Memorial Saturday in Silver City for legendary broadcaster, hellraiser and satirist Travus T. Hipp
Services for legendary radio commentator Travus T. Hipp will be held this Saturday, May 26, in Silver City. Hipp died early Friday morning, May 18, at his Silver City home. He was 75, as old as the Golden Gate Bridge in his beloved San Francisco.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 26, in Silver City. Gathering, gnoshing and remembering will begin at the Silver City Community Center, 385 High Street, at 10:00 a.m. Food and refreshments will be provided. Those who wish may bring more.
A ceremony will commence at 12 Noon. Hipp will be buried next to his lifelong companion Lynne Hughes a short walk away.
He was born Chandler Atchison Laughlin III to Chandler and Nan Curtis Laughlin on Feb. 20, 1937, in Berkeley, California. He is survived by his son, Sean Curtis Laughlin of Silver City; a sister, Sue Fitzgerald and her daughter, Kelly, of San Diego, Calif., and his former wife Sandra Dean Bulkley, also of Silver City. He was preceded in death by his parents, Sean's mother Dina Cantu, and Lynne Hughes.
He graduated from Berkeley High School and Monterey Peninsula College and attended the University of California at Berkeley in the heyday of Mario Savio's Free Speech Movement.
If ever anyone was worthy of the appellation "Renaissance Man," it was the braided mountain man who viewed the world from atop the legendary Comstock Lode. He was:
— An artist who used his voice to soar and slice, a tenor for the tenor of our times. In mourning, many of his listeners talk about the vocal spells he wove, how he soundly organized the noise of daily life into a music that entertained, engaged, enlightened, educated, enthralled and occasionally enflamed.
— A progenitor of the San Francisco sound which led to the 1967 Summer of Love. "He was Bill Graham before Bill Graham was Bill Graham" says son Sean Laughlin. (Websearch "Red Dog Saloon" and see what you get. On June 21, 1965, the Red Dog in Virginia City, Nev., became the incubator for future rock legends such as Big Brother and the Holding Company [before Janis Joplin], Country Joe and the Fish [see below], Quicksilver Messenger Service, Stoneground [see below], The Charlatans and Scott McKenzie. Nevada Gov. Grant Sawyer was a regular.)
— A legend in San Francisco and northern California radio, he was present at the creation of album rock on KSAN-fm under the legendary Tom Donahue.
— An investigative reporter: In 1972, before Watergate became a household word, Hipp and KSAN News traced Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy's gun to fellow burglar E. Howard Hunt at the Nixon White House.
— A war correspondent: Donahue sent him to cover the civil war in Yemen, the only reporter from the Bay Area to venture there.
— A member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame who timid Nevada corporate radio stations would not hire for the last two decades of his life. (See below.)
— A consumer crusader who lobbied a pro-ratepayer auto liability insurance bill through the Nevada Legislature and into law in 1987.
— A union man, a longtime member of the Industrial Workers of the World because he wanted to be. Nicknamed "The Wobblies," the IWW history in Nevada goes back more than a century. Travus marched through downtown Reno with union members campaigning for hotel-casino worker rights.
— A media personality who showed how to use the power of the medium: He got on the wrong side of the law when the law was on the wrong side of the street. Acting on a tip from a phone caller, he stopped the proposed Washoe County Jail from being located across from Reno's largest hotel-casino.
— An activist who got on the wrong side of the law and paid a heavy price where medical marijuana was concerned: He said that an old enemy worked for years to convince Lyon County officials to arrest and prosecute him. Had he resided a few hundred feet away in Storey County, nothing would have happened, he said in 2009.
— A seagoing gadfly who owned a Sausalito, Calif., "outlaw houseboat in a floating community the local law has been trying to scuttle for (over 10) years. ("He's hip on speaking out" by Cory Farley, Reno Gazette-Journal, 4-19-1982).
— An educator who convinced the (Reno-Sparks) Washoe County School District that it was acting on erroneous information and to back down and allow debate on nuclear issues into classrooms.
— A man of principle who suffered for what he said, fired several times because of advertiser and/or political pressure after producing consistently high-rated radio programs. (See below.)
— An old sailor who, if he so desired, could have tongue-in-cheek asserted that his professional injuries were service-related: He started his radio career while serving aboard the USS Intrepid after talking his superiors into letting him play jazz over the aircraft carrier's sound system.
— A satirist in the grand tradition of Mark Twain: He and Lynne Hughes published the hilarious "Bullfrog Times-Picayune," a newspaper for a legislatively-created Nevada county with zero population. (At least the resident jackrabbits and wild burros would not be at risk from potential future radiation leaks.)
