Ronald David "Ron" Turner is an American football coach and former player; he is the current head coach of Florida International University Panthers football team. He previously served as the quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League, a position he assumed in March 2012. Turner served as the head football coach at San Jose State University in 1992, and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign from 1997 to 2004, compiling a career college football record of 42–61. Turner also had two separate stints as the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League, the first from 1993–1996, and most recently from 2005–2009.
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Hello reddit. I am the founder of Last Gasp and I've been an outspoken supporter of artists, writers, and various misfits for over four decades. You may know me as "Baba Ron" in SF, and I've been fortunate enough to be a part of the past 50 years of local underground history including the "Summer of Love", the Mitchell Brothers Theater saga, a bizarre birthday party for political consultant Jack Davis (which marked "the end of civilization" according to some news outlets), and many other twisted tales.
I grew up in California's central valley in the 1940s and '50s, moving between small dusty farm towns around Fresno. When I was younger, I worked an array of jobs, including railroad brakeman, lab research assistant, dishwasher, and other various and sundry positions, before stumbling upon what was to become my life's work.
My roots in publishing began in the counterculture movement of the 1960s. After serving as one of the first thousand Peace Corps volunteers, I came back from Sri Lanka to Fresno for three years before coming to SF in '67 for grad school in Experimental Psychology. I was commuting back and forth while working on the trains in Fresno at that time. When I returned to the Bay Area after my service, I became deeply immersed in the free speech, civil rights, and student protest movements.
In 1970, a co-mingling of my love of radical politics and radical art produced the first Last Gasp publication - an underground comic book entitled Slow Death Funnies, created as a benefit for a Berkeley ecology center. Hundreds of genre-defining comic books were soon to follow, including Zap Comix, Weirdo Comix (edited by Robert Crumb), Slow Death, Tales Of The Leather Nun, Amputee Love, Wimmen's Comix, Binky Brown Meets The Holy Virgin Mary, Horny Biker Sluts, and many more...
Over the years, our focus here at Last Gasp has shifted from comics to a more diverse selection of books on subjects ranging from pop surrealism and graphic novels to beat poetry and photography. Though there have been various changes during the past 45 years, our commitment to free speech, unfettered creative expression, and freak culture has never wavered and remains the crux of the company to this day.
For a sampling of what Last Gasp has to offer, Humble Bundle is currently offering a pay-what-you-want book bundle featuring work from such noteworthy artists as Skinner, Mitch O'Connell, Basil Wolverton and others that you can check out here: Humble Underground Book Bundle!
I'm looking forward to your questions reddit. AMA!
Well, thank you for getting me out of bed early enough over here. And I really enjoyed this, this is kinda fun, this is like lunches with friends are supposed to be. And it always stirs my brain up, because it forces me to think about what kind of people and events happened. It was fun for me, and i hope it was fun for everybody else, and I think reddit is fantastic to do this.
And please bundle us up!
And everybody on reddit can help keep us in business by buying something from http://www.lastgasp.com/
Why do you suppose student protest movements were so much more common in the 60s and 70s compared to now?
The reason is because we had a draft then.
The draft brought all the males back then into conflict with what their life goals were. And thus they had some skin in a game. So they were anti-war, anti-things that took their own lives. So they protested the cleverly mining the rich veins of poor people to fight wars for rich people. They avoided involving the rest of the country in war. So that's why.
What is Binky Brown's influence on today's autobiographical comics? Do you read or have a take on the autobio genre in modern comics?
It's hard to not read autobiographical genres in comics if you read at all. That's one of the main differences between underground and main comics. Justin Green described himself growing up with complicated attitudes about sexuality, and so he wrote Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. Binky was really Green, so it should have been called "Justin Green Meets the Holy Virgin Mary" because that was his nickname when he was a kid - and it's how he got neuroses because he was ill-prepared for sexuality. So he wrote about it as an attempt to achieve mental health. He didn't even know it was going to finish it - it was like a gamble. And when he did that, then some of the great names in comics, Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman said it was like a gauntlet being passed to them - saying "Hey, I did this, what did YOU do?" And so that caught on, and so now the great majority of comics are autobiographical. How people like to nit-pick their egos in front of the masses.
What's your no 1 favorite book cover?
