Remembering the old Jerry Brown with a smile

jerry-brown-avedon.jpgLos Angeles Magazine columnist Anne Taylor Fleming covered Jerry Brown when he was governor the first time, then became good friends with his sister Kathleen. Fleming smiles whenever she seems him in the news now as a 72-year-old, nearly bald but as she writes: "still indefatigable, still talks fast, though there is a later-in-life ease to him....watching him is like looking in the mirror—or certainly staring down one’s bell-bottom past."

He seemed emblematic of the era: full of big visions, with longish hair and a rock star girlfriend on his arm. The state had a kind of counterculture swagger then. Everything seemed possible. Ahead loomed a shiny future. How could it be any other way?....

The Moonbeam nickname was far off the mark, a clever put-down dreamed up by Chicago columnist Mike Royko (one of those skewering sobriquets that catches on and sticks, no matter its inaccuracy). The truth is, there was nothing remotely flaky about Jerry Brown.

Brown, she writes, "is not unlike the man I was first introduced to 35 years ago. He looks you dead in the eye; he remembers when you last met. He isn’t cozy, though there is more of a twinkle now that is reminiscent of his father. Yes, he is calmer, as we all are with age. But he still moves quickly, and you can lose the thread as he makes his conversational way. There is about him a palpable excitement."

Photo of Brown in 1976 by Richard Avedon

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