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Arts and Culture

Behind the Twinkie Defense

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Posted on Nov 17, 2012
ReneS (CC BY 2.0)

By Paul Krassner

(Page 2)

***

In 1983, the San Francisco Chronicle published a correction: “In an article about Dan White’s prison life, Chronicle writer Warren Hinckle reported that a friend of White expressed the former supervisor’s displeasure with an article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian which made reference to the size of White’s sexual organ. The Chronicle has since learned that the Bay Guardian did not publish any such article and we apologize for the error.”

It was 10 feet long, 3 feet 6 inches high, 3 feet 8 inches wide, and weighed more than a ton—no, not Dan White’s penis—the world’s largest Twinkie, which was unveiled in Boston.  And on the 50th anniversary of the Twinkie, inventor Dewar said, “Some people say Twinkies are the quintessential junk food, but I believe in the things.  I fed them to my four kids, and they feed them to my 15 grandchildren.  Twinkies never hurt them.”

 

***

When the jurors walked into court to deliver the verdict, they appeared somber, except for a former cop, who smiled and triumphantly tapped the defense table twice with two fingers as he passed by, telegraphing the decision of voluntary manslaughter.  White would be sentenced to seven years in prison.

In January 1984, White was paroled after serving a little more than five years.  The estimated shelf life of a Twinkie was seven years.  That’s two years longer than White spent behind bars.  When he was released, that Twinkie in his cupboard was still edible.  But perhaps, instead of eating it, he would have it bronzed.

He called his old friend, Frank Falzon—the detective who had originally taken his confession—and they met.

“I hit him with the hard questions,” Falzon said. “I asked him, ‘What were those extra bullets for? What did happen?’”

“I really lost it that day,” White said.

“You can say that again,” Falzon said.

“No, I really lost it. I was on a mission. I wanted four of them.”

“Four?” Falzon asked.

“Carol Ruth Silver—she was the biggest snake of the bunch.” (Supervisor Silver realized that she might have been his third victim had she not stayed downstairs for a second cup of coffee that morning.) “And Willie Brown.  He was masterminding the whole thing.”

While White had been waiting to see Moscone in the anteroom of his office, the mayor was drinking coffee with state Assemblyman Brown, chatting and laughing. Moscone told Brown that he had to see White, and Brown slipped out the back door just as Moscone was letting White in the front way. Thirty seconds later, White killed Moscone. The Marlboro cigarette in Moscone’s hand would still be burning when the paramedics arrived.

White hurriedly walked across a long corridor to the area where the supervisors’ offices were. His name had already been removed from the door of his office, but he still had a key. He went inside and reloaded his gun. Then he walked out, past Supervisor Dianne Feinstein’s office.  She called to him, but he didn’t stop. “I have to do something first,” he told her, as he headed for Milk’s office.

George Moscone’s body was buried, and Harvey Milk’s body was cremated. His ashes were placed in a box, which was wrapped in “Doonesbury” comic strips, then scattered at sea. The ashes had been mixed with bubble bath and two packets of grape Kool-Aid, forming a purple patch on the Pacific Ocean. Harvey would’ve liked that touch.

On the 25th anniversary of the twin assassination, the San Francisco Chronicle stated that I reported: “‘I don’t think Twinkies were ever mentioned in testimony,’ said chief defense attorney Douglas Schmidt, who recalls ‘Ho Hos and Ding Dongs,’ but no Twinkies.’” Apparently, he forgot that one of his own psychiatric witnesses, Martin Blinder, had used the T-word.

Blinder now complains, “If I found a cure for cancer, they’d still say I was the guy who invented ‘the Twinkie defense.’”

The Chronicle also quoted Steven Scherr about the Twinkie defense: “‘It drives me crazy,’ said co-counsel Scherr, who suspects the simplistic explanation provides cover for those who want to minimize and trivialize what happened. If he ever strangles one of the people who says ‘Twinkie defense’ to him, Scherr said, it won’t be because he’s just eaten a Twinkie.”

Scherr was sitting in the audience at a campus theater for a panel discussion of the case. I was one of the panelists. When Scherr was introduced from the stage, I couldn’t resist saying to him on my microphone, “Care for a Twinkie?”

In October 1985, Dan White committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage. He taped a note to the windshield of his car, reading, “I’m sorry for all the pain and trouble I’ve caused.”

I accept his apology. I got caught in the post-verdict riot and was beaten by a couple of cops. The injuries affected my posture and twisted my gait.  I gradually developed an increasingly strange limp and I now walk with the aid of a cane. At the airport, I’m told by security to put my cane on the conveyor belt along with my overnight bag and my shoes, but then I’m handed an orange-colored wooden cane to enable me to walk through the metal detector.  You just never know what could be hidden inside a cane.

Paul Krassner’s latest book is an expanded and updated edition of his autobiography, “Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture.”


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