About Me

Here’s the short and impersonal version.

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35-year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired.

He won nine awards from the Society of Professional Journalists in for his daily columns in the San Diego Free Press over a six year period. Doug is a two time cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.

Here’s the TMI version.

First of all, I was a Navy brat, born in a military hospital in Ankara, Turkey in 1950.

Like many military families, we moved every couple of years. My childhood included living in Northern Virginia, Hawaii (before it was a state), Spain, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia.

We moved to the West Coast in 1967. I remember being awed by the possibilities after buying a copy of the San Francisco Oracle on the streets of San Francisco. My final year of high school was at Point Loma High. A journalism course was my choice as an elective class in part because we could get passes to leave campus at lunch.

During the summer of 1968, I moved in with a couple hippie / Vietnam veterans in Ocean Beach. I worked on a few issues of the OB Liberator, printed on a small offset press in a garage on Cape May street.

We used to get jacked up by the cops for selling copies (15 cents!)–just the usual ID check and pat down down. Stores selling the Liberator got busted for obscenity from time to time. It wasn’t smutty, but it was profane.

Then it was off to San Diego City College and more journalism courses. I eventually became co-editor of the Fortnightly. In May 1970, Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia, and antiwar activists shut down colleges all over the country.

City College students were among the first in the state to walk out. It would be forty years before I returned as a full time student.

I started hanging out with the Lowell Bergman and the folks who put out the San Diego Street Journal (formerly the original San Diego Free Press) until it imploded. They’d hit a nerve by publishing muckraking articles about the local gentry. Local right-wing militia types vandalized the group’s offices and equipment. The police came by and picked up the garbage, looking for evidence of sedition, I suppose.

Then I met Peter Bohmer, a radical economics professor at San Diego State, joining his community organizing collective in Ocean Beach. Our efforts facilitated a food coop, a free school, and a community legal center.

Frank Gormlie and another group started the OB People’s Rag, which we took over after an unfortunate series of events in March 1971 made him into a fugitive.

Our activities soon made us a target of the Secret Army Organization, a paramilitary organization we later learned was mostly funded through an FBI informant. The summer and fall included death threats, vandalism of our storefront office, and a tear gas attack.

On January 8, 1972 activist Paula Tharp was injured by shots fired into the house where many of us lived. The SDPD suggested to the news media that we’d staged the shooting to gain sympathy for our causes. A few years later we learned the gun used in the drive-by ended up hidden in the home of the FBI agent in charge of the San Diego office.

Shortly thereafter I moved into a Victorian Banker’s Hill house with the staff of the San Diego Door. The underground paper was the most financially successful effort of its time, often printing two sections with color splashed throughout.

Many of us who worked there went on to bigger and better things in later decades. Bill Ritter is now the evening anchor at WABC News in New York. Cameron Crowe became a movie director–“Almost Famous” includes a scene derived from his experience with the Door. Larry Remer is a well-known local political consultant.

Remer and I penned a (never published) story for Esquire about the Secret Army’s activities and went to New York to meet with our editor in 1973. On the way back we stopped in Washington DC, meeting some antiwar Vietnam Vets and ex-spooks engaged in research on national security and right wing extremists.

In the spring of 1974, those vets recruited me to move to Washington DC, where I became editor of CounterSpy Magazine.

Author Norman Mailer became interested in our work and promised financial support. An undercover investigator working for Rep. Larry McDonald (a wannabe Joe McCarthy) wrote up our first meeting with the New York author for the Congressional Record:

  • “Publicity was provided at a March 23, 1974, fundraising wine and cheese party at the home of District of Columbia Gazette editor Sam Smith attended by some 100 guests, each of whom paid $10 each for the privilege of attending. Norman Mailer made a rambling 30-minute speech; the staffers, Timothy Charles Blitz, Perry Fellwock, also known as Winslow Peck, K. Barton Osborn, and Douglas Porter spoke of their counterintelligence activities, and the somewhat besotted liberals in attendance poured two bottles of Portuguese wine into a planter in support of African liberation.”

Mailer’s promises of financial support for our group proved to be less than advertised. He found money in a budget for an upcoming book on Marilyn Monroe, paying for Freedom of Information requests, along with sending me as his representative on a national speaking tour.

Later we would join forces with ex-CIA agent Philip Agee, who turned on his former employers after twelve years of clandestine service by publishing “Inside The Company: A CIA Dairy” in 1975. Our connection with Agee, along with a Washingtonian article by John Marks entitled “How to Spot a Spook”, lead us inevitably into the business of outing spies.

