Saturday, September 21, 2019

Those Daring Young Men In Their Flying Machines-In Honor Of Icarus’s Progeny- With Cary Grant And Jean Arthur’s “Only Angels Have Wings” In Mind

Those Daring Young Men In Their Flying Machines-In Honor Of Icarus’s Progeny- With Cary Grant And Jean Arthur’s “Only Angels Have Wings” In Mind 

By Lance Lawrence
A tear comes to my eyes every time I hear the name Johnny Cielo, yes, Johnny, one of Icarus’s latter- day sons who was a pioneer in aviation when that was tricky business-when flying by the seat of your pants really was something more than a quaint saying. (By the way for passport trouble purposes, for cons and scams, for ducking the law, John Law he called them Johnny Cielo had many aliases; Johnny Too Bad, Johnny Blade, Johnny Blaze, Blaze Johnson, Johnny Icarus, Izzy Johns and who knows how many other those are just the ones I remember but I will use his real name, assuming that it is for my purposes here). Yes, Johnny was a piece of work, was somebody who gave as good as he got and who had that flight dream from very early on, from the first day he heard about Wilbur and Orville Wright and their successors. Johnny though was strictly a fly boy adventurer, although he could have had a piece of Alleghany Airlines and lived on easy street for the rest of his life. Could have been flying Piper Clubs for the country club rubes to gawk over. But our Johnny was not built that way, didn’t want to become an extended cycle repair shop guy, didn’t have Howard Hughes’ overweening desire to own it all, whatever “it” was for the moment.       
Some people, even people knowledgeable about the history of aviation in America, have claimed they never heard of Johnny Cielo until you mention the Barranca air service set-up. Then they are all ears-not so much about the aviation part, the desperate flights to get the mail out, to get stuff delivered to impossible places, but about Johnny’s red-hot affair with film siren of the 1930s and 1940s Rita Hayworth. Yeah, there was plenty of truth to his exploits with the females, with high class dames like Rita back then. Rita who was every military guy’s favorite pin-up and if not then second. Johnny led Rita a merry chase, had her abandoning that very promising and lucrative Hollywood career to follow him to the wilds of Barranca down in Central America and then ditched her leaving her no choice but to grab the next best thing (this before the Aga Khan took his run at her and snagged her for a while-even “a while” most guy’s idea of heaven). Left Rita for some vaudeville tramp down on her uppers, somebody who couldn’t even stand in the same room as Rita but Johnny was funny that way-would stay with one woman just so and that not long. Told them straight out his fly-boy life was it and he did not expect a woman, wouldn’t ask a woman to follow him where he was going. And he was right, just ask Rita who did and got not even a by your leave.   
Maybe it is better to begin at the beginning, or at least how Johnny got down on his own uppers so bad he had to take a shot a running a fool’s errant airline down in sunny Banana Republic Barranca. Johnny got deep into running dope, you know, marijuana, opium stuff like that way before most people even know what the hell illegal drugs were about from sunny Mexico up north. Did it for a few years, made a ton of money and proceeded to blow it on dames, various experimental airplane projects and hand-outs to every drifter he ran across. Then one day an agent for whatever cartel he was working for at the time, such things are murky and best left murky told him he was through, that they had some new boy, their boy who would run the merchandise.
Johnny thereafter needed work, needed it bad to keep up with the fresh but expensive Rita. Nothing doing around America for a guy whose last job was a dope smuggler so he headed south to Central America when his old friend and comrade Letts Fagan said he had a deal for him if he came fast. The deal was a secured route for a mail and express delivery for everything south of Mexico to what the hell Antarctica if he wanted to go that far if they could set up the route through some pretty tough terrain in the days when propeller was king and planes still wobbly in inclement weather. Heading out he told Rita he was going, he didn’t expect her to follow, wouldn’t ask her to but can you believe she said “let’s go” and as a sign of her own seriousness she was ready the next day to travel-a world record maybe for a woman with a big wardrobe and plenty of luggage to pull off. Johnny was impressed-and pleased.      
Things started out pretty well for Johnny and Rita and Johnny and his new airline. Looked like he would meet all the deadlines imposed by the contract and by his own daring. Pulled a few rabbits out of the hat to get through a bunch of horrible weather to deliver whatever there was to deliver-typical Johnny Cielo magic. Then the roof caved in, or rather that tramp from some northward-bound tramp steamer trampled into town looking for some sweet sugar daddy- or a Johnny kind of guy. She wasn’t choosey especially when she found out that Johnny was carrying Rita in tow. Two minutes after she saw him she had him in a backroom at Lett’s restaurant doing whatever she wanted, whatever he wanted. (We are all adults and know what was what but when some guy, some Johnny latter-day devotee wrote up his biography the guy left the hard sexual description part out, just like they were doing in the films in those but you know as well as I do, and I know, because before the end Johnny told me, it was oral sex, a blow job, said she was good at that, Rita too, but you had to coax Rita and not the tramp.)
Okay even tramps have names, as if it mattered to Johnny or any other guy when a woman leads him to some backroom, so hers was Jean, Jean Smith I think Johnny said she called herself. Like I said Johnny had a fistful of aliases, so she probably did too. She was from nowhere, had done nothing but was something new and shiny for Johnny and that was that. Of course two dames, a glamour gal and a tramp or any combination thereof, working the same guy in the small blistered and balmy town are not going to make anything work in the end. That was when Rita blew town, went back to Hollywood to be knocked off by the Aga Khan for a while until she got bored. (The funny thing and even that biography guy didn’t know about the situation until I sent him a letter and he looked the stuff up after Rita blew that Moslem prince off and went back-where else Hollywood not Brooklyn or wherever she was from she and Johnny went under the sheets again for a while until she blew him off-nice trick. Johnny always spoke highly of his sassy redhead after that though-always had that glean in his eye when he mentioned her name. 
The tramp won round one. A big win but Johnny was all business for a while trying to make the nut with that fucking two-bit contract that must have been written up by a Wall Street lawyer it had so many escape clauses for the owners. Johnny had by his own reckoning, a half dozen ex-World War I planes of no repute, or something like that to get the mail and goods over the hump. Tough going, very tough as he lost a few guys who like him would rather die than not fly so they took risks, big risks, just for the hell of it. And nobody, Johnny made sure of that, mourned out loud about the dead guy, grabbed his smack sack possessions and divvied them up so no moony stuff. After one guy got, a guy who was supposed to buy this Jean a steak when he tried to make a play for her behind Johnny’s back, to sit with the angels, that what they called it she sniffled up and Johnny told her to shut up or follow Rita (Johnny could be cutting). Here’s the real deal Johnny part though-five minutes after the guy flamed out Johnny was a sky pilot taking the undelivered load over the hump and back in some kind of hurricane. (That “hump” not the Burma World War II hump that almost broke the backs of English and American pilots but through Condor Pass the next country over from Barranca.)   

