Who Was Gene Johnston?
The earliest program guide appearances for Gene Johnston were in 1965 and 1966 when he read his short stories. Then he did commentaries, and in 1967 started interviewing guests, appearing in panel discussions, producing an irregular review of the Seattle art scene, and, eventually, documentaries about what once gave Seattle "character".
Gene was something of a character himself, and was very effective at provoking irritated responses from his interviewees. He also wrote for the Helix, was Campaign Manager for Richard A C Greene's Assault on the Land, and organized a KRAB softball team.
Have a memory of Gene to share? Send to email@example.com
Listed in chronological order.
Gene Johnston talks about Cigarette vs dope smoking - KRAB Sep 12, 1966
Gene Johnston talks about Malice in Blunderland - KRAB Jan 9, 1967
Gene Johnston joins Lorenzo Milam interviewing Mister Tremendous - KRAB Apr 10, 1967
The Outsider, Colin Wilson interviewed by Gene Johnston - KRAB Jan 30, 1968, recorded Dec 1967
According to Gene, Colin Wilson "was to the turtleneck what Twiggy is to the mini-skirt".
Recording courtesy of the Jack Straw Foundation, JSF PA0920
Call Me "X", Whitey! - A prescient Gene Johnston talks about post-neo liberal civil rights - KRAB circa 1968
From the May 1970 marathon program guide: May 20, 1970 - THE REPORT FROM DANDELION GROTTO - Upper-middle class kindly old Uncle Eugene Johnston describes a particularly telling confrontation with a member of the oppressed minority.
Recording courtesy of the Jack Straw Foundation, JSF PA0247
Horny Porny - Gene Johnston Investigates Seattle's Sex Book Trade - KRAB Feb 22, 1968
Down In the Deeps of First Avenue there's the Horny-Porny Book Peddlers. They're 'Defenders of Free Speech' or 'Money grubbing schlockmeisters' or 'Dirty old men'. . cross out two at your own peril. A documentary by writer Gene Johnston. (Guide listing Feb 22, 1968)
HORNY-PORNY: An Interview with Art DeWitt - The former owner/operator of Art's Unlimited, Seattle's first and foremost 'mens' book and magazine store. (Some months after the interview, Art was arrested for selling 'obscene materials,' attempted suicide, and is, at last report, completely incapacitated in a rest home near Issaquah.) In this interview with Gene Johnston, they discuss Art's hasty departure from Pasco, the competition between books, movies and peep shows, and the pornography business in general. (Rebroadcast May 24, 1970)
In 1968 Arthur Chester Dewitt had a book store, "Art's Magazines", at 1023 First Ave (corner of Spring). He was also supporting Jim Garrison's campaign for president, and running himself in the Democratic primary (against Warren Magnuson) for Senate.
Walt Crowley, in his "Rites of Passage" discusses the financing of the Helix, and writes of various business's, including "porno shops", trying to "penetrate the youth market": "The porn later became an issue with the advent of feminism, but in the early years smut merchants were both reliable advertisers and, in the case of Art DeWitt's 'Arts Adult Books,' dedicated champions of freedom of speech."
In what was evolving into Gene's expose of the seedier side of downtown Seattle, it seems Lorenzo sent him on assignment to interview Dewitt ("I have a letter from Lorenzo Milam").
The interview includes some discussion of the Lee Harvey Oswald Funeral Flowers Affair, which prompted Dewitt to move from Pasco to Seattle. Learn more in the FBI documents shared here.
We also have a small collection of news articles about Dewitt's participation in the democratic process and encounters with law enforcement.
Editor's note: The first 13 minutes of the program are Gene's introduction to the Seattle porn business, its clientele, and Arthur Dewitt. Then, in the next 3 minutes listeners hear Gene arriving at Art's shop, setting up and starting the interview. It is unclear what this bit or audio vérité was intended to communicate, but technically it is a bit unpleasant, with the microphone capturing what seems to be the sound of it rustling in an old trench coat. The final 24 minutes improve, with audio levels, and the microphone, under much better control.
Recording courtesy Jack Straw Foundation, JSF PA0208
Gene Johnston, Campaign Manager for Richard A C Greene - KRAB Nov 23, 1968
A Panel on Sexual Practice and Pursuits - KRAB Jan 23, 1970
Gene Johnston moderates a panel discussion with John Pym (cinematographer of the recent film, "The Anguish of Unrequited Sodomy"); Ulysses T Chase, voyeur; and Norma Jean Eisentracker, housewife.
Although the tape label (looking like it has been removed from a bin of really nasty VHS tapes found in a store front frequented by men in raincoats) indicates this being aired on Jan 23, 1970, no program of similar description is listed in the guide for that date. The description above comes from the rebroadcast listing of Jun 30 1976. Here Gene takes the panel where no one has previously dared. Is it serious, facetious, salacious, immature, prurient, and obnoxious? Yes, it is Gene unchained. And perhaps a little inebriated.
Some of the participant names appear to be disguised, but, thanks to Michael Wiater and Charlie Krafft, we have learned a bit about John Pym. In Knute Berger's 2011 Crosscut article Rick Anderson says Pym is "remembered for taking a flying slide off a shuffleboard table and crashing through the front window.” Berger adds "I love the idea of seeing the latter rendered in bronze......"
In "Seattle City of Literature: Reflections from a Community of Writers", edited by Ryan Boudinot (2015), Tom Robbins describes Pym as a poet and regular of the Blue Moon, and that "One night at the Moon, Pym - a pretty good although undisciplined poet - stripped naked and walked through the plate-glass door - crashed right through the glass - and was last seen casually strolling east on Forty-fifth Street, leaving a little trail of blood." Charlie Krafft wrote "John Pym was a local legend at the Blue Moon Tavern. He was a some sort of poet/writer from Seattle's Beat era. I remember hearing John Pym stories."
Another description of Pym's long dark night can be found in a poem by Ruth Roach Pierson, "Best God-Damned Poet in the USA" (from Contrary, Tightrope Books, 2011).
Recording courtesy Jack Straw Foundation, JSF PA0699
Strip City Trip - KRAB Jul 16, 1970
A documentary about Seattle's Land of Enchantment, Aurora Avenue North. Gene Johnson interviews strip city merchants, junk dealers, residents and pets about life, times and traffic. Audio by Nils Von Veh, produced by Chris Melgard, and made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Chris Melgard and Nils Von Veh were both KRAB volunteer engineer/announcers at this time. From 1964 to 1968 Chris did a program reading from British Periodicals, occasional classical (Mozart), and took a turn at the Morning Show. In the 1970s, before he went to Bellingham, Nils also had a late night program "Ethereal Fizz", during which he played classical music
If you possess any souvenirs (program guides, tapes, or photos) or have a story about your experience with KRAB you are willing to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org