Shocked show canned
by Seth Hemmelgarn
San Francisco Examiner publisher Todd Vogt has called off a planned June 30 concert by Michelle Shocked, the singer who had an anti-gay meltdown during a San Francisco concert in March.
After many people expressed outrage over his plans, Vogt said in a Wednesday, June 19 interview that he's "sick" over what's happened. Shocked's concert was to take place on the day of the San Francisco LGBT Pride parade and celebration.
He said the intention had been "to shine a light" on "bigotry and hatred, and to have Miss Shocked apologize for her comments and perform for free. It was intended to be a healing and good will gesture, and it has turned into something totally, totally different. It was never, ever my or our intention to upset people or to anger them. To the contrary, we were hoping this would help everybody move on and not only provide closure but maybe a fresh start."
Vogt added, "It has been misread and misrepresented and misreported, but it's obvious that while our intentions were good, they definitely were misguided, so I feel terrible personally, and never, ever intended this outcome."
Vogt and Patrick Brown, chief financial officer of the San Francisco Newspaper Company, are in the process of investing a 49 percent stake in the BAR Media Inc., which will own the Bay Area Reporter .
During a March 17 performance at Yoshi's, Shocked invoked California's same-sex marriage ban by saying, "When they stop Prop 8 and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilization and Jesus will come back." She also said, "You are going to leave here and tell people 'Michelle Shocked said God hates faggots.'" Shocked, whose real name is Karen Michelle Johnston, later told CNN's Piers Morgan, "I admit I made a mistake."
Vogt had sent out numerous tweets recently about Shocked's planned performance. In some, he promoted the show. On Saturday, June 15, he tweeted, "... Yup, it's true! We are 'shocked' to be presenting Michelle Shocked live in a free concert in SF on June 30!" He also defended Shocked in a Tuesday, June 18 message by saying, "We all make mistakes" and "everyone deserves a 2nd chance. But not a 3rd."
It sounds like Vogt would like a second chance, too.
In Wednesday's interview he said, "I was shocked and surprised by how upset people were," and "I'm doing what I can to try to fix it, and other than apologizing and acknowledging that it has focused a lot of anger and a lot of upset, I'm truly and sincerely sorry for that."
However, Vogt was anything but apologetic in an interview Tuesday, when it was already clear that many weren't happy with his actions.
Asked about his promoting Shocked, Vogt said, "That's insulting to me that you would suggest that."
In a follow-up email Tuesday, Vogt said, "You are obviously determined to 'spin' this story in a preconceived fashion and with a predetermined angle. So be it. You will write it as you have already decided you are going to write it."
He added, "The stretch you have made in your claim [that he's promoting Shocked] is thinner than a page of the B.A.R. No one, myself included, is a 'promoter' of Ms. Shocked. To the absolute contrary, we are the only people so far brave enough to have challenged her to come back to the Bay Area and confront her past comments and actions. In my opinion, what we have done is challenged a purported homophobic bigot to own up or apologize or atone for their actions. Regardless of what Ms. Shocked ultimately does, we have won by not letting the spread of hate simply be ignored."
In the interview Tuesday, he'd also said, "You can personally disagree with this, and you can personally think that it's obscene or insulting," Vogt said, but what Shocked "chooses to do June 30, at least for me, will one way or another bring an end to this."
Wednesday, while he stood by his remark that the B.A.R. was spinning the story, he said, "I'm sorry we're meeting under these circumstances. This is not what I do. This is not who I am."
Shocked didn't respond to a Facebook request for comment.
Vogt and Brown are shareholders in the San Francisco Newspaper Company, which owns the San Francisco Examiner , the San Francisco Bay Guardian , and SF Weekly.
Vogt said Tuesday that the Shocked engagement originated about three weeks ago when an advertising representative approached him about a full-page ad from Shocked for the Examiner, Bay Guardian, and SF Weekly Pride guide. Vogt said, "I didn't believe it" at first and thought it was "a pretty tasteless joke either by people in advertising or by someone pretending to be Michelle Shocked."
Eventually, though, he spoke with Shocked directly. She explained she wanted to buy the ad "to explain what happened at Yoshi's" and "the subsequent fallout," said Vogt, who said he "politely declined to accept" the advertisement.
But discussion continued. Vogt said he spoke with editorial and advertising staffers from the Examiner and the two alternative weeklies. When "we thought we had something we could live with," Shocked was told the papers would only accept her ad "if we had full editorial control" or the ability to reject it, he said. The cost for the ad was $1,000.
"We also wanted her to come to San Francisco at some point" and "perform a free concert as an apology," Vogt said, or "at a minimum" explain "where she stands and what she believes."
Wednesday, Vogt said, "She never sent any ad in," and never sent payment. "One of the conditions we had was the full right to not accept the ad for any reason whatsoever. She made it easy on us by not even sending any copy in."
Shocked eventually proposed three dates, one of them being the Pride Sunday.
"Coincidentally, that's the day that worked for a venue in her schedule," Vogt said.
"We're not representing this as a Pride-related event by any way, shape, or form," he said Tuesday. The concert was going to be free, and Vogt, who'd declined to say exactly where she'd perform, said she wasn't going to be paid.
[Updated: 6/20/13: Emails shared with the B.A.R. show that on June 7, Vogt told Shocked, "I will pimp the hell out of the show in all 3 papers." That message comes after Vogt's taking offense at the notion that he'd promoted Shocked, and makes it clear he had intended to tout her performance even more than he did in his tweets.
The emails between Vogt, Shocked, and others offer more details about what happened as Vogt and some of his staff tried to work out deals with Shocked for advertising, a show, and an interview.
Someone not involved with the negotiations provided the text of the emails to the B.A.R. and other media outlets late Wednesday afternoon. Vogt confirmed that the messages shared with the paper were his.