That might have to be "Amputee Love." It was run by a Canadian artist, Brent Boates, and he was a very very talented cartoonist artist and illustrator and animator. And I'd seen him do a strip that had something to do with an amputee - a frog that had had its legs removed or something - anyway, he was into it, and he was so good, and he gave a very nice introduction to the amputee's life. And he was a stickler for authenticity. So he went to some place in Canada that made amputee limbs, and walked in with his portfolio, and the guy's pitching arms in one bin, legs in another bin, and he looked at the guy - he said "Left one, right?" and he said "Excuse me?" and the guy who made artificial limbs said "You need a left leg right?!"
But he didn't really need a left leg - he was just leaning that way because of his heavy portfolio. Another case where art imitates life.
You have known many of the most interesting and influential people in San Francisco. Have you known any of the most nefarious San Francisco individuals?
Sometimes some people think they're nefarious and I think they're okay. I knew people like Jim Jones, is that nefarious enough?
Do you have an all time favorite book that Last Gasp has published?
Who is your favorite new artist?
Who is your favorite employee at Last Gasp and why is it John Longhi?
Are you hiring?
Boy, that's a hard one.
The answer would be an easy way to make friends AND enemies.
My favorite new artist, there are many, but Nina Bunjevac comes to mind. http://ninabunjevac.com/
Also if you say artist I can think comic form, or painterly form, or audio artists. It helps to be more specific. I hate to single somebody out. There are just so many!
And because Jon Longhi would ask a question like that!
And no we are firing.
I know that you've published a lot of "racy" art, from S. Clay Wilson to Toshio Saeki. Has there ever been an artist that has left you feeling scandalized or whose art has offended you?
S. Clay Wilson was more of a designer artist than a cartoonist, and his designs just happened to assume the form of pirates, and skag-nasty people, and strange beings, and lots of pirate penises and bulldykes on motorcycles.... I don't find that offensive, I find it great design skills. There's only been a few things I ever attempted to censor, and that was only when it was out of context. One was Robert Crumb, he made a parody of kids that were gone missing, and we used to have all their faces on milk cartons, and it became a cliche to say "You'll be on a milk carton if you're not careful" - well, Crumb wasn't happy to hear that. And eventually that piece ran in a comic somebody else published. I just thought it was too close to the surface, not really a parody. It was a judgement call for me. Had nothing to do with the reality.
EDIT: first line
Your art collection is legendary. What is your most prized possession in your vast collection?
Oh boy. I got 3 postcards from Charlie Manson complaining about not getting comix fast enough. "I sent you guys a request for comix six minutes ago and I ain't got nothin yet."
I have an R Crumb drawing of Brooke Shields, a parody of WEIRDO jeans, showing these incredibly big legs & thighs that only Crumb can draw, so she's bursting the seams of those jeans, and if you look closely at her mouth, you can see some kind of substance, just a great rendering of contemporary art.
EDIT: comix, not postcards
EDIT: added Manson quote
Underground comics have changed quite a bit over the last few decades so is that a dying medium or is business good?
I thought we shipped that burning boat off to the ocean about 20 years ago. People hang onto things that they love, and there's a lot of love around comics. But they're not underground anymore, you can get them anywhere. Things that were hard to get, you had to know somebody to find them, it was a risk to your personal freedom and pocketbook to be found with them, it cost many people their jobs to be found with them... there you go. I mean, there's comics now, and alternative comics, but is there underground comics? It's not the same.
What was your relationship with Spain like? Do you have any good stories to tell about him?
Spain and I liked to tell stories to each other. Mine were about Fresno and Firebaugh, his were about Buffalo. Stories about sex, gang fighting, cars. One time we were so into it, we forgot we were supposed to pick up our daughters. And when our wives came home, they were like, "where are the kids" and we went, "oh shit." They had been given three dollars and were found in an egg roll shop having a soda after their acting class let out.
Here's some more about Spain: http://bernalbeach.com/provocations-of-spain-rodriguez/
Is there an "underground comics tour" of SF? If not, what would it be?
Not really, but there should be a plaque at 2180 Bryant. The building was owned by Frank Westlake, whose Bindweed Press produced the first psychedelic rock posters. Charles Plymel, a surviving beatnik poet, had a printing press purchased by Alan Ginsberg in that building. He and Don Donohue met up at poetry readings and lamented that a great cartoonist by the name of Robert Crumb was doing work for an underground newspaper called Yarrowstalks in Philadelphia and wouldn't it be nice if he was in San Francisco (because they wanted to publish a comic book of his). Crumb met Donohue at a party in SF and Plymel printed the first Zap comix at 2180 Bryant. Later Last Gasp moved into the building and was there for 20 years.
your favorite snack?
