25 Memorable Seattle Weekly Stories

"How to cheat," by John Arthur Wilson, August 14, 1996: Wilson distilled the wisdom gained through years of great political reporting and produced a potent homebrew of jokes, insights, and well-researched case histories that show how politicians make a mockery of campaign finance laws.

There are other ways to exert your influence without having to fill out a lot of paperwork. Education! That's the key! Everyone from the AFL-CIO to the Christian Coalition believes in education. And they're wiling to spend millions to "educate" their members, exercising their rights of free speech and free spending. You been watching all those TV spots trashing Republican members of Congress? You may have thought those were blatant, partisan, political slams. No, that's education! There's no limit on how much you can spend on flame-thrower ads like those. The AFL-CIO says it's raised $35 million for this effort, but some conservatives peg it closer to $70 million. And no reporting requirement. Neat, huh?

"Seattle on steroids," by David Brewster and Peter Staten, July 8, 1992: Staten and Brewster delivered a stinging indictment of Mayor Rice's urban villages plan. It turned out to be the first shot in a land-use war that would consume the city and change our political landscape.

Urban villages are the trendy new thinking on how to install higher densities in cities...For a politician, urban villages are a godsend. They are politically correct (all those bike paths), filled with single or childless professional people who vote liberal and keep the local nightlife humming, and graced with nostalgic touches of pedestrian neighborliness and European compactness.

Best of all, they suggest a way out of an old dilemma. It used to be that we had the no-win choice between more sprawl in the county or cramming more people into the beloved urban neighborhoods of Seattle. Urban villages are a way out of this Hobson's choice, for they hold out the promise that density increases can be absorbed by these in-city villages without any politically suicidal raids on established neighborhoods. This is the best news for a politician since the Laffer curve of supply-side economics.

"Tearing at Children's heart," by Nina Shapiro, November 30, 2000: Shapiro gave us a rare look behind the scenes at Children's Hospital and Medical Center, one of Seattle's most beloved institutions. She meticulously detailed a dramatic controversy that involved an anonymous letter-writing campaign, furious debates over medical technique, and staff dissatisfaction that had roiled the institution for years.

Operations attempting a permanent repair were possible for Darius. But his original doctor advised his parents against doing them until it was a matter of life and death—they were too risky. The time came in 1995. Darius' body was producing more and more red blood cells to compensate for its lack of oxygen; his blood got so thick that there was a danger of clotting, an event that would clog up his circulatory system. Darius' parents took him to Children's heart center, where Lupinetti performed a difficult operation, called a Bidirectional Glenn, that restructures the top half of the circulatory system. The operation was a tremendous success. Seven-year-old Darius, who before had trouble walking only a few yards, went home to ride a bike with training wheels.

But Darius' father Moe, a Boeing engineer, remembers that even then there were indications the hospital staff weren't getting along...

"License to kill," by Rick Anderson, November 4, 1999: Anderson revealed that for decades county inquest juries have cleared local cops in police killings of civilians (a disproportionate number of whom were minorities). Even in cases where the county later paid out huge settlements, the juries exonerated the officers. The reason local communities of color do not trust the justice system could not be made any clearer.

The belief that prejudice is behind some of the shootings gets a lot of currency in the black community. "There's a perception," says activist Harriett Walden, from Mothers for Police Accountability, "that there's a lesser penalty, if any, for killing a black man." The question most often asked is: Would he have been killed if he was white? Would, for example, the dark-skinned Antonio Dunsmore have been obliterated by police bullets if he was a white man cornered outside the Magnolia Community Center?

To blacks and supporters, the answer seems obvious.

"WTO: report from the streets," by staff, December 2, 1999: The culmination of our yearlong, groundbreaking work on the protests that launched the global justice movement. One day after the N30 mayhem, the Weekly was on the street with full reporting and analysis of the marches, the tear gas, and the view from inside the crippled conference. Our cover photograph by Rick Dahms became the iconic image of the event.

