Debunking Kliph Nesteroff’s Lies About the Father of Stand-Up
This article is the opposite of the article that I originally set out to write, which was about Frank Fay, the Nazi-sympathizing fascist vaudevillian who invented stand-up comedy. I mean, it says right there on Frank Fay’s Wikipedia page that “[i]n January 1946, just months after Nazi Germany had been defeated, a rally of 10,000 white supremacists gathered at Madison Square Garden for a pro-fascist event called ‘The Friends of Frank Fay’.” That sounds like a good topic for a White Nationalist Website, right? “Hey, kids! Did you know that stand-up comedy was invented by a fascist?”
If you Google Frank Fay, you can find plenty of articles calling him either a fascist or a Nazi. In “The Warped, Hateful Father of Stand-Up Comics: Frank Fay,” the author mentions that Fay “held a hate rally at Madison Square Garden to support the Nazis, White Supremacists, Fascists and other lovely people.” And in “Fabled and Forgotten Frank Fay,” Ron Fassler calls Fay an “unrepentant fascist and anti-semite.” Since articles like that have already been written, I was going to write one that put a positive spin on him.
But as I was researching the article, I came to discover that while Frank Fay was indeed a raging anti-Semite, he was actually not a fascist, but in fact the victim of a malicious posthumous smear campaign by (((you know who))). As a result, now this article is about the dangers of blindly trusting Wikipedia, the importance of doing your own research, and about how Jews are liars. You probably already knew that last one, but it never hurts to have the occasional refresher. Instead of talking about “Frank Fay the fascist,” I will now be debunking the “Frank Fay the fascist” meme.
Now, we here at Counter-Currents see nothing wrong with being a fascist. However, we do see something wrong with calling people “fascist” who are not, strictly speaking, fascists. Granted, most of the public doesn’t even know what fascism really is, so in most cases, accusations of fascism tend to be nonsense. But here we have a case of someone going above and beyond to smear another as a fascist with out-of-context data, and in some cases outright fabrications.
The origin of this slander against Frank Fay appears to be a 2014 article called “The Fascist Stand-Up Comic” by one Kliph Nesteroff, a bestselling author who specializes in mid-twentieth century pop culture in general and the history of comedy in particular. Nesteroff is a regular contributor to NPR, CBC, and was consulting producer for the CNN series, The History of Comedy. He has been called “the human encyclopedia of comedy” by VICE Magazine, “the King of comedy lore” by L. A. Magazine, and The A. V. Club called him their “favorite pop culture historian.” I call him a fraud and a hack (and you can tell him I said that). Anywho, no article I’ve seen about Frank Fay written before 2014 mentions him being a fascist or a Nazi, while just about every one written after 2014 does. So it’s safe to say that he is the source of this meme.
He was also comedy’s most notorious racist. In January 1946, several months after Germany had been defeated, a rally of ten thousand white supremacists gathered at Madison Square Garden. They delivered speeches in support of Franco, Mussolini and their fallen hero Adolf Hitler. They promised that the defeat of Germany would not go unpunished. The podium was beneath a banner that saluted their guest of honor. The event was called “The Friends of Frank Fay.”
Lies. All lies. Nesteroff’s article on Frank Fay is chock full of lies – not merely errors, but lies. And some of these lies are contradicted not merely by other contemporary sources, but often by Nesteroff’s own sources. I will get into all that in just a bit.
But first . . .
Frank Fay was born Francis Anthony Donner in San Francisco in 1891. The son of Irish Catholic vaudevillians, Fay began performing at age 3, and began specializing in comedy as he got older. In the days of vaudeville, comedy was done in two ways. The first was the Charlie Chaplin style of comedy involving props and silly costumes: ill-fitting suits, seltzer bottles, slipping on banana peels, getting pies in the face. The other was the classic double act: straight man/funny man banter. The straight man would provide the setup, and the funny man would deliver the punchlines. You know, the whole “Who’s on first?” thing.
