Articles From the October 1995 Unification News


Interview With The Author Of Angels Bar & Grill, Richard Panzer:

UNews: Why did you write angels bar & grill?

RP: There are a lot of issues I struggled with as a college student many years ago. I wished at that time that someone could have given me some clear guidance. It would have saved me many headaches and I could have avoided hurting some other people, too. This comic book is my attempt to discuss important issues in a somewhat entertaining way.

Last year, I gave a presentation called After the Sexual Revolution at Yale University where I completed my undergraduate degree. Several students came up to me afterwards and shared their struggles and opinions regarding the results of extramarital sex.

One student who was in his second year explained that he and his girlfriend had gotten sexually involved very early in their relationship. The results, he said, had not been very good. She had just dropped out of school and he was about to do so, too. There were other students who said that this was the first time they'd ever heard this type of message (pro-monogamy, pro-marriage) on campus. A few argued with me but seemed to enjoy being challenged.

UNews: Where did you get the idea for the comic book?

RP: I've been researching the area of sexuality and family breakdown for several years now. I got the idea of doing a comic book which revolved around Jack Kerouac, the 50s "beat" writer, someone I read in college, admired and was influenced by. He was a founder of the "beat generation" which was a forerunner to the counterculture of the 1960s. More recently I read a biography of his life and realized how contradictory his life was.

He expressed a lot of energy, openness to the world around him and idealism in his writing, but at the end of his life ended up as an alcoholic. He'd also had a child with his first wife but soon divorced. He denied being the girl's father and only began to send small amounts of support after she was 12 years old.

I thought he was a good representative of the confused and contradictory babyboomer generation which incorporated many of his ideas and that by exploring his life, college students would be able to reflect on how his ideas ultimately had bad outcomes.

UNews: What about the other characters in the comic book such as Malcolm X, Marilyn Monroe, and Sigmund Freud?

RP: I was talking with some friends, Bill Hilbert and John Williams, to get their input for the comic book. Someone mentioned Malcolm X and Marilyn Monroe and I thought it might be a lot of fun to have the comic book be a discussion, no, a debate or argument between these characters. I went to the library and read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and parts of some biographies about Marilyn Monroe.

It became more and more clear that Malcolm X would provide a foil to Jack Kerouac, a clear, strong, sometimes judgemental voice. My view of Malcolm X previously was that he was a black radical who thought all whites were the devil, but the more I reflected on his life and words I realized that his thinking went through many changes.

In any case, after his conversion to Islam, he was very serious about sexual purity. After his marriage to Betty Shabazz he continued to travel and to speak all over the country and later he traveled to Mecca. The FBI was following him and tapping his phone, so they had a pretty clear idea about his personal lifestyle. Even they remarked how faithful he was to his wife and devoted to his daughters. In that respect, he provides a very good example.

Marilyn Monroe, of course, married and divorced several times, had many affairs and committed suicide. I felt some sympathy for her because she never knew her father and because she seems a somewhat pathetic, exploited figure as a socalled "sex goddess." I wondered, "if she could come back from death, what would she tell us?"

As for Sigmund Freud, he is one of the key thinkers of the 20th century whose ideas about the sex drive (libido) and sexual repression as the source of neurosis have had a great impact on the popular culture. After reading some of his writings, I realized that he never advocated a sexual revolution and even moderated some of his contempt for religion because he saw the need to teach people about unselfish love.

UNews: Where'd you get the idea for angels bar and grill as the setting for the comic book?

RP: Originally, I was thinking to have Jack Kerouac and his friends travel around the country as his characters do in his books, but then I thought about all the college bull sessions I took part in that occurred in some diner or local hangout. Diners were the only place you could stay in for hours without ordering anything more than a cup of coffee. So the comic book is a kind of homage to diners as a "mecca" for would-be philosophers that all my friends and I aspired to be in college.


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