Saturday, February 20, 2021

“Shoot Pools ‘Fast Eddie,’ Shoot Pools”-With Paul Newman’s “The Hustler” In Mind

“Shoot Pools ‘Fast Eddie,’ Shoot Pools”-With Paul Newman’s “The Hustler” In Mind

By Lance Lawrence

“Fast Eddie” Felson was the greatest pool player to ever chalk up a stick and you had better believe that because I know from where I speak because in most quarters, among the serious followers of the game, I, Jackie “Big Man” Gleason think that title belongs to me. Maybe you never heard of “Fast Eddie,” never knew the story behind the story of how for a couple of years anyhow, maybe three he ruled the roost, he was the king of the hill. All I know is from the first moment Eddie entered Sharkey’s Pool Hall, the place where my manager, Bart, and I hustled all comers at the sport of kings, down on 12th Avenue in the teeming city of New York I was afraid to play him. Afraid he would damage my reputation as the king of the hill. I had never played game one against him but still I sensed something in his swagger, in his bravado that made my hands shake. Shaking hands the kiss of death in our profession.               

In case you don’t know, and maybe some readers might not having decided to read my homage to “Fast Eddie” based on the “hook” that this was about Paul Newman the movie actor shooting big-time pool, hustling pool in the old days before Vegas, Atlantic City, Carson City started putting up money to have high dollar championships was about more that learning technique, having a vision of where the fucking balls would enter the pockets like your mother’s womb. A lot more. It was about having heart, about something that they would call Zen today but which we called “from hunger” in my day. Eddie’s too. That’s what Eddie had, that is what I sensed, what brought me to cold sweats when that swaggering son of a bitch came looking for me like I was somebody’s crippled up grandfather. It took a while, Eddie took his beatings before he understood what drove his art but he got it, got it so good that I left the game for a couple of years and went out West to hustler wealthy Hollywood moguls who loved the idea of “beating” “Big Man” Gleason at ten thousand a showing.             

But forget about me and my troubles once Fast Eddie came through that long ago door after all this is about how the best man who ever handled a stick got to earn that title in my book. Like a lot of guys after the war, after World War II, after seeing the world in one way Eddie was ready to ditch his old life, was ready to take some chances and say “fuck you” to the nine to five world that would be death to a free spirit like him (that “free spirit” would put a few daggers in his heart before he was done but that is for later). Eddie, against my doughty frame, my big man languid frame, was a rangy kid, kind of tall, wiry, good built and Hollywood bedroom eyes like, well, like Paul Newman when he was a matinee idol making all the women, girls too, wet. Strictly “from hunger” just like in my time, the Great Depression, I had been the same before I left Minnesota for the great big lights of the city and “action.” Like I said raw and untamed but I could tell that very first time he put the stick to the green clothe he had the magic, had that something that cannot be learned but only come to the saints and those headed for the sky.           

So Eddie came in with a few thousand ready to take on the “Big Man.” While I feared this young pup I sensed that I could teach him a lesson, maybe a lesson that would hold him in good stead, maybe not, but which would at least give me enough breathing room to figure out what I would do when Eddie claimed his crown. His first mistake, a rookie error that I myself had committed was not having a partner, a manager to rein him in, to hold him back in tough times. He had some old rum dum, Charley, Billy, something like that, who cares except this rum dum was a timid bastard who couldn’t hold up his end. His end being strictly to estimate his opponent and rein the kid in when he was off his game like we all get sometimes. Me, like I said after I wised up, teamed up with Bart, Bart who knew exactly who and who was not a “loser” and who didn’t lose my money by making bad matches or bad side bets (those side bets were the cushion money that got us through hard times and many times were more than whatever we won at straight up games).      

All I am saying is that this kid’s manager did Fast Eddie wrong, let him go wild that first night when he was all gassed up to beat the Big Man. You already know that I whipped his ass or you haven’t been paying close enough attention. But that was all a ruse like I said, all kid bravado and swagger added in so it was like taking candy from a baby that first night. But I knew I was beat, beat bad in a straight up contest. What saved me that night was two things, no three. First, Fast Eddie like lots of kids figured that he could beat an old man with his hands tied behind his back and so he started his “victory lap” drinking, drinking hard high-end scotch even before the match had started. Second, he was cocky enough to declare that the only way to determine the winner was who cried “uncle” first (Bart smiled and whispered “loser” in my ear at hearing that). Third and last he had picked up this broad, some boozer and maybe a hooker named, Sandy, Susie, no, Sarah whom he was trying to impress somehow. She looked like a lost kitten but I didn’t give a damn about that just that Fast Eddie’s mind would be half on getting her down under the sheets, maybe had dreams of getting a blow job for his efforts she looked the type who was into some kinky stuff just for kicks. At least that was the way it looked at the time. As I will tell you later it was very different and I was totally wrong about the dame.          

It took almost twenty-eight hours in that dark dank smelly booze-strewn Sharkey pool hall which looked like something out of the movies’ idea of what a low rent pool hall should look like complete with low-lifes but eventually between the booze, the bravado, and the broad I took Eddie down, left him about two hundred bucks “walking around” money. Left him to cry “uncle.” Cry it for the last time. Between grabbing Fast Eddie’s money and the side bets Bart made I, we were able to lay off for a couple of months (usually after a big score that was standard practice since the one-time suckers who want to brag to the hometown folks that they played hard and fast with the Big Man and almost won scatter to the winds for a while before they inevitably come back for their well-deserved beatings). Bart said, no crowed, that he had had Fast Eddie’s number, a “loser.” Was another gone guy, forget him.  But I had seen some moves, some moves especially before the booze got the better of the kid that I could only dream of trying without looking like a rube.         

This part of the story coming up I pieced together from what Bart told me, what Sharkey had heard, and what little Fast Eddie let on when he came back at me in earnest, in that Zen state or whatever the fuck you want to call it when a guy is “walking with the king.” Eddie went into “hiding,” went licking his wounds, which in the pool world meant that he was trying to put a stake together hustling at pool halls in bowling alleys, places like that where the rubes are dying to lose a fin or double sawbuck and not cry about it. A player at the kid’s level though would have a hard time of making much scratch with the carnival-wheelers so unbeknownst to me Eddie got in touch with Bart who staked him to some dough for a big cut of the proceedings. They made money, a fair amount, but Bart, at least this is what he told me later after I pistol-whipped him before I left for Hollywood and the big beautiful suckers there figured that would just come back to me in the end because Bart still had the kid down as a loser, a big bad loser.         

This part is murkier still. Along the way on this trip that Bart and Fast Eddie took to fleece the rubes this Sarah started to get religion, started wanted to settle down with Eddie, make Eddie settle down. After I had beaten him when he was laying low he moved in with her, they got along okay until Eddie connected with Bart whom Sarah definitely did not like, I guess she was off the bottle for a while but started in again once she saw that Eddie wouldn’t give up his dream, his dream of beating the Big Man. This part is even murkier but one night Eddie was hustling some Bourbon king and Bart and Sarah were left behind to drink the night away. Somehow Bart, who except when negotiating bets and matches was a pretty smooth talker, conned Sarah who was miffed at Eddie like I said into bed. Got her to either take him around the world or let him take her anally (or he forced the issue figuring she was just a bent whore anyway he had odd sexual desires from what I was able to figure out after a few years with him). The boozy haze, the rough sex, being unfaithful to Eddie, maybe her whole fucking life marching before her left her with who knows what angry feelings. In any case that night before Eddie got home she had slit her wrists.     

This last part is not murky, not murky at all. After beating the hell out of Bart he took the bus back to New York and one night he came through Sharkey’s door and I knew I was roasted (Bart had telegrammed about what had happened and told me that he would put up fifty thousand dollars against Fast Eddie’s luck). I had no choice but to play the play out. After Fast Eddie took that fifty thousand and another twenty-five that I had put up I cried “uncle.” Cried uncle and left for Hollywood and the bright lights. Left Fast Eddie to play out his string, left Eddie to “shoot pools, ‘Fast Eddie’, shoot pools.”     

