Exclusive Interview: Harmon Leon

harmon-leon4web.jpgAs I mentioned previously, Harmon Leon, perhaps the most daring infiltration journalist of this or any other time, will visit The Contented Cow at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 27, in an event co-sponsored by River City Books. Books will be available for purchase at 15 percent off.

The appearance coincides with the release of Leon’s new book — The Infiltrator: My Undercover Exploits in Right-Wing America. “The Infiltrator” is Leon’s follow-up to Republican Like Me and the wildly popular Harmon Chronicles.

In advance of the event, store manager Jon Lee sat down with Leon for an interview. I have obtained an exclusive transcript of this interview:

Jon Lee: What has been the response to your new book, The Infiltrator: My Undercover Exploits in Right-Wing America, while you’ve been out on your promotional tour?

Harmon Leon: People love it more than the Beatles.

JL: I really enjoyed your story in the new book about the Promise Keepers. Did you have any favorite experiences in writing this book?

HL: My favorite, as far as the comfort level of the experience, was infiltrating the PAX TV show “Lie Detector,” just because I contradicted everything the show was about. I liked the fact that the show actually hired an actor to portray me in the recreation scene of the fictional story I concocted about being on parole for weapons and drug charges. I actually provided work for some poor, struggling actor who will put the experience on his acting resume.

JL: Do you ever fear for your life while researching your stories?

HL: Not so much life-fearing, but there were moments of extreme unease, such as with the pro-war patriotic skinheads and moments with the Minutemen Project when the group, in mass, turned on all members of the media.

I guess the biggest moment of tension was when I infiltrated the group Protest Warrior, (Fighting the Left, Doing it Right) by becoming president of their Sacramento Chapter. Their deal is protesting anti-war protests such as the big San Francisco anti-war protest
to mark the commencement of the Gulf War. I was wearing military fatigues and marching with the group through the protest as we all carried American flags. That was the closest to direct physical conflict.

JL: On the cover of “The Infiltrator” you’re wearing clothes. You didn’t on the cover of your last book, “Republican Like Me.” Was the change for artistic reasons?

HL: No. That was more by request.

JL: What type of stuff do you like to read?

HL: I like a lot of nonfiction stuff ranging from books on politics and history, to biographies of jazz musicians. Fiction-wise, I like a lot of Irish literature.

JL: Do you have a blog or a website that your fans can visit?

HL: Yes, myspace.com/harmonleon

JL: Where were you when you first hear of “You Tube,” and like me, did you think it had something to do with the Winter-X games?

HL: No, I thought it was a band whose frontman is Bono.

JL: You’ve been to Northfield a few times in the past. What are some of your fondest memories of the town?

HL: I guess it would be the time when I got to portray one of Jesse James’ henchmen during The Defeat of Jesse James Days. Or the time I was given a large spoon
and the president of the Malt-O Meal factory opened the doors and said “Go Crazy!”

JL: You have been called a cross between Michael Moore and “South Park,” yet you are neither overweight nor a cartoon. Are you happy with this comparison?

HL: Yes.

JL: Do you have a favorite food, and if so, what is it?

HL: Soup.

JL: Beside your gig at the Contented Cow in Northfield at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 27, will you be anywhere else while in the Twin Cities?

HL: Yes, I’ll be appearing the night before (Oct. 26) at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater in Minneapolis; I’ll be doing a multi-media show with video clips from some of my best infiltrations.

JL: Are you working on anything new?

HL: Yes, I’m doing a book for National Lampoon to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of the “Vacation” movie. It basically involves taking a cross-country road trip in search of the underbelly of America.

JL: Any final words?

HL: All and all, Northfield has always been a bright spot on my past book tours and I’m looking forward to coming back.

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