March 9th, 2005 John Schrag, Zach Dundas | Special Section Stories
 

1984

     
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Mayor Bud Clark poses with the infamous "Expose Yourself to Art" poster that made him a household name.

This Bud's for You

BY JOHN SCHRAG

When Bud Clark arrived at the Yamhill Market on the night of May 15, he was greeted by throngs of supporters who were whoop-whooping it up. The early returns from the mayoral race were unbelievable. The dark horse wasn't merely posting a good showing. He was winning.

Just a dozen blocks away, in the downtown Red Lion Hotel, incumbent Mayor Frank Ivancie ducked into a restroom and threw up.

This wasn't supposed to happen.

Mayor Ivancie had made a lot of friends during his 14 years at City Hall. He kept the chamber-of-commerce crowd happy with sweetheart deals. He wooed the East Portland lunch-bucket brigade with his conservative rhetoric. By early May, he enjoyed the backing of nearly every heavy hitter in the city, from Art Reidel, Robert Pamplin and Earl Chiles to Louisiana-Pacific, Plaid Pantry and The Oregonian.

Clark, on the other hand, was a tavern owner, not a political heavyweight. He hadn't run for office since his campaign for sophomore class president at Lincoln High School in 1947. The bearded barkeep was chiefly known outside his Goose Hollow neighborhood for flashing a statue in a controversial poster Expose Yourself to Art. His idea of dressing up meant dusting off the lederhosen. His favorite mode of transit was bicycle or canoe. He was a foul-mouthed, 52-year-old ex-beatnik and "born-again pagan," a registered Republican who threatened to vote for Jesse Jackson.

In short, he was the consummate outsider. But while Clark's trail to the mayor's office was unlikely, it was no accident.

By 1983 Ivancie had so infuriated Portland's progressive political mafia that a handful of henchmen went looking for a challenger. "We wanted someone who was unconventional, had a history of community service and solid business sense," says veteran City Hall insider Dave Kish. In 1983, Kish and Ernie Bonner, a former city planner, asked Clark to consider running. Clark pondered the idea that spring. And summer. And fall. Kish and others resigned themselves to a second Ivancie term.

But on Christmas Day, one of Clark's relatives gave him a pair of woolen slippers packed in a tin shaped like the new Portland Building. The gift card said, "To the mayor, with love."

Clark called Kish. "I'm running," he said. Kish responded curtly: "You're too late, Bud."

But, as would happen so often during the campaign, Clark's political inexperience would prove an asset. With four months to election day, and his top challenge coming from an overgrown elf, Ivancie assumed his re-election was guaranteed. In fact, no one took Clark's candidacy seriously. Well, almost no one.

"People said I wasn't serious," Clark reminisced years later over a Budweiser at his tavern, the Goose Hollow Inn. "That's a lot of bullshit. I borrowed $50,000 on my house. I wasn't running for the exercise. I thought I could win."

It was not a widely shared belief. Clark's campaign manager, former county commissioner Ben Padrow, viewed Bud's candidacy mainly as a protest. The early numbers looked dismal: A mid-March poll gave Ivancie a 35-point edge. Their only hope was to use Clark's longshot status to boost the odds.

"Ivancie took us as a joke," says Tim Hibbitts, Clark's pollster and campaign consultant. "We didn't want to give him reason to do anything otherwise."

Hibbitts and Padrow proceeded to pull off Portland's first stealth campaign. Padrow, whom Clark paid in packs of Tareytons, would "confide" in City Commissioner Mildred Schwab, telling her what a shambles the campaign was in, knowing that the news would reach Ivancie.

"It was basically a sandbag job," says Hibbitts. In reality, the campaign had rounded up nearly 400 volunteers who blanketed the city for Bud.

Clark felt the tide turn in May, during the annual St. Johns parade. Ivancie, at the front of the pack, was greeted with boos. Clark, who followed later, drew cheers. "This was a blue-collar neighborhood," says Clark, "and blue-collar neighborhoods were supposed to belong to Frank."

Then The Oregonian confirmed Clark's hunch. A poll by the newspaper showed the race a dead heat.

Ivancie's campaign responded with a last-minute barrage of desperate radio ads and fliers, trashing Clark as a "joke" and questioning his religious beliefs. The tactic backfired. A few days later, on May 15, Clark was elected by a stunning 13-point margin.

The man no one had expected to be mayor would serve for eight years. He got off to a rough start, going through police chiefs and top aides like a barfly went through Blitz. His folksy quips, so charming on the campaign trail, seemed out of place in City Hall, as when he consoled embattled Police Chief Penny Harrington with a jovial "Tits up!" after pushing her out the door in 1986. Or later that year, when he told Tom Brokaw, over beers at the Goose, that "Mildred Schwab could only have an orgasm at budget time."

And it wasn't just a struggle with style. His 12-point homeless plan, which had won national acclaim when it was unveiled in 1987, achieved only half its goals. And despite his weekly proclamation about "honoring diversity," Clark never connected with Portland's African-American residents. His 1989 remark about getting a "suntan" to improve that relationship was inexcusable.

In the end, however, the blustery bartender left behind a formidable legacy. He took the city's rainy-day fund, which Ivancie had drained, and built it up to $21 million. He was the chief cheerleader for building the Oregon Convention Center. He introduced community policing to Portland, and finally picked a solid police chief-a guy named Tom Potter who would, 20 years later, stage his own popular assault on City Hall, with Clark's endorsement.

But Clark's biggest gift to the city is harder to document. By dethroning King Ivancie, he took a hokey campaign slogan and made it come true. He really was "The People's Mayor."

Pass the Mic!

Portland hip-hop keeps it in the family.

