Voice from the Whirlwind:
By Stefene Russell
Photos by Nick Sokoloff

First posted: 6-18-01

We "borrowed" a wheelchair for him from the lobby of the VA Hospital. After wheeling down the hall to pick up his prescription, I pushed him out the automatic doors and into the parking lot, trying to be nonchalant about it, sure we’d be chased down by security guards at any second. As we went down the hill and into the rain, winding our way through the cars, I wished out loud that the chair had an umbrella. He didn’t seem to hear me, though he’d just gotten his hearing aid adjusted four hours earlier. He was more concerned about his dogs, which had been waiting for him all day in the motor home, than getting wet. When we reached it, on the far end of the parking lot, they began to bark for dad: Buster Brown, "the coolest dog in doggie-town," a small hound with a one-tooth under bite; Pissy Muldoon (more on her later—he calls her "Missy" in polite company); and Billie Holiday, a fierce teacup Chihuahua, so named because Billie Holiday introduced him to Chihuahuas. As I wrangled with the chair, pushing and pulling and attempting to fold it up, he yelled at me to "C’mere! C’mere!"

On the grass next to the road, Buster and Billie sprinted in circles and happily urinated on the first dandelions of spring. Pissy wandered around, sniffing. "Now watch," he said. "This is why I call her ‘Pissy’." Just as he had described it to me in the hospital a few hours earlier, as we’d flown down the hall on a cart on our way to the X-ray lab, this poodle did a handstand, stuck her legs in the air and peed joyfully into the wind.

This is not what you expect to see when you’re hanging out with the most hated man in America.

If I had been one of the waiting room wives in the VA Hospital, quietly doing needlepoint while a nurse ran oncology tests on my husband, I would not have believed a word out of Job Matusow’s mouth that day. But I’ve known Job for four years and have found, despite the incredible stories he tells me, that he is not a liar. Speaking of embroidery, I don’t think he even practices that when he talks about his life; in fact, he says he dampens his stories because no one would believe him if he left the details intact.

The VA Hospital’s records state that Job’s real name is Harvey Matusow. But as he tells the phlebotomy nurse, "That’s not my real name. It doesn’t describe who I am. My middle name is Job, and that’s what I go by."

Job is actually a name he gave himself after several publications—including the Baltimore Sun, Boston Magazine, Tucson Citizen and National Enquirer—branded him "The Most Hated Man in America" after he fingered hundreds of Communists for Joseph McCarthy and then recanted his testimony. It is a title he embraces, he says, because "when you’re the most hated man in America, there’s nowhere to go but up."

And, indeed, he has gone up—and sideways, under and through. The McCarthy hearings are not the only piece of American history that Matusow has had a hand in. Indeed, he seems to function as the diamond eye of history’s cyclone—"like Forrest Gump!" he cackles.

If you ask him, he’ll rattle off a list of famous people he has known—and we’re not talking autographs, but relationships of varying degrees: Steve McQueen; Roy Cohen; Yogesh, Mahatma Ghandi’s grandson; Wilhelm Reich; Norman Mailer; and, of course, Billie Holiday, whom he met working the club circuit as a comedian in New York. He witnessed the Hindenburg crash at the age of 11, fought in Europe during World War II, accidentally witnessed the peace treaty being signed in Rheims, then discovered his brother’s dead body on his last day of combat. He single-handedly brought down the Ohio Committee for Un-American Activities; co-founded The East Village Other, International Times, The East-West Journal and The New Age Journal; was a vanguard in the ‘60s counter-culture revolution; operated an underground railroad for prostitutes in New York City; and, with his wife Emily, ran the first free chiropractic clinic for the homeless.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re a history buff, you may recognize the name Harvey Matusow from the Cold War era. Matusow is a self-described hustler, a kid from the Bronx who grew up running numbers and watching Marx Brothers movies, who joined the Communist Party during the late ‘40s. Though Matusow has always been a champion of "the underbelly of society," he’s also a strongly spiritual man, which meant he was only half-suited to Communist life. "I didn’t like it," he says, "because they wouldn’t let me worship my God." So when government officials approached him with an offer to become a paid informant, he said yes.

"You have to understand," he adds, "I was a kid from the streets." And for Job, becoming an informant was a quick ticket to the high life. "Suddenly I find myself," he says, "a high school drop-out, in a large mansion with an upstairs maid, a housekeeper, a cook, a butler/chauffeur, a gardener, a part-time laundress. It was a madness out of my league. I was caught up in the power vortex of America."

