Announcing a Run For Congress, Beast Publisher Paul Fallon Lets it All Hang Out
It had to have been about a month ago... We were in the office one day when our publisher, Paul Fallon-- who in his Bruce Banner/Clark Kent incarnation doubles as the Erie County Green Party chairman-- offhandedly made an announcement one morning.
"Yeah, I was thinking, what the fuck, enough is enough, I'm going to run for Congress," he said.
"How was your weekend?" I asked, not really paying attention. There is a perpetual deficit of coffee cups in the BEAST offices, and I was scanning Paul's desk for poachable mugs. In any office environment, particularly one like ours, the desk of the practicing attorney is always the most promising potential source of office supplies--pens, pads, clean things to drink coffee out of.
"Everyone complains that I don't do enough," he said. "So I figured, I'll do something. I'll run for congress."
He seemed serious, but who can tell? People talk about a lot of things in our wing of the luxurious Statler Towers. We talked about it for a few more minutes, and then, satisfied that there were no clean cups in Paul's office, I left.
A week later a bunch of us were in the office designing an ad when Paul came in.
"Oh, by the way, I've decided I'm going to announce my candidacy in the nude," he said. "My slogan is going to be, 'I'm Paul Fallon, and I have nothing to hide.'"
That turned out to be a short conversation, too. It was a great idea, but I don't think that any of us actually thought he'd go through with it. Hell, we wouldn't do something like that, and we're crazy for a living. We talked vaguely about his campaign strategy, offered to help any way we could, and then went back to work, still not sure that any of it would ever come to anything.
Then last week rolled around. For weeks, Paul had been quietly gathering signatures to get on the ballot as a Green Party candidate, doing the whole thing himself, never asking for our help in getting even this tiresome job done. By last Thursday, he had more than he needed. Now it was serious. And what's more, he seemed more serious than ever about making his announcement in the nude. He had that glow that people get about them when they're very determined about something.
On the surface, Paul is about the last person you would imagine if you were trying to picture a congressional candidate. His manner of speech is halting, and at times he mumbles. He's had financial problems, problems with his career. He doesn't have any backers at all, let alone powerful ones from the corporate world. Take away his law degree, and his years of involvement with minor party politics-- much of which has involved mediating intramural squabbles over minutiae and trying to maintain morale amid a hopeless sense of marginalization-- and Paul is no more qualified than any of us to make a run at the House of Representatives.
But Paul has one thing that sets him apart. He's not ashamed of his problems. In discussing the idea of announcing in the nude, people criticized him, and told him that it would be a blow to his credibility, that he wouldn't be taken seriously. What those people failed to realize was that, more than a gimmick, announcing in the nude was a gravely serious statement. He was planning to get up and say, "Here I am, and so what? I'm not rich, I don't look like a model, my career isn't what it should be. So what!"
The unwillingness to believe that it is okay to say that is the only thing that keeps tens of thousands of people from feeling that they're more qualified than rich creeps like incumbent Republican Tom Reynolds to hold office. Having the balls to believe that you're as good as they are is the only qualification any of us ever need to make a run at these people. Paul was the first one of us to figure that out, and God bless him.
Once his petition was in, we dropped everything and helped prepare the press release for his announcement, which would live up to its billing as a truly original political event.
Just after twelve this past Monday morning, Paul walked out of a side door in the Buffalo room of the Statler Towers and headed for the podium. He was completely naked. His unit hung freely for all the cameras to see. Tripods whirred and flashes popped as the Candidate walked slowly and defiantly to the front of the room.
Humorously, Paul ended up positioned behind the podium in such a way that most of the still photographers in the room could only capture his hanging balls on film, the more essential part obscured. Our own photos came out looking like illustrations in a veterinary textbook.
About the funniest thing about the press conference was the sight of the local journalistic priesthood wondering aloud before the start, in apparent seriousness, why in the world any serious candidate for office would announce his run naked.
I heard several of the TV reporters talking about this before Paul came out (channels 2 and 4 attended). It was an amazing thing to listen to. Not one of them even thought to bring up the fact that two TV networks, radio, and the Buffalo News would never in a million years turn out to hear a Green party candidate with clothes on announce a run for congress. As it was, the newspeople faithfully reported the next day that Paul, in addition to being naked, stood for ending the war on drugs, providing everyone with health care, and working to support labor in opposition to Tom Reynolds's pro-corporate policies.
Channel 2 even rebroadcast, under a series of beeps, the following sound byte from the beginning of Paul's speech: "I'm running because Tom Reynolds is a big fucking asshole!" No way a candidate with clothes on gets that on the air.
I will refrain here from describing the curious positioning of some of the cameras, or that certain members of the press strategically positioned themselves well to the side of the makeshift podium (actually a pair of chairs covered with a garbage bag and an American flag featuring corporate symbols instead of stars) in order to have full view of Paul's congressional package throughout the ceremony.
Paul's speech started slowly, but during the question and answer period, he started to heat up. What started out as a gimmick started to sound curiously like politics when, in response to a question about whether he was a credible candidate, he answered, "Why not me? I represent actual people. How many of us have a mansion in Clarence like Tom Reynolds, or rich corporate friends who'll pay $5,000 a pop to play golf with you at Pebble Beach?"
That night, on Channel 7, Tom Reynolds actually responded, calling Paul's stunt demeaning to the political process, and too silly to be worth his time.
Whatever. The reason most people are bored by politics these days is because almost none of us feel like we're actually participating. The two parties serve us up a pair of mostly identical candidates who conduct a narrow, polite debate with one another, at the end of which we lazily choose one or the other.
But the reality is that you can go from being broke and anonymous to forcing a millionaire congressman to publicly respond to being called an asshole within about an hour. Instead of a sham, you can have the real thing. All you have to do is do it yourself. It just takes balls and a little brains.
Journalists who stay on the sidelines cracking Jay Leno one-liners during elections make us here at the BEAST want to puke. The real fun is in actually doing something. Paul may not win this election, but he could very easily make Tom Reynolds's life until November utterly miserable. That's a goal this paper can support. Give Paul a call if you feel the same way. He needs your help.