As Tuesday's tumult lurched to a close at 4th and Pike, the last ground zero of the afternoon, the level of protest discourse fell even as the noise level rose. A few suited-up African and Asian delegates from the World Federation of Labor hurriedly posed for snaps with their big, incongruously cheerful banner before the up-ended dumpsters and black-masked anarchists, then hurried away as the mood turned mean. The drummers who'd been pounding out the usual drum-circle rhythms began thumping loudly and arrhythmically, in uncanny imitation of gunshots. Street rowdies stomped on the bus shelters' reinforced glass roofs, mugging and bellowing fiercely. One simply chanted, "Fuck the world! Fuck the world! Burn this motherfucker down!"

"Our Life is War," by Frank Chin, May 4, 1983: In the wake of the massacre at the Wah Mee gambling club that left 14 people dead, Chin used myth, jazz-influenced prose, keen observation, and thorough reporting to show us the web of relationships that was Seattle's Chinatown in 1983. In doing so, he revealed why the white press misunderstood the aftermath of the massacre—particularly why some people were unfairly pointing the finger at Chinatown leader Rudy Chow.

To understand Chinatown, the boys from Hong Kong, the gangs, associations, and Rudy Chow, put away your Aristotelian unities, your Bible and simplistic universals, and step into my civilization. I'm a man of no talent, but have read many funny books and become good friends with my TV set. I'm so fluent in your culture, people declare me positively assimilated. Eat your food. Love your women. Your language is mine down to the raunch, for I know where it comes from. . . .

"The life and death of Robert Baldwin," by Schuyler Ingle, June 13, 1984: Ingle reported on the tragically flawed inquest into the shooting death of a mentally disturbed black man by the police. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, the jury found the police were justified in their use of deadly force.

When the door was pushed open, the sword flicked out—most of the officers described it as something akin to a striking snake—delivering a glancing blow to Edwards' knee. For a split second Edwards stood face to face with Baldwin, saying in his mind, "Don't." No one at the inquest asked Edwards if Baldwin looked frightened or crazy or completely ruthless and cool. Edwards simultaneously backed up, dropped the tool, drew his weapon, and fired two shots. The ERT members are trained to shoot their weapons in two-round bursts of controlled fire. McCoy also fired two shotgun blasts. He was so convinced he had hit Baldwin that he described it in detail to Sergeant Cameron immediately after the action stopped and the officers milled around outside the apartment. The medical examiner found no shotgun pellets in Baldwin's body. But the front door to the apartment had two blast holes in it.

"All about Bobo," by David Humphries, February 18, 1981: In this rollicking tale of Bobo, the gorilla who stole Seattle's heart for almost two decades, Humphries spun a great yarn, solved a deep mystery (the location of Bobo's skull), and meditated on Bobo's meaning in Seattle's history.

The Woodland Park Zoo now had its first gorilla, and immediately set to work building a "Great Ape House" for its new star. The ape house originally was projected to cost $35,000, but wound up costing $200,000. Still those were small potatoes, for Bobo turned out to be an even better zoo attraction than expected. He was handsome, first of all. "Bobo has the nicest face I've ever seen on a gorilla," declared Clyde Hill, a curator of mammals at the San Diego Zoo. "He's absolutely gorgeous." Maybe it was Bobo's Pepsodent playboy smile, or it could have been his eyes; most male gorillas have a mean, malevolent look in their yellowish, bloodshot eyes, but Bobo's were Marie Osmond white. Whatever the reason, most everyone agreed: Bobo was a looker.

But Bobo wasn't just another pretty face. He had a vaudevillian's personality as well.

"Patron saint of peace," by Cynthia H. Wilson, December 21, 1983: At the height of the popular mobilization against nuclear war, former Seattle Catholic Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen captured the nation's attention by refusing to pay his taxes to a "nuclear-armed Cesar"—the U.S. government. This and other Hunthausen initiatives—including ministering to gays and lesbians and encouraging the leadership of women in the church—earned him much enmity from the Vatican. Yet Wilson showed that Hunthausen was not a free-wheeling radical by nature, but a solid, Midwestern conservative who found God compelling him to take stands he was not altogether comfortable with.

