|03-18-2002, 07:37 PM||#1|
Join Date: Jun 2000
Local Time: 07:59 PM
Michael Moore's Book Tour Diary (3/18/2002)
Monday, March 18, 2002
Hey, whose idea was it to keep this diary? I guess I thought I would have a
normal book tour, and each night before bedtime I would have a few minutes to
type up what happened today...
Bedtime? What's bedtime?
A good night for me these past two weeks is three hours of sleep. The week of
March 3rd was spent mostly in the state of California. Much of it involved
driving -- and because every venue that had invited me was too small, I would
tell the crowds to come back in a couple hours and I'd do it all over again. If
too many came back the second time, I would ask that crowd inside, "Would you
mind watching a video of mine while I spend a half-hour with the crowd outside?"
and no one objected.
This past week, it only got worse -- or better, actually. I spent the week in
the Midwest -- Michigan, Chicago, and the Twin Cities. In Ann Arbor, I asked the
crowd of 1600 if they would like to see a rough cut of my latest documentary
film. That screening sealed it for me -- it may have been the best screening
I've ever had for any of my movies. My life-long friend, Jeff Gibbs, who helped
me produce a lot of the stuff we shot in the field, sat there with me in the
front row of the balcony as the film played. Now I can't wait to get back to New
York to finish it up and get it out.
After Ann Arbor, Jeff and I drive to Detroit for a speech and signing at St.
Andrew's Hall. We arrive about an hour late. Hundreds have jammed inside the
hall in downtown Detroit. The area looks like a ghost town, and the only thing
lit up within a mile are the two large casinos which were heralded as the answer
to Detroit's problems. It's all very sad, pathetic, but somebody tells me that
the new mayor may be the right guy to turn things around.
The Green Party and other groups have organized the event. It's a raucous crowd
for a Tuesday night, and people have driven from places like Cincinnati,
Kalamazoo and Canada. Usually the book tables at my events are stores that
report their sales to various bestseller lists. I am informed that the
organizers could not find a single store in Detroit whose sales numbers were
wanted by any of the major lists -- so the store doing the table tonight is
Revolution Books. They tell me that HarperCollins made them pay for all the
books in advance. This is unusual, as most stores don't have to pay until they
sell them -- and what they don't sell, they can send back and not be charged for
them. To make matters worse, HC has sent Revolution Books more books than there
are seats for in the hall. I feel bad them and promise that, if any books aren't
sold tonight, I will see that they are sold to the list of stores I now keep of
those who simply cannot get enough books from the publisher or the distributor.
We finish up around 1:15 am and head north to Flint for the night...
The next day, Wednesday, I spend with my family in the Flint area. In the late
afternoon, I stop by Flint U of M where the kids are showing "Roger & Me."
Though most have grown up in Flint, many of them are seeing it for the first
time. Just before I go in, I get a call from HarperCollins to tell me that my
book has now gone to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List (to be published
March 24). I have already heard the news about a dozen times in the past few
hours as someone at the Times had leaked it to Matt Drudge and he put it out
over the Internet. The phone started ringing and I was very happy to get this
news while I was back home in Flint.
I give an emotional speech to the students. I am upset that the city is now in
even worse shape. The vast majority of kids in Flint live in poverty. Nothing
has been done to change this -- except last week when the voters threw the
do-nothing mayor out of office in a recall election. It was a first step, and I
hope the first of many.
I then head out to the suburbs for an evening event at Border's. The place is
packed. Someone shouts, "Welcome home!", and I see numerous friends and former
cohorts in the audience. What a rush this is. I am very humbled by it all, the
Border's people are extremely kind to me. The first person in line is my high
school English teacher, the man who encouraged me to write, Mr. Hardy. I am
thrilled to see him, but he will take none of the credit for this path of life I
have chosen. I want to tell everyone there that this teacher is THE one, but he
is turning red and I am embarrassing him. I sign his book and he leaves. I sign
the last book sometime after midnight...
The next morning, Thursday, a car picks me up to take me to Detroit to fly to
Chicago. The driver says he drives Kid Rock and tells me over and over that
Pamela Anderson is "a very very sweet gal." I ask him to tell the Kid thanks
again for getting me through a police line at the MTV video music awards when
Tim, the Rage bass player, decided to charge the stage and climb a 30-foot prop.
We talk about how both the Red Wings and the Pistons are in first place this
week, simple solace for what we know is just ahead of us -- another shitty year
for the Tigers.
The media guy in charge of my day in Chicago, Bill Young, is one of the smartest
and nicest people I'll meet on this tour. His wife is Elizabeth Berg, a
well-known author of fiction and one of my wife's favorites. Bill is the first
person in the last few weeks to specifically break it down for me as to just how
well the book is doing. Bill is blown away by the sales so far for my book. He
says it is rare to see anything like this. The numbers are beyond amazing he
explains. It has a bigger momentum than any other book out there and there are
no signs of it stopping. None of this had sunk in yet for me. "Downsize This"
debuted at 15 and rose all the way to 14 on the NY Times list -- and 4 weeks
later it was off. But now, here in Chicago, it has sunk into my head how this
book has crossed-over into a wide mainstream audience. I've become convinced
more than ever that the country is ready to end its silent support of the
Commander in Chief and start demanding some answers.
