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Here’s a toast to our friends the Cool Cats (Gangsters) and Kittens (Prostitutes)

-1x-1I always thought I would be a better gangster than a spy. The spy thing is too much sneaking around in a trench coat trying to lurk in the shadows of the night. Always vulnerable, like a puppy on an iceberg, a spy often is a traitor and who wants to groove with a traitor?  Gathering information, creeping around, perhaps your shoe is an intercontinental ballistic missile (better than “his bow-tie is really a camera”), not that fun – just not a good line of work. Not to say that being a gangster is any day at the beach.  Most die young and violent deaths without the joys of friends nor family. But both our pals the gangster and his good friend the prostitute, brought some of the common sense and good times that we all enjoy today.

The “Gangster Golden Era” really lasted just three years from 1933 to 1936.  This was also the era of the FBI’s “War on Crime”.  The FBI started out as aUnknown-5 bumbling band of overmatched amateurs who initially didn’t even carry firearms.  J. Edgar’s boys lost suspects, botched stakeouts, and repeatedly arrested the wrong men. Their mistakes would be comical if not for the price paid by the innocent.  imagesDuring that three-year period we saw the rise and fall of John Dillinger (definitely a cool cat…the chicks dug him), Baby Face Nelson (a real unstable psycho, killed to boost his ego and did have a baby face), Machine Gun Kelly (real name George Barnes, dumb as a sack of nails, his wife nagged him into a world of crime), Pretty Boy Floyd (was not pretty, but was cool enough to have Woody Guthrie write a song about him), theUnknown-1 Barker/Karpis gang (Ma Barker was a dim-witted old hag who loved to put together puzzles, it was J. Edgar who portrayed her as a “mastermind,” her own gang said “she couldn’t plan breakfast”), and Bonny and Clyde (no Warren or Faye here, largest haul was $3500, killed innocent bystanders, were incompetent and careless. She was 23 and Clyde was 25.)

There is one cat that needs to be further mentioned. Picture this: it is 1979 and you were on the Spanish coast in a town called Torremolinos. You look Unknownover at the table next to you and there was a seventy year old Alvin “Creepy” Karpis still lean and alert looking more like a professor then the last of the FBI’s Public Enemy No 1’s.  Creepy (his friends called him Ray) was captured in 1936 and according to Creepy, Hoover approached him only after other agents had seized him. Hoover said “Put the cuffs on him.”, but no one brought any, so they had to use one of the agent’s ties. During his life time he ran with Baby Face Nelson, knew images-2Bonny and Clyde, was the longest-serving prisoner on the Rock (Alcatraz), for a long stretch of 26 years. He knew the Birdman, and that gas-bag Machine Gun Kelly, and saw Capone flop around on the cafeteria floor like a large mouth bass on the cutting board while in one of his syphilitic seizures. In 1962, while in the process of closing Alcatraz, Creepy was transferred to McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington state. There he was approached by a little punk who wanted guitar lessons. “He was meek and mild and never said a harsh word to anybody ” said Creepy. Charlie Manson went on to his own fame, but not by playing the guitar. Creepy was released in 1969 and died in Spain ten years later of an accidental overdose of pills and booze.

As far as our friend the gangster and organized crime is concerned, they brought us many things that we enjoy today:  jazz music (Al Capone, whose jazz images-1clubs in Chicago introduced jazz to mainstream America, and according to black singer Ethel Waters “treated her with respect, applause, deference, and paid in full.”  He and other gangsters, including the great Owney Madden of Cotton Club fame, supplied steady and professional incomes to jazz musicians who had previously lived in poverty.), alcohol (prior to Prohibition a woman rarely Unknown-4drank  in public unless she was a prostitute. The “Speakeasys” changed that because women were welcomed there), Las Vegas, Broadway (Arnold “The Brain” Rothstein, who is credited for turning organized crime into big business, financed several Broadway venues, such as the famous Selwyn Theater, as well as various productions that brought tens of thousands of patrons to the “Great White Way”) the establishment of many of the gay and lesbian bars in America  (Where there is dough you will always find the “Goodfellas”, Vito Genovese and Carlo Gambino, leaders of two of the most powerful crime families in America. They began investing in gay clubs in the 1930’s. The famous Stonewall Inn was owned by three associates of the Genovese family. The family funded the gay pride parades in New York City which have become an annual event demonstrating sexual freedom.)

Unknown-3And look what our lovely street walking friends brought us: in the 19th century, if a woman owned property, made high wages, used birth control, consorted with men of other races, danced, drank, walked alone in public, wore makeup, perfume, or stylish clothes, chances were she was a prostitute. In fact, prostitutes won virtually all of the freedoms that were denied to women, but are now taken for granted.

So you see, a lot of good comes from the bad.  I think our pals the gangster and the prostitute deserve a toast next time you have a drink in your hand, but perhaps not in loud tones. Who knew that so much freedom and groove would be handed to us along the dark path of those who do dark deeds? Raise a glass to those who came before us and let us not take these freedoms for granted. Groove.

I stole shamelessly from two excellent books : A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell and Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough. Thanks fellas.

 

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GrooveCentralLA……a very special Christmas Holiday edition

XMC46-SANTA-MONICA-PIERHere it is the High Holiday Season, and you can bet Christmas songs will be heard – either through the muffled sound of department store speakers, booze soaked carollers, or the jaunty humming of a family member while cooking with tremendous magnificence.    Christmas songs will be heard, waft around for a while in our cluttered heads, then hopefully drip out our ears in a timely manner.  And for sure, two of the songs that will be heard will be “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas”.

