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Previously on Five-O
Issue Two
Swingtime Strippers
Issue One
New World Evel

John Quigley: I spend most of my time on the phone, like right now, or on the walkie-talkie, or calling down to people below and them calling back up to me. Rarely is there nothing going on. Most of the time it's an 18-hour day.

Physically the biggest challenge is the lack of aerobic exercise. I go up and down the rope part of the way in the tree. That gives me a little bit of exercise but it's not like playing basketball. The atrophy factor is definitely the biggest challenge.

I sleep up here. It's hard to believe this is Day 41 (Quigley began his sit-in on November 1st, 2002). I never imagined it would go this long. There was one wet winter storm, then we had the wind storm, which was the most intense period. The winds are the toughest thing.

(More rains followed during Quigley's vigil, and an intense winter storm occurred after Christmas, followed by a furious Santa Ana windstorm in January that caused widespread damages and power outages in the L.A. area.)

Five-O: How did you find your tree?

John: A friend sent me an email. Some folks from around here contacted her and told her they were going to cut this 400 year-old oak tree. She knew I had a background in forest protection so I got this email — it was an emergency situation and I just decided to respond to it. The people up here who were asking for help sent me an email photograph of the tree and explained the situation, that it was being cut to widen the road. In this case, email played a big part.

It's been such a roller coaster ride. We've been through the police drama. I mean, in the early days it was just me up here and no one around. So late at night you'd have people coming by — I had a gunshot the second night right in front of the tree. It's a very vulnerable feeling.

Once the police drama started then there was all this media attention. The sheriff came one morning and said they'd been dispatched because the tree was going to be cut that morning. A bunch of folks stood under the tree and the sheriff said they were subject to arrest if they didn't leave.

Workers came and built a fence around the tree. They backed off that day. The next day they came and blocked off the street and now the fire department was here. It looked like they were going to try to drag me out of the tree but there were all these kids across the street shouting "Save Old Glory." The fire department guys shook their heads and said, "We don't want any part of this," so they left. Then the sheriff stood down, and from that point on things have been moving in our direction, which means reaching a solution that saves this tree.

L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich was originally saying Old Glory had to be cut. That's when they were going to arrest me. He stuck with that for several days. Then with a lot of public pressure he said that he was going to move the tree. We think that moving it would kill the tree and most experts agree.

Five-O: Is there any prior example of successfully transplanting a 400 year-old tree?

John: Not that I know of. Certainly the company that was going to move the tree never had that kind of experience. The root ball of this tree is so massive — it's a bad idea.

The police drama happened the end of the second week, about the 14th or 15th of November. Once the story changed and they said they were moving the tree, our whole situation became consulting with experts in the community, and communicating to the public that moving the tree would be the same as killing the tree. It would be an expensive sideshow. We won that battle in the public mind. Then I had Thanksgiving in the tree. We had a big celebration out here.

Then it looked like they were going to come out here and cut the roots to move it December 2nd. We called it D-Day for Old Glory. That's when everything changed, because we created such a big presence out here that very quickly negotiations began.

The first rain was in early November. The windstorm came just before Thanksgiving and that was really intense — dry, 60 mile-per-hour Santa Ana winds. I definitely said some prayers.

Five-O: Does the tree have a character you can describe?

John: The way I describe it is a quiet respect. Everyday my relationship with it grows stronger. There are subtle things that you notice day by day. Now there's all kind of new life up here — green leaves popping out. The drink of water it got from that storm is now reaching the crown of tree. It's nice to see a lot of new life.

Five-O: How high up are you?

John: 46 feet.

Five-O: How's the view?

John: I have a view of this canyon, Pico Canyon. I can see the development across the street, the line of new homes on the ridge, and up ahead I see the natural canyon as it used to be.

Five-O: What methods have you used previously as an environmentalist?

John: It depends. I'm an environmental educator. There's different ways you can make things happen. I have been involved a few times in things where you take a real strong stand. I did a tree sit up in British Columbia back in '95. That's where I learned some of these techniques. I've been involved in various issues, rainforest issues. I also produce events, educational events for kids and stuff like that.

I was born in Minnesota, raised outside Washington D.C. I went to school at San Diego State — I have a drama degree. My environmental awakening came when I moved to Los Angeles and saw the density and pollution and thought, wow, is this where everything is headed? That was 1989.

Five-O: What's happened since D-Day?

John: We're working on an alternative plan so the tree can stay here and the road can go around. There's a lot of engineering involved in that. There's been surveyors out and we've had engineers here — a lot of technical stuff.

Five-O: Can they make the oak the median?

John: That's one thing we're talking about.

Five-O: Do you anticipate being in the tree for Christmas and New Year's?

John: I don't know. A lot of people here want to come up and do some time in the protector's perch here. So we're having these discussions now. There are several qualified people who could come up and replace me. I need to go back East and see my dad, who's been gravely ill. I was supposed to see him over Thanksgiving and I wasn't able to do that. We definitely are prepared over the long term to have a
presence here, whether it's me personally all the time or whether it's a rotation.

Five-O: Do you have relations with the development company by now?

John: Let's just say we're in discussions. It's delicate so I can't say too much. I never imagined it would go this long. I just didn't think it would be that difficult to save a 400 year-old oak tree — it's the oldest in this whole area right here.

Five-O: How did Old Glory get its name?

