Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Objective Burma, The Movie

One of the great WW 2 movies. One of my favorites Errol Flynn, along with the lower east side's George Tobias and James Brown, aka Lt. Ripley 'Rip' Masters of Rin Tin Tin fame. This is towards the end. "Oh by the way, my name ain't Joe."
Objective Burma
Released in 1945, it starred Errol Flynn. It was nominated for 3 Oscars - Best Film Editing, Best Music and Best writing. The film was not shown in Britain because of protest that the Burma Campaign was mostly British and Australian(which was true)and the movie depicts the Americans as the heroes.

This is a pretty good movie. Veterans of Burma say it looks like they went to Burma to film it when it was really filmed in California. It is about a commando raid to blow up a Japanese radar station. They miss their pickup to get out and have to walk for miles through Japanese held territory for rescue. The movie has always given me the feeling of what it must have been like fighting in that hot jungle environment.

Objective Burma 2

Someone filmed a WW2 vet talking about his experiences of "Flying The Hump" in Burma
and posted it on youtube (God Bless youtube). Max Weintraub was a radio man on one of the planes that flew over the hump

Objective Burma

Yesterday I had the pleasure of having lunch with the dynamic duo of Max Weintraub and Miguel Figueroa. I used the occasion to do a little interview with Max about his World War II experiences. Max is an incredible guy, one of the most vibrant and giving people I know and by coincidence he went to school with my father at Seward Park High. Here's a post from December 2005 with some background on Max. Max's WW2 experiences were quite interesting. He served In the Burma "Theater."
While I take time to edit the interview here's a transcript of an oral history I found of Louis Jimenez on the hbo site constructed for Band Of Brothers:

Louis Jimenez
San Antonio, TX United States
124th Cavalry/Medical Unit/T4
United States Army

I volunteered for the draft on November 21st, 1940, a few months after President Roosevelt ordered registration for military service of all male citizens eighteen years old or older. We were the first volunteers to leave San Antonio, Texas pursuant to the President's order. I was assigned to the medical detachment, veterinary section at Fort Brown, an old cavalry post on the Mexican border in Brownsville, Texas. I had volunteered for one year, but due to an error on my discharge certificate I was not discharged on November 21st, 1941. Along came December 7th and the attack on Pearl Harbor and I didn't see that beautiful discharge certificate until FOUR years later. And here I was engaged to be married after my year of service.

For the next 2 years, other than Fort Brown, Brown, I was stationed in Fort Ringold, Rio Grande City and Fort D.A. Russell in Marfa, Texas where we made sixty mile one day horse rides to Presidio, Texas on the Rio Grande. All this time the 124th Cavalry was in manuevers, practicing and studying Cavalry tactics.

In May 1944 we and the horses were sent to Fort Riley Kansas where the horses were to remain, while we were sent to Camp Anza, California.

On July 25th we left the USA from San Pedro, California aboard the USS General Butner. Crossed the International Date Line on August 3rd, 1944. Arrived in Bombay, India on August 26th via Melbourne, Australia after crossing the equator twice. Looking at the Indian coast before arriving, there is something silent and mysterious about the Far East. Left Bombay the same day by train going east across India. The very small boxcars could barely handle twelve GIs and their equipment despite the fact there was a sign above the door of each car that read "Capacity 42".

On September 1st we arrived at Ramgartown, Province of Bihar, India, 281 miles north of Calcutta. This is the place where the Merrill Marauders jungle-trained before their encounter with the Japanese. And this is the place where the 124th Cavalry became the 124th Cavalry Special. "Special" because there were no horses, and all those years of cavalry training and mounted tactics are to be erased from your mind. "You are now jungle fighters. In a month from now you will be experts in the jungle. You will challenge the craftiest jungle fighters in the world, the Japanese. But you will be ready. Remember this is not practice, this is the real McCoy."

On September 26th left Ramgartown by train headed northeast, crossed the Brahamaputra River on a ferry. There had been a flood up river, there were human bodies floating down stream. Boarded a train going east and arrived the following day at an airport near Ledo, India. On November 1st we boarded C-47 (Rice Plane) flew over the battleground of the Burma retreat of General Stillwell and landed in Myitkina, Burma. The town had been bombed considerably, few buildings are standing. We were warned that the enemy was close.

On December 18th, 1944 after more jungle training, we left on what was going to be a 350-mile foot hike south, through the Burma hills. Other than a full pack on our backs, each of us was pulling a loaded pack mule with medical supplies, temporary ammunition and chests of other emergency supplies needed on such an unforeseeable journey. Food and ammunition were air dropped about every three days. There were times, at least once, that the supply plane, due to wind and rain, missed the target and we had to go without food for three days. Also prior to that, to be more accurate, the supply planes had flown at lower altitude, but some of the kickers on the plane had been wounded by ground fire by Japanese soldiers, so they had to fly at a higher altitude. Later we found dead Japanese soldiers with new GI combat boots and other American items. Enemy contact was constant.

On December 25th - Merry Christmas - we washed our clothes. of the 124th Cavalry, the 275th Infantry known as the "Mars Task Force" with the help of the 30th and 38th Chinese Divisions was to take control of the Burma Road. The road was thick with Japanese vehicles and the Japanese artillery was heavy, firing constantly. Casualties were light but constant. By then I was converted from a veterinary technician to a human first aid medic.

On February 2nd, a Japanese observation post on a hill had to be taken. Lt. Jack Knight, from Weatherford, Texas, Commander of F Troop of the second squadron of which I was attached, was leading the attack. while going up the steep hill, with fire coming out of several

On January 31st, 1945 arrived at Nam Packa, Burma confronted the enemy and saw the Burma Road for the first time.

The Burma Road was important because it was the only land link between China and Burma-India. The other link was by air by flying over the "Hump". The Japanese were in control of the "Road". The mission pill boxes on top of the hill, Lt. Knight was wounded several times but kept on going, throwing hand grenades into pill boxes. After disabling several boxes he was fatally shot. His First Sergeant, his brother, Curtis, was seriously wounded. Casualties were heavy. I noticed that among the most seriously wounded or dying soldiers, the word "Mother", "Mama" or among Hispanics "Ama" was murmured more than any other names.

Due to the actions of Lt. Knight, his brothers and the troopers, the hill was taken, but what a heavy price. Vice Admiral Louis Mountbatten, being at the time Viceroy of India, promised to name the hill "Knights Hill" in honor of our Commander. Lt. Knight was later awarded, posthumously, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only one awarded in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. Other battles by the Marsmen that helped end the Central Burma campaign were in Tomkwa and at Hosi Valley. The British coming from the south had taken care of southern Burma - Rangoon and Mandalay. The Burma Road was opened to the Allies.

On March 11th, 1945 we resumed our long walk south to Lashio and arrived on the 15th. On the 7th of April left Lashio, headed north on trucks, arrived in Myitkyina of the 17th. Rumor had it that I and some other troppers from the 124th Cavalry and mule skinners from a Quartermaster pack outfit are to drive or herd all the mules used in the campaign, to Kunming China, a distance of over 800 miles of steep climbs at the foothills of the Himalayas.

On May 28th, 1945 converted back to a veterinary technician. I mounted a scrawny mule, with nine other mounted muleskinners, and our leader, Lt. Johnson. The Lieutenant would ride a beautiful mare with a bell on its neck, leading the pack, and the mules would follow. The rest of us would ride on the sides and rear. It wasn't that easy, mules are stubborn, especially your riding mule. We were trailblazers, the first bunch to take off from Myitkyina. Thereafter, to avoid congestion on the road, fifty mules The rest of us would ride on the sides and rear. It wasn't that easy, mules are stubborn, especially your riding mule. We were trailblazers, the first bunch to take off from Myitkyina. Thereafter, to avoid congestion on the road, fifty mules and ten men would leave Myitkyina every two or three days until the approximate 700 mules are on the road.

We were to ride southeast on the Ledo road, also known as the "Stillwell Road" named after General "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell, which connects with the Burma Road beyond the Burma-China border.

On June 12th arrived at Lung Ling, China on the Burma Road. This is the trail Marco Polo traveled some 700 years before. The trail was steep and the rock paving was as slick as ice and the monsoon rains did not help.

On June 17th we arrived at the Salween River. The Salween Valley was so hot and humid that it made breathing difficult. With all of that, it helped understand the description Marco Polo gave of the valley in 1272 when he said "During the summer season the atmosphere is so gloomy and unwholesome that merchants and other strangers are obliged to leave the district in order to escape death".

On July 6th we arrived at Hsia Kwan and this is what Marco Polo had to say about this place. "Before the time of becoming subject to the dominion of the great Kahn, Kublai Khan, these people were addicted to the following custom: When a stranger of superior quality, who united personal beauty with distinguished valor, happened to take up his abode at the house of one of them, he was surrendered during the night, not for the sake of his money, but in order that the spirit of the deceased endowed with his talents and intelligence, might remain with the family and all their concerns might prosper. Accordingly that native was accounted fortunate, who possessed in this manner the soul fo any noble personage, and many strangers lost their lives in consequence."

Arrived at Tshou Hsiung on July 13th and left the same day. Marco Polo said about this place "In this country there are salt springs, from which all the salt used by the inhabitants is procured."

On July 15th we arrived at Tsu Yung. For some unknown reason, they held us there longer than any other place. We thought perhaps the Chinese were not ready for the mules.

On August 6th, the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and three days later another one was dropped on Nagasaki. It seemed like the War was coming to an end. All of a sudden we were brought back to life from an unending hopelessness. I thought about my parents heir prayers and mine are about to be answered. I had not received a letter from them or from anybody in nine months. I heard that I had a duffel bag full of mail following me but it never caught up with me.