Unknown-2Jimmy Pierpont was a guy from the Boston area and like so many others, made a run for the gold in 1849 leaving his wife and kids for the California Gold Rush.  Jimmy tried mining and came up empty so he opened a photography studio in San Francisco, which like his mining career, went up in flames.  After failing at the Gold Rush, Jimmy returned to the East, grabbedUnknown-1
his wife and children and headed south, a wiser yet poorer man. Always handy with a song and known to tickle the ivories, Jimmy gave music lessons centering on the organ (this very organ currently resides at Florida State University and no doubt has brought inspiration to the many fine and upstanding scholar-athletes who have attended there.)  Trying his hand at song writing, Jimmy came up with a couple of danceable ditties “Ring the Bell, Fanny” and “The Know Nothing Polka” (perhaps you know them well?), but none of these caught on like his 1857 number “Jingle Bells” or as it was originally titled “The One Horse Open Sleigh.” (I call the song by its original title and I suggest you do the same.) Though originally written as a Thanksgiving song, somehow it found its way into the roasted chestnuts of our Christmas music lexicon forever.  “Jingle Bells” was the first song broadcasted from space in a Christmas themed prank from the great comedy team and Gemini 6 astronauts, Wally Schirra and Tommy Stafford.  On December 16th, 1965 they sent a report to Mission Control: “Gemini VII this is Gemini VI. We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, up in a polar orbit. He’s in a very low trajectory traveling from north to south and has a very high climbing ratio. It looks like it might even be a …Very low…Looks like he might be reentering soon. Stand by…You might just let me try to pick up this thing. I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit”  Then the astronauts produced a smuggled harmonica and sleigh bells (first musical instruments Unknown-3played in space) and broadcast their rendition of “Jingle Bells”.  Astronauts are known whimsicle jesters and great guys to throw down 7 or 8 Anejo and sodas with at the Shangri-La Hotel.  Next time the opportunity comes up, give it the nod.  Jimmy never made a lot of dough off “The One Horse Open Sleigh” though around the world it remains one of the most recognized and performed songs ever written.  Jimmy called it a day August 5th, 1893 in Winter Haven, Fla and was elected to the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. But if he had lived long enough and things got bad, he always could have borrowed some scratch from his nephew J.P. (Pierpont) Morgan.

c82n530t-FILEID-1.122.43Next time you are headed out to Palm Springs and feeling a quart low, please stop at two or three of the 45 fast food arenas in the Banning, California sector. If done correctly you will leave this burg with a seaweed slippery glaze to your skin. But besides its wonderful name (Yes, I have been offered numerous political and military posts there – none that I have deemed appropriate….yet.) and the massive amount of fast food choices, the City of Banning has an odd claim to fame. The City Fathers say that the great Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” there while at the Briargate Lodge, a claim which I see no reason to doubt. (Those creeps down at the Arizona Biltmore have also raised their squeaky voices claiming the song was written there, and of course there is the laughable idea that he wrote it at his home in New York state.)   Irv Berlin was a Russian born (full name: Israel Isidore Baline) composer and lyricist who wrote some of the great ones: “Blue Skies”, “Putin’ on the Ritz”, “God Bless America” and a song that both my sisters have tortured me Unknownwith “There is No Show Business Like Show Business” while thinking they were conjuring up the ghost of Ethel Merman, but in reality sounded more like the very dead ghost of a booze addled Ethel Mertz (wife of Fred.) But none of Irv’s hits were 41EKY1HR82Lclose to “White Christmas” as far as popularity. The Bing Crosby version has sold over 50 million records, thus being the best-selling single of all time. Irv has another act that will never be topped: he is the only oscar award presenter and award winner to open the envelope and read his own name (for ” White Christmas” of course, from the movie “Holiday Inn” in 1942.) The awkwardness you could have hung Jimmy Pierpont’s organ on, so the powers that be at the academy will not let that happen again.

So there you have it. This year you might be humming “The One Horse Open Sleigh” to yourself as you look at a clear cool night and spy in the sky a command module with a fat guy in a red suit driving with eight smaller modules in front, or munching down on a triple cheese burger with mystery sauce dancing down your chin, slowly nodding your head to “Der Bingle’s” version of ” White Christmas”. As we get closer to wrapping up this eventful year please know in your heart that all of us here at GrooveCentralLA wish you and yours the very best holiday season. Oh and truth be told, my sisters do a wonderful “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and you shouldethel-1974 request their rendition each and every time you see them (also available by phone and phone messaging ). Groove.

Come On Over For Some Booze, Steak and Abdominal Thrusts

IMG_4001[1]There are some things I am good at, but there are many things at which I am a complete failure. As much as I have tried, I’ve been unable to bring in velour as a staple fabric for Men’s clothing, I cannot open a string cheese package to save my life (I now use a combination of various saws, pliers and a blow torch), and despite a concerted effort on my part, to this day nobody calls me Commodore. But, one day a few years ago, I did do something right. I successfully administered the Heimlich maneuver on a very good friend of mine when he was choking on a piece of steak.

It is not an uncommon practice for me to gather friends around and chew on chucks of meat while consuming alcohol,DSCN1431 and thus it was on a sunny day in the backyard when my very good friend and a wonderful gent Big Joe Smith (Titanic to some…when he goes down he takes others with him) suddenly rose from the table, turned blueprint blue, and indicated that the ribeye had not found its rightful home. A clogged pipe it was.  So I sprang into action (anyone who knows me, knows I never ever spring into any action) and I got behind Big Joe, did the pointy thumb thing into his solar plexus (or there abouts), and let her rip. Out came a piece of steak the size of Mickey Rooney, which sailed across the yard at the speed of a Nike missile landing somewhere on Wilshire Blvd.  Joe seemed fine so we threw down more booze and ate more meat.

