Guess who was a tea partier before tea partying was cool

It no doubt would come as a shock to the guy permanently ensconced in the bathtub at First and Main streets downtown to know that he had a hand in giving Tea Party Nation a slogan.

Tea partiers, according to, have reached way back, in cinematic terms and way, way back in historical terms to adopt one Spartacus as a kind of human vessel of the soul of the tea party.

Spartacus? Whodda thunk?

One might have expected George Hewes, a member of the band of “Indians” who wrote of his experience sneaking aboard a British ship moored at Griffin’s wharf, complete with tomahawk, to destroy the tea stowed aboard as a protest of taxation without representation.

“In about three hours from the time we went on board, we had thus broken and thrown overboard every tea chest to be found in the ship, while those in the other ships were disposing of the tea in the same way, at the same time,” Hewes wrote. “We were surrounded by British armed ships, but no attempt was made to resist us.”

That sounds sort of like the modern-day tea partiers, though without the cheesy disguises.

On the other hand, of course, the originals didn’t exactly go to great lengths to disassociate themselves from the activities of that evening, as we can deduce from the fact that Hewes wrote of the experience.

That still doesn’t illuminate the Spartacus = tea-party-protester thing, though.

To get that, we go back to 1960, when Kirk Douglas, cleft chin and all, starred in the movie, you guessed it, “Spartacus,” about a slave who rebelled against the slave-holding Roman Republic.

Spartacus led the slaves in what was known as the War of Spartacus, the Gladiator War and, less spectacularly, the Third Servile War, which occurred from 73 to 71 B.C.

Spartacus and his fellow gladiators kicked Roman keester up and down the peninsula until a guy named, appropriately enough for our purposes, Marcus Licinius Crassus, was dispatched to deal with him.

Enter Kirk Douglas. The Chin needed a good sword-and-toga kind of effort, and Spartacus leapt to mind, he having been recently profiled by Howard Fast in a novel dubbed, yup, “Spartacus.”

Fast wanted to do the screenplay, but Douglas had a different idea,

He turned to wily old screenwriting veteran Sam Jackson. Cinema fans know the result, a famous scene in which chained slaves are told they can avoid crucifixion if they’ll just give up their leader, Spartacus.

Here, it’s worth noting, was one of the first glaring intel failures: The Romans didn’t know Spartacus by sight.

Douglas’s Spartacus, his face smudged with the dirt of a hundred battles, winces and rises to declare, “I am Spartacus,” thus allowing his followers to live and perhaps fight another day.

No dice, though. Tony Curtis jumps up and yells, “I’m Spartacus!” As does another slave, then another, and another. Soon, everyone is Spartacus, and the real Spartacus remains unknown.

Star Trek fans will recognize the principle: Sometimes the many must sacrifice for the good of the few. Or the one.

This, though, is about Spartacus, not Spock.

The tea party plan is to have members take videos of themselves declaring, “I am the tea party leader!”

Presumably, the tea partiers will avoid the Roman reaction, which was to go through the forest like bark beetles gone berserk, hacking down enough trees to crucify everyone, Spartacus included, putting a convincing end to the Third Servile War.

The slaves’ spirit of indomitability and rebellion is what the tea party is seeking.

That’s why some of them might just shoot their videos downtown, where Sam Jackson is memorialized in his bathtub.

Jackson wasn’t Jackson after all. The screenwriter wrote under a pseudonym. The real screenwriter is something of a hero to everything the tea party types stand athwart. He was a black-listed screenwriter who had been a communist and turned on his friends when the FBI came a knocking. He was born in Montrose and graduated from Grand Junction High School. He wrote for the paper you’re reading, and now you know he is Dalton Trumbo, accidental tea partier.


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