On September 2nd, when General MacArthur and other allied leaders were accepting the Japanese surrender we were ordered to destroy the mules. At times we were impatient with them and cussed them for being stubborn or slow but when we heard that we had to kill them, there was a wave of pity and genuine love for them. During the Burma campaigns they used to shake and tremble with gunfire and artillery fire as we did. They carried hundreds of pounds on their backs for hundreds of miles, climbing and descending steep hills during the rainy season and this will be their reward? To top it off, I was chosen to be one of the executioners. I am and have been against the death penalty for all creatures. This is cruel. After a talk of how they would starve in China if left alive, it made the choice a little easier.

In that part of China there are deep gullies on the ground. We took the mules to the edge of the gully one by one, shot them and rolled them over the edge. When there were enough down there, we moved further down. When through, the banks were blown in.

Left this dreadful place on September 13th on trucks and arrived at Yu Nan Fu, better known as Kunming, China.

Left Kunming, China on September 18th, headed for Calcutta, India. While over Burma one of the engines caught fire and an emergency landing was made in Bhamo. Took a C-54 and landed in Calcutta on September 19th. Left Kamchapara (Calcutta) on October 4th and started to board the USS General Hodges. On the 5th at 15:00 still loading troops including general prisoners. On the 7th we finally left the dock and were in deep water at 21:00. The Bay of Bengal is very calm. Sighted the Island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Passing within sight of Minikoi Island 16:30 October 11th, a leper colony, and on the 14th entered the Gulf of Eden and saw Cape Guardafui on the north-eastern corner of Africa. On the 15th entered the Red Sea and on the 18th entered the Suez Canal which was opened in 1869. On the 19th arrived at Port Said and entered the Mediterranean Sea at 7:00. On October 22nd at 2:00 passed through the Malta Channel between Malta and Sicily. Saw Pantellaria (10:00), Cape Bon (14:00) and Bizerte (17:00). On October 23rd sighted Algiers and passed through the Strait of Gibralter on the 24th at 11:00. Saw the lights of Cape San Vicente Portugal, the last sight of Europe at 21:00.

On October 30th we are in a storm in the Atlantic. The Hodges is thrown 12 miles off course, speed 12.7 knots.

On November 1st, 1945 at 17:29 I saw the blurred outline of the Statue of Liberty. It was blurred by the tears in my eyes.

During my darkest days in the Burma jungle, and there were many, I had some serious doubts that I would see this beautiful scene. I must confess that at times my Catholic faith faltered, when expecting the worse, but when those moments passed, it came back stronger. I felt better with a medical kit to save lives than with a powerful weapon to destroy them.

After leaving California, spending 31 days in the ocean to reach Bombay, and again 26 days from Calcutta to New York completing the trip around the world and be met by the symbol of liberty, the emotion was overwhelming.

I was discharged November 10th, 1945 at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Texas. I emotionally kissed and embraced my loved ones who had been praying for me.

I had served five years less eleven days.

Awards: 1 Bronze Star Medal, Combat Medal Badge, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign with 2 Bronze Stars, 2 Overseas Service Bars, 1 Service Stripe, American Defense Service Medal, Americn Theater Campaign Medal and a Good Conduct Medal

The Charge Of The Light Brigade, Literacy Connection

The Tennyson poem and the historical context
The Charge of the Light Brigade
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

Charge of the Light Brigade,
Date 25 October 1854
118 men killed, 127 wounded
The Charge of the Light Brigade was a disastrous cavalry charge led by Lord Cardigan during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. It is best remembered as the subject of a famous poem entitled The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose lines have made the charge a symbol of warfare at both its most courageous and its most tragic.

The charge was made by the Light Brigade of the British cavalry, consisting of the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, and the 8th and 11th Hussars, under the command of Major General the Earl of Cardigan. Together with the Heavy Brigade comprising the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, the 5th Dragoon Guards, the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and the Scots Greys, commanded by Major General James Yorke Scarlett, himself a past Commanding Officer of the 5th Dragoon Guards, these units were the main British cavalry force at the battle. Overall command of the cavalry resided with the Earl of Lucan.

Lucan received an immediate order from the army commander Lord Raglan stating that "Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Horse artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate." The order was drafted by Brigadier Airey and was carried by Captain Louis Edward Nolan, who may have carried further oral instructions, but as he was killed during the charge this remains conjecture.

In response to the order, Cardigan led 673 (some sources state 661) cavalry men straight into the valley between the Fedyukhin Heights and the Causeway Heights, famously dubbed the "Valley of Death" by the poet Tennyson. The opposing Russian forces were commanded by Pavel Liprandi and included approximately 20 battalions of infantry supported by over fifty artillery pieces. These forces were deployed on both sides and at the opposite end of the valley.

It appears that the order was understood by Cardigan to refer to the mass of Russian guns in a redoubt at the end of the valley, around a mile away, when Raglan had in fact been referring to a set of redoubts on the reverse slope of the hill forming the left side of the valley (from the point of view of the cavalry). Although these latter redoubts were clearly visible from Raglan's vantage point, they were hidden from the view of the Light Brigade on the floor of the valley.

The Brigade set off down the valley. Nolan was seen to rush across the front, possibly in an attempt to stop them, but was killed by an artillery shell.

The Light Brigade was able to engage the Russian forces at the end of the valley and force them back from the redoubt, but suffered heavy casualties and was soon forced to retire. Lucan failed to provide any support for Cardigan, and it is speculated that he was motivated by enmity for his brother-in-law. The troops of the Heavy Brigade entered the mouth of the valley but did not advance further. The French cavalry, the Chasseurs d'Afrique, were more effective in that they broke the Russian line on the Fedyukhin Heights and later provided cover for the remaining elements of the Light Brigade as they withdrew.

Cardigan survived the battle and subsequently described the engagement in a speech delivered at the Mansion House in London, which was quoted in length in the House of Commons afterwards:

"We advanced down a gradual descent of more than three-quarters of a mile, with the batteries vomiting forth upon us shells and shot, round and grape, with one battery on our right flank and another on the left, and all the intermediate ground covered with the Russian riflemen; so that when we came to within a distance of fifty yards from the mouths of the artillery which had been hurling destruction upon us, we were, in fact, surrounded and encircled by a blaze of fire, in addition to the fire of the riflemen upon our flanks.

As we ascended the hill, the oblique fire of the artillery poured upon our rear, so that we had thus a strong fire upon our front, our flank, and our rear. We entered the battery - we went through the battery - the two leading regiments cutting down a great number of the Russian gunners in their onset. In the two regiments which I had the honour to lead, every officer, with one exception, was either killed or wounded, or had his horse shot under him or injured. Those regiments proceeded, followed by the second line, consisting of two more regiments of cavalry, which continued to perform the duty of cutting down the Russian gunners.

Then came the third line, formed of another regiment, which endeavoured to complete the duty assigned to our brigade. I believe that this was achieved with great success, and the result was that this body, composed of only about 670 men, succeeded in passing through the mass of Russian cavalry of - as we have since learned - 5,240 strong; and having broken through that mass, they went, according to our technical military expression, "threes about," and retired in the same manner, doing as much execution in their course as they possibly could upon the enemy's cavalry. Upon our returning up the hill which we had descended in the attack, we had to run the same gauntlet and to incur the same risk from the flank fire of the Tirailleurs [riflemen] as we had encountered before. Numbers of our men were shot down - men and horses were killed, and many of the soldiers who had lost their horses were also shot down while endeavouring to escape.

But what, my Lord, was the feeling and what the bearing of those brave men who returned to the position. Of each of these regiments there returned but a small detachment, two-thirds of the men engaged having been destroyed? I think that every man who was engaged in that disastrous affair at Balaklava, and who was fortunate enough to come out of it alive, must feel that it was only by a merciful decree of Almighty Providence that he escaped from the greatest apparent certainty of death which could possibly be conceived."

The brigade was not completely destroyed, but did suffer terribly, with 118 men killed, 127 wounded. After regrouping, only 195 men were still with horses. The futility of the action and its reckless bravery prompted the French Marshal Pierre Bosquet to state "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." ("It's magnificent, but it isn't war.") Rarely quoted, but he continued: "C'est de la folie"- "it's madness." (ref. see below at 4) The Russian commanders are said to have initially believed that the British soldiers must have been drunk. The reputation of the British cavalry was significantly enhanced as a result of the charge, though the same cannot be said for their commanders.

Slow communications meant that news of the disaster did not reach the British public until three weeks after the action. The British commanders' dispatches from the front were published in an extraordinary edition of the London Gazette of 12 November 1854. Raglan blamed Lucan for the charge, claiming that "from some misconception of the order to advance, the Lieutenant-General (Lucan) considered that he was bound to attack at all hazards, and he accordingly ordered Major-General the Earl of Cardigan to move forward with the Light Brigade."

In March 1855, Lucan was recalled to England. The Charge of the Light Brigade became a subject of considerable controversy and public dispute on his return. He strongly rejected Raglan's version of events, calling it "an imputation reflecting seriously on my professional character". In an exchange of public correspondence printed in the pages of The Times of London, Lucan blamed Raglan and his deceased aide-de-camp Captain Nolan, who had been the actual deliverer of the disputed order. Lucan subsequently defended himself with a speech in the House of Lords on 19 March.

Lucan evidently escaped blame for the charge, as he was made a member of the Order of the Bath in July of that same year. Although he never again saw active duty he reached the rank of General in 1865 and was made a Field Marshal in the year before his death.

The charge of the Light Brigade continues to be studied by modern military historians and students as an example of what can go wrong when accurate military intelligence is lacking and orders are unclear. Sir Winston Churchill, who was a keen military historian and a former cavalryman, insisted on taking time out during the Yalta Conference in 1945 to see the battlefield for himself.