As we walk to a radio interview with the great Steve Dahl (the man who once
saved rock-n-roll from disco), a CNN satellite truck has pulled up on Michigan
Avenue. We ask what's up, and the producer says that Arthur Andersen,
headquartered in the building behind us, has just been indicted. They are going
to wait for the Andersen execs to come out of the building and videotape them.
Wow, I thought, how fortuitous is this? I get to watch a perp walk of corporate
crooks!! Handcuffed, shackled, their coats pulled up over their faces -- this I
had to see.
Well, no one was coming down. Bill asks the producer if she would like to
interview me. She says she has never heard of me. When Bill looks surprised, she
says, "Hey, I'm sorry I don't know who he is -- I've only been in Chicago 6
weeks." Not knowing what to do with that we headed off to our next interview.
Tavis Smiley is the only black host with a daily show on NPR. It's a great show,
a fresh voice for a stuffy network. No other NPR show, despite numerous
pleadings from the book publicist, will interview me or put me on the air.
Robert Siegle, the host of "All Things Considered," was the person responsible
for ending my monthly commentaries I used to do for the show back in the
mid-80s. He felt, or so I was told, that my commentaries were too out there,
especially the one I did comparing Daniel Ortega to George Washington. Then
there's Terry Gross of "Fresh Air." For 12 years she has turned down all my
requests to appear on her show. Why, I have no idea (for a radio network that
focuses so much on things like books, it seems odd that they will not speak to
the person with the number one book in the country, but hey, I don't run the
place so maybe there is a good reason. For the record, I do love listening to
NPR and contribute money to it.)
So, for now, Tavis is their only black guy and the only NPR host who will talk
to me. We have a rollicking interview. He loves all the race stuff in the book,
especially the humor, and is grateful that I, a white guy, will talk openly
The bookstore in Chicago that has sponsored the evening event is a much-loved
bookstore in Chicago. But it has been hard getting them to put tonight's signing
in a location that can handle the crowds. The bookstores would prefer that the
signings be done on their premises. That way, it brings in lots of customer
traffic and many of the people who come will buy other books. But I now have to
insist that these events be held in an off-site venue because it is not fair for
those who drive hours to come see me to find that they and thousands of others
cannot get in.
I had made it clear to HarperCollins that no store is to charge anyone admission
for any of my appearances. They are to be free. If they want to pass the hat for
a local community group to raise money for them, that's OK by me -- but it has
to be VOLUNTARY giving.
I have been lied to so much on this tour that now, when the lies come, I accept
them like a bad cheese sandwich you are forced to eat because there is nothing
else left in the house. I found out that people in Berkeley, L.A., Boulder, and
Boston had to pay to get in. Other places, like one college campus, would not
let in any townspeople until all the students who wanted to come were seated
first (by then, there were only a few seats left for the "outsiders"). On the
positive side, in most of these places, the money went for a good cause, and the
people in L.A. said no one was turned away who couldn't pay.
But it is already outrageous enough to be charging $24.95 for a book (a good way
to keep the masses ignorant and not reading if there ever was one). To charge
people more money on top of that is just wrong. But I was given STRICT assurance
from HarperCollins (after they had earlier refused to lower the price of the
book by just two dollars) that NO ONE would have to pay money to come hear me
talk or get their book signed.
Well, tonight in Chicago, people outside the event are screaming at me because
the bookstore has insisted the you MUST BUY the book in order to enter and you
MUST buy it from their bookstore. Hundreds are in line with books bought at
other stores, or online, or they have no money to buy the book. They are not
allowed in. I ask the person in charge what is going on. I am told that the
people were not required to buy the book from this bookstore to get in. But
during the Q & A, a number of people stood up and said how they had already
bought the book online or elsewhere but were, tonight, forced to buy ANOTHER
copy of the book just to get in. I am embarrassed by all this and am reminded of
how little control I have at times on this tour and how easy it is to keep me in
the dark as I am shuffled from state to state. Later, as I sit down to sign
books, I ask some of those who were forced to buy a second book in order to get
in what they do for a living -- and, for a few of them who work for minimum
wage, I reach in my pocket and give them their money back, with my apologies.
The bookstore people are shocked at this and now think I'm nuts.
Because they wouldn't listen to me and get a larger venue, I feel obligated to
the hundreds of people who can't get in to tell them to come back in a couple
hours and I'll do it all over again for them. I get back to the hotel around 2am
and ask Bill if it's OK to cancel the first interview at 7am. He is the first
media person on this tour to feel my pain, and says he will call the producer
The next night, in St. Paul, Minnesota, another 2000 people show up. People have
come from as far away as North Dakota, Iowa, and St. Louis. I am so overwhelmed
by this I have now started to hand out gas money to anyone who has driven more
than five hours. I tell my wife this, and now she thinks I'm nuts. She is
visiting our daughter at college. It's 2:30am and I have to get up at 5:00am and
catch a flight back to New York as the edit crew will be in the edit room at
10am to finish the final cut of the movie...
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