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Archive for the tag “truth”

A Fine Healthy Serving of Useless Information, Open Wide Please

Let’s see if we can tie this together with a big rope, some bungee cords, a lot of yarn, and perhaps some pretty red ribbon:

During WW2 the United States best air ace was Richard Bong (no relation to the marijuana smoking device) who shot down 40 enemy planes in his P-38. Dick later died test flying a jet in North Hollywood, Cal.

The German Ace of Aces was Erich Hartmann who shot down 352 enemy planes was nicknamed Bubi (The Kid), which has no relation to Sir Mike Stiefel, who holds court in the great state of North Carolina. Hartmann had a daughter named Ursula (who is not related to the Queen Mother of All Groove, Ursula Banning who calls the shots from her pad in Montecito, Cal) nor is Erich connected to arguably one of the funniest Saturday Night Live players Phil Hartman, who went to Westchester high and Santa Monica College and opened his own graphic design firm where his designed at least 40 album covers for bands such as America, Poco, and Steely Dan’s Aja (not confirmed)  before hitting his true calling as a comedian. The crazy ones are fun to run with for a while, but Phil paid a high price when he tied the knot to a real wacko – his 3rd wife Brynn Ordahl who shot him 3 times in a coke freakout as he lay sleeping before offing herself.  His ashes were strewn over Emerald Bay in Catalina.

Phil also designed the logo for Crosby, Stills, and Nash, but he did not design the goofy “cartoon bird” logo for one of my favorite baseball teams the Baltimore Orioles. The “Cartoon Bird” logo came out in 1965 and was on the hat for Brooks, Frank, Boog, Jimmy P, Earl and even Cal. The same group of animators came up with the updated characters of one of my favorite cereals Rice Krispies (Rice Bubbles in Australia.) The original cereal came out in 1927 and the characters Snap, Crackle, and Pop (Kiks, Raks, and Poks in Finnish) have changed a bit over the years (who can forget the 4th guy in the group Pow who represented claimed “explosive nutritional value”, but was soon dropped like a hot potato.) In 1963 the Rolling Stones recorded a short song for a Rice Krispies commercial. The same group of animators also came up with Tony the Tiger, the Jolly Green Giant and the Hamms Beer bear.

But Pow is dead and so are about 200  poor souls stuck on Mount Everest. Their bodies are now used as landmarks and trail markers. “Green Boots” (see photo) died in 1996 and now serves as a waypoint marker that climbers use to gauge how near they are to the summit. “Green Boots” got separated from his group, sought refuge in a mountain overhang, and shivered in the cold until he died. In 2006 English climber Dave Sharp joined “Green Boots” when he stopped in the overhang to rest. His body eventually froze in place rendering him unable to move, but still alive. Over 40 climbers passed by as he sat freezing to death thinking that he was already dead. Eventually some heard faint moans, realized he was still alive, but alas, it was too late.

So from Fighter Aces to Phil Hartman to the logo for the Baltimore Orioles to Rice Krispies to Dead people on Mount Everest, that’s a bucket of useless information poured over your head. To help you lather it in pour yourself something cold and refreshing (I suggest an Anejo rum and soda water with three limes), take those damn shoes off, flush away those brain cramps, and just drift for a while. You will thank me later. Groove.

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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.

 

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.

Did Dale know? What about Trigger?

santa-monica-pier-sunrise-josh-whalen   It was a beautiful Sunday morning, crisp and clear, and I was drawn to the venerable Santa Monica pier. I wanted to check on my theory (still under investigation) that the pier fishermen who dress better, will catch more fish. It pieris important when one ventures into that sector of this fair city that it is done early before the pier feels the roar of it’s juices, then proceeds to throw up on itself.

