Wednesday, May 08, 2013

"The Stag Group"

An interesting little photo archive whose credits read like an overproduced Hollywood film---you know, "a Miramax picture in association with Tristar Films; a Bobby Lipschitz production, with Kathleen Kennedy." Not that I have a problem with anyone self-identifying as part of a stag group.

All pictures: Argenta Images,
Category: Rogers Photo Archive
Sub-Category: Images - jungle
Credit: The Stag Group
Motto: "Preserving the story"

Leo Ryan (D-Calif.) on a mission to check reports that Americans are being held prisoner at a jungle religious commune was shot and perhaps killed along with some journalists and others in his party in an ambush. Ryan (R), aboard plane with personal consultant, James Schollert, and his aide, Jackie Speier. Photo was taken a few days ago by San Francisco examiner photographer Greg Robinson one of the journalists who accompanied Ryan.

Which brings me to this first pair of images, which seem calculated to encode a certain self-aware Leo Ryan machismo, meant to fly under the radar of the average American church-going voter's sensibilities, if not the lascivious understanding and envy of the dashing and debonair men in her political branches, or clandestine services.

Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif) on a mission to check reports that Americans are being held prisoner at a jungle religious commune was shot and perhaps killed along with some journalists and others in his party in an ambush. Ryan is shown a few days ago relaxing in his hotel suite with an unidentified aide. The photo was taken by San Francisco Examiner Greg Robinson who was one of the journalists accompanying Ryan.

I was the first to point out, I believe, that squashing James Schollert, Jackie Speier and Rep. Leo Ryan into two first-class seats was a deceptive manipulation of the coach-class "working trip" ethos, especially since seats behind them are empty and James could just as well have stood behind the other two for compositional purposes, giving the couple the kinetic action foreground. I think Leo is somewhat anxious about this ploy, so has rested his arm in the crevice in a blocking move, while Miss Speier has the well-bred look of a female who is not enjoying herself too much, although she may be thinking about the last-wills-and-testaments she attended to as a final chore before leaving Washington. The only thing Ryan seems ready to work on is a bag of nuts. [Subtext alert.]

Not much Sarah Palin charisma in the committee room today, eh men?

A point is made extremely well, I think, with the following image. Isn't there something incestuous about a photograph, taken by an unnamed photographer, of another photographer who is seen in the act of taking a picture of a television news crew, with those depicted soon to play the ultimate role in a narrative of senselessly targeted victimization? John Judge, whose work I otherwise admire greatly, says of the shooting at the Port Kaituma airstrip that the gunmen methodically chose who they shot, double popping execution style those who were to die. But this begs the question, what purpose was served by going after NBC in particular? In the 1970's, CBS News had the finest reputation, so professional jealousy is unlikely to play a role. Some attempt was made to build a case that the NBC interviewers had angered Jim Jones, but nothing of the sort is evidenced on film. Like the purported knife attack on Ryan, in which it was the attacker's blood spilled on the congressman's shirt, or Larry Layton's chickening out of his in-flight suicide, disloyally squandering the drama of bringing down a Cessna with six aboard (Layton had insisted he be moved to the front of the line to board the smaller of the two aircraft,) settling instead for one slightly wounded female casualty who has slipped away from the pages of history. These stories are implausible, illogical, sophomoric and manifestly unreal.

Leo Ryan (D-Calif) on reports that Americans are being held prisoner at a jungle religious commune was shot and perhaps killed along who some journalist and other in his party. One of those who accompanied Ryan was San Francisco examiner Greg Robinson shown at left as he photographed the NBC crew (R) who also [accompanied] Ryan. The names of the crew were not made immediately available.
In the second image I originally referenced above, Ryan is clearly going overboard in some kind of thumbing-of-the-nose at puritans. Here, he was not relaxing in "his hotel suite," as what passed for a Congressional inquiry said he had been a guest of the American ambassador at the embassy residence, while his "personal consultant," James Schollert, and Speier, who is variously described as either Ryan's aide or his legal counsel, took hotel rooms. Why Ryan thought it appropriate to bring in Greg Robinson, of the Examiner for Christ's sake, to memorialize this utterly unnewsworthy, vapid, and private moment is an interesting question. In another twenty years, interns like Monica Lewinsky would literally blow the Mary Tyler Moore-Dick Van Dyke cover to smithereens (Twin beds; one foot on the floor at all times; and ohh Rob!)
In one of the most churlish bits of nonsense in the entire record, the investigation by the House committee stated that Speier paid her own expenses on the trip, and did not use government tax dollars, which in addition to being highly unlikely, officially renders her a congressional concubine.

Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif) on a mission to check reports that Americans are being held prisoner at a jungle religious commune was shot and perhaps killed along with some journalists and others in his party in an ambush. Ryan is shown a few days ago relaxing in his hotel suite with an unidentified aide. The photo was taken by San Francisco Examiner Greg Robinson who was one of the journalists accompanying Ryan.
How is it that Jackie Speier is identified by name in the earlier image taken on the flight down to Georgetown, but has reverted to being an "unidentified aide" in the hotel room, when both captions were written at the same time, while their conditions and status were unknown?

Ryan was the gunslinger politician who supposedly took on the C.I.A., working to pass a law that would require all covert actions have advance Congressional approval first, but what reforms the former public high school teacher thought he could accomplish, when Nelson Rockefeller, who headed the United States President's Commission on CIA activities within the United States in 1975, couldn't, wouldn't, or didn't make, leaves Ryan looking like an infatuated schoolboy with an inflated ego, and the lack of dignity, gravitas, and diplomatic reserve on display only accentuates the impropriety in this sordid Guyana undertaking.

Swearing-in of the Rockefeller Commission in 1975: Nelson A. Rockefeller, Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Ronald Reagan, Edgar F. Shannon, Jr., David W. Belin, John T. Connor, C. Douglas Dillon, Erwin N. Griswold, and Lane Kirkland, but not Mark Lane. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

I began to worry about Ryan when I first read reports he had become a frequent nudge at CIA headquarters--often showing up at lunchtime unannounced for "oversight" visits. At first I wondered if anybody could be that naive about the exercise of prerogatives of power not his own. Didn't Ryan know when he stared into the abyss, the abyss stared back into him? If he were serious---from a public performance standpoint, that is---shouldn't he have maintained a formal, respectful distance from his nascent adversary, especially one so skilled in making "friends," or, short of that, one who treats enemies rather harshly?

An encompassing epiphany occurred for me when I read a November 27, 1978, San Francisco Examiner article by Bill Workman, The Thriller Novel by Leo Ryan. This spy fiction genre, and the popular success of writers like Robert Ludlum, John le Carré, and Tom Clancy, is predicated on a telling authenticity and the legitimate details of a world designed to remain unknown by most people---like a Latin Mass, or the goings-on in the stone mason's guild. Many steps above the police procedural dramas seen on television, the best writers are rumored to have real world intelligence agency sources, which is one reason James Bond isn't fat, bald and dyspeptic.

November 27, 1978, San Francisco Examiner, The Thriller Novel by Leo Ryan, by Bill Workman,

Congressman Leo Ryan was already acquainted with another deranged dictator, if only in his creative imagination, before he set off for his ill-fated fact-finding mission to the jungle fiefdom of the Rev. Jim Jones.

At the time of his death, Ryan, an aspiring suspense thriller writer, had completed the draft of his first novel, "The Hydrogen Terror," in which a power-crazed African ruler threatens to blow up major U.S. cities with agent-planted nuclear devices.

"It's a good read, well written, flows with drive, suspense and excitement," Joe Holsinger, Ryan's long-time friend and administrative assistant, said yesterday.

Hollinsinger said Ryan had received an encouraging critique of his manuscript from one East Coast publisher and at least a few others had shown interest.

Ryan had planned, after returning from Guyana, to spend the last two weeks of December in the remote solitude of a Grass Valley cabin to put the finishing touches to it, Holsinger said.

Ryan, according to his aide, got the inspiration for the suspense-intrigue novel from a trip he made last year to the Middle East and Africa as a member of the House International Relations sub-committee, and from his growing concern over the potential for proliferation of nuclear weaponry among political unstable nations.

