YOU CAN'T GO ROME AGAIN by Lawrence Eisenberg
SAILING WITH BOB by Estelle Freedman
NORMA LIEBERMAN FRIEDMAN REVISITED
SEXUAL HARASSMENT—A PREDATOR'S PERSPECTIVE by Jack Leavitt
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING LATELY? by Shirley Sirota Rosenberg (Vanguard Editor in-Chief, 1945-46)
MY ATHLETIC CAREER by David M. Levin
SAINT VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE—IN BLUE by Esther Gold Dorfman
Quadrangle Issue 4
From Larry Eisenberg, editor of the Quadrangle section of the web site:
Welcome to Issue 4 of Quadrangle, containing some great stuff, including contributions from early Vanguard members that many of you may not have known.
We welcome feedback. Here are two links: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org Send your email feedback there.
YOU CAN'T GO ROME AGAIN
By Lawrence Eisenberg
(Published By San Diego Union, Philadelphia Inquirer and Arizona Star)
A love affair remembered is often better than a love affair renewed. This goes for cities as well as people. In May, 1972, my wife, Barbara, and I made our first trip to Rome. The explosive charm of the people, the food, the beauty of the city, the sparkling spring weather made us giggle at the wrong times and left us breathless.
For the rest of the year we reminisced, and when we scheduled our next vacation, for July 1973, we couldn't wait to get Spain out of the way so we could spend the last week of the trip on a second honeymoon with bella Roma. Small glitch: Our Iberia Airlines flight from Barcelona to Rome was delayed two hours. When I asked the airline clerk why, he answered: “For reasons.”
Eventually we boarded happily and, when the flight attendant announced, "Fasten your seat belts," for the landing at Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, we could barely sit still, such was our joy. A second glitch: One of our three pieces of luggage was missing. Not to worry; it would be delivered to our hotel. The fact that it contained every bit of my clothing except for a shaving apron and a pair of buffalo thongs was even something of a joke.
One more: The man at the airport’s banco got furious because, after cashing a traveler's check, I asked to convert some Spanish money. "You're supposed to do it both at the same time!" he said, hurling the money into the tray.
Shrugging this off, we stepped out into the "balmy July evening"--about 193 degrees with matching humidity. After turning down a cabdriver who wanted three times the normal fare, we settled on one who was asking double. We had become used to, even amused by, fast Roman driving, but his trip made us feel as though we were inside a pinball machine. Finally, though, we entered the Eternal City, and, as we hummed "Three Coins in the Fountain," our driver pulled up at the Hotel De la Ville, at the top of the Spanish Steps.
A sleepy and scruffy porter dragged our belongings across the marble floor while the assistant manager informed us that we had no reservation. No, said Signor Surl, he couldn't be mistaken. Glancing over his reservation list, I said: "Excuse me. You do have my name. It begins with an 'E', but you've spelled it with an 'I'."
"Why didn't you say so?" he scolded.
"Because I didn't know I'd been misspelling it all these years," I mumbled.
On the third floor, we were led into a walk-in closet furnished with a plastic dresser, a saggy bed and two 10-watt bulbs. French doors opened to a fairly good view of a clothesline. The room was unbearably hot, so I asked the porter to send somebody up to fix the air conditioning. "Si," he said, smiling, as he stuffed my money into his wallet.
Signorina Pronto in the telephone room said there were no messages for us, which was curious, since we had a four-month-old dinner date with friends. I called them, and they said, "Where have you been? We've left five messages for you!"
We agreed to meet at 11 p.m. at Sabatini in Trastevere, our favorite restaurant in all of Europe, because they made our favorite dish: Vongole (fingernail-sized clams in wine and garlic).
Then I called to remind the desk about the air conditioning. Signor Surl's response: "The air conditioning in the hotel is out of order. It will be fixed in several days."
"Do you expect us to pay these rates for this heat?" I asked.
"The rates are the same whether you come here in February or July," he said, hanging up.
Barbara calmed me down, and I took a rusty shower. I had no need to change clothes because I had no clothes.
We stood outside the elevator for seven minutes until a gnome-like creature arrived with an "Out of Order" sign in four languages. Midway down the stairs, Barbara slipped on the polished marble and fell half a flight, bloodying both knees and breaking the heels off her shoes.
I marched up to the front desk. "Your elevator is broken, and my wife fell and almost got killed on the stairs," I said evenly.
"We have another elevator," said Surl, turning away.
"We will not let him ruin our first night," I muttered, after Barbara got another pair of shoes, and we walked down the Spanish Steps.
At the bottom were approximately 17,000 Japanese in black suits, with matching cameras, waiting for taxis ahead of us. When our turn came 40 minutes later, I noticed the meter (partly covered by a statue of Jesus) already read 5,600 lira. I asked the driver to please start it at the beginning. He shrugged in incomprehension. "Carabinieri!" I said, and he flipped it over, then tapped it, as though trying to figure out what had been wrong.
A short whiplash later we were at Sabatini, reunited with our friends--also half the population of Tuscany, filling every table. The headwaiter looked at me as though I was insane to remind him of our reservations.
"Well," I said, "we've been waiting a year for the vongole. A few more minutes won't matter." When we were finally seated, I smiled knowingly at the waiter and ordered four portions.
In the most offhand way he said, "Vongole is finish. We are out of them."
I stared. I cried. I stamped my foot, killing something. But a few pitchers of wine and excellent canneloni anesthetized me. By 1:30 A.M., we were making our way through the winding streets of Trastevere toward a taxi stand, when we were stunned by a racing motorcycle, which missed us by about four inches.