As Catalina lurked out at sea like a huge sleeping seal, I reminded myself that the island gave inspiration to the great screenwriter Robert Towne who wrote “Chinatown” at the Banning Hotel there at the Isthmus.  As I glanced north to the Pacific Palisades, I thought of Alan LeMay who wrote the book “The Searchers” which later became one of my favorite movies.  Alan wrote it from his small office behind the incorrigible “House of Lee” restaurant where I had spent hours swilling Cambodian Mules, Saucy Scorpion Bowls, and Rum Giggles.  (It was also at the House of Lee, as a young child that I was tricked by my family to take a bite of the tightly rolled hot towel thinking it was an exotic appetizer… I hope someday my trust level will return.)  The restaurant is long gone, Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 4.00.05 PMreplaced by a soulless venue. But when you think of the H.O.L., think Trader Vic’s but without any semblance of class, filled with waiters who were incurably addicted to fumbling, whose clientele were sopped with both despair and elation depending on the hour, and was run by those who had an incredible tolerance for the uneven.  The movie “The Searchers” stared John Wayne, Ward Bond (both friends of my grandparents), Jeff Hunter (who lived in the Palisades) and of course a young Natalia Niko Laevna Zacharencho (also known as Natalie Wood).  The movie also has an interesting musical connection – after seeing the movie at the State Theatre in Lubbock, Texas and hearing John Wayne’s character utter “That will be the day” four times in the movie, a young Buddy Holly was inspired to write his number one hit of the same name.

images-1Somehow this all brings me to the end of the Santa Monica pier, where the crust level increases and poorly dressed fishermen, whose hands shimmer with bait fish scales, have as much luck catching fish as a group of alley cats belting out a major cord on key.  A big smiley face with chiclets for teeth holds on to a fiddle in an old poster. His name is SpadeUnknown-2 Cooley.  Spade was huge in his day as an American Western swing band leader, actor, and television personality – hitting it big in the 40’s and 50’s. He and his band battled Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys to be “King of the Western Swing”.  In 1948 he hosted his own variety show, broadcast on KTLA from the Santa Monica Pier Ballroom, thus according to some, Unknown-3was the first variety show on television. His guests included Frankie Lane, Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, and the Chairman himself, Frank Sinatra. The Main Spade was very successful at the time, having brought in his future wife Ella Mae Evans (no relation to Dale) on vocals. He packed them in too – sometimes up to 8000 folks would come for the show and dance with their fellow bolo tie and boot crowd.  Spade gave his band members country names like Smokey Rodgers, Cactus Soldi and Pedro Depaul, even though the majority of them were cool city cats from Cleveland, Brooklyn and Milwaukee. It wasn’t till 1956 that Spade’s ratings suffered because of the new guy on TV, Lawrence Welk .

imagesSpade bought a huge pad out in isolated Willow Springs, in the Antelope Valley, where he parked Ella Mae and the kids. AfterUnknown-1 seeing the success of Disneyland, Spade wanted to make a huge water park on his property called “Water Wonderland.”  That didn’t work out and Spade’s world started to unravel.  The marriage between he and Ella was going down the toilet due to Spade becoming a huge booze bag and the wandering eyes of both Spade and Ella. It all came to a head when Ella confessed to an affair with Roy Rodgers (did Dale know? Did Trigger know?) It was April 3, 1961, and Spade’s jealous rampages meant bad news for Mrs. Cooley. He beat her, interrogated her, burned her with his cigarettes, and eventually killed her. The authorities were called and the dark-souled Spade was sent to the Big House – found guilty of murder by his peers after using the old “fell in the shower” line to explain Ella’s beat up body and cig burns. (Has that “fell in the shower” excuse ever worked ?)

scjailSpade was sent to San Quentin then to a softer Vacaville prison where he was a model prisoner.  Ron Reagan became governor of Cal in 1966, waved his magic wand, and Spade was going to be a free man. In 1969 the parole board voted unanimously to parole the country crooner effective on his 60th birthday. He did less than nine years for killing his wife. Four months before his release, Spade was granted a 4 day furlough to perform in Oakland at a benefit concert for the Sheriffs department. The crowd loved his performance and from the side of the stage he remarked “I think it’s all going to work out for me. I have a feeling that today is the first day of the rest of my life.”  WRONGO (my Dad’s saying) – Spade grabbed his chest, dropped his fiddle and fell dead at the age of 59 of a heart attack.

So what did we learn from a trip to the pier on a Sunday morn?  That Roy Rodgers was not as squeeky clean as his wife Dale Evans or his horse Triggerimages-4 had hoped,  that the ” fell in the shower” excuse never works (Greg Hardy), that you can call a Spade a spade, and that the theory that nicely dressed fishermen catch more fish is still being explored and tabulated. Groove.

