Trolling through newspaper archives for the good things can take months or years. The quirky, the strange, the offbeat are always buried in the backlog, in the rubble of a thousand columns on cat parades and debutant balls. This is not the case for St. Louis Outlaw, a homemade counterculture magazine that runs from 1970 to the end of 1972.
Physical issues of the magazine are hard to find these days, but local historian Mark Loehrer has made an effort to digitize and host 27 issues in a public, free-to-download Dropbox.
As an affiliate of the Liberation News Service is outlaw was a New Left, anti-war underground magazine written and produced by St. Louisans. Liberation News was a press distribution network that provided local publications such as outlaw with national bulletins, photographs and illustrations – especially cool are the drawings from the underground comix movement. R. Crumb cartoons characterize outlaw‘s columns.
Many contributors were civil rights activists, women liberation activists, and members of the Washington University Department of Students for a Democratic Society. Most of the writing comes from young people trying to find their way through political chaos, war and entrenched bigotry at the local level. You can find the still relevant question “Who Controls The Loop” in volume two, number eight, page fourteen.
To get an idea of the political moment that spawned outlaw, a month after the first edition ran in April 1970, the National Guard shot four college students in Kent State. They were guilty of protesting against the Vietnam War. A day later, on May 5, 1970, St. Louis protesters set fire to ROTC building on Wash U campus.
One of the outlaw editors, Devereux Kennedy, served as Wash U’s student assembly president and was questioned in the wake of the ROTC building fire. Kennedy was a member of the WEB DuBois Society and the SDS, while the FBI carried out illegal surveillance through COINTELPRO. In the first volume of outlaw, page seven, Kennedy’s “Chicago Comes to St. Louis” discusses the legal aftermath of the ROTC fire.
Professor George Lipsitz, former editor and writer at outlaw and now a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, describes the readership as “long-haired children hanging out in front of the magic market.” It was young people who were angry at the dominance of ordinary white suburban culture, the war in Vietnam, and a world tipping over on the brink of nuclear annihilation.
With all the covert holiness from the mainstream media – which constantly lied about Vietnam – outlaw searched for alternatives. Nothing was permanent, there was a wide range of topics, and would it kill you to make a joke every now and then? One side spoke to piss on Richard Nixon’s Advocate General John Mitchell; another features a record-breaking Marvel Wand release; on the next, a female reader shouts a male reviewer off Cloth (1971) from last outlaw edition: “Why is it so hard for men to admit that the situation of prostitutes is just the more stressed side of life for many women in this society?”
Some parents of subscribers on outlaw found the publication in their mailbox and complained that the post office was delivering degenerate dirt. In “SMUT” you can read the editorial response when Manchester, Missouri’s Board of Aldermen unofficially banned outlaw – volume two, number two, page four. “The minutes from the board meeting on April 5 describe outlaw as ‘a radical and obscene newspaper’, “it notes.” Alderman Harloe is down the register as an opponent of ‘sales of pornography and dirt’. ”
But many found value in an alternative press. The stranglehold on American media did not provide space to report on union abolition, the march of disabled welfare recipients, the liberation of women, abortion rights or the compelling need to let its freak flag fly.
“No one could sell out, because no one bought,” says Lipsitz. That outlaw held open editorial meetings, he recalls – many held in Wash U’s Holmes Lounge. In the middle of a discussion during a meeting, the pockets of a long-haired novice began to tremble – the undercover officer forgot to turn off his radio. “There was overt surveillance,” Lipsitz says.
Many considered Fred Faust to be that editor-in-chief of outlaw; he was a home-grown southern city boy, an eagle scout, and a military warrior of the Vietnam War who sat under the oath of allegiance at Busch Stadium. Norman Pressman, co-editor of Washington University Student life together with Faust, tells RFT that Faust was once arrested while selling outlaw at the South County Center, but it was on purpose. Faust tried to produce anti-war documentation. His father was a candy salesman, his mother a secretary of the Board of Education, and Faust had a draft number – he was not a senator’s son.
To get himself in a better draft position, Faust left St. Louis in late 1972 on his way to Oakland, California. There he received an introductory notice, but the American lawyer in San Francisco did not pursue all the cases, and Faust escaped the war.
Of course, the war in Vietnam occupies many of those outlaws pages. Towards the end, “St. Charles GI Says No” runs in volume two, number eleven, page two. The article covers Sgt. Bruce Porter, who became a military conscientious objector after working on planes like the F-4C Phantom, which dropped heavy bombs and napalm on Vietnam.
