Biff America: Standing on the left (column)
“On my left … In every way, it’s the lovely and semi-talented Biff America.”
That was how my old pal and occasional co-host, Jay Bauer, introduced me the first time we worked together (30 plus years ago). Jay was a good man, philanthropist, attorney and chairman of the local Republican Party. At the time, I was a low-rent TV and radio host, a wanna-be stand-up comic and an avowed liberal. Though I’m guessing Jay’s politics were more a result of researched ideology, the fact that my literary and musical heroes at the time were liberal, was reason enough for me to call myself a liberal, too.
During those early years Jay and I were the go-to choices for emceeing local events. Usually Jay got the more classy, upscale fundraiser-type gigs while I would get the mud wrestling and wet T-shirt contests. Jay was tough competition for emcee-work — he was glib, clever, never said anything inappropriate and, for worthy causes, would do it for free. I was a bit more of a mercenary. This is one of many contradictions in our relationship — the conservative would donate his time while the hippie wanted a check.
But to be clear, Jay didn’t need the money as he was a successful attorney, and I, on the other hand, was a capitalist pretending to be an artist. That said, occasionally we would share the stage and for me it was always a joy.
Jay died several years ago. I would not, then or now, presume to eulogize him. There were many who knew him far better than I. But I have been thinking about him lately. Much because he, to me, embodied what was good, enlightening and constructive about political discourse that is now lacking.
I would go months without seeing or hearing from Jay, but then out of the blue I’d get an email, sometimes even a card, with his reaction to something I said on TV, radio or in a column. Some of my work ran out of market and not in the county where we both lived, but Jay would somehow come across it. More often than not he would not emphatically disagree but rather offer an added perspective. However, when he didn’t agree he would never say, “I think you are wrong,” but only something like, “I’m not sure I agree; here’s why …”
Once when I wrote a column in a Denver paper, promoting the legalization of recreational marijuana, out of the blue I got an email from Jay with the subject “higher journalism.” Without agreeing or disagreeing, he made some observations about how my arguments might be perceived by those of a different demographic. The next column I wrote on that subject I totally plagiarized his thoughts.
About 20 years ago, some locals, seeing much of their beloved community’s open space being developed thus closing access, began gathering signatures to create a ballot initiative. The goal was to add 0.5 percent to the sales tax with that money being earmarked for the acquisition of open space for preservation, and to build trails. Though it seems like a no-brainer now, at the time it was very controversial. The local chamber of commerce actually sent out a mailer in opposition.
Once the correct number of signatures was collected, the group needed an attorney to perform the necessary legalese to put it on the ballot. I suggested Jay. Some in the group thought hiring a conservative attorney to help us raise taxes was a mistake, but since I was the one paying the bill I won the day.
When we entered his office, he shook my hand and said, “Hello, comrades.” All of us at the time were out of our realm. It was not easy getting the required signatures and dealing with the opposition and misinformation, but we all realized that would be the easy part. Jay listened while we told him our motivation, along with our hopes and dreams and asked our questions. I was mostly quiet because I knew lawyers billed by the hour.
I was counting the minutes in my head when Jay said, “Well, this is one for the record books; a few tree hugging hippies have convinced a conservative attorney to work pro-bono to help you raise taxes. I will accept no money from you.”
Jay has left us too soon but the tax he helped us raise has gone toward protecting almost 5,000 acres of land, proving once again that compassion, intellect and integrity come in all shapes, colors, creeds and parties…………….
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores or http://shop.holpublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul
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