Frank Fay was the first guy to come up with the idea of just going on stage in ordinary clothes and talking to the audience. This was the birth of stand-up comedy. Today, it seems so simple and obvious that you wonder why it took until the twentieth century for someone to think of it. But when Frank Fay did it in the 1910s, it was considered wildly innovative. On top of this, Frank performed as himself – not as a character or as a made-up comedic persona, but as Frank Fay.
By 1917, Fay was famous enough that when he divorced his first wife, Frances White, it was the subject of tabloid interest. Fay suspected his wife of having an affair with her performing partner, fellow vaudevillian William Rock, and sued him for alienation of affection. The whole thing was a mess of lawyers, process servers, and accusations, but seeing that it was all happening in the public eye, Frank Fay made lemonade out of lemons by working his divorce into his comedy. The October 1917 issue of Variety reported:
Frank Fay, he of pallid face and wavy hair, was next to closing, and there amused the house fully with his oddly framed routine. He made mention of his alimony ($25 per week) and that he still retained possession of “the car” which the wise ones did not fail to get.
At another performance, it was reported that “Frank Fay interpolated some kidding references to subpoenas and the audience ‘got’ it.”
This sort of realism, joking about real things in one’s real life, was unprecedented in comedy. Fay developed two other comedy innovations which persist to this day. First, he invented the role of “master of ceremonies”: the guy who comes onstage between each act and introduces the next one. Before Fay, acts were introduced by simple placards in front of the stage which read, “Joe Blow and His Dancing Ducks” or whatever. So if one act bombed, the master of ceremonies could liven up the audience again before bringing on the next one. If you go to a comedy show at a club today, there will always be one comic who performs this role. Fay invented that.
Fay also invented the one-man show. As his popularity reached heights previously unseen, he decided that rather than be the headliner of a multi-act vaudeville show, he would just be the whole show. With no opening acts, this meant more money for him. It worked; Frank Fay was the reigning King of Broadway throughout the 1920s.
But Frank was not just a guy who thought of clever gimmicks. He was also really, really good at them. Others soon adopted this new performance style: Jack Benny, Bob Hope, George Burns, Fred Allen, and Fay’s bitter arch-rival Milton Berle. Nevertheless, Frank Fay was considered the best of the bunch. Even people who hated him personally (of whom there were many) acknowledged Fay’s singular talent. The problem was that he knew it all too well. He was cocky as hell, and could be insufferable to be around. But then again, a lot of the people who said that about him were Jewish, which makes me think that Frank was probably very cool in reality, but was misunderstood. Take me, for instance. I’m cool as fuck, but if you were to ask the average Jew about me, the reviews would be less than flattering.
Like all right-thinking red-blooded Americans, Frank Fay was notoriously anti-Semitic – but hey, being in showbiz will do that to a man. He once famously called Milton Berle a “little Jew bastard” onstage, for example (but where’s the lie?). This, coupled with his abrasive personality, frequently led to fisticuffs, sometimes even with his fellow entertainers.
Several people remarked that Frank Fay had no friends. Milton Berle said of him, “Fay’s friends could be counted on the missing arm of a one-armed man.” And Fred Allen once famously quipped that, “The last time I saw him, he was walking down Lover’s Lane, holding his own hand.” I’m not sure how much can be read into this. Maybe he was a loner; a lot of creative types are. At the height of his popularity in the 1920s, Fay was clocking $17,500 a week – about a quarter of a million in today’s dollars. If a guy with that much money doesn’t have any friends, it’s probably because he doesn’t want any. You could bankroll a serious entourage with that kind of cash.
A star is born
Besides stand-up comedy, the thing Fay is best remembered for is being the first husband of screen legend Barbara Stanwyck. Their doomed marriage is widely theorized to have been the inspiration for the original 1937 version of A Star is Born. For those who don’t know, A Star is Born is about a struggling actress who begins a relationship with an alcoholic Hollywood megastar who helps her break into movies. But soon after their relationship starts, their respective fortunes switch places as the male star’s career declines into has-been status, while the woman’s career enjoys a meteoric rise.