When Old Pete Ruled The House-With Banjo Man Pete Seeger In Mind

When Old Pete Ruled The House-With Banjo Man Pete Seeger In Mind  

CD Review

By Zack James

Pete Seeger: headlines, footnotes and-a collection of topical songs, Pete Seeger, Smithsonian/Folkways, 1999
“You know you are wrong Seth about that first time we heard folk music, Woody Guthrie folk music in Mr. Lawrence’s music class back in seventh grade at old Jeramiah Holton Junior High,” Phil Larkin told one Seth Garth former old time music critic for the now long gone The Eye. Paid music critic a not unimportant point back in the day when alternative newspapers like The Eye survived and flopped on the sweat of unpaid unrequited volunteer labor and today too when the social media are flooded with citizen critics by the barrelful and everybody claims some expertise. Paid or not though Seth had called up Phil to verify what his fellow folk aficionado Jack Callahan and more recently drinking partner at the Erie Grille had told him when he had called upon Jack to refresh his memory about the first time he/they had heard a Woody Guthrie song. Jack had told Seth about the time that Mr. Lawrence had tried to unsuccessfully ween the class away from their undying devotion to the jail-break rock and roll music that was sweeping up youth nation just then. Then being the late 1950s. Seth had accepted what Jack said because he was after all a fellow aficionado, even if Seth had had to shoehorn him into the genre at the beginning and because he knew that Jack would not spread word around that Seth was not totally on top of every bit of arcane folk music lore around.  

