Publisher & Investigative Reporter
Although primarily known as a writer, artist, publisher and investigative reporter Dean Gray considers community activism his occupational description.
Dean MacDonald Gray was born on February 1, 1952 the year of the first rock and roll concert. The occasion has pagan roots of the Celtic holiday of Imbolc with Dean defiantly dancing his way out of the womb as a blue baby. His challenging star chart is a Grand Cross with Aquarius sun and rising and Aries moon. His first home was in Compton. Dean got straight outta Compton at age four when his family moved to Long Beach, California.
Building a Christian foundation growing up in the California Heights neighborhood and attending the Methodist church offered Dean the opportunity at age eleven to serve as acolyte for several years lighting the candles and attentively listening to inspiring Sunday sermons. Later in the 1960s he participated on the edge of the Jesus Movement attending Calvary Chapel where Chuck Smith began preaching in a tent.
Dean now embraces a larger spiritual sensibility that involves art and politics; stylistically rebellious ballroom and tap dancing to hip hop and Salsa music.
Dean M Gray has been published in local newspapers and magazines since 1968 when he first became involved in politics and community. Now online Dean enjoys over 4 million unique readers. Several of his stories also went viral for millions more. Although the initial goal was to help people make better decisions when voting, Dean has written quite a few humorous articles that have been well received.
The art of his political signs has been credited with winning elections.
Computer Geek and Public Relations
In addition to exercising his art and creative design with sculpture, drawing, graphics and painting Dean has performed website development since the Internet first began publishing images in the early 1990s. He joined the first social media and became expert with use.
Dean served as President of Computer Careers, a state licensed vocational training academy that was authorized as a Microsoft and Novel Test Center. Dean holds expert certification for a variety of computer and office applications including ACT contact management, MediSoft physician’s back office program, and database transfer and bulk emailing. Dean holds California vocational certification as a computer trainer.
During his Internet years he served as Marketing Director for UTECH Internet, Best 1 Internet, Fractals Internet Cafe, The Grid Internet [purchased by Earthlink] and ACH Direct, an online transaction processing service provider similar to PayPal.
Work as a public relations consultant and political campaign manager is interspersed with time spent fiddling around as a master carpenter, building and remodeling homes. He initially worked construction for nearly two decades and became a state licensed general contractor. A kitchen he designed and built was featured in the LA Times Sunday supplement.
An appearance last year on the Judge Judy television show was seen by 10 million viewers when Dean Gray won a judgement of false arrest after his stopping someone from drunk driving. The Riverside County district attorney refused to prosecute Dean. The video can be seen on YouTube.
Born into Art and Politics
A feature article in the Long Beach Press Telegram showcased Dean Gray at age 16 as President of Long Beach Young Republicans, representing all five high schools in the city. The group helped elect George Deukmejain to the California state assembly and took a field trip to Sacramento for breakfast with the Lieutenant Governor under Ronald Reagan. Still, art was always his passion.
Dean Gray had always been recognized for his innate drawing ability. At the age of 16 Dean began experimenting with freehand figure drawing and was drawn to wandering around art museums by himself. His sexy line drawings of nude women in lingerie were shocking to his parents who enrolled Dean in a program to draw landscapes and bowls of fruits and vegetables instead. They also encouraged him to pursue community service as a more appropriate focus for his high energy and creative talent.
It was censorship by the official high school newspaper rejecting his writing that caused Dean to retaliate by writing, publishing and distributing his own unique independent newspaper, The Truth, which he printed on the church mimeograph machine. He quickly turned a profit with the second issue thanks to advertising he hustled.
Dean also used his sign painting ability to paint banners and posters promoting his personal agenda advocating elimination of the oppressive school dress code that prohibited the freedom of long hair and mini skirts.
By a landslide victory Dean was elected to the Student Council as Secretary of Fine Arts giving him control of the school’s bulletin boards. Since he marched to the beat of a different drummer – it was the rebellion of rock and roll – he used his position to terrorize the principal, challenge authority, entertain fellow students and take the homecoming queen to the prom.
Then college student and now congressman Dana Rohrabacher was his political mentor within the student activist group the Young Americans for Freedom. (Dean wrote of this in Political Infancy of Riotousness) While in high school Dean ran another mimeograph machine publishing Dana’s writings (Dana was a student at Long Beach State) while both young delegates attended the YAF National Convention in Saint Louis, Missouri representing California’s Libertarian Alliance.
Life in the Wilderness
One week after high school graduation Dean flew to Alaska for work in the wilderness as a surveyor and to follow in the adventurous footsteps of Jack London and Cabot Yerxa.
Soured by Nixon’s Watergate scandal, Dean exited from a conservative political path to focus on an art career by attending three years at the California College of the Arts studying sculpture and graphics.