 

Let us drink wine and escape for a moment or two

 

campThe word escape means different things to different people. Escape could mean getting away from something that curdles the blood and hazes one’s judgement. It could mean getting away from a loveless marriage or a life baked hardpan hard.  And it can also mean escaping from a World War II prison camp with the help of the world’s most famous board game, Monopoly.

Aaaaahhh Monopoly…  Who hasn’t spent a few pleasant hours trying to steal Monopolyimages-1 cash when your sisters aren’t looking or perhaps sprucing up some of those ill gained properties with a few stolen green houses or red hotels….then watch as the sisters grovel – unable to pay the exorbitant rent that you charge…and then see them curse their unfortunate choices of the thimble, the joyless iron, or that little yapping Scotty dog.  Okay, none of that actually happened (I’m pretty sure), but the point being, is that we’ve all enjoyed the game.  It began to be mass marketed in 1934 and I’m sure there are some of us who recoiled in horror and disbelief upon hearing the plans to replace the Scotty, the race horse, the hat, the wheelbarrow, the imagesshoe, the battleship, and of course the thimble. (The new pieces have been chosen, but their lameness prevents listing.)

During WW2 large numbers of British airmen found themselves in POW camps trying to figure out how to escape.XIB_BU3856  Well, here comes the Monopoly angle: Germany, in a rare nod to the Geneva Convention, allowed humanitarian groups to distribute care packages to the prisoners and one of the items allowed in those packages were “games and pastimes.”  So the British came up with fake charities that sent Monopoly games to the prisoners. The games were licensed to the British, so instead of having streets from Atlantic City like the American game, the British ones had streets from London.  Carefully placed inside the boards were escape tools like tiny compasses that could fit on the fingertip, metal files, German money which was mixed into the Monopoly money, and most important, silk maps (silk because they were hardier than paper, wouldn’t tear easily or desolve if wet and they didn’t make noise.) Royal Air Force flyers were told that if there was a red dot in the free parking area of the board that it was a “special edition” with the escape tools within.  It is estimated monopoly_wwii_silk_escape_map_-_credit_phil_orbanes_0that more than 35,000 P.O.W’s successfully escaped from prison camps with approximately 1/3 using the rigged Monopoly sets. In a way this gives new meaning to the “get out of jail free” card.  Unfortunately, there are none of these special boards in existence because the airmen were told to destroy the boards in order to keep the secret from the Germans. Escape they did with the help of the escape tools and old Rich Uncle Pennybags (that’s the name of the chubby guy with the stash and the top hat who is always so happy ) .

Escape can mean many things. Some want to escape reality, some want to escape a mundane existence.  Some want to escape the sin-then-repent cycle, some want to escape the necessity of choice. But for many of us, you can never escape

YUM! wear 309

the want and need for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken or a pair of Double Doubles with grilled onions and a fry pack when you’re hung over. 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.

Go Johnnie Go…the life we’ve lived

johncolterrunJohnnie, stripped of his clothes and shoes, was running naked as a jaybird, stepping on prickly pears, blood running from his nostrils as it does with racehorses when extreme exertion causes the lung tissue to hemorrhage.  Basically Johnnie was trying to escape from the maw of death.  I suppose we all have made runs such as this, in some form, at some point in our lives.  A run of shame, a hasty

Cabrini Green

Cabrini Green

yet nimble retreat down rickety back stairs;  a young, clothes clutching lad, who was running towards his certain demise at the Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago, scooped up by a haloed, trash truck driving savior;  the tire iron and croquet mallet wielding miscreants chasing an innocent Dodger fan through the parking lot of Jack Murphy stadium.  These events are all too common in this day and age where unshirted zealotry is coupled with a bovine lack of curiosity, where imaginations are used more than memory, and where charm and reliability rarely come in the same package .

