Saturday, December 05, 2020

Legend-Slayer Will Bradley Rides Again-Don’t Believe All That Dime-Store Zane Grey Nonsense About How The West (Western United States) Was Won-Gary Cooper’s “Man Of The West” (1958)- A Film Review, Of Sorts

Legend-Slayer Will Bradley Rides Again-Don’t Believe All That Dime-Store Zane Grey Nonsense About How The West (Western United States) Was Won-Gary Cooper’s “Man Of The West” (1958)- A Film Review, Of Sorts

By Will Bradley

I must admit that when I started out back in late 2016 feuding back and forth with fellow film reviewer Seth Garth over the overblown reputation of English private investigator or whatever he called himself back then Sherlock Holmes (since exposed as a master criminal who was responsible for half the crime in greater London in his time whose real name was Larry Lawrence, no relationship to our own Lance) that I would have never believed that I could gather a following in my lonely attempts to destroy, eliminate, banish or whatever word you like some pretty bad characters. Guys, and it has been mainly guys thus far, maybe reflecting his-story not her-story on the evil side of life in the past and elsewhere who must have had pretty good press agents, publicity guys, who wrote whatever drivel the hard-pressed populations would believe just to keep their guys in the limelight. Keep their reputations all bright and shiny when the reality was quite different.

I have already given the example of the shoddy Holmes, oh, Lawrence and his dear friend Doc Watson (I don’t want to get into that “gay” Homintern business that Seth tried to run by a candid world which didn’t buy his take for a minute after my expose about Larry and Doc’s serious criminal enterprises which helped deflate those bastards’ reputations forthwith). There has also been since I began my work a noticeable decline in the reputations of others I have exposed like cheapjack slave-driver, sorry tenant farmer, peasant, serf, yeoman-driver Robin Hood, besotted Don Juan (real name Jose Rios out of Aragon who gained his “fame” via some convent beauties’ depraved fantasies while held captive those unholy dungeons, impotent, yes impotent we now have some scientific evidence for what for years was mere speculation, imposter Casanova and the wicked chattel owner Captain Blood out of Jamaica slavery markets working night and day to expand the fucking empire.

Strangely the only one who I have not been able to bring down is the so-called legendary early aviator and aeronautic innovator Johnny Cielo who claimed his whole worthless life to have invented flight despite the fact that he was born in 1910 several years after the Wright Brother joined Icarus in the legendary category down at Kitty Hawk. Maybe it is because he is a more modern example of bloated reputation which people are more inclined to believe but if anything people I run into despite the reams of documents proving he was nothing but a bush pilot, never ran guns to Fidel and the hermanos in the old days, never knew Rita Hayworth either have elevated this heel to some kind of god or something rather than bum of the month. Despite my documentation, despite the manifest on that last flight telling the whole candid world, or even the non-candid world, that he was taking high-end passengers between Key West and Naples down in Florida and had perished in the Gulf of Mexico not in the Caribbean heading toward Cuba with a shipment of guns as the legend has it.  I will have to see who his press agent was, is. He or she should get a ton of money for their commissary at whatever prison they should wind up in.                   

After all that foreplay today we are going big again, going down and dirty with what in America is something like the holy of holies-the Old West, the Wild West when men, mostly men settled things with iron and plenty of slugs-bullets and whiskey. From Jesse James to the famed and underrated Johnny Young just before World War I which is really the last time you can talk about the Old West. You didn’t have to be Professor Turner over at Harvard to know that once you got to the Pacific your chances that the frontier was vanishing were pretty strong. Yeah from Jesse and Johnny and everybody in between these bums have gotten a free ride, have been made legends out of whole cloth. Got their respective legendary starts from some guy in New York writing dime-store novels from the comfort of his room at the Brown Hotel-in New York City. That in any case is how I was able to track down the legend of a guy named Link Jones who went by a million other names in his stealing, thieving murdering time like Dock Tobin, Billie Ellis, and I think Gary Cooper, stealing the rangy homespun actor’s name even before he had it although I couldn’t definitely confirm that last one.

This one defies belief, belief that an admitted stone-cold killer and robber like Link could throw sand in our eyes and go straight after a lifetime of crime, that should have set alarms off right there. (Admitted his transgressions to Jackie Jenkins, the famous, make that infamous New York World reporter who did more than his fair share of bulling us about these “men of the west” who downplayed the bloodthirsty part to make Link readership worthy) But see old Mister Grey, Louie Le Marr, Cormac McCormick, Larry Murphy and their ilk did their jobs well, sold a million copies of the bogus book, books really detailing the bush-whackers, tramps, bums and sociopaths who really populated the West back in the day all prettified and there you have it. Like I said without leaving Manhattan. Nice work if you could get it, right. Reality check: you had to have chewed up your chances in the East, had to have been on the run or had no other recourse to pick up stakes and head West to drought, famine, desperadoes, “injuns,” now indigenous peoples or Native American depending on where you are, coyotes, avalanches, sod-busting, range wars, grifters, water wars, coal dust, cannibals, train smoke and dreams, poison wells, buffalo stampedes, social diseases, do I have to explain that, drifters, con men and women and craven insects and tumbleweed.         

With all those strikes again success old Zane and his crowd really had their work cut out for them although since they were writing for city-slickers who were not heading west, not going to the aforementioned hazards except in books naturally the guy, here one Link Jones, had to be ramrod straight in the saddle, long and tall, with that “aw shucks” manner and slow-rolling drawl. Christ they cookie-cut these guys except maybe the real deal Sam Shepard who really was long and tall and slow-draw talking (not slow at shooting though as many a man found out). Sam could have been on the cover of old Professor Turner’s opus, could have shown rum brave Link Jones a thing or two.