In the late 1920s, three things happened which transformed entertainment forever and had profound effects on Fay’s career. The first was the emergence of radio, inaugurating the era of home entertainment. It was no longer necessary to go out to be amused. And radio had several other advantages over the stage and films. For one, radio was very cheap to make. Radio could present science fiction adventures in the theater of one’s mind that would have been very expensive to film, and impossible to present on a stage. Even more importantly, radio was free (aside from the upfront cost of the radio itself), whereas going to a movie or a stage show cost money. And, of course, radio had novelty. Moving pictures, which at that time were still stuck in the silent era, had been around for decades, and stage performances for millennia; but listening to the radio was something new and exciting.
The second was the 1927 release of The Jazz Singer, a movie about a Jew who keeps pissing off his dad by dressing in blackface and singing jazz music. The Jazz Singer is sometimes erroneously referred to as “the first sound film”; in reality, it was only the first feature-length film to include recorded dialogue. There had already been short films with recorded dialogue, and full-length films with pre-recorded music and sound effects. Hairsplitting aside, The Jazz Singer is considered the beginning of the sound era in film. These “talkies” wiped out the one big advantage the stage had over film: Movies could now have singing and witty dialogue that were once exclusive to the stage. It also created a huge demand in Hollywood for actors who could speak well. Being a pretty face wasn’t enough anymore. Studios went to New York and plundered Broadway of all its best talent. Goodbye Clara Bow, hello Katharine Hepburn.
Lastly, there was the stock market crash of 1929. For a long time, movies were considered lowbrow, poor people’s entertainment. Upper class and sophisticated types preferred “the legitimate theater.” But with the onset of the Depression, a lot of those sophisticated types became broke and didn’t have the disposable income for expensive theater tickets. Radio had just arrived to fill the gap.
All of these things proved to be the kiss of death for vaudeville and a huge blow for Broadway, which was now losing not only customers, but talent.
Frank Fay was one of the many Broadway stars who went to Hollywood in the late 1920s and early ‘30s. Fay brought his chorus girl wife, Barbara Stanwyck (her real name was Ruby Stevens), with him. They had married in 1928, when Fay was at the height of his success. As in A Star is Born, Fay’s movie career went nowhere while Stanwyck became an immediate success. She became a favorite of iconic directors like Frank Capra and William Wellman, and it seemed like she could do no wrong. She would remain a superstar for the rest of her life.
I’ve seen some of Frank Fay’s movies, and I’m not going to lie: they aren’t good. But then again, there have been lots of talented Broadway legends who underperformed in Hollywood. For example, Tallulah Bankhead went to Hollywood around the same time as Fay and never really caught fire. Movie acting requires a slightly different skill set than stage acting, and sometimes the camera just doesn’t like people. But Fay wasn’t even an actor per se; he was a stand-up comedian. Plenty of successful stand-ups have struggled to break into movies: Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, George Carlin, and Andrew Dice Clay, to name only a few. And the studio Fay ended up at, Warner Brothers, might have been a bad fit for him. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, each studio had its own style and target demographics. Warner Brothers’ movies tended to have a more blue-collar feel to them. Their most successful male stars were earthy, street-smart guys like James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Edward G. Robinson. Fay might have found better success at a studio like Paramount, home of the Marx Brothers, who specialized in sophisticated and risqué Broadway-type stories.
But then again, Warner Brothers was also known for being extremely Irish. Along with James Cagney, their roster also included Pat O’Brien and character actor Frank McHugh. The three, along with Spencer Tracey, were known around the Hollywood social scene as “the Irish mafia.” They also had George Brent (who had fought in the IRA during the Irish War of Independence), Irish clog dancer Ruby Keeler, and the female comedy duo of Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell, who were both half-Irish. It may have been this Irish connection that brought the ostentatiously Irish Catholic Fay to Warner Brothers.