"Leo thought, what if some madman blackmailed the United States for a fantastic ransom with the threat of hidden hydrogen bombs -- and he was off to his typewriter," Holsinger recalled.

The unfinished novel also contains "unintentional irony," Holsinger remarked, in view of Ryan's murder and the subsequent allegation that the State Department failed to warn the congressman of the possible dangers of his trip to Jonestown.

Leo tried to show in his novel that when the country's faced with a crisis, the good guys in government sometimes have to overcome a system that can be terribly lethargic," he said.

One of the "good guys" is a character patterned after United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, whom the congressman considered a friend.

Ryan, the son of journalist parents and a one-time English teacher, had an acknowledged flair for the written word.

His political science textbook, "Understanding California Government," which he wrote in the 1960a while a state assemblyman, is still used in a number of high schools. He also wrote an unpublished play drawn from his experiences while posing as a Folsom Prison inmate during his 1970 investigation of conditions there.

Ryan might have expected to endure the frustrating rounds of publishers like any first-time novelist, had he lived to polish up his manuscript.

"But now with what's happened," Holsinger predicted, "I would expect there's going to be considerable interest in Leo's book.

The definition of the noun "intrigue," which is a basis for "suspense," is "the secret planning of something illicit or detrimental to someone," while the intransitive verb is "to make secret plots or employ underhand methods; conspire." Merriam Webster puts it simply as "the practice of engaging in secret schemes." It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how a male ego like Mr. Ryan's could be flattered and co-opted.

Rep. Leo Ryan wrote a high-school textbook on California government after only five years in the state legislature. It took Senator Robert Byrd, the great institutional memory of the U.S. Senate, 50 years to acquire his reputation. Ryan wrote a play about his investigative experience going undercover as an inmate at Folsom prison for ten days. Wikipedia tells us he was stripped searched, but not how deeply he was anally probed for contraband. And like middle-aged, white politicians who offer to undergo waterboarding as some sort of fairness test, the experience remains academic, because it isn't real.

In his first two-year term in the House of Representatives, Ryan takes on the most unreformable of entities in the world's soon-to-be sole superpower. This gives new meaning to the word freshmen. In the early 1980's, Alphonse D'Amato, New York's "Senator Pothole," pretended to take on the banks and credit card companies, threatening to limit credit card interest rates to an already usurious 14 percent. But the regulated industry, which heretofore had not been big campaign donors, was transformed into a political cash cow, and essentially became the unregulated disaster we know today.

Leo Ryan wasn't 24 hours into his new, closed-casket reality when the New York Times published the following career synopsis:

November 19, 1978, New York Times, page A22, Column 5, He Enjoys Controversy, by Eric Pace,

Representative Ryan has been a versatile activist, viewing travel and its opportunities for getting his views across to the public as prime aspects of his role as a Congressman.

"If I had my way, every Congressman would go oversees to find out about what is going on there," he said in a Washington interview in 1973. "It is the function of the Congressional branch to act on behalf of the people to check the actions of the executive branch. The executive branch flies everywhere, all the time."

An earlier fact-finding trip this year, to observe baby-seal hunting in the Canadian province of Newfoundland, brought an angry tongue-lashing from the province's Minister of Industrial and Rural Development.

"It's just a cheap political trick," the Minister, John Lundrigan, said after the Congressman arrived by helicopter at the hunt site. "You've taken your stand. You've already clobbered us. So now you're back to find out the facts. Is that American?"

But Mr. Ryan enjoys the controversy and drama of the political life. In 1973, when he was being made up to appear as a clown at a special circus performance in Washington, he told an interviewer that he had gone from studying Elizabethan drama in college to Congress to the circus.

"It's all the same," he said with a grin. "I'm still trying to create an impression, to give the people a message."

Leo Joseph Ryan was born May 5, 1925, in Lincoln, Neb. He enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and served in the submarine service. After the war, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Creighton University and went on to become a teacher and school administrator.

Mr. Ryan served in the California Legislature from 1962 to 1972, when he was first elected to Congress. He was regularly re-elected thereafter as the Congressman from San Mateo County, a coastal area that includes suburbs and farm country.

In Washington, Mr. Ryan became chairman of the House Operations Committee's subcommittee on the environment, energy and natural resources.