John: A couple of local kids, Taylor and Blake Borland, ages 13 and 10, wrote a letter to Mr. Antonovich and the rest of the supervisors that talked about how growing up they've seen all the big oak trees cut around here and the only one left is the one they called Old Glory. They named it that because it stands here in all its glory and majesty representing all the trees that have already been cut down.

After I read that letter, I said, you know what, I think we have a name for the tree. I called the parents and the kids and said "Do you mind if I share this letter with the public?" They said they didn't mind, and that's where Old Glory got its name.

We need people to contact Mike Antonovich and tell him they want the tree to stay right where it's been for 400 years. Let's tell him he can be the hero in all this just by making sure that happens.

Five-O: What about the argument that says, we can't stop progress to be held hostage by tree-huggers?

John: First I think this is a unique situation. If you look at it, we're talking about a road to nowhere, cutting a tree down to build a road to, at the moment, nowhere. There's nothing there. It's not needed. It may never be needed. The two-lane road that's here right now is completely sufficient for the development that's here.

The local developer here doesn't want to expand the road, he's being forced by the county. If you were to come and see it, you see that what they're doing is expanding this road for another quarter mile, and then it just ends. All there is is a natural canyon back there.

You know, the process is broken because why would they proceed? — this stuff is five to ten years away, if it even gets approved. And so to go ahead and take this tree down, which is such an icon here, particularly now, just doesn't make sense. If you look at it from that perspective, it makes sense to keep the tree here, if you worry about future (tree-sitting) incidents. I don't know what to say about that. If you do the right thing, you do the right thing.

When the system isn't working, citizens need to take action. If these guys think they are somehow above dealing with the citizenry and they don't want to deal with community action, then maybe they should retire and move on to something else, because they work for the people. That's my perspective on it. That was their position early, and now through public pressure they've been forced into a situation where they need to be in conversation.

See, this is the attitude from these politicians I think is offensive and totally goes against the grain of what democracy should be about. Mr. Antonovich has not shown his face here. We've invited him many times — he's never come out to see it.

The question is, who is he working for? Is he working for the developers exclusively, or is he representing his constituents? You look at the history of our country dating back to the Boston Tea Party and America is about people standing up. Democracy is an evolving process. It's never finished.

Politicians sometimes get into a position where they think they don't have to deal with average people anymore and they hide behind their bureaucratic rules and say, we're
not going to talk to them because they're not doing it exactly the way we want them to. I think it's time to shake them up and get 'em out of office if that's the way they're going to be. It's time to shake a few branches. Are we living in a democracy? Or are we living in a place where everything is ruled by how much money you have and the backroom deals you cut? You're getting a little piece of my mind right now.

John: Just below here we have an educational tent and we have live musicians come and play quite a bit. There have been numerous songs written about the tree. One rap song that's been produced I know is pretty amazing. A couple different folk songs have been written and gotten some

Myself, I have eclectic taste. There are a few singers who tend to have strong ties to the environment, whether it's Ani Difranco, Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley certainly, Paul McCartney for that matter. In terms of music, I think good music is good music. Jackson Brown has a couple great environmental songs. One I really appreciate is called "I Am A Patriot," a brilliant take on what it means to be a true patriot.

John: One of the local women, a supporter, says her kids think the tree is magical — like something out of Harry Potter. It's interesting. What we're talking about here are things that are mysterious, that are far older than us. For me, I'm definitely a big Lord of the Rings fan. I would love to check out the second Rings movie when it comes out next week. I do think there is a bit of that adventure to this whole experience. Using the Harry Potter analogy, in some ways I think you've got some of these politicians who are Muggles. You've got other folks who see the magic and beauty in something that's 400 years old, that's been here before the pilgrims arrived.

Five-O: Is "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss an inspiration in this?

John: Absolutely. The Lorax had a huge impact on me. In fact all of Dr. Seuss's work had a big influence, but particularly The Lorax. One of the great experiences of my life, I was working in a restaurant in La Jolla at the time. It must have been around 1980 or '81, and we had a private party — it was Dr. Seuss's birthday. Our manager came in and said, "Does anyone want to go in and say good things to Dr. Seuss on his birthday?" So I went out and I was able to actually kneel down beside him and tell Dr. Seuss how much his work had meant to me. It's one of the great moments of my life to be able to give a tiny bit back. His body of work is phenomenal and the impact it had on a whole generation. He's probably my number one hero.

It's funny, some of the kids here want to make signs that say, "Don't be a Grinch, Mr. Antonovich."


World Poker Tour
World Poker Tour
Introducing the NASCAR
of Texas Hold-em
Tree Sitter
Tree Sitter
John Quigley
Onboard "Old Glory"
The 400-Year Old Oak
Bartok Takes A Bride
Eqyptian Theatre
All-Stars Party
with Thai Elvis
Malvin Wald
Malvin Wald
The Naked City Writer
on Al Capone and
Ronald Reagan
HEll House
Hell House
Interview with Filmmaker
George Ratliff
The Conqueror
Bow Down, Tartar Dogs!
It's John Wayne as
Genghis Khan
Film Noir
Film Noir Fest 2003
Black Lightning Strikes
at the Egyptian
Forrest J Ackerman
86th Birthday Bash for
Famous Monster
Funk Photos
The Funk Does
Charlton Heston
Omega Man
A Very Lemmy
Yuletide at the
Rainbow Room
Charles Phoenix
Charles Phoenix
Big Laughs in
Xmas Parade
The Hollywood
Christmas Parade
Unholy Spectacle of
Glitter and Filth
theron productions