So it was a reputation thing Seth was worried about even these many years later. He had mentioned Jack and his conversation at the Eire to Phil in passing one afternoon and Phil had said he would think about any possible earlier listening. This was important since Seth had become very cautious about using any information not fully verified ever since early on in his journalistic career he had made the cardinal error of not checking out hearsay and rumor fully. He was berated by his tough editor for that mishap. Never again. So he was using his double check method on this question since he had been asked to write an unpaid article about the old folk days for the prestigious American Folk Song Review.    

Phil continued the conversation by telling Seth, “Tell that jackass Jack Callahan didn’t he remember that in fourth grade Miss (now Ms.) Winot had played This Land Is Your Land  on that old cranky record player of hers in order to teach us some kind of  civics lesson, taught us that we were part of a great continental experiment. Remember that she had played the Weavers’ cover of that song with Pete Seeger doing that big bass voice thing and some other guy whose name I don’t remember was booming out the baritone and Ronnie Gilbert who just passed away was doing a big time soprano thing.” Jesus, Seth thought to himself Phil was right, right as rain. The two spoke of a few other non-music issues and then they both hung up.           

That was not the end of it for Seth though, not for his article anyway. See Phil’s mentioning of the name Pete Seeger had sent a chill down his spine. Pete Seeger, and only Pete Seeger had been the reason that he had been ever cautious about sources. Back in 1965 he (and Jack and Jack’s then girlfriend now wife, Kathy, and he thought Mary Shea was his date) had attended the Newport Folk Festival that summer. That was the summer that Bob Dylan exploded the traditional folk universe by introducing the electric guitar into some of his songs. Did so on the stage the final night of the festival to boos and applause. Seth had been working his very first job as a free-lancer for the East Coast Other, another of the million small publications starting up and falling trying to find a niche in the print universe (free-lancer by the way since the usually cash-stripped publication had nobody else going to the concert so Seth got the assignment).   

Here is where Seth had gotten into trouble though. He had a friend, a sound man friend who worked at the Club 47 in Cambridge who was doing duty at that job for the festival. A couple of days later he had run into the guy in Harvard Square and had asked Seth if he knew what had happened on the stage the night Dylan went electric. The guy swore that Pete Seeger had at some point pulled the plug on Dylan in disgust at taking folk music out into the common trough of rock and roll. Seth could hardly believe his ears-this was the hook that he would run his story on. In the event he put this hearsay into his article. No big deal, right. Just something to spice up the piece. The article was published with that information in it. No problem for a while. About a month later he was called into Larry Jeffers office, the editor of the East Coast Other then and shown a personal letter to the publication from Pete Seeger disclaiming the whole story about pulling the plug on Dylan and was looking for a retraction. Seth immediately went to the Club 47 to check with the sound man. It turned out that the sound man had not actually seen Pete pull the plug but had heard about the story from one of Dylan’s sidemen. The newspaper issued a retraction and Seth had egg all over his face.          

The whole story of whether Pete Seeger pulled the plug or not on Dylan became part of the urban legend of the folk scene and still has devotees on both sides of the dispute long after Pete is dead and Dylan in out on another leg of his never-ending tour. But you can bet six two and even that one Seth Garth will be checking sources to see if Miss (now Ms.) Winot was the original proponent of Woody Guthrie’s music. Enough said.     

When Mister Beethoven Got Rolled Over-With The Music Of Mister Chuck Berry In Mind

When Mister Beethoven Got Rolled Over-With The Music Of Mister Chuck Berry In Mind

CD Review

By Zack James

Chuck Berry: The Definitive Collection, Chuck Berry, Chess Records, 2006 

You never know when two or more old guys, two or more mature forget the old unless you seek peril gals too but this one is about guys, will gather down memory lane or what will trigger that big cloudburst. Seth Garth and Jack Callahan two old time friends from high school in Riverdale had an abiding interest in music successively rock and roll, the blues and folk music (never losing interest in any in the process just that one would wax and wane at any given time). Seth had eventually become as an early part of his journalistic career a music critic for the now long defunct The Eye, an alternative newspaper out in the Bay Area in the days when he, Jack and a few other guys like Phil Larkin headed out there to see what everything was all about in the intriguing Summer of Love, 1967.

