Tuesday, May 10, 2005


UP FRONT News May 10, 2005
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham

“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.”


I sometimes ask those meeting Willard Whitelaw Whittingham for the first time to look at his face for several seconds; then close their eyes and visualize him sans his somewhat anomalous mustache (assuming he still has it, in the event that he hasn’t shaved it off as he has said he will). Then, upon reopening eyes, observers are asked to visualize by recollection tennis and human rights great Arthur Ashe. Separated at birth? Not quite. Although Willard Whittingham has no known tennis – or, for that matter, any other “racket” – history, he is strong on human rights and bears an uncanny facial resemblance to Mr. Ashe.

Mr. Whittingham and I became acquainted about a decade ago while I served as the producer and emcee of performance poetry events at “The News Room”, a recently (mercifully) closed nightclub on Gerard Avenue, a few feet south of East 161 Street, in the Bronx, just beyond right-center field in Yankee Stadium. At the time, he was the bartender, a profession he took up after, quite literally and totally voluntarily, dropping out of the big-money world of corporate advertising in which he was a sales-executive. His reason for the career change, as he succinctly put it to me, was, “I couldn’t stand the lying anymore.” While I am not at all certain that being a bartender can shield this honest man from the world of deceit, Mr. Whittingham at least, is quite good at detecting it – particularly in politics and the media, and sometimes among bar owners and customers.

Mr. Whittingham, who got his degree at NYU, is, regardless of formal credentials, a historian with major knowledge of, among other events, World War II. He and I both agree on the absolute importance of studying phenomena like Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Hillary Clinton, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Dick Cheney, Lyndon LaRouche, Lenora Fulani, and, to be sure, Generalissimo Francisco Franco. The Spanish dictator, who liked to be referred to as “El Caudillo”, by the way, proved to be one of the most surprising fascists in history in that he in fact played a major role in the defeat of Hitler during a 1941 meeting between the two dictators in Hendaye, a village in the Pyrenees on the French side of the French-Spanish border, he responded to Der Fuehrer’s demand that Spain enter the war on Germany’s side, by saying, essentially, presumably in Spanish, “Stuff it!” Franco, who, it has been discovered, was partly Jewish, for one thing, allowed about 14,000 Jewish refugees to enter Spain through the Mediterranean port of Valencia while other nations, including the U.S., were turning them away. Franco – who did not mind accepting military support from Hitler and Benito Mussolini (“Guernica”) in order to win the Spanish Civil War – however, understood something that folks like Neville Chamberlain, Joseph Stalin, and FDR, among many other world leaders, did not, i.e. that Adolf Hitler was a total psychotic, who would destroy Spain, just like he was destroying everything else. And so, when Der Fuehrer in 1941 summoned Franco to come to Berlin to discuss Spain’s entry into the War as a part of the German-Italian-Japanese “Axis”, Spain’s participation being essential to Hitler’s vision of conquest of Africa and South America, Franco responded to Hitler by saying, paraphrased, “You want to talk to me? You meet me in Hendaye. And don’t even think of setting one toenail in Spain.” The rest is, quite literally, history. Hitler, who had grown accustomed to leaders like Neville Chamberlain, coming to him, ended up traveling for many hours by train through occupied France and then being intentionally kept waiting for hours by Franco (who, before the meeting reportedly said to an aide, “We have to keep [Hitler] off balance.”) Franco, during an extended conference which took place in a railroad car, succeeded in doing that by presenting a list of demands for his entry into the war that were so grandiose (i.e. return of all formerly Spanish colonies in Africa and, presumably, should Hitler make headway in Central and South America, similar considerations in that hemisphere, which centuries ago, formed much of the real estate of the Spanish empire) that Hitler had to say, again paraphrased, “Well, Caudillo, I can give you something, but not all that. In any case, however, we fascists must stick together.” Whereupon, Franco, desiring nothing more than to keep his Spanish Civil War-devastated nation out of the global conflict, told Hitler, again paraphrased, “Adios!” In one of the great quotes of history – one which I’d love to see perhaps Billy Crystal or Charlie Chaplin (the creator of and lead actor in “The Great Dictator”) recite – Hitler reportedly complained to an aide, “I’d rather have all my teeth pulled than meet with that guy again.” To be sure, Franco did himself and Hitler a favor by emptying out some of his jails and mental hospitals, many of which held Communists (whom Franco despised) and common criminals, placed them on trains to Germany, where they were organized into the “Blue Division” and sent to the Russian front to fight alongside the Germans with predictable results.

Back to a much more pleasant subject, Willard Whittingham, the above diversion, aside from being a case example of the kind of history-oriented discussions he and I have in various taverns, (while listening to country rock legend, former-Johnny-Cash-lead-guitarist-and-former-Johnny-Cash-son-in-law Marty Stuart on the Juke Box), also serving as a very important event that warrants more than a historical footnote.

Willard Whittingham is a well traveled person and writer, who has done some serious – as yet unpublished – journalism on, in particular, post-war Vietnam. (Vegans and pet-lovers, please note: dogs are considered a delicacy in that nation.) While Mr. Whittingham opposed the War, he did not make the same mistake that Jane Fonda did.

Mr. Whittingham has been associated – on and off – with UP FRONT News for years. He is a political and editorial advisor and my friend. And just because his initials are WWW, that does not mean he is a human web-site. But, in consideration of our Acting President, it is fair to say that three W’s are far better than one.


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