Before we could even discuss it, the cycle, containing two laughing men in their 20s, buzzed by us again. And again. And again. Finally, in a voice that crossed the Tiber, I screamed, "Cut it out, you stupid ---!" (It was a four-letter word understood all over the world). The Roman jokesters screeched to a stop, stared at me and disappeared.
While the other three in my party waited on one corner, looking for a taxi, I waited on another, and came face to face with a 60ish woman in ponytail and black leather who had just jumped off a motorcycle. Twisting her body suggestively, she asked, through lips covered by centuries of lipstick, "Amore?"
"Are you nuts?!" I said, pointing toward Barbara.
The grandma of the night jiggled, shrugged, hopped onto her motorcycle and buzzed off.
Next morning, wearing the same outfit I'd put on 36 hours earlier, because my suitcase hadn't been found yet, I complained to the hotel's manager about Signor Surl. He gave us a Rossano Brazzi smile and said they'd have Barbara's shoes fixed.
We headed down Via Condotti to Gucci, which, this morning, was nearly empty, the salespeople almost out-numbering the customers. Halfway across the ground floor, Barbara, in trying to get past a couple of salespeople talking to each other, didn't notice two steps, tripped and went sprawling across the rug with a loud crash. That is, I thought she did and so did she. But not one Gucci employee stopped talking to another long enough to look in our direction. It was only an elderly female customer who helped me get my sobbing wife--who is not accident-prone--to a chair.
We ended our shopping at Anticoli, one of the largest leather shops in Rome, where, when I asked for men's navy blue gloves, the clerk stared at me as though I had ordered an atomic reactor in Swahili.
"To put it mildly, Rome in July is not like Rome in May," I said, sighing, as we headed to the Piazza Navona, stopping in front of Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers, which, to me, is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. Then we walked onto the terrace of a favorite restaurant, Mastrostefano.
The food was as good as we'd remembered, and we were even serenaded by a bearded man playing the clarinet and announcing, "I am Meester Benny Goodman, from Holeeywood."' My dessert was fresh fruit from an enormous bowl the waiter put on the table. The check listed two orders. Why? "Because you ate so much!" the waiter said.
By evening we were mellowed, because we'd managed to get tickets to "Aida" at the Baths of Caracalla. The concierge arranged transportation on a chartered--and very expensive--air-conditioned bus because, he said, taxis would be impossible on opera night.
It took us 75 minutes to get to the opera, which was 10 minutes from the hotel, because we had to stop at 11 more hotels to pick up passengers. The air conditioning wasn't working because there was no air conditioning. The route was choked with empty taxis.
I was charged double for a program, because it included black-and-white postcards of the Baths of Caracalla. But the opera was glorious, incredible. When it was over, we discovered our bus had left without us, so we boarded another one owned by the same company. The driver said we didn't belong there, and he wouldn't take us. Quietly, and in English, I told him that if he didn't, I was going to stab him through the heart. He took us.
We stopped at the sparkling Via Veneto for a nostalgic nightcap at Doney's. Our vision was blurred by hordes of Mezzanotte cowboys and prostituta, but we never caught a waiter's eye and finally returned to the hotel.
Signor Surl gave us the kind of smile that makes you want to hold a cross up in front of you. From under the counter he took Barbara's shoes. The heels were back on, but so were gigantic, exposed nailheads, all over the insole. "What day are you checking out?" he asked, still smiling.
It was really too late to do anything but take Valium. But the next morning we took something better--a beautiful American silver bird out of the Eternal City and back to New York, where most people are a lot nicer and those who aren’t will at least abuse and rip you off in your own language.
SAILING WITH BOB
By Estelle Freedman
My late husband, Robert, was a character, one people "took to" and often admired. He was a character to me, too.
When we first met on a date, he was learning to sail on his brand new Star sailboat and was navigating it in waters around the Bay Shore Yacht Club, trying in earnest to make turns to avoid the U-shaped piers and boats in their slips. Soon after, I became his mate of sorts and tried earnestly, too, to learn the ropes, that is, man the sheets, halyard and winches.
One day, as man and wife, Captain and First Mate, but still novices, we found ourselves at anchor, moored with others in our small armada, but for us, Off Shore for the first time. Soon the wind started to whip up. This worried the captain, knowing he had to raise the sail in restless waters, and so he made the decision to head for home earlier than planned.,..well immediately! That fickle wind gave up on frisky, and started to show what it could do. My Captain was thinking ahead and not liking what he was thinking. Before I knew it, or could get used to the idea of leaving, the sail was being hoisted and my man was scrambling up the mast and shouting to me to handle the tiller and send the traveller down the track ON HIS ORDER. Aye, Aye, I thought, and quickly sat down with one hand on the tiller, the opposite arm outstretched, hand firmly on the traveller. GO was the order and DO was my intent. I pushed the traveller as hard as I knew how, but it stopped midway down the track. Alas, my arm wasn't long enough to send it further on, but I MUST. I let go of the wood I was holding and instantly heard a scream from above. The next thing I felt was a body landing on top of me and pushing me the rest of the way off the tiller bench. The boat was rocking furiously and the sail was flapping thunderously as I crawled out from under. What did I do? or didn't?.. to be thus assaulted? Was I gonna be black and blue? Was the ship going to flip over, or break up and sink? It sure felt like it. I flashed a look at the helm and watched the face of My Captain turn from raw panic to a-little-more-able as the ship let loose and began to sail smoothly into the open Bay.
