“That’s a hell of an act. What do you call it?”

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Fuzzy-edged though differences between generations are, surely one difference between people of my own age and those born after 9/11 is their experience of “security.” I never went through a metal detector in school; never in my wildest dreams would I have thought this country would come to that. And as for airports! Anyhow, this Zeitgeist Watch anecdote that a friend threw over the transom starts out being about security. But there’s a plot twist!

Joan Baez is on her farewell tour, so I grabbed some last minute seats (not cheap, but still a deal considering that scalpers were selling at 4-500 dollars) and went to see her last night with a friend of mine. I seldom go to concerts in New York these days but Joan Baez was one of my first musical heroes, and out of solidarity, nostalgia, and a respect for someone still up there singing at 75, I decided it was important to be there. So I stayed in New York a bit longer.

My friend and I made it a total splurge–we had a prix fixe pre-theater dinner at a lovely French restaurant about 15 minutes walk from the venue on 75th street and Broadway. We had tickets in hand, and figured that we could arrive 15 minutes before 8pm and have plenty of time to get seated before the concert started (in NYC there’s always a 20 minute lag time between scheduled start and actual start, longer if it’s a rock band haha).

But when we arrived at the Beacon theater, a shocking scene awaited us: two lines of perhaps 1000 people in all snaking in lines around the block. At first I thought, wow, what a pity, look at all these poor fans who didn’t pick up their tickets yet and have to wait at the Will Call window. Then we starting noticing that all the people in these lines, like us, had tickets in hand too. And by asking, and walking and walking, we discovered that we were all expected to wait on these lines that were slowly, excruciatingly, edging towards the door of the theater.

What was going on? we wondered, as we walked further and further away from the entrance to finally find the end of the line–on Amsterdam Avenue, literally at the back door of the venue. Then we noticed that at the back door, there was a metal screening detector, the same sort that you see at airports, and some very serious guys in suits looking through the bags of every person going inside and waving a wand and occasionally patting someone down.

About 15 or 20 minutes later, we got to the front entrance and our own “checkpoint.” It was not a friendly scene. The security guards were stopping everyone, looking through every bag and they were definitely on edge. This was not like airport security “theater”. This was “red alert” security and the guys seemed like spooks, not hired temp guards. My friend tried asking “What’s this? Do you do this at all concerts now?” and they snapped at her “This is what you have to do in America now!”

I assumed there had been a threat against Baez, and this extra security was due to her politics. Yet I couldn’t imagine that Baez, who marched in the south with MLK, etc, would have asked for such extreme measures, carried out by such goons. Then I wondered–I who have not been to a concert in the US in so many years: Is this really what you have to do in the US now?”

We finally got to our (unexpectedly good!) seats, and she had just started the first number. Both of us felt rattled and shoved around and depressed by the sorry experience of how we entered the theater. It took us about 15 minutes to get into the vibe of the music. The security theater had very nearly ruined the show for us. I was especially distressed to think that it was because the artist performing was Joan Baez.

Then, about halfway into the set, she sang that awful song about Obama singing Amazing Grace (Baez was taken in by the Obama mania of 2008, a lapse for her), and she introduced it by saying “This is about the other good president”. I didn’t get that line, but a few songs later it became clear when she sang “The Night They Drove old Dixie Down” and mentioned that “Bill had requested that song about Dixie….”

Then I looked down the orchestra to the spot she was speaking at. A silver corona was bobbing up and down. Yes it was the Big Dog, in about the 6th row center.

The security, the lines, the nastiness at the door–it was not for Joan Baez. It was for Bill Clinton.

F*cking Bill Clinton ruined my Joan Baez concert. Not only because of the security crap, but because I had to listen to Joan Baez say nice things about him. Surely she, who marched with MLK, realizes the enormity of what Clinton did to blacks in America. Surely she understands the damage he did to poor people, the banking system. Surely she knows this.

The thought that perhaps she does not nearly completely spoiled my evening.

The music was lovely. Interestingly, she did not sing We Shall Overcome.