The first email in the exchange is one that an Examiner ad representative sent to the singer March 20, just days after her Yoshi's performance.
"This would be a great opportunity for you to reach our Audience," the ad rep said, adding that he'd read she'd apologized that day.
After several exchanges between Shocked and the Examiner staffer, Vogt sent Shocked a message. He proposed she buy an ad in the Pride guide and that she come to San Francisco to play a free show in June.
He offered to pay for he venue and said, "I will pimp the hell out of the show in all 3 papers."
Vogt also said he'd arrange for a cover feature story in SF Weekly and offered to pay for her airfare and accommodations.
Eventually, Shocked proposed doing the show on Pride Sunday.
"To get the most bang for the buck, let's settle on June 30 for a couple of reasons: 1. SF Pride 2. SF Pride 3. SF Pride," Shocked said. (Shocked hasn't responded to an emailed request to confirm the messages included in the exchange came from her.)
In a June 10 email, Vogt told her, "I love the plan for June 30 for all 3 reasons you listed."
In an interview Thursday (June 20), Vogt said, "Hindsight is 20/20."
"I'm looking at these and I can see exactly how they could be misconstrued or taken out of context, and it would be incredibly hypocritical" to say, "That's not what I meant," he said. But that's not what he meant, he said.
Asked about publicity being at least part of the motive for trying to work out a deal with Shocked, Vogt said, "It was by no means even a thought at the time, but I can see exactly how it looks. ... I actually thought that the feature interview with SF Weekly was going to be the big thing."
There won't be an SF Weekly interview with Shocked, though.
In an email Vogt shared with the B.A.R. that appears to be from Wednesday, Shocked told him the SF Weekly reporter's "failure to procure an interview was deliberate and intentional. You are welcome to use it to justify any political or economic pressures that have beset you to retract our agreement. I promise it will only be my opinion of you that is lowered, and it wasn't very high to begin with."
Vogt, who had also given Shocked the option of writing an op-ed piece for the Examiner, referred to the efforts to work with the singer as "incredibly, incredibly stupid and insensitive."
The emails don't include Vogt telling Shocked anything about not accepting the ad, and they also don't say anything her about using the show to apologize to people. Vogt said he told her through FaceTime that he initially told her he wouldn't accept the ad, and it was also on FaceTime that Shocked said she wanted to "explain and apologize" to people.
"I told her if she was serious and sincere, she should come to San Francisco and apologize," and Shocked asked him to put it in writing, which resulted in his June 7 email, he said.
No venue had been booked, Vogt said, although four or five had been considered.end of update]
But the news was confusing to many, who initially thought the organization putting on the Pride parade might be involved.
Before Vogt called off the show, SF Pride officials sought to make it clear Tuesday that they had nothing to do with Shocked's anticipated performance.
Longtime main stage producer Audrey Joseph said, "I have no time to deal with Michelle-goddamned-Shocked. Fuck her and the air she breathes." She called Shocked "a homophobic asshole" and said the performer "has nothing to do with San Francisco Pride, and if I found out she did have anything to do with San Francisco Pride, I would walk out."
Earl Plante, CEO of the San Francisco Pride LGBT Celebration Committee, said Shocked's reported March comments were "pretty outrageous" and her June 30 performance was "not a Pride-sanctioned or Pride-sponsored event in any sense of the word."
Others expressed dismay at Vogt's actions.
Transgender labor activist Gabriel Haaland said Tuesday he has "a lot of compassion" for Shocked, "who clearly is confused about her sexuality and has been born again" and appears to be experiencing "inner turmoil."
However, Haaland said, "I find this shock value way that it was approached diminished the credibility of any kind of offer of reconciliation" by Shocked. He said Vogt had been "wildly insensitive to how the community might respond to what appears to be a very exploitative approach to bringing in someone who so deeply offended the community."
Queer housing rights advocate Tommi Avicolli Mecca noted Vogt's prospective part ownership of the B.A.R. and referred to his actions as "unreal."
"I would hope that people in our community in San Francisco, that people will let it be known to him that he can't pull this shit on us. This is San Francisco. I'm sorry, you cannot do this kind of shit to us, and if people don't hold this man accountable, there's something wrong with our community."
In April, the B.A.R. announced a restructuring effort in which Vogt and Brown will own 49 percent of the paper, collectively. Michael Yamashita, the paper's general manager, will own 31 percent of the new company BAR Media Inc. and will become the paper's publisher. The Bob Ross Foundation, which is named after the B.A.R .'s founder and currently owns the paper, will own 20 percent. The majority of the paper's ownership will still be gay, and the paper isn't being sold.
Asked Wednesday if he had any concerns about doing business with Vogt, given what many considered to be Vogt's insensitivity to the LGBT community, Yamashita said, "No, I don't. He explained the situation, and he rectified it by canceling the concert. If he says it wasn't his intention to be insensitive and he apologized, I'll take him at his word."
Yamashita added, "We don't have a firm deadline" for completing the restructuring deal with Vogt and Brown.
"It could be weeks to a couple of months," he said.
Bay Guardian departure
Vogt has also been the subject of controversy over the departure last week of longtime Bay Guardian Editor Tim Redmond. Vogt said Redmond "definitely offered his resignation" and he was "absolutely not" fired.
Redmond told the B.A.R., "I never said, 'I quit,'" though he said he and Vogt had "had a major disagreement" over proposed cuts and "if he had not what I see as dismissed me on Thursday night [June 13] I probably would have wound up leaving anyway."
The Bay Guardian published a detailed account this week of Redmond's departure.
Interim Bay Guardian Editor Marke Bieschke, who identifies as queer, said the paper published the first report of Shocked's "meltdown" at Yoshi's and published the exclusive audio that a reader provided.