Part of Matusow’s job was affirming that people marching in photos of May Day parades were Reds. "And, of course, those people were Communists," he says matter-of-factly. "It wasn’t like it was a secret."

But if half of him rebelled against Communism, eventually the whole of him rebelled against being a double agent, and he reversed his testimony. This earned him five years in Lewisburg Prison for perjury, in a cell next to the one occupied by Orgone theorist Wilhelm Reich. It also earned him a book deal. He is the author of False Witness, an account of his life as a double agent, which was nearly censored during the McCarthy hearings.

Though Matusow made enemies on both sides, in retrospect his actions seem patriotic, even heroic: he pulled the curtain back on McCarthy, revealing him not as the great patriotic Oz, but as the humbug witchhunter. In the process, Harvey Matusow lost his job, his wife, his freedom, and his credibility. As he watched his life collapse around him, he did something that most people wouldn’t do—he refused to turn bitter. He sat down on the bed, looked out the window and decided things couldn’t get any worse. And then he decided to name himself Job, after that much-suffering Old Testament patriarch who refused to curse God.

"It was a very freeing thing," Matusow says. When a friend of his reported that he had "lost all his credibility," Job’s response was, "Does that mean I can be as incredible as I want to be?" His friend said yes; and since that day, Matusow has made good on that potential to be whomever or whatever he wants. "It wasn’t a bad thing," he says. "It was a blessing."

That blessing, however, has meant that Matusow has spent the last half century trying to make up for his part in the Red Scare of the ‘50s. "You can do good things your whole life," he says, "and then do one bad thing, and people never forgive you. They never let you forget it."

After his release from prison, he lived as an expatriate in London and France and resided on both coasts of the United States and everywhere between, finally landing in the quiet Mormon town of Glenwood, Utah. Matusow met his first Mormons in Washington, D.C during the late ‘40s. Duly impressed with their religion and way of life, he converted from Judaism to Mormonism in 1954. During the McCarthy hearings, he says he wanted nothing more than to settle in Utah with a nice Mormon wife, although it would take him almost fifty years to achieve half of that goal. But these days in Glenwood, he is so respected in the community that he’s allowed to wear his yarmulke into the Mormon ward house.

It was the calm haven of Glenwood that allowed him to found Sevier County Access Television, or SCAT-TV, which he still operates under the umbrella of the Ghandi Peace Centre. The Center is so named because the house and the property were a gift to Job from the Ghandi family (Yogesh and Job have done nonviolence work together for several decades). It includes the public access station, an informal animal adoption program, housing for anyone who finds him/herself at loose ends, a program to supply food and clothing to Indian reservations and a prisoner outreach program. This is also where Job makes his "peace bells," which he forges from melted-down munitions shells and bullet casings, with a few aluminum cans mixed in for proper texture.

But the most important component of the Centre is the public access station, whose motto is, "It’s not Hollywood—it’s Glenwood!" SCAT-TV broadcasts a variety of material, including fractal patterns accompanied by nature sounds, and Job’s non-violent children’s variety program, "Magic Mouse Magazine." When Job hosts the show, he becomes "Cockyboo the Clown." He pops out his dentures and dresses in raggedy hobo clothes, including a sprung-out top hat and an oversized clown nose.

"Magic Mouse" is unusual not only because it is non-commercial and non-violent but also because the show’s namesake never appears. This is because Mouse is a euphemism for the Holy Ghost, though that is never stated implicitly. (The program’s intro states that Mouse lives in Angelville, is too small to be seen and is neither a boy nor a girl.) Other programming includes public access shows produced around the country, such as "The Wright Bros." from Maine (modeled on the Marx brothers), "The Rudy Poo Kids" from Iowa City and "Doggie Machine," a bit where Job follows his little dogs around the yard and then sets the footage to music. So far, the show has won two Hometown Video Awards—the Oscar of public access television.

"Mouse" also boasts the only TV guest appearance by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. Before moving to Utah, Job lived in Arizona, and when His Holiness stopped through to give a lecture, Job dressed up as Cockyboo, found his way to the Dalai Lama’s hotel and waited for him outside a men’s room. Though the Dalai Lama didn’t speak a word of English, Job won out with the universal language of a red sponge clown nose.

"He came out of the bathroom," Job says, "turned and looked at me, and doubled over laughing. Then he pointed to his nose, and did this—" Job demonstrates an over-exaggerated nose-honking gesture. "That was what crossed the language barrier." After their encounter outside the bathroom, it wasn’t too hard to convince His Holiness to make a quick stop at Magic Mouse Studios.

