kitchen, Spring 1998

Earlier than that, when I was in my early 20s, Guerrilla Theater days, no, before that, when I worked at Karamu and started getting involved in local shows and meeting the crowd I would eventually become so familiar with, I was offended by all of these middle-aged people, in their 40s or older, who were in the thrall of this certain acting coach. We won’t name names, it’s not their fault, it is not about the coach per se, but their pupils, who reversed this person as one would a sensei, someone who taught them everything, how to taste flavors a anew, to see the world as a baby, how to feel deeply. So deeply.

I knew what they meant, even at 23 years-old I understood what was going on. I had experienced all of these things at college, in theater classes, at the age of 18, 19, 20 years-old, when it is okay to embarrass yourself because you are young and stupid. And these were accountants and environmental lawyers who were finally, in middle-age, getting in touch with their emotions and learning how to function like feeling human beings -- but because they were adults with children and mortgages, they weren’t discovering things that others my age with my training already knew, they were discovering things NO ONE HAD EVER KNOWN BEFORE and this acting coach was a GOD.

Because they were too mature to be so young and silly. This shit was important. It changed their lives.

And so, after all, I was touched my this play. Because it confounded my expectations. Annie Baker can take the slackers-smoking-by-a-dumpster play and give it heart. She can take the amateur-drama-workshop play and people it with characters who I am glad to spend two hours in the presence of.

One moment I was particularly struck by (SPOILER ALERT.) There is a point in the middle of the second act when the coach asks everyone to reveal a secret about themselves. This is five weeks into a six week course. It is a dumb, dumb exercise. Dangerous, and pointless. I have engaged in that kind of exercise, I remember an undergraduate directing class my junior year. In order to get into the emotions of a certain two-person scene, the director of that scene (neither of us performing in the scene respected her at all) asked us to hide in the wings on the opposite sides of the stage and probe each others’ deepest fears. The actress in question and I, while not exactly trusting of each other, were unified in our disgust of what we were being asked to do and were able to a) say the most horrid sounding, spiteful things that we knew were already open secrets and didn’t sting when b) the MFA Directing Grad who was leading the course was in the room. The teacher stormed out of the space to visit another scene, but first admonished our scenework director in the harshest terms for engaging in “psychological bullshit.”

Of course, the actress and I were the ones experimenting in psychological bullshit, fucking over our director in that way.

The scene, as presenting in Baker’s play, put me in mind, of all things, of a scene from the 6th issue of the comic book Sandman, where Dr. Destiny has Morpheus’ amulet and spends twenty-fours in a diner, influencing those present to live out their id until everyone has has sex with, mutilated and/or eaten everyone else in the joint.


Baker’s play is not literally grotesque in that way. But it did make me feel that creepy.

I would say I really liked the ending, only she stole it from my new play. The one I haven't finished yet.

God dammit.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Communist Activities in the Cleveland, Ohio, Area

TUESDAY AFTERNOON—JUNE 5, 1962

United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee of the Committee on Un-American Activities, Washington, D.C.

PUBLIC hearings

The subcommittee of the Committee on Un-American Activities reconvened at 2 p.m., Hon. Francis E. Walter (chairman) presiding.

Subcommittee members present: Representatives Walter, Doyle, Scherer, Johansen, Bruce; also present Representative Schadeberg.


TESTIMONY OF FRIEDA KATZ, ACCOMPANIED BY COUNSEL, JOSEPH FORER
Mr. Nittle. Would you state your name, please?

Mrs. Katz. My name is Frieda Katz.

Mr. Nittle. You are represented by counsel ?

Mrs. Katz. Yes, I am.

Mr. Nittle. Would counsel please identify himself for the record ?

Mr. Forer. Joseph Forer.

Mrs. Katz. Will the committee give me permission to read a statement?

The Chairman. No. You can leave the statement, and if we think that it is relevant, we will make it a part of the record.

Mrs. Katz. Thank you.

Mr. Nittle. Does the statement contain any references as to whether or not you are a member of the Communist Party as of this moment?

Mr. Forer. Well, all you have to do is look at the statement.

Mr. Nittle. Are you a member of the Communist Party, Mrs. Katz, as of this moment ?

Mrs. Katz. I should like to use my privilege under the fifth amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and my privileges and rights under the first amendment to the Constitution, of freedom of speech, redress to the Congress, and so on.

The Chairman. You said, "I should like to." Do you?

Mrs. Katz. I do. I refuse to answer the question on those grounds.

Mr. Nittle. Do you know Julia Brown ?

Mrs. Katz. I refuse to answer the question on the previously mentioned grounds.

Mr. Scherer. Witness, were you in the hearing room during the time that Julia Brown testified ?

(Witness conferred with counsel.)

Mrs. Katz. Yes ; I was present.

Mr. Scherer. You heard her testimony ?

Mr. Forer. During part of the time, I think.

Mrs. Katz. Part of the time. That is correct.

Mr. Scherer. Did you hear testimony with reference to you ?