images-1But Johnnie’s issues did not come from this day and age.  Johnnie Colter’s issues were from 1808 when this fur trapper, mountain man extraordinaire, member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and first person of European descent to enter the region now known as Yellowstone National Park, met up with some Blackfoot Indians in a liverish mood. While canoeing up the Jefferson River he and his partner John Potts ran into several hundred Blackfoot who motioned them to the side of the river.  Johnnie went ashore where he was forced to nude up by the Indians, but Potts tried to get away.images  He was riddled with arrows like a sewer’s pin-cushion and his body was brought to shore where it was hacked to small pieces. Johnnie thought his fate was going to be the same as his buddy Potts, but no. The chief, after much council, thought he would make a game of it.  Telling Johnnie to dash, it all became clear – John Colter was in for the run of his life.  He was given a two hundred yard head start then chased by 300 young warriors full of menace.  Johnnie had to hear their horrid war whoops closing in behind him and probably thought he had as much chance to outrun the young bucks as Donna Summer did getting into the images-4Rock-n-Roll hall of fame (actually she made it in 2013 ….so weird.)  He looked back and saw that the chasing Indians had scattered and he had gained ground on the main body of his pursuers with the exception of one brave who was within 50 yards. By this time he had run 6 miles and could still hear the footsteps close behind him.

Suddenly Johnnie stopped, turned around, and spread his arms. The Indian, totally surprised by the images-2suddenness of his action, and perhaps because of Johnnie’s bloody appearance, also came to a halt, but tripped and fell to the ground, his spear breaking at the blade. Johnnie grabbed the blade section and impaled the Brave onto God’s good earth. The trailing Indians saw what occurred and increased their pursuit with renewed vigor and vengeance.

Johnnie ran like few of us ever have, eventually jumping into the freezing Madison River, where he hid in cottonwoods var_mtnmanand beaver dens to survive. He walked, climbed high snow covered peaks, and ran for eleven more days, usually at night, until he finally arrived at a trading post on the Little Big Horn. His life had been won.   In the end the wild life of the Mountain Man lost its attraction, and Johnnie fell back to St. Louis where he found his wife and found his last days.

We all have friends like Johnnie who are bold with adventure, who percolate in their own vitality – and we are better for them.  We all have friends that have found themselves in difficult situations (usually self made) where things could have gone terribly wrong, but now are just good stories.  Good FriendsSome have been forced to run for their lives, either figuratively or literally, and their thunder-clap stories enhance us and shield us from the winds of normalcy.  So let us toast to the gallant, to the foolish, to those who defy slumber, to those with affections and afflictions, to those who shirk the mundane, to those who bring smiles and head shakes to us with their exploits.  So here is a toast to Johnnie Colter and to our wonderful friends. Groove

Tigers get the Win the Colonel goes for a Swim

KfcWe all have hopes, dreams, and goals…some loftier than others. Perhaps it is to be the first female President of the USA or to climb the 10 highest peaks in the world.  Or maybe to rule the Planet Mars with an iron fist covered in purple crushed velvet or to own a 1000 ft luxury yacht and force your crew to dress in clown costumes.  These all make sense to me – but my hope, my dream, my goal last Sunday, after a night of extended Christmas partying, was to go to KFC and get some chicken.  Clearly, I was a quart low.

As I was filling my pores with the Colonel’s best and wondering why we have similar facial hair, suddenly I was reminded of a dark sinister curse involving the Colonel.  Not the Red Sox Curse of the thBambino, not the Cubs Curse of the Billy Goat, but the Curse of the Japanese Hanshin Tigers baseball team by the deceased KFC founder and mascot, Colonel Harlan Sanders.

01colonelcurseThe Curse is said to be on the team because of the Colonel’s well placed anger from the grave (The Colonel called it a day in 1980) over the treatment of one of his storefront statues.  Following their teams’s victory in the 1985 Japan Championship Series (they’re only  championship ), the Colonel’s statue was thrown into the Dotonbori River by celebrating Hanshin Tiger fans.  The Tiger fans are known as the most fanatical and dedicated fans of 428628_10151356196460807_1699313501_nJapanese baseball.  They have a reputation for rough and sometimes violent behavior, which is very rare in Japanese sports yet oddly in keeping with the rough and violent behavior of Colonel Harlan Sanders, who twice lost jobs for brawling with colleagues and ended his legal career after he engaged in a courtroom donnybrook with his own client.  Koshien Stadium (where the Tigers th-1play) is the oldest ballpark in Japan; built in 1925 and the Tigers themselves were founded in 1935.  The stadium was once visited by the great Babe Ruth in 1934.

