January 28, 2000
How We Got Alan Keyes to Dive Into Our Mosh Pit
(and other scenes from our first week of shooting)
Yes, that mosh pit — the one that has thrown a big, weird monkey wrench into the first week of the 2000 Presidential campaign — was ours.
And the marching band outside the execution of Billy Hughes in Texas on Monday night, complete with cheerleaders chanting, "George [Bush], George, he's our man! If he can't kill 'em, no one can!" — that was ours, too.
And, yes, that was us with Rage Against the Machine on Wednesday as we forced the New York Stock Exchange to hit the panic button and slam down the steel gates over their doors, sealing off the entire building an hour before closing time, and resulting in my near-arrest by the men who wear the Giuliani blue.
All this, and we are only four days into shooting our next season of "The Awful Truth." If this is what a typical week is going to be like for us this time around, then I guess the line item in our budget for "lawyers and bail money" is grossly underestimated.
We usually don't like to discuss what we're up to before we air our work on Bravo and Channel 4 U.K., but the Iowa Mosh Pit has become such a huge item in the news that I thought you might want to know just what the heck is going on.
It was bizarre watching the Republican Presidential debate Wednesday night, with Bush and Bauer and Keyes all going nuts over what we did Sunday night at the Iowa Caucuses. New York Times columnist Gail Collins called it "the defining moment" of the campaign so far (to read her column in the Times click here http://www.nytimes.com/library/opinion/collins/012800coll.html). Jay Leno devoted a chunk of his monologue to it Thursday night. BBC Radio woke me up this morning wanting an explanation.
Here's what happened:
As part of what will be our ongoing "coverage" of this year's Presidential election, we decided to go to Iowa to see how far these candidates will go to get an endorsement. We know they will take money from just about anyone and promise favors and legislation to the highest bidders. With that as our system of "democracy," it leaves us, the people, with few avenues to have our voice heard.
So, we announced to all the contenders for the White House that "The Awful Truth" will endorse any candidate who jumps into our mosh pit. Simple as that. No large sums of dirty money, no favors or back-room deal making. Just dive into the outstretched arms of 100 degenerate — but registered — youth, and you are our candidate.
I hauled this mosh pit around Iowa in a large flatbed truck, crisscrossing the state and inviting the Presidential candidates to join the teeming and tattooed masses. The response from the candidates varied from a stunned and frightened Steve Forbes (who quickly walked by the pit giving it a nervous thumb up), to front-runner George W. Bush (who told me, "behave yourself, Michael — I see you're up to your old tricks — why don't you go get a real job?")
Gary Bauer, on the other hand, called the Des Moines police — who sent five cruisers and a paddy wagon to arrest the pit. The police, though, could not contain their laughter when they arrived and saw the group of purple-haired, pierce-lipped, 18-year olds jumping wildly in place to the music of Rage Against the Machine.
Next, we drove over to a town hall event being staged by former Reagan ambassador, Alan Keyes. As the mosh pit rolled into the parking lot, with Rage music blaring ("It has to start somewhere/ It has to start sometime/ What better place than here/ What better time than now..."), Keyes staffers came outside to see what all the noise was about. When informed that Keyes could get the endorsement of "The Awful Truth," Keyes' national field director dove into the pit, hoping that would suffice for our support. He then brought out "Uncle Sam," a Keyes supporter who was dressed in full Uncle Sam regalia. He, too, jumped in.
But we told the Keyes staff that it had to be Keyes himself. Minutes later, Alan Keyes emerged and, against the loud protests of his Secret Service agent, Keyes climbed to the top of the makeshift stage on the back of the truck and dove backwards into the screaming mosh pit. He then body-surfed the entire pit, carried like a wave on the outstretched hands of the tightly compact crowd. He did a couple of body slams with a spiked-hair youth from Ames High School and left the pit with the official endorsement of the show.
"We knew Alan Keyes was insane," I told the press who were trying to understand the irony or the point. "We just didn't know HOW insane he was until that moment. We now feel a responsibility to test the remaining field of candidates."
