Story by Paul Krassner

The first thing you notice about Vivian McPeak is that he’s a man. He has long dark hair, a matching beard and a healthy attitude. He was once the lead singer for a band named Vivian, and people started calling him Vivian. Prisoners assumed he was a babe and wrote him sexy letters. Eventually the band broke up, but the name stuck.

In 1997, five Seattle police officers swooped down on McPeak from three directions, catching him in the act of taping a paper flyer (promoting a speaking gig by me) to a metal light pole. The cops took his flyers and gave him a $250 fine.

A couple of years previously, a citywide poster ban had been imposed, and McPeak immediately opposed it. "The law was specifically targeted," he realized, "to suppress the proliferation of the grunge culture that had claimed dominion over the choicest wooden and metal poles of the city." Now he saw his citation as a chance to challenge the constitutionallity of that law.

Even before the case went to court, the municipal judge assigned to it was arrested for shoplifting hair gel and neckties. One witness for the defense was Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, who testified that posters played a vital role in the process of artistic and political expression. The new judge banned TV cameras in the courtroom.

"The high point came," McPeak recalls, "when the smug prosecuting attorney confused Paul Krassner, the radical fanatical, with Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane, creating much laughter in the kangaroo cabana where the central scrutinizer would judge my evil deed."

Subscribe Now!