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A Howling Good Time

Hauserman's show at Mickee Faust Club will be a 'howling' good time

By Jack Clifford
Reprinted from the Apalachee Tortoise

You no doubt have seen her byline in numerous publications. Maybe you heard her voice on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Sunday. Who knows, you could have even danced next to her at one of North Florida's many outdoor music festivals. However you came into contact with local journalist/essayist Julie Hauserman, she had an impact on you. She's like that: a woman with a strong personality who gets attention and gets things accomplished. Important things.

Don't just take the word of one person about that last statement. Hauserman's resume speaks volumes about what she has done for her fellow creatures, especially the ones who are not capable of raising their own hell and trying to change what is going on these days.

The Florida Audubon Society named her Journalist of the Year in 1988. The Florida Wildlife Federation, the Florida Sierra Club, and the Florida League of Con-servation Voters lauded her work in 1991, 1992, and 1993, respectively. A Green Eyeshade Award was given to her in 1999 for Best Radio Commentary. In 2001, the Scripps Howard Foundation recognized her as the Top Environmental Reporter. Oh, and she has also been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize, in 1992 and 2001.

Come February 24 at the Mickee Faust Club in Railroad Square, you will be able to see and hear Hauserman during her one-woman show, "Howling in the Kudzu." Get tickets soon, though, because when Hauserman performed the same gig last spring it sold out. She recently took time to answer a few questions about herself, Florida politics and the cause she cares about most: the environment.

What can people who attend the Mickee Faust show expect to see and hear?
Give a few specific themes that you will focus on. Any good Bush bashing in your show?

I'll read public radio essays, some of which were aired and some which were too hot to make it on the broadcast. The show has five short acts: "Politics: Debating Masturbators"; "Breeding: Can We Have Pre-Paid Therapy?"; "They Say Food and Politics Don't Mix"; "Florida: It's the Humidity"; and "Culture: Why Be Normal?" There's a sound track and sight gags. What do I make fun of? Um, everything. I'm a satirist, and I believe humor is one of the best ways to cut to the truth of things.

What do you think about Gov. Charlie Crist so far?

I like Charlie Crist and I have known him a long time, since I worked for the St. Petersburg Times Capitol bureau and he was the paper's hometown state senator. For one thing, he's great on the environment, always has been. I think Charlie has the potential to be the best Florida environmental governor ever. He's a Floridian, he loves the beach and the water. Jeb did some great things as far as land acquisition, but the only wild thing Jeb knew about was golf courses. Charlie's move to put Tom Pelham and Charles Gautier back in charge of planning at the Department of Community Affairs will make a huge difference. Well, as much a difference as we can make given the crappy laws out of the Legislature and the fact that county commissions don't seem to be able to say no, even when it trashes the lakes and the countryside and makes for big giant ugly strip malls and roads.

Your opinion pieces (and radio essays) are sometimes subtle in their political activism and sometimes quite blunt. Which do you prefer to write?

I think it depends on my level of outrage at the time I sit down to write. I've been basically standing in the same place saying the same things for 20 years. Some stuff has been changed for the better, and some things have stayed the same or gotten worse. Some of us are called to do this work - we can't just watch TV and blow off what's happening. When I was a young reporter, new to Florida, I was taught by some of the best -- Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Al Burt, Marjorie Carr, Nathaniel Reed - just great Floridians who stood up for the place.

You wrote for the St. Petersburg Times, where you had to be relatively objective, and now you can pretty much write/say what you want as a commentator. Has that been liberating? Do you ever think back on something you wrote or said on the radio and think, 'Was that too much?'

No, never! I'm always pushing the envelope when it comes to opinion pieces. There's too much watered-down, genetically modified discourse in the world. I have a piece in my show about that called "Saying Nothing." Objectivity is a myth anyway. All you can hope for as a reporter is to be fair. In my investigative work, where I took on giant corporations, accuracy was critical. You couldn't give them the opening to say you got something wrong. It was very stressful. I've had corporations that I investigated, and things turned out very badly for them, but they'd usually compliment me for getting their side accurate. I've been accused of being a crusader. Well, until the manatees and the trees and the panthers and the rivers can talk, I'm gonna speak for them.

How long have you lived in North Florida? Any signs that we can survive the development onslaught or is it a lost cause?

I started in South Florida, and the first week I was here I got sent to Kennedy Space Center to cover a launch. It was the Challenger. I moved to Tallahassee in 1988. I had been here once, for an awards ceremony at the top of the Capitol, and I remember looking down and seeing all the trees. It blew my mind! I knew I was home when I moved here. I have had offers to go to big cities, and I couldn't imagine ever leaving here.

As far as development, the good thing is all the public land we have around here, and the parks. That is really the most important step, to buy what you can. We have some environmentally enlightened developers who have done beautiful, balanced projects, and I'm grateful for that.

Right now, I'm concerned about aesthetics. Why aren't we requiring these chains to build prettier projects? You go to Sanibel and the Dairy Queen is tucked into the seagrapes with a discreet sign. These chains are not going to go away just because we insist on good design and tree buffers.

Can we keep growth from coming? No. Can we be a pretty, artsy town? Yes.

You have a few poems on your web site (juliehauserman.com). Is that a form of writing that you have always enjoyed or is it something new?

I have been a closet poet for a long time. I had one published for the first time in the Apalachee Review last year. I write poems a lot - I'm just now letting them out into the world. Poems to me are like jazz. When you are first a musician, you think it is cool to play all these notes, really kick it out. When you get older, you realize that it is the one well-placed note that makes it good. You've got to pick just the right word for a poem to work.

What else are you working on?

I recently wrote a report about the state of Florida's oceans and coasts. I'm helping do some education around energy efficiency options for Florida. I'm working on essays and magazine articles, and, as always, closet poems. [The Feb. 24] show is a benefit for the funniest people in Tallahassee - the Mickee Faust Players - and the fabulous Eclectic Acoustic will play. Maybe we'll all howl in the kudzu together.


There are two shows on Feb. 24, 2007 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. For information on tickets, visit mickeefaust.com.
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