Of course today a million sociologists, and maybe half a million psychiatrists, will defend Link, will say it was a dysfunctional homelife, no mother, a bastard of a “father” figure in Dock Tobin, whose real name after my research was Cobb, wanted in six states-dead or alive as was Link- and his natural sons, Jack and Slim, plus a couple of stray villains in the mix, who taught him every evil known to man, woman too. Bullshit. Link, at least according to legend which we will bust quickly below, broke loose one day, repented, went straight after serving some time in some purgatory town out in the prairie somewhere, got married, had kids. Nice story right. More Grey-like malarkey.     
Here is the legend in all its glory with my refutations. Link, supposedly “reformed” was sent on a mission from his Podunk town to go to Forth Worth down in Texas to get the town a schoolteacher and had enough money to pay the required year’s salary to get her to leave everything in a big city (for the time) to teach a bunch of wooden-headed kids out on the prairie. Reel them in. Christ Link couldn’t spell teacher never mind get one. Truth: he took the dough alright but spent it all in a couple of days in Dallas on some whore named Billie, Billie something, although the only one I was able to find who spent time with Link was a whore named Julie who in the end ran off with the last of his dough when he was running low after another blood-simple kill streak. Even better, with no dough and nothing better to do he just happens to borrow some dough from some grifter with a sad story and took a train ride to Fort Worth which just happened to get robbed by Dock Tobin, remember Cobb, and his boys. Just happens to take some Judy, Julie, some woman met on the rebound, there were almost as many desperate to leave the East as men who figured to make a killing selling themselves and then maybe see what happened when the dust settled, Billie if you like to the gang’s hiding place, just happens to “play along” with Dock to the rob the El Dorado Bank of their dreams and when that flushed down the toilet wastes the whole lot of them after they had ravished Julie, his woman.       

Believe all that at your peril. Real deal, Link masterminded the robbery, had planted himself on the train in order to get to Dock and his own worn-out dreams and only wasted the gang, wasted Dock and the boys because they had wasted his time on a freaking ghost town exploit. Had it planned he would take all the dough and was pissed off when Dock hadn’t done his homework on the real situation in El Dorado. Killed one cousin just for the hell of it. By the way all that reformed married and kids’ stuff was just a cover when women “took a shine to him” like this Julie. He might have begotten kids but he wasn’t claiming them, not supporting them. The real Link would finally face the hangman in Colorado after about six more cold-blooded murders and a dozen more bank and train robberies. Julie fell by the wayside some time before Link’s end taking what was left of his and was never heard from again probably went back to whoring in Denver when they became a big cattle stockyard. Women like her always landed on their feet. I hope to high hell that Link Jones doesn’t like Johnny Cielo prove to be “Teflon man” just because half the American populations is enthralled by Old West nostalgia bits and pieces.

Deal Them Off The Top, Brother, Deal Them Straight Off The Top--With Eric Holden’s “The Cincinnati Kid” In Mind

Deal Them Off The Top, Brother, Deal Them Straight Off The Top--With Eric Holden’s “The Cincinnati Kid” In Mind     

[Every once in a while a subject comes up, here gambling through the prism of  high stakes poker to be the top dog, that someone has written about previously, then gambling through the prism of high stakes pool to be the top dog, and did such a well thought of job at it that good sense requires that person to take a stab at the new subject which in this case is really a variation on the older subject-who and how to get to be number one, numbero uno, in your chosen profession when the guy at the top seems immovable, seems immortal. That was the case when Josh Breslin wrote when he was younger for the East Bay Eye in the late 1960s and which subsequently has been posted in this space with some additional editing about young, handsome and here is the fatal kicker impetuous “Fast Eddie” Felton’s rise in the world of cigarette-strewn and whiskey bottle smoky pool halls until he came up against the king of the hill a guy named Jackie “Tubby” Gleason and got his clock cleaned. Lost his angel girl too to some one-eyed pimp daddy whom she took around the world on the rebound once Fast Eddie had that “loser” tag tattooed on him, on his forehead although anybody even vaguely familiar with that sport didn’t need that identification mark to know he had tapped out, news in such circles moves fast. Yeah impetuous had to go against the tiger before he was ready, before he broke his “impetuous jones” lost everything until he faded and went back to cheap street just another guy hustling nickels and dimes from punk kid amateurs out in some Joe’s Pool Hall in Peoria who didn’t know he touched the big time before he became pimp meat.

So we, the soon to be retired administrator on this site, Pete Markin, and I, Greg Green, now the acting administrator to see how I like it and see if I can help reverse some narrowing of perspective on this site over the past several years when a lot of the action has centered on the turbulent 1960s and not much else, invited Josh to give us what film critic emeritus Sam Lowell loves to call the “skinny” on the biggest poker game, stud poker of course what else, that ever hit the wicked sun- drenched and fucking humid town of New Orleans back in the 1930s, the time of the great hunger among plenty of guys looking to be top dog on the sly. Just to set the stage this is a tale about the rise of another young, handsome and here is without making this thing a cautionary tale the fatal kicker impetuous in the world of stud poker, a guy named Steve McQueen although he went by a million names. I think Josh said at the time of this event Eric Holden, but everybody called him the Cincinnati Kid although as Josh mentioned this kid had never been to that Ohio River city, had never really been north of Memphis and probably couldn’t pinpoint the place if you gave him three chances for a buck.

The rise of the Kid until he hit the buzz saw of ancient Lance Robinson who like Tubby Gleason with Fast Eddie cleaned his clock and sent him back to cheap street to nurse his wounds is what interested Josh. Interested the same way young Eddie Felton interested him when he got the story from Georgie Boy Scott out in some sleazy back-water pool hall when Tubby Gleason finally cashed his check and Josh wanted to what had happened to guys who had taken a run at him when he was in his prime. So when we sent him on the trail after hearing that Lance Robinson had recently gone on to his just rewards as an ancient warrior king of the poker parlors he was almost as eager as when he first sniffed that cigarette-strewn whisky besotted pool hall back in his young reporting days (That changing of names by the way according to Josh pervasive in gambling circles since you never know when you have to skip town owing a million markers to some rough guys and have to head into a dive town where if you used your real name to grab a stake from the hotshot local amateurs they would tar and feather you-they would know how to do that little number no matter how bad they were at your profession.)-Greg Green]          