The archbishop's life at 63 is full of contradictions no one would have predicted. Despite his position as head of the largest church in Western Washington, he is virtually unknown in local civic and political circles, and can walk down the street unrecognized. He had to be introduced to the Seahawks' owners at a pre-game brunch last season, yet a few weeks ago the mention of his name evoked prolonged applause at peace vigils in Washington D.C. and New York City. He lives in the least Catholic American city outside the South, yet during his tenure the Archdiocese of Seattle has become known to outsiders, depending on their political stripes, as a laboratory for the evolution of a new church, or as the Berkeley of Catholicism.

"The Seattle Film Festival, Past and Present," by Richard T. Jameson, May 11, 1983: Jameson traces the history of Seattle's film extravaganza, showing us how it grew from a mere "film series" —a delightful collection of quality movies—into a full-blown festival that includes comprehensive tributes to directors, groups of overlooked films, and Northwest premieres by auteurs like Antonioni, Kurosawa, and Visconti. Along the way, Jameson acquaints us with the various charms of the festival—from the founders, Darryl Macdonald and Dan Ireland, to the fat Siamese cat who used to watch filmgoers come and go from the Moore Theatre, the festival's original home.

The poster for the Eighth Seattle International Film Festival is smashing, quite the best in the fest's history. It also wittily accents several points the festival's publicity is coming down on hard this year: that Seattle is hooked into cinema like no other town; that our way of showing and watching movies could be the wave of the future, "a guiding light" (in one fest director's phrase) to variously benighted and tunnel-visioned distributors and exhibitors elsewhere; and that the Seattle International Film Festival is "the premier film event in America's premier film city."

"The Aleut's Last Stand," by Eric Scigliano, September 16, 1981: Scigliano told the fascinating untold World War II history of the Aleuts— Native Americans living on islands in the Pacific Ocean, more than 1,000 miles off the western tip of Alaska. After an attack by the Japanese, the U.S. government evacuated the islands and took the inhabitants to refugee camps where they languished for years, enduring inadequate sanitation and food that, in turn, led to terrible epidemics and many needless deaths. Meanwhile, the American GIs who were brought in to protect the islands, looted the Aleut's homes, stole their possessions, and dug up their graves (the Aleut's mummified their dead) in order to sell them as artifacts. Scigliano's masterful telling earned him one of journalism's highest honors, a Livingston Award, for journalists under 35 years old.

They're called the "other internees"—the forgotten victims of a forgotten war, driven from their homes in 1942 by the only invasion of the United States mainland since 1815. Few Americans born since World War II know of its most bizarre and enigmatic campaign, the year-long battle for the Aleutian Islands. Fewer still, and even few of the servicemen who slogged through near-perpetual storms to drive the Japanese from the islands, know of the peculiar wartime ordeal of the Aleuts—the sufferings their own government's protection brought them, sufferings which continue to haunt the survivors.

"Kill your computer," by Bruce Barcott, July 19, 1995: Any piece about computers that holds up beautifully after six years is remarkable. Barcott's deft combination of criticism, gorgeous prose, and genuine insight will still take your breath away six years later—particularly as the dot coms keep crashing down.

Sometime in the last two years, America's fascination with high technology slipped, quickly and imperceptibly, into the realm of faith. We no longer use computers; we believe in them. We believe they will bring about a future filled with free information, smarter children, and more leisure time. Computers will usher in a new age of humanity and change the way we live forever.

Peddling this belief is a new kind of preacher: computer industry CEOs, academics, and aging hippies who labor in a new occupation known as "visionary." Their job: to entrance us with tales of a techno-utopian future. "Computing is not about computers any more," proclaims MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte. "It is about living."

"The murder of Mario," by Nick Gallo, December 18, 1985: With a commanding and riveting authority Gallo recalled Mario Vaccarino's rise and fall in the hotel and restaurant workers' union, documenting his childhood in the Garlic Gulch of the Rainier Valley and the puzzling tale of his murder.