Advocating for the end of the practice of clubbing baby seals in Canada isn't very controversial in Northern California, but Newfoundlanders who traditionally made their livelihoods by the hunt cared. The affected Minister of economic development in the province had a legitimate, if ironic, criticism of Ryan's methodology, one that would sting a man of morals, by saying,
"It's just a cheap political trick.You've taken your stand. You've already clobbered us. So now you're back to find out the facts. Is that American?"

Gene Thomas, Suzie Humphreys and Don Harris were the dynamic trio behind "News 8 Etc.," a morning show that debuted on WFAA-TV in 1970.

The following two "Preserving the story" Argenta images, from the Rogers Photo Archive's Stag Group collection of jungle imagery illustrate the problem facing us in 1978, if not the answer. The first is of "veteran Associated Press cameraman Robert (Sammy) Houston of the San Francisco AP bureau," and I must stop right here and object to anyone named Robert who has the nickname of "Sammy," especially when their last name is "Houston." Wikipedia has wisely caught on, and calls him "Bob."

NBC's on-air talent, slain reporter Don Harris' real name was Roy Darwin Humphrey, which he changed "for professional reasons." This is odd considering his female co-host of the daytime Dallas talk show beginning in 1970 was surnamed "Humphreys." She had some sort of career as an exotic dancer in Jacob Leon Rubenstein's louche establishment, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Even more aggravating is the multiplicity of named identities given individual cultists at Peoples Temple, which have nothing to do with maiden, married, nickname, or bastardizations, and everything to do with subverting the one-child, one check welfare rules, and likely to be a component of voter fraud amongst the adults, if not worse.

Bob Houston, a personal friend of Rep. Ryan, supposedly lost his son to a violent cult-related death shortly after the young man chose to leave the Peoples Temple. The younger man was said to have been run over by a railroad train---and that says CLOSED-CASKET in capital letters.

How a professional image maker of Mr. Houston's caliber could have a picture taken of himself that turns out looking like a Mathew Brady daguerreotype of a badly nourished civil war veteran must remain a secret of his trade. This may in fact be a very early representation of what became a phenomenon after September 11th, 2001, wherein family members would carry, or even wear around their necks, large, framed images of their departed loved ones, thereby proving their actual former existence in real reality.

Veteran Associated Press cameraman Robert (Sammy) Houston of the San Francisco AP bureau sadly holds a photo of his wife Nadine and daughter Carol as he awaits word of their fate in Guyana. His wife and daughter had accompanied Rep. Leo Ryan and others on a fact finding trip on a report that some Americans were being held against their will in a jungle commune. Houston's wife & daughter were trying to bring back two granddaughters who were at the commune.
[Actually, it was the cancer talking!]
The chain of events which led to Representative Leo J. Ryan's death in Guyana on November 18, 1978 began 1 year earlier almost exactly to the date. The spark that ignited his interest was a San Francisco Examiner article of November 13, 1977, involving an old friend and constituent, Mr. Sam Houston of San Bruno, Calif. Headlined "Scared Too Long," the story recounted the death of Sam Houston's son, Bob, beneath the wheels of a train on October 5, 1976, 1 day after he had announced his decision to leave the People's Temple. The article explained that Mr. Houston was "speaking out" because he was outraged by the way the Temple had treated his son, about whose "accidental" death he had lingering doubts. He was also speaking out because his two granddaughters, who were sent to New York on a "vacation," ended up at the People's Temple agricultural mission in Jonestown, Guyana-never to return. Sam Houston was also described as speaking out because he didn't have much time left. Doctors would be removing his cancer-choked voice box within a few days. Finally, Sam Houston said he was speaking out because he was "tired of being scared." May 15, 1979, The Assassination of Representative Leo J. Ryan and the Jonestown Tragedy, Report of the Staff Investigative Group

Assuming these constitute news photographs, the captions should be taken at full face value (when Patrick McMullan takes your picture at a social function, if he doesn't know you, you just speak and spell your name right into the camera.) It's unseemly, I think, that Houston not to be identified here as the father of an advertised cult-violence victim, or at least one of the inspirations for Rep. Ryan visit to Guyana. Mention is made, in a very unusual grammatical construction, that "Houston's wife and daughter were trying to bring back two granddaughters who were at the commune."