By Joshua Lawrence Breslin

I got this story straight from the “Shooter,” a guy whose real name or at least that is what I always knew him by when I got tipped that he was the guy to get whatever I needed to know about Lance and about his most famous challenger was Carl Malden. I had run into him around Jackson Square in New Orleans. Somebody from the now long faded Lafayette Hotel known more now for fast-hustling hookers paying room rent by the hour (or rather their Johns doing the honors) than poker-faced poker players had tipped me that Shooter might know where world historic defeated pool-player “Fast Eddie” Felton might be nursing his wounds and the Shooter told me that was old hat, Fast Eddie was working the steamboat tourist trade up and down the Mississippi since he got stripped naked by Tubby Gleason and was not story, zero in the pool hall world where it counted down in the human sink along with the whores, pimps and stone ass junkies. I got the Felton story almost despite the Shooter once he knew that I knew he, the Shooter, had taken his liberties like a lot of guys had with this kinky stone ass junkie Angelica who used to be Fast Eddie’s girl until he tanked out while she was riding high with Fast Eddie. I threatened Shooter with the hard ass fact that when I found Fast Eddie which I would do eventually I would lay that very juicy piece of information on him and the guy crumbled like a bent fender in the days when such things happened to fenders almost at the touch. (You already know from Greg Green’s thoughtful introduction that I did get the story, did get some awards for the piece, the coveted Globe for one, and that I did not tell Fast Eddie who had not aged gracefully what with a booze and jone habit stacked together that his angel girlfriend had taken Shooter around the world while Eddie was playing some rich Memphis banker downstairs in his hillside mansion. Fuck it he probably would not have cared one way or the other-yesterday’s news but Shooter was shaky to buy my line.)       

The story Shooter really wanted to tell was about a guy named Eric Holden, something like that who was the cat’s meow at poker, five card stud poker in case anybody was asking, the only kind, serious kind to get a man’s blood up and who knew Fast Eddie in passing since they both had hung out at Sam Levine’s pool hall over on the low rent end of Bourbon Street where the amateurs, the rising stars with no dough backing them up hung looking for attention and the guys on the run who kept a low profile in the smoking background. I don’t think from what I learned later that Eddie and Eric knew each all that well since they were running different sides of the street once this Eric figured he would end up in some back alley face down if he played any serious money pools but had this almost mathematically precise mind for stud poker (and nerves of steel a not unimportant attribute if you are going up against the king of the hill). The Shooter told a story about how Fast Eddie always the hustler told Eric that he would spot him three balls if he would “shoot pools” his favorite expression for a hundred bucks. Eric told him to fuck off that “it was not his game.” Yeah both young, from hunger, handsome, ladies handsome but both young men maybe a little bit too blue-eyed pretty boy for the serious aficionados of pool or poker and fatally flawed with those impetuous natures like they were gods, gods pure and simple.        

This Malden who got that Shooter moniker for always playing it straight, always telling the story true or as true as any guy who is around any gambling circles will tell the tale. This is the story of the rise and fall of his protégé, Eric, I will tell about how Eric  got his moniker in a minute and then if you have been around gambling circles you might recognize the name before he dropped down among the peons, con men and cutthroat artists back in the old days. Back in the hard-bitten wide open days after World War II where there was loose money around and plenty of hungry guys ready to scoop it up around drifter towns like New Orleans and a million other port cities. His protégé being none other than real name, fuck that Eric Holden con, Steve McQueen who always except when he was laying low in some dive town trying to work up a stake to get back in the action carried the moniker Cincinnati Kid. The Kid a real comer until one Lance Robinson took him gently to the cleaners and pushed him back to cheap street and the low rent dive town hustle. Happens every time to those impetuous fools.     

Before I retell the Shooter’s tale I had better give you his bone fides. Shooter like a lot of guys before World War II was pretty footloose, was from what later guys up my way in Olde Sacco in Maine would call “from hunger,” I know they were, I, was. Very early on he would hustle his friends for dimes and quarters playing card tricks to while away the time until he got his first stake. Maybe a hundred bucks which was real money then among the squares although before he hit bottom he was using hundred dollar bills as straws for his cocaine habit lines. He moved pretty quickly up the stud poker food chain, got a reputation as a tough guy to beat which is an excellent advertisement in that profession since it will draw all kind of guys to “prove” you are a one-shot wonder, just lucky with the rubes. Probably helped that build-up with about twenty shots of straight whisky. His aim all that time was to build a reputation in order to get a shot at the reigning king of the hill, guess who even back then, Lance Robinson. Well the long and short of it was that when that big match occurred in Memphis old King Lance kicked out the jams on the Shooter in less that twenty-four hours, something of a record in high stakes poker at the time among the top contenders.     

That experience left the Shooter very shaken, left him always working the percentages thereafter, win a little, lose a little, and keep your hand in until you find a guy who could beat this Lance. Now when the Shooter is telling me this story he is already an old man, is reliving some younger dreams about bringing the Kid along.  After his defeat at the hands of Lance the Shooter also began to toy with other gambling ventures which makes senses since win a little, lose a little makes for very tight budgets and screams from irate landlords and bill collectors. He took up horses, pool, and cock fights which is how his honey to be introduced in a minute got her sexual juices up watching those cocks go at it, strange bitch it seemed to me but the Shooter remained true blue to her even when she blew town on him the last time with a half a hundred thou. (On that barbarian cock fight stuff remember this is Louisiana, Cajun country where such “traditions” were still honored even though the sport was illegal in the state.)

Shooter would drift through the towns all up and down the Mississippi trying as he said “to do the best he could.” It was in Shreveport where he ran into the Kid the first time who was working in a pool hall. Shreveport is also where he met his first wife, this Maggie Ann, the cock fight frill, who was working in Madame LaRue’s whorehouse when he picked her out of the line-up and she took him around the world. This Maggie Ann is important to the story later when the big match comes around but every time the Shooter mentioned her name to me he added “that whore” so he was still hot under the collar about her whorish strutting ways even when they were married, maybe especially when they were married and he was out of town a lot trying hustle dough to keep her in clover. No dice in the end although not for the Shooter’s not trying since she led him a merry chase and that ain’t no lie.          