Another side of the man is Mario of the restaurant-bar world. He drove a taxi and waited tables in his 20s, but mostly he tended bar. The Seattle nightlife of a few decades ago was peopled with men who always knew where the game was in Chinatown, who carried their dollar bills in money clips, and who mastered the little, worldly things like how much to give the headwaiter for a good table. "I didn't know an Italian man who could fix a bathroom faucet, but they sure knew how to fix a parking ticket," laughs one wife.

Mario came from that world where men sleep by day, work and play by night. He wore a pinky ring. He bet the horses and gambled at the Elks Club, though probably not enough to get in trouble. He drank, but he stayed sober.

"Indian du jour," by Sherman Alexie, December 1, 1993: Alexie's brilliant rant about the persistent racism he encountered on his book tour and the effort to anoint him as spokesman for all Native Americans.

"So," I could've asked Raymond Carver. "You seem like a literate guy. When are you going to write about more than alcoholic, white people in small Northwest towns?"

"So," I could've asked Elizabeth Bishop. "Are your parents literate?"

"So," I could've asked William Faulkner. "How are you influenced by the burial practices of the Navajo Indian?"

"So," I could've asked Joyce Carol Oates. "What do you see in the future for white people?"

I'm not sure what I see for white people. I worry about them. As Indian du Jour, it's my responsibility to worry about every tribe, so I worry about the white tribe.

"Battling for crumbs," by Fred Moody, December 5, 1990: Simultaneously an expos頯f the morass created by affirmative action laws in the contracting business and a restoration of the reputations of two maligned black contractors.

Despite the noble intentions of legislation meant to give minority contractors an entrance into the well-protected construction business, the programs launched by that legislation have become sorry betrayals. They have made conditions, if anything, worse than when such programs began a decade ago. In the end, everyone involved is dragged into a swamp of rumors, feuds, and internecine warfare. It has gotten so bad that reformers are ready to give in entirely to despair. And it is another vivid instance of the way in which this country is destroying a whole social class whose members depend on semiskilled labor to get their start, to stay off welfare, and to develop their pride.

"The Kid," by Bruce Barcott, April 1, 1999: Barcott gloriously carried off the ultimate April Fool's article: 3,500 words of complete tomfoolery about a nine-year-old prodigy employed by Microsoft to develop computer software that can read your mind. The level of detail he employed—quoting fictitious software analysts and privacy advocates—not only fooled many readers in Seattle and across the Web, but also turned the piece into a hilarious parody of tech journalism. The story was optioned by Columbia Pictures.

Like Tibetan Buddhists who seek out the one true reincarnation of the Buddha, Microsoft staff assigned to Barcelona have but one task: Find the next Bill Gates. In Rupert, they think they have Gates' next, well, incarnation.

"The problem with Microsoft is that Gates has set up this culture in which the smartest man rules," says Russell Meyer, publisher of the computer industry zine Faster Machine, Kill! Kill!. "So whoever follows him has got to have off-the-scale intelligence. That person also has to prove himself to the code jocks. It isn't enough to be Marilyn Vos Savant."

Therein lies the challenge for young Mr. Tollefsen. According to a series of intelligence tests administered by Microsoft, the boy has more brains than a sackful of owls. But he hasn't proven squat to the programmers in the trenches. Yet.

"Ted Bundy, the whole story," by Steven Winn, five-part series beginning September 6, 1978: Winn combined six-months of encyclopedic research with a fiction writer's grasp of plot, dialogue, and character development to write the first major piece on the Northwest's eerily ordinary mass murderer. The pieces were the basis for Winn and David Merrill's Ted Bundy: Killer Next Door.

Early spring in Ellensburg, Washington, the weather is heartbreaking. Through the winter, a dry, bright snow blows across the bare hills for miles. Then, as the sun comes closer, the earth itself seems to unfold and breathe, giving off a pale, transparent green glow. Color, a brief, spectacular flare, will soon light up the wildflower-covered hills. Warm air, finely scented, rises. Time slows; evenings are longer than nights.

