GrooveCentralLA

What I groove on

Archive for the tag “vigor”

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.

 

Advertisements

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.

No Ordinary Street

Useless, Insignificant, Poetic

Sam the Butcher from the Brady Bunch, Colonel Klink from  Hogan’s Heros, and the Chief from Get Smart – they all lived within a couple of blocks from the  home at 231 North Bundy Drive where my family lived for close to 40 years. Our house was modest, but filled with comfort, fun, and love – all the handy work of our Mom and Dad. One can tell by the status of the TV stars that lived around us that our neighborhood was attractive, yet unassuming, built-in the 40’s.

I was disturbed when reading of Bundy Drive that it was called “notorious” and “infamous” because of the knifework on Nicole and Ron by that depraved reprobate O.J.   Bundy Drive deserves much better than to be associated with that coward.

Bundy Drive was named after real estate developer  Tom Bundy who was also a three-time winner of  the Men’s Doubles at the U.S.Tennis Championships. Tommy married May Sutton, who at age 18, won the Women’s single title at the U.S. Championship and also became the first American and first non-British woman to win a Wimbledon singles title. Their daughter “Dodo” Bundy Cheney became the first American woman to win Women’s single title at the Australian Championships.

But the real claim to fame of Bundy Drive are not the tennis champs or a knife wielding liar, but The Bundy Boys, a glorious group of actors, writers, painters and ner do wells, who made the Rat Pack look like the Vienna Boys Choir.  As a young lad I would play with my friend Stan who lived a couple of blocks north of where I was raised. His home was shaded by a large redwood tree which would bring splintered sunlight, cooling shadows, and possibly a hint of the location’s devilish past. On the large wooden door was a brass lion door knocker with what appeared to be a family crest with two unicorns surrounded by the words “Useless, Insignificant, Poetic .”  This was the home of The Bundy Boys some 30 years before Stan and I rolled around in that precious dirt.

The group included actors W.C. Fields, John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, Anthony Quinn, Vincent Price, John Carradine, painter and forger John Decker, screenwriter Ben Hecht whose credits include Some Like it Hot, Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights, and Mutiny on the Bounty, and many other notoriously  flamboyant life livers.

Gene Fowler, journalist and life long member said this: ” That brown beamed studio was a place of meeting for still lively survivors of Bohemian times, an artist’s Alamo where political bores never intruded and where breast beating hypocrites could find no listeners…these men live intensely as do children, poets, and jaguars.”

Their boozy self destructiveness was spectacular, their drunken brawls foolhardy, they spent their fortunes quicker than they made them, and all were committed to their friendship and their right to destroy their careers,  and themselves by any means necessary.

The house is gone now. Torn down along with the redwood. In its place is a sad property line to property line mansion that has the soul and depth of an ashtray. I am sure there are ghosts there, unhappy ones at that. As W.C. Fields said ” Life is a funny thing. You are lucky if you can get out of it alive.”    

Grooving at Dodger Stadium

Grooving at Dodger Stadium

My kids have always loved baseball probably because I do too. The look on their faces as we turn the corner and see the field at Dodger stadium is the same look as they had when they were young opening presents on Xmas morn. Though they have seen this field dozens of times – it is always the same: a look of wonderment, hope, and pure delight.

Recently at a night game my daughter Lily spotted a strange light emitting a soft yellow glow from the far reaches of the parking lot behind right field. As it turns out it comes from a lantern that was erected in 1965 inside a Japanese garden that was built by the O’ Malley family during the construction of Dodger Stadium in 1962. A Japanese sportswriter legend named  Sotaro Suzuki was invited to the grand opening of the stadium and he was so taken with its magnificence that he commissioned a stone lantern to commemorate the lasting connection between The Dodgers and the nation of Japan. One can visit this place and imagine Walter O’Malley meditating on the single bench clearing his large head with visions of the fleet-footed Maury Wills stealing bag after bag and reaching harmony and the ultimate serene mode of consciousness with the thought of Sandy Koufax’s curveball.

So next time you find yourself in the far reaches of parking lot six look to the Garden and remember that Tommy Lasorda was given the Order of the Rising Sun and bow to the Enlightenment that is Dodger Stadium.

Sterlfest

He adorns himself in satin, crushed velvet , and taffeta. He does not speak hard or dry of word,nor has a voice of pored gravel. He brings light, groove, and an aura of a knight who is on top of his game and is exempt from hands that hold us down. I speak of the Great Sterling Brandt and the honorable fifth annual Sterlfest  August 24th and 25th down at La Fonda Mexico.

This journey is for the Uplifters and those who are fond of the smile and laughter. Make your plans and prepare for the Good time because it will be coming at you with the vigor and strength of a freight train off the rails, off the charts, and with the understanding that mistakes are the portals of discovery.

Post Navigation