The trip back was pretty good, too, if you don't count the glare and silent treatment we gave each other on the first leg home.
Note: “Traveller” (correct spelling) is, according to a marine dictionary, a sailing term for “a fitting which slides in a track and is used to alter the angle of the sheets (ropes tied to sails).”
NORMA LIEBERMAN FRIEDMAN REVISITED
The following letter was sent by Norma , in May 2001, to Trudi Novina, concerning the Vanguard reunion scheduled for June 1, 2001 (Reprinted From Vanguard Memorial, October 3, 2002).
Thank you so much for your invitation to the 50th annual Vanguard reunion. Frankly, I've reached the age where I greet an invitation to anything other than a funeral with delirium. But alas.
I'd love to be part of the troop heading the commencement procession, slouching down the aisle with our canes and walkers, chanting "On campus green midst towers of marble, dum-de-dum-dum-de-dum," as we gasp, "Are we there yet?" I'd love one of those golden gowns; I'm desperately looking for something to match dem golden slippers I'm gwine to wear because they look so neat. I'd love to be at the Vanguard reunion, especially since Larry Eisenberg tells me you're putting on a skit he, Gaylord Gasarch and I wrote shortly after the second siege of Troy. How I'd love to see you slap your bony thighs and cackle with fiendish laughter as your spouses ask, "What the hell was so funny about that?" and you answer, "You had to be there!" But alas.
Please accept any of the following excuses:
1. June 1 is exactly the day Bob goes out of town and Sean Connery comes to Tampa on location. But don't say a word. Sean and I have been keeping our thing a secret for years and we'd hate to have it get out just as A&E is finishing up his "Biography."
2. My publisher is pressing me to finish correcting proofs of my newest novel, once again to appear under my nom de plume, Philip Roth. He thinks one more success and I'm sure to get the Nobel Prize, and Stockholm wouldn't get upset at all if the writer about male masturbation turns out to be a woman.
3. In preparation for impending grandmotherhood, I am putting together a rocker from a kit sent by L.L. Bean with instructions that begin, "Assembly of this item is so simple, a child of six can do it in less than an hour." After much failure and frustration, I advertised on the Internet for a six-year-old boy who could make a mature woman happy while she's sitting down. Now the authorities are after me for child porno and my appointment with Johnny Cochran is June 1st.
4. President Bush has asked me to create a positive image of America in China to ease the situation with our captive flyers. So far, I've managed to get a few Cantonese restaurateurs to name a dish after our beloved Georgie Boy called Sum Dum Goy, but obviously, there is still much to be done.
Truth, my dear, the real reason is going to New York is just too expensive and tedious for an old broad like me, and besides, everyone in New York is so god damned young! So I shall wish you all well and send my fondest hopes for a glorious reunion. Please tell Harry Baron I'm enchanted that he will be heading the sing-along, but he'll certainly miss the only one besides him who knows all the words preceding "And let the rest of the world go by." I'm pleased that Al Lasher is your designated treasurer and here's hoping he has a marvelous time in Rio de Janeiro. I think it's wonderful that he, Bill Taylor, Larry Friedman and Mike Kandel are putting together the Vanguard story as we remember it, but then I think it's wonderful that we remember anything!
I must say I'm impressed with how many of you have e-mail. I used to be on line, but I couldn't figure out what to do with all that verbal vomit, so I quit. I don't have a cell phone, either--it comes as a set. It is simply terrific to finally escape never-ending, bothersome, trivial intrusions whenever you feel like it. .But you can still reach me any time by old-fashioned telephone and virtually obsolete snail mail. And if all else fails, send an Indian runner. Preferably a Seminole.
Love to you all. And thanks for thinking of me.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT–A PREDATOR’S PERSPECTIVE
By Jack Leavitt
Growing up in Brooklyn has defined my sense of personal space. With crowds around me at all times, I learned to cringe at intentional whacks but to accept the physical closeness of friends and strangers. When we talked, we touched one another. No shoulder ever escaped emphatic pokes, especially when one of us scored an unanswerable point against a listener. (“Hey, I saw your father downtown yesterday. If I see him again, I’ll find out his name for you.” Poke, poke, poke!!!) The stereotyped motion picture image of an Aloha-shirted, cigar-smoking tourist jabbing at everyone within range exaggerates the condition but does identify our style. Though I’ve tried to move about more subtly as a long-time California resident, I still adhere to early habits. Every time I notice people refusing to enter a half-full elevator, surrendering to their fear that the confined space is too jammed for civilized occupancy, I realize that an alien culture profoundly affects my everyday choices. I squeeze routinely into the available space – as long as the elevator is traveling in my preferred direction. (“Excuse me, I didn’t realize that was your foot”).
Good humored and gregarious, I set about spreading cheer, or at least planting friendly roots, wherever I touched down, be it a post office line, a receptionist’s desk at an opposing attorney’s office, or a law school classroom. What a mistaken scenario. What a misguided performance. I had been reading, writing and living the wrong script. To my surprise, when I resumed a long dormant law school teaching position, I quickly became an academic menace, a sexual predator. Within a four months’ space, a recent September to December, I arrived smiling at the John F. Kennedy law school in the San Francisco Bay Area and left the campus still smiling, but toying with an imaginary headline, “Ambushed By Friendly Fire.”
