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Sonia Danielson remembers

Sonial Danielson remembers Ed:

Dwayne Hunn interviewing former Lobby Board member Sonia Danielson

July 11, 1994 interview at Sonia’s home.

Me: How’d you meet Ed?

 “An ecology guy came and talked at my school.  Ed tagged along with his tapped glasses …

“That’s how I met Ed and I kept helping out at the ecology club office  at tail end of Clean Environment Act.  SF Office used to be store front office…Bahia office on Market ST with Greek dancers upstairs.Then moved to office on Van Ness and Green across from Henry Africa’s (hot bar)- right around 72.  And Ed would come up once in awhile and everyone would get excited.. We were like Ed groupies, we’d do any­ thing, Stick up signs, do bike ride, stuff envelopes.. We were  there all the way through to Political  Reform Act….

“When I moved to People’s Lobby in LA I stayed upstairs for about a year and half then couldn’t take it anymore, had to split.  it was very sad, because Ed was ill at some point, just wasn’t his normal self.

Ron Lipton ploy sci professor at USC with Hahn was my roommate.

Me:  Memories of Ed?

“With Ed I was always laughing. He would do terrible things to me.  I remember we were walking down the street.  I had to take him to KGO (during Political Reform Initiative) . Art Finley had a show in the middle of the day.  I had set it up and, of course, Art knew Ed so I

just had to set up the time and details.  We were on our way.  I had parked the car and here we were walking in the financial district.  Ed’s got a suit on with his big white mutton chops and schlock of white hair. Everyone is dressed to the 9’s in the finan­cial district where we are walking. I’m young, haven’t spent a lot to time down town so of course I’m in my normal jeans and Indian top or whatever.  We’re walking down the street, and Ed is banging into every parking meter pretending like he’s falling off the curb and stumbling and falling — and he used to have this vacant look on his face like he just woke up, and he’s some kind of a big dolt,  and he would like fake that he had hit his crotch on the parking meter, bend over and walk up the street going “Oh-ahhh, Ohhh-ah!…””  And he did that for blocks, because he knew he was embarassing me.

“And then when we got to the studio, we sat there  and when Art wasn’t looking, he’d slap his tongue around in his face and give these lewd looks.  And every time we’d go some place – to whatever meeting or function and someone would introduce us to someone with:  “Ed I’d like you to meet the President of this and such organization.”  He would smile and as soon as the other person was turning his head he’d make some absolutely lewd look that would make me start laughing..   I could never tell anybody what he was doing. So I found I like had to stuff it a lot… He always did that.

“I remember the one time we got thrown out of — It was at a rally for labor’s person of the year.  It was good old John Henning.  We were  leaf-letting and all the democrats were getting off the bus.  It was right after Jerry Brown was elected and so who was presenting the award? Jerry Brown.  It became this big thing because during the campaign labor was so against Ed.  Especially since the two of them, Labor’s man of the Year Henning and Ed had been going at it tooth and nail.  So here we are — Ed was getting thrown out of the place for leaf-letting and these people are trying to escort Ed out of there.  And as he’s handing out leaflets, being really wild about it, saying ‘Here! Take one and read it…’  We had these document saying “Blind Justice!” and Ed would carry on about blindness and justice.

“Joyce (Koupal)was doing everything for the Stamp out Smog organization.. She’d type 100 words a minute… while being astute about English, and proof reading with a cigarette hanging out her mouth…

“Roberti and (Ed) he used to have long discussions about politics in general and how long a person could be effective.  It’s kind of interesting because every time I think of David Roberti I think of how long he’s lasted in the political system.  And one of Ed and Roberti’s favorite conversations was that you couldn’t last long because you get co-opted. You know, how long can an organiza­tion last.  Ed used to have this great line about the lung asso­ciation, ‘You know for years and years it was called the tubercu­losis association.  But they found a way to cure tuberculosis, but the organization had to live on so they called it the lung asso­ciation because no one will ever cure lung.’

“He was always very supportive of David Roberti and David always gave him inside information.  I know they talked on the phone.  He would call the office.  It was really quite a really terrific bunch of people that would call the office.  I remember Gann (Paul) used to come through and Ed would give him a bad time. And the Gray Panthers would come through and they’d always flock toward Ed and he’d always give him his two cent… They’d have a little bullshit session…

“Yeah, I remember Jarvis.  He was there at the office.  I don’t thing they Jarvis and Gann were trained at the lobby.  I know they were there a lot, though. “

Me: Were Gann, Jarvis and Ed,  they friendly? 

“Ed used to say they were just a couple blow herds.  You know his favorite comments about all kinds.  You know he always had some line about somebody.