He was selected as Editor of the school newspaper and elected President of the Art Student’s Union. The truth was that no one else wanted these positions. However, Dean enjoyed the role as student voice on the school’s board of directors deciding how money was spent. Dean also has the unique distinction of being the only student at the art school ever threatened with expulsion. This was due to his having organized a collaborative artistic painting of the school cafeteria without first obtaining permission – furthering his experimentation with the inseparability of politics and art.
Then Dean moved north to create a home on the Russian River in Sonoma County working as a carpenter/contractor and where his writings were published in local publications and where he danced beneath the redwood trees. Along the way he studied metaphysics plus holistic studies of naturopathy and herbalism.
With life along the river Dean became deeply involved in the community as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, planting trees on Arbor Day and writing a federal grant for a non-profit community service organization to employ a Housing Coordinator for packaging government financed low-interest loans, managing the energy assistance program, administering the local food bank and assisting landlords and tenants by maintaining the only listing of local rentals.
Russian River Druid
Dean bought and remodeled a home on the Russian River and joined the Fraternal Order of Druids (Fredrick Sieg Grove #94)
He then took a left turn as a political activist joining the Abalone Alliance opposing the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant. Dean then was living in a tepee on top of a mountain and serving on the board of directors as Treasurer for the local non-profit food coop. Art and politics always seemed to mesh.
When the Monte Rio Food Coop market building suddenly burned to the ground Dean Gray responded to the emergency by attending the National Conference of Cooperatives in Columbus, Ohio before traveling to Washington, D.C. to secure a loan from the National Coop Bank for rebuilding after the disaster using the business plan he wrote and the financial statements he prepared.
Over the years covering hyperlocal news and producing investigative reports became the art of Dean’s unique writing style, mostly focused on local government politics such as city councils and local government agencies. Although Dean built a considerable fan base not everyone was pleased. He didn’t care. It was not a popularity contest. All he wanted was for his work to be read; especially political art and the art of politics.
The Most Dangerous Man in the City
After spending years in Santa Barbara working and raising a family Dean moved to the Palm Springs region in 2001, a space odyssey. The result of Dean’s written work has been valuable in exposing local government corruption and mismanagement as well uncovering illegal activities and exposing city hall secrets, especially concerning Desert Hot Springs, California. Dean spoke to the Riverside County Grand Jury, public agencies and the FBI to share his knowledge.
Both broadcast news on radio and television as well as the daily newspaper followed-up on breaking news first published with his investigative reports. He founded the Desert Star Weekly, an alternative news product similar to the OC Weekly publishing art, music, reviews, profiles and community events. Once more art and politics merged.
For five years from 2008 to 2012 Dean served as Publisher taking the business from nothing to something by covering the entire Coachella Valley in Riverside and the high desert of San Bernardino County. Weekly circulation eventually rose to 20,000 at over 600 locations in eleven cities. The staff eventually numbered over a dozen and many distinguished writers and artists were published. Over a four year period 43 young students and rehabilitated workers who served as interns worked in positions as their first job or new career.
This publication won adjudication from the court as a newspaper of general circulation to publish legal notices and Dean was a member of the California Newspaper Publishers Association and participated with several Chambers of Commerce.
The Desert Star Weekly was strongly committed to reform of city hall corruption. Publication of art, music, reviews and information concerning social issues was equally rewarding. The Weekly was first to publish advertising for legal and licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in the Palm Springs region.
Investigative Reporting became Dean Gray’s specialty. Among other things he is credited with getting a toxic dump cleaned up, keeping LA Department of Water and Power electric powerlines out of the local nature preserve, helping animal rescue, assisting the food bank program, working to prevent teen pregnancy and aiding fathers in jail to continue parenting their children. Some criminals went to jail and elections were won and lost.
It was never easy and was never about the money. Often times it seemed he lived in a war zone. Still, Dean was blessed by being in the right place at the right time to capture humor and relevance amidst aspirations of a minor gonzo status in the style of Hunter S. Thompson. There were few rewards besides writing and publishing a weekly publication but that was satisfying enough.
“Dean’s writing is equally as damaging to our city as the gangs of murderers who roam our streets,” said former city council member Dot Reed who was offended by Dean’s public safety crusade.
This notoriety gave Dean Gray the sobriquet of “The Most Dangerous Man in the City” making him the target of anonymous threats from subjects of his work unhappy with being exposed.
Exposing Con Men, Liars and Cheats
Sure there was that element of schadenfreude.
Karl Baker exposed himself and the story went around the world. However, the Laura Green affair was ignored by the daily newspaper when The Desert Sun chose to hide the facts. Rick Daniels established a place in history for himself. Naming just a few.
An article Dean wrote exposed Christopher Suttles as a convicted domestic terrorist pretending to be deaf and using a fake name while worming his way into local city politics.
Another series examined Pete Chryss who fraudulently represented himself as a security alarm contractor and eventually plead guilty to the crime of doing business as an unlicensed contractor and guilty of falsely misrepresenting his services sold to the city.