The fate of the surviving members of the Charge was investigated by Edward James Boys, a military historian, who documented their lives from leaving the army to their deaths. His records are described as being the most definitive project of its kind ever undertaken.

In 2004, on the 150th anniversary of the Charge, a commemoration of the event was held at Balaklava. As part of the anniversary, a monument dedicated to the 25,000 British victims of the conflict has been unveiled by the HRH Prince Michael of Kent.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade

The subtitle of this should be, "White Guys Who Can't Date"
When I was in my late teens and early 20's, my socially backward pals and I would go to the Bleecker Cinema to watch revival films like this (lots of Marx Brothers too) instead of trying to pick up women. Ultimately with most of us, we let assertive women pick us up. Some of the group got to know the films so well, even in a video tapeless age we (me especially) could recite some of the key dialogue along with Errol. "Men of the 27th Lancers, the Surat Khan is in the field, the same Surat Khan who massacred the men and women at Chukoti..."

In 1854, Major Geoffrey Vickers (Errol Flynn) and his brother, Captain Perry Vickers (Patric Knowles), are stationed at the fictional city of Chukoti in India, with the 27th Lancers of the British Army during the British Raj. Both love the same woman, Elsa (Olivia de Havilland).

The regiment is betrayed by a treacherous local tributary rajah, Surat Khan (C. Henry Gordon), who massacres the inhabitants of Chukoti (mainly the dependents of the lancers), and allies with the Russians, whom the British are fighting in the Crimean War.

The love triangle and the quest for vengeance are both resolved at the Battle of Balaklava. Aware that Surat Khan is visiting the Russian positions opposite the 27th Lancers, Geoffrey Vickers secretly replaces the written orders of Sir Charles Macefield (Henry Stephenson) to the commander of the Light Brigade, Sir Benjamin Warrenton (Nigel Bruce). Vickers orders the famous suicidal attack. He writes a note to Macefield, explaining his actions, and orders his brother to deliver it, sparing him from almost certain death.

White Guys Can't Dance

As predicted, what a jerk! And this is what the face of Red Sox Nation looks like? Can you imagine Jeter and Posada and Rivera doing this?

from the Boston press, I agree except I like Denis Leary:

From the relentless glitz of Times Square to the lonely grit of Yankee Stadium, drivers leaned on their horns, pedestrians tossed the occasional elbow, and a man passing out pamphlets in the Garment District for a men's clothing store sale withdrew the sheet of paper when he saw what the reporter was wearing. The venom cut across race, gender, and socioeconomic lines.

Two burly men yesterday, in the middle of loading a truck with police barricades along Seventh Avenue in Chelsea, pointed fingers and began an impromptu chant with a familiar ring.

"Boston sucks! Boston sucks!"

"You got a long way to go before you can talk dynasty," said Salvatore Leo, a 49-year-old from Staten Island who wore all denim and spoke near Times Square with a toothpick hanging out the corner of his mouth. "You won two World Series in four years. We won four in 10. Come on!"

Revealing a bit of Sox envy, however, he then offered to trade Yankees general manager Brian Cashman for his Red Sox counterpart, Theo Epstein.

"Nothing good ever came from Boston - Denis Leary, Michael Bloomberg," said a grizzled lieutenant in the New York Fire Department, who declined to give his name after grabbing lunch in Chelsea. "When I think of Boston, I think of Bill Buckner. I don't like Boston. At all."

When reminded that the Sox just won the World Series, he said, "You guys are so pompous."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

American Gangster: "Ain't No Love, In The Heart Of The City

Last September I took some pictures of American Gangster being shot on Malcolm Blvd
and 120th Street. All of a sudden hits on this blog went sky high. I couldn't figure it out until I traced it back to all of the Russell Crowe fan sites who found them and they spread the word. With a world obsessed with that kind of hooey, no wonder "there is no love in the heart of the city." This year I took the previous silent slide show and added the Jayz song (the relatively cleaner part) and bulked it with some trailer video to match the added audio)

Then Richard Pryor go and burn up, and Ike and Tina Turner break up
Then I wake up to more bullshit
You knew me before records, you never disrespected me
Now that I'm successful you'll pull this shit
Nigga I'll step on your porch, step to your boss
Let's end the speculation, I'm talkin to alla y'all
Males shouldn't be jealous that's a female trait
Whatchu mad cause you push dimes and he sell weight?
Y'all don't know my expenses, I gotta buy a bigger place
Hehehe, and more baggies, why you all aggie?
Nigga respect the game, that should be it
What you eat don't make me shit - where's the love?

Where's the love?

"Ain't no love, in the heart of the city.."
"Ain't no love, in the heart of town.."
"Ain't no love, in the heart of the city.."
"Ain't no love, in the heart of town.."
"Ain't no love, in the heart of the city.."
"Ain't no love, in the heart of town.."

"Ain't no love.."

Ain't That A Kick In The Head?

This is a repost from exactly a year ago, the youtube version of the accompanying video was removed.
"Two weeks ago after a visit to Goomba Gura at Fordham I took myself to Arthur Avenue. Would you believe it I've never been there? After a slice of Sicilian and some disappointing prosciutto bread I started back to Brooklyn. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a beautiful old castle like school. It looked just like my old elementary school alma mater, PS 177, the Roger Bacon School. I drive by to take some photos and go inside to take a look. Holy Cow! (homage to the Scooter), but I meet Gin Gee Moy at the security desk. She's a retired principal, now a consultant. She had been a teacher and later the principal at PS 2 on the LES, the school that replaced PS 177 in 1959. I felt I was in a time warp. What a beautiful building, beautifully maintained. What a crime to have torn down many of the famed school architect's (C.B.J. Snyder) great works. The replacement buildings don't hold a candle and they are like ovens in the summer.
The movie has my documentation with some Arthur Ave photos. The last picture is of the corner of 187th and Crescent taken in 1910. It was in the window of the existing hardware store on the very same site.

The lyrics-I was lucky too once when I got kissed by Nancy Bueller in those PS 177 days. Too bad I didn't marry her

How lucky can one guy be? I kissed her and she kissed me
Like the fella once said, "Ain't that a kick in the head?"
The room was completely black, I hugged her and she hugged back
Like the sailor said, quote, "Ain't that a hole in the boat?"
My head keeps spinnin', I go to sleep and keep grinnin'
If this is just the beginnin', my life is gonna be bee-yoo-tee-ful
I've sunshine enough to spread, it's just like the fella said
Tell me quick, ain't love a kick in the head?
Like the fella once said, "Ain't that a kick in the head?"
Like the sailor said, quote, "Ain't that a hole in the boat?"
My head keeps spinnin', I go to sleep and keep grinnin'
If this is just the beginnin', my life is gonna be bee-yoo-tee-ful
She's tellin' me we'll be wed, she's picked out a king-size bed
I couldn't feel any better or I'd be sick
Tell me quick oh, ain't love a kick?
Tell me quick ain't love a kick in the head?

Abbott & Costello "Horror:" The Better Halloween Alternative, #5

Imagine Abbott and Costello in the midst of the legendary mountain feud of the Hatfields and the McCoys, and you have Coming Round the Mountain. It’s a very funny film, with Lou Costello as the ‘long-lost’ grandson of Squeezebox McCoy, whose concertina holds the key to a hidden treasure. Lou’s return to the hills of Kentucky re-ignites the long-dormant feud.

Funny bits include the ‘forefathers’ routine (see below in the quotes), and a voodoo duel between Lou and Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) as they make voodoo dolls of each other and keep jabbing each other - a very funny sequence.
Synopsis of Abbott and Costello’s Comin’ Round the Mountain

Al Stewart (Bud Abbott) and Wilbert (Lou Costello) are magicians doing a stage act when they run into Wilbert’s cousin Dorothy McCoy. Wilbert is the grandson of Squeez-box McCoy. They go back to the hills of Kentucky to and find that Squeeze-box had a hidden treasure. The boys find themselves in the middle of a family feud.

Funny movie quotes from Abbott and Costello’s Comin’ Round the Mountain (1951)

[after walking into an old beat-down cabin]
Wilbert (Lou Costello): How could my kin folks ever live in a joint like this?
Al Stewart (Bud Abbott): Probably your four fathers lived here.
Wilbert (Lou Costello): I beg your pardon?
Al Stewart (Bud Abbott): I said probably your four fathers lived here before you.
Wilbert (Lou Costello): My four fathers?
Al Stewart (Bud Abbott): Yes.
Wilbert (Lou Costello): I didn’t have four fathers.
Al Stewart (Bud Abbott): Sure, you did.
Wilbert (Lou Costello): If I did, only one came home nights.

Al Stewart (Bud Abbott): What’s going on out there?
Wilbert (Lou Costello): My in-laws are acting like out-laws.

[after seeing a goat]
Wilbert (Lou Costello): Funny-looking dog.

Wilbert (Lou Costello): “What’s she doing?”
Al Stewart (Bud Abbott): “She’s making Voodoo”
Wilbert (Lou Costello): “I do?”
Al Stewart (Bud Abbott): “Voodoo!”
Wilbert (Lou Costello): “I do what?”

Abbott & Costello "Horror:" The Better Halloween Alternative, #4

This Abbott & Costello vehicle was originally planned as a Bob Hope comedy titled Easy Does It. The Hope role is fairly evenly divided between Bud Abbott, as hotel house detective Casey Edwards, and Lou Costello, as bumbling bellhop Lou Costello. When a much-hated criminal attorney (Nicholas Joy) is murdered at a resort hotel, there's no shortage of suspects: in fact, practically every guest had an excellent motive for killing the victim. The suspects conspire to pin the killing on poor Freddie, but when he comes in possession of a valuable piece of evidence, he is slated for extermination himself. The more Freddie and his pal Casey try to stay out of trouble, the more trouble comes their way--especially when two more murders occur. The climax takes place in an underground cavern, where Freddie is nearly drowned by the hooded mystery killer. The film's title is one of the most misleading in movie history. Cast as a red-herring swami, Boris Karloff is not the killer (whose true identity is obvious from the outset, especially to veteran moviegoers). Though his footage is extremely limited, Karloff shares the film's funniest scene, in which he tries to hypnotize Costello into committing suicide ("You'll kill yourself if it's the last thing you do!)