Ever since I resigned my professorship to avoid the quarrels of a formal hearing, I’ve been troubled and entertained by my non-erotic downfall. Since the problems I stirred up surprised me, I assume that other people might benefit from a report of good intentions gone awry. We are, after all, living in a world where sensitivity provides so many justifications for hostility. My inability to treat events as grimly as my accusers have done undoubtedly supports their criticism that I still do not appreciate the gravity of my conduct. To such a charge, I plead guilty -- but sane.
At the law school, I taught three classes, two in Wills and one in Evidence. The Wills students were seniors, the Evidence students lower classmen, a difference in academic achievement which apparently led to different perceptions of whether I could teach people how to pass the bar examination and enjoy successful professional lives. From what I gather, the Wills students liked my approach while many – perhaps most – of the Evidence novices looked stunned as I questioned them about their casebook readings. “I learn more at home than I do in class,” one student complained, to which I answered, “Wonderful. That’s the goal of every teacher.”
Because of the difficulties the students were enduring, I routinely met any of them who wanted to discuss my theories of legal analysis. (My announced insight is a simple one: The results a court wants to establish commonly take precedence over the reasoning which the court needs to reach those results. While judges concentrate on goals, students must learn guiding principles before they can understand how deviations often dominate litigation). To me, our conversations –usually in the hallways, occasionally in the classroom– were ordinary chats, pleasant enough and perhaps helpful. As I spoke, I emphasized my philosophy by tapping those students on the shoulder or, if we were seated at a desk, on the backs of their hands. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” (Tap!, tap!, tap!!) was a common occurrence-- and, I later learned, proof that I was unfit to remain a respected faculty member.
While these student-teacher encounters were taking place, I also carried out what I had thought was a friendly, teasing relationship with the dean’s executive assistant. For months before we met I had tried to add humor to our periodic phone conversations. Since she often laughed, I assumed I had found a new friend. When we actually did meet, the day the dean hired me, with her in attendance, I continued my court jester approach. Whether wisely or foolishly, I thought that shared laughter brightened the work day. The doddering old professor charming the attractive, hard-working administrator with harmless fun. (Ha!!!!! Who’s laughing now?)
One evening, as I walked into the law library before going to class, I noticed her in the lobby, looking tired. I called out to her and the small group of people standing nearby, “Hard day? Ah! You look like you need a hug. If someone holds my books, I’ll be happy to give one to you.” Someone volunteered to take my briefcase, I hugged the dean’s assistant, she said that she didn’t hug much, I released her without a wrinkle, retrieved my briefcase, and left for class. (Unknown to me, the file against me had just swelled. I had become a recognized predator).
On Monday and Wednesday mornings, as I arrived for class, I dropped into the executive assistant’s office, continuing our friendship – or so I thought. During one conversation--which usually consisted of me asking, “Anything exciting? Anything I should know?”--she had her foot perched on top of her desk. A green, open-toed shoe, if I properly recall that provocative moment. To make whatever point I was making – and whatever it was I don’t remember, though I do know that sexual innuendo was no part of the remarks– I touched her foot with my finger. Tap! (File entry!) One further incident occurred on another visit. Once again to make a point – a trivial point, I’m sure – I reached out and touched the tip of her nose with my finger. (File entry!) At no time, not once, did she tell me that my attempts at entertaining her had offended her. Instead, I remained pleased with myself for having brightened someone’s day. What neater pleasure do we have than entertaining friends? (And whom have you hugged lately?)
As I was lapsing into certified depravity, some of my Evidence students approached the assistant dean with complaints. (Since I am using work titles rather than proper names, I should point out that the executive assistant and the assistant dean are two different women.) The assistant dean and I spent a friendly lunch hour together (she even paid for both of us), in which she explained that JFK students were used to a more structured presentation than my routine, Socratic questioning offered. She cautioned me about my students’ intellectual attainments, i.e., that I should realize many people in my Evidence class had earned a cumulative college grade of 2.5 and ranked in the lowest 10% of the Law School Admission Test scores. She then said that she had to speak about something which made her uncomfortable. When I assured her that she could go right ahead, she said that some students had complained about my touching them. About to pat the assistant dean’s hand as it lay on the table, but restraining myself in time, I agreed that the comments were true, that I gestured when I talked, and that I routinely targeted shoulders and the backs of hands. All contact was momentary, in flight, and meant only for emphasis. She asked me to stop doing so; I told her I would stop.
And I did stop! Instead of touching students as I illuminated (or clouded) Anglo-American jurisprudence, I announced, whenever I waved my arms, that I had to keep my distance, a necessary rejection of my cultural heritage and everyday habits. I became scrupulous in avoiding physical contact with my students. (Chronology counts in this regard. Since I never classified the executive assistant – my apparent friend and certainly no subordinate – in the same category as my students, I never linked the restrictions on my animated speech to my relationship with her. I simply do not remember whether the three incidents in which I hugged her and touched her foot and her nose occurred before or after I received my warning. A grievous error, as I discovered).
On the last day of the semester for my Evidence class, after I had distributed a take-home examination to be returned to my mail box the next week, the assistant dean asked me to stay for a talk. Sure. I’d stay (without, of course, asking why – since showing too much curiosity could be considered a weakness, whatever the problem might have been). When the dean himself arrived, the three of us sat around a large conference table decorated with law books and a jar of gold-wrapped coffee candy. (I had just finished chewing one of the candies when the discussion began.) The dean said that he was speaking reluctantly but that I had been accused of sexual harassment and creating a hostile, retaliatory environment in my class, that I was barred from campus, effective immediately, and that I could either resign that day or face formal disciplinary procedures and possible tort litigation for my conduct.
