BY ED FELIEN
I went to see him just before he died. He said, “The problem with dying is it takes too long. And it’s boring.”
The first time I met Tony Bouza, he was chief of police. It was at a demonstration against Honeywell anti-personnel bombs used in Vietnam. He was busy arresting demonstrators, bussing them downtown for booking, and then treating them to coffee and donuts. His friendly mood was quite a contrast to Mayor Stenvig’s previous deployments of the tactical squad to bust up
Honeywell demonstrations – they would arrive in buses that looked like armored personnel carriers, carrying bully sticks with their badge numbers taped over. I was running Modern Times restaurant, and we had advertised a breakfast special in honor of the demonstration. I felt outdone by Bouza’s hospitality, and I walked up to him and said, “I’m with Modern Times, and WE cater revolutions.” I wrote a short piece about it for the Twin Cities Reader, calling myself a member of the Erica Bouza Brigade. His wife was one of the first to be arrested.
He was a strict, no-nonsense chief of police. He vigorously fought street crime and enforced traffic laws. He made profound changes to the MPD during his nine years as chief. He gave no promotions: “There’s already too much brass.” He instituted one-cop patrols. This doubled the number of squad cars on the street. Of course, the cops didn’t like it; they didn’t have anyone to talk to. He said Minneapolis doesn’t really have a gang problem; it has a youth problem. And he made it clear he would not tolerate police misconduct. Subsequent chiefs, promoted mostly from within the department, undid all those reforms.
I interviewed him when he ran for governor in 1994: “Tony Bouza shoots from the hip; hits sacred cows.” We fell deeply in love with Tony and Erica, and my wife, Carol Hogard, was the only Tony Bouza delegate to the Minnesota DFL State Convention. Someone from the press asked Tony,
“What’s your position on handguns?” Tony said, “Confiscate ‘em!” That was it. The campaign was over. But what a way to go out.
Soon after, Tony started writing for Southside Pride. He had this wonderful affection for the English language. Like Joseph Conrad and Nabokov, he could get drunk on adjectives and adverbs. There was always one word in his pieces that you couldn’t understand. You had to think hard about it. Maybe you had to look it up. I would complain to him, “Tony, we’re trying to write a newspaper that can be read by everyone.” He would answer, “I’m not writing down to my readers.” So, of course, he wrote, and I transcribed faithfully his almost indecipherable script on yellow legal pads without changing a word.
We would go on vacation together. One time in Key West, Polly Mann joined Tony and Erica, and the five of us lived together for a week. It was great fun with lively banter over dinner. At one point Tony said to Polly, “That’s it. I’m cutting you off.” Polly shot back, “That’s OK, you were never that good anyway.”
But, Polly, putting aside your joke about a sexual intimacy that never happened – he was that good. He was great.
And so were you.
Good night, dear comrades.
You will always be a part of my fondest dreams.