Mayor Kevin Johnson is far from the first public figure to be pied for his troubles. In the annals of radical protest, baked goods have a history.
It’s not a slapstick matter. There was the 1970 cheese pie dumped by the founder of “High Times” on the head of a member of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography during a Washington, D.C., hearing. There was the 1979 lemon coconut applied to Gov. Jerry Brown’s face in New York by Aron Kay, whose attacks on politicians from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to New York Mayor Abraham Beame earned him his nickname, The Yippie Pie Man.
Brown, who was running for president at the time, cleaned himself off and quipped: “The thing that really gripes me is that it wasn’t on my diet.” KJ wasn’t quite so quick to laugh off his pie assault, launched as he and his wife, Michelle Rhee, greeted guests at a farm-to-fork benefit dinner at Sacramento Charter High School.
Sacramento activist Sean Thompson, a 32-year-old former Occupy protester, might have assumed that the outgoing mayor would take the Wednesday night attack in the spirit of good, political fun. If that was his assumption, Thompson was very wrong, as evidenced by the shiner and stitches he displayed in the booking mug shot released Thursday. Johnson, a retired professional athlete who keeps in great shape, is not the sort who would take such an attack lying down.
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If Thompson had done his homework, the former Sacramento City College student would have known that being slammed in the face without warning is startling, even for people who are polite for a living. One of the activists who hit Mayor Willie Brown with cherry, pumpkin and tofu pies in 1998 ended up being tackled by cops and suffering a broken bone. Brown’s pie assailants were arrested and sentenced to six months in jail for battery.
“It’s like being slugged,” former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope told Mother Jones magazine in 1999, after the Bay Area-based Biotic Baking Brigade pied him in the erroneous belief that the Sierra Club had backed a bill to increase logging in northeastern California. “The pie has nothing to do with it.”
Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin could pull off pie as comedic art. But Thompson is no joker, and the half-baked attack on Mayor Johnson was not funny. Citizen concerns are why we have City Hall.
As for KJ’s response? Totally understandable. Pastry perpetrators should expect just desserts.