“What conduct?” I asked. (As someone whose birthday is April Fool’s Day and who often uses the most serious expression to earn a laugh, I’ve been accustomed to a grave demeanor as the prelude to frivolity. Wrong this time). I told the dean that I didn’t know what he was talking about. Ever since my lunch with the assistant dean, I explained, I avoided physical contact with my students and I never threatened retaliation to anyone. The dean and the assistant dean insisted that students had filed complaints about my behavior and that school policies demanded immediate action – suspending me from teaching and barring me from campus until I was exonerated, if I ever were exonerated. Trying to smile but unsure that I succeeded, I threw my hands in the air in a customary gesture and said, “No, the claims are false. They’re nonsense. Something’s wrong.” At that point, the dean excused himself, left the room, returned with the executive assistant, and detailed my apparent offenses with her: one hug, one foot touch, one nose touch. “Yes,” I said. All true -- and all, to my mind, harmless.
When I insisted, looking directly at the executive assistant and shaking my head, that she never indicated annoyance and that my actions lacked any sexual content, the dean cautioned me. “You’re just hurting yourself,” he said. “As a lawyer you should know enough to be quiet. I’m your friend. Don’t say anything. You’re just getting yourself into even more trouble.”
Would the dean describe any of the supposed incidents with the students? No, he couldn’t do that. (I still insist that no such incidents occurred). Would the dean describe any of the supposedly retaliatory language I had used? No, he couldn’t do that. (I still insist that I never threatened or suggested retaliation in any form). What the dean did want, purportedly for my sake and surely for the university’s sake, was for me to resign my position immediately, before I left the room, or face the long-drawn out hearings which would unquestionably find me at fault. In his view, I had admitted my guilt through my claims of innocence during the past 45 minutes. The burden fell entirely on me – and proved me a villain. No precedent I could summon up would justify my making contact with a woman’s shoe, perched upon a desktop.
I hesitated briefly, only to confirm what I knew about my future academic career. Even if the formal procedures resulted in my exoneration, my contract with the law school ended in June. The university would never again hire me as a teacher. Why fight an unrewarding battle? Tempted to tweak a law school into enforcing due process guarantees for faculty members accused of wrongdoing, but tired enough to find the effort wasteful, I resigned and drove away from campus for the last time. Bah!
Several students talked to me about my resignation. They’ll miss me, they said, because I was one of the best teachers they had. What I’ll miss is a sense of community, of personal relationships in which each of us should and must show consideration for our neighbors – but in which annoyed neighbors and colleagues have some obligation to say, “Stop!” Being offended in silence hardly qualifies as a social virtue. Above all, I regret being punished for vices I enjoyed only innocently. Unrecognized evil rarely is its own reward.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING LATELY?
By Shirley Sirota Rosenberg (Vanguard Editor in-Chief, 1945-46)
On a Wednesday night in mid-winter '46, no more than a month after graduating from Brooklyn College, I stepped into the offices of International Printing on the east side of Manhattan. I had been there at least two dozen times before (albeit on Thursdays) helping bed down the Brooklyn College Vanguard. Now I had come to help ready Brooklyn's Anglo-Jewish weekly, the Jewish Examiner, for press. It was “deja-vu all over again."
The fact that both weeklies were printed in the same store-front print shop was no coincidence. A few weeks earlier, the Examiner's publisher had asked the good people at International to help him fill an editorial slot, and those good people had recommended me.
To my job at the Examiner, I brought the skills I had absorbed in Vanguard's orientation sessions and honed in Boylan 0400 and on East 4th Street.
After two years at the Examiner, I followed my husband to D.C., colleagues wailed. There goes your career. You're leaving New York where most of the publishing action is.
Washington, however, turned out to be where most of the information was. Furthermore, the information was mine (and yours) for the asking:
Color blindness? The world's top expert on how people see colors, and why others don't, worked at the National Bureau of Standards.
Juvenile delinquency? A study of six [pre-adolescent] delinquent boys whom nobody wanted were receiving 'round-the-clock therapy at the National Institute of Mental Health.
The population explosion? The Futures Group, the Population Bureau, and Resources for the Future were among the non-profits keeping tabs on births, deaths, and migrations and their impact nationally and internationally.
So, after a short stint at the Washington Jewish Ledger, with two children to raise and a bonanza of info right at my door, I decided to stay home and free-lance. Before long, I was running to the mailbox to see if a submission had been accepted or rejected. (In those days, the postman rang twice a day.)
The conventional wisdom of the time held that getting a personal rejection letter from an editor meant the editor was talking to you collegially. The message: Not to despair. Of course, I did.
I also persevered, buoyed by such rejections. (A bunch are framed and hanging in my home.) My beat comprised the federal government; national trade, professional, and do-good associations; the Library of Congress and the then-fledgling Library of Medicine--the places that housed the people and the data essential to my stories.
Free-lancing, however, is a tough way to make a living, especially for me. I hate to write, or at least to start writing (who among us doesn't?). I do not take rejection lightly (who among us does?). As for money, in free-lancing it is either feast or famine.
When the chief of HEW's Children's Bureau asked me to work part-time as her speechwriter under a substantial contract, I jumped!
It was the time of the Great Society. I was there when child abuse was uncovered, measles was being wiped out, and government welfare workers could (for the first time!) inform their clients there was such a thing as contraception.