And There Used To Be A Ball Park

Gertel's closed In June of this year. It had opened in 1914. Many a day I went to Gertel's with my mother. Guss Pickles was then across the street.
The KV boys were discussing this recently:

"According to your confluence, that would place Saperstein's just up the block
from Gertel's, which the last time I was there had to be the filthiest bakery in
the history of the world.

Filthy schmilthy. Did you ever taste their marble pound cake? If they can make dirt taste that good I'll eat it even if there's a little chocolate mixed in. And how about the bells - like a cup cake with a huge head of maple buttercream coated in chocolate - like a brown bonnet but with buttercream instead of ice cream. I loved it then, I'd probably barf now.

Marty funny you should mention, The Bell, I loved them.
I found a bakery in south Jersey that makes them. come on down."

There Used To Be A Ballpark
(Written by Joe Raposo & recorded by Frank Sinatra)

"Oh, there used to be a ball park where the field was warm and green,
and the people played a crazy game with a joy I've never seen.

How the people watched with wonder, how they laughed and how they cheered
Yes, there used to be a ball park.... right here....

And the people ate rock candy on a great big 4th of July
and the fireworks exploded all across the summer sky.

And the air was filled with wonder from the hot dogs and the beer
Yes, there used to be a ball park... right here....

Now the children try to find it, and they can't believe their eyes
For the old team isn't playing, and the new team hardly tries

And the sky has gotten cloudy when it used to be so clear
and the summer....went so quickly... this year....

Yes, there used to be a ball park... right here..

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dancing With The Sox

Next appearing in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade

Abbott & Costello "Horror:" The Better Halloween Alternative, #3

This gives you examples of the movie set hi-jinks as described in the previous post

Abbott & Costello "Horror:" The Better Halloween Alternative, #2

This clip (with better resolution) takes over where the other left off leading to the finale.
an interesting history of this picture from a informed film blogger
By the mid-40s, Universal’s Monsters were played out. It’s as if the studio was bereft of new ideas for the characters, or perhaps box office projections suggested that Frankenstein, Dracula or The Wolfman couldn’t carry a picture on their own any more. The menacing trio was still being revived, but only as a group. They came bundled together, three for the price of one, in “Monster Rally” films with template titles: House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, in 1944 and ‘45.

It looked like the days of the great Universal Monsters had passed, and the once proud bogeymen would fade away without so much as a whimper.

Then Robert Arthur had an idea.

In late 1946, Arthur, the producer in charge of Abbott and Costello movies, was kicking ideas around and he came up with something about a mad doctor chasing the Boys, determined to stuff Lou Costello’s addled brains into the Frankenstein Monster’s cranium. Studio bosses suggested he throw Dracula and The Wolfman in, use the whole squad, and maybe it would amount to something.

A couple of script treatments were turned out and quickly discarded. One dreadful version had the Monsters defeated after being shrunk down to doll size. It was only when the project was handed over to Robert Lees and Frederic Rinaldo that it gelled.

The two writers loved the concept and attacked it with passion. They crafted a script, called The Brain of Frankenstein, that was unlike anything the Boys had done before. The story was solid and it raced to a genuine climax. It had strong supporting parts, including a female villain. The Monsters stayed in character, genuinely menacing, something to play off of, not play with. The script had new and original sight gags in it, good dialog and new jokes.
Lou hated it.

For all their talent, Bud and Lou were not innovators. The routines they mastered had been honed to perfection years earlier, in Vaudeville. The Boys had come to know what worked for them and they felt no need to experiment. Critics of the time complained about Abbott and Costello serving up “the same old corn” in picture after picture, but the public didn’t seem to mind at all.

It’s almost impossible, today, to grasp the magnitude of Abbott & Costello’s popularity. They had a huge constituency of fans, having been on radio continuously for over a decade. They played personal appearance gigs to packed houses. They made two pictures a year, but with older titles constantly re-issued, you could have 6 or 7 Abbott & Costello comedies in circulation every year. The fans just couldn’t get enough of them. The Boys were box-office gold.

Typically, an Abbott and Costello script started with a basic plot outline over which, through several drafts, gags and routines were added. Bud and Lou barely glanced at their scripts, relying on longtime friend and gagman supreme John Grant to look out for them, and fix or rewrite as needed. When the jokes got stale, the routines repetitious, the Boys could still find a way to wring an extra laugh out of them. Chubby, cheerful Lou Costello ad-libbed recklessly, and if all else failed, he’d fall back on hoots, howls and spectacular pratfalls to sell a gag. The lanky and morose Bud Abbott — the best straight man in the business — knew instinctively how much rope to give out and when to yank Lou back into the routine.

The new script was a challenge, and the Boys, at first, were uncomfortable with it. It came with all the jokes written down, all the gags and situations worked out. Only a couple of stock routines made it in, a “moving candle” gag, and a scene where Lou mistakes the real Wolfman for Bud was a variation on a bit the Boys were familiar with. It speaks to the script’s originality and cleverness that even those old stunts work in context and come off as fresh.

The Monster : Glenn Strange

Bud and Lou often complained, not without reason, of being saddled with uninspired supporting casts composed of clock-punching contract players. This time, they had no cause for worry.

Lon Chaney, Jr. reprised his signature role as the terminally anguished Larry Talbot. He’s a good guy, working with Bud and Lou to prevent Dracula from reviving the dangerous Frankenstein Monster, but he’s also a walking time bomb who can morph into The Wolfman and turn on the Boys at any moment. A nice surprise was seeing Bela Lugosi, in great form, don the Dracula cape again. The part had been essayed most recently by John Carradine, in top hat and fake mustache, while Lugosi had languished as a Poverty Row villain. Here, Lugosi was given a good, substantial role, and he handled himself with Continental aplomb, dignity intact, while the comics whirled around him. It was to be Bela’s last major film.

The cast of principals was rounded out with Jane Randolph as Lou’s sweetheart, Leonor Aubert as the evil and fatale Dr. Mornay, and the part of the Monster was assured, again, by Glenn Strange.

Strange had played the Monster in two previous outings but his screen time had been limited to being strapped on a slab until the final reel when, spurred by some mad scientist and his obligatory hunchbacked assistant, he rose, growled at the torch-carrying mob, and promptly walked into some quicksand, or a wall of fire. The End.

This time, the Monster was used throughout the picture, and he had the best, most fun scenes interacting with Bud and Lou.

Strange played the character as a stoic hulk, moving slowly and deliberately, hands out, like a blind automaton on remote control. His performance is rarely given the credit it deserves, but watch him closely in this film. This isn’t just a stuntman clomping around, it’s a real performance in pantomime. In a couple of scenes, incrementally sitting up at Dracula's command, or mechanically climbing the stairs in the gorgeous island dock set, Strange moves with such clockwork precision that it almost feels like the film has slowed down. His timing, always half a second late in reacting, is robot perfect.

Glenn Strange made a career as a character actor in Westerns. As The Monster, he was eclipsed by Karloff, Chaney and Lugosi who had all played the part in “serious” pictures. Strange was thought of as the fill-in Frankenstein, the one who got the part only after the part was discounted. But it was Glenn Strange who would give the Monster its pop culture profile. When the classic, flat-top makeup was applied to his wide, craggy face, it gave him a big, square, boxlike head, and this look became the Frankenstein trademark, better suited for toys and Halloween masks than Boris Karloff’s sensitive features.

Shooting on The Brain of Frankenstein began on February 5, 1948.
Cult Status

The Boys pulled their usual on-set antics, playing a marathon game of poker in their dressing room and refusing to come out for rehearsals. When they did made it to the stage, shooting would be regularly interrupted by the frenetic Bobby Barber, Lou's personal stooge, hired to create pandemonium and keep the company in good spirits. Universal crewmen reportedly loved working on Abbott and Costello pictures. Veteran director Charles Barton calmly steered the picture through all the chaos.

The only incident of note came when a stunt went wrong and Glenn Strange snapped his ankle. Lon Chaney, a good sport, offered to stand in as The Monster and that’s him throwing Leonor Aubert’s double through the window. Strange returned to the set a few days later, wearing a leg brace. Another incident, much happier, involved a scene where Lou backs into a chair and inadvertently sits in the Monster’s lap. His predicament dawns on him when he realizes that he has too many hands. Take after take, Glenn Strange, who was called upon to keep a straight, stone face, couldn’t help but break up. No amount of editing could salvage the scene and the two men had to be called back later on for retakes.

The film’s shooting title, The Brain of Frankenstein, sounded too much like a straight horror film. When it was released, in August ’48, it was called, simply, Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein. To Universal’s delight, preview audiences whooped as soon as the title appeared onscreen.

In retrospect, it was an early case of product branding. Comedians and monsters had mixed it up before, but these were not your humdrum haunted house ghosts or the escaped cheapsuit gorillas that had stalked everyone from the Ritz Brothers to the Bowery Boys. Abbott and Costello — household names to begin with — were tangling with Frankenstein! The Wolf Man! And Dracula! These were characters established over almost two decades worth of films. Their names had weight and significance.

The film was a runaway hit, the 3rd biggest box office attraction of 1948, and it gave Bud and Lou a whole new formula to exploit. Over the next few years, they would go on to “Meet” all the monsters they could scare up, from The Invisible Man to The Mummy.

