Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em Podcast
Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em Podcast
132. Mike Mooney on the Free Speech Warriors We Deserve

132. Mike Mooney on the Free Speech Warriors We Deserve

The Dallas journalist talks about the meat grinder/Shangri-La of alt-weeklies, whose strange rise and swift fall he explores in HOLD FAST, a podcast that is one of the year's best

Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin launched Phoenix New Times in 1970. Working out of a closet in a women’s clothing store, the paper covered stories most media at the time would not, including then-Arizona senator John McCain’s involvement with the Charles Keating Savings & Loan scandal, McCain’s wife Cindy forging subscriptions and stealing pills from a children’s charity she’d founded, and the humanitarian horrors associated with Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“You get paid for castrations,” Lacey would tell the makers of HOLD FAST, an Audible podcast that covers New Times’ salad days and what came later, including the fateful turn when people the paper had once gone after went after them, including the McCains, Arpaio, and then-senator Kamala Harris.

As Sarah recently wrote for the Dallas Morning News:

“Things don’t turn out well for Lacey, or his more copacetic business partner Larkin, as they get dragged through two federal trials on charges of money laundering and (buried the lede) sex trafficking, thanks to the adult ads that were once the lifeblood of alt-weekly revenue and which the pair spun into the notorious, prompting the Justice Department to label them the biggest pimps in the history of the world. Whether these two men are free-speech champions, or smug bastards hoisted on their own petards, will be for the listener to decide.”

HOLD FAST, named for the words Lacey tattooed across his knuckles, is created by former New Times writers Trevor Aaronson (also behind the podcasts “American ISIS” and “Alphabet Boys”), Sam Eifling, and Michael J. Mooney, who joins Nancy and Sarah - who spent a combined 25 years in the alt-weekly trenches - to talk about working for New Times during its heyday. “It was a meat grinder of employment, but also, the Shangri-La of journalism,” he says. “It was both things at once.”

Also discussed:

  • Eclipse!

  • postrate not prostate

  • Post Malone does a chicken commercial

  • “We don’t get the free speech warriors we want, we get the free speech warriors we deserve”

  • Erotic cake toppers, anyone?

  • Does Sarah love Mike Lacey? Does she hate Mike Lacey? Maybe both?

  • Who did — and who did not — get those $5000 checks

  • Reason magazine’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown does heroic journalism

  • A gift from Wallace leads to the tiniest Viking burial?

This episode of Smoke ‘Em, dealing with the threats to journalism and free speech, is, maybe not paradoxically for former alt-weekly scribes who covered the “freak beat” (Mooney), interviewed serial killers (Nancy), and walked around the office barefoot (Sarah), also one of its funniest.

HOLD FAST is available on Audible.

Mike Lacey and Jim


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Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em Podcast
Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em Podcast
Journalistas Nancy Rommelmann and Sarah Hepola on what's burning through the culture right now. Flirtatious banter for serious times.