Good-Bye, Jesse Helms

Trifecta news day – the man who played Bozo the Clown died; a transgendered man in Oregon gave birth to a baby girl; Jesse Helms died of “natural causes” in North Carolina at the age of 86.

The man who told his friend Orrin Hatch that he was going to sing Dixie to Carol Moseley Braun until she cried, who delivered his state to a lagging Ronald Reagan in the Republican primary, who loved all things Pinochet, who chaired the Foreign Relations Committee, who was a vile and constant homophobe has finally died.

In 1984, I went to Raleigh-Durham to perform at a benefit to raise funds to help defeat Helms in his third Senate re-election bid. Liz Snow, an old friend from Syracuse, New York, who worked at Ladyslipper Records, picked me up at the airport and briefed me on Helms sleaze campaign stories as we drove to the hall.

As we clunked along in Liz’s mini-truck, in the middle of a particularly horrific race-baiting story, at the last second we saw what we both thought was a huge log across the road. A second before we hit it, we saw that it was a huge snake. Liz gunned it and screamed, “It’s Jesse Helms!” We flew through the air like a Dukes of Hazzard car chase scene. Helms was a snake, a huge speed bump to progressives in the South and the nation. Good-bye, Jesse Helms. Let’s hear it for natural causes.