The title of this post is, for those who came in late, the set-up to the famous joke whose punchline is “The aristocrats!” (the movie; example). And you’d think that Clinton would at least have thrown a few gold coins from his coach to the people waiting in line because of his “security” (double-edged phrase, there, what?). Clinton has the wherewithal to pay Baez for a private performance, much as King James I did when he put Shakespeare’s players under Royal patronage. So why didn’t he just do that, instead of inconveniencing thousands of people? And while we’re at it, what about fawning artiste Baez? “I’d like to thank all the little people”? A hell of an act….

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Thats a great movie everyone should watch- Us and Them. I think its either English or Irish or wales and its about this young kid who just snaps from all the pressures post GFC, going rogue and getting his revenge on the Oligarchy…Or does he?

      Very Good. I give it 3.5 Becnels out of a possible 4. (the ending fell a bit)

      Also since i work at a theatre in NAWLINS i was relieved to find out that it was FUCKING BILL CLINTON and not a daily occurence. It can get quite hot and humid down here. No metal detectors thank Zeus! but security will jack ur shit. Mace, Knives, leftover Filet Mignon from Commanders Palace. The “SecurityHack” is to say ur diabetic or hypoglycemic in order to save ur Walgreen Junior Mints and M&Ms.

  1. Alex V

    Not just in America, not just in America…. When Hillary was in town (Stockholm) they had a whole motorcade with road closure etc…. to her hotel in the middle of the city, which was surrounded with temporary concrete barriers. She was Secretary of State at the time – other heads of state rarely get the same level of imperial escort when they’re in town inconveniencing the citizenry.

    1. Olga

      What do you expect from a guy (when prez) who flew in a big car so that he could ride in it through the Charles IV bridge in Prague – a bridge that has been closed to cars since … forever. No respect for anyone, only his (and her) own entitlements.

  2. Adam1

    Since Hillary lost they’ve got to live on a budget. Between the city and the secret service all Bill needed to do was buy the tickets (or guilt someone into giving them to him). A private showing would have been nice, but far too expensive ;)

  3. Jon S

    Maybe if we didn’t provide these people with extra security, they’d either learn to make better decisions or get killed off.

  4. Doug Hillman

    Was the emperor within shoe-throwing distance, or did you have to remove them?

    It’s disappointing to hear about Baez sucking up to a war criminal. Probably needs the money.

    1. oh

      Like most celebrities, she worships money and power and knows how to bend her knees. She served a good purpose at one time but it looks like she parked her principles a long time ago.

  5. William Bowles

    Amerikkka has an Aristocrcy as well as us. Don’t all imperialist states have an aristocracy? It helps explain why the aristocracy don’t like Trump, not because they disagree with him but because he doesn’t give a fuck! Ach, the nouveau riche, can’t live with ’em, can’t live without them.

    1. beth

      I can’t let this pass w/o my two cents. Yes, Joan has the money to live on the beach in Cally. If I could I would too.

      I don’t think we can condemn her for not knowing how truly noxious Bill is. I would not be as educated as I am on the topics we share daily without Yves educating us. Baez never studied econ and finance, nor does she live in the bottom 50% where many of us live. Also, there are few performers who join musicians touring to raise money for a cause as she did last year.

      She has used her wealth and knowledge against US wars and tried to ameliorate the harm of our world. I think her music is calming and encourages a more loving world.

      When I see Baez later in her tour, I had expected to hear her with a less enthusiastic crowd that those in Boston, but it seems that, at least in Boston, I didn’t miss anything. I don’t know a single person who understands the plight we live in w/o Yves.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          Ja. I met her, too,lol.
          Tower Records, down by Rice University in Houston…maybe 1987. she signed my vinyl copy of Woodstock…and I bought her a coffee and sat around in Butera’s with her for a bit.(Next door to the second Whole Foods, back when it was hip and cool)
          Pre-Clinton, of course, but I remember her as nice as all get-out…sweet, even.
          There were abundant street people and assorted wastrels down there in those days…rambling by, rattling obscenities and bad metaphysics.
          She didn’t bat an eye.”Poor souls…”
          People change…and especially with money and fame…but she was down to earth 30+ years ago.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            Perhaps Joan Baez is just too nice and pacifist to be able to think ill of people of whom only ill deserves to be thought. Nasty bad people like Obama. And Clinton.