Fay’s most noteworthy movie of this period is probably God’s Gift to Women. It’s not notable for being good, but for featuring a pre-stardom Joan Blondell, a post-stardom Louise Brooks, and Fay in the middle of his fleeting career as a Hollywood leading man – sort of like three ships passing in the night. You can watch it here.
Louise Brooks was a woman who, like Fay, was notorious for her difficult personality and whose career crashed even harder than Fay’s. Once a rising star of the silent era, her frequent insubordination and stubbornness led to her being blacklisted in Hollywood. She went to Europe and made a few artsy–fartsy films with Austrian director G. W. Pabst until he, too, got tired of her antics. She returned to Hollywood with her tail between her legs, and despite having been a headliner just a few years before, now found herself billed tenth and playing a floosy in a low-budget comedy. At age 24, she was already washed up.
It’s possible that Fay’s Hollywood career was doomed from the beginning. Fay’s antipathy to Jews was well-known, and unlike WASPish Broadway, every major movie studio was owned and run by Jews, with the exception of United Artists, which was owned by Mary Pickford (who had married a Jew) and outspoken philo-Semitic Communist Charlie Chaplin (who might as well have been a Jew). You had some independent gentile film producers like Howard Hughes and Walt Disney, but even they went through the Jewish-owned studios for distribution. And it was also not unknown for studio bosses to deliberately tank the careers of uppity stars they didn’t like, either to make an example of them or just out of sheer pettiness.
Frank Fay’s final starring role would be in the unremarkable B-picture A Fool’s Advice, aka Meet the Mayor. Fay and Stanwyck would divorce in 1935, and Fay would return to New York to work in theater and radio. In 1944, he landed the starring role in the Pulitzer Prize-winning stage drama Harvey, which put him back on top on Broadway. But in 1946, Fay would make national headlines one last time – not for his comedy, but for his politics.
The Friends of Frank Fay
In 1945, Fay lodged a complaint with the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) after five of its members attended a Communist-sponsored rally where the Pope and the Catholic Church were denounced. Rather than censuring the five actors, the AEA censured Fay. This resulted in the 1946 rally at Madison Square Garden, which was called “Friends of Frank Fay.” According to to Kliph Nesteroff, this was a pro-fascist rally at which Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were praised. It was actually a simple, patriotic anti-Communist rally of a type which were quite common in America at the time.
Nesteroff’s article relies heavily on two sources which he lists but conveniently forgets to link to, for reasons which will soon become obvious. First, he cites the January 11, 1946 issue of the now-defunct Left-wing newspaper New York PM Daily. The article is here, and the pictures are here. Second, he cites The New Masses, a Jewish-run pro-Stalin Marxist magazine associated with the Communist Party USA. It should be noted that The New Masses had supported both the Moscow show trials and the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement – just the kind of unbiased source I would trust to tell me who is a fascist. I mean, it’s not like Communists believe that everyone who is not one of them is a fascist or something! The article he cites, “Frank Fay’s Fascist Friends” by Joseph Foster, can be found here.
We’ll begin with the quote at the beginning of Kliph’s article:
In January 1946, several months after Germany had been defeated, a rally of ten thousand white supremacists gathered at Madison Square Garden. They delivered speeches in support of Franco, Mussolini and their fallen hero Adolf Hitler. They promised that the defeat of Germany would not go unpunished. The podium was beneath a banner that saluted their guest of honor. The event was called “The Friends of Frank Fay.”
Leaving aside his characterization of what the event was about (we’ll get to that shortly), he deliberately misrepresents the number of people there. He says ten thousand. And yet PM, Nesteroff’s own source, gives the figure as eighteen thousand.