Recently though Seth and Jack, and occasionally Phil would get together and talk music shop at the Erie Grille where they would down a few scotches to level out (their expression). One night they had been at Seth request discussing the first time they had heard the legendary Woody Guthrie sing his songs, or one of them anyway. As it turned out Seth had drawn a blank on when that might have occurred and he begged Jack to think the matter through since he was preparing an article, an unpaid article, for the American Folk Music Review and needed a frame of reference. Jack had come up with the answer-in Mr. Lawrence’s seventh grade music class when he put on Woody and a bunch of other stuff to try to ween them off rock and roll which the man hated (and which they loved, loved to perdition). Seth had accepted that answer (although later he contacted Phil again about the matter and Phil reminded him about the song This Land Is Your Land covered by the Weavers with Pete Seeger in Miss Winot’s fourth grade class on her cranky old record player and he would use that source in the article).     

All this talk of that fateful seventh grade music class, and Mr. Lawrence, is probably what solidified everybody in the class in their devotion to rock and roll. But that was a hard fought and paid for devotion. A few days after the night with Jack at the Erie Grille Seth woke up from a nap thinking about the time in Mister Lawrence’s class when he was being crazy about Beethoven, wanted the class to appreciate classical music.  Seth, Jack and Phil had had enough and started in one class singing Chuck Berry’s throwing down the gauntlet Roll Over Beethoven and the class cheered them on. Of course in this penalty-ridden world Mr. Lawrence took his revenge and the trio spent several afternoons after school since they refused to apologize for their outbursts. Seth smiled to himself-Yeah, rock and roll will never die. To prove that assumption just listen to Mister Chuck Berry’s gold star compilation here. And be prepared to do something rash.     

From The Archives Of The Struggle For Peace In Maine-From Peace Marches To Protecting The Good Green Earth And Space As Well !

The struggle for peace in Maine, as elsewhere, is driven by a thousand small events, created by a thousand small individuals who have this funny little idea that one, they can make a difference, and two, that we can live in a more peaceful just world and they are the heralds of the new dispensation. How about that.  

Join Keep Space For Peace Week -October 5-12 2019-And The Rest Of The Year Too!

The struggle for peace in Maine, as elsewhere, is driven by a thousand small events, created by a thousand small individuals who have this funny little idea that one, they can make a difference, and two, that we can live in a more peaceful just world and they are the heralds of the new dispensation. How about that.  

From The Archives And Proof Positive Senator Bernie Sanders Has A Sense Of Humor Despite Off-Handed Comments To The Contrary-Elect Bernie Sanders POSTUS 2020

Friday, September 20, 2019

Once Again-The Summer Of Love,1967-Postcards From  Lost Planet

By Jeffrey Thorne

The Scribe said it best one night, one cold San Francisco night, a summer night when the Japan currents went awry and reminded one of old Mark Twain’s witty sayings about the coldest winter he had ever spent-August in the city of sweet brethren Saint Francis, when he declared (so like that mad man to use the seventh person imperative for such small letter events), that the breeze coming through the land would shake society to its foundations. Would make nine to five a bore, make that long suburban tract complete with dishwasher and sanitary garbage disposal obsolete before the last mortgage payment hit the dirt, would make those three point two kids and that one dog a victim of old-fashioned thinking. Said, get this for a guy who became a non-believer, a non-believer in risen Christ if you can believe that very early in his teens (and went to church, side door church just to sit a few rows behind some lovely he was pining over just to watch her ass so yes a non-believer) that the new dispensation was at hand-if we could keep it, keep the bastards, and you know who the bastards were then-the night-takers and guys who conned you into nine to five dreams, suburban flats and, what was it three point two kids (we will pass on the not mandatory dog) from barking at the door.   

