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I have been posting on SOLO for several months and I always noticed that he makes trouble. Lots of trouble. He looks for it. He is drawn to it. He thrives on it.
If there is an easy way out of a conflict, his motto seems to be, "Why do things the easy way when complicated works, too?"
I kind of like it, though. I am that way—and have been most of my life.
The other day I hooked up with Luke Setzer and he simply handed me the book, Perigo! Politically Incorrect by Deborah Coddington. I was intrigued. I had seen the ads always popping up on the left-hand side of the SOLO main page. You know, the one with the smiling guy in the tux holding a sign that looks like an unkempt Bruce Willis in a gangster movie.
I wondered what I would find in there. It did look like a biography. I thumbed through and saw that Politically Incorrect was the name of a radio program Linz had once presented on a station in New Zealand called Radio Pacific, and that the station’s program manager, Derek Lowe, was the prime mover behind the book.
Hmmmmmm ... The book was hype to boost a radio show? I started skimming through it, a bit skeptical.
Then it started. The similarities.
Linz used to play cornet in his school band. I used to be a professional trombonist. Both are brass instruments and brass players are usually a bit loud as people. (That sure sounds like both of us.) Linz had been a conductor. I was a conductor. Linz tried to become a singer. I produced many singers. Linz was the oldest child in his family. I was the oldest child in my family. Linz was born in 1951. I was born in 1952. Linz was on a highly successful debating team in school. I was too. While in school (1969), Linz played the lead role in a theater production to rave reviews (Charles Condomine in Noel Coward’s Blythe Spirit). I had been in and out of theater in different capacities all of my professional artistic life—usually to rave reviews. I only acted once, though, and that was in a horror movie. Still ... dayaamm!
I have been a bit of a troublemaker over the years, so I even felt some kind of kinship on that level. Of course, I started thumbing through trying to see why Linz liked trouble so much. Then I came across this amazing statement his mother made in 1998:
"He was never mischievous as a child. He was absolutely perfect."
I was hooked. I had to read that book.
One thing that I appreciated was that I was able to get an historical view of who Lindsay Perigo is. The basic stuff is there.
His parents, George and Leomay Perigo. Sister Sally and brothers Maxim and Tony. Maternal grandmother, May Sim, and grandfather, Leo Sim, who was the leader of the Communist party in pre-WWII New Zealand.
Growing up on a ten-acre farm. (I just imagined him milking a cow. What a mental image!)
His education, from the beginning on up to enrolling at Victoria University for a Bachelor of Music degree so he could become a singer. Then leaving that after a short time to go to NZBC broadcasting training school.
Then, his first job at 2ZN Radio Nelson. I had to smile on reading that while he was there, twenty years old and full of piss and vinegar, he tried to resign. Trouble. Carol Peters, an announcer, fortunately would not let him leave.
When Linz was at the university, he told his parents that he was gay. Coming out is always a very sensitive task, so in this case, he was not too much trouble. Nope. He wrote them a letter. The response was no trouble at all, either. It was a telegram stating: "There is no fortress a Bolshevik cannot capture." I will leave it to the reader to imagine what that meant.
Going up the ranks through the radio and TV system, he acquired a mentor and protector who remained a close friend until the end of her life, famous NZBC broadcaster, Jessica Weddell. Her brother, Bill Weddell, was the person who introduced Ayn Rand’s works to Linz. Of course, he then went on to become a champion of Ayn Rand wherever he went.
Despite initial success, in 1977 Linz decided to take some time off from life. He left TVNZ and went to LA for a while, then went to London, where he was unable to find work in broadcasting. So he took a job at Hammersmith Hospital in West London carrying patients around on trolleys. (That makes for another wonderful mental image, pushing around all those people hacking and spitting and bleeding, or just plain passed out.)
In 1978, he ran back to the warm protection of Jessica Weddell, who gave him a job at Radio New Zealand. By 1980, he was regularly interviewing the Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, for RNZ's morning current affairs program, Morning Report, with often-explosive results.
As time went on, Linz returned to television and became his country's pre-eminent TV interviewer. He even had one TV show named after him in 1990, Perigo. His inaugural guest was Winston Peters. The show was short-lived, but I enjoyed reading about this as it involved a prominent NZ politician who I had read about recently (the Peron affair).
Of course, the book highlights the most famous episode in Linz’s TV career, his shrug. Not a silent shrug like in Rand’s book. A loud, trouble-making shrug.
In August 1992, Paul Norris, Linz’s boss, the head of news and current affairs of TVNZ, issued the following statement in an article in Listener (an NZ magazine): "Television is not very easy to use for detailed examination or analysis of complex matters." Later in the same article, he stated: "Viewers are often looking for some guidance as to how they should feel about a particular story."
Does that sound like a place where the Lindsay Perigo we all love and know would be happy working? I can only imagine his frustration during that time. So on January 18, 1993, he issued a press release announcing his resignation from TVNZ. It stated, "... to all intents and purposes, TVNZ News and Current Affairs is brain-dead."
This hit the front page of the New Zealand Herald and became a national scandal. More trouble. The brain-dead phrase echoed throughout the country for years.
