Send in the Clown:
Gallagher in Galesburg to take on NAFTA, Maytag
by Norm Winick
Hes 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.
Hes convinced the greedy suits running Maytag are hurting the entire nation, including California, by fleeing to Mexico and abandoning their Galesburg workers. On Keith Olbermanns 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 arent making good pay, they cant 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. Im going to his grave to feel if hes rolling over in it." He says hes 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 hes going to try and help us" said Sheehan. While most people recognized him as somebody famous, it wasnt clear until he spoke that it was really the Gallagher.
It was clear Gallagher had done his homework. "Theres something wrong with a company that brags on its website that they saved $700,000 in property taxes after announcing theyre pulling their jobs out. Theyre taking that money right out of your kids schools. Thats sick. They got millions of dollars of your tax money and then they move your jobs to Mexico. Thats not right. Somebodys got to do something."
Gallagher says hes 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." Hes got a multi-planked platform in his race for Governor of California ñ some serious issues, some not.
His website, www.gallaghersmash.com (Some lawyer beat him to gallagher.com) talks about the plight of Galesburgs 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; "Its ruining America. Call anyone in area code 309 theyll tell you whats 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 theyre stupid enough to give Hillary $8 million, think what I should be worth."
Hes 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 Galesburgs dispossessed workers.
Ultimately, he wants to help former Maytag workers raise money so they can afford to live and to vacation in California.
Theres more to Gallagher than his clown persona. He says hes 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. "Im so pissed that theyve cancelled the supercollider. We need an informed electorate who will reinstate it."
Sheehan says Gallagher will be back. "I really feel hes committed to helping us. He also wants me to do something to make a splash on Labor Day. Ive got a few ideas but I dont know what Ill do, if anything.
While people who ran into him were surprised, to say the least, that Galesburg had attracted Gallaghers attention, the general feeling was that one more clown trying to help cant hurt.