That was the rub, that little counter attack from out of the blue when we thought the world had stopped turning on itself
and had gone upside down that eventually would do in even the Scribe, would turn his mouth to ashes, would turn a sainted brethren (not many knew his given name was Francis in those days when everybody was “reinventing” themselves including clustering up new monikers to get washed clean (also a Scribe expression) down the gutter road, float him out to the Japan seas long before he ever heard the Duke blast that high white note. Yeah, blast the times, blast the whole fucking world for taking down a brethren as pure as snow.    

Happy, Happy 100th Birthday Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti-Max Daddy Of Famed “City Lights Bookstore” In “Beat” San Francisco When It Counted And Muse Of His Generation’s Poets

Happy, Happy 100th Birthday Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti-Max Daddy Of Famed “City Lights Bookstore” In “Beat” San Francisco When It Counted And Muse Of His Generation’s Poets

A Ferlingetti Of The Mind – The Documentary Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth Of Wonder

DVD Review

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder, starring Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the usual cast of 1950’s “beat” and 1960s “hippie” characters  

Yeah, you know at some very young age, well before puberty, most of us get our natural stock of wonder beaten out of us, wonder at the world, wonder about why this is this way and that is that way, and the funny makeup of the nature of the universe, hell, just plain ordinary vanilla wonder. That is why poets, good and bad, are precious commodities in restoring the human balance, in letting us once more check in on the wonder game which their words, their particular scheme of words since they have not had their sense of wonder beaten out of them (no matter how hard in individual cases someone might have tried). Every self-respecting radical or progressive in some other field like, for example, Karl Marx in political theory has treasured their friendships with the poets, and rightly so no matter how quirky they get. That quirkiness and the precious commodity of wonder get a full workout by one self-described anarchist poet, Lawrence Ferlinghett as his life’s story unfolds in the documentary under review, Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth Of Wonder.      

Today perhaps not as many people outside of the San Francisco Bay area may be as familiar with the work of Ferlinghetti, although A Coney Island of the mind is one of the best selling poetry collection ever, and this film makes some amends for that short-coming. Of course the Ferlinghetti name might become more familiar in some circles if you put the name with the City Lights bookstore that he founded and which is still going strong today as a central haven for creative spirits in the area. Or for legal buffs and aficionados his connection with the “pornography” free of expression suit brought in the 1950s around publication of Allen Ginsburg’s Howl. That connection between poet and bookstore owner get plenty of exposure here as it should since it is hard to think of say Allen Ginsberg or Gregory Corso two poets active in that same period combining those two skills.

This film, since it doubles up as a short biopic as well as cultural artifact gives plenty of information about the long bumpy ride for Ferlinghetti to first begin unleashing his poetic visions and then tie those words into a new left-wing (as mentioned above, anarchist if anybody is asking) way of looking at society. Not so strangely a lot of his emergence as a poet and central cultural figure was connected when he hit San Francisco in the early 1950s. If  he had found himself in let’s say Cleveland at that time things might have turned out very differently for Frisco along with the Village in New York were oases against the prevailing cookie-cutter, keep your head down, Cold War red scare night where the misfits and renegades found shelter and kindred.        

Of course beside the poetic vision and the bookstore as cultural expression Ferlinghetti, as the film also makes clear, was one of those behind the scenes players who make new cultural explosions happen. He was, although not a “beat” poet himself (his take on the question) and although he was not a “hippie” poet either he was a central figure in both movements as be-bop beat gave way to acid-etched hippie-dom. Something I did not know was how many places like May 1968 in Paris and 1959 in Cuba he had been involved with which surely affected the weight of his more political poems. And in the end his prolific run of poetry in all sizes and shapes, especially the now classic A Coney Island of the Mind will be the legacy, will be that little slice of wonder future generations will cling to.         

