#TODAY ON VOICES RADIO: Honoring the Life of Gary Stewart Rhino and I Tunes Music Magician, Progressive Activist, Organizer, and Philanthropist, Funny, Witty, Mensch, and Dear Friend
Gary Stewart, a good friend to so many, died last week at 62, with so much more important work he was needed to do. He left the love, admiration, and heartbreak of so many civil rights, environmental, justice, Black, Latinx, women, and progressive organizers in Los Angeles. Gary was also a dear friend of ours at the Labor/Community Strategy Center. He contributed funds generously, spent many but not enough lunches, dinners, and phone calls with me, and was never short of advice, some of which was actually pretty good, but always put forth with a rare combination of confidence and humility. We laughed a lot, loved to argue and debate, as my Uncle Charlie used to say, “For arguments sake” and for many of us Jews, the form and the content of argument is mentally challenging, intellectually and strategically essential, competitive, and fun.
One of Gary’s great gifts was giving gifts. Not like Santa, a goy, not like Karl Marx, a better bearded choice, but like Gary Stewart who was truly “trunkworthy” one of his many business ventures, whose mission he described as “to turn you on to the best movies, music, TV shows and videos you might have missed.” But long before the formal start of Trunkworthy, we all knew Gary’s trunk as a treasure trove of gifts. His selections were eclectic and off the chart—his gift to me of amazing Rhino box sets such as Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans is one that I cherish to this day. This would be followed by two, three, and four season DVD collections of The Wire and Treme (Gary loved David Simon’s work as do I) gorgeously packaged 2 and 4 CD sets of Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and other soul stirring stars, and always some new film or TV series he wanted to turn us on to. One day Gary came to the Strategy Center and met with 15 of our core staff and members. After an hour, clearly inspired, he said, “I’ll be right back” and must have driven his Prius up to the 12th floor of the Wiltern, opened his trunk, tipped the car upwards, and let every possible box set of music, films, and TV series fall into our laps. Everyone was allowed to choose one, and he gave us others to use as premiums to reward our closest members and supporters. He was so generous and so good natured about it, just asking for the joy of others as the appreciation he sought.
My greatest joy with Gary was debating analyzing film. Film is such a powerful, often limited, sometimes flawed medium for great ideas and small powerful insights. At its greatest, I always think of The Battle of Algiers, as you will pick your own, it is truly transformative. It is rare that people leave a theater without differing, conflicting, and sometimes carrying out angry debates demanding that others view cinematographic reality the way they did. Gary and I enjoyed the sparring and on that, I learned so much from him. I wanted KPFK to consider a show with the both of us, maybe once a month, reviewing films, but neither of our lives could accommodate another new project.
So here is my gift to you. This week’s radio show, Gary Stewart and Eric Mann on Film, edited beautifully by Channing Martinez, producer of Voices from the Frontlines, KPFK/Pacifica every Tuesday at 3 PM PST, streaming live on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/ericmannspeaks. Almost an hour of two KPFK broadcasts from 2013 and 2014. We discuss Her, in which Theodore played by Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his Operating System played by Scarlett Johansson; The Wire and Treme by David Simon, which we both loved, but I argue Simon was negligent in not having a major character from a civil rights/Black/community group in each series and Gary disagreed, Gary’s tribute to John Sayles, comparing him to Frances Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, is one I do hope John Sayles and Maggie Renzi heard originally or will get to hear soon (see our site, www.Voicesfromthefrontlines.com) As you listen, do appreciate the brilliance of Gary’s mind, his truly artful, witty, and trenchant (if very rapid) observations, the affection between us, and the great loss that we will not be able to hear his latest ideas and opinions on art, politics, and life. This is all the more reason to celebrate the wonderful work he has already achieved.
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