From RFK Volunteer to Punk Rock Drummer

Posted July 2, 2004 at 5:26pm

A lot has been made about his stint as the drummer of a controversial punk rock band, The Rotters, but Democratic Congressional hopeful Kimon Kotos can boast of upholding “family values” with his music as well.

[IMGCAP(1)]The first gig for Kotos, who hopes to topple six-term Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R) in Michigan’s 2nd district, was as a drummer for the Hawaii-based Allright Family Band in the 1970s, long before he joined The Rotters in 1991, which was well past their heyday.

“We played rock, some country and western and jazz too,” Kotos said of his years — 1976-1979 — with the Family Band.

Kotos said the fuss about his time with The Rotters really is much ado about nothing.

True, the band produced a single called “Sit on My Face Stevie Nicks” which, according to the band’s Web site, prompted Fleetwood Mac founder Mick Fleetwood to threaten suit and bully radio stations into boycotting the single. But that was long before, and several Rotters incarnations previous to, the time when the drummer, now 51, got on board.

He left the Rotters in 2000 after playing some shows with them and working on a never-released 1998 album called “Hillbilly Boy.”

“I joined The Rotters after their controversial stuff was released,” said Kotos, the youngest of three sons born to Greek immigrants.

“I didn’t write any songs,” he added, acknowledging that many of the lyrics are risqué.

The Stevie Nicks song, for example, expounds on the theme of its title.

Not surprisingly, Democratic leaders told Kotos to play down his musical background in the race, surmising that the almost-30-year-old lyrics that he did not pen when he was not in the band could hurt him.

“When I look back now I almost have to laugh about it,” he told the Muskegon Chronicle. “This was a fun rock band doing parody. There was a high level of satire going on.”

Kotos’ involvement with the Rotters

first became an issue in the campaign when the Chronicle reported that the band’s Web site featured a picture of an apparently dead Kotos, who was posed to appear as if he had been shot to death on the White House lawn.

The photo was a joke, Kotos felt compelled to explain, and the picture is no longer on the band’s home page. He said he was not even aware of its existence until the paper asked him about it.

Colorful anecdotes aside, Kotos wants reporters and voters to focus on the serious aspects of his bid for Congress and what he calls Hoekstra’s lackluster record.

“No one appeared to want to take on Hoekstra,” Kotos said, explaining why he decided to run. “He was going to get a pass. I thought I could unify people and had the right ideas.”

Kotos thinks that he can win by tying Hoekstra to President Bush, focusing on his reneging on a pledge to not accept political action committee money or serve more than 12 years and mentioning that Hoekstra’s leadership PAC is under scrutiny by the Federal Election Commission.

However, Bush won the 2nd district with 59 percent of the vote in 2000, and Hoekstra appears to have struggled to win a leadership position in the House, at least in part, because of his refusal to always toe the party line.

Hoekstra also emigrated to Western Michigan, home of the city of Holland and the Tulip Festival and the largest concentration of Dutch-Americans in the United States, from the Netherlands when he was 3 years old.

The area is politically conservative, and a popular saying in Western Michigan goes “if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.”

Kotos is active in his Greek Orthodox church in Norton Shores, but Western Michigan is better known for Dutch Reform Christians than Greek Orthodox Christians.

Hoekstra graduated from Hope College, a Christian Reformed school, while Kotos did not finish his degree at the Music and Arts Institute in San Francisco.

Hoekstra has lived most of his life in Western Michigan, while Kotos only began calling North Muskegon home in 2002.

Kotos has lived mainly in California, and his time in Michigan was interrupted by a move to Cleveland last year for a stint with the presidential campaign of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

The campaign faltered, and Kotos returned to Western Michigan with a renewed interest in politics.

Kotos, who has been an alfalfa sprouts grower, a bicycle courier, a chef, a cab driver and most steadily a house painter, moved to Washington, D.C., in 2001 looking for work on Capitol Hill.

He grew discouraged after too many potential employers told him he was too old to be hired for entry-level political work and moved to Muskegon to run a Democratic state Senate campaign.

That unsuccessful job was not his first foray into politics either.

Kotos worked on a local campaign for now-Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) when he was a kid in Flint. He also volunteered for Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign and says he was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Kennedy.

He also served as chairman of the San Fernando Valley Democratic Party.

“I plan to build a broad-based organization,” Kotos said.

He will reach out to senior citizens, young people, teachers, union leaders and minorities, he said, and will focus on working-class issues such as jobs — Western Michigan has seen its high-paying manufacturing jobs flee south and abroad over the decades — and health care.

“I will attack Hoekstra’s record, not him,” he pledged.

Kotos knows he has beyond an uphill battle on his hands.

Hoekstra had $165,000 in the bank as of the last FEC filing, while Kotos has yet to report any contributions and is reluctant to say how much he has in his campaign kitty.

“Money is going to be tight in Michigan,” he acknowledged. “The state party is focusing on state races,” and the Great Lakes State’s status as a presidential battleground means most of the Democratic money in-state will be sucked up by the party’s presumptive nominee, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.).

Kotos promises to run a grassroots campaign, but Hoekstra is no stranger to that approach.

In 1992 he knocked off then-National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Guy Vander Jagt — a 26-year incumbent — in the GOP primary by riding his bicycle across the district while on vacation from his corporate job with a furniture manufacturer and spending only $55,600.