Dr.-Henry-Heimlich1So what is the deal with the Heimlich? Well, Dr. Henry Heimlich lives in Cincinnati, and as of this writing he is 95 years old.  He is wierdly related to some very cool people (perhaps not). First of all, he is the uncle of Anson Williams, better known as “Potsie” from the 70’s TV show “Happy Days” and secondly, his father-in-law is ballroom-dancing entrepreneur Arthur Murray. (The

Potsie

Potsie

pressure on the first dance at their wedding had to be enormous.)  Hank first published his views on the Heimlich maneuver in June of 1974.  Shortly after that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that a retired restaurant-owner used the

Arthur Murray

Arthur Murray

procedure to rescue a choking victim and since then it has been reported to have saved thousands of lives. From 1976 to 1985 the choking – rescue guidelines of the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association taught rescuers to first perform a series of back blows and if that didn’t work then use the Heimlich maneuver . From 1986 to 2005 the AHA and the ARC dropped the hard blows to the back and only recommended the Heimlich Maneuver.

But for some reason Doc H. hopped on the train to Wierdsville and believe me he made it to themalaria2 station on time. He started saying the HM was a good treatment for drownings and strongly recommended Malariotherapy (the deliberate infection of a person with benign malaria) to treat cancer, lyme disease, and HIV. His son Peter has a website which describes what he alleges to be his father’s “wide-ranging, unseen 50 year history of fraud.”  The American Heart Association ceased referring to the “Heimlich Maneuver” now refers to it as “abdominal thrusts” and the American Red Cross is also fazing out the name “Heimlich”.

DSCN0475So who knows, soon old Doc Heimlich might drop off the face of the earth and with him goes his name connected to this mighty maneuver.  Perhaps a swift  kick to Big Joe’s undercarriage might have taken care of that Porterhouse and the maneuver was unnecessary.  So let us gather around and have a steak and booze session in our backyard, try to get meat stuck in our throats, fool around with some “abdominal thrusts” and some intense back pounding, maybe some good old self induced malaria, and see what really works. Who’s in? Groove.

On to Aqaba for some rum drinks and Cosmo Tidbits


216661751_8d4bf8a42e_mMany moons ago, when the flame of stupidity burned hotter than it does now and the call of mischief was considerably louder, I used to roll into Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills at Merv’s place, the venerable Beverly Hilton. I images-1would throw down a river of Samoan Fog-Cutters and if the timing was right, I’d order something called  Cosmo Tidbits. Never found out who Cosmo was (Cosmo Topper ?), but I always enjoyed his tidbits:images-6
crispy rolls of Asian delights, ribs bathed in red dye number 2, enough deep fried grooves to make Orson Wells cry with happiness and perfect if you’re a quart low.

images-2So in honor of Cosmo here are a couple of History’s tidbits:  1) Lawrence of Arabia was called Ned by his family (Ned of Arabia?) and only became famous after WWI because he was featured in a 1919  lecture tour by American war corespondent Lowell Thomas. Unlike the 6 foot 3 inch Peter O’Toole who portrayed him in the 1962 epic “Lawrence of Arabia” (the film is unusual because there are no women with speaking credits), the real Lawrence was just 5’4″ and was very self conscience of his diminutive stature. He refused knighthood because of his belief that the British government betrayed the Arabs, but he did join both the Royal tank corp and the Royal Air Force under assumed names to dodge the glare of celebrity and lived under assumed names until his death. Lawrence images-3worked for and became great friends with Winston Churchill, who upon hearing of Ned’s passing said  “I deem him one of the greatest beings alive in our time.”  Lawrence died in a motorcycle accident in 1936 at the age of 46 and the surgeon who tried to save his life, Dr. Hugh Cairns, then developed some of the first crash helmets for motorcycle riders.

images-52) The Statue of Liberty’s full name is Liberty Enlightening the World, or as I call her, Lew.  She was given to us as a gift from France in 1886 and was designed by Fred Bartholdi. Lew’s shoe size is a 879 wide. Gus Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame (1889) was the cat who built the metal frame workAssembling the Statue of Liberty (1) that holds the copper skin of Lew. Gus was later found guilty of misappropriation of funds during France’s failed attempt at the Panama canal, but never did a stretch in the Big House because of a technicality.  If you hold 2 pennies together that is the thickness of the copper skin on Lew (3/32 of an inch). Lew was slightly injured when some wacked out German saboteurs set off a bomb in 1916, but she shrugged it off and has been lookingAssembling the Statue of Liberty (5) really good for a gal 128 years old (a bit on the stiff side, but still very cool.)

It has been a long time since I’ve been to Trader Vic’s and perhaps it is time to return. I first went there as a young tot with my Grandpa Dan, who was a dapper gentleman, both kind and generous.  I think a few Samoan Fog-Cutters are in order, so if anyone would like to join me, please let me know.  It’s time that we throw down some sweet Rum mystery, order up a vintage-postcard-from-trader-viccouple of Cosmo Tidbits and make numerous toasts to Ned, Lew, and Granpa Dan.  Besides, right around now I am feeling a quart low. Groove.

 

Groove Central LA Quiz Masters Tourney

quizIt is time again for the 2nd annual Groove Central LA Quiz Masters tourney. After a long journey the two winners from the last contest, the noble Nelson Holdo and the superlative Tom Collins, have been paid in full. Both wore the crown with dignity and both wore it well. If you remember, the first two contestants who answer all of the questions correctly will win 3 drinks to be purchase by the Groovemaster himself at an appropriate venue. This also includes a limited amount of witty conversation and a hearty hand clasp thrown in as a bonus. Best of luck, but as the great Branch Rickey said “Luck is the residue of design.”