Friday, February 19, 2021

Present At The Creation-The French Revolution Comes To Spain-Natasha Portman’s “Goya’s Ghosts” (2006)-A Film Review

Present At The Creation-The French Revolution Comes To Spain-Natasha Portman’s “Goya’s Ghosts” (2006)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Bradley Fox, Junior

[As of this post under the new regime of Greg Green, formerly of the on-line American Film Gazette website brought in to shake things up a bit after a vote of no confidence in the previous site administrator Peter Markin was taken among all the writers at the request of some of the younger writers abetted by one key older writer, Sam Lowell, the habit of assigning writers to specific topics like film, books, political commentary, and culture is over. Also over is the designation of writers in this space, young or old, by job title like senior or associate. After a short-lived experiment designating everybody as “writer” seemingly in emulation of the French Revolution’s “citizen” or the Bolshevik Revolution’s “comrade all posts will be “signed” with given names only. The Editorial Board]

Goya’s Ghosts, starring Natasha Portman as Inez and Alicia, Javier Bardem as Lorenzo, Stellan Skargard as Goya, a Spanish production done in English, 2006)

[I find it ironic that one of the first assignments that new site administrator Greg Green has handed out deals with the turmoil of the French Revolution through the prism of the famous Spanish artist Francisco Goya which roiled through Spain during the height of the revolution in France and later during various Napoleonic conquests including Spain. Sometimes apparently, and this may have been Greg Green’s point in assigning the review life mirrors art as in the case of Lorenzo, the Spanish priest turned exiled partisan of the French Revolution and Napoleonic agent during the French occupation in the early 1800s before his downfall at Waterloo.

Seemingly a parallel example exists between Lorenzo’s topsy-turvy career and fate and that of the previous site administrator Peter Markin, who not so coincidentally was a good friend of my father Bradley, Senior and who has recently retired from that position after a vote of “no confidence” by the writers. The main reason given was Peter’s obsessive tilting of the coverage of subjects in this space toward events from the turbulent 1960s when most of the older writers came of age exemplified by the over-the-top coverage of the Summer of Love, 1967 he ordered the writers, young and old, familiar with the period or not, to cover. There has been, and here the parallel with Francisco who would go to his execution under the Inquisition once the French were defeated and swept out of Spain by the British with the aid of Spanish guerillas, a persistent rumor that Peter was purged and that the retirement ploy was just that a cover for the more aggressive removal mainly through the efforts of the younger writers which in the interest of transparency included me. So maybe Greg Green is trying to make a cautionary tale out of using this film plot as a review. I will try to track this down as I get more information by if you heard that one Peter Paul Markin has fallen under the wheels of a modern day Inquisition don’t be surprised. Don’t be surprised at all.]
Artists, artist like the title’s Goya sometimes have the uncanny sense to be at the right place at the right time-at least the plot of this little gem of Spanish production film would indicate that. He lived and worked in the time of the French Revolution which was bringing a serious breathe of fresh air to feudal remnant Europe with the overthrown of the monarchy and of the attempt to bring the new democratic forms to the rest of the continent-including Spain which is where that revolution intersects with what Goya was observing and painting. In a sense Goya is all over the place in his work from the court painter to the royal family to the painter of the horrific effects of war on civilians and soldiers alike to the famous, or infamous if you like, painting of the Maja, the naked Maja which may or may not have scandalized European sensibilities. That is the subtext to the plot here where a Spanish priest, played by Javier Bardem, and Goya, played by Stellem Skargard, intersect through a rich merchant’s daughter model, played by Natalie Portman, whom Goya used and who inflamed the priest to lustful and criminal desire.  

Spain was, and maybe still is, a tough dollar place to be a dissenter, dissenter mainly being anything but a Roman Catholic and a hardened monarchist (and possibly a closet Francoist fascist if the recent struggle for the legitimate right to independent statehood of the Catalan peoples is any indication). Spain after all was the land of Inquisition which did not take kindly to any dissenters and had the means (torture and the rack, ultimately the auto de fe and the stake) That is where the action in this film starts (so the faint-hearted should push the stop button now). Lorenzo is the main prosecutor for the tribunals always looking for victims via his extensive stoolie spy network and he finds one in the person of the lusted after Inez. She goes into the dock after being tortured for her confession and before long Lorenzo has had his way with her. That way with her leading to her bearing his child. Eventually Inez get out of the slammer but the place took a lot out of her, left her mentally damaged.

Meanwhile the Church has no place for Lorenzo who is now considered an albatross around its neck and he gets out of Spain by hook or by crook landing in France. The scene then shifts back to Spain some fifteen years later. Like a lot of hard-boiled men who seek the main chance he became a senior bureaucrat in Napoleon’s administration of Spain after its conquest. Such men changing allegiance as easily as changing their shirts. Inez has seen better days but Lorenzo is still interested in finding his daughter. That search is interrupted by the British invasion which finds Lorenzo unsuccessfully fleeing but being caught and once the old order is reestablished the Inquisition in reinstated as well. Live by the sword die by the sword Lorenzo is condemned and in a defiant and honorable finish refuses to recant before he is executed.

What about Goya who after all is the hook for anybody with artistic sensibilities to have even bothered to watch this rather dragged out epic. He hovers over the scene doing his sketches and plotting his painting while trying to help Inez as best he could. But this film is mainly about Lorenzo and that is really the problem for me since we all know every revolutionary period brings certain figures from the old regime with them-after the masses have brought the changes and have fallen back exhausted. The French and Russian revolutions were full of such men who landed on their feet- for a time. Not enough Goya here to make this one move off dead center.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-The Real Scoop Behind “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?”-Martha and the Vandellas- Dancing In The Streets

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-The Real Scoop Behind “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?”-Martha and the Vandellas- Dancing In The Streets

This sketch takes place in the 1970s but is driven, and driven hard, by the music of the early 1960s when the grifter described here first came of age and hence its inclusion. Frank Jackman

“Hey, brother, can you spare a dime?,” (or sister now something unheard of back in the day, back in the early 1960s, when some cop might pinch you at her request for disturbing the fair sex  for  being unseemly in public asking a proper lady for anything. Now here in the go-go 70s any human form is qualified for the hustle where every low-rent guy takes a shot figuring maybe to get something so the other party, particularly women, can get you out of their faces and move on) followed by “Got an extra cigarette, pal (or gal, ditto the sister thing except unlike back in the day, pal or gal, in the new age, as likely as not, probably has no butts, has no “cigs,” doesn’t touch the stuff ever since the Surgeon-General’s report put the fear of God in lots of people)?”

Yeah, Billy Bailey, William James Bailey, used-to-be brash corner boy, a contender for the title of king hell king of the corner boy night around Salducci’s Pizza Parlor, “up the downs” back in North Adamsville in the old days, the old days these days being the early 1960s before smart and brash corner boy Frankie Riley put an end to that dream by trumping all upstarts since  he was “in” with the shop owner, certainly had the panhandler lingo down, down pat, after only a few days on the bum. Funny during these few days on the bum this time he would almost blush when he thought back to the days when he used to laugh in the faces of swollen-faced raggedy-assed guys trying to pan-handle him for dough, trying to bum a smoke, and here he was with the brethren. Hustling maybe a little cleaner in attire that the brethren since he had not gotten down to second-hand Sally goods yet although a few more weeks with constant use of the few clothes that he did have might have him howling. Hustling too with cleaner breathe since he did not drink (that jones long over and done with substituted by several subsequent joneses including his current burden. He still felt that contempt for the buggers since he “knew” that a few days of this street work and he would be off the skids, on his feet again and then able to go back to laughing at the brethren, a good laugh too, while they pipe-dreamed their lives away.

Yeah, this was strictly temporary because his ship would come in before he wound up on cheap street like the boyos hanging around the Common swilling rotgut wine (or maybe low-rent whiskey if the day’s take was good) smoking tobacco “roaches,” butt end really off the ground and pissing all over themselves. However every once in a while he would get a funny feeling, kind of turn up his collar a little more, push his baseball cap lower on his head, put on sunglasses ( a real no-no in the pan-handler racket since you want the “marks” to see your desperate eyes, your pleading desperate eyes, to close the deal. Besides sunglasses might make them feel you just blew in from the coast.) when he realized that he was on the bum in his own home town, his ever-loving’ roots, Boston. (His hometown of North Adamsville close enough so that he did not have to tell people who asked the name of the town and could get by with Boston unlike if he was from Lowell or Lawrence or places like that. Sure he had been on the bum a few times, nothing big, once on the Mission in Frisco (where in the same day he walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and that night slept, slept newspaper for a pillow sleep, under that edifice), a couple of times on Larimer Street in Denver before they gentrified the damn place and along the arroyos down in Los Angeles with a bunch of Vietnam veterans like himself who unlike him couldn’t adjust to the “real” world. 