Though Matusow has created the first national forum for public access ("Mouse" is shown across the country), his dream is to establish a chain of public-access cable stations across Western America and the Plains. Ideally, this could be achieved by convincing a cable network to pick up "Mouse." If his track record is any indication, he may be surfing the edge of the next big cultural revolution.

"The real story of the West has yet to be told," he says. "All we have is the cheap, dime-store pulp paperback version. The families who settled here, who started communities and churches—it’s time for them to tell their story, and public access will allow them to do that."

Job tells me this as we sit in the cafeteria of the VA Hospital. He is here for his six-month checkup, and we have a lot of running around to do—but not on empty stomachs. A group of pink-clad volunteer nurses smile at us from the next table, and the walls are decorated with children’s drawings of the American Flag. Most of the patients here are WWII vets, and compared to Job, they are much worse for the wear—confined to wheelchairs or dragging oxygen tanks behind them. They are clean-shaven, sport baseball caps or cowboy hats and very thick glasses. Matusow wears overalls and a springy Santa beard. Though he also has spectacles, the prescription looks like it’s the weakest in the room. And his hat is a navy blue gentleman’s cap, the type you see a lot on British sitcoms. The biggest difference, though, is in his face; there is no resignation there. His eyes crackle like sparklers.

"So why does all this stuff happen to you?" I ask him. It’s something I’ve wondered about for a long time. "I believe that it’s mystical," he tells me. "Guidance from the other side." For what purpose? Job doesn’t rightly know himself. He thinks that it might be because he is attuned to things of the spirit. He remembers, he says, the day when he realized his life might be a little out of the ordinary; he was "not yet two," and his teenage aunts were babysitting him at a family picnic in Bear Mountain Park, just outside New York City. When they slacked on their duties, he decided to play a prank on them.

"I teleported myself into a tree," he claims with a straight face, "and I just sat in the tree and laughed while everyone looked for me. When I felt like they’d learned their lesson, I teleported myself back down to the blanket. They looked over and said, ‘He’s here!’" Job uses a squeaky little voice to imitate his aunts. Though I’m scratching my chin while he tells me this, everything else he’s told me has turned out to be true, which makes the story a little unsettling.

"All children have that power," he continues, placing a slice of Swiss cheese on a bagel, "It’s this society, they bang it out of us. I was too young to know any better. But I just never lost that because I refused to have it pounded out of me."

Refusing to give up that belief in the miraculous may have landed him the role of "Fisherman Number Two" in an episode of the TV series Touched by an Angel. Angelic teleporting abilities aside, he certainly has angelic charm and magnetism. At every stop we make throughout the hospital, people open up to him as if he were a long-lost relative. In the waiting room of the Respiratory Unit, a red-haired woman who is waiting for her husband watches us. Then out of nowhere, she says, "Hey, do you guys want to see something really neat?"

After grabbing a Pulmonary Function Physical History worksheet from a nearby table and running over to sit next to us, she flips it over to the blank side and begins to draw an elaborate diagram, a geometry parable of human nature. Some people are pyramids—rigid and focused. Some are squares, also rigid, but not easily tipped. The circles, she says, are flexible but not as focused. "Those are the artists," Job says, satisfied, "the poets, the ones the world really needs."

I can see that he feels a kinship with circles, though the last shape, the egg shape, seems most like him to me. "These egg-shaped people," the woman says, "have the flexibility of a circle, but they have a yolk—that inner drive, that allows them to accomplish whatever they want, and the outside world can’t shake that. They don’t listen to anyone else, just that inner yolk." After she leaves, I remark that I am surprised she didn’t try to sell us anything. "She’s just excited about what she’s learning," Job says kindly. "She wants to share what she knows."

Though I wasn’t expecting to see something to top that, Job’s effect on a pugnacious respiratory technician who appears soon after is even more impressive. He grumps and grouches about Job’s unscheduled appointment, until Job asks, "Where are you from, anyway?" "India," the man snaps. "Well, I guessed that," Job replies, "but what state?" The man softens and is positively magnanimous after Job tells him that he runs a Ghandi Peace Centre in Glenwood and reminds him that they have met before. "Ah, yes! I remember you—Mister Maassow. I will make an exception this time, okay? But only this time."