Once Again On History In The Conditional-Or In The Spy Thriller Conditional-The Film Adaptation Of Ken Follet’s “Eye Of The Needle” (1981) -A Film Review

Once Again On History In The Conditional-Or In The Spy Thriller Conditional-The Film Adaptation Of Ken Follet’s “Eye Of The Needle” (1981) -A Film Review

DVD Review

By Will Bradley

Eye Of The Needle, starring Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan, 1981

No question, although one might posit that we or they should move on, the whole Hitler saga from World War II has made many a writer, spy thriller writer, producers and directors plenty of gold, plenty of coin. Especially around the question of what would have been the response if, well, let’s say Hitler had known definitively that the Allied invasion to free Occupied Europe (occupied by Hitler and his minions) was to be at Normandy Beach rather than elsewhere come D-Day. That is no abstract question for the protagonists and their foes in the film under review the adaptation of Ken Follet’s Eye Of The Needle. Moreover not only are profession academic, men of learning and such, smitten with such speculations but your average thriller writer had taken up the cudgels big time. Of course history in the conditional is always tricky for the academic, for the professor with one big idea contingent on that vague conditional but apparently is the fount of wisdom for the thriller boys and girls.

Here is why for Follet devotees. Henry, I will follow Lance Lawrence’s’ recent trope of saying somebody, so Henry somebody in this case, played by pliable Donald Sutherland,   who the hell knows since he is a high-end, high-born German spy, placed in England even before World War II started that Auden September 1939 when he, Auden, blew town, the agent using a million aliases when it suited him was a key operative keeping tabs on what the freaking Brits were doing for war preparations. He would not let anything get in his way including nosey landladies and the trademark way of dealing with such trouble at the end of a stiletto, hence needle, the eye part you can figure out. He was able to operate free as a bird for most of the war until things got dark in Germany, better, took a turn for the worse on the Eastern Front where the Russians, who bore the brunt of the action against madman Hitler and his crowd, started their long journey to Berlin and the raising of the red flag over part of that city. What they wanted to know, what Hitler wanted to know, and this is good military policy mad men or not, was where General Patton was going to launch what even Hitler knew was a run to Berlin from the West. But where. That was Henry somebody’s task-to find out and to deliver the proof to the big boss himself in Berlin via a convenient U-boat off the Scottish coast.

Normally such an operation by a pro like Needle would be a piece of cake and in real life maybe that would settle things but this is spy thriller theater, so everything has to be a travail-and it is. Needle got the definitive proof on film and that was the start of his journey home. The problem was the Brits, Scotland Yard, were on to him, knew he has done some nasty things to get and keep Father Hitler in power- and information. The chase was on with the coppers about two, maybe seven steps behind the elusive Needle. Until he reached Storm Island, well-named having been shipwrecked with a stolen boat during a storm, a trawler, as that U-boat waited impatiently for his call. The Storm Island situation despite its isolation though would be Needle’s downfall once he encountered an embittered former Royal Air Force pilot who lost his legs in a civilian automobile accident of his own mistaken doing, his wife and child all who have left sweet home London for the boondocks and stormy weather.

Needle figured to be on easy street via this nice quiet hellish homestead as he waited for that U-boat. Problem though is grilled by that embittered pilot, and bedded if you can believe this, by that neglected wife, played by Kate Nelligan, who was just lonely because of hubby’s neglect as was Needle since he was a loner. Along the way said pilot got wise to our Needle but paid the price for that knowledge with a dip face-down in the cliff-drenched waters. Wifey, after a few rolls in the hay with Needle which she did not complain about, finally learned the truth when she discovered her husband’s body and subsequently Needle made what would be his fatal mistake by saying he had just seen her husband alive. Knowing he was nothing but a German agent she went mano a mano with him to protect herself and her son. In the end that is enough to seal Needle’s doom long before the coppers showed up. Still I wonder if Needle had gotten to the U-boat and gotten to see his master in Berlin whether Hitler knowing the route of the invasion would have changed things. Better ask a military historian. 

