crackpot culture: festering in deep dark places

by Art Chantry (

YESTERDAY, i spent some time talking about lynda barry and her early days at the rocket in seattle. one of the things that was so important about that magazine was that it was an outlet for an underground population to find each other. there has always been a dark bohemian underground in the northwest – it’s part of the nature of living in ‘the corner’ of the united states: you can’t go no further away and still be here.

seattle was full of weirdoes – musicians, writers, dancers, actors, painters, sidewalk screamers, politicos, lefties, wobblies, religious nutjobs, the works.. the stuff that has leaked out of the northwest over the decades reads like a a ‘who’s who’ of crackpot culture and high strangeness. people who live in seattle generally tout it’s livability and clean fresh yuppie vision. but, the real story of the northwest dwells in deeper darker places.

AC:things just keep on a-changing. in seattle's case, it's an homogenizing process. all those yuppies only like their own culture. the weirdoes keep getting shoved out. even carl smool finally moved away. can you believe that?

when the rocket emerged in seattle, nothing was going on. sure, there were a few isolated punk rock music things happening here and there, but nothing all that noticeable. there were some rerun movie houses, some alternative art space galleries, a few community theaters. but there were a LOT of folks living in seattle looking for a place to fly their freak flags.

the rocket became the new underground kiosk to these people. over the years, it became the only place for these folks to practice their craft, their ART, and find a forum, reach their community. they did it for free, nobody really got paid much. the idea was it was a place for all the untapped, ignored and otherwise invisible talent that for generations had been utterly pushed away into a dirty dark wet corner of the untied states. the northwest was a place were talented oddballs went to fester.

ron huage was one of those guys. i have no idea where he popped up from. most of the cliques at made up the rocket emerged from some general regions or teritories. there were university of washington people, evergreen college factions. there were folks that came from idaho or reno or walla walla. there were cliques from inside the city as well. there was the u-district gangs, the east side metal heads, the tacoma losers, the west seattle punks (the tough guys). i have no idea which one of these many many cliques was the one ron hauge emerged from – or if he just walked in out of the blue on his own two feet.

before lynda barry took over as the “unofficial staff cartoonist”, that totally undefined role was invented by ron hauge. basically, whenever there was a little left over space to fill up in a column or a ‘house’ advert that needed doing or an illustration or creative design that was floating unwanted, the “unofficial staff cartoonist” did it. they were sort of the expected fixer of dead space and unclaimed projects.

in payment (aside form a puny insultingly small check) he got his name in the staff box and found a place to practice his art. he was also given a running regular space to fill with a gag panel style cartoon. this is one of my favorites for the earliest rocket days when he did these wacked out cartoons. car seat stuffing? still makes me carck up, almost 35 years later. go figger.

i never met ron hauge. he left long before i ever got involved with the rocket. i never heard anybody really talk about him, either. he was just ‘that guy who did all those cool drawings’ in the earliest days of the rocket. he took off and that was that, but i still look at his old work with admiration. he was natural talent. when he left, the void was filled by lynda barry. that should tell you how big a hole he left behind.

later he be

head writer and then executive producer of a TV show called “the simpsons”.

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