I like salty greasy fried things. Not too much on the sweets anymore. Once I start eating sweets - I naturally avoid them. But salty crackers and a dip kind of thing of salsa.
That prank party sounds amazing. I hope the Sherif wasn't the only one to use what was otherwise a perfectly good bottle of jack. Do you have any more stories of that sort that you want to share?
I guess it became a prank because Jack Davis was having his 50th birthday party, and he was very, very well connected with politicians. So we decided to have a major, crazy party for him. You can click on the link in my bio that takes you to that video. It's a very long, complicated story.
There have been lots. We'll have to think about that.
Can you talk a bit about the Mitchell Brothers Theater.
One of my favorite places in the WORLD. Definitely have to get in a visit to Mitchell Brothers if you come to San Francisco. Unfortunately both the brothers are dead now. Jimmy killed Artie, and then he died of a heart attack. My company started in 1970, and the Mitchell Brothers started in '69. And somehow we connected, and because I had heat exhaustion in Antioch, and I spent 3 days in the hospital there back when I worked on the railroads, that got me in the inner circle. Pretty much anyone who worked there at Mitchell had been a friend of them back in Antioch. So it was a perfect inner circle that was very hard to breach. We became very fast friends. At some point during the first Gulf War, Jimmy was setting up - he started an anti-war newspaper called "War News" and I was the comic editor. And we had a place, we rented it out of the theater, but we ended up at a new joint on Broadway, and one day we were working on the paper in February - I think it was the 27th - I was with him all day long, and that night he had to leave, and he gave me $100 to make sure everybody got taxi rides home, and was gone. And in the next hour, Artie was dead, Jimmy had shot him, and all hell broke loose. So I was kind of close to that, and had been close to Artie also. I remember that became a big trial. And lots of movies, and books on it. Not much was ever written, or criticized, or anybody that had any connection with the Mitchell Brothers for 10 years prior to the killing. Anyway... Jimmy's daughter runs the theater now, as she has for the past 10 years there, and life goes on there. They have a fabulous Christmas party. Hope you get invited.
How did you perfect your hugging technique?
I practiced on fence posts.
So if we had a draft today, do you think there would be a similar response?
ABSOLUTELY. You go around Twitter, and Google, and ask those engineers if they want to see their cheeky white ass in Iraq or not, and I think you'll get the answer.
How about Manson?
I met Charlie Manson on Haight Street, after the Haight Ashbury golden days had gone, it had become a downturn district with plenty of burnouts and people getting into harder drugs. He used to sell weed on the corner of Haight and almost Ashbury, but one up. He lived at 626 Cole Street? Just a real creepy guy. Not someone you'd want to hang out with, or have a conversation with. He was troubled.
If you hadn't started Last Gasp what would you be doing and where did the name Last Gasp come from?
"Last Gasp" comes from when I started this project to do an underground comic book that would benefit the Berkeley Ecology Center, we had to come up with a name. And I was hanging out with the late Gary Arlington, and he and I came up with two names, neither of us remember who said what, but one was "Slow Death funnies" and the other was "Last Gasp Eco-Funnies." So I picked "Slow Death" for the name of the comic book, so the runner-book was the company name. And Greg Irons, the late, great Greg Irons, drew the skull with eyeballs and a tongue hanging out to make "Last Gasp" look like a last gasp for San Francisco there.
If I wasn't doing Last Gasp I probably would have ended up a bitter social scientist in a mediocre college.
That explains the main difference in the peace protests, but what about social justice? I'd say we have a more socially just society today than we did then, but today we have higher standards for social justice WRT race, gender, sexuality, transgender, and nationality.
What you said.
Over the last few years you have written about quite a few of your tales and stories which I find very fascinating. Your way with words is pretty good. Any thoughts about putting them all down in book form? I think I know a publisher....