1)  Herb Alpert (of Tijuana Brass fame and A & M Records (A meaning Alpert, M for Jerry Moss )    Unknown-1

  • a) was born in Tijuana, Mexico and would often perform at the famous ” Long Bar ” bar in downtown TJ
  • b) comes from a Jewish family that came to the US from the Ukraine
  • c) Father worked on the presidential sculptures on Mount Rushmore
  • d)  Mother was a famous flagpole sitter during the 20’s.

2)  We all groove on Duke Kahanamoku, a pioneer of surfing and 3 time Oly gold medal winner. Duke was alsoimages

  • a) instrumental in bringing  ” beach Volleyball ” here to California and was also the athletic director at Santa Monica’s “Beach Club”
  • b) was an amazing dancer to the point of being admired by Fred Astaire.
  • c)  refused to eat anything red
  • d) starred in a Tarzan movie along with friend and swimming champion Johnnie Weissmuller playing the part of  “Mombobo”, a tribal chieftain.

3)  In ” Mein Kampf ” (My Struggle) , Adolf Hitler’s 1925 memoir, the only American who was mentioned favorably is

  • a) Al Capone
  • b) Charles Lindbergh
  • c) Henry Ford
  • d) Ryan Braun

4)  Which one of these items were NOT originally made in Switzerland ? ch~

  • a) electric toothbrush
  • b) LSD (not talking about the great new band Lake Street Dive)
  • c) cellophane
  • d)  rotary phone dial

5)  Marlon Brando’s son said “the last time my father left his house to go anywhere it was with ………    He was instrumental helping my father through the last years of his life.”   Was he referring to

  • a) Jack Nicholson
  • b) Dean Martin
  • c) Michael Jackson
  • d) Johnnie Carson

6)  We all know and groove on the early 20th century writer Zane Grey (whose first name was Pearl), who appeared to be a

Zane

Zane

pleasant and unassuming dentist from Ohio who wrote adventure stories, mostly cowboy, then hit it big with “Riders of the Purple Sage.”  He also had a big pad in Catalina overlooking Avalon harbor which is now a hotel.  Over the years, 112 films have been made from his works and in his peak he made $500,000 in one year. By comparison, F.Scott Fitzgearald, in his best year, made $37,500.  But Zane had a secret. It was :

  • a) His books were written by a blind and deaf brother who never knew of his brother’s success or fame
  • b) He kept an enormous cache of pornography sometimes with Zane as the star performer
  • c) Was arrested, but not convicted, of a string of murders of young girls in Mexico City
  • d) was a cross dresser preferring Angora sweaters, tight black dresses, and red pumps.

7)   After refusing surgery this person  said: “I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share. I will do it elegantly. ”

  • a) Eleanor Roosevelt
  • b) Steve Jobs
  • c) Albert Einstein
  • d)  Walter Cronkite

8)   Here, I will lob you a beach ball right across the plate. Sandy Koufax, Dodger great and one of the coolest cats around, Sandy-Koufax-Ballscould hold how many baseballs in one hand ?   (Try it yourself…)

  • a ) 4
  • b) 5
  • c) 6
  • d) 7

9)  If you fell off a 30 foot building would you wildly scream, utter a quick yelp, or silently face your fate?   This is NOT part of the quiz. I’m just asking.

10)  Which of these records was established way back in 1978 and has yet to be broken

  • a) the Men’s long jump
  • b) the top speed on water
  • c) the top speed on land
  • d) the Women’s discus throw

11) Boston Corbett was the man who shot and killed John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln’s assassin) in a barn in Virginia 12 days after Unknown-3Lincoln’s assassination.  Henry Rathbone was with Abe and Mary in the booth at Fords theatre when the dastardly deed was done, sustaining a serious wound from Booth’s Bowie knife.  Beside being part of this American trajedy what else did these two men have in common?

  • a) both were placed in an asylum for the insane
  • b) both died in the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 which killed 21 people
  • c) both played for Abner Doubleday’s ” Knickerbockers ” baseball team
  • d) both played at the 1st Nick Talent Full Throttle Wide Open.

12) Who said that he “half-regretted the demise of so many of the valley’s orchard trees, because now there are no longer enough trees to hang all the troublemakers who live there. ”

  • a) George Armstrong Custer
  • b) William Sheridan
  • c) Gutzen Borglum
  • d) William Mulholland

Well there you have it. Good times await a couple of wonderful souls who will have the great fortune of consuming alcohol with the Groovemaster.   Nelson and Tom, do you have the juices for a repeat?    Thanks and Groove.

With Tom

With Tom

With Nelson

With Nelson

Let Us Pause and Drink a Toast to San Francisco

San-Francisco-2“The Cool Gray City of Love”.  San Francisco, a place where the groove is easily found. Nothing like rollin’ into a hundred year old San Francisco bar with a stack of twenties and then rollin’ into a few more. A few touristy places to avoid, but I suppose it is the scent of burnished brass and smoked soaked, paneled walls that smell like so much history that is attractive to me. Let us not forget the possibility that in San Francisco one just might make a little history of their own. The night might be vigorous and savage or perhaps sanguine and solitary, but I’ve never had the feeling for San Francisco that one has for a plate of food after attempting to eat it’s less than noble contents.

Most of the physical sites in the “City” are cool (Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Lombard Street, etc), but it is the people who make up the complicated fabric that are so fascinating – their tolerance of the uneven, their embracing of the odd, and their joyful  understanding of the less fortunate and bizarre.  A couple of cases in point: Batkid  (please do not mistake for Bat Boy…long time fodder for the greasy tommyrot tabloids) and Emperor Norton .