During this period, Counterspy evolved into a slicker and more popular periodical. Publishing secret agent identities and locales was good for circulation. Looking back on it, it wasn’t that different from what the popular men’s magazines were doing—sandwiching sometimes insightful editorial content in between titillating “exposés,”

This was during the Watergate era. Every time Nixon called a press conference, the fear of fascism kicked in. As is true today, there was hardly a day that went by without another revelation. The paranoia, tension and anxiety was nearly all-consuming.

We drank cheap champagne in front of the White House on the night he quit. There were a lot of sidebars to the Watergate story –including a connection to Secret Army Organization– that got buried, overshadowed by the drama in DC.

In December, 1975, Richard Welch was gunned down as he was returning from a holiday party in Athens, Greece. Welch happened to be the CIA Station Chief in Greece. Counterspy had blown his cover in his capacity as head of the Agency office in Lima, Peru a few months earlier.

Over the next few days, a media firestorm developed. The Agency’s press office, along with a few well-placed “friends,” led the assault, insisting that CounterSpy was responsible for a terrorist assassination.

Reporters demanded answers; TV camera crews camped outside our Dupont Circle offices; we were the lead story on the CBS evening news. The questions followed a predictable pattern, ending up with the espionage world’s equivalent of “When did you stop beating your wife?”

That was the beginning of the end for me at CounterSpy, and the end of my journalism efforts for three decades. I’d flown too close to the sun.

My part-time bar tending job became full time, and management experiences in an assortment of DC night clubs and restaurants followed.

One of the night clubs was Desperado’s, located in Georgetown. The venue’s blues-heavy calendar meant I worked shows with some legendary and soon-to-be-legendary musicians. I was the a*hole who didn’t recognize (and tried to card) George Thorogood when he dropped by to sit in one night. And I remember Stevie Ray Vaughn’s first DC show with the front row full of local guitarists who came to see if this guy was as good as the rumors they were hearing.

I put the nightclub experience behind me, met and married Lisa Joy, and went on to manage a variety of restaurants. In 1990, we moved to Staunton, Virginia to open the Restaurant at 23 Beverley. It lasted for a couple of years and then it was back to working for other folks again. The best of all those gigs was delivering food to restaurants from Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm.

Our daughter was born during that time, and when she got old enough to start elementary school, we looked around and realized it was time to move. Resumes went out, and the deal was we’d move to where ever the first decent job offer was located.

Little did we know the our next stop would be St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. We had eight great years there. Our daughter’s graduation from the Montessori school triggered another search, and her acceptance at the San Diego’s School for the Creative and Performing Arts dictated a return to San Diego.

We arrived in town just in time for the great recession to roil the job market. It never occurred to me that age made me a less attractive hire for potential employers. Times were tough, and to keep from going insane, I hooked up with my old friend Frank Gormlie, who’d revived the OB Rag as an internet publication.

In 2011 I was diagnosed with cancer of the vocal chords. Six months worth of chemo and radiation seemed to be working, until it didn’t. The surgery was successful, but it left me without a voice. I now speak using a not-very-reliable prosthetic implant. It’s mostly unintelligible over the phone, which is helpful in dealing with spam calls; not so helpful most of the time.

My participation in meetings leading up to the launch of the San Diego Free Press consisted of writing things on a whiteboard. We launched on June 4, 2012 and published seven days a week until December 2018. The daily grind took its toll on our all-volunteer group of editors, and we elected to quit while we were ahead.

Election guides and campaign coverage were among our big successes. And I have to admit to falling in serious like with the process. In 2018, I expanded my efforts to include shepherding a voter guide for the Downtown branch of San Diego Indivisible.

I took a month off after the SDFP shuttered and came to the conclusion it was time to get back in the saddle again.

Words and Deeds was born as a result. In January of 2022 I moved this site from WordPress to Substack.

PS: The cancer came back in 2020. I had surgery in December; they got the cancer, but didn’t get the reconstruction right. So I had more surgery. And then radiation, just in case. Sadly, it turns out that reconstruction #2 didn’t work out. Neither did #3… Or #4..

So, now, in addition to being speechless, I’m taking most of my sustenance through a tube. I gotta tell ya, there’s nothing like the aroma of freshly brewed coffee coming up through burps.

Thanks for reading.

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Doug Porter

Writer, Progressive Political Activist. San Diego elections are a thing for me, but I cover a lot of things. I lost my vocal chords to cancer, keyboard is my voice. #BLM