Yeah, those were a few day bums, maybe a week, couple of weeks, no more than a month and then back to the world. Short falls, maybe drunk too much and jobless, later maybe too much gambling on run-out horses and dogs (and no money coming in to feed the habits once he got behind), maybe some twist threw him over for a steady guy after he wore out his welcome (and her pocketbook). On the bum this time, this time though a real fall, in hock and up to his ass in debt, mostly big score no-go dope on credit deal debts,  when he had tired of drunk risks, gambling risks, frail risks,  guys looking for him, not Boston guys thankfully, well, looking for him to pay up. During the long days of pan-handling this time though he would think back to the old days, the days before the “falls” when hustling dough was just for some short money, pick up some spare change, to wander into free campsite, Volkswagen bus pick-up sharing stews, brews and dope hitchhike roads looking for the great blue-pink American West night with some honey, some Angelica honey, bum like a few years back. Angelica, the proto-type of his sexual desire in those days, all Midwest blonde, slender, frisky, proud and sensible, traipsing after him across half the continent before going home to Indiana and then later joining him in southern California before she decided on white picket fences and kids. Sweet kiss, baby, you were probably right when that last night you said your gallant knight was made of sawdust. Yeah, that was a while back, late 1960s back when even he sensed the world might be turned upside down. Hoped maybe he and his would get a fair shake in the world even though more pressing personal issues drove his days and nights. 

Those days, those days after the hellish army routine, the “Nam bummer, the Nam bummer before he hightailed it with the arroyos brothers who couldn’t face the “real” world down in L.A. he practically made a religion, yah a religion out of living “free,” living out of the knapsack(oddly an old World War II surplus job found at Snyder’s Army and Navy which he father had told him he carried all thorough Europe when it was to kick ass with the Nazi), living under bridge (not arroyos brother bridges but nice, meaning girl company nice, sleeping bag also Army surplus and light campfires and fine stews), no sweat, if need be. But those “golden days” dried up a few years back and now here in 1976 he was facing a real skid row choice. How it happened he will get to along the way but first let’s set the parameters of what 1976 panhandling, to put an eloquent name on it for “bumming”, shiftless bumming , looked like and how to survive in the new age of everybody me-ing themselves, even with people who were not on the bum. Christ, lord the times were hard, hard times in old Babylon, no question.

See, a guy, a guy who called himself “Shorty” McGee for obviously physical reasons but who knows what his real name was, maybe he didn’t remember either after all the rum-dum sterno heat years and the endless backsides of skid row haunts, that he had hitched up with for a minute, an overnight minute at the Salvation Army Harbor Lights Center over in the South End kind of hipped him to the obvious tricks of the new down-at the-heels road. Like putting the two requests, change and “cigs,” together when you were panhandling. See, Shorty said it was all a matter of psychology, of working the crowd, the downtown crowd, the bustling workaday Park Street Station crowd hurrying to and fro looking for quick lunches, maybe a minute shopping spree in Jordan Marsh’s or Filene’s, and the Copley Square sunning themselves crowd on the benches across from the library maybe reading a book or feeding the pigeons, right to get you out of their sights and back to whatever sweet thing they were doing. So you endlessly put the two requests together, time after time after time, and always. And what happened was that when they turned you down for the dough ( as happened a lot), or maybe took you literally and pieced you off with just a dime, Christ a dime that wouldn’t even buy a cup of joe, could feel good about themselves, if they smoked, smoked cigarettes anyway, by passing you a butt. Billy thought, nice, this Shorty really does have it worked out just about right. Of course dimes and drags were not going to get him out from under, not this time.

Well, rather than leaving the reader out in the dark, Billy Bailey this fair 1976 spring was not just on the bum, but on the lam as well, keeping his head very far down just in case there were some guys who were looking for him, or worst, the cops, in case some irate victim of one of his scams took a notion to “fry his ass.” Of course he was counting on them, those victims, being mainly friends and acquaintances, of not putting “the heat” on him since he had already promised through the grapevine that he would make restitution. But we are getting a little ahead of the story, let’s step back.

The early 1970s were not kind to “free spirits” the previous name for what on this day were “free-loaders” and Billy, well, got behind in his expenses, and his bills, his ever expanding bills. But see the transition from free “s” to free “l” caught him off-guard, moreover he was just then in the throes of a fit of “the world owes me a living,” a serious fit. Why? Well see, he as a pauper son of the desperate working poor, “felt” that since he missed out on the golden age benefits of his youth that he was to make up the difference by putting the “touch” on the richer friends that he had acquired through his doing this and that, mainly high-end drug connections (not really rich but richer since the really rich were hunkered down behind about fifteen layers of fortresses, physical and legal, and as some writer who knew what he was talking about really were different that you and me, no question).

The long and short it was that he work the deal this way, this way once he got his hard wanting habits on first he would “borrow” money off Friend A under some scam pretext of putting it to good use, usually using some exotic drug story as the front (yes, his good use, including several long airplane fight trips to California and other points west-no more hitchhike roads for this moving up the food chain lad) and then borrow dough off Friend B to cover some of his debt to Friend A. Something like an unconscious classic Ponzi scheme, as it turned out. And then when he got to Friend X or somewhere around there things got way too complicated and he started “kiting” checks, and on and on as far deep into his white- collar crime mind as he could think. That could only go on a for a short while and he calculated that "short while" almost to the day when he would have to go “underground” and that day had sprung up a couple of weeks before.

So it took no accountant or smart-ass attorney to know that dimes and drags were not going to get him back on his feet. Nor were many of the schemes that Shorty had outlined over at Harbor Lights as ways to grab quick cash. (Hitting the poor boy charity circuit, good mainly one time, grabbing stuff on credit using somebody’s credit card gained through guys who sold fake credit cards and then selling the stuff quick and deeply discounted. Some check finagling. All things that really took sunnier times to work and squeak maximum benefit from. These were chicken feed for his needs, even his immediate needs, although some of the scams would fill the bill for a rum-dum or life-long skid row bum. But here is the secret, the deep secret that Billy Bailey held in his heart, after a few nights on bus station benches, cold spring night park benches, a night bout under the Andersen Bridge over by old haunt Harvard Square (girl-less and with no cozy sleeping and stew campfires), and a few nights that he would rather not discuss just in case, he finally figured out, figured out kicking and screaming, that the world did not owe him a living and that if he wanted to survive past thirty he had better get the stardust and grit out of his eyes. But just this minute, just this undercover spring 1976 minute, he needed to work the Commons. “Hey, brother, hey sister, can you spare a dime?” “Pal, have you got an extra cigarette?”

Postscript: Not all wisdom ends happily, and not all good intentions grow to fruition. Yes, Billy paid off his debts to his friends, mostly. However, Billy Bailey was killed while “muling” in a drug war shoot-out in Juarez, Mexico in late 1979 trying to do an independent score when the bad boy Mexican and South American cartels were bundling things up. Found face down with two in the back of the head. Yeah, Billy Bailey had moved down the chain a lot since the days when he was a contender for the king hell king of the corner boy night.

History In The Making-In The Unmaking Too-Audrey Tautou’s “Coco before Chanel” (2009)-A Film Review

History In The Making-In The Unmaking Too-Audrey Tautou’s “Coco before Chanel” (2009)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Leslie Dumont

Coco Before Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou, 2009   

Apparently Greg Green who hands out the assignment here, all the assignments here unlike before he came over to manage this sit and headed the film department at American Film Gazette where I was a stinger for a while early in his tenure has decided that I am to be the “women’s film” reviewer in residence since with the film under review Coco before Chanel marks the fourth straight women-oriented film I have reviewed. I don’t like, don’t like that implication at all, since if I had wanted to shell myself into a cozy non-threatening spot I could have kept my by-line at Women Today where I reviewed many things including films which were only marginally about women, one about a couple of gay men where there were no women at all.