On Wednesday night, the five remaining Republican candidates held their big New Hampshire debate. And what did they spend their time fighting about? "The Awful Truth Mosh Pit!" The Reuters news agency called it "surreal," and Gary Bauer went into nutty overdrive accusing Keyes of being "anti-family" because he was moshing to the music of "The Machine Rages On" (!), calling the group "pro-terrorist" and saying that's what the "kids at Columbine" listened to.
For the past three days, our phone has been ringing off the hook. Hundreds of papers around the country have covered the story. The pundits on all the blowhard cable shows can't shut up about it. And for some reason, for at least the better part of one week, we have been able to get the Republicans to stop talking about who will be best at taking away women's rights or building more prisons and forced them to occupy their time arguing about the moral merits of the Mosh Pit.
As we head into the weekend, we are loading up the flatbed truck and driving off to New Hampshire with our portable mosh pit. We will personally attempt to greet John McCain — if he was tough enough for the Hanoi Hilton, this will be like Motel 6; Al Gore — the mosh pit is perhaps the only place where being stiff is an asset; and Bill Bradley — we are convinced this will be his only chance to stage a comeback (plus, he's the only candidate big enough to kick every one of these kids' butts).
Keyes had been written off in Iowa before he jumped into our pit. The day after moshing, he scored an upset third-place finish in the double digits among those who actually cared about caucusing (90 percent of all Iowans knew better and chose not to vote). These other candidates would be crazy if they DIDN'T jump into the pit!
"The Awful Truth" is willing to multiple-endorse, just like the big money people do when they write big checks to both the Democrats and Republicans. To be known as the only group to have endorsed Alan Keyes is something we may just never be able to live with, and we are hoping to rectify that in New Hampshire.
This past Monday night, we attended the execution of death row inmate, Billy Hughes, in Huntsville, Texas. George W. Bush is now responsible for approving and carrying out the killing of 117 people, a record. We decided to show up and celebrate his achievement. We brought a marching band, cheerleaders and fans to hold a tailgate party in the prison's parking lot. How did the pro-death penalty crowd react? Well, they're threatening a lawsuit, so we'll do our best to get it on the air in May.
A few weeks ago, I was asked by Rage Against the Machine to direct their next music video, something I've never done. Their song is about the evils of our economic system and the era of greed in which we live. So, like, I had a few ideas...
On Wednesday we quickly set the band up on the steps where George Washington was first sworn in as President, on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets in lower Manhattan. Quite a large crowd came out of the brokerage houses and banks where the business of America is conducted on a daily basis.
The police also came out. They ordered the makeshift concert to cease, but before we had a chance to stop, four officers jumped me and put me in one of those police locks like you see on that excellent and informative show, "COPS." One tried to break my arm, the other put a choke hold on my neck. In all my years of shooting in New York, I have never had this happen, and all I could think of was, well, I just hope it's a new plunger.
When the band and the crowd saw this, they went nuts. Hundreds of them jumped two police barricades and tore across the street to the front door of the New York Stock Exchange, ground zero of American Capitalism. It was a sight to behold. The police were so distracted with carting me away they couldn't catch up to the band — who, by this time, had made it inside the first set of double doors to the Exchange.
At that moment, someone must have hit the riot button inside the Stock Exchange because suddenly these large steel gates came crashing down in front of the second set of double doors. Then all the gates of the Exchange came down. Clank! Clank! Clank! For the first time anyone could recall, the New York Stock Exchange went into lockdown — a full hour before its official closing time. The police left me and rushed over to break up the madness. But the band and their fans are faster than I was and escaped the clutches of the police.
You can catch the video on MTV in mid-February and me in court by late March.
Well, that's my first week back at work. If you'd like to see footage of Alan Keyes in our mosh pit — or me body slamming Senator Orin Hatch — click here: http://www.michaelmoore.com/moshpit.html Or check out the Rage scene on Wall Street. http://www.michaelmoore.com/rageslide1.html
I'll be back reporting live and moshing from New Hampshire on "Politically Incorrect", Tuesday night, February 1, on ABC.