The January 26, 1946 issue of The Bulletin of Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia says nineteen thousand:
And the February 8, 1946 issue of the Chicago newspaper Lithuanian Daily Friend gives a figure of twenty thousand:
I guess Nesteroff is trying to portray this rally as being more fringe than it actually was. He continues:
At the end of 1945, several members of the theatrical union Actor’s Equity rallied in favor of Spanish Refugee Appeal. Actors David Brooks, Jean Darling, Luba Malina and Sono Osato criticized the Spanish Catholic Church for executing leftists and campaigned to help Spanish leftists in exile. Fay was furious. He said their criticism was an attack on Catholicism as a whole. Fay demanded Actor’s Equity investigate each anti-Franco member for un-American activity.
This is simply false. The anti-Catholic statements came not from the actors themselves, but from a British Communist Jew named Harold J. Laski, as well as Nikolai Novikov, then the Soviet ambassador to Washington. Also, there were five actors, not four. The fifth was Margo, a dancer whose real name was Maria Castilla.
Here is the real story behind the origins of the Friends of Frank Fay rally, as told by Edward J. Kubaitis in the Lithuanian Daily Friend:
Several weeks ago, more than 20,000 people packed Madison Square Garden in New York City in a meeting called by the “Friends of Frank Fay Committee”.
Behind that simple statement of fact about a New York mass-meeting lies an interesting story and a message that is of the utmost importance to every American Catholic.
On September 24th, 1945, Harold Laski, leader of the British Socialist Party, in a broadcast to this country, unleashed a bitter attack against the Catholic Church and the Holy Father. On the same occasion, the Church was similarly attacked by Nikolai Novikov, Soviet Charges D’Affaires in this country. The occasion of these anti-Catholic speeches was a Communist sponsored rally at Madison Square Garden to raise funds for Spanish Reds. On the stage at that time, and taking part in the program, were five actors and actresses – Margo, Luba Malina, Sono Osato, Jean Darling and David Brooks.
These five actors and actresses are all members of Actors’ Equity – an association (i. e. union) to which every member of the acting profession must belong. The aims and policies of Equity are declared to be absolutely non-sectarian, non-political and impartial as to race, color and creed.
When these Equity members took professional part in a program in which the Catholic Church was attacked, another Equity member (and, incidentally one of its founders) protested to the officers of the association against this open violation of its non-sectarian principles. He asked that an investigation be made of their participation and that, if necessary, the guilty parties be reprimanded.
The Equity member who lodged this protest was Frank Fay, star of the stage, screen and radio. Mr. Fay one of the most popular comedians in the profession, is a devout Catholic. He personally resented the attacks upon his Faith, and as a member of Equity, he protested against the participation of the organization’s members at an anti-Catholic meeting.
However, Communist influence (which is widespread in the theatrical world, as everyone knows) immediately started its wheels of propaganda rolling. Actors’ Equity is far from a Communist-front organization, but it does have a loud and influential Red minority on its executive committee. The officers of the association, under this Communist pressure, absolved the five actors and actresses of the charge that they had acted in a manner prejudicial to Equity’s principles. But this was not all. Not only were the five members completely cleared, but the plaintiff, Frank Fay, suddenly found himself sitting in the defendant’s chair. He was formally found guilty and officially censured for conduct prejudicial to the principles and best interests of Equity!
This may sound like a silly turn of plot out of a Gilbert and Sullivan light opera, but it actually did happen!
Public opinion, incensed from the very outset at the maliciousness of two foreign atheists’ attack upon a respected religious institution, rallied immediately to Mr. Fay’s support. A Committee – composed of Catholics, Protestants, Jews and those of no religious beliefs – was formed, calling itself the “Friends of Frank Fay Committee”. The group called a mass-meeting in Madison Square Garden several weeks ago for the purpose of publicly vindicating Mr. Fay’s action and to protest this most insolent attack upon the principles of true Americanism and freedom of conscience.