So the Shooter once the Kid hits New Orleans teams up with him, teaches him a few things and starts working to get him a bankroll in order to face down this Lance. Things were moving along well until the Kid ran into some country girl, Laura, whom the Kid always called Tuesday since that was the day that they met and he had had big night cleaning up five Gs off the big boys at the Lafayette Hotel weekly game, with blonde hair and doe-like eyes all blue and he fell, fell hard for her (this despite grabbing Maggie Ann’s free ass for getting his ashes hauled every time Shooter was out of town-and a couple of times when he was in town and Maggie Ann was testing her coquettish whorish ways to see if he would belt her one). Although Shooter didn’t know about the stuff between Maggie Ann and the Kid until she was ready to leave town and wanted to rub it in, rub salt in Shooter’s loveless wounds and told him every detail about every guy she had done, and a couple of girls too, told him she had blown all his friends for good measure, he knew that having a girl hanging over the Kid as he was trying to go for the brass ring was the kiss of death, would be an albatross around his neck. He wouldn’t listen, told Shooter he could beat Lance, beat the old man like a gong without working up a sweat. Almost broke the whole thing off when just before the big Lafayette Hotel game he snuck down to Cajun country to see this Tuesday and have some sex with her which would, no doubt in the Shooter’s mind, make him too loose, too unfocused on his mission.                

So the big day comes and everybody who is anybody around Louisiana gambling circles showed up for the Kid-Lance show-down. The Shooter could tell after about fifteen seconds that the Kid had had his way with this Tuesday and that his energies would be sapped. Jesus. Now the way these games, this high stakes stud poker works is a lot different from some back room at Mick’s gin mill where Mick has paid off the coppers for the amateurs to play for a few bucks and he gets a cut off the top for his services. They have certain protocol or they did until guys like Reno Red build a casino on up in the mountains just short of California and Bugsy Segal built Xanadu out in the Los Vegas deserts. A big game would take place in an up-scale hotel where the manager paid off the coppers to keep away and the gamblers would rent out a suite of rooms to do their business in.

High stakes stud poker was, is, played to the death, played until somebody cries “uncle” and can’t or won’t raise anymore dough to stay in the game. So the whole process can take hours, days and a suite with bedrooms and the like is a bare minimum requirement. Besides a high stakes game will draw many interested spectators to see if the champ will be dethroned but more likely to bet on the oncome, bet big. (One of the fastest pieces of action on the sidelines which would put those who bet today on each play in a football or basketball game to shame is to bet on every turn of the card for say $100 a shot-the money changes hands very quickly and somebody can get very rich very fast-or tap out the same way.

In the old days the once elegant now faded Lafayette Hotel down near the breakwaters of the Mississippi River was the stop for high rollers coming to play in New Orleans. Every half decent stud poker player dreamed of showing his (or occasionally her) stuff in those large well-provisioned rooms against all-comers. Up and coming guys would say “I’m heading to the Lafayette” even when they were stumbling around to get stakes to play in Riley’s Pub back room dollar limit games. That included the Kid when he was coming up, when the Shooter was bringing him along and wanted to entice him with that glitter. So the big game was played up in Suite 606, a suite specifically reserved for poker players who chipped into pay the freight, to pay the room rate.                    

Like I said these events would draw a crowd from all over, all over the East sometimes all the way up to Boston. I mentioned the side bettors but as well in most games others beside in this case the young Kid and the old Lance opted for a seat in the game to see if that day maybe their luck would change and they could by default become king of the hill. Such dreams keep certain men (and occasionally women) afloat in a tough and grimy world. This day would find a few guys who had been “gutted” somehow that inelegant word used to describe cutting up fish or livestock was the term of art for those thrown on the scrapheap by either the Kid or Lance. 

There was Pig, a low rent guy who made his money from chiseling cheapjack guys in those back alley games enough to grab a stake and take his chances. Pig that day very early on sweating like a pig would fall early since he always worried about whether his stake would last long enough. Lance made toast of him. There was Doc who kept his numbers book, his lined drawn tables which showed him the percentages with each upturned card. He faded without a whimper once his figures went south on him as they naturally would when one is betting on whether a guy is bluffing or really has that down card to complete some combination that looked promising. Gone.

Then there was “Yella,” a name from a term familiar in race-conscious New Orleans which meant that somewhere along the way he had white blood in him which made him acceptable in white society somewhat, that somewhat being good enough to get “gutted” by both the Kid and Lance at the poker table in his time. Although Doc and Pig were pretty non-descript second-rate actors in this game Yella had an interesting past having gone to New York City when he was younger and set the town on fire at the Cotton Club when he had his own jazz band back in the 1920s Age of Jazz that the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald endlessly wrote about and coined the term. A New Orleans guy like Louie Armstrong was just too black for the white upper-crust crowd which frequented that uptown Harlem establishment but Yella fit right in. Then the Great Depression set in and jazz and jazz bands took a back seat. When he saw the writing on the wall the resourceful Yella won a handful of dough in a game at the Plaza Hotel against a bunch of Mayfair swells and returned to New Orleans and first pimped on Bourbon Street and the teamed with Madame LaRue to set up a high end bordello complete with girls for every kind of taste from a trip around the world to a quick blow-job when the latter was kind of an exotic treat unlike later when high school girls were doing it as a rite of passage in some places to keep some car freak lover at bay down in some Squaw Rock lovers’ lane.  (As it turned out although nobody talked about it Yella had pimped for Maggie Ann when she first hit town from Podunk down in the bayou and he would later get Tuesday as a favor to the Kid going down that road although not before as he said “sampling the wares” in both cases.) Despite that interesting background when the deal went down Yella tapped out early. Gone too. 

