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Remembering Clif Garboden

The life and times of an alternative-media true believer
By PHOENIX STAFF  |  February 18, 2011


STEPHEN DAVIS (Author, Hammer of the Gods):
I went to Boston University with Clif in the late '60s, and we worked together on the student newspaper, the BU News as it then was. As journalists, our main concern was not with boring campus life but with the various protest movements that preoccupied the students of that era. Consequently we went to a lot of demonstrations, sit-ins, teach-ins, building occupations and riots. And this is how I remember young Clif, who as the assistant photo editor of the News was required to go out and shoot pictures of the demos, marches, happenings and freak-outs that were key elements of the zeitgeist. I remember Clif at the huge anti-Vietnam protest on Boston Common in 1966, more than a hundred thousand people. I remember him shooting the delirious crowds stopping all traffic on Commonwealth Avenue the night Lyndon Johnson announced he wouldn't run for re-election. I remember his images of the famous 1968 "Sanctuary" at BU when some graduate students in the School of Theology gave shelter to an army deserter in the basement of Marsh Chapel and dared the U.S. Marshalls to come and get him. (They did.) There were many other dramatic events in that era captured by Clif and his close friend Peter Simon, who worked as a team for several years. So in my mind, I think of young Clif as a canny street shooter, with a keen eye and an instinct for the scoop. His family is in my thoughts today. 

MARK LEIBOVICH (New York Times):
Clif was old-school before "Old School" went Hollywood. I came to know him during my time at the Phoenix -- late '80s, early '90s, pre-Web, post-Dukakis, pre-OJ. He seemed like he could do any job in the newsroom, and did. He made small entrances and big impacts. He always struck me as a perfect hybrid of sweet and curmudgeonly. In my early journalistic consciousness, Clif was a model for what a solid newsroom guy was supposed to be: competent, gutsy and determinedly un-giddy.

I spent my first 18-months or so at the Phoenix as an editorial assistant -- answering phones, sorting mail, "clipping" newspapers, among other utterly primitive tasks. It seemed like that job would last forever, that I would never reach the rarified space of "writer." The job could be frustrating at times.

Once, I was having a bad day, dealing with a pampered writer or some modem snafu or a prima donna intern. And over walked Clif, in what would be my enduring image of him: he stood over my desk and peered down through his small wire-rimmed glasses. He removed the cigarette from his mouth, smiled, shrugged and maybe laughed a little, knowingly. "Give it time," he told me. "Give it time."

CHARLES P. PIERCE (Boston Globe)
What do you say about a 63-year-old man who died? That he hated Love Story, for one thing. I began writing for the Phoenix in 1978, and I worked largely for Clif, back when he was supplements editor. This meant the more I wrote, the more ads they could sell -- for back-to-school, and for Summer Preview, and for the Holiday Issue, and for all those other special editions that used to have the old copy shop hands looking like stragglers
 from Antietam by the end of them. This meant that, for Clif Garboden, I got to write 7000 words about lobsters. I got to write 6000 words about raccoons, and 5000 words about college scholarships you could scarf if you could prove you had a Huguenot relative who'd been slaughtered in 1672. I got paid by the word. I had a lot of them. Clif wanted them all, god rest his mighty soul.

He was the damndest combination of kindness and gentleness and dyspepsia there absolutely ever was. His ferocious dedication to the idea of the alternative press never faded as it did for so many people. He was ferociously honest, brilliantly funny, and a mentor to so many people that his going away party a couple of years back was a staggeringly multigenerational affair. He was old and young, all at once. People will spend years trying to figure out how he managed that. The answer is somewhere in the mystery of his towering humanity.

The Eliot should still be open, dammit. Just for one night.

He let me write "Hot Dots" a couple of times. I wear that for a memorable honor. For I am a smart-aleck, you know, good my countryman.

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1 Comments / Add Comment


Even as a young man at BU, Clif had such wisdom; "Life is unfair", he would say, "and the Universe loves irony". It is irony that comes to mind when I think
that, after many, many years of separation between us, I finally reunited with him only a few weeks ago (via Facebook) only to have him journey on now so suddenly. Clif inspired not only me but many writers, social activists, the creative minds of the baby boomer generation and made us feel as if our voices could make a difference, could elicit change. With Clif at the helm, you felt you were not alone in your ideas, your thinking, your belief that to save one person is to save the world. Saving the world one man at a time, one issue of "The Phoenix" at a time. That was Clif. His death has me caught up in a swirl of memories: breakfasts at Deli Haus, the old Nuggets, the old Kenmore Square, and every week, boy did I look forward to and love the bundles of "The Boston Phoenix" and "B.A.D" laid out on city sidewalk corners, free for the taking. Free!!!!!!! "The Phoenix" still stands, thanks to Clif and to others on the staff, as a bastion of alternative, counter-culture reporting and ideas.
Excellence in journalism. What greater gift could Clif have left us? Love and Light to you always, Clif Garboden, Kindness and Peace........Leo Racicot
Posted: February 19 2011 at 10:13 AM
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