— man whose grasp caught his reach: Over a five-decade career, he brought his "Rawhide Reality Review" to radio stations ranging from Hawaii to all points of the lower 48 including New York City and listeners worldwide.
— A man who changed the English language: His longtime associates credit him with originating the word "hippy" --> "According to Duke Stroud, a member of the original improv group The Committee, the term 'hippy' evolved from fans of Travus T. Hipp" says Sean Laughlin. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippie/
He probably coined the phrase "question reality" according to Barry "The Fish" Melton of Country Joe and the Fish. (See below.)
— A Beatnik who established the Cabale Creamery coffee house in Berkeley in the early 1960's, an incubator of what later became the Bay Area hippy culture. "He would always say he was a Beatnik and proud of it," son Sean Laughlin says.
— A 1964 Goldwater Republican who remained a member of the GOP --> "If you must jam him into a political slot, Hipp might slide most neatly into the one labeled 'libertarian.' But you'd have to shim him up with wedges cut from 'anarchist' and he'd still rattle around," wrote Reno Gazette-Journal columnist Cory Farley. (4-19-1982)
— A rock 'n' roll movie roadie on the 1971 François Reichenbach-directed rockumentary "The Medicine Ball Caravan," edited in part by the fledgling Martin Scorsese, who served as associate producer under album rock innovator Tom Donahue. In addition to Lynn Hughes and her group Stoneground, performers included BB King, Alice Cooper, Doug Kershaw, Bonnie Bramlett, Jesse Colin Young and The Youngbloods. The 1970 bus and van caravan traveled the U.S., played Hyde Park and the Lyceum in London, then went on to Paris and Amsterdam before heading home (not necessarily in vans and buses).
"Lynn had a moving van called 'The Hughes Express' and sometime in the late '60s began calling herself 'Rose Hipp,'" remembers musician Jesse Cahn, a lifelong friend. Shortly after that tour, Chandler Laughlin began using the nom de plume Travus T. Hipp.
"He started the Cabale Creamery with my father, Rolf Cahn, in '64 and ran it for awhile after Rolf left. I introduced him to his life-long companion, Lynne Hughes, in that same year." Cahn added.
— An artist devoted to his craft who worked until his death. The day before his passing, he filed both his final on-air commentaries to northern California radio stations and his last column with the Daily Sparks Tribune. His son, Sean Laughlin, did his broadcasts on the morning of his death, May 18.
"His long-running tagline described him as 'The Poor Hippie's Paul Harvey,' and though he was a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, he described himself as unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views," Daily Sparks Tribune editor Nathan Orme wrote in last Sunday's edition.
"Those views made him a truly unique part of the Sparks Tribune for many years and we were proud to employ his words if not his voice," Orme stated.
Radio consultant Bruce Marr, whose name will live in infamy as the discoverer of the man Travus dubbed "Lush Rambo," once said "I could take Travus T. Hipp anywhere and get ratings."
"Travus T. Hipp is the hottest thing in Reno since KXXL burned down in 1947," wrote eminent Nevada author David Toll. ("Heating Up the Airwaves," Sparks Tribune, 4-21-1982)
"When the San Francisco Chronicle conducted a Bay Area popularity poll of talk show hosts, Travus placed seventh despite being off the air at the time, behind the regulars of KGO and KCBS, from the tiny voice of KTIM in Marin County," Toll wrote.
"I had just left KTIM at the time," Hipp noted. "They were tired of seeing my broken-down car in their parking lot, but (the Chronicle) was asking people who had been listening to me since the seventh grade," he added.
He had such a far-flung array of listeners that for decades, even after the spread of the Internet, he generated sales of untold thousands of powerful enhanced radio receivers so that his fans could hear receive his voice.
When John Ascuaga's Nugget Hotel-Casino canceled its advertising soon after Travus went on the air in northwestern Nevada in late 1981, station manager Ken Mendenhall said "we expect the new ratings will show KOH with the strongest audience in town," Toll reported.
As baseball hall-of-famer Dizzy Dean used to say, "if you can do what you say you're gonna do, that's not bragging." The late Mr. Mendenhall proved prescient. On the radio station once dubbed "where people go to die" in the words of a frustrated young sales rep, Hipp tripled the audience. And got fired for his trouble when new ownership came in. Both Mr. Ascuaga and the new manager denied it had anything to do with casino pressure.
"Ridiculous," Ascuaga told Reno Gazette-Journal columnist Cory Farley. (RGJ Jan. 10, 1983).
"We move our advertising around all the time. We'll be back on KOH," he told Farley.