The real thing that bothers me about this assignment from Greg who although he had posted in public that he reviews every film before assignment seemingly could not have done so here though is the subject matter on two counts. First dealing with famed Parisian haute couture fashion designer Coco Chanel when I do not give a damn about high fashion or low and resent that I have to blather on about fashionable hats and dresses like that meant anything in the real world. Fellow writer here Josh Breslin who was my companion for some years before I went to my by-line at Women Today can testify that I threw the bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume he gave me one Christmas  across the room one time later when we having a drawn out, drag down fight about something. So much for fashion, high or low. The more egregious point though is that this is basically a dishonest film, a film which very conveniently cuts away before the German occupation of Paris when Ms. Chanel according to now disclosed documents worked hand and hand with the occupiers of what could have been burning Paris if Hitler had had his way and never was held truly accountable for her collaboration and her convenient grabbing fortunes when the Jews were rounded up. Thus this vehicle portrays yet another rags to riches by the bootstraps by a poor trodden down orphan who falls in love and is disappointed. Damn another two-bit love story.          

Holding my nose, officially holding my nose if anybody including Greg Green is asking, I will do what is expected ever since Sam Lowell’s days as film editor and tell a few details about the plot-line. Coco and her sister were treated as wayward orphans at the hellish Catholic orphanage they grew up in after their mother died. When they came of age (after learning how to sew at the orphanage) they hit the road as a sister singing act and drew the attentions of some high society patrons of the saloon where they worked (and where Coco got her moniker). These upscale relationships gained them, and eventually Coco alone, some important connections with high society, with the world of money where women as “pet poodles” were as conscious about fashion as they were about having their sullen little side affairs.     

Coco’s relationship with one such high society male got her entrée into the provincial country elite and then off to gay Paree where her hats first and later high end dresses gave her a certain cache. The film’s tension is between her overweening ambition, not a bad thing in and of itself especially for a single woman of limited means, and a love affair with a British businessman that cannot go anywhere since he, seeking his main chance, is engaged to be married to some daughter of the England nobility. Before that happens though the beast died in a car accident and that was that. Although Coco never married she was at least a mistress to some high ranking German when the Nazis tried to devour Europe, including Paris. I am still holding my nose. No mas.    

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

On The 50th Anniversary Of Tet- “What The Hell Are We Fighting For-Next Stop Is Vietnam”-Never Forgive, Never Forget” From The North Adamsville Vietnam War Class of 1969- Novack-Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” Documentary

On The 50th Anniversary Of Tet- “What The Hell Are We Fighting For-Next Stop Is Vietnam”-Never Forgive, Never Forget” From The North Adamsville Vietnam War Class of 1969- Novack-Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” Documentary

For “Mogie” Crocker and all the other brothers and sisters who laid down their heads in that goddam war. Never forget, never forgive-Sam Lowell, Si Lannon, and Allan Jackson-War Class of 1969  

By Sam Eaton

If 1967 was dominated by the Summer of Love (the 50th anniversary of which was commemorated last year mainly on the West Coast which was the central axis of the movement and which had a hell of a lot of space in this blog in 2017 since a goodly number of the older writers from North Adamsville were involved one way or another) then 1968 was the Year Of Tet, the year of war, real war for a lot of the same guys around our way who celebrated the “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” cultural explosion of the previous year. You may wonder why I, Sam Eaton am writing this piece since usually in this space I do a little political commentary, mainly around war issues, books, and music and am not one of the guys listed in the epitaph. That answer is simple and two-fold. First, none of those North Adamsville guys after seeing the ten part Ken Burns/Lynn Novack series and the memories it stirred in them felt up to the task of actually writing about those old-time war experiences. (Even Frank Jackman who was in his own way part of the North Adamsville War Class of ’69, a soldier in the Army at that time but one who unlike them refused orders to Vietnam and served some serious time in an Army stockade which will be expanded upon below refused to write about his experiences.) Secondly, I too am a member of the War Class of ’69 although I came from Carver about forty miles south of North Adamsville and have unlike the other guys never mentioned that hard fact in the public prints. Hell most of the people I know do not know I was in Vietnam during that hellish war. In the Burns’ documentary very early on one of the “talking head” ex-Vietnam Marines mentioned that a very close friend of hers husband had been in Vietnam as well as her own husband but it was not until twelve years into their friendship that the even knew that mutual fact. So this is me coming out of the closet and so bear with me if I stumble a bit. (By the way my association with the North Adamsville guys happened a few years later after Vietnam when we were all way or another in Vietnam Veterans Against the War, VVAW, mostly in Boston with former Secretary of State John Kerry and later, and now too, with Veterans Peace Action, VPA)  

One of the big things that jogged my memories while watching the early parts of the documentary was how very similar the backgrounds and attitudes of the various “grunts,” the guys who fought the war on the ground, the mainly white working class and black and Hispanic (Latino if that is the preferred reference) whose stories were being told. How much of a true cross-section of the millions of men who went to that war I don’t know but the stories “spoke to me,” spoke of my own upbringing. Spoke too of a lot of the values and unquestioning subservience that we all were brought up in during that heinous Cold War red scare time. “Better dead that red,” “if your mommy is a commie turn her in” real slogans that expressed the underlying terms which we dealt with for anything that moved anywhere not 100 per cent pro-American “my country right or wrong” another key slogan, could be construed as pro-Soviet or pro-“Red Chinese’ an actual expression used to describe that country after the victory of Mao and his brethren.)

I will go into the very similar “life-styles” of the North Adamsville guys, the “corner boys” which meant something in working class culture in the 1950s and 1960s but is something I was not part of down in Carver since in those days before it became something of a bedroom community for the high tech industry about twenty miles away it didn’t have anything like a corner pizza parlor, bowling alleys or variety store to be a corner boy around. Or enough guys with time on their hands to hold up the wall in front of the place. Carver in those days was something like the cranberry capital of the world and those in the town, including four generations as far as I can figure on the Eaton side and three on the O’Brian side, who actually worked the bogs, were called derisively “boggers” which defined the class division in the town. Including where you lived, our section called the “Hump.” 

For our purposes though the “boggers” and the other cohort, the middle class cohort called “the Pilgrims” since many of those families could trace their roots pretty far back although I do not remember that any family could claim forebear’s passage on the Mayflower shared common patriotic holiday traditions with parades and other festivities which is the only time there was social mingling. With the exception of a couple of great bogger football players those lines held all through school, most rigidly in high school where you had no chance with the Pilgrim girls and either tied up with a bogger girl or looked out of town, something which I tended to do since I couldn’t deal with what the bogger girl expected on their guys, marriage right out of high school and some Hump small apartment.

The big thing though is that in the Hump you went into the military when called up by the draft, or more usually since the high school drop-out rate for boggers was pretty high volunteer. In my own family, mostly uneducated, I would be the first to actually go to college and get a degree, those four generations of boggers all went to war when called going back to World War I. On the O’Brian side likewise and my mother’s uncle, Frank, has a square still named after him in the town common having died in World War I. So, and it came through loud and clear in the various documentary interviews, where was there room for not going into the military when I was drafted. Where was there a support system if I, or anybody in town, had refused. At the time this town would have crucified any young man who refused the draft, thought about Canada which was not even on the radar, or even thought to express an anti-war opinion whatever they thought instead and whatever doubts they had about going to war especially in my time, my war class time of 1969 when all hell was breaking loose in Vietnam, and in this country. So I went in, did what I had to do to survive and tried to forget about the awful things I did, and had seen done to people I had no quarrel with. It took a few years to shake that horror loose before I grabbed a life-line from a bunch of guys, fellow veterans, who wanted to stop the war madness- and still do.

The impetus for my getting off my duff had been watching a bunch of Vietnam veterans marching in silence (and in an orderly march manner something which tended to be lacking up to this day in later anti-war veterans peace marches and such), down a hot and humid Miami boulevard during the week of the Republican National Convention in 1972. The sight of those be-medaled soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, stirred something in me that no dope, no alcohol my previous remedies of sorts could slake. Their rough treatment by the Nixon-fired up forces of law and order further made something in me snap. Don’t ask me now some fifty years later to explain everything I was thinking that pushed me on to the brink of self-destruction and everything that pulled me back any more than you could ask all those soldiers and Marines on the Ken Burns interviews what moved them to anti-war action. Amazingly when asked to articulate some of that experience and the why of it those interviewees stopped and could not come up with an answer other than the very familiar “I don’t know.”  Except I knew, they knew,  all roads led back to Vietnam, led back to the bad stuff we did there, stuff that we could never live down.  

