Alumni in Profile / David Talbot: Innovative energy found at UCSC led to

David Talbot (photo by Jay Blakesberg)

The web magazine, the bestseller Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, and an upcoming graphic history book all have one thing in common besides their creator, journalist David Talbot.

They each have their roots in Talbot's alma mater, UC Santa Cruz.

Talbot (Stevenson '73, sociology) came to the wooded campus in 1969 because it was the only college that would have him. His protests over the ROTC program at the exclusive Harvard Boys School in Los Angeles had so angered the principal, the administrator wrote to every college to which Talbot had applied to advise them Talbot was a "discipline problem" and should not be admitted, Talbot said. Talbot wrote his own letters to the schools; UCSC was the one college that accepted him.

It turned out to be the best revenge for Talbot, who said he fell under the spell of a half-dozen "white-hot and brilliant" professors at UCSC.

"They opened my eyes and got me to think," Talbot said. They changed his life.

Living in a rambling Chestnut Street Victorian, Talbot became part of a loose collective of students and professors who set out to create a new world. They started a food cooperative and a women's health clinic.

"It was the spirit of: If it doesn't exist and needs to exist, we should create it," said Talbot, who used that same innovative energy to leave the safety of a newspaper job in the mid-1990s and start what was then a grand experiment, the web magazine

Exhausted after 10 years of web life, Talbot retired to write a book sparked by a term paper he had done in college. Brothers, his 2007 examination of the Kennedy presidency and assassination, became a bestseller. It is now being made into a TV miniseries as part of Talbot's latest undertaking: an independent media production company he formed with his siblings.

"That spirit of jumping into the void and being terrified and exhilarated-all that was familiar to me from my years in college," Talbot said. "It really shaped my sense of self," a self that embraces risk as a necessary part of innovation.

Next up for the San Francisco resident is an illustrated "pulp history" of general-turned-peace-activist Smedley Darlington Butler. Devil Dog: The Amazing True Story of the Man Who Saved America will be released by Simon & Schuster this year and has been optioned by director Oliver Stone.

And the first place Talbot heard about the little-known hero?

In a study group at UC Santa Cruz.