Nov, 2013. A five-year old named Miles Scott was delivered the thrill of a lifetime thanks to the “Make -a-Wish Foundation” opvdr-bat-kid-1and the wonderfully empathetic City of San Francisco, which for a short time changed into Gotham City. Miles had suffered for the past 3 years from Leukemia which was now in remission. His greatest wish was to be Batman and the “City” and “Make-a-Wish” promised to make that come true. The effort included Miles’ own Batmobile ( a black Lamborghini), a Bat-kid-san-francisco-event-viralpersonal call from S.F. Police Chief Greg Suhr for help, the apprehension of the Riddler, and a flash mob involving hundreds of people in Union Square alerting Batkid to the fact that the PenguinMiles had kidnapped Lou Seal, The S.F. Giants mascot. Batkid then chased the Penguin around AT&T Park, rescued Lou Seal, thus earning a chocolate key to the city which was presented at City Hall before thousands of onlookers.  All of these exploits were covered on live television and written about in the “Gotham City Chronicle” with the top stories penned by Clark Kent and Lois Lane. I just can’t see all this happening in the City of Fallen Angels…

His-Imperial-Majesty-Emperor-Norton-I-portrait-cropJoshua Abraham Norton, came from England to San Francisco in 1849 with $40 grand – ready to make it big. He had early success playing the real estate game, but in an effort to try to corner the rice market he lost all his dough, his pad, and apparently his marbles. He fled San Francisco in a terrible state, but returned to the “City” in 1859 with a very different mind-set.  Josh Norton was no longer Josh Norton – he was now Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, Emperor of the United States and emperor-nortonProtector of Mexico. Immediately the city of San Francisco opened its arms to the Emperor’s eccentric “Imperial” behavior which consisted of the issuance of various decrees (the firing of the United States Congress (I concur), making the use of the word ” Frisco” a crime, demanding that the “League of Nations” be started, construction of an underwater tunnel between Oakland and San Francisco begin, and the building of the San Francisco Bay Bridge……amazing how many of these ” Decrees” came to later fruition.)   Although penniless, he 8f40839dd4ce3a681c1dbc16f8c92258regularly ate at the finest of restaurants decked in an elaborate blue uniform with gold-plated epaulets given to him by the officers of the U.S. Army  post at the Presidio. Restauranteurs took it upon themselves to add brass plaques in their entrances which read “by Appointment to His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton ! of the United States.”  Such “Imperial Seals” were much sought after and were a substantial boost of groove to the restaurants. No play or musical performance would dare to open without IMG_6212reserving balcony seats for Norton. In 1867 , a policeman without a clue arrested Norton to commit him to involuntary treatment at a mental facility. The Emperor’s arrest outraged the citizens of the fair city and sparked scathing editorials. The Police chief Pat Crowley ordered Norton released and issued a formal apology.  Norton, with a bow and a sweep of the hand granted an “Imperial Pardon” to the errant policeman.  After this incident, all S.F. policemen saluted the Emperor as he strolled inspecting the condition of the sidewalks, cable cars, and the appearance of Police officers. The 1870 U.S. census lists Joshua Norton “as 50 years old and residing at 624 Commercial Street; occupation “Emperor.”

Norton-0021The Emperor called it a day January 8th, 1880 and by the good graces of the Pacific Club of San Francisco, Norton was laid to rest in a rosewood casket and buried at the Masonic Cemetery. The San Francisco Chronicle reported “…all classes from capitalists to pauper, the clergyman to the pickpocket, well dressed ladies and those whose drab grab and bearing hinted of a social outcast” lined the street to say goodbye to the Emperor. Some accounts say up to 30,000 were there to sayjoshua-emperor-norton-i-norton-1 adieu. Isobel Osbourne, in her book The Life I’ve Loved wrote “Norton was a gentle and kindly man, and fortunately found himself in the friendliest and most sentimental city in the world, the idea being let him be the emperor if he wants to. San Francisco played the game with him.”

There are good times in San Francisco and you don’t have to look too hard to find them. The waiters are not plastic actors in waiting, but actual waiters and there is decent value in their cocktails. Dress and act like Batkid or Emperor Norton and no one will bother you. It fact, they will probably smile and buy you multiple drinks. Just don’t call it “Frisco” or you will pay dearly for your egregious crime. Groove.

“It’s Time for Dodger Baseball”

Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax

We know them and love them : Sandy (Koufax), Steve, (Garvey), Davey (Lopes), Ron (Cey), Bill (Russell), Don (Drysdale), but what about Pop (Corkhill), Oyster (Burns), Hub (Collins), Adonis (Terry) and Needles (Foutz).  We recognize the first group of names as the true blue Dodgers of our immediate past, but those other names are early descendants having played on the Brooklyn teams that had many names. The Dodgers were originally founded in 1883 as the Brooklyn Atlantics, taking the name of a defunct team that had played in Brooklyn

before them. Then came the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (because so many team members were getting

Superbas

Superbas

married), then the Grooms, the Superbas (which I will now call the Dodgers after I’ve had more than one cocktail), the Robins, The Trolley Dodgers, before finally becoming the Dodgers.

The Dodgers greatest rivals are the Hated Ones (or Giants) of San Francisco.  Both teams moved to California in 1958 and while the teams were based in New York, the Giants won 5 World Championships (like saying the Egyptians made fine pyramids, it’s ancient history…..who cares) and the Dodgers just one. Since moving to modern times (west coast) the Dodgers have won 5 World Championships (there is no doubt that number will increase in the near future) with the Giants struggling to win 2.   Life goes on and as the ink dries on this paper the Los Angeles Dodgers Photo DayDodgers have a 15 1/2 game lead on the lowly last place Giants with the San Diego Padres desperately trying not to dip into the basement while pondering still another uniform change (Can you say branding?).  The Dodgers have had the same uniform for 70 years.