Critics of the time were kind to the film, but it would take a few more years for it to be recognized as the comedy classic that it is. When horror films finally came under scholarly scrutiny, A&C Meet Frankenstein was generally regarded as an insult, the final ignominy for monsters whose potency had been slowly eroded through increasingly cheap sequels.

In an article for Sight and Sound (April-June 1952), Curtis Harrington — who had been a friend of James Whale — wrote that Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein was “the final death agony of James Whale’s originally marvelous creation”. Carlos Clarens, in his seminal Illustrated History of the Horror Film (1967), lumped the film along with the portmanteau House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, stating that “unconscious parody finally gave way to deliberate spoof” and adding, “By then, Universal was flogging a dead horse”.

Boris Karloff was known to glower whenever the film was mentioned, though he had gamely accepted to pose for publicity pictures, standing in line to see the film in New York, and he had gone on to play in two pictures with the Boys, Abbott and Costello Meet The Killer, and Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Lon Chaney, Jr., who’d had a ball making the film, came to believe its pernicious influence had killed off the old monsters.

But, of course, the monsters not only survived, their reputations grew. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is an intelligent and vastly entertaining film. It was beautifully done. It has wonderful sets and a magnificent score by Frank Skinner. And it is still funny today. In the end, it was as generous, respectful and deeply-felt an homage to the classic Monsters as, say, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s Young Frankenstein was.

Universal’s Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolfman did not fade away, they went out with a bang in a fabulous film, a true and glorious Last Hurrah. More importantly, Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein, with its reverent use of Universal’s classic monsters, forever cemented their reputation as dominant icons of popular culture.

Abbott & Costello "Horror:" The Better Halloween Alternative, #1

I've never been a fan of horror movies. This, and more to come, was a better alternative

from Wikipedia:
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (onscreen title: Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein) is a 1948 comedy/horror film directed by Charles Barton and starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello.

This is the first of several films where the comedy duo meets classic characters from Universal's film stable. In the film, they encounter Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and the Wolf Man. Subsequent films pair the duo with the Mummy, the Keystone Kops, and the Invisible Man. On a TV special in the early 1950s, the comedy duo did a sketch where they interacted with the latest original Universal Studios monster being promoted at the time, the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The film is considered the swan song for the "Big Three" Universal horror monsters — Dracula, the Wolf Man and Frankenstein's monster — although it does not appear to fit within the loose continuity of the earlier films.

The film was re-released in 1956 along with Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff.

In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed this film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

In September 2007, Reader’s Digest selected the movie as one of the top 100 funniest films of all time.

Dinner With Drac

I found a file of Halloween memorabilia images and it needed a soundtrack

A dinner was served for three
At Draculas house by the sea
The hors doeurve were fine
But I choked on my wine
When I learned that the main course was me
The waitress a vampire named Perkins
Was so very fond of small gherkins
While serving tea
She ate 43
Which pickled her internal workings
Igor the scalpels go on the left with the pitchforks
Igor, Igor...
What a swimmer is Draculas daughter
But her pool looks more red than it oughter
The blood stains the boats
But its easy to float
Because blood is much thicker than water

(Instrumental Break)

Dracula old friend how are things in Transylvania
For dessert there was batwing confetti
And the veins of a mummy named Betty
I first frowned upon it
But with ketchup on it
It tasted very much like spaghetti
Goodnight whatever you are

Scary Guys Not Associated With Halloween

Ok, so it's Red Sox Nation Time. But would you want this suspiciously "closet" putz pitching for your team?. Wanna bet he's got Klan members in the family tree, along with that other a-hole Beckett. As for A-Rod, f-him. I never liked him. Experience has shown
that there is a lot of young talent waiting to be developed. I'm for taking my chances.
And as for a Yankee manager, later for Girardi, I know it will be Mattingly, but I want Pena

Across The Universe

I did this back in Oct 0f 2005 when they were filming on Rivington Street
What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key.

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

What do I do when my love is away
(Does it worry you to be alone?)
How do I feel by the end of the day,
(Are you sad because you're on your own?)

No, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody
I want somebody to love.

Would you believe in a love at first sight
Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time
What do you see when you turn out the light
I can't tell you but I know it's mine,

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

Do you need anybody
I just need someone to love
Could it be anybody
I want somebody to love.

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends.

I'm Down In The Hole

The correct place for this, mood-wise sequentially, would be about 4 posts ago. This was posted back in November of 06 when I was in Baltimore, but it had a link to this slide show, rather than an embedded google video. What I tried to do was show some of the areas where the Wire was filmed along with stills from the show. This gives some background info:

From the Baltimore City Paper: " Vince Peranio agreed to design a short driving and walking tour of some of his favorite locations used in The Wire, which recently finished shooting its fourth season. The tour, which meanders through the neighborhoods of Oliver, Broadway East, and Middle East, before ending up in Greenmount West, features long stretches of barren, blighted, and crumbling rowhouses. The primary commercial activity appears to take place on street corners. It’s grim. But for Peranio, a Baltimore native, these streets are a source of constant wonder. “It’s in the way a house looks, or the vacant lots just strewn with every type of toy and the last 50 years of effluvium,” he says. “I think you see much more of people’s lives here, exposed and raw.” Simon says Peranio’s gift is his ability to see hope where others see despair. “In every neighborhood, Vince has been able to find elements of beauty and power with which to tell a story,” writes Simon in an e-mail. “He knows the city as someone who loves the city and he finds grandeur in unlikely places.

If you walk through the garden
you better watch your back
well I beg your pardon
walk the straight and narrow track
if you walk with Jesus
he'll save your soul
you gotta keep the devil
way down in the hole
he's got the fire and the fury
at his command
well you don't have to worry
if you hold on to Jesus hand
we'll all be safe from Satan
when the thunder rolls
You got to keep the devil
way down in the hole
All the angels sing about Jesus' mighty sword
and they'll shield you with their wings
and keep you close to the lord
don't pay heed to temptation
for his hands are so cold
you got to keep the devil
way down in the hole
way down in the hole
way down in the hole

Costumed Guy Not Associated With Halloween

Out of the night
When the full moon is bright
Comes a horseman known as "Zorro"
This bold renegade
Carves a "Z" with his blade
A "Z" that stands for Zorro
The Fox, so cunning and free
Who makes the sign of the "Z"

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gremlins Not Associated With Halloween

Froggy the Gremlin was a character on the Smilin' Ed's Gang radio and TV show and later Andy's Gang TV show in the 1940s and 1950s. Froggy was a trouble-maker on the show, known for being disrespectful of adult authority figures, and enjoyed playing practical jokes and disrupting other guests.

* Smilin' Ed: "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!"
* Froggy (appearing in a puff of smoke): "Hiya Kids! Hiya! Hiya! Hiya!"

Bats Not Associated With Halloween

Bat Masterson was a Western television series which showed a fictionalized account of the life of real-life marshal/gambler/dandy Bat Masterson. The title character was played by Gene Barry and the half-hour black and white shows ran on NBC from 1958 to 1961. It was produced by Ziv Television Productions,the compamy responsible for such hit series as Sea Hunt, and Highway Patrol
The show took a tongue-in-cheek outlook, with Barry's Masterson dressed in expensive Eastern clothing and preferring to use his cane rather than a gun to get himself out of trouble (also the case with the real Masterson), hence the nickname "Bat." Masterson was also portrayed as a ladies' man who traveled the West looking for women and adventure. The black derby, fancy vest, black jacket, and elegant cane were his trademarks (and were widely marketed in miniature to child viewers as tie-in products during the run of the show).

Gene Barry (born Eugene Klass in Manhattan June 14, 1919)
was to become a Brooklyn boy who lived at 1939 53rd Street, 11204

Back when the west was very young,
There lived a man named Masterson.
He wore a cane and derby hat,
They called him Bat, Bat Masterson.

A man of steel the stories say
And women's eyes all cast his way
A gambler's game he always won
His name was Bat, Bat Masterson

The trail that he blazed is still there.
No one has come since, to replace his name.
And those with too ready a trigger,
Forgot to figure on his lightening cane.

Now in the legend of the west,
One name stands out of all the rest.
The man who had the fastest gun,
His name was Bat, Bat Masterson.