The HEW contract expired, as all contracts tend to do., I started a company. In a burst of innocence and non-creativity, I named the venture SSR Incorporated. For a long time, I didn't brush my teeth until I checked in with my lawyer. The term "entrepeneur-journalist," after all, is an oxymoron. My accountant still threatens to nail my feet to the floor to keep me from giving away the store.
Marketing is not in my constitution. I hired a marketing man, also a writer, to make and keep SSR visible. He sold his book manuscript, married my designer, then hired her to work for him.
Word-of-mouth has fueled the SSR business for 30 years. We are now cutting it back to half-time. There is barely a subject we haven’t tackled. (Examples are on our web site www.ssr.com.
For the most part, our customers are government agencies and the non-profit organizations mandated to get information out to the public or to the folks on the Hill, or to both. Some clients once were students in the course I taught in the Publications Specialist Program at George Washington University. Other students have come to work for me. We all seem to be bound at the hip.
Competition in the editorial field is brutal, especially in D.C. We have an excess of editors and writers, many untutored, inexperienced, or a little bit hungry. It makes for a cutthroat game. Government publishing, the biggest industry in the city, is bureaucracy at its best, with the rules of the game arbitrary and inviolate. No wonder I often wish that I had chosen another profession. We work too hard for too little recompense. I certainly could never have been a sole family breadwinner, or even supported myself all the time.
On the other hand, there is no way I could never have not been a journalist. My parents thought it was in my genes. Remember that uncle who wrote such beautiful letters home from the front? Whatever. But when a third-grade teacher said to me, I imagine you wanted to be a Dorothy Thompson when you grew up, I nodded vigorously. I didn't even know who Dorothy Thompson was. When I entered the Vanguard office the first time, I knew I would not leave until someone threw me out.
MY ATHLETIC CAREER
By David M. Levin
As I look back on my modest athletic career, several incidents make me smile.
As a Brooklyn College freshman in the Fall of 1940, I tried out for the football team. I was not a good passer or runner, but I could catch passes, I could punt 45 yards, and I could tackle. I was kept on the squad, practiced with the team, but did not play in any games in the 1940 season.
In 1941 I did get into games as a substitute halfback but not enough to earn a Major Letter B.
My biggest thrill occurred during an intra-squad scrimmage practice. I was the defensive safety-man when the other team had possession. “Rocky” Jordan was the starting varsity fullback. He was 5’11”, weighed 210 pounds and when he carried the ball he was like a speeding freight train, earning the name Rocky. I weighed 147 pounds at 5’6”.
Suddenly, Rocky Jordan burst through the line-of-scrimmage, quickly broke past the line-backers and was picking up momentum. I was the only defender between him and the goal-line. My heart beat faster. This was the moment all my training would either pay off, or fail. I moved toward him. When he was within about six feet I dove towards his knees and tackled him. I stopped him dead in his tracks, and, happily, I was not hurt.
After this, the coach, Lou Oshins, used me in more games and I earned a Major Letter B for the 1942 season.
In the 1942 season the highlight of my football “career” had special meaning.
During this entire period my father never attended any of the football games, as we were Sabbath observers.
However, on Election day in November 1942, Brooklyn College played the Fort Hamilton army team at the B.C. field. Fort Hamilton had some NFL players who had been drafted, including George Kracum, former All-America fullback from Pittsburgh and late of the football Brooklyn Dodgers, and several other big name players. My father attended his first and only game of my “career”.
In the second quarter, BC had the ball on the Fort Hamilton 31 yard line. On fourth down halfback Milton Sirota threw me a 20 yard pass for a first down on the 11 yard line. Two penalties put the ball on the soldiers’ one, from where quarterback Al “Biggie” Sherman took it over to score his third of four touchdowns. BC won 39-0.
The next day the New York Daily News report of the game included: A fourth down 20-yard pass from the 31 yard line by Milt Sirota to Dave Levin set up Brooklyn’s third touchdown.
My father had witnessed the one and only pass thrown to me in a game in my entire football career.
Because wrestling has weight categories, it was easier for me to earn my Major Letter B in 1941 and in 1942. I had a positive record, but not an outstanding one. However, my most memorable success came in the army in 1944 in Camp Stewart, Georgia. A foul-mouthed big southern bully picked on me with vulgar verbal assaults at his little Jew target. He was about six feet tall and about 180 pounds.
I finally lost patience. I warned him that if he did not stop he would regret it. “What are you going to do?” he taunted . “You’ll find out!” I said. He did not stop.
Within seconds I tackled him, and in less than 30 seconds, had him pinned to the ground. The other members of our outfit cheered. From then on the bully never bothered me and I gained more respect from the outfit.
One of my close army buddies was Ernie Giovangelo. Most of the outfit were uneducated hillbillies. Ernie and I were college men and both had played football; I at BC, he at the University of Illinois. I had wrestled at BC, he had boxed at Illinois. We kept in touch after the war. Ernie, who had been a physical education major, became director of the Catholic Youth Center in Chicago. He later retired and moved to Chatswirth, California.
When I visited Ernie in Chatswirth, he told me that since moving to California he spent much of his free time at the local Jewish Community Center, working out and socializing, and had started studying the Torah. His friends there were retired Jewish men in their 70s and 80s. He told them about his army experiences:
“There was this little Jewish guy from New York who was constantly picked on by a big southern bully who was about six feet tall and 180 pounds. One day my Jewish buddy, Dave Levin, had enough. He warned the bully to stop the insults, or else. When the bully laughed and continued the insults, Levin tackled him and in less than a minute had him pinned on the ground. We all cheered”
Ernie’s California Jewish audience cheered, too.