As we all know, rooting for your baseball team can be a cruel and fickle maiden, but listening to thehome-vin-scully honeyed voice of Vin Scully, (calling the Dodger games since 1950 …. “He’s a left handed batter and we understand his father makes wind chimes out of used toothpicks”) and loving the Dodgers, and the game of baseball, we are all lucky to be part of this wonderful ride of 2013.  Go Dodgers!

Groove.  Los_Angeles_Dodgers4

Rum makes a fine hot drink, a fine cold drink, and is not so bad from the neck of a bottle…Fortune magazine 1933

The Villa de Sergie

The Villa de Sergie

I love rum. My taste for the sultry fluid started many years ago when I was a guest at the Villa De Sergie, a magnificent abode filled with uncommon treasures, down in Puerto Vallarta where Daiquiris were blended with 108414-343x500-Classic_frozen_Daiquirideft hands to create a superbly delicate compound as a prelim liquid that would send us off into the evening. Rum, which is the pillar of Daiquiris goodness, is a dangerous agent which bows to the power of a contemptuous indifference to fate, sets the mind and body free of responsibility, obliterating memory of today and tomorrow, gives an adventurous feeling of superiority, vanquishes all fears and doubts, and in some cases allows the consumer to change his name, or at least add a new one.  Could a liquid be any finer ?

My favorite rum concoction is not the Mai Tai, Planters Punch, the Zombie, the Kid Fizz or the Mojito – though it will be a cold day in hell when I deny myself the pleasure of throwing any of these down, though the sweetness of these tropical drinks reminds me of Donny and Marie concert. My favorite is the straight Anejo Barcardi rum and soda water with 3 limes. This cocktail has many names such as the La Fonda, the Oh How We Danced, and the  Los Mismos. The later name came from Cuba in 1899 when the drink swept both Cubans and Americans off their feet at the fabulous Cosmopolitan club when one Cuban customer ordered a Bacardi and seltzer and his buddy said  “Lo Mismo” which is to say “the same” in Spanish. The Americans, eager to try something novel, also ordered “Lo Mismo”, found it much to their liking and ordered round after round of Mismos and brought the drink

The Las Rocas pool

The Las Rocas pool

back to stateside. I personally discovered it while touring with the Great Diego Despues down south of the border looking for venues that could handle the raucous ways of The Nick Talent Full Throttle Wide Open Golf Tournament. Sipping our Mismos, over looking the pool of the Las Rocas Hotel which was filled with fun and danger, we both agreed that we had found our venue and found our drink. For the next twenty years we made history.

Old-Rum-BottleGrog, which is basically rum diluted by water with occasional citrus to prevent scurvy, is associated with the bad boys of the seas: Pirates. But in reality, Grog came well after the Happy Days of the likes of Capt. Morgan, Blackbeard, and other pirates.  In 1740, the British Navy would issue a daily dram of grog as a moral booster to the swabs and it was unknown what was the strength of the concoction. The Sikes hydrometer, which measured alcohol content, was invented in 1816, but prior to that the alcohol content was determined by mixing the spirit with a few grains of gunpowder then subjecting the grog to the focused rays of the sun under a magnifier. If the gunpowder managed to ignite, but the liquid didn’t flare up, this was “proof” of its proper alcohol content.  Even diluted, the grog ration was the equivalent to about five cocktails per day and by the 1950s only a third of the British sailors took advantage of their grog tot.  As naval operations became more PirateRum-1complex with computers and missile systems, the daily grog rations made less sense than when all the sailors had to do was haul around  buckets of tar. Finally, on July 31, 1970, what is known in British naval circles as Black Tot Day, the final ration was given to the British sailors. With black arm bands, heavy hearts, and a 21 gun salute – the Grog rations were over after 325 years.

Now Rum comes in “Jolly Rancher” like flavors with the marketing pointed to the youth of America, which at best is a disturbing trend. One out of every 3 bottles of rum sold is one of those sickly sweet artificially flavored nightmares with “tropical” counterfeit  flavors such as mango, pineapple, and banana which has as much in common with “tropical” as Glade air freshener does with an Alpine meadow.

images-1Capt. Morgan rum is the number 2 rum in the world (Bacardi number 1) which accounts for one-third of the billion dollar rum market. It was introduced in the U.S. all the way back in 1949 by Seagrams and is now owned by Diageo which is the largest producer of liquior in the world. Other Diageo brands include the best selling vodka in the world Smirnoff, the two top Scotches Johnnie Walker and J&B , the leading stout Guinness, and the number 1 liqueur Baileys Irish Creme. The ten largest producers of booze in the world own 70% of all liquor brands and that concentration is sure to rise.

Let us remind ourselves that rum needs to be consumed if we want to advance as a society and I take this position as a volunteer to lead, drink, and travel the seven seas to spread its word.  I am a tippler who among sailors, bridge builders, spreaders of all imagespleasant forms of lark, soldiers of good fortune, marauding beserkers, priests, and other disreputable sorts, promise to spread the groove of rum wherever needed. Like right now.  Remember, if everyone follows the rules, in the end it will lead to chaos.  So drink more rum, break more rules – otherwise chaos will reign. Groove.

Again I stole this material from a wonderful book called  “And a Bottle of Rum” by Wayne Curtis which was given to me by my sister Goldie who I have known personally for 60 years. What a gal! (something our Dad would say)

Slippin’ On Your Travelling Shoes

th-15Travel…   I like to travel. Usually it’s a place with a great beach (Hawaii, Mexico) where my only decisions are whether to go into warm water or have another cocktail (usually the arrow points to the latter).  This is a very narrow view of the world, but has afforded me wonderful conversations with alleged heretics, blockade runners, utopian community leaders, scary men with dark initiatives, victims of shipwrecks, seedsmen, and midnight ramblers. Some of which I call my friends.