Taking up the last seat, usually six was the maximum number at the table at any one time, was the Shooter who was in for a while as a player until things settled out and he just dealt them out, dealt them from the top. We know Shooter’s story or enough to get us by once we know that he had been “gutted” by the old man and once we know his trials and tribulations trying to keep Maggie Ann in style and away from every stray dog of a man who caught her eye. Tough work which made dealing high stakes poker games to get some dough like child’s play. Shooter would fold after the first day and so deep into the second day it was Lance against the Kid, one on one.

Of course these high stakes games, actually even those back room ones, had a certain rhythm, a certain protocol. One was since the games were long, could be days long, any player could call himself out for a while and not lose his play at the table. Another was that if a player tapped out he or she had half an hour to raise additional cash. For known players, markers, IOUs, were acceptable and many times the only way to keep players going until they had to lay low and pay some dough toward the markers was to take markers or they would be shut out of games. Players, if they agreed, could deal themselves if there was no back-up dealer available that any players trusted enough. The dealer could also call himself out and that is why in most games a back-up dealer was hanging around.

In this meet they back up was none other than Missouri Moll who just then had tapped out having had a bad run at blackjack. She like Yella was interesting being one of the few high stakes female players. They say Moll had gotten her start in the famous Mrs. McCabe’s whorehouse up in the Klondike, up in gold country before that panned out where the girls in that girl-starved country charged (or rather Mrs. McCabe charged) five hundred dollars cash or gold for their “favors,”  a quaint term of the times before World War II. This Mrs. McCabe (she was not married but having the Mrs. kept the men away from her door-mostly) is reputed to be the “inventor” of “going under the table,” of giving guys playing cards blowjobs, head, whatever you call oral sex in your neighborhood without having to leave the table to keep up their spirits so to speak (she did not do missionary sex just the blow-jobs although more than one guy would be willing to give her a fistful of gold when she was younger for the pleasure).

Whatever the truth of Mrs. McCabe’s invention Moll learned that little trick as she rose in the ranks of high stakes poker players. Any time she tapped out and needed to raise cash fast she would go to work (not always “under the table” giving new meaning to that expression but in an adjacent bedroom) and within a half hour would have five hundred or a thousand just like that. (Many guys would hope for her to tap out including Lance when he was younger just to keep their “spirits” up.). Now older and maybe wiser she was just backing up the action although she still had enough looks for the older guys to maybe take a run at her if she needed some dough.

Not all the action as I pointed out was around the table. Money is a magnet for the pure bettor and the interested parties with cash to wager on any outcomes. A couple of guys, Mack from Detroit (don’t ask for any other part of his moniker you might wind up floating down the Mississippi) and Ruby Red, can be seen here betting on every flip of the card, on every  hand just like today’s sports junkies   which as I mentioned before is a tough dollar, is very wearying. The guy though that is important to this part of the story is a guy named Varner, Jody Varner, who father Will left him 28,000 acres of the best bottom land in Mississippi and a company town to feed what he wanted to feed off of. This Jody Varner though was not present by happenstance but because he desperately wants to see Lance fall down. All I have to say is that he had been gutted by Lance and you by now know what the deal is. This Jody seems ready to go through Will’s lifetime of struggle fortune in as short a time as he could between his mulatto mistress and his sporting habits. (As an equal opportunity sexual partner he had his way with the very white Maggie Ann on more than one occasion and would later after the Kid’s fall have his way with that Tuesday when the Kid needed a stake and needed it quickly).

Jody wants Lance beaten so badly that he did not want to leave anything to chance. He has conned the Shooter who after-all only had his reputation for fair-dealing on the line to send a few off-hand high cards the Kid’s way. The Shooter balked but being vain about Maggie Ann and her tramp-like ways which were not generally known he succumbed when Jody told him he was going to send her back to some backwater whorehouse going down on Cajun boys if he did not do as told.

In the end it didn’t do Shooter any good since the Kid spotted what he was doing from the first hand he tried to do it. In the end it didn’t matter for Shooter either since that Maggie Ann ran off with some travelling salesman who promised her the world. More importantly in the end it didn’t matter as well since ancient Lance played the Kid like a fiddle. See the Kid never having played the old man and had only stories about how he gutted one guy or another the Kid had no clue, no clue at all about how Lance played out the play. About how without saying a word he would stand up and seem in pain over a back spasm. How he would after a couple of hours call for a rest while the Kid was hot and in the meantime went crazy waiting for Lance to return. Worse of all he was clueless when he mistook a few false hands that Lance let him win and left him suspecting Lance of senility. That was the real action leading up to the “kill”-that last hand when everything matter and the Kid was like putty in Lance’s hands.   

Even though the Kid gave Lance the battle of his life he forgot the first rule of high stakes stud poker when two or more savvy guys are playing. If a guy keeps calling and raising, calling and raising at thousand dollar increments then you best fold and wait for a change of luck because as sure as shooting a guy like Lance has the goods. When he throws a check for five thou and takes your marker it is way too late-you are a goner. The Kid found out $5000 in the hole hard way when Lance turned over a Jack to complete a flush. Yeah, back to cheap street until Lance retired or kicked the bucket. It would never happen. Maybe he should have checked out where Fast Eddie Felton was hanging and take him up on that three ball handicap for a hundred bucks because he was finished as a big daddy stud poker player now that everybody knew he could be rattled. The only thing for certain after the Kid fell down was that sweet girlfriend Tuesday was going to wear out a few beds and maybe her knees getting that dough for the Kid when Lance called in that marker. (Jody even before she and the Kid  left the room gave her his calling card and said he expected to see her soon-the bastard.)         


Friday, December 04, 2020

“Wasn’t That A Mighty Flood, Lord, That Blew All The People All Away”-The The Galveston Flood Of 1900 In Mind

“Wasn’t That A Mighty Flood, Lord, That Blew All The People All Away”-The The Galveston Flood Of 1900 In Mind

By Greg Green

[Greg Green has come over from a similar job at the on-line American Film Gazette website to act as administrator of the American Left History and its associated blog sites. Welcome aboard.]