After the Tigers won their championship in 1985, fans celebrated by having people who looked like Tiger players jump into the Dotonbori Canal (an odd concept at best…hard to imagine Tigers_Fans_JumpBoston Red Sox fans jumping into the Charles River because they look like Big Papi or Dustin Pedroia.) According to legend, because none of the fans resembled star player Randy Bass (a white American first-baseman playing for the Tigers) fans grabbed a life sized statue of the Kentucky Fried Chicken mascot Colonel Sanders from a local KFC Randy-Bass-Colonel-Sandersstore and threw it into the river. (The only resemblance Bass had with the Colonel was that he had facial hair and was not Japanese.)  Since this attack on the plastic American icon the Tigers have not won another championship. They made it to the finals in 2003 only to lose to those spunky Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, but that didn’t stop some 5300 fans from jumping into the canal.  This celebration turned to tragedy when Tiger fan Masaya Shitababa drowned after being shoved into the river by revelers.

The Colonel was finally discovered  in the Dotonbori River in 2009 and hauled out of the mud – seeing the light of day for the colsanders200-afc2106f280c2519805d9f6a474481a2e506ce4b-s6-c30first time since 1985.  The right hand and lower body were found the next day, but the left hand and glasses are still missing, and thus the curse continues until all of the Colonel can be found.

Curses are a bitch, especially from the Colonel. He might make some fine artery clogging fried kfc1chicken, which is delightful when a hangover the size of a mastodon is sitting on your head, but you chuck the likes of him into a Japanese River and you can kiss your championship season goodbye for a long time.  So when you are in the shower singing the Hanshin Tiger’s fight song “Rokko Oroshi” (The Downward Wind of Mount Rokko)  “Powerful hits and skillful pitch achieved a thousand times” think of the Colonel and the importance of repressing 250px-Colonel_Sanders4your need to throw plastic replicas of founders of fried chicken chains who very vaguely resemble an American ballplayer into Japanese rivers.  Groove.

Annie Did Not Steal Trousers to Buy Cocaine

Annie Oakley

Annie Oakley

The headline in one of the America’s biggest newspapers read that she was in prison for “stealing the trousers of a negro in order to get money with which to buy cocaine.”   She was “adopted” by one of the masterminds who dealt the United States one of it’s biggest military defeats of the 19th Century.  She could be considered one of America’s first movie stars and her husband was so distraught upon her death that he died just 18 days later.

Annie Oakley was a five foot tall American legend. She thrilled audiences around the world with her Annie_Oakley-1daring gun shooting exploits. She helped fuel turn-of-the-century nostalgia for the vanishing mythical American West, even though she never lived west of the Mississippi.  A champion in a man’s sport, she forever changed ideas about the abilities of women, yet she opposed the suffrage movement. Her fame and fortune came with her self taught skills with a gun, yet she was a Quaker.

Little Annie was born Phoebe Anne Moses in the woods of Ohio and first picked up a gun at the age of 8.  She taught herself the use of firearms as a way to help her struggling family by shooting quail, squirrels, and other small animals then selling her take to local markets and families. Thanks to her prowess with various weapons, she became her household’s primary breadwinner and developed a reputation as quite the shot.

th-2Frank Butler was also making himself a name as a marksman and on a trip to Ohio, he challenged a local hotel owner to a $100 bet ($2300 in todays dough) that he could beat anyone around. Frank was very surprised when a 15 year old, five foot tall, 100 lbs. girl took the challenge. He not only lost the match, but Annie won  his heart. They were married soon after and toured as Butler and Oakley (Oakley is the name of a small province in Ohio), the name that Miss Moses adopted.