The local weekly newspaper published hundreds of Dean’s articles on a variety of topics and he became a frequent guest on radio talk shows and a television news source.
Inevitably there was a backlash of unsubstantiated fabrications and innuendo attempting to discredit Dean’s news reporting. This was done anonymously because they lacked the courage of their convictions.
Although a resident of the city for 14 years he was never “on the inside” of city politics. Even after single handily organizing residents with the Sidewalk Task Force using Americorp to save lives by building curbs and sidewalks on busy city streets he won little respect from those working in government. They were never his fans and built roadblocks instead.
Dean’s investigative reports of police misconduct and city hall corruption left him few friends in those departments.
In 2012 the newspaper business was sold to Sun Newspapers of Garden Grove adding to their portfolio of 20 other local newspapers in Southern California including the Seal Beach Sun and the newspaper serving Catalina.
In 2013 Dean founded and served as Vice President of the Desert Hot Springs Merchants Association.
In January 2015 Dean resigned as a city Planning Commissioner for refusing to go along with civic corruption.
Dean relocated to Belmont Shore, California saying he was grateful to get out alive as the small poor city of Desert Hot Springs had become identified by FBI statistics as one of the most violent crime ridden cities in all of California.
The city council passed legislation creating “The Dean Gray Law” prohibiting use of the city seal without permission of the city council.
Dean Gray’s new series of illegal paintings of the city seal violates that law. Sales and possession are illegal. Prohibition has only increased the value of his art.
Dean served on the Board of Directors for Cabot’s Pueblo Museum and on the Board of Directors for the Coachella Valley Partnership [Americorps]in Palm Desert. Dean was also responsible for creating the Art in Public Places Program for the city of Desert Hot Springs as well as serving as Chairman of the city’s Sidewalk Task Force for public safety.
As a popular MC for the Desert Hot Springs’ 2012 Holiday Christmas Parade he was then chosen to MC the city’s July 5th Event of 2014. [the city got a cheaper fireworks display on the 5th instead of the 4th] and received a certificate of recognition from the city for his volunteer work.
Back in the 1970s Dean served on the Russian River Municipal Advisory Commission representing the Parks and Recreation District and as Treasure of the Russian River Food Coop and Housing Coordinator for the Russian River Switchboard of Community Services.
In the 1980-90s Dean served on the board of directors for the Santa Maria Valley Partnership for the Prevention of Teen Substance Abuse and as North Santa Barbara County representative on the Fatherhood Coalition. He graduated from the pioneer class of Leadership Santa Maria Valley sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Additionally Dean served as chairman of the Santa Maria Valley Y2K Preparedness Committee and Santa Barbara County Coordinator for the first Net Day wiring elementary schools to the Internet.
Dean is also a card carrying researcher at the National Archives.
Dean has lived in Compton, Long Beach, Anchorage, Phoenix, Tuscon, Chicago, Nashville, Sonoma County, Mt. Shasta, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Santa Maria, North Hollywood, Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs. For a short while Dean lived in Exotic World (the museum of Burlesque) located in Hell-N-Dale on the same property that lived Tempest Storm and Dixie Evans.
Dean now lives both in Palm Desert [publishing Desert Vortex News] and Belmont Shore, California [publishing Beach City News] plus managing a portfolio of 14 additional websites and various print products while balancing campaign management projects and leisurely figure drawing.
Dean Gray’s outdoor adventure walk is chronicled DesertWaterWalk.com and is scheduled to be repeated February 1, 2016. Contact Dean to schedule public speaking engagements of a PowerPoint Presentation accompanying his 40 minute presentation of Hilda M Gray, the pioneer homesteader who originated the city of Desert Hot Springs in 1908 and who is the subject matter of his historical biography.
Much thanks to…
plus the four jacks… Jack London, Jack Kerouac, Jack Nickolson,
Jack and the Beanstalk, Hilda M. Gray, Saul Alinsky, Manly P. Hall,
Uncle Bob, Frank Zappa, Dion Fortune, Mom, Hugh Wiley,
Pete Spagnolo, Marcel Duchamp, Mike Teplanski,
John “Castro” Fritz, Ben Franklin, Mae West, Sun Tzu,
William Wallace, Charlie Bettis, Samuel Clemens, Jeff Beck,
Siddhārtha Gautama, Joan of Arc, Thomas Edison,
Thomas Paine, Pamela Berry and Dalton Trumbo
plus The Brotherhood of Eternal Love
for all their inspiration
click below for additional social media connections
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business. Now online with over 4 million readers worldwide.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader. He served as Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs from January 2014 to January 2015 when he resigned.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Belmont Shore, California.
Latest posts by Dean M Gray (see all)
- 10 Things You Didn’t Know about Tom Edison’s Newspaper and PR Biz at Age 14 - 10/11/2015
- Letter of Resignation from Planning Commission for Desert Hot Springs - 01/25/2015
- OUR SOLACE PROTECTED - 04/02/2014