“He always had his favorite product line, too… Whenever they did the Sav-on Drug stores commercial, he’d chime in, ‘Sav-on drugstores, Sav-on drug stores….’ He always go and do it as, ‘Hard-on drugstores, Hard-on drug­ stores… ‘  He sit there and kind of whig-out on you.

“Got a zucchini from somebody and the end was all dried out and curly-qued… And I woke up in the morning and the kitchen was all clean cause I had cleaned it the night before and everyone had been up till like two in the morning partying and I went to sleep.  I woke up and there’s this little note on the table,    “French  tickler.  Use at your own risk..”

Keith (Amherst, another Lobby mule) put that there — it was so funny.

Me: Remember the Western Block?

“Or The Western Blockhead….as Ed might call it…

“I traveled through 14 states with Ed when we were trying to go national.  There was this woman in Oklahoma named Ann Finely and she had some great lines.  We were traveling through all these states and met up with her in Oklahoma city.  Got to go in to see the Oklahoma Senate and they were exploring the possibility of doing an impeachment against one of the senators, so it was exciting.  Her comment about the politician was that, ‘He’s so crooked, he screws his socks on.’

“We drove through 14 states with Laura Tallian’s Mercedes and I don’t think it had air conditioning.  It didn’t have a radio.  It was like a 60’s something Mercedes.  I had somehow managed to organize all the tapings and coordinate with all  the people.  I was like Ed’s secretary.  Probably the best time I had in my whole life.  We stopped in all these different places. We picked up Forster in Missoula, Montana.  We came across two states. Traveled down into Boulder, stayed with a bunch of Red Zinger freaks at a health food show and then drove all the way through Kansas.

“Probably the best part of Ed was that he had so many allergies.  When we took off from Denver — as soon as you get out of those hills it is flatter than a pancake.  His allergies were so bad, his face was so swollen, he’d just be slumped over in the front seat snoring — because he couldn’t breath or anything.  Then he’d wake up and go, “Didn’t we pass here an hour ago?” And he go right back under again.  You know, always joking and stuff.

“I sang songs, and he told me like how he played in bands and stuff.  … In high school I had been to a place that had all these insulators.  I had always thought they were cool.  I tried to rip open one from a tree in Marin once.  Well, through 14 states I kept going, “Woo, look there’s an insulator… Those are really neat…Some day I’m gonnna get one…”  I would just like chatter about it, mindless girl chatter,  And you know Ed had a way to make that like, “DAHHHHGGG…” sound.  You know when he did it he had an attitude about it.  You know he almost like egged you on at the same time mock you…  He would roll his eyes…

Well, we were driving to Kansas City from Oklahoma City. As we’re coming up through Missouri there’s all this old abandoned rail road tracks and the telephone polls along there .. Were driving and driving and everything’s fine and all of a sudden he whips  the Mercedes off the road and I say, “Where we going?”  And he says, “That’s fuckin it, we’re goin get you your goddamn insulator and if you say one more fuckin word about an insulator between  here and California, so help me god I’ll make you eat one.”  He climbed through some barbed wire, and  I watched Ed push down a telephone pole for me to unscrew some insulators.  And He came back with an armload and said, “Now shut the fuck up!”  And I still have those insulators.  “Yes, Ed,”  I responded to his demand. I mean I had no idea I was getting on his nerves about talking about the insulators.

“He traveled with Dorsey.  He was like the little white kid that “Swang his Thang” as he used to call it.  I remember he used to like “Swang Your Thang” music.  He was really young, he was like 17. I mean he was young.  He toured through out the South and he was like the only white boy with all the Negro boys.  So that had a lot to do with Ed’s attitude. Ed could talk to anybody.  Ed could talk to anyone.  Just amazing.

“Used to have jam sessions.  Mic Harrigan and I would play guitar and stuff like that and one night we just got into it. It was probably after a  steering committee. Lot of people were there. Ed was doing the blues, kinda like the walking blues.  No, but he was singing.. But they were lewd lyrics like, “ I’ never forget …. here comes Pete, (DiDonato) Pete, Pete Pete  beats his meat…”  He was just laying it down.  He was too funny that way.  (Pete was an active board member.)

“He just had a way of making people feel good about themselves,  and if you didn’t measure up….he could still make you feel like you were capable of incredible things .  He was already really supportive. He would always say thank you, but it was always ‘Thank you, babe. Thank you, babe.’  He was like this big gregarious teddy bear with a  fun old mouth.  You know when he said ‘thank you’ it always felt like it came from the bottom of his heart.

Me:  remember boiled potatoes?….

