Author Tom Robbins was once questioned by FBI agents investigating the Unabomber case.
That’s what he told me, anyway, at the Downtown Rotary last Wednesday, when he and two other Rainier Club Scholars — cartoonist David Horsey and Jim Olson, founder of Olson Kundig Architects — spoke to the lunch gathering on the subject of creativity.
Robbins, now 77, strolled through the roomful of suits — wearing sunglasses and hair dyed the color of a new penny.
Years ago, Robbins told me, the FBI sent two young, female agents (“They’re not stupid”) to his place in La Conner, Skagit County, where he had recently beaten the buzz out of an electric typewriter with a two-by-four.
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Robbins — whose 11th book, “Tibet Peach Pie,” comes out in May — usually writes in longhand, on legal pads. But he had given the typewriter a try, and found it to be “mean and demanding.” He didn’t like the color, either, so he painted it red.
One day, in a final act of frustration, he “beat it and destroyed it.” Then the feds came calling and, considering the purpose of their visit, well, the wreckage caught their attention. So?
“It’s a long story,” Robbins told me. “Read the book. My publisher calls it a memoir because they don’t know what else to call it. It’s as typical to a memoir as ‘Dumbo’ is typical to an elephant.”
Retired ad man Don Kraft moderated the panel of three with all kinds of questions. One of them: How do you deal with setbacks?
Horsey seemingly ignores them, starting with the “C” he got in art in the fourth grade.
Olson kept it simple: “Don’t give up.”
And Robbins? “You could say that my life’s work is a setback.”
The amused audience included Herb Bridge, John Pollard of Sprio (an app that helps parents manage their kids’ sports teams, thank God), Glenn Harrington, Hamilton McCulloh, KING 5 anchor Mark Wright and South African native Paul Suzman, who composed and read a beautiful tribute to the late Nelson Mandela.
On the way out, Robbins was the last guy in an elevator filled with Rotarians who, instead of going down, went up 11 floors, stopping at nearly every one.
An older man leaning against a walker at the back cleared his throat: “Maybe Tom Robbins had something to do with this.”
Robbins grinned and looked at me, and I remembered how he had just explained his warped charm.
“As Bob Dylan said, ‘I can’t hep it.’ ”
Macklemore’s parachute performance
Now here’s something you don’t see every day: Tucked behind a table at the back of the Showbox on Saturday night were none other than Bruce and Jeannie Nordstrom.
“I can’t hear you!” the mister said when I stopped to say hello. But he was smiling.
And with good reason. The second annual Seattle Musicians for Children’s Hospital — better known as SMooCH — was loud, full of love and lucrative: some $334,000 was raised for uncompensated care at Children’s.
Pete Nordstrom and his wife, Brandy, started SMooCH last year as a way to thank Children’s for the care of their son, Chet. Nordstrom has been humbled at the response to his requests for help — especially from artists like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who flew in from New York to make the event.
“He’s a good guy,” Nordstrom said, meaning Mack. “So is Allen Stone, who responded to my email within 15 minutes.”
Indeed, every artist — Shelby Earl, The Lonely Forest, Helio Sequence, Stone and Macklemore — played for free. (So did John Roderick, who came out to sing a song with Earl).
“Every band said yes, and that’s a good problem to have,” said KEXP’s John Richards, who was joined by colleagues Cheryl Waters (love her) and Kevin Cole (him, too).
Scott Redman, who sits on the board of the Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Campaign Advisory Committee for KEXP’s new home at Seattle Center, was wearing a rabbit-fur coat that belongs to his fiancée, Shawn Anderson.
What-what? What? What? Redman stretched his arms out — as far as he could, anyway.
“Thrift shop!” he said. Got it.
Sub Pop bigs Jonathan Poneman and Megan Jasper were a little surprised to learn that one of the silent-auction items was a day of job-shadowing them at the label’s downtown Seattle offices.
“Let’s pick a day when we’re doing a mass firing,” Poneman deadpanned.
Jasper thought it a stellar idea: “Nothing like toughening the skin of a teenager.”
Everything’s great when you’re downtown
The craziest things happen at JJ McKay’s annual Christmas party.
Rich people have handed me their wallets and walked away. Recently divorced women have been bent backward under the mistletoe and kissed — hard — by total strangers. And the drinks are almost as strong as the beefcakes hired to serve them.
This year’s elbow-to-elbow sardine can of a celebration was no different.
At his downtown apartment, McKay put out a spread that included 500 sausage balls and Coca-Cola cupcakes that he made that morning.
But in no time, you couldn’t see the food for the folks.
There was SIFF executive director Mary Bacarella, fresh out of budget hell and looking toward her first visit to Sundance. Leslie Chihuly and Ghizlane Morlot stopped on their way to see Heart at Benaroya. There was Dan Price, founder of Gravity Payments; aerospace executive Toby Bright, and Donovan Singletary, who will perform in Seattle Opera’s production of “Rigoletto.”
From the dignitary corps: Jack Cowan of the French-American Chamber of Commerce and the honorary consul of France in Seattle; Eduardo Baca Cuenca, the consul general of Mexico; Andrey Yushmanov, the consul general of Russia.
And from Seattle Mayor-elect Ed Murray’s executive team, Steve Lee.
Enjoy the sausage balls and Coca-Cola cupcakes now, my friend. There’s hard work ahead.
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.