Annie dazzled crowds around the country first on the variety circuit, then the circus, then finally with annie_4Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. There she was “adopted” by Chief Sitting Bull, main architect of the Battle of Little Bighorn (also known as Custer’s Last Stand) where 268 soldiers of the 7th Calvary were killed. Sitting Bull called her “Watanya Cicilla” (which means “Little Sure Shot”).  Oakley amazed audiences by splitting playing cards in two (edge to edge) from ninety feet.  After stopping at 40 cities around America she and the Wild West Show hit Europe in 1889 going to The Paris Exposition. The Wild West show travelled all around Europe where she entertained the likes of Oscar Wilde, Queen Victoria, the King of Italy, President of France and other crowned heads of state. Oakley had such good aim that at his request, she knocked the ashes off a cigarette held by newly crowned German Kaiser Wilhelm II.  It was the stuff of stardom.

After meeting Tommy Edison in Paris she agreed to go to his studio in New Jersey where Tom filmed her with his new invention called a kinetograph, a primitive device which was the forerunner of the movie camera. She was filmed shooting glass balls which were filled with powder and feathers, which for the times was very dramatic.  The film became hugely popular and spread her fame further.

With Fame so often comes trouble and that is what the scumbag William Randy Hearst tried to strap on little Annie.  In 1903 he printed a story in his newspapers that Annie was in prison for theft which she did in order to maintain her coke habit.  Though completely false, the story was picked up by newspapers from coast to coast. Annie was pissed and though many newspapers issued an immediate retraction she ends up filing 55 libel suits. The legal battles would run another 7 years with Annie traveling back and forth across the country to testify.  The evil Hearst hired a detective to visit her home town to get dirt on Annie, but this time his smear campaign failed. Too clean to smear. She collected a lot of dough from the libel suits, but lost income and time in doing so.

th-3Annie retired from showbiz (in her 60’s) and she and Frank bought a place in Pinehearst, North Carolina.  They went to visit Buffalo Bill, who had made foolish investments, was an easy mark, and whose health was failing. Creditors had been selling off his possessions and bankruptcy was in the cards.  Finally, their old friend passed away in Denver, CO in 1917.  Annie wrote “William Frederick Cody was the kindest, simplest, most loyal man I ever knew…. The personification of those sturdy and lovable qualities that really made the West.”th

At the start of World War I, Annie wrote a letter to the Secretary of War that she was willing to gather a troop of “sure shot” women to help in the war effort.  He thanked her, but declined.

Annie and Frank moved back to her home town of Greenville, Ohio and on Nov. 03 1926 she died of frank-e--butler-2natural causes. She was 66 years old. After the death of his beloved wife Frank Butler refuses to speak, eat, or drink and dies 18 days later.  They were married for 50 years.

Annie Oakley should get the nod for being one of the first female international superstars  and she spread her sharp shooting skills to over 130 cities around the world. The Irving Berlin musical “Annie Get Your Gun” came out in 1946, was an immediate hit, and still plays today. th-1 One of the hit songs from the musical is “There’s No Business Like Show Business” which was originally sung by the first “Annie,” the great Ethel Merman.  If you ever see Nancy Doyle or Ann Banning Wright on the streets of America they will break into that song with little provocation and do it Ethel Merman style.  A sight that enchants the senses and delights the ears. Please let me know if you have had that pleasure. Groove.

Big Al, Fast Eddie, Ursula, and Butch

th-2It is true that screen writer Robert Towne (Shampoo, the Last Detail ) wrote the screen play for ” Chinatown ” at the Banning House Lodge at the Isthmus on Catalina Island, California. It is  true that the Ford Thunderbird, the low, stylish two-seater iconic car of the 50’s, was named after the Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Ford.1957.Thunderbird ConvertibleCalifornia . The country club was also the first place that golf carts were  used, invented by assistant pro Eddie Susalla.  It is also true  that during World War II, the casualty rate for every 1000 US Army soldiers in uniform was 24,  for the US Marines there were 29 casualties for every 1000, and for the US Air Corps it was a startling 400 of every 1000  bomber crew members that were casualties. The average age of a typical US soldier in WW2 was 26 (in Vietnam it was 19) born in the year that the war to end all wars ended (World War I, 1918).  He weighed 144 pounds and was 5’8″.  One in three only had a grade school education, one in four held a high school diploma, and one in ten attended college for at least one semester. This is all true.

cache_500_1_1_img_222195_a1931a6c18d4ba557ed854bcae419b41jpg.imgBut what is not true is that Fast Eddie O’Hare turned in his client Al Capone to the Feds and the IRS because he wanted his son Butch to learn the value of honesty and integrity. There have been attempts to tell this tale as a story of redemption and a morality play to demonstrate the importance of recognizing the errors of one’s ways, of atoning for one’s misdeeds, of trying to do right and prevent one’s sins from being visited upon future generations.  All valuable lessons indeed, but they have little to do with the true story of Fast Eddie, Ursula (Eddie’s fiance), Eddie’s son Butch, and Al ” Scarface” Capone.