My friend Ernie passed away in February 2007 at the age of 86. Forty Jewish friends attended his funeral
As I mentioned, Ernie had been a boxer in college. One
day at Camp Stewart, Georgia, he was participating in a camp boxing tournament and I was hanging around the boxing ring. Visiting the army camp that day were Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson. Louis was one of the great heavyweight champions of the century, and The Ring magazine named Sugar Ray “pound for pound the best boxer of all time”. World champion Muhammad Ali called him “the king, the master, my idol”. In 1999, the Associated Press named him both the greatest welterweight and middleweight boxer of the century.
I was standing a few feet from Sugar Ray Robinson when he saw me and came over to me. “You look very familiar” he said. “Didn’t I once fight you?” We were about the same weight, I was two years younger.
Flattered, I replied, “No”. “Are you sure?” he persisted. “Oh yes”, I assured him. “I am not a boxer. I’m a wrestler.
I did get autographs from Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson.
Many years later, as I recall the incident, it occurs to me that perhaps Robinson’s memory might have been better than mine. Perhaps I should have asked him: “Who won ?”
SAINT VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE – IN BLUE
By Esther Gold Dorfman
In airline history, February 14, 2007 is called the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. But it’s history only after the fact. Beforehand, it’s just a normal day. The worst is still ahead. Here’s our story.
We woke early on February 14, called the airport and the limousine service – were assured everything was okay, so we dressed and started our trip to Burbank, California, to visit with our daughter and grandson. The trip to JFK went smoothly, the arrival/departure board indicated that our flight was on time, the security check-in was uneventful... so we figured the hard part of the trip was over.
When we hadn’t boarded at 8:35 am for our 9:05 departure, we weren’t too concerned. By 9:05 we were! Suddenly, postings on the board showed many cancellations, but our flight was “just” delayed. Hours passed...too many of them.. But we were still delayed.... one of the few flights not cancelled.
By 6 pm we were still delayed , but felt hopeful when we were transferred to another gate. A plane was there but there was no crew -- foiled by rules governing the number of consecutive hours crews could be on duty. At this point we were cursing our decision to fly with...you guessed it..JET BLUE. But the passengers revolted and got the airline to commandeer the crew from a plane in the adjacent gate which, though scheduled to leave at 4 pm (7 hours after us), was supposed to leave before us.
We boarded the plane at 7 pm, went through a de-icing procedure... and sat on the tarmac. At 10:30 pm, the pilot announced that we had to be de-iced again.. and it would take several hours. He said the delay would mean that we didn’t have enough fuel to get to Burbank so we would have to stop in Salt Lake City to refuel. Also, Burbank had a city ordinance prohibiting planes from landing after 10 pm, but he was sure they would let us land sometime about 3-4 am. Anyone who wanted to debark could.
I persuaded Herb to continue this “journey” (no longer just a trip). At this point we were a little loopy, aided by continuous cell phone conversations with our daughter in Los Angeles. We really cracked up when she warned us not to go shopping in Salt Lake City (a mall shooting had occurred a few days earlier). Only later did she tell us that Burbank would not let us land at that hour...and who knew where we would end up.
Well, we didn’t have to worry about landing because around 12 midnight the pilot announced that all flights...ALL... had been cancelled and passengers should claim their bags in the baggage area. What ensued was like barbarians descending on a hapless village.
At least 1,000 passengers converged on the baggage carousels, but no directions were given connecting a carousel number to a flight number. I found a place on the floor to sit with our carry-on luggage while Herb roamed the area trying to find our bags. Finally announcements were made about some of the flights...but not ours... and people were warned that if they left without their luggage the airline waived responsibility ... we were all hostages to our luggage! At 4:30 am our luggage showed up. And Herb, luckily, bumped into a free-lance cabbie. ... and we were on our way to Manhattan.
So we got to our apartment about 24 hours after we left it….back, that is, in chilly New York and not sunny California.
SAVE US FROM SYNDROMES by Sid Frigand
AMERICAN BOOK REVIEW OF "VARIATIONS ON THE BEAST" by Henry Grinberg
JOURNALISM 101 by Albert C. Lasher
PROUD MOMENTS IN B.C. HISTORY by David Levin
THE ANNUAL ISAACS RATINGS OF ESOTERIC DISTINCTION by Stan Isaacs
CUSTOMER NERVOUS by Larry Eisenberg
Quadrangle Issue 3
From Larry Eisenberg, editor of the Quadrangle section of the web site:
Welcome to Issue 3 of Quadrangle, containing some great stuff, including contributions from early Vanguard members that many of you may not have known (e.g., David Levin & Muriel Levin Mandell).
We welcome feedback. Here are two links: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org Send your email feedback there.
SAVE US FROM SYNDROMES
By Sid Frigand
EVERY DOCTOR WOULD LIKE HIS NAME ON A SYNDROME
Q. Mr. William Gamble of Proctor, West Virginia writes: "Am I nuts or are the drug companies inventing diseases? For example, the one they call Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). What in hell is a syndrome? Is it catching, like measles? And why, may I ask, do their TV commercials claim cures for conditions we never before talked about publicly--like rectal burning, overactive bladders, erectile dysfunction, premenstrual woes and vaginal itch?"
