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1977: bohemian elegy: the Anne Hughes Gallery | blazermania


It is not a happy new year for Anthony Paul Lucarelli when local FBI agents seize a $2 million stash of heroin from his Southeast Portland home. "This is the largest [confiscation] in the memory of anybody in the bureau," says narcotics Sgt. John Luciano.

Multnomah County District Attorney Harl Haas is arrested in Sacramento, Calif., on drunk-driving charges. He refuses to submit to a blood-alcohol test, is fined $315 and has his license suspended for six months. Haas later says he and assistant Mary Lou Calvin were in the Golden State capital to learn more about the city's victim-assistance program. Problem is, the program didn't start until two months after Haas' visit. He later becomes a judge.

Wait a minute--it's stopped raining! Oregon suffers its worst drought in 100 years; rainfall measures only 5 to 30 percent of normal across the state. Parched Portlanders suffer again in August, when the thermometer reads 102 degrees.

The Oregon Legislature proposes safety-net legislation to protect school districts whose operating levies fail at the polls. But voters reject the plan in a special May election.

Pacific Power & Light Co. president John Lansing resigns in March after the IRS discovers he commandeered a company jet for personal travel. He is rehired in December at his old salary, however, to head the utility's new public-relations subsidiary, which employs only Lansing and his secretary. He is fired again in June 1978 after public outcry.

Mayor Goldschmidt declares June 25 Gay Pride Day. Hundreds of supporters gather outside City Hall, while opponents stage a counter-protest in Laurelhurst Park, sponsored by the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. One spokesman asks why Goldschmidt doesn't declare a special day for adulterers and wife-swappers.

The first Artquake erupts downtown, spewing hot Brazilian jazz, puppet shows, commedia dell'arte and other free performances across the city.

ERA supporter and state legislator Gretchen Kafoury proposes that state government refuse to pay for employees' hotel, airfare and meals when they travel on business to states that haven't ratified the proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

To protest apartheid, the Portland City Council denounces the sale and advertising of South African Krugerrands. Mayor Goldschmidt tells the council that he wishes similar action had been taken "when my fellow Jews were being murdered in Nazi Germany."

Blitz-Weinhard begins commercial production of an innovative specialty beer, Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve. The first establishments to carry the new brew are Jake's Famous Crawfish and the Goose Hollow Inn.

Gov. Bob Straub orders the state attorney general's office to conduct an investigation of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission after a Willamette Week story alleges that administrator Kenneth Underdahl and other agency officials have abused their authority by investigating private citizens and playing favorites in licensing matters. Underdahl is later relieved of his duties, and the OLCC is reorganized.

  It was a sad day for bohemia when the Anne Hughes Gallery closed its doors in March. Located in a garage on Southwest 2nd Avenue, it was an outgrowth of the Anne Hughes and Friends Gallery, which operated in years prior from a funky house in Northwest Portland. Hughes (at left) wanted to bring people and art together in the style of European salons; it proved a commercial failure but an artistic triumph: Gertrude Stein birthday parties, Portland's first showing of artist Judy Chicago, and evenings spent mixing with artists like Henk Pander and Mel Katz. She is still bringin g people together today at her Coffee Room at Powell's Books and at the Anne Hughes Kitchen Table cafe.


  In 1977, the Portland Trail Blazers won the NBA championship, beating the Philadelphia 76ers with a group of players led by a left-leaning vegetarian named Bill Walton. For Portland, a town without a rich history of professional sports, the event was defining: It was as if the entire city could now stand up and scream, "WE ARE SOMEBODY!" The manic worship of the team was termed Blazermania, and in his 1978 book Idol Time, Larry Colton captured the spirit.

Basketball analysts developed a number of theories to explain why the Blazers had won. Most of those theories centered on the Blazers' concept of team play. They were a unique blend of players, all dedicated to the good of the team; individual statistics took a distant second to winning, in their minds. In the era of superstars, huge salaries and runaway egos, the Blazers functioned as a single unit. Some described them as selfless--an overstatement perhaps, but tending toward truth.

While the chemistry and the teamwork between the players made them champions, other factors were important in the Blazers' success. None of it would have been possible without Harry Glickman, the general manager. It was his relentless work in the late '60s that brought Portland a franchise. Take away Harry Glickman and people would still think of Lewis and Clark when the words "Trail Blazers" were mentioned.

And then there was Blazermania: an arena full of stomping, whistling, screaming fanatics; a city full of support. Blazermania seeded with the first harbingers of spring 1977, then rooted in late April, blossomed in May and became a blue ribbon bouquet in June.

On Broadway, after the Blazers triumphed over Philadelphia for the world championship, horns were honking; Frisbees were flying; people were dancing, hugging and getting high. A shirtless man dribbled a basketball between two cars, then fired a jump shot at a street light. Cries of "We're No. 1!" cascaded down the street. Index fingers were thrust into the air. Happy people were sitting on car fenders or on the curb, waving to the drivers in the idling cars.

Some say that Blazermania, an unbridled love affair between a city and a sports team, had its origins in history. Historians of the Pacific Northwest have formulated a number of different theories to explain Blazermania. For example:

People like to root for the underdogs. The Blazers had always been losers. Nobody picked them to win. Add to that the fact that Portland was the smallest city in the NBA.

There wasn't a lot going on in Portland. Once described as a city suffering from culture schlock, Portland had nothing else to do but get behind the Blazers. The skiing conditions were poor, and it was better than standing in the rain.

Portland was suffering from an identity crisis. The people were starved for national recognition. It was the first time Portland had made national sports news since Neldon Driggs won the indoor flycasting championship in 1947.

Portland was one of the whitest cities in the country; the Blazers were one of the whitest teams. Ethnic pride. (This theory was refuted by liberals, however, claiming it was racist in origin. It didn't play too well at Geneva's either.)

There was no big-league football, baseball or hockey in Portland. Portland State University wasn't one of the super collegiate powers. And soccer had too many foreigners.

Larry Colton wrote about sports and other topics for WW in the '70s and '80s. He is the author of three books (Idol Time, Goat Brothers and Counting Coup) and lives in Portland.


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