Back in 1972, maybe 1971 too I was living in Rhode Island to be away from friends, family, girlfriends, everybody while I sorted things out. Didn’t let anybody but growing up friend Will Badger know where I was since while he had been in the Navy during the war shelling the hell out of places like Da Nang and far from the daily butchery on the ground he was a troubled soul as well. He did slip up one time and somehow my girlfriend who had been my fiancé before I left for Vietnam but as was the nature of the times we decided not to “go bourgeois” and get little white house with picket fence, kids, and dog married and wind up like our respective parents followed him one day. After something of a screaming match initiated by me we decided to keep company, be companions again and I was glad of that in the end even though we drifted apart a few years later when she wanted to get married and I was against the idea.

All through those experiences I kept thinking about that powerful silent veterans march and that fall of 1972 I went up to Boston once I found out where there was an active VVAW chapter. (This remember before the days of the Internet which would have let me find the organization in about two minutes. Then I had to check the telephone directory and got no information since the phone number was not listed as yet in that publication and only found out where they had an office and telephone number by going to Providence and Brown University to a Vietnam Mobilization office where they had such information about what was what in New England.)          

At that first meeting in Boston two things happened which marked me then and to this day. One was that in the political divide within the organization about what is always an issue with left-wing groups whether to push the electoral button or go for street confrontations I tended toward the street cred guys, the flame-throwers against guys like former Secretary of State (and U.S. Senator from Massachusetts) John Kerry who even then was looking for the “main chance” which he sought with a vengeance. This issue tended to draw something of a class line as well since those who favored the electoral essentially reformist way to deal with social change, with the struggle against the military machine and war tended to have been ROTC or OCS officers and from very middle class backgrounds and those like the guys from North Adamsville who I will discuss in a minute and me who wanted to “burn the mother-fucker down,” go after those in the mansions.            

The other thing that has stayed with me to this day are the friendships, social and political friendships, I struck up with the guys from North Adamsville and guys they had gathered around them like Josh Breslin from up in Maine whom they met out in California during that Summer of Love, 1967 that was the hot topic here last year and Fritz Taylor and Ralph Morse met in the Army. Everyone was a flame-thrower, a “burn the mansion down” guy then, and not far from that now either although time has mellowed them (and me) personally-a bit. The basis of that mutual attraction was the incredible similarity of all of our growing up experiences, the white working class and white trash poor backgrounds whether in North Adamsville, Carver, Olde Saco, Maine or with Fritz Fulton County, Georgia, the unquestioning patriotism, the anti-communism culled from the red scare Cold war night that enveloped us all, and the small town-ish values about “Mom, God and apple pie” Fourth of July parade façade that we swallowed hook, line and sinker.

Here is an antidote from the mad wizard Seth Garth which kind of sums up the social milieu around the war issue mid-1960s working class style which tells a lot, maybe all you need to know about how Uncle Sam got the “cannon fodder,” not my term originally but one that we all have adopted since back in the days, to fight his wars then, now too probably even with an all-volunteer army, the volunteer part subject to lots of social, class, racial, ethnic, and economic provisos. Seth had decided to attend his fiftieth class reunion, the Class of 1964 but the other classes around that time produced the same fact once the corner boys from different graduation years compared notes on the subject, a few years ago and as a prelude to that the organizers of the reunion (not so strangely the same “social butterflies,” male and female who were the “in crowd” back in high school at least the ones who were still standing), set up a class website to gather information about those still standing.

That class, that heart of the baby-boomer class, had about five hundred members of which about two hundred or so responded, about evenly divided between male and female. (By way of comparison my whole combined junior and senior high school had five hundred students to give another example of how small Carver was then.) One of the questions asked was about military service which in that day would have been a question asked and answered almost totally by males. Of that one hundred or so respondents ninety of them put down some military service from National Guard to Vietnam including a small clot of military lifers. That alone tells the tale about who went and what the environment was like for anybody who thought for a minute about resistance or even just questioning the aims of the war, or of war.           

We still gnash our teeth over our collective naïve, our collective taking in the bullshit without question and our failures to do something about the whole damn thing long before we were drafted or enlisted. (That latter condition, drafted or enlisted, the only thing that separated the entire collective which was as much about personal circumstances as anything since it never entered anybody’s mind, even special case, Frank Jackman, not to go into the military in our youth.)
The North Adamsville guys, I will deal with Josh, Fritz, and a couple of other guys in passing, were cemented together by one thing, they all grew up in the desperately poor working class and working poor neighborhood of the town called the “Acre.” All were members of the North Adamsville classes of 1963, 64, 65 (the prime years for young men who would face the grist mill of Vietnam which cut too many from those years in their prime). Josh was Olde Saco Class of 1967, Fritz Robert E. Lee High Class of 1962). More importantly the social glue that kept them together centered in their high school days around Tonio’s Pizza Parlor where they were the so-called corner boys, a mainly derogatory sociological and cultural term coined by legal professionals, cops, and academics who were worried about the angst and alienation of this swath of  youth. The term fit so completely that they adopted the expression for their own amusement. Mainly that amusement was hanging around Tonio’s since they rarely had dough for dates and such or going on what they called the “midnight creep,” grabbing stuff through burglaries to get dough for dates and such.  A hard dollar any way you look at it and it was a close thing that they mainly survived to tell the tale.       

You cannot, I cannot although I only him slightly personally and more through endless talk of his legend, talk about the North Adamsville corner boys without mentioning their “leader” Peter Paul Markin, always known as “Scribe.” (This is the real Markin who died in the 1970s not the former site manager of this blog who used the moniker on-line in honor of his fallen comrade which explains a lot of that “leader” point just made.) The Scribe was not the leader, leader, you know the one who kept things in order that was Frankie Riley who wound up 4-F (unfit for military duty) and who later became a very successful lawyer in Boston, but something like the intellectual leader. He was the guy who got Sam Lowell, Si Lannon, Jack Callahan, Bart Webber, Allan Jackson, Seth Garth, Frank Jackman, Jimmy Jenkins who would die in Vietnam in 1968, and Frankie all except Frankie who would be drafted or enlist in the military to head out to California in the summer of 1967 and get knee-deep, no, neck-deep in the Summer of Love. (Other North Adamsville corner boys Rick Rizzo and Johnny Kelly who lived right next door to each other and joined the Army together laid down their heads in Vietnam in 1966 so never got the chance to experiment with the “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” that drove those days.) Josh met this crew out there as well before his military service. Fritz came into the group through Sam when they were in the Army together.

Markin too was the guy who probably was the most affected by his loss of innocence from his Vietnam experience, by the shattering of his Summer of Love-like dreams for a new world which he really expected to happen according to all the guys. Like me his was “lost” coming back to the “real” world as we called it after landing in the U.S.A from Vietnam. He would drift back out to California and start writing for a bunch of alterative newspapers which were flourishing out there for a while. Did some award-winning work when he found and joined an alternative society of returned Vietnam War G.I.s who like him could not adjust to the “real” world and lived along the railroad tracks and bridges of South California doing the best they could. Singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen would name a song later which would fit-“brothers under the bridge.” Markin wrote, or rather let them tell their stories for a while.

Josh who lived out in Oakland with him in a communal house then said he was starting to come out of his shell with that work. Not for long though because later in the mid-1970s he would develop a very serious cocaine habit which he fed by dealing the drug, always a bad proposition and wound up getting killed, murdered, down in Mexico after a botched drug deal with a couple of slugs in his head in some back alley. Nobody knows to this day exactly what happened although they still shed a tear every time his name is mentioned.

