Brian’s Column: Randy and Dianne for Producers of Liberty

A retrospective on two fine behind the sceners in the Libertarian Party of Michigan
By Brian R. Wright

Greg, yes, I’ve known Randy for a long time, going back to my early days as leader of the Ayn Rand fans on the campus of Wayne State University, that would be 1969/1970, then Randy and two others and I rented a house in Detroit in the Greenfield/Grand River area for about a year in the early 70s.

I ran meetings of the Wayne State Students of Objectivism while I pursued and got my mechanical engineering degree. Randy was an electronics technician for the Engineering School at Wayne. I remember in those days he’d occasionally give me a ride in his late-60s Chevy Impala SS from our house down to Wayne along Grand River, he was a good driver but his foot was nearly always on the floor—accelerator and brake, both. I had given up the ghost a few years before, so didn’t say any prayers, but do remember a few “Thank Gods” in my thoughts as I exited the vehicle onto terra firma.

Didn’t know Dianne as well in those days. But understood she came from sort of a liberal Unitarian-Universalist milieu, and really wasn’t that turned on by any of the Ayn Rand characters or literature. I think they were married slightly before I was in 1975. They both became reasonably active in the LPM, whether they were at  the founding convention in Taylor I can’t say, but they’d have supported the idea of a third political party on the landscape devoted to the nonaggression principle.

As the years unfolded, Randy and Dianne were definitely in the social circle of my wife, Rose, and me. I mean to the extent that they’d join us every once in a while—along with Rose’s sister Therese and boyfriend—on Friday nights to watch the Mary Tyler Moore Show, the Bob Newhart Show, and the Rockford Files. Actually, my memory isn’t that good as to whether these shows were all on Friday or Saturday or even on the same night. And we’d go to movies together, sometimes, too.

Further they were petitioners and good workers, in general. I remember particularly on our 1982 volunteer ballot access petition drive at the local Meijer in Royal Oak. They helped a lot, and we’d all come back to our house in Birmingham (Lite), where Rose and Dianne would prepare this hot cinnamon cider toddy with cloves in it. Wow! Many a cold day’s petition drive was cut short a few minutes on the basis we needed a warm drink.

I was chair in, like 1979, 1983, and maybe one other time, along with being newsletter editor. I attended the 1979 nominating convention for Ed Clark, probably our zenith as a coherent yet idealistic national political party. During my periods of Herculean leader efforts for the party, I do remember that whenever we needed to accomplish something—whether a letter-writing campaign, a protest, helping to set up a gathering, doing literature distribution—, Randy and Dianne were first in line to volunteer.

These were good years. They felt like prime time to me, anyway, as I was moving into my early 30s, had a good job “in the system,” had at least superficially gotten over my dad’s death at the tender age of 54 in 1978, and whatever meaningful addictions I’d acquired still hadn’t scuttled my marriage. As for the liberty-libertarian movement, also prime time. Rose was leader of the immensely popular Metro Detroit Libertarians, which featured celebrities such as Robert Ettinger of the Cryonics Society and Howard Simon of the ACLU, many others.

We were happnin’… and Randy and Dianne were in the mix. I believe Dianne ran for one of the educational boards on more than one occasion. I don’t know when Dianne became active in the Oakland County LP organization, but my activism cycled for periods of time, then when I’d come back up I’d see she was treasurer of the LPOC. Way back before term limits, Michigan had a secretary of state named Richard Austin, and, the first black to be elected to statewide office in Michigan history, he was SOS for 24 years. Dianne has been like the Richard Austin in the LPOC treasurer position.

Point is, we stood for something and seemed to have some clout. We helped to recall state senators for tax hikes, took part in the general tax rebellion sweeping the country via Howard Jarvis and Michigan’s own Dick Headlee and Bob Tisch, and I remember young Rudy Nichols, now retired Oakland County forever-judge, and his campaign manager sitting with us a Waterford bistro trying to convince our state rep candidate to minimalize his campaign–in return for his trying to adopt a libertarian stand on some issues. And we ran Dick Jacobs for governor in ’82, a truly wonderful man.