      1. Tony Wright

        Bit of a contrast to Patti Smith- she turned up at the Byron Bay Bluesfest a couple of years ago and donated a big slice of her earnings to the fund set up to help people hit by the catastrophic flood we had experienced a week or so earlier (after about two feet of rain in 36 hours, a bit like that suffered in the Carolinas recently).

      2. SpringTexan

        Plenty may understand sans Yves, but yes she probably doesn’t and she may still be a good person. Agree with you, Beth.

        I really enjoyed the Obama scenes in Flint in Michael Moore’s new movie. They were damning. “He was my president when he came. He wasn’t my president when he left.”

        Moore has no delusions about Obama, and yes it’s refreshing, but we still have to cut some slack to those who do, sigh.

  6. KLG

    “Surely she, who marched with MLK, realizes the enormity of what Clinton did to blacks in America. Surely she understands the damage he did to poor people, the banking system. Surely she knows this.”

    Um, no.

    1. Quentin

      KLG, You’re obviously right.

      Many of us overestimate the integrity and intelligence of the hip glitterati, to which Joan Baez definitely belongs. They might be able to sing, act or whatever. More can not fairly be expected of them, though many of them have their pretensions to wisdom and authority (see for example George Clooney and his wife of White Helmets’ fame). Wealth and age have their own ways of levelling everything except inequality.

      Bill Clinton should just go to h..ll. What a mess he left for us. His Misses too.

      1. Matthew Kopka

        Yes, all Lambert had to do was read any of a half dozen recent interviews of Ms. Baez to learn that she has become a self-indulgent and (unhappily) naive liberal with lamentably little insight about our current plight. I got interested in her tour myself, because in the long ago and far away my father organized a discussion about the Vietnam War in Flint, Michigan, and Joan was one of the guests. I had admired her myself going back to that time, when I was all of five or six. Absolutely agree that expecting most of these people to be progressive or deeply insightful is, simply, a mistake.

        I don’t think the music is all that great, either.

    2. clarky90

      This is sad to learn! I adored Baez, from the early 60s. I did not realize that she had become a “tool” of the DNC. Another one of my sacred-balloons, popped by the truth-telling, Naked Capitalists. big sigh. another big sigh….

      IMO, Bernie is the “moderate” and the DNC are the “bloody extremists”. God Help moderates, of any persuasion, if the DNC seize power. Nothing enrages them more than moderation!

      NYC, the scene of the pat-down, is DNC country.

      1. Jon Paul

        One thing I have learned in the last 20 something years – NEVER underestimate the ability of some democrats to excuse any failure of Clinton or Obama on the misguided premise that it was only because the republicans prevented them from doing more.

  7. Henry Moon Pie

    That’s pretty sad across the board, especially hearing about Joan speaking well of Obama and Clinton.

    Not closely related, but still noteworthy when considering 70 year-olds who are still performing, Marty Balin died a few days ago. He was founder of the Jefferson Airplane and a musician who toured into his 70s.

    Balin wrote some great ballads like “Today,” “Comin’ Back to Me,” and “It’s No Secret.” He also joined in the Airplane’s political and cultural criticism with “Plastic Fantastic Lover” and “Volunteers.” Some of my fellow Technotopia skeptics might enjoy this 50 year-old bit from “Plastic Fantastic:”

    Data Control and IBM
    Science is mankind’s brother.
    But all I see is a drain on me
    And my plastic, fantastic lover.

  8. pictboy3

    This sounds like security at any concert you go to now. The last time I went to one that didn’t have this kind of security was in high school (mid 2000s). They don’t even let you bring pocket knives in. I think after the Bataclan shooting no one wants to take any chances, since they realize it’s a very soft target.

  9. rd

    One of the nice aspects of fly-over country (including upstate NY) is the absence of this stuff. The arenas etc are starting to require see-through bags and occasionally something wants you to go through a metal detector. But on the whole, we don’t end up in mile-long security lines or snarled traffic because of motorcades.