I can tell you a story about Marilyn Chambers. When they were filming "Behind the Green Door," she'd be up on the set, and she'd be in a trapeze, and there'd be the fluffers getting 3 guys ready for her so she could take them 3 different ways. And she had a boyfriend who like to attend these things. And he played the bagpipes. And he would play his bagpipes during these things. And the harder he blew, the harder she blew. Of course, the sound wasn't captured for the film.
As far as a book, I started getting publisher offers a few years ago. And then I had the joyous moment of asking "What's the advance?" which publishers dread to hear. Those questions went away very fast. And because people seem to be interested, I seem to get some kind of writer's block. But I should write these things. I realize that the last couple of weeks, I've had a couple of friends whom I've known more than 50 years just pass away. And I realize - who am I going to talk to, or ask, about who was what, or how did we do how? They're not just around anymore. I remember a friend of mine, she died when she was 100, and she used to drive her girlfriends to lunch all the time - and I asked her one day "Angela, how come you stopped going to lunch with your girlfriends, how come you stopped driving?" and she said "They all died. I didn't have anybody to go to lunch anymore."
So it's hit me. I'm getting old. I have to put this stuff on paper, so some soul can read it someday.
I asked because I recall reading a comment, probably on FB, where you referenced a list of the 20 most nefarious individuals in SF history and your comment was that you personally knew 17 of them. The actual numbers might be off, but I wondered at the time which ones you knew.
I think there were 17 on the list, and I just counted them.
But Jim Jones was on that list. I didn't really know Anton LaVey, i just met him a few times. Trying to think of who else was on this list. I mean, this is a wacky town, there could be a very expanded list. If there are particular people you want to know about, ask their names!
Can you tell us about the weirdest artist you've ever worked with? You can keep it anonymous if you like but no doubt you've encountered some weirdos in your storied career
There's a lovely guy named Tom Crow. And Tom came to San Francisco from - I can't remember all of it this instant, but he decided he wanted to come in, and he thought he was the heir apparent to Wally Wood, who was one of the E.C. comic artists, whom many other people all tried to draw exactly like him, because he was the best of the best.
So we were on Fulsom street, in about '73, and he came in the door, and as he was coming upstairs to talk to me, with an overcoat on, he's slowly coming upstairs as I'm looking down at him, and behind him there was my friend Dick Durett who was from Texas and who always wore a big cowboy hat, and Durett was trailing behind him, and so he got up to the top of the stairs, and I looked back at Durett and he pointed down the stairs, and there was a trail of blood.
And I said to the guy "By the way, Tom, do you know you're bleeding?"
And he says "Oh yeah, I got hit by a car on the way over here."
Now, Tom Crow gets a stipend from the government to live, so occasionally he'd send me an alarm clock that he'd buy at the drugstore, and he'd always send people his artwork. And the late Stan Rodriguez used to have a Seder, and we'd go over for this Jewish thing, and at the end of the meal, Stan would pass out unopened letters from Tom Crow, and we'd have the pleasure of opening up a Tom Crow masterpiece, on a sheet of paper, usually some war-hero-mythical-kind of guy.
I think he's alive, but I've only received one piece of mail from him in the past year. He's slowing down.
Who would be your dream collaborator? Anyone you ever wanted to work with that evaded you?
I really can't think of anybody.
Mr Turner, how do you feel about San Francisco these days? Thanks.
Probably about how some old geezer felt who lived by Golden Gate Park in 1967.
Hi there! Long time reader of Last Gasp books. I've been working (slowly) on a long term retrospective of countercultures based in SF (not just hippies, but everything from The Church of Satan to the 90s goth scene, etc.) A look of books you guys publish have been huge, huge influences on what I'm working on.
Question: Who have been the memorable counterculture characters from the Bay Area that we may not be so familiar with? Anyone you've published that have gone "under the radar?" Artists/thinkers/authors/etc. Thanks!!!!
That would be a whole book. There are many.
What are you proudest of (personally or professionally, or both?)
Winning the chugging contest: 1958 Roosevelt High School, parking lot, Country Club Lager can, 1.8 seconds.
Didn't Hunter S. Thompson work at the Mitchell Brothers Theater for a spell? Were there other famous/notorious people who worked there?
Yeah he worked there for a couple years as the night manager. To collect information for a book he never did. But he spent the advance.
Hello, are we in the worst period in San Francisco history? Now that artists and weirdos can't afford to live here anymore, what is the future for this once great town?
About an 8.9 earthquake and tech bubble burst.