It had all inspired Central Washington State freshman Susan Rancourt. A cheerleader and a homecoming queen in high school, a middle child in a large family, cheerful and conventional, she wanted now to stretch, to move off at a new pace. She'd started jogging in the early mornings and working in an old folks' home in the afternoon; she'd thought of becoming a dorm counselor; she'd made some new friends.

"Bleak houses," by Terry Tang, November 9, 1988: Artfully combining frightening tales of tenants living in misery and the complexities of public policy on housing, Tang wove a story of a housing crisis and city hall's inability to cope that is all too familiar today.

Mayberry holds on to his tenants, in part, because the Cha Cha has become a Cambodian ghetto. Families move in because a brother's family lives there, or a friend suggests the place because it houses other Cambodian tenants. The young mothers and their children are a community—they run back and forth across the garbage-littered alleys into each other's rooms. Mothers take turns babysitting while others go shopping. For a teenager like Mao, however, community isn't enough. "I like Seattle. I don't like this place," she says as she casually kicks a piece of cracking plaster off the wall.

"White Man's Myth," by Roger Downey, July 2, 1998: Downey used his shimmering prose to render the Kennewick Man controversy as accessible and compelling as a detective story, without sacrificing its scientific complexity. This piece swept aside the racialist rumors about KMAN and led to Downey's book, Riddle of the Bones.

According to the established mythology, humankind came to North America in a rush 11,000 years ago, invading a virgin continent just emerging from beneath a 3-mile-high mound of ancient ice. Crossing from Asia over what's now the Bering Strait (left dry while the seas fell to feed the monstrous continental ice cap) they forced their intrepid way south from the cold Alaskan tundra through a narrow cranny between towering walls of ice into a land teeming with game that had never known the culling hand of the hunter. . . .

It's easy to understand why the tale of Man the Mighty Mammoth Hunter possessed the imaginations of several generations of Americans. It is such a good story, and its uncanny resemblance to the other great American myth— Manifest Destiny sweeping a great people across a pristine continent—only reinforced its appeal.

"Sex, God, and SPU," by Kathryn Robinson, May 7, 1997: When poet Scott Carins had his job offer withdrawn by Seattle Pacific University due to his publication of an erotic poem, a firestorm of debate over academic freedom, faith, and sexuality tore through the campus. Who better to listen in and probe the tender parts of the school's psyche than Robinson?

One faculty member close to the issue said it was the "sopping vulva" that Eaton was having trouble with. "Here's Phil, a Presbyterian, been in office a year, knowing the president before him got fired—and he's just picturing himself in front of a Free Methodist bishop having to defend that line. It drove him up a wall." But Eaton, the former poetry professor, suggests that he had his own problems with the poem. "The poem isn't a metaphor for a Christian view of sexuality or something, it's just not!...But to imply that we have some sort of restriction in writing about or discussing human sexuality is simply not true. It just isn't true."

"The skyscraper nobody needs," by Rebecca Boren, July 8, 1987: Boren revealed that state pension funds were being used to pay for a risky development that standard financial institutions eschewed. In the process, she showed how developers' greed was leading to an office glut and the overdevelopment of downtown—uncannily prefiguring the citizens' "CAP" rebellion over these issues that would occur two years later.

Local developers, who are both the fierce competition and the best critics of Two Union Square, use a roster of uncomplimentary adjectives to describe this violation of usual form. They variously call it "bizarre," "absurd," and "incredible." Gary Carpenter of Prescott says flatly, "We would never do something like that."

What the state has done, in essence, is agree to lend $130 million without the normal security of a guaranteed income stream. Is there some other security, such as established, successful buildings which have been put up to finance the new one? Is One Union Square the collateral? No, says UNICO's Covey.

"The secret life of the spotted owl," by Paul Roberts, June 12, 1991: A glorious, in-depth portrait of the little bird that changed Washington's timber industry forever. Roberts used science, politics, and poetic description to evoke the owl and its significance to our ancient forests.