The word travel derives from the French word travail, meaning toil. Only in recent centuries has traveling come to be regarded as a recreational pursuit.  I don’t like to ” toil” and I don’t like to “pursue” unless it is for

a warm water beach and an excellent cocktail – so maybe a traveller I am not, but these following fellows surely are: John Ledyard, Richard Halliburton, and Duncan Hines (yeah, that Duncan Hines).  All three have travelled different paths, some with larger legacies than the others.

thJohn Ledyard was born in Connecticut in 1751.  Quit Dartmouth so he could “ramble more”.  Joined up with Capt. James Cook in the British Navy and saw the Cape of Good Hope, Tasmania, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, was the 1st US citizen to touch the western shores of the United States, toured Alaska, then the Bering Sea, back to Hawaii where Cook ran a foul with some of the natives and was stabbed to death, then all the way back to England.  Then on to Paris, where he conceived a bold scheme of exploration with the then American Ambassador to France, Tommy Jefferson, and was backed with dough from the Marquis de Lafayette, on a mission to explore the American continent by proceeding overland through Russia, crossing the Bering Strait, head south through Alaska, then across the American west to eventually Virginia. That is a lot of walking especially on a solo.  Sometimes I have trouble getting out of my chair and walking to the bar.

Well, Johnny didn’t make it. Went as far as eastern Siberia where he was arrested as a suspected spy on orders from  Cathy the Great and sent back to Poland, then eventually to London where he decided to walk from the Red Sea to the Atlantic ocean. Things don’t always work so well for some of those ramblin types and it didn’t work out so well for Johnny. While in Cairo, he accidentally chugged some sulfuric acid and did the big burnout from within (never a good way to go).  John Ledyard was buried in the shifting sand dunes lining the Nile, the location of his grave unknown today. Ledyard was described as a “mad, dreaming romantic” who in his day travelled to five different continents under the “common flag of humanity “.  This guy went the road less travelled and might have gone further if he laid off the sulfuric acid cocktails.th-2

Richard Halliburton was of the dashing sort. Very famous during his days, Richie made travel writing exciting with his globe trotting antics and dare devil deeds.  Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1900, a well bred upbringing and the soft comforts of home could not contain him. “Youth– nothing else worth having in the world…and I have youth, the transitory, the fugitive, now, completely and abundantly. Yet what am I going to do with it?  Certainly not squander its gold on the commonplace quest for riches and respectability, and then secretly lament the price that had to be paid for these futile ideas. Let those who wish have their respectability – I want freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice strikes my fancy, freedom to search in the furthermost corners of the earth for the beautiful, the joyous, and the romantic.” And Indulge he did.

th-7Halliburton rode an elephant over the Alps (he named her Miss Elysabethe Dalrymple), flew a crimson red bi-plane upside down over the Taj Mahal (he called his plane the Magic Carpet), dove into the cursed Mayan Well of Death in the Yucatan, swam the length of the Panama Canal (was charged a $0.36 fee), lived on Devils Island, enlisted in the French Foreign legion, took the chief of Dyak headhunters for a ride in his plane and received a gift of 100 shrunken heads for his effort, was the first to climb Mount Fujiyama in midwinter, had a long affair with screen idol Ramon Novarro, built a glass and concrete house above Laguna Beach called ” the Hangover house” in the 1930s which is stillth-5 there today, climbed the Matterhorn, and wrote about all his exploits in travel books and magazines which made him quite wealthy.

On March 3rd 1939 Halliburton began to sail a Chinese junk across the Pacific Ocean. The Sea Dragon was a th-8gaudily decorated 75 ft.ship that looked better than it floated, and was more properly suited for a ride at Disneyland than challenging the Pacific Ocean. Leaving Hong Kong in route to San Francisco with a crew of 7, the “Dragon” ran into a typhoon. ” Southernly Gales…Rain Squalls…Leeward Rail Under Water…Wet Bunks…Hardtack Bully Beef…Having Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Here Instead Of Me.” were the last words coming from the  Sea Dragon. The search turned up nothing. Richard Halliburton and crew had disappeared under the waves.  He was 39 years old.

Duncan Hines was a road weary traveling salesman who worked for a Chicago printer. By 1935 and at the age of 55 th-13Duncan had eaten a lot of good and bad grub across the US of A. Old Dunc and his wife Flo began assembling a list for friends of good restaurants around the country which became so popular he put the recommendations in a paperback and called it ” Adventures in Good Eating”. One such listing in 1939 read: Corbin, KY, Court and Cafe, open all year except Xmas 24 hr. service Sizzling Steaks, fried chicken, country ham Lunch $.50-$1.00 Dinner $.60 -$1.00  Good Eats ! Duncan claims he traveled 2 million miles across this great land and the phrase ” Recommended by Duncan Hines” became something to strive for. He started a newspaper article called ” Adventures in Good Eating at Home” with recipes acquired from the best restaurants he enjoyed. He even introduced Duncan Hines Bread to the world through the Durkee’s Bakery. Hines sold the rights to his name which was eventually bought by Proctor and Gamble. He never pretended to be a cake dude , but enjoyed the accolades of the most moistness of all the cakes. Big D died of the Big C at the age of 71.

th-18Moist cakes, shrunken heads, and sulfuric acid cocktails are all a big reach for me.  Now a traveller maybe I’m not, but I like three limes with my Anejo Rum and soda, warm water at my feet, and a good sunset. I sit having the docility of an old Springer Spaniel and in these days I am less excitable just more preoccupied. In  my tiny narrow view of the world – the world for the most part, is a beautiful place.  For me, these days, it’s perhaps more appreciated than trampled upon.  Groove.