    I have a couple of kids in Washington, DC who have gotten expert at being able to figure out what type of official is travelling in a motorcade based on how many police are blocking intersections, how many vehicles are in the motorcade, and how fast it is moving (the President’s motorcade would routinely get pulled over for speeding on city streets if they had a radar gun on it).

    1. fajensen

      I remember that back in the 1980/90’s they would have a combat helicopter hovering over each junction on the M25 that Margaret Thatcher would traverse on her ways from Heathrow. They were hanging like pearls on a string, very visible when one was going to the airport also.

      At the same time on could, if one was getting to work a bit early in the central Copenhagen and the weather was fair, sometimes meet the Danish Prime Minister (Poul Schluter) at a sausage stand near the round tower, chucking down a couple of hot dogs, holding his red racing bike and dressed up in a rather tight red Adidas track suit (that surely his wife must have bought for him).

      The contrast was always stunning.

      The culture in Denmark is that is uncool to overtly take notice of a celebrity or “V.I.P.”, so everyone are very busy with not caring whenever they happen to see one.

      1. James T. Cricket

        Sorry, I’ve had too much wine. This is not facebook but

        +1 Denmark

        On the other hand, you’ve still got a stupid Royal family, which we Australians have now got to hear all about…

        -1 Denmark


      2. PlutoniumKun

        That reminds me of when I was on a cyclesportif in Ireland, and early on I found myself in a slow riding bunch. I was wondering what the hold-up was, when I realised that everyone was keeping a respectful distance behind a duo of middle aged men. One was recognisable as the then Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny (a keen cyclist), the other was Sean Kelly, a multiple Classics winner, and a notoriously ruthless rider in his day.
        There were murmerings from the front bunch about the etiquette of ‘dropping’ riders like Kenny and Kelly (who were deep in conversation and ignoring everyone around them). Eventually, the bunch did just that, but it was clear from the conversation that everyone was far more worried about Kelly than Kenny….

    2. Lynne

      Back when Obama was President, they essentially shut down the Rapid City airport, all the roads between it and Mt Rushmore for most of a day, and everything at Mt Rushmore itself so that Michelle and her kids could spend 15 minutes there without being exposed to any of the little,people. Of course, they didn’t go to any of the actually awe-inspiring natural wonders in the area. Not impressed,

  10. Carolinian

    Great story. In Atlanta they used to post highway patrolmen to close the ramps to I-75 as the then president (Bush senior) rolled into the city from Dobbins AFB in nearby Marietta. As the royal procession passed each ramp would be reopened.

  11. polecat

    This is a prime example of what I stated in a post yesterday — that virually all institutions, be they government, business, education, or cultural, are corrupted — and that we are on our own, left to fend for ourselves !

    “Listen, fauxLiberal Joan … !”

    1. James T. Cricket

      +1 polecat

      Society is a fraud.

      We’ve a banking Royal Commission here in Australia –> +10000000 Fraud

      I’m feeling generous, it’s the wine but it’s also true…

      +2 polecat

  12. WobblyTelomeres

    Hmmm. My saner half and I went to a free open air concert last night, the vocalist Carmen Lundy and the trumpeter Theo Croker. Both very good jazz musicians with excellent backing combos. No patdowns. No metal detectors. No lines. Free water and soft drinks (we’re in the South, gots to keep hydrated). Free parking just across the street. Had some sandwiches. Uncorked a bottle of chardonnay that my wife likes. Very nice evening.

    Y’all should consider staying out of the big city…

    1. Lee

      “Y’all should consider staying out of the big city…”

      Having lived in the sf bay area for the past seven decades, we used to go to San Francisco regularly for food, entertainment, parks, museums, demonstrations, political meetings, etc. Now, the traffic to and from is insufferable at almost any hour, much of what we went there for and could afford is either gone, no longer affordable or being swarmed. Lane splitting on my motorcycle at 70+ and partially disabled is pretty much the only way I’ll go there anymore. My ill advised but sometimes necessary trips there are becoming ever more infrequent.

