|Judy Conder of Artemis Productions shot extensive footage of the Bird reunion and has produced a great 57-minute DVD, which she is now offering for sale. It includes shots of the exhibits; excerpts of the speeches by Nan Orrock, Neill Herring and Ann Mauney; extended highlights of keynote speaker Amy Goodmanís talk; entertainment by the exPAND Band and the fire twirlers; and best of all, in my opinion, lots of short interviews. Interviewees include various Bird staff, Bird sellers, readers, people whose lives were changed by the Bird and other event attendees. The colorful cast of characters reminded me of the good old days! You may find yourself in this DVD, or you may not Ė it was of course impossible to interview everybody. (If Judy interviewed you at the BirdBlast, youíre probably in it.) Atlanta Bird people are definitely overrepresented, since local interviews were done after the event, but there are also some short interviews with several out-of-town Bird people too. If you were among the lucky 800 or so folks who made it to the BirdBlast, this DVD will bring it all back. If you didnít make it, itís the next best thing to being there. To order your copy, send your check for $15 (includes shipping and handling) to:|
|      Artemis Communications, Inc.|
|      139 Garden Lane|
|      Decatur, GA 30030|
|And hereís another reason to buy this DVD: Besides all the great nostalgia, a main goal of the BirdBlast was to support independent media who are carrying on in the Bird tradition. You probably know that we were able to make generous contributions to WRFG radio, Atlanta Progressive News and Democracy Now! Artemis Productions is another fine example of progressive media which deserves our support. Judy gives generously of her time to film many local peace and justice events and her videos are viewed around the world. For more about Artemis Productions here or here.|
The Bird - the newspaper
History of the Bird
Great Speckled Memories
Bird for sale - only $95
The Times of the Bird
Atlanta Strip Project
Procul Harum reviewed
Memoir of a Bird Seller
Hampton Grease Band
I. F. Stone
The Bird - the song
The Bird grew out of an anti-Vietnam War newsletter published in 1967 by a group of New Left activists at Emory University which included Coffin and her husband Tom. To reach a wider audience, they joined forces with students from other local colleges, political activists from the Southern Student Organizing Committee, VISTA and other organizations. The Bird chirped for the first time in March 1968.
From its modest beginnings as an 8-page black and white biweekly, The Bird bulked up quickly. Color was soon added. Weekly publication began in September '68. Within a couple of years, the average Bird was 28-32 pages. By 1970, with a circulation of 22,000, it was the largest-circulation weekly in Georgia.
For 8+ years, The Bird provided a progressive alternative voice to existing Atlanta media, supporting civil rights, free speech, draft resistance, women's and gay liberation, youth culture and the struggles of workers, Afro-Americans, students and antiwar GIs. It was an unwavering foe of the Vietnam war, US militarism, and repressive mainstream culture. Its pages also provided space for local artists, photographers and poets, local theatre and concert reviews, and interviews with Georgia musicians like the Allman Brothers and the Hampton Grease Band.
The paper set the tone in its premiere issue with a broadside attack on Atlanta icon Ralph McGill of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "What's It All About, Ralphie?," for his support of the Vietnam war. The Bird sometimes referred to the AJC as the "Urinal-Constipation" which "covered Dixie like dog doo."
Nor were other Atlanta sacred cows spared: A cover targeting Coca-Cola resulted in obscenity charges (later dropped). Investigative articles pilloried Georgia Power, the Cox media empire, Atlanta Housing Authority, slumlords and corruption in the Massell administration.
From the first issue, The Bird's radical politics, coverage of hippie culture, nude photos, uncensored prose and occasional scatological cartoons outraged conservative Georgians. It was banned in Savannah and Macon, and Governor Lester Maddox banned Bird vending machines at the State Capitol. Some high schools and even colleges suspended students who brought copies to school.
But the paper was eagerly embraced by many progressive activists and youth, a steady stream of whom left their small towns for the big city. For many young newcomers, their first stop in Atlanta was the Bird house on 14th Street, where they could pick up a stack of papers to sell on the streets and expressway entrances to pay for their next meal.
The Bird soon gained a national reputation as one of the best of the many "underground" papers which were springing up around the country. Mike Wallace of CBS' "60 Minutes," who interviewed Bird staff in Atlanta, called the paper "the Wall Street Journal of the underground press" - a reference to its journalistic quality, not its politics. Historian Howard Zinn recently said "the story of The Great Speckled Bird is an important unknown piece of Movement history."
Despite its reputation elsewhere, The Bird was harassed at home by the FBI, city government, Atlanta Police Department and local businesses. It was charged with obscenity and "inciting to riot" and subjected to politically-motivated building and fire inspections. Bird street sellers were arrested for panhandling, obstructing traffic and selling without a permit. Thanks to vigorous legal help from the ACLU and strong community support, none of the charges against The Bird or its sellers stuck, and the paper never lost a case in court.
When the paper's first printer, the DeKalb New Era press, dropped The Bird because of political pressure, the nearest printer the paper could find was in Montgomery, Alabama, 160 miles away. In 1973, The Bird's office at 240 Westminster Drive was firebombed after a series of articles on the Massell administration's lack of housing code enforcement.
In spite of these obstacles, The Bird persevered and never missed an issue for 8-1/2 years - not even after the firebombing.
The New Georgia Encyclopedia summed it up: "During its eight-year existence, The Great Speckled Bird symbolized and spoke for the New Left and counterculture in Georgia and the Deep South. It maintains a place of significance in the story of America's underground newspapers."