Fast Eddie was a St. Louis attorney who ditched his wife, got a divorce, and moved to Chicago where he started collaborating with Big Al both in biz and in law.  A lot of lettuce tumbled Eddie’s way and the al-caponeChicago night life was doing him favors.  Eddie hooked up with Ursula Sue Granata whom he planned to marry, but being a good Catholic lad he couldn’t pull the marriage trigger because of the divorce, which made Ursula none too happy.  Eddie sent a lot of dough to the Vatican in hopes that a request for a dispensation would come through, but Eddie had to keep on waiting.  Eddie was rolling in the green doing legal work for Al and sharing in the huge profits from these less than noble activities.  Besides dancin in the dough, living the highlife with Ursula, and groovin with Big Al, Eddie was also an adoring father to his son Butch who he tried to give all the best things in life.

But here is when the baloney hits the meat grinder: Fast Eddie could give Butch all that money could buy, but what he couldn’t do was give Butch a good name, a name not tarnished by the  putrid smell of association with gangsters.  So, to rectify this malady Eddie decided to go to the authorities, admit his crimes, tell the truth, and turn in evidence of tax evasion by Al Capone to the IRS thus sending Big Al to Federal Prison at Alcatraz.  Eddie did this knowing that by turning against his boss and giving states evidence he would be signing his own death warrant, but this way Eddie would be doing the right thing by telling the truth and would be  teaching Butch a valuable lesson in integrity…… all of this is a towering lather of fabrication.

Edward_J._O_Hare_s

Ed O’Hare

Fast Eddie did eventually provide valuable information that aided Federal authorities in sending Capone to prison for income tax evasion, but he didn’t do it because of an attack of conscience or wanting to right the numerous wrongs he had done.  He did it because he saw that Big Al was going down and tried to save his own skin from going to the big house.  Cutting a deal with the Feds was the easy part; dodging the bullets from the guns of Big Al’s apes – not so easy.

So Al goes away to the slammer and “The Chicago Outfit” is now run by Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti.  What happens to Fast Eddie, Butch, and Ursula ? Well, on November 8th, 1939 Fast Eddie got into his 1939 Lincoln, placed a Spanish made .32 – caliber pistol on the seat and drove away from his office.  As Eddie approached the corner of Ogden and Rockwell (no relation) a car roared up beside him and two professionals let loose double volleys from shot guns killing Eddie instantly.  In his pocket was a rosary, a crucifix, and a poem clipped from a magazine. ” The clock of life is wound but once And no man has the power To tell just when the hands will stop At late or early hour Now is the only time you own Live, love, toil with a will Place no faith in time For the clock may soon be still”. Eddie was 46 years old and was a rat who got what he deserved.

Ohare

Butch O’Hare

Butch O’Hare became a Navy pilot in the Pacific theater during World War II and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic effort in shooting down five Japanese bombers in defense of his carrier ” The

Butch being awarded the Medal of Honor

Butch being awarded the Medal of Honor

Lexington” thus becoming the Navy’s first “Ace” of the War. “One of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation” stated President Roosevelt.  On November 26 th, 1943

during a night mission Butch was shot down and lost at sea. There is evidence that indicates he was killed by friendly fire.  Butch O’Hare was suitably honored when the Chicago airport once known as Orchard Depot was renamed O’Hare International in 1949 and continues today as the world’s busiest airport.

Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti

Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti

Can’t forget about Ursula, Eddie’s fiance.  Several months after Eddie was killed Ursula married Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti , the boss who ordered Eddie’s murder.  Can’t trust those “good time gals” and you can’t trust a slimy rat “mouthpiece”.

Groove.

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