    2. a different chris

      >Y’all should consider staying out of the big city…

      Yeah moving 180 million people to the countryside is the solution to concert congestion.

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        patient: “It hurts when I do this.”
        doctor: “Don’t do that.”

        (from water cooler comments)

        patient: “Apple should burn in hell for their abusive iphone marketing games.”
        doctor: “Don’t buy one.” (writes script for a $20 flip phone)

        (liberally abusing Lee’s comment)

        patient: “Security for concerts in the big city is insane.”
        doctor: “Don’t go to those concerts.”

        patient: “Traffic just absolutely sucks in the big city.”
        doctor: “Don’t drive there.”

        patient: “Parking is insane in the big city.”
        doctor: “Don’t drive there.”


        patient: “TSA used by my smartphone to read my social media history.”
        doctor: “Did you buy a flip phone like I told you?”

        This isn’t rocket science.

        1. JBird4049

          I am seeing a pattern here.

          Don’t go anywhere.
          Don’t use anything.
          Don’t say anything.
          Don’t do anything.
          Don’t have any ideas.
          Don’t talk to anyone.
          Don’t believe in anything, anyone, anytime.
          But do however, obey.

            1. JBird4049

              What I am I protesting? Everything I guess, but especially the All Fear All the Time that excuses the increasingly real Carceral State with the public as the inmates. Every fricking time I fly, go to court, or some other public places, I feel more like an inmate at San Quentin, Solidade or Folsom state prison. I feel that we all are more institutionalized everyday morphing from citizen into inmates, and from people into animals.

              Unless you have money of course. The wealthy will always be treated as least like human beings.

              For over two centuries, during wars, bombings, riots, assassinations, public violence almost at times like actual wars, and actual real wars, the United States of America did just fine without anything like this increasing militarized police. The government itself as well as the general population would look at this and thought us just crazy.

              Add the increasingly desperate efforts to control the public conversation and political control, when some real violence, or protests, or weather disaster happens, the federal, and many state, governments will just go insanely repressive. If only because the various agencies have been demoralized and hallowed out, except for the militarized bits.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            I don’t know.
            Spending most of the last three weeks in and around the San Antonio Medical Center…the thing I missed the most(hands down) was the 4:30 AM Naked Joint Walk down my little dirt road.
            sometimes, it’s a march for Peace.
            Most times, it’s to talk to(and Listen to!) the critters and the trees and the stars(“the Hour of Scampering”(!!))
            What it ain’t is Obedient.

            Instead, I got to walk to real Tex Mex for dinner(one of the bright spots),walk at 4 am to get coffee(overpriced) because no one at the hospital makes coffee(also overpriced) before 6 am for some reason…walk to the sidewalk perimeter to suck down a couple of smokes(.3 mile in one direction, almost a 1/2 mile in the other, where I parked).
            all of this past street people(not the interesting kind, just sad) endless construction, careening cops and traffic.
            the doctors and suits who live in the high end apartments across the street don’t have it near as good as I do way out here(and I can make my own TexMex and coffee)
            To each his or her own.

          2. Summer

            “If you see something, say something…”

            Millions reported a heist in the billions back in 2008 and nothing was done.

  13. cm

    We completely believe Christine Blasey Ford, but Juanita Broaddrick is a lying sack of….

    I don’t understand how people live with the cognitive dissonance required to support the Clintons…

  14. lyman alpha blob

    Good post – Clinton was not what I was expecting to hear caused the delay.

    But since you mention it, I remember about 25 years ago when he came to Seattle as pres for the APEC trade conference. The whole downtown was shut down, there were snipers on the rooftops, and they carted off all the homeless people so as not to be an embarrassment with all the foreign dignitaries in attendance. That last part really stuck in my craw.

    I don’t think our elected officials should be allowed security details after office, and they should have smaller ones while they’re in office.

    It might make them behave a little better.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      And Clinton must have been departing a bit from his usual MO – you’d have think if he wanted to see Baez, he would have taken some $$$ out of his Foundation slush fund and hired her to play at his personal residence. May bring in a couple poor people to sit in the back and call it a fundraiser.

