Barbara Kathleen Herbich died at her apartment in New York on October 17, 2009. She and I chatted a week before she was found dead. No one I talked to seem to know why she died.
Barb, as her friends called her, was a filmmaker. Her films tackled important political and historical topics, giving them a nuanced, human face. "Stitch for Time" was nominated for an Academy Award in 1988 and a later film, "USSR Art," documented the groundbreaking Sotheby's auction of Russian avant-garde and contemporary underground art held in Moscow in 1988.
Barb is much missed.
The conversation was, not surprisingly, about a film. Our group was making a documentary on The Earth Society, which included Pete Seeger, the iconic singer. Pete always did a concert for a friend of his, Helen Garland, who, with such well known environmentalists as Buckminster Fuller and Margaret Mead, had worked diligently to preserve the natural world before they decided to found Earth Day in 1969. This was the real Earth Day, occurring at the exact second of the Vernal Equinox.
History often holds surprises, doesn’t it? The April “Earth Day”.
I had gotten to know Helen through social action work we shared and asked if our cameraman could be on the cruise down the Hudson River and film Pete for a film we had planned. Helen was delighted to have him along. Six months later, our cameraman was also dead. Again, this made no sense in any seemingly related way. It looked like suicide, I was told, of this young man in his twenties at UCLA, but that made no sense to his family. I had met him only once, six months before he went to New York; that was in Santa Barbara in early 2009, where he filmed Green Hills Software for me.
Barb and I first chatted in 2000 at a meeting of the monthly Fabiani Society, sponsored by Cato and the Manhattan Institute at the Princeton Club, where, once a month, I think the second Tuesday, an interesting collection of NeoCons and political operatives mixed with intellectuals, would meet to nosh on ‘Free Food and Drinks.’ As you know, there is really no such thing as a Free Lunch, this was financed by the two institutes for reasons of their own likely accounted for under the category, “Advertising.” Barb was with her then fiancé, Doug Dechert, a sort of stringer for Page Six, which is a gossip column literally on the sixth page of the NY Post.
I was with my daughter, Morgan, who after I closed my apartment in NY at the end of 2000, she had returned to NY in time to again become enmeshed with John Fund. The two had lived together, I later learned, having examined my phone bills, while I was in California. The living together happened at the apartment I had rented on Morgan’s assurances she would soon be employed in public relations. I had no idea who made these calls when I saw the phone bills. I called her and asked her to find out. And she did. All were names of women Morgan did not know, but Fund did. John Lothario Fund, see?
Fund could have used his cell phone. By then Morgan, always a snoop, had found the first two names of John’s speed dial were Karl Rove and Dick Cheney; so why had he used my land line?
I knew Fund from the Libertarian Party in California. By then, I had realized he was not a simple journalist; but had special relationships with such persons as Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. After an earlier meeting at a more prosaic Libertarian event, Fund had walked with Morgan and me in search of a restaurant. Over dinner, he went over the wrong I had done him by faxing a note to him at the Wall Street Journal. NOTE
This had resulted, he said, in his not getting a job in the White House as a speechwriter for Bush W.
After the Fabiani encounter, Morgan began spending time with Barb, hence, the “Hanging Chad Cake”. Fund also attended the Fabiani Club receptions.
It was Barb who put on the “Hanging Chad Party” a short time after Election Day 2000, which, like the one we are now experiencing, did not come to any immediate conclusion. The ceremonial cake reflected this theme. After the party, Barb decided, as one could then, to get out of town. Packing her huge black bag, much like thousands of other huge black bags, with her favorite high heels, she adjourned to stay with a friend in Florida.
There was no voting machine in Barb’s bag when she packed it. But when she opened it in the home of her friend in Florida, Voila! The only thing in the bag was a voting machine.
Barb called Morgan. Morgan called Fund, who expressed a strong interest in the voting machine and took action, and the voting machine disappeared from Barb’s life. Was the voting machine Fund’s own? Did it belong to someone he knew? No explanation was forthcoming, but I realized Fund was more operative for Cheney than journalist.
Barb was not rejoined by the many pairs of gorgeous shoes which she had, not unreasonably, thought would be returned to her in her own black bag. Fund was mute on the subject.
So, watch for those travelling voting machines and hold onto your shoes. This is not over yet.