The Pitch had just printed its latest issue. On the cover was Tom Deatherage, the horny and hilarious downtown art pimp, but inside, Hellman noted, Pitch restaurant critic Charles Ferruzza had reviewed the Berliner Bear, a venerable Waldo German joint that's a throwback to ethnic eateries of a bygone era.
Hellman told us that he couldn't help noticing how the interior shot of the Bear that appeared with Ferruzza's review looked a lot like the place where a bunch of American neo-Nazis had held a celebratory dinner in Kansas City just a few days earlier.
He directed us to a Web site on which the members of the National Socialist Movement had posted photos of their banquet (www.nsm88.com). And, yeah, we agreed that the restaurant where they held their little hate-fest bore a striking resemblance to the Bear.
Hellman had just written his own Chronicle piece about the gathering, which took place Saturday, April 16. The day after the Nazi party broke up, a few of the Hitlerites, wearing some of their Nazi regalia, headed to KCI to escort their guest of honor to his plane home. While waiting for the flight, they were heckled by a rabbi and several of his Jewish companions, who didn't appreciate the public display of swastikas.
Rabbi David Fine got in the face of one Nazi -- the pride of Olathe, Steven T. Boswell -- telling him that he should be ashamed of himself.
Boswell responded by telling Fine that he wasn't human.
Fine then threw his coffee at the skinhead.
A scuffle ensued, which was broken up by airport police. Fine and Boswell will face a judge in about a month, and this meat patty is looking forward to the event with the objectivity of an impartial journalist who can see all sides of an issue.
In other words, we hope the fucking Nazi gets kicked in the head.
But we digress.
After Hellman's tip, we decided we'd wander down to the Berliner Bear to find out what co-owner Bill Womack could possibly have been thinking when he turned over his restaurant to a bunch of heil-Hitler types.
The first thing we did was confirm that the images of the NSM's shindig had been taken at the Bear. Just to be sure, we took a photo in the exact spot where, a few weeks earlier, a bunch of dildos in brown shirts had tried to look their most forbiddingly Aryan in a group shot.
This curious cutlet then sat down with Womack for a little small talk, to get a sense of where he was coming from.
Womack told us that his life consists of taking care of the restaurant and his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Womack said his dad, who died a decade ago, fought in World War II and came home to North Carolina with a German bride. "We showed those Nazi sons of bitches," he said.
Curious you bring that up, we told him, and mentioned that we had photographic proof that he'd served a bunch of wanna-be sieg-heil suck-dicks who call themselves the National Socialist Movement.
Womack seemed confused. "Socialist? What?" And then he got a little defensive. "I hire all kinds here -- blacks, all kinds."
When we explained that the meeting was gaining notice because of the later dust-up at the airport, Womack seemed genuinely concerned about Rabbi Fine. "Why did they arrest the rabbi?" he asked. And when this side of beef told Womack that the rabbi had thrown coffee in the face of a fascist, he replied, "Go, rabbi!"
He seemed to be sincere -- or to be putting on a good act. He said he rents the place to groups all the time but hadn't done so on April 16. There's no chance, he added, that the place could have been used without his knowledge. We wanted to be sure -- if a group had taken over his place for a banquet and had brought along its own shellacked, swastika-equipped lectern, he would have noticed, right?
"Sure," he said.
Well, the party's guest of honor isn't having the same kind of memory problems.
The NSM's Kansas City party was a "national congress" to celebrate Jacques Pluss, who had just been fired from his job teaching history at Fairleigh Dickinson University in northern New Jersey.
Pluss had been teaching freshman-level history courses when -- oops! -- someone noticed that the professor was a freakin' Nazi. The college dumped him, saying that Pluss had too many absences. (Naturally, no one wants their kids taught by a white supremacist who isn't going to show up every day.) Although he's disappointed by the firing, Pluss doesn't plan to file a lawsuit over it. That would be too expensive and time-consuming, he says.
Pluss tells the Strip that he enjoyed his trip to Kansas City. He found the folks friendly and was happy that the NSM, which he joined about a year ago, made him a guest of honor at its "National Congress" at the Berliner Bear. The ousted prof, who has a Ph.D. in medieval history from the University of Chicago, says his European history classes at Fairleigh Dickinson taught the Holocaust by the book. (He did slip at one point in our conversation and refer to it as the "holo-hoax," though. Cute.)
It was Pluss who was being escorted to his flight home when the fracas at KCI erupted. Pluss sticks up for Boswell, saying that he showed remarkable "discipline" when the rabbi tossed coffee on him. The altercation, by the way, didn't change his opinion that Kansas City is a nice town.
Well, that's a relief.
And who wouldn't want such friendly folks to visit?
"People assume we're violent, bigoted hatemongers, but if you take five minutes and research us, you'll find we are a politically active, motivated organization," says "Commander" Jeff Schoep from the NSM's Minneapolis headquarters.
"Our members, at least half of them, are ex-military," the SS-loving Schoepster adds. That's how his buddy Steve was able to show so much "discipline" -- there's that word again -- in the face of the rabbi's coffee attack.
Why were these Nazis so hung up on that word, discipline, this rib roast wondered? But then we took another look at the photos on the Web site. The high-and-tight haircuts, the leather straps, the rosy-cheeked Third Reich wenches sporting their own swastikas ... yeah, come to think of it, the Berliner Bear get-together had FETISH written all over it.
Anyway, Schoep went on to blather dimwitted garbage like "We feel Jews have taken over the country and that Israel, by proxy, runs the U.S." Schoep, we learned, is under the misguided impression that his organization is well-known around the country. And he says Kansas City is a place where Nazis are gaining popularity. "White people in the Midwest are flooding into our ranks so quickly, we can barely keep up with it. Just as the founding fathers of America stood against tyranny, so do we, and the tide is turning in our favor."
Great. You mean we're going to see more pathetic wankers playing World War II dress-up?
"If he [Boswell] needs witnesses," Schoep says, "the people who were there will fly in."
Tony Ortega talks about this week's Pitch with KRBZ 96.5's Lazlo after 4 p.m. Wednesday.