 “Ah, I know I had to cook the stuff.  People would like bring us food stuff you know.  I remember one time we had tongue and Ed gave me a lecture on my attitude— that this was food and this man went out of his way to bring it here.  Because the guy was a butcher and we would freeze everything, Well, pretty soon we’d run out of the parts that were acceptable for me to cook.  It was just that I was repulsed by the fact that I had to cook tongue.

“You know Carol Hamke brought in a zucchini one time and I had never cooked or eaten Z and she brought in  some big zuccs and she said ‘I’ll teach you how to make stuffed dill-doe…  So I learned how to make stuffed dill-doe… Our Ralph’s bill was just incredible.  Ed would eat just the most disgusting stuff.  He would eat crackers with tomato.  That would like drive me crazy.  Absolutely horrible diets… it’s like, no wonder….

“I remember potatoes and yogurt…

Yeah, Had lots of yogurt..

“WE were recalling David Cuningham, a City Council man in our area, and so here I am the only white in the all black neighborhoods collecting signatures against a black Councilman who was also friendly with parts of the Bradley machine.  That’s when Ed’s health started going down.  His blood count started going down, he was bleeding a lot…

ME: Would People’s Lobby survive without ED?….

“Lot of us felt would it or do we want it to survive?  Answer was no.  But you know after sur­viving two campaigns, I was so burned out from nothing changing.  It was really business as usual.  I got so burned out for years, I wouldn’t even bother with politics.

“You can only go at a pace like that for so long.  traveled states, worked with Nader, sued Alioto with Spohn’s sister — Alioto’s son, PGE over the Raker Act. And on and on…

Me: Ed in battle

“When Ed wanted to get nasty it was incredible. He could really get down and dirty. I think he tore apart some pro-nuclear guy.  “Look on Ed’s face was great – he always had such great expressions.  His head was probably bigger than most people’s heads so you just noticed him out of a crowd — like you could see Ed first.  And then those white mutton chops — he always stood out.  But he would like sit there and debate with these guys, he would like get so succinct, he go boom, boom, boom and always was able to get in that ‘you’re an idiot too’ in some manner.  He’d never have to say the words, ‘Like you ignorant fool you,’ but he made the point.  Hard to remember all of the ways he did it.

“It’s hard to remember all that went on. It was such a blur, like every day there was some­ thing going on….

Me: Inside information from the phone.

“Ed would always bounce all the ideas off of Joyce.  She was like a brain trust.  Joyce would not forget anything.  I remember a lot of conversations about the direction we were going in or what would be happening and Joyce would go tooth and nail with Ed on some issues…  They would have these  rip-roaring arguments that would last a couple days.

I don’t even know how they stayed in the same room together.

“He would just go “Ah, you’re just full of shit.’  And Joyce would just go ‘Oh. Ed,’ and just shake her head and stomp up­ stairs.  But you know when Ed got really sick Joyce was really upset by it, she was so angry with him, very upset…

Morning he died I just woke out of the blue and called someone and said  ‘Ed died, didn’t he?…’

“Ed didn’t want you hanging around when there was nothing to do..

At the end things had quieted down so much, there was nothing to do..

It was getting hard for Ed to keep everything up… He was such a big personality….Jan Noric was another completely dedicated person.  Every day from Clare­mont she’d drive out. She’d do anything for Ed..

Me: Causes vs. Ed -why did people stay with the Lobby?

I think Ed was such a good salesman.  Causes were always there.  He wanted things to work right.  He was where there was a need.  He wanted to make a contribution. And there Ed was selling this People’s Lobby thing and what they were doing.  And it was easy to get — just walk right in to People’s Lobby.  He made it easy.  He made it available.

Incredible salesman.  He could sell shit to anybody…”

Me: (He could package an adverse situation – like salesman going to jail – and let people have fun with it. My comments to Sonia.)

“One of the things about Ed that was most different was that you had fun while you were doing it….  Some of the best times were being crazy at about ten o’clock at night stuffing envelopes with Ed.  He just made it interesting, always having a good time, just seeing the humorous side of everything, everything was always funny.  And it always seemed that in these ultimately serious, drop dead situations,  he’d come up with some wry comment that was hilarious.  It was just so — So ED…  It would be the classic joke in the middle of it all that would just send everybody sideways.  They were serious issues and when he wanted to be serious he was deadly serious.  But for the most part, Yeah, it was serious but it wasn’t.  It was just kind of what you were doing….”

