It was Morton Downey Jr. night at Symphony Hall on Sunday.
Conversation as combat, roller-derby discourse, the kind of intellectual point-counterpoint where one side plays its trump card by flinging rubber vomit onto the stage. Four-, seven- and 12-letter words fill the air.
At center stage of this Grand Guignol is the rubber-lipped outrage himself: Morton Downey Jr., chain-smoker, talk-show pugilist, right-wing folk singer and author of the all-purpose squelch: "Zip it." With no television cameras present, this is the unexpurgated Downey as he debates two shills imported from Los Angeles.
Dressed in faded blue jeans, black tank top and a silvery jacket, he works the crowd like an aging rock star, slapping the hands of those in the front row, throwing their favorite obscenities to those in the balcony. In the lobby, Morton Downey Jr. sweat shirts are selling briskly.
The night's topics are the death penalty and date rape, and the shouting and stomping begins even before Downey strolls to the podium, beer in hand. It is mostly a college crowd and, make no mistake, they love him. "Give 'em hell, Mort, call 'em all sleaze balls and pablum-pukers and no-good liberals."
The same students that flee from Kant and sleep through Henry James line up to pay $15 a ticket to hear Morton Downey Jr.
A generation ago, students tried to shout down one of Downey's predecessors, the arch-conservative Joe Pine, but that was then and this is now, and the mood on campus has apparently changed.
"Mort tells it straight, man, like what a bunch of blood suckers all lawyers are and how most politicians are gutless and afraid to execute the killers," said Arthur Derry, a business administration major. "College tries to make us see both sides of an issue. That's B.S., and all the profs know it."
All in How You Look at It
Overheard in an elevator in downtown San Diego:
"The boss told me I have a bad attitude, but I told him he was wrong and that, besides, I don't care what he thinks."
Off to a Ruffled Start
Look, up in sky, it's a bird . . .
The newest addition to the San Diego skyline is the fowl logo of Union Bank, which late last week displaced the California First Bank logo atop the latter's 25-story building at 5th and B.
Cal First last year bought out Union Bank but decided it liked its acquisition's name better than its own. The Bank of Tokyo, which owns Cal First, then had a new logo designed for Union Bank to reflect both the Japanese reverence for birds and the American respect for strength.
Enter the new logo, described officially as a stylized blue eagle ruffling its stylized wings. Just why the bird is ruffling its wings is unclear. Maybe it's annoyed by the logo featuring three sea gulls that's on the Great American Building across the street.
We prefer to see the logobird not as an eagle but as a Thunder Chicken. Chickens have an honorable history in San Diego's financial affairs. The San Diego Chicken, for example, formerly served as symbol and spokesbird for Great American First.
Feathers aside, the Cal First / Union Bank switch is one more sign of San Diego's mixed attitude toward airborne advertising. The City Council fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend its anti-billboard ordinance, then two years ago rejected a Planning Department suggestion to ban corporate names and symbols from new high-rises.
Designs for signs and other eye-catchers for new buildings must be submitted for review, but changes in existing ones are exempt. Union Bank unveiled its new logo at midweek and had it in place and freeway-visible by Friday. This in a city where it can take weeks to get a permit to remodel your bathroom.