CJ Campbell, who blogged as ulookarmless, passed away one year ago today. This is a reprint of the long tribute I posted at Daily Kos last October:
Self-portrait by CJ Campbell, 11/11/11
This community first came to know CJ Campbell – ulookarmless – in 2008. By then he was almost 64 years old, had lost an arm to cancer, and was suffering from aphasia, heart disease, epilepsy, and poverty. We followed his journey as he underwent chemotherapy, a heart attack, and more kinds of cancer. What many of you don’t know is that he wrote poetry and painted daily, cooked at a near-professional level, devoured newspapers from around the world, was a gifted musician, fathered five children by three wives on three continents, helped change the course of Australian politics in 1972, made and lost a couple of fortunes, had some astonishing adventures, never met a stranger, played golf, and – at the end of his life, with one arm, a pacemaker, the aftereffects of a stroke, and three kinds of cancer – coached soccer.
As CJ and I became friends, I asked him questions about his life. Here, in his own words, is his story.
Och, ma family is Scots. My father is Donald Cameron Campbell and our traditional family toast is “Here’s lookin’ up yer kilts and takin’ doon yer particulars.”
On my mother’s side, we are Scandinavian from waaaay back. Our original ancestor was a mercenary on the Second British fleet that brought convicts to Australia in 1792. As a result, we are rare 7th and 8th generation Australian-born natives with no convictions in our backgrounds. My mum Julia’s maiden name is Leth (Leith) and she claims she traces her heritage back to the vikings.
Now, somewhere along the line, my great-grandmother fell in love with an aboriginal stockman (cowboy), so, I am 1/16 Australian aborigine.
People often say to me, boy you have led a great life, and I say back, “No, I simply remember what has happened in my life”. When I get people to begin to dredge up the incidents that have made them who they are, they suddenly begin to see their own journey in a different light.
Every journey is different, every journey worthwhile.
My grandmother-in-law (in Hong Kong) was about 4’9″, had bound feet, weighed no more than 80 pounds and was an opium addict from the 1920’s. She lived into her late 90’s, died in 1975. Imagine the life she lived and the things she saw!!
I come from a working class background. My dad was a fitter and turner (a metal worker), he built the furniture in our house. My mom was very intelligent and was always frustrated by the lack of opportunity for women in Oz. Her dad was a well known artist and her mum, my nana, was a wonderful artists’ model with all that implies.
I am the oldest of my generation and the first in the family to graduate from University. I had a job with the Feds and was slated to go into the diplomatic corps, was a regular church goer, married my teenage girlfriend when we both turned 22, had two sons. But then, in one of my last year of classes, met the manager of research at J. Walter Thompson, an older guy who was earning his degree courtesy of the ad agency. He offered me a job, which in turn led to a VP position at Spectrum within 2 years at age 24.
CJ’s oldest friend (and new Kossack) Daigomi fills in here, giving some details on CJ’s successful effort to change the Australian government:
During Col’s tenure at Spectrum in Australia, they (the Spectrum team) developed the election campaign in 1972, “It’s Time”, which unseated a conservative coalition (Liberal Party and Country Party) government that had been in power for 23 years.
CJ’s poem about this period in his life:
A WISER MAN
Life was never difficult for a white male born after
The second conflict to end all great international arguments
And while we never had much money in our pockets
We never wanted for material possessions
Nor did we lack for love from family and friends
Father had a steady job, protected by the union
Mother owned a coffee house, espresso in the 60’s
Cheese and pineapple toast, berets, turtle necks.
Ferlinghetti read aloud to bongo drums
Me and Gordon and Rhonda played PPM tunes
My young brother Pete did Mick to a tee
Joined a group of radical left wing uni grads
In a market research group who worked for
The loyal opposition to the then government
In Oz. In the next twelve months we design,
Then run a successful campaign to try to elect
First Labour Party government in almost 20 years
On the simple premise that “It’s Time”
That’s correct, it was simply, time for a change.
Some would ask, “Time for what?”
Peter the Writer would always answer “It’s just time”
The question would hang forever in the air…
A wise man was old Peter
Who understood that voters
Would finish the sentence
With their own ending
He was right
Three years later
Time was up
It was, indeed
© CJ Campbell March 2012
I joined a group of like minded researchers and opened the Hong Kong branch of Spectrum. My wife came to HK for 6 weeks, did not like it at all and one night, when I got home, there was a note advising me that she had taken the boys and gone back to Oz and her boyfriend. I was devastated. S, who I had hired to run the new office, eventually became my wife and after almost 10 years in HK we came to LA in 1978. S is the mother of my third son and only daughter, both born here in America.
So then I was running a major research firm in LA when I met L. I was still young, still thinking below the shoulders in matters related to sex. I left S for a woman ten years younger. L had a daughter, who I now consider mine.
We moved to SF where I was working with a group researching market potential for energy efficient appliances.
Since my fourth son was born, his first 8 years coincided with the destruction of the Silicon Valley boom and I saw job after job disappear until cancer struck in 2004.
S, who has every reason to give me a hard time, married a good friend of mine from HK. She and he have both been solid as rocks.
My two younger brothers both live in Tasmania, I am in constant touch with them.
In my life I have:
-been the lead singer of a Peter Paul and Mary clone group in Oz
-lived with a tribe in the Oz desert for 4 months
-taken Polaroid pics of almost 200,000 tractors in SE Asia for
-driven the length of Java from east to west
-spent a week with my wife on a deserted tropical island
-eaten Civet cat, harvest birds, snake, kangaroo tail, goanna,
witchetty grub, chocolate ants, fish heads and more
-abandoned the plane via the escape chute on the runway at Kai Tak Airport
-landed “dead stick” in a lettuce field in the Imperial Valley, Ca
holding on to the waist of my camera man as he kept the camera -going
outside the window of the Cessna
-developed the “bring to market” plan and helped sell the prototypes
to Maytag and Toshiba for the world’s first microwave clothes dryer in
1999. The product is slated to come to market by 2015 it takes almost
twenty years for technology testing!
-wrote the original “bring to market” document for compact fluorescent
lamps in 1991 which predicted a 2004 “take off” year. I was wrong by
-been the lead singer of The Gang Bang, a HK rock group in the 70’s
consisting of one Caucasian singer, a 5’1″ Chinese lead guitarist, a
6′ Chinese rhythm guitarist, a 5’5″ 220lb Chinese bass player and a
tall skinny Chinese/Portuguese drummer who was stoned 105% of the
time. We had a permanent gig with Bacardi Rum on the Ferries where
they threw parties in HK Harbour
-conducted several million dollars worth of surveys for Reynolds
Tobacco and Coca-Cola in the 70’s as they turned their attention to
-sat in a room with Reagan’s advisors before his election when one of
them looked at him and said “You know Ron, when you made movies, we
always knew you were acting. Now you’re a politician, we’re not so
-at last count have been to 42 States
-I love to meet and learn about other people’s journeys