I wrote to Jim Glover, of Jim & Jean a wonderful folk-duo from the mid 60s. He sent me this story of his strange days touring....I present it as I received it.
Phil Ochs always told me stuff that nobody else seems to say that he told them. Phil was junior and a sergeant in Air Force ROTC and I was a freshman and private in Army ROTC when we first met. ROTC was mandatory at Ohio State University in the fall of 1960. After we became roommates we got into lots of political discussions. He knew quite a lot about the cold war and whatever he had learned in his military school background and three years of college and ROTC training. He would read a lot about world affairs in the papers and magazines and political science courses. I remember him reading to me about how the Mafia would help Kennedy get elected and I, who knew little about JFK, thought Nixon was a shoe-in. So we bet on the election. The bet was fifty bucks he would give me if Nixon won and I would give him my Kay guitar if JFK won.
I remember how confident he was that Kennedy would win. Since I didn't know much about John Kennedy except that he was a lot better than Richard Nixon, who I didn't like at all , I could not understand why he was so sure that Kennedy would win. He also was sure that the CIA would have Castro killed which he read to me about. I did not know at the time that the CIA had a contract out on Castro and had also hired the Mafia to help with the job so that the invasion of the Bay of Pigs would be successful. The first song Phil wrote was about the Bay of Pigs called, "The Cuban Invasion".
We started singing around campus and at a coffee house called, The Sacred Mushroom. Phil wanted to know all about my past and I didn't mind talking about the crazy cold war stuff that happened, since it was a chance to get it off my chest, and a change to have someone who was really interested. I told Phil About how the FBI would come around and want to talk to my dad who would refuse to talk to them. They would also talk to the neighbors and ask them about us which would make us seem like enemies to some of our neighbors. Back then in the 50's my dad was being expelled from the union where he worked at the Railway Express Agency because he signed a petition to not use the H-bomb during the Korean War. Our conversations sometimes became heated arguments with me usually taking the side of Communists and the victims of the witch hunts and Phil taking the side of the government in the cold war. Phil would quote J. Edgar Hoover from his book, "The Enemy Within", about how bad the Communists were and how his favorite TV show was "I Led Three Lives" supposedly taken from FBI files.
One time I got so mad at Phil I almost punched him in the face. I had joined some students in picketing a lecture by the ex-Nazi scientist, Werner Von Braun. Phil, who had recently convinced me to go with him to see one of his favorite speakers, William Buckley, thought it was wrong to object to the speaker. I think Phil had a good point about the right of him to speak but I thought it was also important to remind people that he used to work for Hitler. But what got me mad was when Phil started bad mouthing one of the leaders of the demonstration who always wore a red jacket and was always hanging out in the student Union. Phil kept telling me that the guy was a real bad guy and that his politics were no good because he was an Anarchist or some kind of radical Socialist and I asked him how he knew about that and he blurted out that they have a surveillance program on campus and he knows some of the intelligence people and then it occurred to me that he could be using me for this military stuff and he pretty much gave me the impression that I should fall in line with his take on the scene as I was "fair game" because of my political background, and it seemed he was bragging to me that he was working with the government -- all for the good of national security. I was very stunned and hurt but I figured I could not do anything about it and I continued to try to talk sense to Phil about how I was not an enemy of America. I held back on punching Phil and thought that this is kind of interesting in a strange sort of way -- like being caught in a tidal wave or something.
I figured I had nothing to hide so we would still play music together and he would tell me about his trip to Florida where he was busted for vagrancy and later decided to get a nose job and become a star. There was a story I told Phil about how when I was about 10 or 11 years old, A man wanted me to spy on my parents for him and National Security. Phil wanted to know the man's name but it was a mystery to me. I remember getting into a fight with my friend David (Nagie?) when I asked him about the guys name and he started a fight with me and said -- "you are not supposed to know his name". Someone may have told me his name but I didn't remember it when someone would ask. It turns out that I finally figured out that the man who wanted me to spy was George H. W. Bush. You see my family was living in Willowick O at the time in our home on Parkwood Drive. My friend, Johnny Yakel, lived in the neighborhood farther north off Lake Shore Blvd. I would ride my bike over to Johnny's and we would play football with other kids in the park at the end of his street by the lake and a couple of times we played on the old golf course on the east side of Lake Shore Blvd. The man who wanted me to Spy was around when we were playing and he had a very young son with him who he would not allow to play with us bigger kids. One day, Johnny said, "you know that man really likes you and wants you to be in a western movie with Alan Ladd. Come over tonight cause he wants to talk to you." So that evening I ride my bike over to Johnny's house and his mom was in the kitchen and told me to go into the living room and wait. I noticed a picture on the table of a man in an officers cap who I figured was Johnny's father. After a short while the man who wanted me to spy came in and he was all decked out in a Western outfit -- fancy boots, cowboy hat and all. I was at a table near a widow and it was starting to get dark so the room didn't have much light and the man sat down on my left. He didn't't say anything about the movie but started talking about some communist spy, Alger Hiss, and how it is important to find out who the black hats are and that he was working with the white hats in National Security. We talked a bit about our common ancestors in the English Royalty and how he wanted to be a Knight and that King John was a bad king and Richard the Lion Heart was good. We talked about the movie "Ivanhoe" that was playing at a theater in Willoughby and he finally got around to asking me to keep track on who comes and goes to my folks house and let him know from time to time for purposes of national security.
I think he knew that I had suspicions about my grandfather's death in 1946 and said something about how a neighbor saw or heard something about a man jumping off the second story porch and running to the back of my Grandma Cohen's house the same night that my grandfather died. I always remembered hearing someone jump and run in the driveway to the back of the house that night but could not figure out how he would know that and the thought crossed my mind how conversations at our house could be recorded and that was what I believed to be the case anyway. I could not believe it and remember crying all the way home on my bike. My Parents were out of town that night but when I told My Grandma Cohen what had just happened at Johnny Yakel's house she said in her Yiddish accent -- "They started again!".
My Grandma Glover who lived in Westerville Ohio, a suburb of Columbus and where my dad grew up, was able to figure out somehow who the man who wanted me to spy was. I remember her telling me he was a very powerful person and had a grandfather who lived in Columbus and when he came home from World War One, he told some tall tales about his time in the war which made him out to be a hero, but his mother told the press that he was lying about his great feats in the war. My grandparents were very wise and helped me through it all by explaining that it was all the politics of the cold war and maybe some day I would be able to figure it out somehow.
Phil was very interested in who that man was, and I didn't know what his name was but I told him about how at one point some years later I saw the movie, Shane, with Alan Ladd, and when I saw The child actor Brandon Dewilde, I was amazed because I thought that was the little son of the man who wanted me to spy because they looked so much alike -- the ruse about how he wanted me to be in an Alan Ladd movie made the connection in my head. So ever since I saw the movie Shane, I thought that the man who wanted me to Spy was the father of the actor, Brandon Dewilde. During the mid 90's I was telling this story to some folks in the Irish Pub, The Fox and Hounds, near my home in Brandon Florida and they said they didn't believe that Brandon Dewilde could have been a son of George Bush. So, I went to the library and looked up the movie Shane and Brandon Dewilde and was puzzled to find that Brandon was about my age and the little boy I remember was much younger than me. I thought I might be totally nuts until right around the time of George W. Bush's election there is that portrait picture that was published a lot of President George H.W. Bush with his son, President elect George W. Bush. I immediately knew that I was right all along, except that George W., in that picture, was the boy I mistook for Brandon Dewilde because to me they looked so much alike, and father and son were both just as I remembered them back in Willowick Ohio, playing football with the neighborhood kids.