Me: Telschow attributes much of his business success to Ed:

“Certainly the skills I learned from Ed were the best I’ve ever learned.  I’ve always had people rally around to do stuff.  It’s a lot of the Ed technique.  And trash mouthing has certainly got me a long way.  I mean I still use a lot of Ed’s phrases.  He just always had a way of making things so crass and they were accu­rate.  Reduce things down to some disgusting comment, like… ‘All the Senators and Congressmen playing dick-dick, trying to figure out what’s going on.’ “

Me: My friend MC Rubel doesn’t even like to hear the word shit, but Ed would get along with him famously and never use the crass talk around him:

“Ed could talk to anybody.   With little old ladies I saw him be so gentle with them; he’d talk with them and you could see them just beam.  At signature gatherings or something like that, he would dog people.  He’d walk behind them with their same attitudes and ape them.  Then he’d get that dumb look on his face like ‘ARRRRAhaa …’ Then a old lady would come up and he’d just charm them to death.  He was so funny.

“HE KNEW People.

“If Ed didn’t like you, it was like Ed didn’t think you were living the way you should and he would do his best to get under your g-d skin so bad that you just wanted to kill the MFer  and you know what the person would move on or do something.  It’s really in­credible how he did something like that.  It was like you went through your little bout.  He straighten you out and you went on your way.  Because you were not meant to stay anyway, so get the fuck out.

Me:’Can’t stop for causalities in the middle of the war’  Like it It wasn’t brutal. it was like a necessity of the campaign.  There was ‘no room for devil’s advocacy…’

“He always has a lot of trouble with the scholarly types.  “Leaky ass liberals — one of his favorite lines.  They spend so much time sitting on the fence ‘They goin over here they’re goin over there’…he’d say.

“When he talked about Jerry Brown, I think it was he’d say he had a leaky ass liberal contingency of people around him.

Me: “I mention to Sonia about how if she remembered how Brown offered Ed a position in his gubernatorial administration and Ed refused….  And how in my apartment he’d rake Brown out regarding how Brown was handling the Flourney campaign against him for Governor.. Ed said he didn’t want a position. He wouldn’t be co-opted.

“Roberti’s favorite line ‘You get co-opted after ten years as an organization because after about the first five you’re just struggling to survive and then you muscle in to what you’re doing and you buy so many people and you have so many associations to going on that by the time the ten years has passed as an organiza­tion you’re co-opted.  And PL’s was really rounding into its 8th year, so like in Ed’s  ten year philosophy — are we going to go on as an organization. Seemed like we were playing into our own 10 year co-option philosophy.  I think there was a lot of truth to it — the  longer an org stays in business the more it loses track of why it is there.

“Ed had to control it.  Joyce by herself was not an enrolling person .. there was a coldness about her, but she was smart as a whip.  When she went for the jugular, when she threw a shit fit, there would be smoke pouring out of her ears and that’d be it.  Don’t think there was a week when I was I living in that house that she didn’t blow up about something and go stomping up the stairs.  Get a cup of coffee and cigarette and go plop her ass into bed and read every newspaper in LA.  She was extremely well-read.

“Joyce was very picky about how she appeared when it was time for an event.  I used to raised shit about her because she’d smoke cigarette after cigarette and she’d live on coffee all day.

It’s no wonder she was pissed off half time. She was probably just caffeined out…

“Ed used to call her ‘chicken princess’ or something like that…

“Took me years to get rid of my trash mouth. Sometimes it still erupts… It’s always very direct and to the point.. It’s Eddisms — you know he just had a way.  He’d always coin a phrase.

He would take something and coin a phrase out of it.  He would name everybody…

“Took course on self expression and realized that I had this label thing from Ed that I had to shake.  I still do it.  I label them as soon as they walk in — ‘Leaky ass liberal’  Don’t mean it to be derogatory. It’s just how I see it….  Lot of people take it offensively…  Offensive, repulsiveness in the 90’s is sueable.

“Can you imagine Ed goosing people, horsing around in today’s legal and politically correct atmosphere…

Me: He had a way to read what cards to play…at his talks to high school classes  he never said anything….  never said anything wrong even if he was saying anything on any subject.

“That’s that salesman thing…

Me: He ever tell you were he picked that up? 

 (SEE Joyce Wing Tom …)  “Someone taught him the tricks , can’t remember.  They were tricks as far as he was concerned.  His whole development of the initiative, signature gathering process — where you have two shills, you walk up, get three yeses, sign paper and you’re off.  That in itself was a technique and a half…  Put pen in hand, lead them, Are you for PR (POlitical Reform), Put pen in their hand.. Lobby’s Table technique, now adopted by most signature gatherers).

“Crazy Lady… was the nickname he gave me. Roger? I don’t think Roger had a nickname.