Not Necessarily This Day In Knickerbocker Village History, June 22, 1926

Photo: The Newsboy Lodging House on Duane Street, near the site of the Oak Street Police Station
ARREST TWO PUPILS crying black hand Boy Truants Dashing Through Halls of P. S. 177 Caught: The cry of "Black Hand," this time is traced directly to two fourteen year old boys playing "hookey" from another school, failed yesterday to cause the intended panic at Public School 177 at Monroe and Market Streets. Due partly to the fact that their shouts were only faintly heard and partly to warnings given previously to teachers and pupils by Miss Mary Brady, the principal, only a few school children showed excitement. - Public School 177 is one of the three which figured in Black Hand scares on the lower east side last Thursday. At that time some forty mothers, frightened by tales of an earlier panic at Public School 65. went to Miss Brady and demanded their children. Police aid was necessary to keep them outside the building, but classes were continued as usual. Yesterday morning Benjamin Pontana of 6 Monroe Street and Tony Marsicano of 42 Oak Street Sr, instead of going to their own school, P. S. 114, dashed into the playground or P. S. 177, shouting, "Look out, Black Hand!" Not satisfied with the response, they raced through the first floor corridor continuing their cries. Joseph Borkoski, the school janitor, chased the boys out while a few children in classes upstairs went to the windows. The janitor pursued the boys toward the East River. They were caught near Catherine Slip by Patrolman Charles Rayfield of the Oak Street Station and arrested, charged with juvenile delinquency. Justice Samuel D. Levy in Children's Court remanded the two boys to the custody of the Children's Society for a hearing June 23. When Borkoski indicated he did not want to press the charge against the boys, Justice Levy said, "What's the matter? , Ah you afraid of that neighborhood? I advise you to press the complaint. Otherwise you are more likely to have trouble with the boys there." Police Commissioner McLaughtin said later that he believed the school teachers were handling the situation capably with the cooperation the police gave in watching for disturbers and stopping the sale of Black Hand lollypops, the manufacture of which ceased. "But if the educational authorities want the police to go into the schools and lecture to the children." he said, "I shall be glad to consent to reach an arrangement ." At the office of Dr. William O'Shea Superintendent of Schools, it was said the order stopping leaves of absences to all elementary school teachers would be continued while the possibility of panic remained. The order would be in force until the end of the term, it was indicated. Published: June 22,1926

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rudy Confesses

This was done in Voki, but it took so long to load, I screen captured it instead.
As a result the timing is a little off

59 Years Ago

And now to go into a completely opposite direction, this commercial featuring one of my favorite singers, Mel Torme. This guy, Ira Gallen has an unbelievable collection of old television clips on youtube

Lives In The Balance

The Hollywood Ten Story can't help but put one in the political mood. I somehow wandered onto this great song while searching for vids on Zero Mostel
The great Jackson Browne lyrics:
Ive been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that youve seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war

And theres a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs

On the radio talk shows and the t.v.
You hear one thing again and again
How the u.s.a. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally cant take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
There are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

Theres a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we cant even say the names

They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

60 Years Ago Today, Part 3

Friday, October 26, 2007

60 Years Ago Today, Part 2

From the play "Zero Hour" written and performed by Jim Brochu, famed actor Zero Mostel talks about the Hollywood Blacklist and the House Unamerican Activities Committee, and about "Loose Lips," Jerome Robbins who gave names.There's information on Zero Mostel on my LES Google Map Site Zero (Sam) Mostel was a Brooklyn-born stage and film actor best known for his portrayal of comic characters such as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Max Bialystock in The Producers. He had been blacklisted during the 1950s, and his testimony before HUAC was well-publicized. He was a Tony Award and Obie Award winner. Zero went to PS 188 and to Seward Park High School. In 1920 Zero lived at 140 East Houston Street. In 1930 he lived at 122 Columbia Street. Zero (Jim) mentions Jack Gilford and Jack's wife Madeline in this monologue. Madeline, thankfully, is still with us. I know Joe Gilford, Jack's son. He's real nice guy and his son, Jake, is already a comic like his namesake grand-dad.

60 Years Ago Today

Ed Rampell, author of Progressive Hollywood: A People’s Film History of the United States, remembers the Hollywood Ten at Truthdig.

"Sixty years ago, as wicked witch-hunters descended upon the movie industry, Judy Garland took to the microphone for a coast-to-coast radio program called ‘Hollywood Fights Back!’ Instead of singing, the 25-year-old starlet asked Americans:

"Have you been to a movie this week? Are you going to a movie tonight, or maybe tomorrow? Look around the room. Are there any newspapers lying on the floor? Any magazines on your table? Any books on your shelves? It’s always been your right to read or see anything you wanted to. But now it seems to be getting kind of complicated. For the past week, in Washington, the House Committee on Un-American Activities has been investigating the film industry. Now, I have never been a member of any political organization. But I’ve been following this investigation and I don’t like it. There are a lot of stars here to speak to you. We’re show business, yes. But we’re also American citizens. It’s one thing if someone says we’re not good actors; that hurts, but we can take that. It’s something else again to say we’re not good Americans! We resent that!’"
"On Oct. 26, the exact 60th anniversary of the Committee for the First Amendment’s first "Hollywood Fights Back!" broadcast, contemporary talents, along with blacklist survivors and their relatives, will reenact the original 1947 radio program. The performers scheduled to participate include: former SAG President Ed Asner, Norma Barzman, Larry Gelbart, Isabelle Gunning (ACLU/SC president), Marsha Hunt, Camryn Manheim, Ramona Ripston, Christopher Trumbo, James Whitmore, and Becca Wilson. The event, presented by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, will take place at L.A.’s Skirball Center."
oh yeah, today is also Steven Pelly's 60th birthday
Bob Nathanson recall's. "Didn't his tv blow up in KV? I kind of remember being in the park and seeing an apt. on fire and it turned out to be Pelly's. Or is this a dream?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Jimmie Rodgers, Honeycomb

He wasn't Jewish and he wasn't separated at birth by anyone who was, but I sure liked him in 1958. Go figure?

Well it's a darn good life
And it's kinda funny
How the Lord made the bee
And the bee made the honey
And the honeybee lookin' for a home
And they called it honeycomb
And they roamed the world and they gathered all
Of the honeycomb into one sweet ball
And the honeycomb from a million trips
Made my baby's lips

Oh, Honeycomb, won't you be my baby
Well, Honeycomb, be my own
Got a hank o' hair and a piece o' bone
And made a walkin' talkin' Honeycomb
Well, Honeycomb, won't you be my baby
Well, Honeycomb, be my own
What a darn good life
When you got a wife like Honeycomb


And the Lord said now that I made a bee
I'm gonna look all around for a green, green tree
And He made a little tree and I guess you heard
What then, well, he made a little bird
And they waited all around till the end of Spring
Gettin' every note that the birdie'd sing
And they put 'em all into one sweet tome
For my Honeycomb

Oh, Honeycomb, won't you be my baby
Well, Honeycomb, be my own
Got a hank o' hair and a piece o' bone
And made a walkin' talkin' Honeycomb
Well, Honeycomb, won't you be my baby
Well, Honeycomb, be my own
What a darn good life
When you got a wife like Honeycomb


And the Lord says now that I made a bird
I'm gonna look all round for a little ol' word
That sounds about sweet like "turtledove"
And I guess I'm gonna call it "love"
And He roamed the world lookin' everywhere
Gettin' love from here, love from there
And He put it all in a little ol' part
Of my baby's heart

Oh, Honeycomb, won't you be my baby
Well, Honeycomb, be my own
Got a hank o' hair and a piece o' bone
And made a walkin' talkin' Honeycomb
Well, Honeycomb, won't you be my baby
Well, Honeycomb, be my own
What a darn good life
When you got a wife like Honeycomb

Potential Jewish World Series Heroes, Separated At Birth, Part 2

That's Troy Tulowitzki, another potential Jewish World Series MYP.
He was separated at birth by another landsmen who rumor has it will be publishing a breakthrough book on psychotherapy.

Potential Jewish World Series Heroes, Separated At Birth

That's Kevin Youkilis, who many had thought was a Sephardic Jew,
but is a Yid instead.
He could be the first Jewish World Series'MVP since Sandy Koufax in 1963
Here he's joyously celebrating Boston's first game victory on 10/24/07 with the boys.
Yet Kevin was separated at birth by another "landsmen"

Anyone know who?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Knickerbocker Village History: Catherine and Cherry Street

Here's (courtesy of Howie Silverstein) a pre-Knickerbocker Village image (about mid 1920?) showing Cherry Street. On the left you can see a store that is probably a drug store (RUG is visible). That store is on Catherine Street. In the mid 1800's that site was occupied by a Brooks Brother's store. On July 16. 1863 it was one of the many locations where rioting was taking place due to the Civil War draft.
From a NYTImes account:
At a late hour on Tuesday night the mob, number 4,000 or 5,000, made an attack upon the clothing-store of Messrs. BROOKS BROTHERS, in Catharine-street, corner of Cherry. Sergeant FINNEY, of the Third Precinct, while in the discharge of his duty in endeavoring to protect the property of this establishment, was knocked down, beaten on the head and body with clubs, and afterward shot in the hand by a pistol by one of the rioters. He was subsequently conveyed to the Station-house, where his wounds were dressed. He is very severely injured, and no hopes are entertained of his recovery. Officer DANIEL FIELDS, of the same Precinct, was knocked down and brutally beaten about the head and face at the same time.
A man named JOHN MATZEL was shot and instantly killed. It is reported that he was one of the leaders of the mob, and that the ball which pierced his heart came from a revolver in the hands of one of the officers of the law. He was in the act of entering the clothing-store at the time he met his death.
Plunder seems to have been the sole object with the marauders in their attack upon the store of the Messrs. BROOKS. The fine ready-made clothing therein was tempting. Fortunately, the Police and the employees of the establishment successfully repelled the invaders before much property had been stolen. Three or four persons, whose names could not be ascertained, lost their lives at this place, and many others were badly injured.

From Cuny's comprehensive site on the draft riots
: During the draft riots, crowds targeted places that represented the war effort, the Republican party, and/or social privilege. Brooks Brothers clothing store was known both as a purveyor of clothes to the upper classes and a government war contractor. This dark image of a faceless throng outside Brooks Brothers highlights the men and women trying on their newly acquired clothes in the foreground. ?