All of that was a few years later though when it was unmistakable that the “newer world” was not going to make it.  In 1972 they were under Markin’s guidance members of VVAW and in attendance that that first meeting I went to. They all had, except Frank Jackman who I will discuss in a minute, various evidences of their service on. As had I. My 101st Airborne patch on an old faded olive drab shirt with my name tag on it. Si had been attached to the same division and was the first to welcome me. The meeting, the long meeting as such things went in those days when in the interest of “democracy” everybody got to speak for as long as they wanted and seemingly whatever they wanted even if off-topic, went as expected as they were planning an action on Boston Common in conjunction with the inevitable Fall/Spring semi-annual anti-war mobilizations coming up a few weeks later. They invited me to Durgin Park for some food and drink (mostly drink and later some dope). During this meal/drink-fest Markin, who was back from California for a while since he was looking for a couple of guys who he had met “under the bridge” to get their “back stories” asked for my story.

Everybody except me laughed when I had finished my seemingly sad little tale of a story. Laughed a sardonic laugh when you think about it because Si asked me whether I had grown up in North Adamsville. I didn’t understand the question until he said that my story, like their stories, like the stories of Mogie, Mulgrave, Sullivan in the Burns’ documentary, was too familiar. That the working class from small towns and sections of cities and poor bastards in the ghettoes and barrios bore the brunt of the crap that went down in Vietnam no matter what happened at home (or among those groupings in Vietnam, not always brotherly, no way, the racial tensions would sometimes get hot and heavy especially when the mainly white officers overplayed placing black men on point or down in the fucking tunnels but also when guys from small white bread towns like me couldn’t figure out what made the black guys tick and the same the other way).   So I was “initiated” and like Josh and Fritz (and Remmy and Jamal, a couple of black brothers who have since died one of an overdose of heroin started out in the Golden Triangle madness) became an honorary North Adamsville corner boy. And I still am, proudly am.                 

The Scribe was one end of what happened to some guys during and after the war but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the special case of Frank Jackman, another North Adamsville corner boy. In the Burns documentary the famous Vietnam War writer Tim O’Brien laments, no anguishes over the fact that he had not refused to be drafted, not refused to go to Vietnam. Others both in that presentation and in real life in the organizations I have belonged to most recently Veterans Peace Action where there are clots of guys who anguished over those kinds of decisions that young people, young soldiers are forced to deal  just like Tim O’Brian had had to do. It may be hard for the couple of generations that have now come of age since Vietnam time to fathom what EVERY young male had to go through back then even those who were gung-ho to go. Draft refusal, going to Canada or Sweden, going to jail, going to the stockade, faking all kind of injuries that would make one 4-F (unfit for military duty) some of them pretty gruesome, faking mental disorders,. faking homosexuality then a way out, scrambling to get into National Guard or Armed Forces Reserved units. I could go on but you get the picture, decisions all around the subject. So plenty of similar stories and regrets. After the service, after the fact. That was my case and the case of all the North Adamsville corner boys, real and honorary, everybody except beautiful and righteous Frank Jackman was did refuse to go, who let his conscience and maybe a few generations of hard won integrity and thoughtfulness DNA guide his decisions. A little balls too as we used to say back in the day when somebody did some action worthy of such a note, jail time always a qualifier, once he had orders to do so, to report to Fort Lewis for transit to Vietnam.     

Now we all know, and if the reader doesn’t then a run though this ten-part Burns-Novack series will enlighten you to the fact, that during the American portion of the war, the American War as the Vietnamese rightly called it, every and I mean every young man had a decision to make, consciously or unconsciously, about what to do about his participation in the war machine. Like I said above some refused the draft, some went to Canada, some filed and received civilian conscientious objector status of some kind, some when in the service went AWOL, and a lot of other things. Maybe Burns could have spent more time on those anguishing decisions and on the resistance in the military itself especially after Tet, 1968. A few, and Frank Jackman was one of them, were of that small, small as against a couple of million man army, category of military resister. Went in like the rest of us did but at some point said no-no to Vietnam, no to the killing the rest of us, anti-war and pro-war, proud of service or not, have spent the rest of our lives trying to square up. Funny because of all the guys who hung around the corner one would have expected the wild man Scribe, Markin, to have been a resister if anybody was. Still Frank Jackman’s story can serve as a very graphic example of the anguish of the generation of ’68.

If you noticed the headline to this piece there is a reference to the War Class of 1969. That is because everyone who I have mentioned here from North Adamsville to Fulton County, Georgia, including myself, served in the military during that fateful year, the year after Tet proved to all who cared to see, all who had anything but a hidebound refusal to see, that the war, the American war once again as the Vietnamese correctly called it, was unwinnable. Meaning that those who served in say 1969, who were the grunts, the “cannon fodder” were serving for no reasonable reason except as we learned later through The Pentagon Papers and other Freedom of Information documents governmental hubris. Only the names changed throughout the changes in government the hubris remained until almost the very end. They, we, all served and forevermore called ourselves the class of 1969. That class included one soldier, Frank Jackman, who did not serve in Vietnam but who will forevermore also be a member of that class of 1969.

Frank Jackman had had orders to report to Fort Lewis in Washington for transit to Vietnam and through a rather long process including stockade time refused to go. We would often talk, we still do although not when Frank is around because he like a ton of Vietnam era guys, military guys, don’t like to talk about those times even if he was righteous and as courageous as anybody who went to death trap Vietnam, about how Frank out of the almost dozen guys was the one guy who refused to go, refused to righteously go despite no support at home and no history of there being anything like it done in his town, my town, our collective clot of towns, before. Frank was not a leader among the North Adamsville corner boys like Frankie Riley or the Scribe but a sideliner, a guy who was as comfortable with a book as a jimmy for those infamous midnight creeps. (Everybody, all hands, except the Scribe who planned many of the creeps but who was totally incompetent to carry them out participated in every caper on principal-or would have gotten the boot.) Make no mistake he had imbibed, believed all of the stuff us other guys did about duty, patriotism and the like but there was something of the quietude in him that spoke of something more, or maybe as he pointed out when we discussed it later, that was so much eyewash.

Frank like all the others accepted induction in his case after he finished college in 1968 and received his draft notice to report in January 1969 (he had received four years of deferment for going to college standard at the time dependent on decent grades but in a way the kiss of death for the army with smart civilian citizens mixed in with the usual high school graduates and drop-outs). It was about after three days down in Fort Gordon for basic training far from home that he realized that he had made a mistake, that he should have refused induction. Being isolated down in the South he waited until he got back home after receiving order to Vietnam as an infantryman to decide what to do in August 1969. (Yes, the August 1969 when half a million other kids, boys and girls, were like lemmings to the sea to Woodstock nation and good luck.)

All he knew was that the war was over for him. He made his way over to Cambridge and the Quaker Meeting House where they were offering G.I. counselling for those who were military refuse-niks. For years the anti-war movement had bene centered on draft resistance and maybe rightly so but as the years rolled on and the number of Frank-like guys started needing help organizations like the Friends expanded their operation. There was a political component to it as well since protesting government policy was leading up a blind alley and if the natural objective of the anti-war was to stop the war then they had to get to the troops. Get down in the mud at the base and stop depending on some politician-savior to break the fall, to half-heartedly call the whole thing dust in the eyes.  

Through the counselling process plans were outlined, options presented the most reasonable given Frank’s situation was for him to go absent without leave (AWOL) for more than thirty days which would leave him dropped from the rolls out in Fort Lewis (AWOL a chargeable offense itself although pretty far down on the totem pole of penalties) and then turn himself to the nearest local fort, Fort Devens about forty miles from Boston to put in an application for status as a conscientious objector. A strategy while outlined which was aided by assigning him a pro bone civilian lawyer. (Not all G.I.s sought, desired, or received civilian lawyers partially because so few of them were familiar with the arcane Code of Military Justice but the way Frank presented himself, presented the case they thought he could use good legal advice and make some splash. That turned out to be true on all counts.)  
As that time conscientious objector status for those who were actually in the military was rare, very rare, and in due course he was turned down although at every level those who interviewed him believed he was sincere which would help him later when he got to civilian federal court. By a stroke of luck, and a good attorney, he was able to get his case into the federal court in Boston along with a temporary restraining order to keep him in the jurisdiction of the court. (The stroke of luck was getting a notoriously conservative judge to see that Frank had a case in civilian court that he could win. That too would come in handy later. But that was only the surface, the technical stuff.)            