(Counsel conferred with witness.)

Mrs. Katz. I did not hear all of the testimony.

Mr. Scherer. You heard part of it ?

Mrs. Katz. I heard part of it.

The Chairman. Whose testimony are you talking about?

Mr. Forer. He is talking about Julia Brown's testimony.

The Chairman. Let the witness answer the question.

Mrs. Katz. I must refuse to answer the question, on the previously stated grounds.

Mr. Scherer. Now, is there anything that Julia Brown said about you that is untrue ?

Mrs. Katz. I refuse to answer the question on the previously stated grounds, under the first amendment and the fifth amendment to the Constitution.

Mr. Scherer. Was Julia Brown telling the truth when she identified you as one of the leading Communists in the State of Ohio ?

Mrs. Katz, I must refuse to answer this question on the previously stated grounds.

Mr. Scherer. I have no further questions at this time.

The Chairman. Go ahead, Mr. Nittle.

Mr. Nittle. Do you also refuse to answer the question on the ground that the statements made by Julia Brown are true?

Mrs. Katz. I have already stated the grounds on which I have refused to answer the questions. These are my constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, and the right not to incriminate myself, and these are the grounds on which I have refused and will decline to answer questions.

Mr. Nittle. I state as a fact, Mrs. Katz, that you were also a member of the Communist Party prior to your marriage to Dave Katz, and that you were a member of the Communist Party under the name of Frieda Zucker. Will you affirm or deny that assertion ?

Mrs. Katz. I shall refuse to answer, under the previously stated grounds.

Mr. Nittle. Is it not a fact that under the name Frieda Zucker you were the secretary of the Tom Paine branch of the Communist Party in Cleveland, Ohio, and you were so listed in the Ohio 1939 yearbook of the Communist Party ?

Mrs. Katz. I again refuse to answer the question under the previously stated grounds.

Mr. Nittle. Do you know Abe Strauss ?

Mrs. Katz. I refuse to answer the question on the previously stated grounds.

Mr. Nittle. Were you the executive secretary of the Civil Rights Congress in Cleveland, Ohio ?

Mrs. Katz. I decline to answer the question, again on the previously stated grounds.

Mr. Nittle. Mr. Chairman, I would like to read into the record a reference to the Civil Rights Congress as it appears in the committee's Guide to Subversive Organizations and Publications.

There is a footnote on page 44, as follows:
In response to a petition from the Attorney General for an SACB order requiring the Civil Rights Congress to register as a Communist-front organization, the SACB held hearings between November 1954 and June 1955 * * *. Thereafter, the Civil Rights Congress moved to dismiss the Attorney General's petition on the ground that the organization had dissolved on January 6, 195G. The SACB denied the request to dismiss the petition, stating that the Civil Rights Congress had "failed factually to establish its dissolution, and in any event, that under the proper application of the [Internal Security] Act dissolution of the respondent would not divest the Board of jurisdiction."
Now, I ask you, Mrs. Katz, as its executive secretary, was the Civil Rights Congress in Cleveland dissolved by the Communist Party ?

Mrs. Katz. I must decline to answer this question on the previous grounds stated.

Mr. Nittle. Are you not presently the secretary of the Ohio Bill of Rights Conference?

Mrs. Katz. I must decline to answer that question, on previously stated grounds.

Mr. Nittle. And was not that local organization a counterpart of the national organization titled "Civil Rights Congress" ?

Mrs. Katz. I again decline on previously stated grounds.

Mr. Nittle. I state to you as a fact that your name appears in the City Directory of Cleveland as secretary of the Ohio Bill of Rights Conference, 2014 East 105th Street, Room 202.

Mrs. Katz. I must again decline to answer the question on the previously stated grounds.

Mr. Nittle. Now, Mrs. Brown testified that about the mid-1950's, the Communist Party headquarters, which was then operating under the disguise of its front names, had moved its quarters from Euclid Avenue to 2014 East 105th Street, Room 202. Do you affirm or deny that testimony ?

Mrs. Katz. I shall again decline to answer the question on the previous grounds stated.

Mr. Nittle. Are not the Civil Rights Congress and the Ohio Bill of Rights Conference one and the same organization?

Mrs. Katz. I must again decline to answer the question on the grounds stated.

Mr. Nittle. Was not this a case of the same Communist group in Cleveland operating under different disguises and names to confuse the public ?

Mrs. Katz. I repeat my declination on the grounds previously stated.

Mr. Nittle. And did not the Communist Party succeed in duping many Negro people in that area ?

Mrs. Katz. I have already indicated my reasons for declining to answer. I do not see the point in the continued making of such statements. I am declining to answer under my rights under the first amendment to the Constitution, and the fifth amendment, not to incriminate myself.

Mr. Nittle. The staff has no further questions, Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman. Are there any questions ? The witness is excused.

Source: Communist activities in the Cleveland, Ohio, area : hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-seventh Congress, second session. June 4 and 5, 1962 (1962)