Once alerted to prey, an owl locks on its intended target and stares with an intensity that early owl watchers could easily have mistaken as a sign of wisdom. The bird often bobs its head up and down, stretching its neck upward, then lowering its head to the level of its talons. This motion, which doesn't do much for its sagacious image, probably serves as a kind of range-finding behavior; by viewing a target from two distinct angles, owls can more accurately compute the distance between themselves and their prey.

The attack itself varies, depending on the type and location of the victim. If a ground target is spied directly below the perch, the spotted owl often drops, wings partially unfolded, talons down, straight toward the prey, using its wings to break its fall only a split second before striking. For a more horizontal assault, the bird often moves from branch to branch, "laddering" to within range before gliding in to strike, At the moment of contact, a translucent membrane drops over the owl's eyes, protecting them from branches and the claws of an uncooperative meal.

"The co(s)mic-book world of Tom Robbins," by Tim Appelo, November 28, 1984: A giant pop confection of an article that leaps and swoops and makes you laugh and forces you to think about novelist Tom Robbins in a meaningful way.

You can hear her Southern Baptist daddy's preaching in Aretha Franklin's work. In Robbins' you hear the sermons of his Southern Baptist granddaddies—a little bit of soul, and a lot of white logomachy. His mother read to him from the cradle—she'd won a Columbia writing scholarship but never went, and wrote for kids' religious magazines. Her brother, a satyric DJ, was shot by a wronged husband, on the air, right in the middle of Carolina Hayride. Tom's boyhood heroes were Jesus and Johnny Weissmuller. At aptly named Warsaw High in Virginia, Tom was the basketball team's biggest scorer (a Namath nudge'n'wink, here); he went to Hargrave Military Academy (to beat the rebel out of him, perhaps), a school of the arts, Washington and Lee U (the Confederacy's answer to Princeton), and (after pitching peas down his housemother's bosom and bouncing biscuits off her head) to the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, where he acquired his first body of arcane knowledge. His job was monitoring Chinese weather reports. "I used to know all 21 varieties of clouds. The only one I remember is cumulonimbus mammatus, the one with these teats hanging down."

squat to the programmers in the trenches. Yet.

"Seattle's closet history," by David M. Buerge, June 22, 1994: Buerge tells the history of Seattle's first gay bar, the Garden of Allah, which opened in 1946 and featured female impersonators so skilled that one actually subbed for the famous stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Unlike today's drag shows that feature mostly lip synching, the Garden's performers had grown up on vaudeville and aspired to much higher standards. They wrote their own material, sewed their own costumes, and did their own falsetto singing.

In its heyday, the Garden of Allah beckoned as Seattle's most notorious dive, a dimly lit basement cabaret, offering the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah and Babylon, wrapped in sleaze and sealed with a mocking kiss. "It was considered the great forbidden place by most of society in its day, a place that emphasized society's most forbidden subject, and condemned by the military. Some declared it a den of iniquity. For others it was the height of slumming on Seattle's notorious First Avenue. For many it was almost home, and beloved!"

"Drug war on First Avenue," by Eric Scigliano, two-part piece beginning October 31, 1990: In a gritty documentary of the drug trade around the Pike Place Market, Scigliano penetrated a subterranean, guarded world and held it up to the light with his lucid prose.

"Blue" (as he's known on the street) presented a picture that seemed too good to be true. He was very big and strikingly dark, with the build of a weightlifter and the easy poise of a marital artist (both of which he claimed to be). He looked much younger than his 40 years and seemed ineffably calm and self-possessed. He only came downtown in the evenings, after getting off work at a large high-tech firm whose logo jacket he wears. He said he has worked up from sweeping the floor to keying blueprints into a computer, and continues to study at the library on weekends to sharpen his new computer skills.

So what's a nice guy like Blue doing on a Blade like this? He explained that he had been out on the street like everyone else. . . .

 
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