Behind Every Wonk Is a Story

My closest friend during my fresh-from-high-school year at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh was a small-venue professional wrestler. (Were I inclined to categorize it as a sport, rather than a form of performance, I’d have characterized him as a player in the minor league.) He and his twin brother were a bad-guy tag team of sufficient success to figure prominently in a small budget movie with a wrestling theme. As it happens, he also works closely with the director of a famous B horror movie franchise who was related to his long-time girlfriend.
Some people are attracted to exotic activities out of a need to assert their own differentness, but I think it is most often the case that talents and interests tumble with circumstances to bring some of us — the fortunate among us, in my book — to unique experiences. What could possibly possess a graduate from a top-notch college like CMU to overnight on a field in rural Pennsylvania with a film crew and a bunch of people made up as zombies? Well, the fact that it’s cool!
I have a similar reaction to the fact that local left-wing wonk Tom Sgouros was a circus performer before he became a researcher and pundit:

About 20 years ago, when I was earning my keep as a rope-walker and fire-eater, I prevailed on Roger, an old-time circus performer who wintered in Fall River, to give me a lesson in rigging. Roger was a cool guy, and performed atop a 120-foot sway pole that wobbled back and forth while he did handstands and the like way up there. Circus performers all do their own rigging — because who else would you trust? — and he turned out to be as expert as any long-term survivor of a career like that.
I went over to his place one day, and Roger showed me the sequined capes and clogs he made his entrance with. I seem to remember a chimpanzee costume, too, though I can’t remember how that fit in.

I’d love to know how Mr. Sgouros found his way from (as it were) the kindergarten classroom to the workshop of that high-stakes pole dancer and would find of even more interest the route from fire-eater to rhetorician. Unfortunately, the path that leads to the exotic activity of right-wing opinionating tends to make one an outcast among outsiders, and in conversation, things like the Economic Death and Dismemberment Act seem usually to get in the way. One becomes the noun in the phrase “fraternizing with the enemy.”
Whatever the case, you won’t find me looking to peculiar backgrounds for a dirty blow in debate. What perspective the tightrope walker — like the wrestler balancing on a turnbuckle — must gain up there! One wonders whether the affinity for ghouls is related or merely coincidental…

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Matt Jerzyk
Matt Jerzyk
14 years ago

Justin –
Tom’s artistic career is well known around Rhode Island.
He has had one of the few studios at AS220 for a long, long time.
And, his website has all the info that you need:
…including his biography:
In case you didn’t know (or your research failed to reveal), Tom’s dad – Thomas Sgouros, is an award-winning watercolor painter, longtime professor at RISD and was the 2001 recipient of the Claiborne Pell Award for Excellence in Art.
See for yourself.
Insightful investigative blogging as usual!

Justin Katz
14 years ago

Your barb is quite astonishing a response to my expression of comity. Your tone, however, does serve to illustrate the insularity of Rhode Islanders and liberals.
Be that as it may, I wasn’t suggesting a desire to compile an unauthorized biography, and just about everything a quick review of your links provides has more to do with CV type stuff than the personal progression in which I’m typically more interested. (The bio, for example, begins with “Tom Sgouros began his solo performing career in 1985 as a rope-walker and silent clown.”)

Matt Jerzyk
Matt Jerzyk
14 years ago

You miss my point, brother Katz.
I think there are alot of people in the political debate in RI who have other interests which are worth noting and commending.
Certainly you believe as much in that you have shown off your carpentry (which was very impressive IMHO).
I was simply noting that Tom’s artistic career was not limited to rope-walking and being a clown and if you actually wanted to go in that direction with a blog post, you could have done a minimal amount of research with a simple Google search.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

Again: My intention (to the extent that I had one beyond reacting to a biographical snippet) wasn’t to research the life of Tom Sgouros or to imply that his past is shrouded in mystery. From the outside, one often can’t assume that Tom Sgouros the performance art guy is also Tom Sgouros the General Assembly testimony guy. As you point out, above, he’s not the same as the Thomas Sgouros the watercolor guy. The RISD professor is not the same as the sometime-URI professor. For a matter of mild interest, the work to confirm distinctions piles up.
For self-referential context: an interested reader could search the Web and find samples of my music, poetry, graphic design, and so on, but it would take more effort than I’d expect from anybody other than an opposition researcher to figure out the transition from music, through letters to the editor to political columns — even considering that I’ve described it in writing before. Moreover, there are multiple Justin Katzes in the world with some similar interests (mainly music) who would have to be confirmed as not me.
Rather, my intention was more to encourage an environment, generally, and an openness for Tom specifically to bring extra-political material into current writing, as I do from time to time.
That’s all.

Bob Walsh
Bob Walsh
14 years ago

The former banker in me approves of Justin’s stated intent (not that anyone needs my approval.) The debate becomes richer when we bring our past and current experiences to the table.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
14 years ago

Two questions.
One,how does the fact that Tom Sgouros’ father is a distinguished artist and RISD professor have any relevance to this discussion?
How does Tom’s past employment history have any?I’m sure his skills are hard to perfect and very few people can do wire walking.
The problem is that those particular skills have absolutely nothing to do with the subjects that Tom testifies and writes on.
He concentrates on economics as far as I can see.What are his credentials in that field?

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