      I mean, where’s the grift in paying for a ticket and sitting with the deplorables? I guess maybe making them all get groped by security made up for it.

      1. a different chris

        I truly suspect in his confused little heart he still thinks he’s Bubba, just one of the guys.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        After the White House, he was largely serving as Jeff Epstein’s wing man, but my guess is he simply wants attention. Based on youth voting patterns and even the “secret liberal Hillary” narrative, I can’t imagine Bill has much of a following anymore, and he certainly lacks the character of Carter to ever attempt to reinvent himself.

    2. James T. Cricket

      In 2007, when the APEC conference came to Sydney, attended by dignitaries, VIPs and, also, George W. Bush (who welcomed attendees to the ‘OPEC’ conference) …

      the whole downtown was shutdown,
      they put up security fences, preventing local Sydneysiders from moving in their own city,
      there were snipers on the rooftops,
      they arrested and carted off all the homeless people (including jumping on one poor unfortunate and slamming him to the road for the crime of not crossing at an intersection)
      they also drew up lists of known protestors/activists and (somehow) passed laws barring those persons from being within geographical locations within the city
      police wore uniforms that were stripped of insignia (no really) … http://www.abc.net.au/news/2007-09-19/hundreds-of-apec-police-removed-badges-photos/674612

      An Australian comedy group called ‘The Chaser’ penetrated all the security measures, one member dressed like Osama Bin Laden, with all of them having fake passes saying ‘Joke’ on them … https://youtu.be/N3zKuLgH_l8

  15. Gretchen Axe

    Perhaps Ms Baez became too comfortable after years of solid resistance to injustice and repression. As a fan of Baez I was glad to read your account. It brilliantly exemplifies for me how skillfully the neoliberal wolves slipped into power by giving lip service to New Deal and Civil Rights era Democrat Party values. Followed, of course, by shameless outright destruction of poor and middle-class peoples’ quality of life worldwide. I have NC to thank for relentlessly exposing them because the cognitive dissonance was killing me.

  16. DonCoyote

    Well, Clinton Foundation and speech money is probably a little sometime-y lately, so the Clintons are just being careful stewards of their money. Remember, they were dead broke when they left the White House, and not knowing where you next million is coming from can definitely induce penny-pinching.

  17. Llewelyn Moss

    Speaking of “artists mesmerized by ‘the good politicians'”
    When Obama first ran, the Grateful Dead, who were always apolitical and had never endorsed a politician, endorsed him. They made a big deal of it, press conference style. Jerry Garcia never liked any politicians, but he had passed away at that point. It was their first and last endorsement. To the Dead’s credit, there was No re-endorsment for Obama’s second term. They learned their lesson.

    As for Joan Baez, you would expect her to know the Clinton’s are crooked (the only thing Trump ever got right). But if you don’t keep informed beyond teevee news, you never learn the real story. She was very well informed back in the day. Oh well.

  18. PKMKII

    Not to get generational war on this, but is it all that surprising that a geriatric creative professional’s politics have skewed away from the revolutionary and towards the status quo? I know it’s easy for many on the left to get romantic about that era and its aesthetics, but it’s still an aesthetic of a bygone era, and clinging to the aesthetics of a bygone era is not revolutionary. Especially if it’s disconnected from current political economy. It’s one thing to look to another time’s movement and draw inspiration from that which still challenges the status quo. The aesthetics of Baez’ era was a challenge to the cultural sentiments of the greatest generation, but doesn’t challenge anyone anymore.

  19. Fellow Minnesotan

    Fascinating. My wife quite inadvertently ended up sharing a matinee Broadway theater crowd with Hilary Clinton a couple months ago for Bette Midler’s “Hello Dolly!” and didn’t experience an iota of extra security at the door. The only tip-off was when she (my wife) looked up from her spot along the back rail (it was a standing-room only ticket) and saw Hilary Clinton pass by at arm’s length a minute before the show started, as she (Hilary) and a small entourage went to their seats (some of the entourage were undoubtedly security, but none obviously so).
    Surely Hilary has to be the more valuable Clinton these days, but perhaps with the #MeToo movement, Bill is the more threatened!