Linz went back to radio after that. He became the breakfast host of a program, also called Perigo for BBC World Service, owned by a wealthy semi-free-marketer, Alan Gibbs, and managed by his very problematic daughter, Debbi. One part of the program Linz devised was a section called Soapbox, where a guest had four to five minutes to sound off on whatever he or she cared deeply about, without interruption. This had a great impact on his audience and became a favorite part of the show. I read about this, thinking that here was one of the sources of the concept behind the SOLO website.
This program had two other results. One was that Alan Gibbs' wife hated the Soapboxes and worked against him behind the scenes. Daughter Debbi had her own anti-Lindsay campaign running, too. The truth is that when you are hated by your boss’s family, your days are numbered and the inevitable blow-up happened. It is quite an interesting read.
The second is a very good thing that turned up at BBC World Service. Linz met his future biographer and partner-in-crime (in the metaphorical sense, of course). In June, 1993, Deborah Coddington joined Linz as research and interview assistant. Here is what she had to say about getting on board.
"Looking back, it’s probably true to say that Gibbs and Hide got me to try to rein in Perigo, when in fact the opposite happened."
From there, Linz tried to get a small venture going, Radio Liberty. But with a shoestring budget it lasted only eight months. Two very important historical events happened parallel to this and intertwined with it, though.
The first is that the Free Radical came into being. The first issue came out in June 1994. It contained an article by Linz on Roger Douglas (author of the book Unfinished Business, proposing more red tape and bureaucracy), an article by Deborah Coddington called "Orwellian Doublespeak," and one by David Kelley called, "May We Have the Word Liberal Back?"
The second is that a political party was founded (September 1995) by Ian Fraser and two others, Deborah Coddington and Lindsay Perigo. It was called The A-Team and was New Zealand’s first libertarian political party. The A-Team later turned into the Libertarianz party. Linz led it through to the 1999 election, when it achieved its best result to date.
To keep in form, Linz had a nasty falling out with Deborah Coddington over being assistant editor of Free Radical. They worked their issues out, but Linz has been trouble even to his own biographer.
The historical events in the book end with the Politically Incorrect Show on Radio Pacific and before Linz walked out on TOC.
All of these events are fleshed out in much greater detail by Coddington. There are a few episodes that bear singling out, as they show the development of Linz’s ideas, the ideas that make him love and rage, that turned him into such a troublemaker.
The most important, of course, is the constant undercurrent of a passionate lover of Ayn Rand’s works running throughout everything. This is so present everywhere that no single event stands out. Objectivism is sort of like a background.
No article on Lindsay Perigo would be complete without mentioning Mario Lanza. In this book, we get to go back to the beginning. Linz’s first recollection of Lanza was when he was seven years old. He came home and saw his mother sitting on the steps, crying her eyes out and wailing "Mario Lanza died!" between sobs. About a year later, he saw the film, The Great Caruso starring Mario Lanza. The small eight-year-old then started dreaming of becoming a great singer. Obviously, in Linz’s love of Lanza there is love of greatness and deep passion for the beauty that he recognized so early in life. Still, as SOLO’s psychology leader, I have to wonder. You know, Mamma crying, Oedipus running wild and Freud and all ... (ahem ... that’s a joke ... )
Linz learned the lesson of shunning superficiality from his grandmother, May Sim. In his own words, "I hadn’t realized how much she hated all that—Country Women’s Institute, cakes and recipes, gossip about what Mrs. So-and-So was doing—she despised all that. I’ve got that too and I think that is quite consistent with my views and sense of life." He also stated, "I despise the whole artificiality of second-handedness—getting material goods just in order to impress!"
On political correctness in NZ, in a 1989 article for The Evening Post by Victor van Wetering, Linz stated, "We’ve become a sort of society where people don’t analyze an argument; they attach brand names to people who proffer arguments and think that they’ve dealt with the argument in that way ..."
I had to laugh when I came across the following item. I remembered my good friend, Luke, the one who gave me this book, and his fascination with graphs and lists. In describing the performance of the 26-year-old woman who was hired as new station manager of BBC World Service, Claire L. Beswick, while Perigo was still Linz’s program, Deborah Coddington wrote, "There were executive summaries, flow charts, key accounts, spreadsheets, listener psychographics, membership marketing plans, and strategic alliances—all of which, in the end, amounted to bullshit."
Claire Beswick ended up being one of the strongest allies of the Gibbs women in trying to get rid of Linz. He already did not like this charts-and-tables approach to management. This affair apparently soured him on it permanently. Poor Luke!
Deborah Coddington has written a fascinating book, but I found it a bit of a hard read at times. It is a book by a New Zealander for New Zealanders. There are many references to NZ celebrities, places and events that are tossed out casually. They get so numerous at times that they are hard to skim over. I had to do a bit of research to understand even simple things, like the fact that ACT was a political party and that Maori were natives of New Zealand prior to its settlement by Europeans.