BY ZACH DUNDAS

The night of Friday, Nov. 2, 1984. Ronald Reagan was days away from pimp-slapping Walter Mondale. But to the crowd at the Starry Night, national politics must have seemed remote at best.

Great communicators of another kind manned the Old Town club's stage: funk bands, DJs, breakdancers and rappers. To hear some tell it now, Throw Down '84 was Portland hip-hop's coming-out party-the first citywide showcase for a music and dance underground previously confined to Northeast Portland's corners and schoolyards.

"That night influenced me and a lot of others," says Vursatyl (a.k.a. Marlon Irving) of the decade-old group Lifesavas. "Before that, the scene definitely grew out of dance. The guys who were popping on the street corners were the neighborhood heroes all the way back to '78."

Indeed, hip-hop-product of late-'70s New York, most profound pop-culture sea change since Elvis' pelvis-had local devotees early on. But the kids in Northeast had no idea where their youthful freestyle rap and breakdance battles would lead.

Cool Nutz-Terrance Scott to his mom-was a student at Beaumont Middle School in the early '80s.

"It was all about breakdancing," he recalls. "There were a few rappers, but that wasn't the focal point. Our crew would come into the cafeteria. The other crew would come in the other side. People would clear the tables and we'd battle. We were kids, but it was very genuine."

After local hip-hoppers showed off at the Starry Night, though, music surpassed dance as hip-hop's engine. Local MCs rocked venues like Exodus and the E-Street Icehouse. The U-Krew became Portland's first group to brush major-label fame, though it failed to really break through. Artists like Cool Nutz and Maniac Lok began circulating serrated-edged tales of Northeast Portland life on do-it-yourself cassettes.

As the '90s rolled, hip-hop exploded into a national phenomenon, surpassing country music to become the nation's most-purchased genre. Hip-hop style and slang invaded every corner of the country. In 1999, billionaire Paul Allen cashed in when he transformed a sleepy FM station into Jammin 95.5, Portland's first (and so far only) all-hip-hop outlet. The station's success-it quickly rose to No. 1-cemented Portland as a hip-hop market.

A largely white city once considered fly-over territory by major hip-hop artists now attracts big tours-and is perhaps even more hospitable to the music's artsier, independent fringe. For Portland artists, the rising tide has meant a chance to be heard. Lifesavas scored a critical coup with 2003's Spirit in Stone. Cool Nutz recently released his fifth album on his own Jus Family label.

But hip-hop's transformation from ghetto art to mass culture altered the complexion of Portland's scene-literally.

"The demographics have completely changed," says Cool Nutz. "Used to be, at a big show the crowd would be 60 percent black, 40 percent white. Now it's the opposite-or you'll go to a show where there are basically no black people at all. You'll be in the Roseland [the former Starry Night] with 1,200 people and there will be 100 black people. OutKast was here and they were like, 'Uh, yo, where are all the black people?'"

All the same, the creative core of Portland hip-hop-unlike the rock scene's transplants from across the country-remains mostly homegrown. Memories run deep: which crews went to Jefferson, who was who at Grant back in '89. Local flavor, and roots all the way back to Throw Down '84, survive.

"Sometimes there'll be a show, and some cat you haven't seen for 10 years will roll through," says Vursatyl. "You're always gonna meet someone who's been down from day one."


* After years of wrangling, Portland welcomes its newest park-Pioneer Courthouse Square. A popular feature: personalized bricks, which allow 48,637 people from all over the world a chance to buy a chunk of immortality-almost. Actually, the names are expected to wear off in about 100 years.

* More than 10,000 Portlanders swamp the first Mayor's Ball, a charity event hosted by municipal drink jockey Bud Clark. Despite organizational squabbles and financial trouble, the ball rolls on for eight more years. An attempt at revival-using a more smirk-proof moniker, the Musicians' Ball-flops in 1995.

* The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee looks into whether Sen. Mark Hatfield's lobbying for a trans-African oil pipeline had anything to do with the fact that the project's backer, Greek oilman Basil Tsakos, paid Hatfield's wife $40,000 in "real-estate consulting fees." The committee ultimately drops the case.

* New Wave band Theatre of Sheep and its spandex heartthrob, Rozz Rezabek, thrill Gen-X hatchlings with synth-flavored tunes like "1,000 Miles of Gray" and "Fun From Brixton." Teenage passions for the band run so hot that the police shut down a show at Wilson High School.

* Giving more than lip service to legalized prostitution, the City Club goes down in history with a seminal report calling for red-light zones. Ultimately, the city's enthusiasm flags and the idea lands face down in the shag. (Side note: Kris Olson, the report's author, would become Oregon's U.S. attorney 15 years later.)

* The 55-year-old Paramount sign smashes down on Southwest Broadway when workers try to dismantle the neon landmark. The refurbished theater will later open as the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, a.k.a. The Schnitz, with a sign that says "Portland," not "Paramount."

* A promiscuous, saucy little vintage, with hints of aluminum, ammonia, arsenic and cyanide: Mayor Frank Ivancie decides to bottle Portland's water and flog it at the Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans.

* Police uncover a cash-and-carry drug operation in Southeast Portland. Customers enter a detached garage, stick money into a container under the scrutiny of a video camera, and cocaine or marijuana slides down a pipe. No muss, no fuss-until narcotics detectives get in line.

* Frustrated by rising crime and a string of grisly murders, Oregon voters reestablish the death penalty by a thumping 75 percent to 25 percent.

* Mayor Frank Ivancie pounds the gavel at City Hall one last time, ending a 17-year career in Portland politics. But don't relax: Citizen Frank says he plans "to rest a bit and then run for governor."


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