After a 2017 summer season of extraordinary hurricane actions and destruction in the Southeastern part of the United States, the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, one would at least think, that those who do not see anything in this overwhelming climate change evidence would give pause. Those events have brought other earlier massive floods and storms in the Americas to the fore if only by comparison. On can think of the famous Johnston flood of 1927 and of the big bad one that blew over Galveston town 1900 that literally blew all the people all away, over 6000 of them. In those days there were climate deniers of a different sort, people in Galveston who did not believe that because they lived a little bit upland, a few feet above sea level that they would not get swept away. Just like the people and the Army Corps of Engineers believed that the levees would hold along the Mississippi when the big blow Hurricane Katrina came through in 2005 and turned them to sink mud.    

We all now know plenty about individual stories during these modern horrific storms from acts of heroism to acts of ingenuity to dastardly acts of cowards taking advantage of the chaos to loot and create mayhem but I would have assumed that we would not be able to know what happened first hand in that 1900 Galveston. But I would have been fortunately wrong because the Rosenberg Library in Galveston commissioned an oral history of the survivors not at the time since there was no way to record such information but later when most of the survivors who had been young children in 1900 were themselves in old age.

Recently NPR’s Morning Edition had a segment highlighting that oral history and I provide a link here:   

Not every person around today except maybe those in the Galveston area would be aware of the fury of that storm but I have known about its destruction for about thirty years now although not from an expected history source. I learned about it from a song, a folk song. My parents were both very early folkies in the late 1950s just a shade bit before the folk music revival exploded onto the scene in certain towns and on many college campuses. (My parents actually meet at a small folk concert in a small coffeehouse in Boston, Bailey’s, where they heard the legendary folk singer/songwriter Eric Saint Jean, who has been mentioned on this site on  occasion when that folk minute comes up, strut his stuff.) I, like a lot of kids rebelling against their parents hated folk music with a passion.

My parents as long as they lived they were strong devotees of folk singer/songwriter Tom Rush whom they knew from his Club 47 days in Harvard Square. One of his signature songs from the time was his robust cover of Wasn’t That A Mighty Flood a tradition folk song. I first hear the song, kicking and screaming, when I was young and well after Tom Rush’s big folk time when he started doing yearly concerts around New Year at Symphony Hall in Boston. The rousing song now is one of the few that I actually know all the words too and can bear to listen to. Here are the lyrics and they express very concisely what went down in that terrible time:

Wasn't that a mighty storm
Wasn't that a mighty storm in the morning, well
Wasn't that a mighty storm
That blew all the people all away.
You know, the year of 1900, children,
Many years ago
Death came howling on the ocean
Death calls, you got to go
Now Galveston had a seawall
To keep the water down,
And a high tide from the ocean
Spread the water all over the town.
You know the trumpets give them warning
You'd better leave this place
Now, no one thought of leaving
'til death stared them in the face
And the trains they all were loaded
The people were all leaving town
The trestle gave way to the water
And the trains they went on down.
Rain it was a-falling
thunder began to roll
Lightning flashed like hellfire
The wind began to blow
Death, the cruel master
When the wind began to blow
Rode in on a team of horses
I cried, "Death, won't you let me go"
Hey, now trees fell on the island
And the houses give away
Some they strained and drowned
Some died in most every way
And the sea began to rolling
And the ships they could not stand
And I heard a captain crying
"God save a drowning man."
Death, your hands are clammy
You got them on my knee
You come and took my mother
Won't you come back after me
And the flood it took my neighbor
Took my brother, too
I thought I heard my father calling
And I watched my mother go.
You know, the year of 1900, children,
Many years ago
Death came howling on the ocean
Death calls, you got to go
"Wasn’t That a Mighty Storm" / "Galveston Flood"
It was the year of 1900
that was 80 years ago
Death come'd a howling on the ocean
and when death calls you've got to go
Galveston had a sea wall
just to keep the water down
But a high tide from the ocean
blew the water all over the town
Wasn't that a mighty storm
Wasn't that a mighty storm in the morning
Wasn't that a mighty storm
It blew all the people away
The sea began to rolling
the ships they could not land
I heard a captain crying
Oh God save a drowning man
The rain it was a falling
and the thunder began to roll
The lightning flashed like Hell-fire
and the wind began to blow
The trees fell on the island
and the houses gave away
Some they strived and drowned
others died every way
The trains at the station were loaded
with the people all leaving town
But the trestle gave way with the water
and the trains they went on down
Old death the cruel master
when the winds began to blow
Rode in on a team of horses
and cried death won't you let me go
The flood it took my mother
it took my brother too
I thought I heard my father cry
as I watched my mother go
Old death your hands are clammy
when you've got them on my knee
You come and took my mother
won't you come back after me?

From The Pens Of Karl Marx And Friedrich Engels-Their Struggles To Build Communist Organizations-The Early Days

From The Pens Of Karl Marx And Friedrich Engels-Their Struggles To Build Communist Organizations-The Early Days

Click below to link to the Marx-Engels Internet Archives.

Greg Green comment:

The foundation article by Marx or Engels listed in the headline goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in other posts in this space. Just below is a thumbnail sketch of the first tentative proceedings to form a communist organization that would become a way-station on the road to building a Bolshevik-type organization in order fight for the socialist revolution we so desperately need and have since Marx and Engels first put pen to ink.


Marx/Engels Internet Archive-The Communist League

A congress of the League of the Just opened in London on June 2, 1847. Engels was in attendance as delegate for the League's Paris communities. (Marx couldn't attend for financial reasons.)

Engels had a significant impact throughout the congress -- which, as it turned out, was really the "inaugural Congress" of what became known as the Communist League. This organization stands as the first international proletarian organization. With the influence of Marx and Engels anti-utopian socialism, the League's motto changed from "All Men are Brothers" to "Working Men of All Countries, Unite!"

Engels: "In the summer of 1847, the first league congress took place in London, at which W. Wolff represented the Brussels and I the Paris communities. At this congress the reorganization of the League was carried through first of all. ...the League now consisted of communities, circles, leading circles, a central committee and a congress, and henceforth called itself the 'Communist League'."