Pressman says Faust leaves St. Louis eventually finished outlaw, but many stories are still relevant. Take, for example, the article “Peabody Coal Crosses the Great Spirit – Navajos Burn Shit in LA” from Volume Two, Number Twelve, Page Seven: Peabody Coal is still headquartered in downtown St. Louis. Louis and pollutes vast areas of Native American sanctuary. lands with carcinogenic mining.
Need some sports commentary from a left-wing perspective? Check out “Get High On SPORTS Not Drugs” from the last page of volume two, number nine.
Wonder how long the police have had a free license for violence against ordinary citizens? “Cops Protect Wife Beater” by Sterling and Lucifer is in volume one, number four. “ACTION Report Assails Police” is on page thirteen in volume one, number six. “Workhouse Lets Loose” documents prisoner uprisings in August 1971.
“Women’s Bodies: Contraception and Conception” in volume two, number nine, page nine reviews the basics of a woman’s reproductive system, The Pill and Margaret Sanger’s contraceptive movement as a means of achieving a “powerful, constructive, liberated morality that would prevent the immersion of femininity in motherhood. ”
The ads are also worth a look: Readers seem to have been obsessed with pants. There’s the lower half, Foxmoor, Pant Pit, R ‘Pants. There are jeans with a bell bottom, trousers with buttons, trousers with flair, all kinds of trousers and lots of belts, vests and hippie suits from Gypsy Cowboy at North Euclid.
KSHE, “Frantic Free Radio,” was particularly keen on promoting Gary Bennett, seven to midnight. Akashic Record Shop, Streetside Records, Melody Mart, Blew Fuse. Get a java fix at Fleur De Lis or Archduke Coffee House. The Spec Shop sold “unusual glasses” at Laclede, and you could of course pick them up outlaw at Left Bank Books, which always ran an ad alongside O’Connell’s Pub.
Lots of main stores marketed their wares. Postbellum and the General Store sold Head Foam at incredibly low prices. The “Dope Scope” column tried to print information about the available pot in the city “as accurately as possible”, but some of the most vibrant art in outlaw are the ads for Spectrum head shop. Each of them is a postcard from a strange psychedelic zone inside a building at 8153 Big Bend.
That outlaw was and will be a valuable lens to see the sociopolitical issues of his time from a left-wing perspective. No matter what high school you went to, the history class did not teach the Great Railroad Strike in 1877 or the burning of the ROTC building – but if you were a outlaw reader you knew of such events. A lot of radical history in St. Louis is invisible, but Walter Johnsons Broken Heart of America is very close to a people’s history in the city. The book is a groundbreaking account of class struggle, racism and emancipatory movements in Gateway City, from Benton Barracks (now Fairground Park) as the symbolic center of black freedom during the Civil War to the unemployment marches of the 1930s to Percy Green and ACTION protesters pulls off the veil of the veiled prophet.
Where the bow now stands, Johnson notes, were “places where poets and radicals had met and conspired during the years of the Depression.” There were clusters of riverside bars, coffee shops, and squats once known as the Greenwich Village of the West, but Mayor Bernard Dickmann could not stand the black-communist-bohemian alliance that had demonstrated outside (sometimes inside) his office through the 1930s. That outlaw, and the writers and editors who published it could be seen as spiritual descendants of this alliance. Lipsitz says outlaw was a valuable tool for responding to chaos. No matter how much doom, lies and war came, there were people who tried to formulate some alternative on the pages of outlaw.
Due to a photocopy, the indicative statement of the first edition is a bit difficult to read. But here are a few quotes from it, written for outlaw by poet Jerry Martien: “We are all outlaws in the eyes of America – so says a song from Jefferson Airplane. It seems true.
“America was once an outlaw, but at the time Thomas Paine called an outlaw to say it. John Brown was an outlaw because he acted against the slavery of men’s bodies and minds. Chief Joseph of Nez Pierce was an outlaw when he acted out. from the belief that free people should not be subject to the laws of exploitation.
“The outlaws. All the quiet people at the end of their ropes, the quirky old men, the crazy kids, the smashers of TVs at night, the rejections of taxes or pills or social workers or school, the underground priest, creators of pure acid and spirit-expanding dope, those who create and live change, you and me, and all such freaks and saints and tragic and comic heroes, the insane or the very sensible, us – we can all be outlaws and America can become ours again. ”
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