Stylistically, there is a very heavy reliance on quotes—some giving rather bland facts (the topics that Linz debated on his high school debating team, for instance). This interferes seriously with the flow, but thankfully not too often. Some timelines and contexts get confused by simply not being mentioned, showing up a couple of paragraphs later or broken up. Often, you don't know when something was said, or even where, so you have to go searching for it or just read the quote and let it go.
It is still well worth the read. Deborah Coddington has written several books and she is a pretty famous personality in NZ. She is an award-winning journalist and just finished a three year stint as Member of Parliament (ACT party, not Libertarianz, for some reason). One of her main social causes in life, besides liberty, has been a fight against pedophilia, a subject close to Linz’s heart (and mine). She is quite a good looker from her publicity photo and you can learn more about her at the Parliament bio website and at the ACT website.
Here are a few other goodies from the book, in no particular order.
Linz read The Romantic Manifesto as his first Ayn Rand work. He said, "Because I had this sense of fellow-being with her about Shakespeare, I thought she couldn’t be such a mad old bitch, so I read some more." Mad old bitch? Okay, that was funny. Shakespeare? Not completely. One of Linz’s trademarks is Shakespeare’s phrase: "This above all, to thine own self be true." He ended his Radio Pacific broadcasts with this quote and the biography ends with it. You can find it on SOLO.
A saying of the Perigo family: You can’t fart against thunder.
Linz started his TV career presenting news and weather (!) at CHTV3 in Christchurch.
A Linz quote about London: "One of the first things I noticed in London was people’s teeth—either they didn’t have any or they were about to lose what they did have."
In 1991, Linz interviewed Luciano Pavarotti in Sydney for the TV program Frontline. No other journalist in New Zealand has interviewed as many opera greats as Linz has.
At Radio Nelson (at the start of his career), a formal Lindsay Perigo Fan Club was set up and he became a heartthrob for many young women. (Little did they know ... )
Linz suffered from stomach ulcers for years. (He no longer does.)
Linz used to be a bootlegger, helping in the family business. His grandmother, May Sim, and his uncle Karl Sim used to sell wine in bottles called "Himatangi Wines," which was McWilliams wines sucked out of a barrel, filtered through a stocking and bottled with "Himatangi" labels stuck on.
Linz’s Uncle Karl Sim was a convicted forger of paintings by famous NZ artists. He became known as the Foxton Forger. Karl Sim’s motives for making forgeries of paintings prompted grudging approval from Linz. In his own words: " ... he duped the establishment ... " and " ... it was just to thumb his nose at the system, which is crooked and riddled with poseurs."
There are some very interesting pictures of Linz with many famous singers (Anna Moffo, Jose Carreras, etc.) and celebrities. Some are rather personal. At one time Lindsay Perigo was even quite a good-looker himself.
My favorite picture is Linz sitting with Leonard Peikoff in a restaurant. Leonard is stiffly posed, tense, fist clenched, with that weird hairdo of his. Linz is sitting across from him, relaxed, everything in place, with a calculating look on his face. You wonder if he was thinking about Lennie’s hairdo.
Anyway, back to my initial question.
Why is Lindsay Perigo such a troublemaker?
Here is what he said in response to a statement that he was a nineties drop-out: " ... for twenty years I had made a career of listening to other people spouting mainly nonsense. I had also become aware of what scumbags they were."
There’s the patience factor. He’s fed up.
Another quote in another context: "There is a false dichotomy between passion and reason. If you are reasonably convinced that something is evil, doesn’t it follow that you should hate it passionately? I believe it does. And I do hate these things passionately. I hate political correctness passionately. The abuse is not gratuitous."
There’s the caring-about-ideas factor. He loves the rational and the good and hates evil.
Another on not bearing grudges: "But bearing a grudge is a mentality I can’t come to grips with at all. Not to give voice to something is to not sort it out, and in most circumstances it can be sorted out."
So Linz causes trouble but does not bear grudges. That is something I have noticed over time, but I needed to read this book to have it pointed out. There’s the sense-of-life factor. It’s called benevolence.
On troublemaking, Linz learned from a master, though: the combative Prime Minister he interviewed. Here is an excerpt from his 1980 radio interview with Robert Muldoon:
Perigo: "Well, you’ve just acknowledged that some of your supporters are at times appalled by your behavior. In the light of that, are you going to modify your behavior at all?"
Muldoon: "You’ll just have to wait and see, won’t you ... I’ve made no promises to anybody and I will make no promises to anybody."
Sound like somebody we all know? It looks like Lindsay Perigo has learned his lesson well.
I am very glad I read this book and I recommend it highly to anyone who wants to know what the founder of SOLO is really like. I hope that this review will be a teaser to prompt more interest in it. Hmmmmmm ... Let me say this more clearly.
Don’t do like I did and wait for someone to lend it to you. Buy the book. Order it. It is well worth the cost.
Linz interviewed Jessica Weddell, his mentor, when they both thought that they were on his last Politically Incorrect Show at Radio Pacific. Ironically, it was right before she passed away, but it was not his last show. Here is what she said to him.
"Walk tall, you have much to be proud of. And when one door closes, another door opens."
Very true words. They were said to the founder of SOLO.
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