When Sylvia Sidney Battered Her Eyelashes-The Once And Future…Princess- Ms. Sidney and Cary Grant’s “Thirty-Day Princess” (1934)- Film Review

When Sylvia Sidney Battered Her Eyelashes-The Once And Future…Princess- Ms. Sidney and Cary Grant’s “Thirty-Day Princess” (1934)- Film Review

DVD Review
By Lance Lawrence
Thirty Day Princess, starring Sylvia Sidney, Cary Grant, Edward Arnold, 1934
Lest one forget this country, this United States in a republic, yes, republic with a small “r,” despite what fragility that designation has come upon of late, of the past fifty or sixty years. Our forebears, oh you know this but let me get it off my chest, our winter soldiers when that meant something, drove the British, dear Mother England, into the deep blue sea, into the Atlantic and thereafter, what did Ben Franklin say, formed a republic-if we could keep it. But there has been a lot of backsliding on the question, on the question of giving a pass to every royal Tom, Dick and Harry. Of every Kate, Jane and Mary. Of worrying to a frazzle about what Princess somebody was wearing, or not wearing, of giving a pass to all kinds of stuff our forebears, rightly, would have blanched at while decayed royalty goes about its unsavory business. There I have it off my chest. What brought me to the froth was a look at the movie under review, The Thirty-Day Princess, where in the heart of the Great Depression, in 1934, in this country (and worldwide), fairy tale princesses had center stage. Which told me before I remembered about Henry James and his robber baron era novels which had plain, ordinary, rich Americans, male and female, pining away for some title, some sign if formal nobility to separate them from the hoi polloi, that this infatuation has a long pedigree.
I have left the reader in the lurch enough let’s get down to brass tacks. The off-kilter king of Taronia, Tiberia, something like that, some mythical European country does it really matter since it is mythical needed cash, big amounts of cash, to do the kingship business up right and to live in the splendor he was used to in the old days. Along comes Mr. American Moneybags, Mr. Plutocrat, does it really matter his name, played by perennial unlikable guy Edward Arnold, a guy who didn’t jump out the window in 1929 and had been working the chump bond market to get back on easy street offered to get the king 50 mil, 50 million just walking around money now that even pan-handlers would turn their nose up at now but big dough back then.
The problem: times were tough, and investors were wary of foreign market bonds after all kinds of floats had gone bust so they needed a hook, needed a front. The front turned out to be the king’s daughter Princess something does it really matter the name, royalty okay, played by battering eyes Sylvia Sidney who could tidy things up with a trip to America to hustle the bonds, put the king and commission crazy Moneybags back on jump street. She went but early on in New York she contracted mumps and would be out of action for, okay, thirty days if you read the title of the film before reading this screed. The deal was off, done, forget jump street. In that case though you would have underestimated commission crazy Moneybags. He came up with the bright idea of getting a substitute who looks like the princess. Guess what he finds- one who looks amazingly like the princess, Nancy something, does it really matter her name, played by a woman who really did look like Sylvia Sidney but who was a down at the heel actor living on cheap street between skimpy parts. She grabbed the role, the dough and maybe something for the resume after playing hard to get.
Enter Marshall, does it really matter the name as you can now guess, a muckraking newspaper publisher who has a bullseye on the back of crooked Mr. Moneybags, played by pretty Cary Grant in his early career, who was ready to move mountains to squash Moneybags’ operation. Until he met the “princess.” Then all caution was thrown to the winds and he acted like any other American who has forgotten that this country is a republic with a small “r.” He fell for her big-time and in an unseemly manner if you asked me. The “princess” fell for him hard too so what we have here is the two millionth variation on the old Hollywood tried and true “boy meets girl” trope that that glamor town made into a very profitable art form. Problem: princess turned actress was living a lie, was just a hireling once Marshall somebody gets on to the grift.       
Don’t worry though things smoothed out a little when Marshall ( I don’t have to say “somebody” at this late part of the piece, do I) realized that he loves that democratic down at the heels actress whose heart really was of gold and that was that. Needless to say although Taronia got its bonds money Mr. Moneybags got his comeuppance too. Only in America.