The House Committee on Un-American Activities acted on Fay’s suggestion and the actors were vetted. The New York Times reported that Fay “held no brief against any member of [Actor’s Equity] for political beliefs. He resented, however, that Equity members should be party to rallies that condemn religious groups.” Equity president Bert Lytell objected to the political investigation. “Equity members have a wide latitude of interests and beliefs that they may practice and advocate as private citizens.” Actor’s Equity stood by Brooks, Darling, Malina and Osato. Rather than expel them from his union, Lytell censured Frank Fay for “conduct prejudicial to the association or its membership.”
This is the least inaccurate part of Nesteroff’s retelling. From the book Unfriendly Witnesses: Gender, Theater, and Film in the McCarthy Era by Milly S. Barrange:
The five actors testified that they has been “physically assaulted, insulted, threatened with violence to themselves and their families, picketed and informed that not only their plays but any plays, motion pictures or radio broadcasts in which they might appear from now on would be boycotted.”
Can a guy not be a commie in peace? But there is another side to this. An article entitled “The Opposition is Awakening” in the January 24, 1946 edition of the Denver Catholic Register provides more details:
Although the legal counsel for Equity submitted that the actors’ group had no jurisdiction in the matter of Fay’s protest, the Reds and Pinks in the organization got to work. A trumped-up hearing was held by Equity’s “inner circle,” some of whose members have long been identified with Communist causes. The secret “hearing” found Fay guilty and sentenced him to public censure. One member, Paul Robeson, a known Communist advocate, earned applause when he demanded that Fay apologize to and resign from the Equity council.
In other words, it does not bring the AEA into disrepute for its members to participate in an anti-Catholic Communist rally, but it does bring the AEA into disrepute to say that its members participate in anti-Catholic Communist rallies.
Franco supporters bombarded Actor’s Equity with death threats. Reporter Joseph Foster wrote, “Under the guise of being deeply pained over the [comments about] the Catholic Church, these organs of native fascism have been blowing the familiar tunes in all their repulsive cacophony. They say that the issue is religion, but they are no more concerned with religion than were their political masters, the cutthroats of Berlin. Consider Frank Fay himself, the main attraction in the current whoop-de-do. His anti-Semitism is well known and his numerous brawls on that account are common gossip.”
I strongly object to Nesteroff’s characterization of Joseph Foster as a reporter. A reporter is someone who goes somewhere and writes a report about what he saw and heard. Joseph Foster was not a reporter. He was a propagandist for the aforementioned Judeo-Communist magazine, The New Masses. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a propagandist; hell, I’m a propagandist myself. But to call Foster a “reporter” implies both that he was there at the rally when he was not (or if he was, he did not indicate this in the article sourced), and that he was adhering to journalistic standards of objectivity, which he was not. He was just some commie giving his opinion. Calling him a “reporter” gives him unwarranted legitimacy.
Back to Nesteroff:
In response to the censure, allies of Franco, members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party organized a rally at Madison Square Garden in January 1946 called “The Friends of Frank Fay.”
That’s pretty interesting, especially considering that the American Nazi Party did not exist until 1959, thirteen years after the Friends of Frank Fay rally happened, and there was no other organization by this name prior to Rockwell’s. No citation is given. I’d be curious to know your source for this claim, Kliph. Likewise, neither of Kliph’s sources mention the Klan being there. The very idea is absurd in itself, considering that the Klan was explicitly anti-Catholic and known for murdering the occasional priest, while the Friends of Frank rally was pro-Catholic (or at least anti-anti-Catholic).
Speakers included Klan ally Joseph Scott, Nazi Laura Ingalls, publisher of anti-Semitic pamphlets John Geis, and the prolific Joseph P. Kamp, who had used the KKK’s mailing list to distribute his work about “Jewish influence” and America’s “Communist President” Franklin D. Roosevelt.