Didn’t name everybody.  Woman were always ‘babe.’ Didn’t matter who you were you were ‘babe’.  I got into a feminist mood for a awhile…Ed would’ve been intol­erable when I was in my feminist mode.. Would’ve said “Get over it.”

“He really helped me a lot because I really believed I could do anything. Absolutely anything.  It didn’t matter how busy or how hard it was — It’s like my work ethic has always been — just really there.  He exposed me to so much.

“I mean here I was just a young kid and I was going to parties in Beverley Hills, running Stamp Out Smog, I was going all over the place doing all kinds of things — Ralph Nader, conferences,  delivered all PL press releases, drops in LA, even typed some of them up, wrote them myself, had so much exposure to so many different things.  Ran presses, even nailed up the god-damn, what do you call it, insulation in the garage and put up the sheet rock. Those fuckers were too god-dammed slow and it was sitting there and I go, ‘Ed, I’m gonna put up the god damn stuff,  Nick’ll never get to it because he’s too busy watching the ma­chine go ‘ku-cha,ku-cha..’ I ran the krinkle folder. I used to do the accordion fold really well. Just  so many incredible tal­ents…  Worked in the graphics thing.  I still do a lot of graphic stuff — I know all about the principles of the darkroom.  I know all about printing, press release, pr work.

“I had this incredible wealth of knowledge. I was there just short time and I was like a sponge.  How to do things right.  How to make things look good.  I never think there is anything I can’t handle.  I did a 10,000 mailing by myself.  That’s a pretty big event.  I was like on a mission.

“What you wanted to do was just gauged on what you decided.  If you said this was it, ‘Then god damn it there was a way to make it work.  Ed always found a way to make it work.’  And then when the shit hit the fan, Ed was never that bad on you.  You’d think that he was just goin to kill you and he’d be like, “that’s just the way it is, you let me down or whatever..  but it’s like it wasn’t devastating.

“He kept asking me to come down to LA..  ‘No, Ed, I can’t do that…

“When I first went to LA  — I was  18; $10.76 on the midnight flyer — to flay to LA; then it was 11.76; then 12, 14 bucks.  One time Hari Krishna on the midnight flyers — incense.. There were like 200 of those suckers on the plane…First went down on bus, greyhound to San Jose, then to  LA; hang out in back of bus.. Dennis Vierra and his truck…. Didn’t Denis and Judy???…

“Dick Philips came back as babbling idiot from DC.  Teleschow and Forster replaced him.

“One of things I do have is keen understanding of how organizations work.  Every job I’ve had I’ve always masterminded the political aspects of stuff…  because it’s so easy to see and I know that from the direct exposure to so much.”

September 8, 2001 phone talk

Me: Good cop.. bad cop.. The reasonable and hard headed one…?

“Ed would pound it a little bit and then let go of it… He had a goal but never so tied to it that he couldn’t operate, that he couldn’t let go of it and move on… In public it looked as though Joyce was the reasonable one. In essence, I think it was the other way around… He’d push and holler and do all he could to get to the goal, but then…. there was a point where he’d just let go.  He’d get pissed but let it go and keep on moving….  Especially in his dealings with people, he’d let it go. Joyce would growl for life…He’d just keep on going…They were definitely a team. Good cop, bad cop. Joyce would go to the mat for her issue. Ed would give her that look and say, “No, NO…” Then they’d be in public and everything would seem cool….

On proper protocol demanded by Ed:

While going through the South in Laura Tallian’s Mercedes we were about to go through this rich lady’s house.  Ed grabbed my arm as we approached the house and said, ‘Don’t you dare not act like you’ve been in a hundred places just like this place.”

On snoring:

(Sonia often lived at the Lobby house/office and many Lobby members often slept there.   Grand matriarch Laura Tallian, from San Diego, would also often stay in the attic bunker.)

“Laura Tallian would sleep upstairs and snore like an SOB.. Since I had to sleep up there too,  I complained to Ed and he said:

‘ If you get to be 80 years old and your snore like that, you gonna be happy that you just do that….’

“Typical Edism,” I said, and added,  “If I get that old, I hope that’s my only problem.”

“Yeah, I know, so I’ve been really conscious about people snoring ..” Sonia replied.


Rough notes:


Sonia: I formed joint ecology club between boys and girls school and I was president .  At drop of hat, Ed would do anything.  Hooked up with Ecology Center…. Kept bugging him and Ecology Center said come next week and meet this guy. Guy was Ed.  Ecology Club had heard Ed a number of time… We helped them stuff animals and do stuff like that. Embarrassing because he was first long hair at our school…