After he leaves, Job turns to me. "People from India never expect to find a Ghandi Peace Center in Utah," he chuckles. "That always gets ‘em."


It should be obvious by now that Job delights in surprising people, whether he knows them for five minutes or five years. Even after reading stacks of articles, watching "The Stringless Yo-Yo," a documentary about his role in the Red Scare of the ‘50s, after seeing hours of Magic Mouse Magazine and spending a fair amount of time with him, I find that he is still full of surprises, like the fact that he has been a vegetarian for almost seventy years.

"I went to my mother when I was seven," he tells me, "and said, ‘Mama, God told me that if I was going to love Him, I couldn’t eat his animals anymore.’"

He was also an honored guest at the annual meeting of the Jew’s Harp Guild last year. Many consider him the world’s finest Jew’s harp player, and the Guild was delighted to find that Matusow was still alive. "I’d become a kind of folk hero to them," he says.

He has released recordings under the name Harvey Matusow’s Jew’s Harp Band, including the legendary ‘60s album, War Between Fats and Thins. It’s all Jew’s harp, though one track features the vocal talents of Leslie Kenton (daughter of jazz musician Stan Kenton), who moonlights on the album as "Margie Swisscheese"—a play on Zappa’s Susie Creamcheese. The title track, as Job describes it, is about a war between "the skinny skinnies of Park Avenue and the fat fatties from Central Park West, where you find the diabetes delis." Job feels that it was one of the most avant-garde albums of the ‘60s. Although this sounds like a bold claim, the guest book on his Web page features testimonials from music lovers and deejays, including a fellow from Massachusetts who raves that "there is as much delight and good fun to be had in its grooves as any other album of the era one could name..."

Although the guest book is an enlightening and entertaining read, the heart of Job’s site, which was created in tandem with Job’s friend Malcomn Humes, is "The Stringless Yo-Yo: An Autobiographical Experiment" ( It can be described as an interactive work-in-progress, but I like Job’s description best: "In the past 50 years," he writes, "there are few things that have happened culturally in the Western world which I have not been part of, or at least on the cutting edge of. My life is a mirror of those years—and I see this [biography] as an opportunity to share with a younger audience those things that they want to know, not just what I want to tell."

And that’s just it; if those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, then Job is our greatest protection against neo-McCarthyist witchhunts and other irreversible cultural mistakes. He is the one who can bear witness and help us remember where the idealism of the ‘60s really came from, why voluntary vows of poverty and loving thy neighbor are not weak or silly things to do. I guess you could say that he’s something of a living national treasure, although most people don’t know who he is—but they just might, when the public access thing catches fire and goes.


After the dogs ran around and peed and were herded back into the motor home, I nervously watched as Job started it up. It runs like my car—that is, sporadically. He was heading south to visit the office of Prime Times, a senior citizen’s newspaper, to pick up copies. He writes a column for it; but this month he is on the cover, posing with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon during his stopover in Utah. They’re friends, and although most people are leery of "Moonies," Job describes Rev. Moon as "actually very pure of heart." He also had to track down James Brown, a local African-American DJ who features Job on his radio call-in show every morning at 11:00—that’s who Job was staying with for the night. And he still had other errands on the way home. I was relieved when Job sent me an e-mail from Glenwood a few days later:

It’s Midnight Thursday... been home for about an hour... had a marvelous visit with the folks in Spanish Fork who are creating a full-blown city access station. I feel less alone today... the dream of bringing  rural arts to TV is exciting for me—having been BLACKLISTED FOR NEARLY  50 YEARS, finally through public access  the blacklist  ended, and did so on my terms, my terms as the artist... that's how I feel today...

I can tell you that Job is an artist; he is. He is an egg shape in the grand scheme of human geometry; he is an entrepreneur, a clown, a saint, a visionary and the most childlike 75-year-old I know. I can tell you stories about Billie Holiday advising him to read and write letters for the illiterate prisoners as a way to protect himself in Lewisburg. I can tell how he developed grief psoriasis the day his most beloved wife, Emily, was diagnosed with cancer. I can give you the advice of one visitor to his site, who advises those who want to know who Job really is to "file an FOIA request with the FBI and see what you get on him. You won't believe it." I can tell you about his dogs and his bells and his mobile TV studio. I can list his musical releases, his published books, his journalism credits. I can advise you to visit his online biography and see all this for yourself. But there is just no summing up Job Matusow; he’s as elusive as a friendly, whiskered genie who evaporates the second you think you’ve got him figured out.

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