Into the 1990s, I did some additional petitioning, this time paid. You’d have to ask Emily Salvette what years those were, but I believe it was subsequent to the Ron Paul nomination in Seattle in 1987. Most of us in the delegation were partisans of Russell Means, the American Indian activist who had actually found a home in the LP of sorts. No, I don’t remember Randy or Dianne traveling to the national conventions. But several key brain cells were hanging on for dear life in those years.

Finally the 2000s were upon us, and my LP-enthusiasm meter basically tanked at the 2004 national convention in Atlanta with the nomination of Michael Badnarik over Aaron Russo. Now, Michael is personally a great guy, who has subsequently accomplished several feats, particularly in reviving the Constitution. But. to me. not choosing Russo is clearly the death knell of the party in terms of ever again nominating any presidential candidate who challenges the fascist warfare-welfare state head on in real day-to-day terms AND IS TAKEN SERIOUSLY enough to attract millions of voters.

I “intentionally journeyed” to the Free State for four years, returned to Michigan on account of finances and to care for my ailing mother. My place in Novi is about seven miles from the Szablas, but politically and philosophically I’m off tilting at what I regard to be more topple-able windmills than the LP’s–with people’s independent grand juries and First Principles addressing the serious integrated global affliction of the Men of the Power Sickness.

The LP and LPM soldier on, as evidenced by the ceremony. I have new thoughts of the best direction, which I’ve discussed to small avail with LPM leadership [white paper]. Regardless, as Karl Hess once put it, as he was being booked by the DC police for antiwar protesting, “Everyone is people.” And members of the LP and LPM even more so. Dianne and Randy continue to bulwark our organization with consistent effort behind the scenes… and do put on the most wicked of Winter Solstice parties.

Sentiment is sometimes more important than direction. In any case they certainly deserve this award.

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3 thoughts on “Brian’s Column: Randy and Dianne for Producers of Liberty

  1. Thanks Brian and Rose for your kind words. Those
    were the days, my friends. How did they end so quickly?

  2. A sweet comment, thank you so much. I truly miss what we had in those days, which was a heady mixture of benevolence, optimism, and enthusiasm. I know Overton “spoke in hushed tones” about my mythic number of signatures. Miss that young whippersnapper, too!

  3. Hey, look at those sweet faces! I met Randy and Dianne in 1974, just ahead of the formation of Michigan’s Libertarian Party. (Forty-five years ago! yikes, how can that be, I’m still in my 20s)

    From a political standpoint, esp during the intense activism of the late 70s-mid 80s, what I most remember about this couple is that, of all the volunteers on my Oakland County call list, they never once declined any call to action, whatever its nature or however late it came.
    Nor did they ever grumble about any of the work (and who’d blame them if they did? Just showing up was gift enough from volunteers facing a grueling agenda of endless petitioning, doorbelling, phoneblitzing, campaigning, lit-dropping in snow, rain, sleet and blistering heat.)

    From a social standpoint, these two were perennially on our A-List, always interesting, positive, classy and generous. We shared so many knee-slapping comfortable good times, nonstop fun, good for the soul. Thanks for the rich memories, Randy and Dianne, and for your ongoing service to the LP.

    P.S. Brian, I know it’s ancient history but all this reminiscing had me digging up memorabilia from our activist years. The ‘Petitions Filed’ article in the June 1983 Michigan Libertarian newsletter notes that the LP filed 24,639 total petition signatures with the State Elections div. in May of that year. Of that total, Oakland County supplied 15,300. And of Oakland’s 15,300 signatures, Brian Wright collected 5,842, closely followed by Bill Hollander’s 4,588. Not too shabby considering you both had full-time jobs throughout; the petition drive began during a record cold winter; and not one penny was ever paid for any LP signature across the entire state. ( Contrast that with current times, where not one of the many petitioners I see every year now on any issue believes we did unpaid petitioning. It’s simply unheard of these days.)

    I’ve still got photos of the Oakland’s post-filing party held at Joe Cote’s clubhouse. All the key players, party officers and volunteers attended, including the Wrights, Hollanders, Szablas, Bachrachs, Maureen, Therese, Cherie, Jerry, ….and of course our much-admired unforgettable forever-young Director, Joe Overton (R.I.P.)

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