"In this case, the Nugget moved off KOH soon after Hipp questioned the care and handling of Bertha and Tina, the casino's elephants, and has not been back. It may be that Hipp had nothing to do with it, but I know from experience that the Nugget is sensitive to criticism...to a degree unusual even in the image-conscious casino industry," Farley noted.
"We expected to lose a few accounts," said station program director Ed Towey, who hired Travus and became his biggest advocate.
"I was amazed it was John Ascuaga's Nugget. A couple of smaller accounts pulled out for awhile but they're back now. Once they dry off and realize that this guy is not really doing to destroy the American Way of Life, it turns out to be not such a big deal," he added. (Sparks Tribune, 4-21-1982)
Years later, Travus stated it more succinctly: "Sometimes, contempt breeds familiarity."
He told RGJ reporter Kathy Haq that 'this is entirely a decision by the new owner which I attribute to various social and political pressures around town. A former advertiser who tried to pressure the former management apparently had greater success with the new kid from Fresno," Hipp asserted.
The new manager, who was later indicted in Fresno for embezzlement, called the move a "prudent business decision," a symptom of chronic Colonel Sanders Radio Bird Flu where "prudent" means "chicken." The disease is not unique to Nevada.
Hipp's record numbers on the moonhowler enterprise stood for well over a decade as the highest in station history until Rush Limbaugh exceeded them slightly in his morning block where the potential listening audience is generally larger than was Hipp's afternoon slot.
Shorly after departing Reno, Travus got fired from KGU in Honolulu, probably for telling people not to eat pineapple because of all the pesticides and his almost daily irritation of the commander of the Pacific Fleet -- the public information officer of which "would show up to pound on the station manager's desk every morning," Travus chuckled. At least he was able to spend some time with his mother who lived there at the time.
He was axed from a Lady Bird Johnson-owned station in Texas because he wasn't conservative enough. The ownership was fearful of being accused that their hyper-lucrative radio holdings were being supportive of Democratic politics.
Hipp was fired after one day on an Ohio radio station when he said something about Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., that the owner didn't like.
He lost sponsorship of his commentaries on an Elko, Nev., radio station for telling the truth about the depredations of the corporate welfare mining industry, a malady which has metastasized into the toxic safety and tax environment that afflicts Nevada a quarter-century later.
The mining company executives might have listened better. He had been a gold broker and advocated investing until the end of his life. Every time he lost a radio job, he would buy gold, calling it "The Travus T. Hipp retirement plan."
In 1988-89, Hipp again found work in Reno on KOLO 920-am and in about four months helped remove 40 percent of KOH's audience. Doing the morning news on sister station KWNZ 97.3-fm with music man Bruce Van Dyke, they made KWNZ the top rocker in the region. After leaving Carson City's KPTL-am in 1993 after Lynne Hughes' death, he never had his own show in Nevada again, although for awhile he contributed a weekly report to Van Dyke's show on KTHX-fm.
His legions of longtime listeners at KPIG am-fm radio in the Santa Cruz/Monterey, Calif., area mourned the old friend who had brought them alternative news throughout their lives. Many went back to his days on the legendary KFAT in Gilroy, Calif. In 1996, Hipp reveled that he had regular news listeners in South Africa and Germany via KPIG.com.
"Truly like an old friend has gone," commented Wade Hassler, "the man really hit the sweet spot between gravitas and levitas."
"Chan and I go back, almost forever (well, maybe not that long — but the better part of 50 years)," wrote Barry "The Fish" Melton of Country Joe and the Fish on KPIG's website.
"Thank you for playing some of my old music in memory of Travus T. Hipp, KPIG DJs! Chan was always a rebel and remained true to form to the very end. Remember those buttons -- 'Question Reality' -- I think Chan invented them. Speaking truth to power was Chan's calling card," Melton stated.
"I will continue to listen for your new signal" wrote Grady James. (via Capitola/Soquel Patch website)
Oh, won't we all.
Links, photos, signed album covers, references and more regarding the above will be available at the evolving new Travus section at NevadaLabor.com. My remembrance of Lynne Hughes from the 3-21-1993 Daily Sparks Tribune will also be uploaded thereat. All memories and photos will be accepted for permanent posting via .
You will find my personal Memorial Day weekend adiós to my old friend in the Sunday, May 27, Daily Sparks Tribune and shortly thereafter at NevadaLabor.com/
Thanks to everyone for the memoirs and memories.
As Travus might say, that's all the news you never knew you needed to know 'til now.
— Writer Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan and editor of www.NevadaLabor.com. As always, his opinions are strictly his own.