The Rules were drawn up with the participation of Marx and Engels, examined at the First Congress of the Communist League, and approved at the League's Second Congress in December 1847.

Article 1 of the Rules of the Communist League: "The aim of the league is the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the proletariat, the abolition of the old bourgeois society which rests on the antagonism of classes, and the foundation of a new society without classes and without private property."

The first draft of the Communist League Programme was styled as a catechism -- in the form of questions and answers. Essentially, the draft was authored by Engels. The original manuscript is in Engels's hand.

The League's official paper was to be the Kommunistische Zeitschrift, but the only issue produced was in September 1847 by a resolution of the League's First Congress. It was First Congress prepared by the Central Authority of the Communist League based in London. Karl Schapper was its editor.

The Second Congress of the Communist League was held at the end of November 1847 at London's Red Lion Hotel. Marx attended as delegate of the Brussels Circle. He went to London in the company of Victor Tedesco, member of the Communist League and also a delegate to the Second Congress. Engels again represented the Paris communities. Schapper was elected chairman of the congress, and Engels its secretary.

Friedrich Lessner: "I was working in London then and was a member of the communist Workers' Educational Society at 191 Drury Lane. There, at the end of November and the beginning of December 1847, members of the Central Committee of the Communist League held a congress.Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came there from Brussels to present their views on modern communism and to speak about the Communists' attitude to the political and workers' movement. The meetings, which, naturally, were held in the evenings, were attended by delegates only... Soon we learned that after long debates, the congress had unanimously backed the principles of Marx and Engels..."

The Rules were officially adopted December 8, 1847.

Engels: "All contradiction and doubt were finally set at rest, the new basic principles were unanimously adopted, and Marx and I were commissioned to draw up the Manifesto." This would, of course, become the Communist Manifesto.


Markin comment on this series:

No question that today at least the figures of 19th century communist revolutionaries, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, are honored more for their “academic” work than their efforts to build political organizations to fight for democratic and socialist revolutions, respectively, as part of their new worldview. Titles like Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, The Peasants Wars In Germany, and the like are more likely to be linked to their names than Cologne Communist League or Workingmen’s International (First International).

While the theoretical and historical materialist works have their honored place in the pantheon of revolutionary literature it would be wrong to neglect that hard fact that both Marx and Engels for most of their lives were not “arm chair" revolutionaries or, in Engels case, merely smitten by late Victorian fox hunts with the upper crust. These men were revolutionary politicians who worked at revolution in high times and low. Those of us who follow their traditions can, or should, understand that sometimes, a frustratingly long sometimes, the objective circumstances do not allow for fruitful revolutionary work. We push on as we can. Part of that pushing on is to become immersed in the work of our predecessors and in this series specifically the work of Marx and Engels to create a new form of revolutionary organization to fight the fights of their time, the time from about the Revolutions of 1848 to the founding of various socialist parties in Europe in the latter part of the 19th century.

History of the Paris Commune, Prosper Olivier Lissagaray, translated by Eleanor Marx, Black and Red Press, St. Petersburg, Florida, 2007

When one studies the history of the Paris Commune of 1871 one learns something new from it even though from the perspective of revolutionary strategy the Communards made virtually every mistake in the book. This book by a participant and survivor of the Commune has historically been the starting point for any pro-Commune analysis. The original English translation by Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx, has given the imprimatur of the Marx family to that view.

Through a close study of the Paris Commune one learn its lessons and measure it against the experience acquired by later revolutionary struggles and above all by later revolutions, not only the successful Russian Revolution of October 1917 but the failed German, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Chinese and Spanish revolutions in the immediate aftermath of World War I. More contemporaneously we have the experiences of the partial victories of the later Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions.

Notwithstanding the contradictory nature of these later experiences, as if to show that history is not always totally a history of horrors against the fate of the masses we honor the Paris Commune as a beacon of the coming world proletarian revolution. It is just for that reason that Karl Marx fought tooth and nail in the First International to defend it against the rage of capitalist Europe. It is one of our peaks. The Commune also presented in embryo the first post-1848 Revolution instance of what was later characterized by Lenin at the beginning of World War I as the crisis of revolutionary leadership of the international labor movement. So this question that after Lenin’s death preoccupied Trotsky for much of the later part of his life really has a much longer lineage that I had previously recognized. Unfortunately, as we are too painfully aware that question is still to be resolved. Therefore, even at this great remove, it is necessary to learn the lessons of that experience in facing today’s crisis of leadership in the international labor movement.

As a final thought, I note that in the preface to this edition that the editors have given their own view about the lessons to be learned from the experience of the Paris Commune. Although virtually every page of Lissagaray’s account drips with examples of the necessity of a vanguard party their view negates that necessity. While we can argue until hell freezes over, and should, about the form that a future socialist state will take one would think that there should be no dispute on that necessity at this late date in history. In any case read this important work (including the above-mentioned provocative preface) as it tells the tale of an important part of our working class history.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

In Commemoration Of The 50th Anniversary Of The Passing Of Legendary Soul Singer Otis Redding (2017)

In Commemoration Of The 50th Anniversary Of The Passing Of Legendary Soul Singer Otis Redding (2017)

By Zack James (with serious help from oldest brother Alex)

I have been this year, the year of the 50th anniversary of the famous Summer Of Love, centered mainly in and around San Francisco, probably the number one writer in this space commemorating that event. Prodded unto perdition by my oldest brother Alex who had actually taken part in many aspects of the Summer of Love, 1967 and a couple of years beyond before he settled down to his quiet and lucrative law practice. Quickly the genesis of that prodding and the subsequent over-the-top commemoration of that event was Alex’s business trip out to San Francisco in the spring combined with his viewing of a special exhibition The Summer of Love Experience put on by the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park the scene of much of the activity during that time. When Alex got back he gathered his old high school friends together who had also gone out that year and they commissioned me to write, edit and see to the publication of a small collective memoir book on their experiences.