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I’m wondering about the desire for celebrity. HRC after all has a higher percentage of the vote than Bill had. How much was Bill calling ahead demanding security, so the concert goers would know he was there and care?

  20. Unna

    So, when deciding where to live, limit yourself to places where the schools have no metal detectors and no school “resource” officers, aka cops, who are roaming the halls. All made necessary because we live in interesting times. No kid should have to go to such a school. And you shouldn’t have to live in such a place. Of course, that choice both closes off some locations, but also opens up many others.

  21. Tomonthebeach

    I suspect that there is now a theater-full of more people who would like to see Bill Clinton dead -at least figuratively.

    1. Matthew Kopka

      Not at a Joan Baez concert. A little homework by Mr. Strethner could have turned up several recent interviews where Joan reveals herself as the self-indulgent light-wing liberal she has long been.

      My father organized a teach-in against the (Vietnam) war in Flint when I was a child, and I met and idolized her. She was indeed beauteous of mien, melodious of voice, and clear-thinking. You don’t live in that world and stay sharp for long.

  22. ambrit

    I read this post to Phyl. She is the same age as Baez.
    Her comment: “Poor woman. Has she no shame? Going from a young Bob Dylan to an old Bill Clinton?”
    Best to keep Rock Stars away from Politicos. Too much competition.

  23. Edward

    It was during the Clinton administration that the streets around the White house were blocked off for security reasons. I went to a demonstration against Clinton in Austin, TX back in the 90’s and the police/secret service made me leave. I wanted to hold a sign on a bridge his motorcade was traveling under, I think. So much for free speech.

      1. Edward

        The most obnoxious censorship these days is probably the “free speech zones” and at the political conventions, no less. The two political parties have gotten away with a de facto ban on political protests.

    1. LifelongLib

      When JFK was assassinated, there were people waiting to picket him when he arrived where he was supposed to make a speech. That was par for the course if you were President. You were expected to put up with it. When did that change?

      1. Wukchumni

        It seems amazing now, but Truman would take a walk around DC most every morning he was in town-escorted by G-Men no doubt, but still.

      2. Keith Howard

        The attempt on Reagan’s life was the start of it. Before that, a person could walk into the Capitol — the seat of sovereignty — any time of the day or night. There were guards, of course, but they politely watched. That was the USA I grew up in. There was something magnificent about it.

        We should change the name.

      3. Edward

        I think the nature of the presidency has changed in 200 years. Around 1800, America had a small population and the president was not so remote from the public. Lincoln, for example, spent time throwing dinner parties and engaging with the public. Now the president is an emperor-like figure.

        At any rate, today America has a free speech problem– at protests, on the internet, or in the press. This situation suites many politicians.

      1. Futility


        “You know they went after King, when he spoke out on Vietnam
        He turned the power to the have-nots
        And then came the shot”

        (from “Wake up” used in The Matrix movie but completely stripped of its political meaning)

  24. tokyodamage

    Thanks for this story, it’s grimly hilarious and revealing.

    I’m too young to be a boomer, but too old to understand the seething hatred that people in their 20s/30s have for boomers.

    (i mean, how can a grown-ass adult in their thirties still blame the previous generation for all the world’s ills? And then turn around and laugh at boomers‘ lack of self-awareness?)

    I want to see a documentary where they interview people in their 70s who used to be counter-culture. . . about where their politics are at these days, and when/how they changed.

    Did boomers really morph into ‘racist grandma/grandpa at thanksgiving’, as the stereotype goes?

    Or are the younger people looking at MSM/Beltway-type boomers on the news and assuming that those people speak for their whole generation?

    I think such a documentary would go a long way to either explaining or disproving generational stereotypes.

    1. jrs

      it’s not that all the boomers are bad, so much as many of them don’t seem to understand the depth of economic suffering the generations following them experience.

      1. Martin J Cohen

        I’m 73 and started doing improv at 67. I like working with the many people in their 20’s and 30’s. One thing startling to me was the number of very talented people who are really struggling to survive.