These are also lies contradicted or unsubstantiated by his own sources. The PM article mentions some of those people being at the event, but it says nothing about them speaking there. In fact, in some cases, it says the opposite. Let’s start with Joseph Scott. All Nesteroff tells us about him is that he was a “Klan ally” – as if being an ally of the Klan were the totality of his existence. Alas, Joseph Scott couldn’t have joined the Klan even if he had wanted to, because he was an Irish Catholic. Hence, if he was an ally of the Klan, he must have been some kind of undercover secret agent working behind enemy lines or something. That something is, “Nesteroff made it up.”
So who really was Joseph Scott? He was a respected lawyer from Los Angeles who, among other things, co-founded the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, was Vice President of the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco, and was elected President of Los Angeles’ Community Chest. Indeed, there is a statue of Joseph Scott in front of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles, and there is a building named after him at Loyola Law School. He was famous for being the McNamara brothers’ defense attorney – two militant union members who blew up the Los Angeles Times building in 1910. He was also Joan Barry’s attorney in her paternity suit against Charlie Chaplin, in which he denounced Chaplin as a Communist. Quite an extraordinary life, but Nesteroff reduces it to him being a “Klan ally” – and he wasn’t even that. In reality, Scott was a pillar of his community.
Nesteroff includes this picture from the PM story:
What the caption says is true, but Scott’s view was not an uncommon one at the time. A lot of Americans believed that the Soviet Union was the greater of two evils, especially when the extent of the Third Reich’s war crimes was still unknown to the public. Thus, it doesn’t necessarily make him a fascist. And interjecting that is pretty rich when you consider that Nesteroff had no problem sourcing The New Masses, a publication that was itself cool with Stalin teaming up with Hitler against the capitalist West.
Okay, so he wasn’t a fascist, but was Scott at least an anti-Semite? Unlikely. Indeed, Joseph Scott was a charter member of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, an anti-racist organization founded in 1927 in response to the anti-Catholic hate campaign against Al Smith during his 1926 presidential campaign. “Klan ally,” indeed . . .
Nesteroff also claims that Laura Ingalls spoke at the rally. Laura Ingalls is indeed an interesting character. She was an award-winning and pioneering aviatrix who was also an enthusiastic Hitler fangirl – sort of like a flying Evalion. In 1941, she was arrested for being a paid Nazi agent, and in late 1944, she was arrested again for trying to cross the border to Mexico while carrying seditious materials. But I haven’t been able to find any source which claims that she was actually at the Friends of Frank Fay rally. She is mentioned once in the New Masses article in relation to the Friends of Frank Fay’s publicity director, Edward Atwell, who they claim “was also an organizer, speaker, and office manager for the New York America First Committee, and appeared on the platform with Laura Ingalls, paid Nazi agent, no less than four times.” However, that doesn’t mean she was at the Friends of Frank Fay rally or that she spoke there; only that a person who did speak there had previously shared the stage with her. By 1946, Laura Ingalls would have been persona non grata even in America First circles after her highly-publicized Nazi connections.
Then there is John Geis. Nesteroff calls him a “publisher of antisemitic pamphlets,” and this appears to be true. I couldn’t find much information on him, but I did find one reference in John Roy Carlson’s 1943 wartime propaganda book, Under Cover: My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld Of America, where the author describes him as a “Christian Front-er, editor of The American Way and a strong clerical fascist.” For those who don’t know, the Christian Front was a Judeo-critical Catholic organization led by the j-woke warrior for Christ and wise gentleman, Father Charles Coughlin.
But here’s the thing. Nesteroff’s source, PM, only reports that Geis was there, in the audience. It does not say that he was a speaker.
Next, Nesteroff mentions Joseph P. Kamp, who was the head of the Constitutional Education League, a distributor of anti-Communist literature, and he had indeed been indicted by the US government for being an Axis asset. And again, while it is true that Joseph P. Kamp was reported as being in the audience at the rally, no source reports him as a speaker. Thus, again, Nesteroff is contradicted by his own sources.