Knickerbocker Village History: Madonna House, Part 2

Still haven't found the exact date of the fire that destroyed the Madonna House. However this occured on August 19, 1956. Madonna House is on the left, the dark building casting a shadow. You can see that there is a rooftop play area present.
A four-alarm fire did extensive damage last night to a five-story warehouse at Water and Pike Streek on the Lower East Side. Six families from nearby buildings and fourteen nuns from Madonna House, a Roman Catholic Settlement House at 173 Cherry Street, were evacuated as a precautionary measure. There were no injuries. The fire broke out shortly before 8:40 P.M. in the building at 452 Water Street occupied by the Hadshian Export Clothing Co. The cause was not immediately determined. The blaze, confined to the building's two top floors, was declared under control at 9:54P.M. Firemen fighting the fire from the upper south roadway of the Manhattan Bridge, twenty-five feet north of the used clothing warehouse, slowed Brooklyn bound traffic, but did not halt it. Subway trains on the bridge ran normally

Knickerbocker Village History: Madonna House

The fellas on the unofficial Knickerbocker List Serve have been chatting about the fire at the Madonna House, located on Cherry and Market. This occurred some time in the mid-late 1950's. In the picture above (taken in June of 1933), the Madonna House (173 Cherry Street) is to the right of the building where the word Castoria is visible (in this view). Better detail is obtained by clicking on the picture.
Here's the discussion:

I remember the fire and watching it with my father after spending the day at Jones Beach with Barbara Levy's family. I also have a memory of them having a great baseball team--kind of the predecessors of the St.Joseph's dynasty, and a pitcher named Mullarky (Tommy?) who seemed to throw 100 mph.

Tommy Mullarky. I remember that name. Like an ancient legend which I guess is what that name is to me. Kind of like Dionysius. Or Lucritius. Unless I'm mixing him up with somebody else. Could he have been one of Hammerabi's crew?

Yes, I remember the fire and watching it from Tanahey Park

Which famous KV character associates Madonna House with a chance but indubitably blessed event that went on behind the wooden sideboards to the left of the main entrance to the parish. You can put it this way, our compatriot got some from nun. Now the laws of nature proclaim that you can't get something from nothing but this cute little thing in a habit had a way of making everything in the Kingdom come.

I remember the night of the MH fire ...from our living room (3rd floor) we faced the area between the courts but also looked out diagonally onto Cherry St and had a clear view of about three courts of the park, the Journal Amer bldg., Water St, the bridge, and at one time the MH ... until that night when I looked out of the window and saw flames ...I remember not being sure at first cause it appeared like dancing, reflecting yellow lights going up and down ...but it was the MH fire.

Bob, your story places the fire during late spring-summer and on the weekend.

Palisade Amusement Park #2

Palisades Park" is a song written by Chuck Barris and made popular by Freddy Cannon. It was first released in 1962 by Swan Records as a B-side to the song "June, July and August", but "Palisades Park" broke in Flint, Michigan when a radio station played the B-side by mistake and the B-side became popular. It was covered by the American pop band The Beach Boys. It was released on their 1976 album 15 Big Ones.
Last night I took a walk after dark
A swingin' place called Palisades Park
To have some fun and see what I could see
That's where the girls are

I took a ride on a shoot-the-chute
That girl I sat beside was awful cute
And after while she was holdin' hands with me

My heart was flyin' up like a rocket ship
Down like a roller coaster
Back like a loop-the-loop
And around like a merry-go-round

We ate and ate at a hot dog stand
We danced around to a rockin' band
And when I could, I gave that girl a hug
In the tunnel of love

You'll never know how great a kiss can feel
When you stop at the top of a Ferris wheel
When I fell in love down at Palisades Park

Instrumental with the sound of a roller coaster and the screams of its riders

We ate and ate at a hot dog stand
We danced around to a rockin' band
And when I could, I gave that girl a hug
In the tunnel of love

You'll never know how great a kiss can feel
When you stop at the top of a Ferris wheel
When I fell in love down at Palisades Park

Down at Palisades Park

You know it's Palisades Park
Down at Palisades Park

Who's Who In Knickerbocker Village History: The Rosenbergs

Perhaps the most famous residents in Knickerbocker Village History. This clip from "Heir To An Execution," has the Rosenberg sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol and Michael's daughter, Ivy (who was responsible for this film) visiting their old apartment. Robert is my age and more than likely would have been in my class at PS 177.
Here's an excellently written review of this excellent 2004 film. It's from Amazon by Dr. Cathy Goodwin:
Overwhelming, sensitive, and understated, February 7, 2005
Fifty years after Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed as spies, their granddaughter Ivy Meeropol made this film to understand her grandparents more intimately and humanly.
As a narrator, Meeropol offers charm and charisma. In fact, the whole family seems incredibly normal and, well, nice. Her father and uncle, the Rosenberg sons, survived what many would view as childhood trauma: reading about their parents in the media, visiting their parents in prison, temporary stays in group homes. They were lucky to live in a pre-pop-psych era and even luckier to be adopted by the loving Meeropols.
The Rosenberg sons always believed in the innocence of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Through release of formerly classified documents, it's obvious that Julius did some sort of spying. But realistically he probably was a small fish, in over his head, caught up in the government's search for a scapegoat.
Sure, Khruschev mentions the Rosenbergs in his biography, and Julius (but not Ethel) had a couple of code names, but another KGB agent came forward late in his life to say, "They really didn't amount to much." And another accused party member, Miriam Moskowitz, questions the Venona documents when she's interviewed: mostly scraps, she says, except for the Rosenbergs' very complete file.
Ivy's cousin Rachel, a newly-minted lawyer, summarizes the tragedy succinctly. Even if guilty, Ethel and Julius deserved a fair trial, and they didn't get one. The prosecutor engaged in illegal ex parte (out of court) communication with the judge. Ethel's brother David Greenglass has admitted he gave false testimony. The Rosenbergs were accused of accepting a console table with spy equipment; the table turned out to be what they claimed -- an ordinary table they bought at Macy's.
Would the Rosenbergs really have saved their lives if they had turned in their friends? Would they have spent years in prison -- perhaps worse than the death sentence? Was their sacrifice pointless?
The real question should be: Why did they have to make these choices? I recommend watching this DVD along with Capturing the Friedmans, a documentary about a Jewish family accused of child abuse in the 1980's. Once again, district attorneys offered reduced sentences in exchange for accusations. And over and over again, people accused of drug dealing can get reduced sentences only by turning in others. Ironically, those low on the chain often know nobody, or know only undercover agents, so they get longer sentences.
Originally, Ethel was arrested to motivate Julius to confess. Even today prosecutors still attack wives in hopes of "softening" a husband, as in the case of one Enron executive. When the husbands don't crumble, wives who were marginally (or not at all) involved are punished.
So I believe this film raises questions about the logistics of contemporary justice. When faced with long prison terms, many people will say anything to save themselves and their families. They'll invent stories, which will become "evidence" against others, often without independent corroboration. Prosecutors seem to have no qualms about punishing innocent people to nudge the guilty.
And jury verdicts often depend not on logic or reason but on whether they like the defendants. They didn't like Julius and Ethel. They were viewed as hard and detached. But most likely they thought the proceedings were ludicrous -- the table from Macy's was bugged? -- and never expected to be convicted.
Is this what "innocent till proven guilty" means? Do we want to convict criminals based on coerced testimony? Do we want verdicts based on folkloric beliefs about a defendant's demeanor? Those are the real questions for viewers of this documentary.

Who's Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Whitey Epstein

The reference of Epstein vs. Epstein in Bananas is to Whitey (Sherwood) Epstein, of the famed Epstein's Pharmacy, formerly located on Monroe and Catherine Street. It was one of the stores that was part of Knickerbocker Village.
The following testimony comes from one of the Kuperstein Brothers of Knickerbocker Village (famous in their own right):
"The picture is "Bananas" and the scene is when a lawyer runs into the courtroom(the trial scene of course) and yells "is this the Epstein vs. Epstein case". The line came from Hank(Henry Polansky who was an assistant to the assistant to the associate of Woody Allen on that film. Hank is the brother of Suzie Polansky who is married to Whitey(Sherwood) Epstein-I still can't believe someone would name their sons Edmond, Sherwood and Claude, worse than Harvey, Jerome and Marvin!). By the way Suzie and Hank's father was Abe Polansky who was blacklisted. One of his last films was "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here" which starred Robert Blake. Hank had absolutely no success making movies including doing porn (guess he was ahead-no pun intended) of his time!
Please rise. Court is now in session.
Judge Seymour Watson presiding.
The People versus Fielding Mellish.
I object, Your Honour.This trial is a travesty.
It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery
of two mockeries of a sham. I move for a mistrial. There's not
a single homosexual on that jury. Yes, there is.
Really? Which one? Is it the big guy at the end?
Call the first witness.- And you remember Fielding Mellish?- He's got a record. He was always being picked up
at one demonstration or another.He's a bad apple, a commie.
A New York Jewish intellectual communist crackpot.
l mean, l don't wanna cast no aspersions.Your witness.
Officer Dowd, have you ever had sexual relations with a girl
with really big breasts? Yes, sir. l did.
And how did you find it? Very erotic.
I was... I was just checking.
Swear to tell the truth, the whole
truth and nothing but the truth? l do.
Name? J Edgar Hoover.
Occupation? Head of the FBl. Tell the court why you're dressed like this.
l have many enemies and l rarely go out unless l'm in disguise.
Mr Hoover, in your opinion,is Fielding Mellish a threat
to the security of the United States? Enough to have his phone tapped.
Hello? Hello? Who is this?
Who is this? Hello? Who is this? Can you hold on
one second? Walter, it's for you. All right, l did it! l did it! l'm guilty!
But l couldn't take it any more. She kept tormenting me.
Egging me on.Making a fool of me!
lsn't this Epstein vs Epstein? l'm sorry, l... Sorry.
Sorry to disappoint you, but l've known Fielding for years
and he's a warm, wonderful human being.
Would the clerk read that statement back, please?
''l've known Fielding for years and he is a conniving, dishonest little rat.''
Ok, l just wanted to make sure you were getting it.
You're out of order.- Name?- Sharon Craig.- And you are?- Miss America.
O mio babbino caro Mi piace ?bello, bello
Vo'andare in Porta Rossa A comperarl'anello
Si, si, ci voglio andare E se l'amassi indarno
Tell the court why you think he is a traitor to this country.
l think Mr Mellish is a traitor to this country because his views
are different from the views of the president and others of his kind.
Differences of opinion should be tolerated,
but not when they're too different. Then he becomes a subversive mother.
Call Fielding Mellish.Mr Mellish... what is your nationality?
Well, you might say l have two nationalities.
Are you being coy? Well, l am an American citizen
and also the President of San Marcos.l would not joke with this court
if l were you.- Wouldn't you or couldn't you?- That's enough.
Does the code name Sapphire mean anything to you?
lt doesn't. l swear to God.You swear to God and yet you have no
compunction about teaching evolution.Where were you
on the night of June 3rd? lf you cannot resist disrupting the court,
l order the marshal to bind and gag you. So you followed Fielding Mellish
and overheard him make treasonous remarks about this country?
- l did.- Your witness. Yes, l did.
No. l don't remember. No.
Don't put words in my mouth!
Yes.Yes, it's true. l lied!
Ladies and gentlemen, you will retire for your verdict.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Who's Who Of Knickerbocker Village: Seth Babits

Seth, who lived at 14 Monroe Street, was a publicist for Palisades Amusement Park in the 1950's-60's. He was also a former gold glove boxer, wrote training manuals and was a classical music aficionado.
Palisades has the rides... Palisades has the fun... Come On Over.