        1. Spring Texan

          I’m 68 and when I worked on campus (left 5 years ago for a downtown job) I worked with a bunch of them. Really enjoyed that and many very bright and very beautiful.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      The big MSM sold the MSM/Beltway-type boomers as being all boomers, all elevendy-seven million of them. Look how rich they are! How insensitive and how evil! Surely they should have their Social Security repealed! Why, they don’t deserve it at all. And besides, they don’t need it because they are rich.

      About not understanding the future which the Youngers have been plunged into, that’s true enough. How many Gen Xers or older are prepared to understand America as a slowly decaying ex-Soviet republic?

  25. Alex morfesis

    Don’t blame Joan…the revolution that never was…not that moi buys the argument that hiding in plain sight and hoping some one or ones in the cheap seats might be moved to carry the candle forward in the darkness by imagining there are some hidden words of the angels in the 10,000th singing of some pseudo revolutionary magic words…

    But in August of 1963…in DC..at the official tents…a written pledge was asked…

    “I will not relax”… But find anyone who even mentions that anymore…

    ” I will not relax”…

    She obviously moved enough people by screaming into the darkness along the way that people can be “disappointed” by her refusal to take a sword so everybody doesn’t have to…

  26. Steve

    You know that if not for that level of security we’d have lots and lots more shootings. That’s what the world has become. You can’t blame Bill for that.

    1. redleg

      Having been to many hundreds of concerts, state/county fairs, and sporting events over the decades without more than a patdown for security, I beg to differ.
      How many shooting locations had security measures in place at the time?
      How many mass shootings have taken place on military bases?
      Security measures such as the ones described in the story above are a waste of time and do more to erode liberty than protect people. Real security would be applying resources to reduce factors that cause people to be hopeless and violent.

  27. The Rev Kev

    This all reminds me of how whenever a sitting US President goes to Australia, they shut down the entire city for them and keep out all the ‘muggles’. Even when the wives go on their outings, they will shut down the suburbs that they go to visit. The disruption is colossal and totally unnecessary as they could have their meetings in some small secure resort but instead, they want to satisfy their egos but having a city to themselves. It is worse when you have a bunch of world leaders do this although it does not always work out as planned such as the APEC Conference in Sydney in 2007-


    They only got so far because the world leaders had the security scaled back as they were tired of being subjected to security themselves.

  28. oh

    He’s the same jerk (if I remember correctly) who held up busy LAX so he could have a haircut. The fools in this country workship the Prez too much. I wonder if the Prex puts on his pants from the top down?

  29. Wukchumni

    Presidents are our royalty, for lack of.

    It’d be cool if we gave them appropriate titles, such as:

    Baron Hintercourse von Razorback

  30. zagonostra

    I remember feeling the disappointment when Led Zeppelin played for Obama and Heart no-less sang Stairway to Heaven…God how disappointing that they (artist) see the corruption of power, and Dylan, what can you say about his accepting the Nobel Prize (loved Patty Smith’s write up on the event) and Medals etc…I guess I’m just to much of a purist…

  31. Oregoncharles

    Why didn’t he? Well, in the first place, because he enjoys the performance (his own, I mean – and might even get a BJ out of it); and in the second, because he doesn’t have to go through all that, so he has no idea – and cares less, of course.

  32. John

    No fun to be king without the occasional royal outing among the serfs. Did anyone ask to have their scrofula cured by the royal touch?

  33. David in Santa Cruz

    This is all a sad statement about Boomer personality cults and that generation’s worship of celebrity.

    I first heard Joanie at the Berkeley Folk Festival Children’s Concert back in ‘64. My memory is of being entertained by a kid not much older than most of us in the audience. I don’t think that she was ever up to shouldering the burden of being some sort of thought-leader for her generation. Mooning at Slick Willie is pathetic, but so is an ex-President mooning at at a grandmother now mostly celebrated for having been a teenage groupie in the Village almost 60 years ago (some say that Baez’s sister Mimi and her husband Richard Fariña were the brains of that outfit).

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