Associated Press cameraman Robert (Sammy) Houston's daughter, Mrs. Carol Boud of San Jose, (L) and his wife, Nadyne accompanied Rep. Leo Ryan on his tour in Guyana on a report that some American were being held against their will in a jungle commune. Nadyne's two grandchildren have been living at Jonestown. This photo was taken at a Georgetown Hotel recently.

Are we sure her name isn't spelled Carol Boyd? (name scratched through to defeat recognition software. Why would "Concerned Family"  members and the FBI resort to such tricks?

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Ron Javers, center, and San Francisco Examiner reporter Tim Reiterman may have been among those shot. Mrs. Carol Boyd, left, did not make the trip to Jonestown.

Confusion is sort of cleared up in the second caption when the two grandchildren are described as "Nadyne's," meaning, I should think, they are not Bob's, but rather, from a previous marriage of her's.

However, other web sites like Find a Grave, say that Robert "Bob" Houston "was the son of Robert "Sammy" Houston and Nadyne Houston. He was first married to Phyllis Tuttle Houston who died with their daughters, Judy and Patricia, in Jonestown, Guyana on November 18, 1978."

So why the faux concern for the two adult women visitors, as Sam-Bob "sadly holds a photo of his wife Nadine and daughter Carol as he awaits word of their fate in Guyana," when the true object of concern should be his granddaughters, aged 14 and 15.

In fact, if you look closely at the photograph Sam-Bob is proffering it is an uncropped version of the same photo of Nadyne and Carol, who were photographed "at a Georgetown Hotel recently."
Furthermore, what do we make of the atrocious post-catastrophe grammar behind, "Nadyne's two grandchildren have been living at Jonestown?" They're gone right? Voluntarily self-snuffed, did they not? But as any parent knows, it's hard to even advise teenagers on what clothes to wear---which is a matter of life and death for them---unlike the idea of communal oblivion which would surely be a nonstarter for them--plus, they're stronger than they look.

Nadyne's grimacing in the background is pure overacting.

According to Find-a-Grave, both of the granddaughters, Patricia Dian Houston, and Judy Lynn Houston, are buried in the mass grave at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California with their mother, which implies bodies were never identified. Surely, the few white residents died in family groups, or wrote their social security number in ink on their arms.

James Cobb Jr., whose family had followed the bizarre Peoples Temple creed for years, told late 11/20 how he narrowly escaped the bullets of the cult's death squad in the Guyanese Jungle. Cobb, who was with the visiting party fired on by temple gunmen Saturday, said he was "very lucky." He returned to San Francisco after surviving the attack in which Rep. Leo Ryan and four others died.

I'll get to James Cobb in a moment, but the mother and child image of Leslie and Jakari Wilson is an unmitigated success in its emotional impact. The only problem was her husband Joe, who supposedly behaved like such a murderous monster during the airstrip assault that any sane survivor would recognize guilt by association and never dare write one book, let alone two.

Three years old Jakarri Wilson, youngest survivor of the mass suicide-murder rites at Jonestown, Guyana, 11/19, strokes his mother's chin as she talks to newsmen Georgetown's Park Hotel 11/28. His mother, Leslie Wilson, said she escaped through the jungle to a railroad track and made her way to Matthew's Ridge, the largest settlement in the area.

Who could have asked for a better closing blog element than the following image and caption, which, at number 38, was the sequential neighbor to Carol and Nadyne. The caption must be code of some kind. "It dawned on me I'd stuck my nose too far into production," is positively mystical no matter what it may mean. While "I'll never write again," is another way to say my acting career is really taking off.

American secret agent Kelly Robinson, portrayed by Bob Culp co-star of TV’s "I Spy" series, has a pleasant escape from a Jungle compound with guest star France Nuyen in a recent episode, Culp, who has written six scripts for the show, now vows to stop writing and stick to acting, "it dawned on me I'd stuck my nose too far into production," he says. "I'll never write again."
Actually, I found this another one of the pair on Flickr. It belongs in the stag group.

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