"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
As a gay man — and as someone acquainted with the effects of real homophobia — reading the recent letters that accused Salon of “gay baiting” and “homophobia” for daring to delve into discredited White House “reporter” Jeff Gannon’s past, I was annoyed, to say the least.
How on God’s green earth is discussing the details of this outrageous situation “homophobia”? If Gannon is, indeed, linked to prostitution, then you have a man engaged in an illegal occupation — one that is highly open to blackmail and extortion — with few real reporting credentials to his name, being given an unusual amount of favoritism and access to the White House. Were Gannon a female or male heterosexual gigolo with the same limited reporting experience who was discovered to be a heterosexual prostitute, the issues would be precisely the same.
Are these readers seriously suggesting that the specific details of this case shouldn’t be discussed or investigated because of some misguided notion that a potential link between the White House and a person involved in a criminal enterprise is merely a “personal issue”? That attitude itself smacks of a queasiness in discussing homosexuality and sex. Excuse me, folks, but genuine tolerance doesn’t involve sweeping all mention of sexuality under the rug.
Heaven forbid that Salon might note the possibility that Gannon catered to men. Salon is “gay baiting”? Yeah, right. There’s about as much “homophobia” in Salon’s coverage of the Gannon case as there is in acknowledging that Mary Cheney is — “gasp!” — a lesbian.
– Don Cybelle
Reading the letters critical of Salon’s article on “Jeff Gannon” made me wonder, once again, what planet I’m living on.
The Republican Party in general and the Bush White House in particular have sold themselves to a substantial portion of the American public as the avatars of morality, indeed as God’s Own Party. And these letter writers believe that the fact that a man who was a fake reporter for a fake news agency (that was merely a front for the Texas GOP) turns out to have been, up until the moment he began his journalistic “career,” a gay male prostitute is irrelevant? How about the fact that he lied in public to several well-known news organizations about his involvement with the Web sites in question? Is that irrelevant? What about the columns he authored on his Web site, condemning gays for wanting to legalize their committed, monogamous relationships? I suppose that still makes the fact that he was a gay prostitute irrelevant.
Add the fact that the Republican Party has made it standard operating procedure to use lies and distortions about people’s personal lives in order to destroy their careers (Bill Clinton, John Kerry, even John McCain) and I say that Mr. “Gannon’s” previous career choices are incredibly relevant.
– Dan Majoros
Why is Gannon/Guckert’s “secret life” newsworthy? It isn’t. What is newsworthy is what it demonstrates about the proclaimed values of the current administration: that they’re a smoke screen.
The Bush administration rode to a second term on the coattails of anti-gay sentiment. Millions of religious conservatives who disagree with many of the Bush administration’s important domestic and foreign policy positions held their noses and voted for Bush anyway. They did so, at least in part, because they believe that homosexual behavior is immoral and they perceived Bush as the champion of the anti-homosexual (or, in a larger sense, the anti-sexual freedom) agenda for America that they feel God would have them pursue.
It’s important, therefore, to expose Gannon/Guckert’s past behavior in order to show that the neocons’ embrace of the immorality of homosexuality is, well, fake. I grew up in a Christian fundamentalist family in the South and I can assure you that no true holder of right-wing anti-homosexual attitudes would ever knowingly engage a gay man, much less a gay prostitute, as a spokesman. That the Bush administration used Gannon/Guckert in that capacity, and that they did so stealthily and with intent to deceive, proves that political expediency, not moral values, is the arbiter of this administration’s behavior.
In short, the Gannon/Guckert controversy proves that right-wingers in power have duped millions of their Christian followers into voting for them by falsely appearing to share their beliefs. And, while most Salon readers already have all the proof they need of that truth, it’s important that we prove it to the ones who have been deceived.
– Dave Creswell
I’m surprised at the readers who claim not to see whether it matters that “Jeff Gannon” is homosexual. It matters because he’s a propagandist for a political movement that seeks to limit gays’ quest for equality at every turn and will ultimately try to outlaw homosexuality entirely if it gets the chance. It matters in exactly the same way a black member of the KKK would matter, or a Jewish Nazi: because it exposes the hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance that is at the heart of the right wing.
– Daniel Dvorkin
Is Mr. Gannon’s sexual orientation a legitimate issue in this story? Yes, it certainly is — for two reasons. First, the Bush administration, Republicans and conservatives have relentlessly demonized homosexuals over gay marriage, civil unions, adoption rights, hate crime legislation, military issues, etc. They have been oddly silent over the news that a sleazy hustler has been “blowing kisses” to the administration.
Secondly, on his Web site, Mr. Gannon described himself as the model of the white conservative male. In fact he is a homosexual prostitute. He made his sexual orientation an issue by his own hypocrisy.
I’m tired of gays and their supporters rushing to the defense of any homosexual. Jeff Gannon did our community no favors. He thrived in a dark and seedy corner of gay life, and, at the same time, supported a discriminatory and hateful administration and ideology for his own gain.
Hopefully I speak for most gay people when I say, “Mr. Bush … you can have him!”
– Michael Smith
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)