The Man Who Would Be King…of Abalonia

whiskey-on-the-rocksI think having a drink with someone is important and should be done frequently.  Sometimes you need to have 3 (I haven’t forgotten you Nelson), but the number is only important when you consider who is across the table from you.  Good stories usually dribble out – sometimes tales of bad behavior, sometimes delicate dreams that held sway in longing hearts that were then torn asunder.  Perhaps a combination of truth and lies from the hidden caves of misery or the joyful fountains of happiness.  Or it could mean being drowned in a torrent of repeated endless jabber by one who is over-served and your only wish is for some terrible medical emergency to envelope this person or at worst, envelope yourself.

Joe Kirkwood, Jr.

Joe Kirkwood, Jr.

I want to have a drink with Joe Kirkwood, Jr.  Not because Joe and his Dad (Joe Sr.) became the first father / son to make the cut at the US

Open Golf Championship in 1948.  Not because Joe starred in eleven “Joe Palooka” films and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  I want to have a drink with Joe Kirkwood because he tried to build his own country on top of a shallow seamount  100 miles directly west of San Diego called Cortes Bank.  The Bank rises from a depth of more

Joe Palooka

Joe Palooka

than a mile, up to the shallowest peak, called Bishop Rock, a mere 3-6 feet from the surface depending on the tide.  It is here where some of the biggest waves on earth, some 60′, 70′, 100′ high, rise from the depths and it is here where Joe wanted to sink a 334 ft. concrete ship weighing five thousand tons, surround it with huge boulders from a quarry in Ensenada, and become King of the country of Abalonia.  Joe and his pals were nation builders and what is amazing is not that these Founding Fathers of Abalonia failed, but how close they came to succeeding.  Sit down Joe, I’m buying.

Joe and his confederates assembled at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach on Nov.13th, 1966 and were ready to shove off.  Joe showed up in pressed pleated khaki trousers, a cashmere sweater, and a pair of fur apres-ski boots. Perfect wear for sinking a ship, placing boulders in the middle of the ocean, and declaring your throne.  There were 3 ships involved: the concrete 334 ft. Jalisco which was being towed by tug to Cortes Bank from San Francisco after being purchased for $80,000, the Rainbow’s End which was the center of communication control, and the Polaris which was given the job of coordinating the five barges of large boulders being brought up from Ensenada.  The general plan was to scuttle the Jalisco atop Bishops Rock in shallow water and surround the ship with ever expanding rings of boulders so she could be used as a seafood processing factory.  Joe and his crew figured that international maritime law would allow them to become the rulers of their own nation because Cortes Bank was in international waters.

As the strange flotilla was trying to gather, Kirkwood’s plan hit the news and drew the attention of the city San Diego, the U.S. Army Corpsth-9 of Engineers, and U.S. Attorney Edwin Miller.  Was Joe a commie sympathizer who wanted to set up his own private Cuba with missiles pointed at the Hotel Del Coronado?  What if the Abalonians decided to restrict fishing in their newly claimed territorial waters? What if Joe got together with the Mob Guys in Vegas and set up a casino?  Many questions and no answers.  It was calm as a pond, glassy, with no swell as the boys started to move the Jalisco in position on Bishops Rock.  No one seemed to notice that the horizon to the west had started a see-saw motion very slow and at a great distance.

Surfer at Cortes Bank

Surfer at Cortes Bank

A marine layer now encircled the process adding a ghostly pale to the proceedings. The Jalisco was in position and the sinking had started. What had also started was that the Jalisco was being enveloped by long, low-frequency forerunners that formed the leading edge of a huge North Pacific swell.  As the outer edge of the swell swept past the Jalisco the waves encountered something they hadn’t encountered since they felt Hawaii – an immovable object that is Cortes Bank. The wave’s energy now was compressed and could go nowhere but up.  The Jalisco now climbed and sharply dropped with her hull banging like a deafening gong. The sets continued with the waves increasing in size.  The men on the Jalisco had to leave and they had to leave now. Their only hope would be a lull in the giant sets. The men dove overboard and were yanked out of the water by the crew of the Rainbow’s End. Everyone left the Jalisco, that is, everyone except Joe Kirkwood who clutched the forward mast. The men on the Rainbow’s End watched as the water below the bow of the stricken Jalisco was drawn down and then gathered into a beautiful blue green nightmare that loomed above the Jalisco some 50 feet in the air with fish inside

Joe hanging on to the Jalisco

Joe hanging on to the Jalisco

the wave plainly visible.  It exploded on the Jalisco and sent poor Joe flying off the ship still wearing his fur after-ski boots.  Kirkwood tumbled some 200 yards down the trough of the wave and miraculously ended up just feet from the tug boat and was successfully plucked from the sea.  After more waves, the entire superstructure was torn completely off the Jalisco with a mingling of water and steel.  The Jalisco was gone and so were the dreams of the Nation of Abalonia.

The Jalisco going down

The Jalisco going down

The Jalisco split into 3 pieces of sharp jagged steel which makes surfing this inhospitable place that much more dangerous. Surfer Mike Parsons in January 2008 caught a documented 80 foot wave at Cortes Bank with the skeleton of the Jalisco below him.  In 1985 the gigantic aircraft carrier USS Enterprise wandered to close to

Parsons at Cortes Bank

Parsons at Cortes Bank

Cortes Bank putting a 60 foot gash in her outer hull, ripped-off her port keel, and

severely deformed her outboard port propellers.  She continued operations and her captain was relieved of his duties.

By my calculations Joe Kirkwood Jr., whose whereabouts are unknown, is about 93 years old.  But Joe, if you are out there, let me buy you a couple and you can tell me about being the King of Abalonia. Do you still have those boots?

If you get a chance please read the book “Ghost Wave” by  Chris Dixon. A wonderful book about Cortes Bank which I borrowed and stole from. Thanks Chris.   Groove.

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