General Wastemoreland’s mentor William Arthur “Bil”l Matons was born in Racine, Wisconsin in approximaely 1906. His parents were Lithuanian immigrants whom he claimed were Roma. His family moved to Milwaukee where he may have attended a semester of high school. He took a series of jobs – steel mill, steeple jack, coast guardsman, chook on a yacht, and jewelry salesman.
Dance attracted him. He learned of Charles Weidman dance scholarships in New York. Charles Weidman was one of the giants of American modern dance and a pioneer in the development of the art form. He was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1901, His burning bush on the road to Damascus came when he attended a performance of the Denishawn Company. He won a scholarship to the Denishawn School and he was determined to become a dancer, and at age 19 he received a scholarship to the Denishawn School. and became a leading Denishawn dancer..
Back to Matons – he studied with Weidman for a few months and then appeared and directed a number of major dance Weidman productions. between 1933 and 1940.
In 1933 N 1934 he danced with the Weidman company in As Thousands Cheer, book by Moss Hart, music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. It consisted of sketches based on the news and lives and affairs of the rich and famous.
Matons was also director of the experimental unit of the New Dance League, which evolved from the Workers Dance League. The New York modern dance scene was informed by the politics of the Left, which in those days meant the Communist Party USA and its embrace of the Soviet Union.
As fascism spread in Europe, the dances edged left – Song for Soviet Youth Day, Under the Swastika: Germans Think with Your Blood, and Though we be flogged. In 1939, he danced the lead role in Adelante, a short-lived WWPA-sponsored Broadway musical with a Spanish Civil War theme.
He choreographed and produced, One Sixth of the Earth while with the Weidman company. Matons used the motif of “…poignant speeches by anonymous witnesses in the crowd…derived from the tradition of agit-prop Living Newspapers with origins in the Soviet Union.” Make a note of that – agiit-prop.
In 1935, Matons visited Trinidad and was introduced to Calypso music.
1938 he brought calypso to New York City night life at the Village Vanguard with the Duke of Iron, Gerald Clark and his Calypso Serenaders and a half dozen dancers. A calypso craze swept the nation in the late 1940s.
He created a persona, the Calypso Kid or Calypso Joe and rode the wave of the Calypso craze.
In 1957, Allied Artists Pictures Corporation released Calypso Joe (1957) starring the Duke of Iron and Angie Dickinson among others. It did not include Matons, or compensate him for the use of the name he had spent years building up.
By the 1960s, he was living in Los Angeles and began Handicap Publications. Under the Handicap banner, he produced short films in “true bloody color”, as he said. Titles included, President Johnson the Defoliate President, and Damn the constitution-undeclared wars-full speed ahead.
He created a new persona, General Hershey Bar, a parody of General Lewis Blaine Hershey, the firector of the Selective Service System,
He had a good eye for the visual, as evidenced in his mock uniform and these collages.
As General Hershey Bar, he reveled in agitprop, the spreading of a political message to the general public through popular media such as literature, plays, pamphlets, films, and other art forms with an explicitly political message, just, as he had in the 1930s with One Sixth of the Earth
By the early 1970s, Matons had broken with his sidekick/protogee Gereral Wastemoreland, suing him and accusing him of being an agent of the CIA.
The Afton Arms Apartments, 6141 Afton Place, Los Angeles CA (aka Malaga Castle
).In 1972 he became the manager of at the 42-unit Afton Arms Apartments at 6141 Place and El Centro in Los Angeles. It was the home of many political and cultural dissidents. Matons renamed it the Happy Malaga Castle, an allusion to the Monte Gibralfaro in Malaga, Spain.
In the late 1970s he was one of the participants at the fearly Doo Dah Parade in Psadena. irreverent alternative to the traditional formality of the Rose Parade in Pasadena. Through the late 1970s to the early 1980s he performed his anti-war guerrilla street theater for tourists at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and other Hollywood Boulevard locations,
He died October 13, 1993, still estranged from his more famous portaged General Wastemoreland, who remembers him with affection and admiration.
Tony Mostrom wrote this of Matons in the L.A. Weekly:
People who attended be-ins, love-ins and anti-Vietnam War protests in L.A. from say, 1966 through the early ’70s will remember the odd sight of General Hershey Bar: a middle-aged–to-old man with thick, scraggly black hair that stuck out from underneath a fake military general’s cap. He had a craggy, lined, rectangular face (he looked a bit like John Cage). The General would be decked out in his fake uniform that looked heavy hanging on his frame, covered as it was with ridiculous-looking phony military medals and political pinback buttons. His cap was spiked with plastic toy rockets and little jet fighter planes sticking out at all angles, so he looked like a kind of comical human porcupine.
In the midst of surging crowds of peaceful, pot-smoking, dancing, body-painting young folks, he’d often be the only one that was “over 30” (he looked like a fair-skinned Cubano), and he would be standing there in the midst of it all, shouting pun-ish slogans against the war and handing out goofy fake newspapers bearing corny headlines like “LET TEEN-AGERS “A GO GO” —GENERAL HERSHEY BAR.”
Calypso Joe never failed to make the scene, at every Griffith Park, Elysian Park, West Hollywood Park, Sunset Strip, Hollywood Boulevard or Bowl event that popped up in youth-revolting Los Angeles. God knows he was poor, long ago divorced and retired in this period of life, and he probably had to take a bus whenever he made the scene in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. Did he make an impact? Well, he added color and a touch of carnival festiveness to the usually serious anti-war protests, so that was a good thing, although L.A.’s anti-war protests rarely got violent anyway (much as some historians might like to believe otherwise, as Berkeley was still where it was at for all that).
My friend took a quick look at this post. “I was in LA in ’85. I worked as a grip on a miserable little movie named The Boys Next Door. Two teenage boys leave their small hometown on the day of their high school graduation and embark on a crime and murder spree. Coulda been a Springsteen song on Nebraska. It was shot at the Afton Arms. I know the place.”
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