That is where that idea of whatever Frank had inside him, whatever grit the generations had left in his DNA came to the fore. He decided that he would no longer play the soldier and so one Monday morning when the weekly formation came up he walked onto the parade field in civilian clothing and a sign “Bring the boys home.” Immediately a couple of lifer sergeants grabbed him and that started his road to the stockade. He would eventually serve two six month sentences for refusing to obey orders to wear the uniform. For years he would make the few people he told his story to laugh when he told them that if the federal court had not granted his writ of habeas corpus he might still be in that stockade he was so determined to fight the bastards to the end. So maybe that story should have gotten some play, or stories like that when Ken Burns was trying to tie the knot around what the whole thing meant. Might have thought twice, as a civilian, about a remark attributed to him about “war being in the DNA of the human species and hence all beyond the pale, all doomed to bloody up the world and let untold number lay down their heads for some stupid cause. Still and all Frank belongs in that small cohort of the war class of 1969 as some kind of beacon. That says it all, all that needs to be said.                          

Monday, February 15, 2021

Veterans For Peace is celebrates the anniversary of the Christmas Truce. We urge our leaders to follow the example set by the Christmas Truce soldiers who rejected militarism and the glorification of war. We call on the nation to honor veterans and all those who have died in war by working for peace and the prevention of war.

Saturday, December 23rd (Orginally sent out 2017)

Remembering the Christmas Truce

Veterans For Peace is celebrates the anniversary of the Christmas Truce. We urge our leaders to follow the example set by the Christmas Truce soldiers who rejected militarism and the glorification of war. We call on the nation to honor veterans and all those who have died in war by working for peace and the prevention of war.
Who better than veterans who work for peace to tell the story of these soldiers' celebration of peace in the midst of war? There is no better way to honor the dead than to protect the living from the fear, terror and morale deprivation of war. Our society needs to hear this story that peace is possible.
Here are ways that you can be involved in the efforts to celebrate the Christmas Truce:
Spread the message on social media.  Be sure to join in the conversation!

I Accuse-Unmasking The Sherlock Holmes Legend, Part IV-“Bumbling Across The Pond”-Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce’s “Sherlock Holmes In Washington” (1943)-A Film Review

I Accuse-Unmasking The Sherlock Holmes Legend, Part IV-“Bumbling Across The Pond”-Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce’s “Sherlock Holmes In Washington” (1943)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Danny Moriarty

(Frankly in this my fourth debunking of the so-called legend of punk amateur detective Sherlock Holmes and his paramour, yes, paramour more on that below the bumbler-in-chief Doctor “Doc” Watson Sherlock Holmes In Washington  I am tired, tired beyond endurance, of having to once again tell a candid world that Danny Moriarty is not my real name, is instead my moniker to protect me against some very real threats from a bunch of dope-addled Holmes aficionados, no, worse cultists known far and wide as the Baker Street Irregulars. Known to the police, to the see no evil hear no evil London peelers, the Bobby Peel guys so named after the guy who put together the first real police force in London but which has gone way downhill since then who have ignored my pleas for protection, have dismissed the threats against me as child’s play, kid’s stuff. What passes for the law, the coppers have gone back to their tea and crumpets as usual routine while half of the toddling town gets ransacked by these Baker Street hooligans who have sworn vengeance unto the seventh generation against me and my progeny for exposing their boyfriend hero for the fake snoop that he is, was.

I stand here again today despite my need to hide my identity, my whereabouts, my voice and features and having had to send my family into private hands hiding stating I will not wilt like some silly schoolgirl under the blare of their evil deeds. This motley of criminals, junkies, and cutthroats is being protected by high society personages. The peerage I think they call it in Mother England, you know the House of Lords holy goofs with the cheapjack woolen wigs sliding all over the place and made in Bangladesh sweated labor textile factory robes who spend endless hours talking about the good old days when everything was simpler, the mob knew its place or it better had under Charles I, monarchs like that. 

These Irregulars in case I don’t survive the onslaught to number twelve in this series of films, a series which has done more to create an “alternate facts” Holmes world than anything any dastardly British monarch could ever do to keep the masses at bay I am told have very stylized rituals involving exotic illegal drugs and human blood. Are the bane of the London Bobbies and maybe not so strangely corruption-infested Scotland Yard has not lifted a finger in the matter. Moreover these Irregular cretins have been connected with the disappearance of many people, high born and low, who have questioned the Sherlock myth, and not a few unsolved murders of people who have washed up on the Thames over the years. I know I am on borrowed time, I am a “dead man walking” but maybe someone will pick up the cudgels if I have to lay down my head for the cause.  

I don’t want to frighten the audience, the reader but this need for an alias, for cover, is no joke since that first review and the subsequent second and third ones I have been threatened, threatened with I won’t death, death threats, but some nasty actions edging up in that direction which necessitate my keeping very close tabs on my security apparatus as I attempt to deflate this miserable excuse for a detective, a parlor detective at that who even Agatha Christie dismissed out of hand as a rank amateur. From my sources, serious sources under the circumstances, of ex-Irregulars who have left the organization as its attacks have become more bizarre and its blood rituals more gruesome including allegations of human sacrifice I have been told I am on their “watch list.” 

I know and can prove that I have been the subject of cyber-bullying without end including a campaign to discredit me by calling me Raymond Chandler’s “poodle” and Dashiell Hammett’s “toadie” for mentioning the undisputable fact that these hard- knock, hard-working professionals like Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe were as likely to grab some wayward young woman as kick ass on some bad guys and still have time for lunch. Sherlock was much to dainty for that kind of heading to the danger work. I am willing to show an impartial commission my accusations with documents and affidavits. Believe me it is getting worse and once I get a grip on who is who in that nefarious organization I will be taking names and numbers.  These twelve films have been nothing but propaganda vehicles for the Holmes legend so I have plenty more work cut out for me. Until done I will not be stopped by hoodlums, your lordships and ladyships, and blood-splattered junkies. D.M.)
Sherlock Holmes Goes To Washington, starring Basil Rathbone (I have mentioned previously my doubts that this was his real name since unlike myself he had never been transparent enough to say that he had been using an alias. I have since uncovered information that I was right and that his real name is Lytton Strachey a known felon who spent a few years in Dartmoor Prison on weapons and drug trafficking charges. It turns out that I was either in error or the victim of a cyber-attack since then it has come out that his real name is not Strachey but Lanny Lament, who worked the wharfs and water-side dive taverns where the rough trade mentioned by Jean Genet in his classic rough trade expose Our Lady of the Flowers did hard-edged tricks), Nigel Bruce (a name which upon further investigation has been confirmed as a British National named “Doc” Watson who also did time at Dartmoor for not having a medical license and peddling dope to minors in the 1930s and 1940s where I had assumed they had met up. Again a cyber-attack error they had met at the Whip and Chain tavern at dockside Thames while Lanny was doing his business on the sailor boys), 1943 
As I have mentioned previously and nothing recently has changed my view we live in an age of debunking. An age perhaps borne aloft by cynicism, hubris, sarcasm and above all “fake news,” not the fake news denying some reality that you hear so much about these days, but by the elaborate strategy of public relations cranks and flacks who will put out any swill as long as they are paid and not a minute longer. That phenomenon hardly started today but has a long pedigree, a pedigree which has included the target of today’s debunking one James Sherlock Holmes, aka Lytton Strachey, aka Lanny Lamont out of London, out of the Baker Street section of that town. From the cutesy “elementary my dear Watson” to that condescending attitude toward everybody he encounters, friend or foe, including the hapless Doctor “Doc” Watson, aka Nigel Bruce, an inmate at notorious Dartmoor Prison in the early 1930s this guy Holmes, or whatever his real name is nothing but a pure creation of the public relations industrial complex, the PRIC. As I have noted above I have paid the price for exposing this chameleon, this so-called master detective, this dead end junkie, with a barrage of hate mail and threats from his insidious devotees. I have been cyber-bullied up to my eyeballs but the truth will out.

