Send in the Clown:

Gallagher in Galesburg to take on NAFTA, Maytag


by Norm Winick

He’s best known for smashing whole watermelons and other juicy fruits on television and stage but Leo Gallagher, better known as just "Gallagher," has a serious side, too. He was in Galesburg last week on a "fact-finding" mission to gather evidence to be used in his campaign for Governor of California and to help organize to overturn NAFTA.

He’s convinced the greedy suits running Maytag are hurting the entire nation, including California, by fleeing to Mexico and abandoning their Galesburg workers. On Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC show Friday, Gallagher explained: "America is a fabric; one thing influences another. The economy of Illinois affects California. Galesburg is the keystone. Maytag is moving to Reynosa, Mexico and if we lose that, we lose everything. If the Galesburg workers aren’t making good pay, they can’t afford to vacation in California. If America goes down the tubes, nothing else matters."

"The spirit of Fred Maytag was to be part of the community. I’m going to his grave to feel if he’s rolling over in it." He says he’s also going to go to Reynosa to document what the workers there are getting and what Maytag will be doing to the environment.

At the Knox County Democrats’ Ice Cream Social Thursday in Lincoln Park, he walked up accompanied by Mayor Bob Sheehan. "He just showed up at work [Midwest Photo Service] and said he’s going to try and help us" said Sheehan. While most people recognized him as somebody famous, it wasn’t clear until he spoke that it was really the Gallagher.

It was clear Gallagher had done his homework. "There’s something wrong with a company that brags on its website that they saved $700,000 in property taxes after announcing they’re pulling their jobs out. They’re taking that money right out of your kids’ schools. That’s sick. They got millions of dollars of your tax money and then they move your jobs to Mexico. That’s not right. Somebody’s got to do something."

Gallagher says he’s an independent who rarely votes "but now I realize the mess these politicians have gotten us into and I can help as much as anybody." He’s got a multi-planked platform in his race for Governor of California ñ some serious issues, some not.

His website, (Some lawyer beat him to talks about the plight of Galesburg’s Maytag workers and how NAFTA is creating that giant sucking sound promised by Ross Perot. It also includes his platform. Plank number one is repealing NAFTA; "It’s ruining America. Call anyone in area code 309… they’ll tell you what’s happening."

He also proposes using military helicopters to clear up traffic jams, to ban saggy pants, to make it illegal to talk loudly on cell phones in public places and abolishing anti-cruising laws.

He sent a book proposal to Simon and Schuster about Galesburg and Maytag. "If they’re stupid enough to give Hillary $8 million, think what I should be worth."

He’s also got an idea for a documentary ñ "sort of like what Michael Moore would do, only funnier" ñ to help publicize the plight of Galesburg’s dispossessed workers.

Ultimately, he wants to help former Maytag workers raise money so they can afford to live and to vacation in California.

There’s more to Gallagher than his clown persona. He says he’s a chemist by education and his rental car trunk was filled not only with the paraphernalia from a recent show in Davenport but several science magazines and books. One of his planks includes promoting the use of sub-atomic particle characters in video games and cartoons. "I’m so pissed that they’ve cancelled the supercollider. We need an informed electorate who will reinstate it."

Sheehan says Gallagher will be back. "I really feel he’s committed to helping us. He also wants me to do something to make a splash on Labor Day. I’ve got a few ideas but I don’t know what I’ll do, if anything.

While people who ran into him were surprised, to say the least, that Galesburg had attracted Gallagher’s attention, the general feeling was that one more clown trying to help can’t hurt.