But it gets worse. PM specifically mentions that one of the speakers explicitly denied Kamp’s involvement:
“This,” said McNaboe, “is a gathering of fine American citizens who have said tonight: This is it.” This opening gambit was greeted by wild cheers which grew wilder as he denounced newspaper stories which had linked Kamp with the rally. Last Sunday, PM disclosed that Kamp was behind the FFF, and that he had published a 32-page brochure, titled The Fay Case. Despite the fact that Kamp held a box seat, and McNaboe himself stated that “everyone here is an invited guest of the FFF,” he denied that “Kamp, Gerald L. K. Smith, or any other type like that has anything to do with this meeting.”
Rabble-rouser Gerald L. K. Smith, anti-Catholic and anti-Semite, claimed credit for the rally. He’s quoted saying: “Christian Nationalists and America Firsters supplied the men to organize and set a mass rally . . . in honor of Frank Fay.”
Assuming that is a real quote, I don’t think this is tantamount to “claiming credit.” While Gerald L. K. Smith did found the America First Party in 1943, that is not to be confused with the more famous America First Committee, of which Charles Lindbergh was their most famous spokesman. In fact, the America First Committee declined a proposed alliance with Smith’s America First Party. And while Smith headed a group called the Christian Nationalist Crusade, they were hardly the only Christian nationalist organization around. So if he was taking credit, he may have been full of shit, and his claim must be counterbalanced with McNaboe’s denial.
So who actually spoke at the Friends of Frank Fay rally? According to the Lithuanian Daily Friend:
Presiding at the great rally was Col. John McNaboe, a veteran of the South Pacific war. Principal speaker was Judge Clare Fenerty, of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. Other speakers included Congressman Ralph Gwinn; Dr. George Benson, president of Harding College; Major John Curran, one of the survivors of the Bataan Death March and a prisoner of the Japs for three years; and Patrick Boarman, a veteran of World War II. Present on the stage and introduced to the huge crowd were ten veterans of World War II, each one a winner of the Distinguished Service Cross!
Thus, one can only conclude from looking at the sources that Nesteroff’s article is pure fabrication. It isn’t even close to being true. This guy makes Hollywood Babylon look authoritative. To beat a dead horse one last time:
“Several personalities connected with the Fascist lunatic fringe were the organizers and speakers,” reported Maurice Zolotow. “Naturally, a terrific controversy was aroused by Fay’s association with these persons.” That so many American fascists were flagrantly holding a rally just six months after the end of the War was bold. “That their clamor arises at [this] time, is far from accidental,” wrote reporter Joseph Foster. “When Franco goes, they will have lost the last stronghold of fascism in Europe, and its attendant influence on South America and subsequently US politics.”
There’s that word “reported” again. It’s the same deal with Maurice Zolotow: he didn’t “report” shit. Zolotow was an entertainment biographer, and the quote comes from his book No People Like Show People.
It may indeed be the case that fascists were at the Friends of Frank Fay rally. It may even well be the case that there were fascists working behind the scenes of the event in an organizational capacity. That is a matter of dispute. But Nesteroff didn’t make these claims. He claimed that fascists were speaking at the rally, and that the purpose of the rally was to praise Hitler and Mussolini and vow revenge for their defeats, with the intention of defaming Fay himself. And this is simply not true, and it’s easily provable.
I’m an artist and a propagandist, and I deeply resent Kliph Nesteroff for making me have to do actual investigative journalism. It wasn’t what I set out to do, but by slandering and defaming a fellow patriotic American gentile artist who is not alive to defend himself, Kliph forced my hand. Make no mistake: Kliph Nesteroff is a liar and a fraud, and his writing should not be trusted. If his employers have even a shred of integrity, Nesteroff should be fired. If you work with him, please, pretty please, with a cherry on top – fire him.
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