One of those high school friends was the site administrator here, the soon to be retired Pete Markin, who beyond contributing to the memoir went crazy to have his stable of writers, including me, young and old, acquainted with that time or not, to go all out to commemorate the event. That whirling dervish fury is the main reason that Pete lost a vote of confidence initiated by the so-called “Young Turks” (although all of us are thinking 50 something) and supported decisively by his old friend and colleague old-timer Sam Lowell which has ushered in his retirement and replacement by Greg Green from the on-line American Film Gazette website. (The details of that internal fight will be addressed by others in the future since I was not privy to most of what happened to give Peter the boot. And also not privy to whether the whole affair was not some purge like in the old radical days disguised as a retirement. If Peter goes to the Gulag we will know which one it was) But enough of genesis.         

One of the assignments that Pete in his frenzy ordered up was a review by film critic Sandy Salmon of a documentary by the famed filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker about the first Monterey Pops Festival in June of that same Summer of Love year. That review centered on the explosive appearance of Little Girl Blues Janis Joplin at the Festival. That subsequently led to a review by younger writer Alden Riley ordered by Peter over Sandy’s head when he found out that Alden did not know who Janis Joplin was. All well and good as Ms. Joplin deserved plenty of attention for her short burning star rise and fall too young. What got short shrift in all of this worthy commemoration was the equally explosive entrance of king the essence of soul Otis Redding on that same Monterey stage. Maybe it was that Otis’ music did not fit in with the “acid” rock very much associated with that Summer of Love stuff. Maybe it had something to do with a “white bread” lack of appreciation for the emergence of soul. Maybe a Martin Luther King passive resistance generational “post-racial” break from a serious understanding of the continuing racial sores that mark this country’s landscape.  Maybe it was combination.

Nevertheless not only was Otis Redding worthy of a better representation on this site but in his short, too short, appearance on the wider music stage he had an outsized influence on the subsequent evolution of soulful music. His most famous song, the lonesome hobo Sitting on the Dock of the Bay an instant classic released shortly before his death in a plane crash in the Midwest in late 1967 showed a glimmer of where he was going.

In this 50th anniversary year for the song and Otis’ death the well-known NPR commentator Christopher Lydon on his Open Source radio show featured the life, work and influence of the great recording artist on one program. Maybe a link here to that program makes up one tiny bit for the previous neglect on this site.

Click here to link to the Open Source program:

Honor Native American History Month-Once Again-The Trail Of 1000, No, 1,000, 000 Tear-The Little War On The Prairie-The Execution of 38 Dakota Warriors In Mankato, Minnesota in 1862

Honor Native American History Month-Once Again-The Trail Of 1000, No, 1,000, 000 Tear-The Little War On The Prairie-The Execution of 38 Dakota Warriors In Mankato, Minnesota in 1862

By Frank Jackman

Honor Native American History Month-Once Again-The Trail Of 1000, No, 1,000, 000 Tear-The Little War On The Prairie-The Execution of 38 Dakota Warriors In Mankato, Minnesota in 1862

Yes, I am well aware that the date of this piece is in December and Native American History Month was in November but this piece aired on December 1, 2018 around my way on NPR’s This American Life and so belongs along with other entries on the trail of tears, the endless trail of tears brothers and sisters.


Little War on the Prairie

Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen says, nobody ever talked about the most important historical event ever to happen there: in 1862, it was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged after a war with white settlers. John went back to Minnesota to figure out what really happened 150 years ago, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it much after.

What Goes Around Comes Around-The Coen Brothers’ Remake Of “The Ladykillers” (2004)-A Film Review

What Goes Around Comes Around-The Coen Brothers’ Remake Of “The Ladykillers” (2004)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Sandy Salmon

The Ladykillers, starring Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, based on the 1955 British film of the same name, produced and directed by the Coen Brothers, 2004

You never know why a particular film will spawn (nice word right) a retread at some later period. Maybe it is a classic like Jane Austen’s novels which have had several cinematic reincarnations reflecting different views of her work. Maybe some director or producer decides that his or her take on whatever the original subject was will put that beauty in the shade, will make people yawn even thinking about the old one. Maybe some production company is on the ropes and needs a quick boost with a plotline that can still speak to an audience. Who knows. In any case the Coen Brothers famous for hair-raising films like Raising Arizona and Blood Simple have gloomed out a 1955 British film Ladykillers which starred Alex Guinness and brought the story-line stateside and more up to date although with the same relentlessly fateful ending-bloody ending.

Here’s a quick scoop on what drove the Coens to revive this one. The Professor, played by Tom Hanks in one of his less satisfactory roles since he went over the top with his outer drawling gentile demeanor wants to rent a particular room in a particular house owned by an older religious widowed black woman Mrs. Munson played by Irma P. Hall for what appeared gentile but in reality nefarious activities. No, not some lustful sexual tryst which everybody could pardon but to use her basement as a holding area in order to dig a tunnel into a nearby river casino and grab the dough. Another example of what the famous, or infamous depending on your druthers, bank robber Willie Sutton is reported to have answered when asked why he robbed banks. That was where the money was. Ditto cash-rich riverboat casinos under the same principle.

Naturally since this black comedy as originally written by William Rose the gang of criminals the Professor recruits is something out of Jimmy Breslin’s gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Nevertheless by hook or by crook they were able to pull the caper off, grab the dough and easy street.  By that same hook or by crook Mrs. Munson catches on to the robbery and threatens the good professor with John Law unless he returns his ill-gotten gains.

Here is where the lady killers of the title comes into play. This gang that couldn’t shoot straight collectively decided to kill the old hag, put her underground, six feet under. Apparently all that church-going and singing hosannas to the Lord put Mrs. Munson in good with the right deities and one by one, including the too clever professor, they bite the dust, they go that six feet under. But what about the dough. Well the good Mrs. Munson found it and tried to return it to John Law. No go. They didn’t believe her cock-eyed story and told her to keep it. Being a good Christian women she decided to donate the whole sum to her favorite charity Bob Jones University (a place which at one time did not and maybe still does not allow blacks in as students). End of story. Other than the excessive blood and gore I don’t know why the Coens remade this one, The original was better in every way, more cheeky as they say in England.