Shows and dancing are free... so's the parking, so gee... Come On Over.

Palisades from coast to coast, where a dime buys the most.

Palisades Amusement Park. Swings all day and after dark.

(bumm, baa, dumm, bumm, bummmm)

Ride the coaster... Get cool... In the waves in the pool.

You'll have fun... so... Come On Over.

(dumm de dum da dum... dum)

A Bridge Over Troubled Water

Check out a new site I made for a collaborative "Water For Life" project that I hope District 75 will put to use

Custom Made Trick Or Treat Masks

They are available free via email in 4 panels each that when assembled make a 16 X 16 inch size.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Who's Who Of Knickerbocker Village: Fred F. French

The caption for this photo was:
This is the vestibule and lobby of the Fred. F. French building at 551 Fifth Avenue at 45th Street. They have been designated as an interior landmark.
A bio of Fred F. French by James Morrison :
"But Fred French was not an everyday human being. He rose heroically from dire poverty to become a self-made real estate tycoon. Born in Manhattan in 1883, he was the eldest of four, whose father, a cigar maker, died when Fred was a child. To help keep the family together in their tiny house in the Bronx, where they had moved, the boy peddled papers, washed windows, and mowed lawns. But Mother French was a strong, willful woman, and a graduate of the University of Michigan. She insisted her son get an education. He won a Pulitzer scholarship, ensuring him of four years of high school, and eventually, after a year at Princeton and a spell out west, he took an engineering course at Columbia. Thereafter, in a series of what we would now call "temp jobs," his salary rose from $5 to $18 a week, and when the last one expired, in 1907, he found himself sitting in City Hall Park, broke, tired, and hungry.

"The only person in the world I could think of to ask for aid," he recalled, "was Andrew W. Edson of the Board of Education." Edson had offices on 59th Street, so Fred French set out walking the five miles straight up Broadway from City Hall to Columbus Circle, caught Edson coming out of his office, went up to the man and said, "Mr. Edson, may I borrow $500?" Edson asked, "What security do you have?" to which French replied briskly, "Nothing but my personal note." Edson was about to write out a check when the audacious French said, "And pardon me, Mr. Edson, but could I have $10 of that in cash?" The man peeled off a ten spot, wrote a check for $490, and Fred French was on his way. He spent the $10—all of it—on "one glorious meal" at the Savoy Hotel.

His first move as a real estate wheeler-dealer was to buy the Bronx house where he lived. By leveraging it, he raised the capital to put up a small building in the Bronx, which he sold at a profit. That, along with his hands-on learning as a building-construction superintendent, emboldened the energetic youth and led to his forma-tion of the Fred F. French Companies, developers of Manhattan real estate. "You can't overbuild in New York," was the phrase he used to clinch many a deal.

The system that brought French success—he called it the French Plan—was to repay investors their original investment plus a 6 percent dividend before taking any profits for the French company. This was the financing principle in play when he announced his intention, in 1925, to build Tudor City—at that time, the largest housing development ever undertaken in mid-Manhattan—at the east end of 42nd Street, then crowded with slaughterhouses and tenements. He was content, he said, with a small profit margin on a large business. The French Plan also financed that spectacular art-deco skyscraper on Fifth Avenue. But Knickerbocker Village downtown, a massive, low-income, 1,600-apartment complex between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, had been financed by a loan from FDR's Reconstruction Finance Corporation, as one of the nation's first publicly subsidized urban-redevelopment projects. If Fred French was a first-rate builder, he was, alas, a third-rate landlord in this project, because on the day his eager new tenants moved into their new Knickerbocker digs, they found conditions unlivable. A study by Fordham professor Mark Naison describes how the ensuing confrontation between the stonewalling Fred French Management and the Knickerbocker tenants led to the rent-control laws that, greatly to New York's disadvantage, have lasted to this day.

New Yorkers knew Fred F. French as a tough landlord, but that's not how we knew him in our small town. Though our neighbors and townspeople never saw him, his Ozymandian outrages were much discussed in the downtown barbershop, pool hall, firehouse, and saloons. So it was little wonder a nine-year-old kid would clearly remember his first sighting of Fred F. French.

He had arrived in town during the craw of the depression, a time when hobo camps multiplied alongside the tracks at Libby's Crossing, and when it was common to have our mealtimes interrupted by transients begging at the back door for food scraps. Yet at this desperate time, French was buying up fields, meadows, woodlots, streams, and whole farms on Quaker Hill. Eventually, his holdings were counted in miles rather than acres.

Town folk would watch the doings of Fred F. French with a mixture of wonder and dismay. He'd tear down homesteads that had been the family home to several generations. He planted trees. My God, did he plant trees! As kids on the way to school, we'd watch full-grown trees from a Westchester nursery dragged up on flatbed trucks to transplant beside his mansion on the hill—one elm so large that its burlap-wrapped roots were on one flatbed, and the body of the tree rested on a second flatbed truck driving backward all the way from Scarsdale.

It was a time of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program intended to keep unemployed youth off the streets while reforesting the countryside, and Fred F. French took full advantage of it. Some said 60,000 evergreen seedlings went into his fields during one summer. Around town, people said that Fred F. French built his house so that he could sit on his front porch and look from horizon to horizon and say to himself, "It's all mine." And he did, and he could.

In addition to farms and homesteads, he bought up, fenced in, gated, and posted the mile-long pristine lake where we locals used to swim, fish, and picnic. He even tried to buy the country road running alongside his lake, but the town wouldn't sell, so, overnight, signs appeared along the road saying PRIVATE! and warning trespassers of severe consequences if they strayed over to the lake. He rebuilt his boathouse and bathhouse to give each of the French children a private changing room. The door of each room bore a sign proclaiming its owner's best school subject: one sign read "Geometry II," another "Latin," and so on.

The boathouse sheltered an array of water-sports equipment and half a dozen brand-new Adirondack rowboats bearing the engraved emblem of Abercrombie & Fitch. The boats were round-bottomed, of remarkable craftsmanship, made of layered bent wood, shellacked to a high gloss, and fitted with bronze oarlocks and basket-weave seats. Fred F. French forbade motorboats on his lake, a rule that holds to this day.

The memory of the Lindbergh kidnapping was still fresh, and French hired a bodyguard to look after the four French youngsters, three boys and a girl. The guard was said to be an ex-New York City detective and was a familiar figure in town, dressed in a dark suit, driving a shiny black Ford four-door V8. It was the car he'd use to drop off the three French boys at the nearby private boarding school where they were day students.

Fred F. French Jr. was the youngest and a schoolmate of my elder brother. His father, fearing that the frail youngster was lacking in bravado, required that the school provide the boy with boxing lessons. There was talk around our dinner table about a natural history museum that the French boys maintained in an upper story of their house. Word filtered down to the village that the whole family would set out into the fields and swamps with nets and jars to catch bugs, beetles, and butterflies, and then classify and mount them in glass cases for display.

The villager view of those who lived in the house on the hill was that they were eccentrics, with an almost Teddy Rooseveltian preoccupation with self-improvement. French, like TR before him, had spent a year of his youth as a western cowboy, named his first son Theodore, and loved being immersed in big dirt-moving projects. There the likeness ended. He was an intensely private person. From our distance, Fred F. French was a father doting in splendid isolation.

For a few months one fall, the bodyguard brought Ellen French to the public school, where she sat beside me in Miss Giberson's fifth-grade classroom. I remember taking pity on the delicate, shy, and withdrawn little girl suddenly finding herself in the midst of rough and rowdy townies. At one point, I leaned across the aisle and whispered what I thought were words of comfort. I said, "You know, Ellen, your father is very rich."

Then very early one morning in 1936, the phone rang in our house. Mrs. French was on the line asking Father to come quickly, because Mr. French wouldn't wake up. Fred F. French died in his sleep at age 54.

Mrs. French, the three boys, and Ellen moved away and were seldom heard from again. The house stood empty for a year, as various predatory speculators circled the estate. After all, the lakefront, subdivided into a thousand waterfront lots, offered irresistible fast-buck potential. But finding the combination that would separate that lake from the rest of the holding proved difficult, giving time for a white knight to gather the resources to preserve the vast French holdings.

The white knight turned out to be one of the most public and outgoing people of his day, Lowell Thomas—newscaster, adventurer, movie mogul. Thomas as a cub reporter in World War I discovered Lawrence of Arabia. And the once very private home of the reclusive Fred F. French became a destination for presidents and princes as well as for the many friends of the gregarious Thomas."