Maybe I better refresh for those who may not have read the first three reviews, may be shocked to find their paragon of a private detective has feet of clay, and an addiction problem no twelve step program could curtail in a million years. Here are some excerpts of what I said in that first review which I stand by this day no matter the consequences:      

“Today is the day. Today is the day I have been waiting for since I was a kid. Today we tear off the veneer, tear off the mask of the reputation of one Sherlock Holmes as a master detective. Funny how things happen. Greg Green assigned me this film out of the blue, at random he said when I asked him. However this assignment after viewing this film, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (of course he doesn’t face, hadn’t been anywhere near any danger that would put death in his way but that can wait until I finish out defanging the legend) set off many bells, many memories of my childhood when I first instinctively discovered this guy was a fraud, a con artist.

Back then my grandparents and parents hushed me up about the matter when I told them what I thought of the mighty Sherlock. They went nutty and told me never to speak of it again when I mentioned that a hard-boiled real private detective, a guy who did this kind of work for a living, a guy named Sam Spade who worked out in San Francisco and solved, really solved, the case of the missing black bird which people in the profession still talk about, which is still taught in those correspondence course private detection in ten easy lesson things you used to see advertised on matchbook covers when smoking cigarettes was okay, who could run circles around a parlor so-called detective like Mr. Holmes. 

[Even Sam Spade has come in for some debunking of late right here in this space as Phil Larkin and Kenny Jacobs have gone round and round about how little Spade deserved his “rep,” his classic rep for a guy who was picked by some bimbo out of the phone book and who couldn’t even keep his partner alive against that same femme he was skirt-addled over. Kept digging that low-shelf whiskey bottle in the bottom desk drawer out too much when the deal went down. The only guy who is safe is Phillip Marlowe since nobody can call him a “one solved murder wonder” after the string of cold as ice, maybe colder, cases he wrapped up with a bow over the years. They still talk about the Sherwood case out on the Coast even today where he rapped the knuckles of a big time gangster like Eddie Mars, and his goons, to help an old man going to the great beyond no believing that he had raised a couple of monster daughters without working up a serious sweat. Talked in hushed tones too. You notice nobody has tried to go after him, not even close. D.M.]            

That was then. Now after some serious research as a result of this film’s impact on my memory I have proof to back up my childhood smothered assertions. Sherlock Holmes (if that is his name which is doubtful since I went to the London telephone directories going back the first ones in the late 1800s and found no such name on Baker Street-ever) was nothing but a stone-cold junkie, cocaine, morphine, landudum and other exotic concoctions which is the reason that he had a doctor at his side at all times in case he needed “scripts” written up. A doctor who a guy like Sam Spade would have sat on his ass a long time before as so much dead weight.

That junkie business would not amount to much if it did not mean that high and mighty Sherlock didn’t have to run his own gang of pimps, hookers, con men, fellow junkies, drag queens, rough trade sailors and the flotsam and jetsam of London, high society and low, to keep him in dough for that nasty set of habits that kept him high as a kite. There are sworn statements (suppressed at the time) by the few felons whom the Bobbies were able to pick up that Sherlock was the guy behind half the burglaries, heists and kidnappings in London. And you wonder why the Baker Street Irregulars want to silence me, show me the silence of the grave….

Of course the Bobbies, looking to wrap up a few cold file cases which Sherlock handed them to keep them off the trail, looked the other way and/or took the graft so who really knows how extensive the whole operation was. In a great sleight of hand he gave them Doctor Moriarty who as it turned out dear Sherlock had framed when one wave of police heat was on and who only got out of prison after Holmes died and one of Holmes’ flunkies told the real story about how Holmes needed a “fall guy” and the wily Doctor took the fall.”             
Apparently this Sherlock madness knows no borders, could not be contained with the four walls of the British Isles, hell, even the bloody cockeyed Empire since the film under review Lanny Lamont, no, Sherlock Holmes In Washington has him crossing the pond to the “colonies” like this was 1774 or something to solve a little espionage problem the British government has. Seems that one of their agents got waylaid by an ambiguous “international spy ring” (remember this is 1943 so I hope you can guess what nation that so-called spy ring might emanate from) when they were looking for a secret cache he was carrying. Enter Sherlock. Stop. This agent, this guy who got his clock rung and sent to the great beyond was an MI5 agent, you know a Bond, James Bond, and Le Carre’s George Smiley-type  operation. No way was any secret agency, much less M of MI5 was going to let an ex-felon, a rough trade mauler, a mommy’s boy, handle that kind of work. Kim Philby would have that secret cache out of the hands of that international cartel and to his handler in Moscow before nightfall if anybody let Sherlock anywhere near this action.      

But let’s allow the so-called master deductive reasoning detective have his minute just for kicks although I will never tire of letting everybody know that Sherlock made his name after he beat down some poor mistreated dog who should have been reported as abused to whatever they call the humane animal treatment society in merry old England. Also that he worked overtime to keep his name in the public prints through his friendship with the editor of the London Times despite the fact that he had no gainful employment, no source of income except whatever his thug cronies delivered to him from their various escapades and that he had the goods on that editor as they used to say since he was “light on his feet,’’ gay.

It is hard to believe that Holmes and his lapdog pill-pusher Watson would be let out of the country, let out of jail, unless they had protectors in high places but that is the case here.
Once on the ground in D.C. after the usual tourist run through the National Mall he is on the case (and never forget that net drag Watson who made the number one mistake of a trafficker-don’t taste the merchandise while providing Sherlock his high-end dope so was always looking for some fixer man on dark street corners once his hidden stash ran out after about a day in D.C.). Blows it from the beginning since this secret document is on microfilm hidden in a package of matches. In an unbelievable comedy of errors the matches wind up in the possession of a young Washington debutante and she is therefore the hunted partridge before getting into the hands of that nefarious German agent who did not know what he had right in front of him. The head of that international spy ring, Heinrich Hinkel not hard to figure who he is working for in 1943 Europe, has the young woman kidnapped. Holmes finds out where she was being held and got waylaid himself before the mumbling Watson showed up with ten thousand coppers, not peelers that is London, and after some gunplay Sherlock and the young dame are freed. The Hitlerite escaped with matchbook in hand but Sherlock caught up to him and forced him into a couple of unforced errors which let the police grab him. Sherlock grabbed the matchbook and that was that. Kim Philby came by and the whole secret document was in Uncle Joe Stalin’s hands before midnight. Nice work Kim.

[This is probably as good a place as any to discuss the elephant in the room. The whole sexual preference business that was always until the last couple of decades only inferred on film, in books, in society, if at all. I wouldn’t have though much about the matter, about the “sin that dare not speak its name,” you know, sodomy, about catamites if I hadn’t noticed in the film above that when Sherlock and the Partridge twist were being held by Hinkel he never even looked at her and she was a dish to look at. That started bells ringing my head that there was a reason, a real reason why Sherlock couldn’t shot straight, had no lady-friend like Spade and Marlowe who would eaten her up in a minute, and had stuck it out through thick and thin with giddy, bubbly Doc Watson. Yes, a Nancy, a mommy’s boy, a fag to use the old time neighborhood term from my growing days in, no I had better not say where which might give aid and comfort to the thugs at Baker Street explains a lot of things about the dope, the tell-tale scorn of women and why he and Doc were an item, in the closet.

Nowadays, recently, the whole sexual preference would not even be a subject for discussion except for what I have heard from an ex-Irregular who broke hard with the organization who told me that there was a big division in the club between those who wanted to “out” Sherlock and claim him from the mythical Homintern and those who wanted to not attract attention to their various nefarious activities and crimes by such a scheme. Back then though when Sherlock was roaming the world pissing off that candid world with his fake fortune-teller madness the example of poor Oscar Wilde and his catamite and as recently as the Durning case in the 1950s it was not safe, was criminal to “come out.”

Of course the English public schools, our private schools, were hotbeds of gay activity so it no wonder an odd-ball like Holmes got flighty and never looked back. Here is the problem everybody knows that no way a gay guy, a gay couple if you included Watson could then juggle dealing with hardened criminals the coppers couldn’t cope with and survive if it were known they were lovers, even platonic lovers. The pair would be in Reading Gaol themselves. Just remember what they did to Wilde and Durning. The next few films should put paid to that notion of mine that Sherlock was nothing more than a parlor plotter.]        

Like I said the last three times, a fake, fake all the way. Unless that Irregular crowd of thugs and blood-stained aficionados get to me, find my hideout, this is not the last you will hear about this campaign of mine to dethrone this pompous junked-up imposter. I am just getting into high gear now.