For a moment let’s forget that, during an interview in 1977, Ted Nugent told a reporter that he took drugs and deliberately shit himself and didn’t bathe and faked passing out while giving blood all in an effort to dodge the draft. After all, Ted has since recanted his story and said the real reason he dodged the draft was a student deferment. Let’s take him at his word. I mean, who hasn’t made up a story about shitting their pants when discussing the draft at least once in their life?
And let’s forget, for just a moment, that Ted has a thing for young girls. Like really, really young. Let’s forget that he has basically admitted to pedophilia and statutory rape. After all, he’s a warm blooded, American male and he has urges. He’s the Nuge, baby!
Finally let’s forget that he told the Detroit Free Press “ .” And in the same interview, defended his frequent use of the n word.
Forget all of that and instead travel with me, if you will, to the Summer of 2000. I was 23 years old living in Fort Worth, Texas. My job at the time was a dream job for someone like me. I produced book signings and in store events for Barnes & Noble. Some five months later I would be promoted to do the same thing in New York City.
One day I was sitting in my boss’ office when a call came through for me. “Mr. McDonald, I’m calling on behalf of Ted Nugent and was curious if you would be interested in hosting a signing for Ted and his book, God, Guns & Rock’N’Roll. Ted will be in Fort Worth for a concert with KISS and would love to be able connect with his fans in a way that he can’t on stage” said his publicist or manager.
“I’m sure that would be ok. I would need to check with our corporate office in New York but I don’t think it would…”
“No need. We already checked with them and they said it would be ok. So can we count on you, Mr. McDonald?”
“Well then I suspect corporate will call me soon and let me know. Usually I can ok these sorts of things without their input but given the book and Mr. Nugent’s recent comments at concerts, I really need to get the green light from them before I commit to anything”
“Great. It’s set. August 23rd. It will have to be in the afternoon since the concert is at night. We will do publicity on our end and expect you will do the same”
“Actually, I don’t think you understand. I can’t do anything until New York tells me, via email or a phone call, that we can host. And I’ve not heard from them yet“ I said.
“Great. So call them. And then call me back. Ten minutes enough time?”
“I’ll call you back when I call you back”
I called New York and, just as I thought, no one had heard from Nugent’s reps. However they did give me the go ahead and we moved forward.
The day of the signing I showed up at the store in downtown Fort Worth and there were people who had camped out overnight for the signing. I had called my counterparts from all over North Texas as back up and had 17 booksellers assigned to the signing, an unheard of amount for signings.
Nugent arrived with his gorgeous wife and his equally gorgeous son, who said he was a model, but who the hell knows. I briefed Nugent on how the signing would transpire. He was friendly enough but wasn’t really paying attention. Nonetheless I explained how there would be a press conference and then we would move to the signing. Since there was no room for several television cameras upstairs where the signing would take place, I explained that the conference would take place by the newsstand downstairs. So far, so good.
At this point I should point out that just a few months prior to the signing, Ted had received a lot of heat for some comments he made concerning the English language. Specifically, he said at a concert, “If you can’t speak English, get the fuck out of America.” Rumor was that this nearly caused riots and the mayor of San Antonio or Houston or some other large Texas metropolis banned Nugent from ever playing in their city again
However, what he said coupled with what I had read and studied about Nugent left me with a sick feeling for ever agreeing to host a man that stood for everything I was against. But I had a job to do and I just wanted to get it over with. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to have some fun while I was at it.
The press conference was well underway when his wife ran up to me, visibly upset. “Why is he giving this press conference in front of the Mexican books?’
What?” I replied, smiling on the inside. You see, I deliberately placed Nugent on front of the Libros En Espanol section, so that every camera shot was forced to capture the signage right above Nugent’s shoulder.
“He’s in front of the Mexican books! Why?” she persisted.
“Oh, well that was pretty much the only place where we had room. The newsstand area is open and there is ample room for the cameras. It just so happens that that is where the Libros En Espanol section is. Sorry.”
On the elevator ride to the signing, his son told his father. Nugent didn’t care.
When we arrived at the receiving area, one of my counterparts who was also a gay man and close friend paged me. I had assigned him to the front door of the store.
“Jon-Marc, there are people out here that want to bring in guns and antlers! What do I tell them?” Christopher said.
“Guns? They’re bringing in guns?” I said certain I had heard wrong.
“AND ANTLERS!” Christopher exclaimed.
“I’ll be right down” I said as I hurried downstairs before the signing started to see what was going on.
Sure enough, people were stretched down the block and many had guns, antlers and other things they wanted Nugent to sign.
“Will he sign my breast?” a woman screamed from down the line.
Poor Christopher. He was the one that had to tell them not to bring in the guns and antlers and, sure enough, they were pissed.
The signing got underway and it was something to behold. It was by far the largest signing I had hosted up to that point in time. Hundreds of people bought books and hundreds more brought posters and records and CDs and some even managed to sneak in their guns. And the woman who wanted her breast signed, well, she got it signed.
When it was all said and done, I felt as though we had made it through relatively unscathed. I was relieved and ready to put it behind me. The Nuge had other plans.
The next day while I was working on an event report about the signing, I received a call from a bookseller telling me Nugent and his wife were in the café part of the store. I rushed downstairs, wondering why they were back.
One of the store managers went with me and, interestingly, we found the Nugents at the newsstand, perusing magazines.
“Hey Ted, how’s it going? How was the concert?” I asked, unsure of what exactly I was doing.
“It was great. We’re just here relaxing. Getting some fresh air out of the hotel” he replied.
“Great. How long are you in town?”
At this point the store manager piped up. “Have you had a chance to explore downtown?” she asked.
“You know”, Nugent replied, “what I don’t understand is homosexuals. I mean I feel bad for innocent kids who get AIDS, but homosexuals deserve it. We should send all homosexuals to an island. Let em die off in a few years’ time from AIDS and not being able to reproduce.”
I was stunned! I was absolutely speechless and stunned. The non sequitur was one thing, but the bile that he spewed was so gross, so upsetting, so dangerous, that for one of the few times in my life up to that point, I felt physically threatened. And, for the first time in my life, I looked into someone’s eyes and I knew what it was like to look at evil.
“Well, Ted, I’ve got to get back to work. Have a great day” I said as I walked away.
As I made it back to my office I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I didn’t have the courage to stand up and say something in the face of such evil. Instead I cowered and slunk away. And I vowed that I would never, ever stay silent again. And I won’t
That’s why Ted Nugent being invited to the State of The Union matters. It matters because this man represents everything that goes against the very thing this country stands for. And the fact that an elected official in our government invited him is so disturbing, it literally makes me sick to my stomach.
I will never forget looking into Ted Nugent’s eyes that day. I will never forget how I felt when I didn’t speak up. I will never not speak up again.