Down And Dirty In The Acre-North Adamsville Style-Circa 1960-When The Corner Boys Were Corner Boys For Real Back In The Day

By Bart Webber

No, by no stretch of the imagination as the ex-editor of this publication and now some kind of “of counsel” contributing editor Allan Jackson has speculated even if in some personal nightmarish dream am I sleeping with the fishes. (Contributing editor means that even hard-boiled current editor Greg Green will have a hard time reining Allan in since there is no word limit or apparently no slander or libel, depending on the source, that such special creatures can spew forth without correction, at least after reading that last piece of Allan’s which was nothing but a no-brain bunch of bullshit on a stick aimed at my head). My watery fate deemed appropriate by Mr. Jackson courtesy of the fact, if it is a fact this late in life, that after almost sixty years I have “spilled the beans,” hell snitched, finked, dropped a dime I think we used to call it on an episode where he almost drowned as a kid and I was sworn to secrecy as the sole witness to the event. At the time I believe, and I think he will agree as well, it was about keeping that knowledge from his mother who would probably have grounded him from the beaches and the ocean at least through high school.      

I won’t, no, I refuse to, bore the reader with a recap of the events which led up to Allan’s silly experiment which led him to be rescued before he went down the third time by the on-duty life guard, a young mother rather than the average muscle-bound college guy or buxom college co-ed who craved those jobs to wile away the summer days and pocket coin for nighttime expenses. The key to Allan’s anger and his strange elderly dreams is what this is all about, the so-called breaking of the Code of Omerta that we lived and died by back in the day and which made plenty of sense then when we were about some stuff that the public coppers and other authorities would not have approved of. But to get into a snit over some long-gone event (especially with his mother who passed away over a decade ago is no longer around), to “threaten” hit men and much else seems excessive at this point. So I will tell you the real point of why Allan in in a doldrums huff.

That day, that day which I think Allan is right about being somewhere when we were around eleven, possibly twelve not the eight of my original piece not only had that young mother life guard been on duty to save Allan’s ruddy ass but had brought as was her practice her young daughter Ginny along. This Ginny was a lanky kind of raw-boned tallish girl who I had a serious crush on at the time. So naturally when I saw her I went over to make “my moves,” those being some silly schoolboy talk about whatever eleven, maybe twelve- year olds would talk about. So in a way Allan is right when in his now infamous rebuttal is right that I was not observing every freaking action he was taking but I will state for the record, will swear on seven sealed Bibles that I am the guy who heard his faint cries for help and alerted that young mother life guard who saved his sorry life.      

The reader should know that the so-called crush on Ginny did not go anywhere at the time since she was a Squaw Rock girl. The Nollie Point assignment her mother drew was connected with the housing projects where Allan and I grew up (and Pete Markin and Sam Lowell too), the low rent end of town. Squaw Rock was, and I believe still is, the high-toned end of town where those who in the 1950s were living some aspect of the golden age, or at least had the wherewithal to buy the new ranch houses that were all the rage then as a sign that they had become the vaunted middle class. So no way was that young mother, for that matter was Ginny once the peer pressure was exerted if necessary, going to go for some projects boy. And she didn’t. I will admit that when Ginny and I got to high school (we went to different junior high schools) at North I tried again to see what was what but the code of the Squaw Rock girls (and maybe her mother too) was still in force.           

Here is where the rubber meets the road, the real reason that Allan has daggers in his eyes these days. Recently I went to an ad hoc class reunion (ad hoc because after the 50th reunion all agreed that something every couple of years and less formal was more appropriate) where I ran into Ginny. We got to talking about this and that until we kind of worked our way back to the day when her mother had saved Allan down at Nollie Point. Ginny laughed when I told her that I had been sworn to secrecy by Allan not to mention the incident to anybody under our boyhood code and that speaking about it to her was the first time I had done so in that some sixty-year period. The laugh was because she was particularly aware of the incident and who was saved, had known that Allan had gone on to some kind of career in the publishing business. So, until I read his lame so-called rebuttal I thought not much about having mentioned it to Ginny.    

The reader can guess, or I hope should guess, that Ginny and I continued talking not only that class reunion night be thereafter and have had several dates (although her two marriages and my three make “date” a little passe) to see what is what. Her girlish Squaw Rock code now long gone, thankfully. If you want to really know why Allan is wishing me in the ocean depths, digging whatever in Neptune’s patch here is what Ginny told me. In high school as I was ardently pursuing her to no avail Allan also was trying to get to first base with her. Closer to the nub though, closer much closer to the truth Allan had met Ginny at a previous ad hoc class reunion I had not attended and had gotten nowhere with her. Strange doings, life.