A. Alas, Mr. Gamble, as your last question suggests, pharmaceutical advertising has hit bottom–theirs and ours... Having filled the airwaves and periodicals with claims of miracle cures and magical ameliorations, the world's drug cartels have been bombarding us with assurances that they have the potions and pills to restore hair loss, to remove fungus from under your toenails–and just about every complaint in between. But fear not: (RLS) Restless Leg Syndrome* is just the beginning. There are thousands of syndromes waiting to take the promotional stage.
A syndrome (from the Greek sundrome) is defined medically as a group of symptoms that collectively constitute a physical or psychological abnormality or disease. Syndromes, by and large, are not contagious. In fact, most syndrome sufferers couldn't give their disorders away, even if they tried. More than likely, a syndrome will have the name of a doctor or doctors preceding it. **
While the drug companies continue to mine ailments, complaints, disorders and syndromes, word has it that they are also digging up ancient maladies that might come back to plague us–including the Plague. Don't be surprised if you start seeing commercials and ads touting tablets and elixirs to treat ailments like Scurvy, St. Anthony's Fire, Ergot, Ague, Scrofula, Griping of the Guts or Apoplexy. Most likely, to lighten-up these horrifying scourges, the drug industry marketeers will create cute little cartoon creatures–as they have done for fungus, mucous and a number of pernicious bacteria. We can't wait to watch the antics of Peter Pus, the Phlegm Family Dancers and those adorable little Upchucks–all being routed by tough-guy capsules, tablets or ointments.
Manufacturers of physiological and mood-altering drugs expect major breakthroughs in a year or so. For example, research labs are producing early and encouraging pharmaceuticals to conquer six of the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride. Unfortunately, because of a hush-hush agreement among pharmaceutical CEO's in consultation with the FDA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it was deemed desirable not to mess with the first of the Deadly Sins–Greed.
* RLS can be a very troubling and serious condition, but it has often been misdiagnosed. Back in the 1930's it was suggested that the Radio City Rockettes had it. In the ‘40's it was the Nicholas Brothers, in the 50's it was soccer star PÈlÈ and more recently, Savion Glover.
** According to noted medical historian Dr. Rosa Hickey, medical syndromes began to be noticed back in the 17th century, but only in 19th and 20th centuries they began to proliferate. "During that time," she said," syndromes became an object of professional vanity. Every doctor wanted his or her name attached to a syndrome. It is estimated that that there may be as many as 2.000 eponymous syndromes (from Aarshog's Syndrome to Zumbusch's Syndrome) in the medical encyclopedias. How else could someone like Dr. Gustav Schimmelpenning or Dr. Panaylotopoulos be remembered, if not for their syndromes?"
Dr. Hickey noted that as early as the 19th Century, women physicians lent their names to syndromes. "But to ‘legitimize' their findings in the sexist ‘Guy Nineties' they had team up with male doctor ‘shills.' So poor Maude Abbott had to bite her lip and permit a chap named Rotinansky to precede her name in her syndrome. The same problem plagued Dr. Lisa Welander. She, too, had to step back and let Dr. Gowers go first in the Gowers-Welander Syndrome."
WARNING: Almanac responses are not for everyone. You may experience occasional blurred vision, bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhea, depression, suicidal urges or sheer dismay. However, if you start to have apoplectic seizures, deep comas, uncontrolled running amok or an erection that lasts more than four hours, CALL YOUR DOCTOR –she will know what to do.
©2007 by Sid Frigand. The Columnists.com. This column first posted March 12, 2007
VARIATIONS ON THE BEAST (Dragon Press)
By Henry Grinberg
American Book Review-March/April 2007
The Antivillain By Sean Bernard
The voices of fiction are sometimes repetitive, as narrative is too often overpopulated with distant and cool third persons, pompous omniscients, and self-deprecating first-person speakers who revel in making quirky observations and sarcastic quips (at least until the end of the day, when those clever narrators choose to do "the right thing," since they're nice and pleasant on the inside, like so many toasted marshmallows).
Without realizing that other narrative styles exist, we readers suffer through these bland voices of forced quirkiness and measured distance until, once in a great while, we strike upon something sturdy enough to set us ashudder. A rarity in literature, and consequently intriguing, is the villainous narration. Jason Compson, Patrick Bateman, Valmont, Humbert Humbert—all are among our greatest narrative voices. When done adroitly, the results are unparalleled, as great villains become life-size manifestations of our own cruel instincts. It is a breathless thing to eavesdrop on the gleeful transgressions of criminals daring what we do not, liberating to witness their unflinching guiltlessness. They charm us with immorality, and while more celebrated literary characters like Daedalus and Dalloway, like Huck, Fuckhead, and Zuckerman, all reflect the conflicted ups and downs of daily existence, it is the more grim characters who stand watch at the darker edges of life as our moral sentinels, our boundaries.
And so we are thankful for the arrival of another villain, bastard Herrmann Kapp, narrator of Henry Grinberg's novel Variations on the Beast. Kapp's self-told story is at first glance a traditional bildungsroman—boy without father, raised by his mother, blessed with a prodigious talent at the piano—and he rises from teen concert pianist to the greatest conductor in all the land. Early on he tells us frankly, "The simple truth is this. I have a gift, a knack for conducting," but the true core of the novel is no musical coming-of-age. The story is darker: Kapp's own ascension parallels the rise of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, and the cruel world in which he exists is a perfect accompaniment to his amorality, the blanket that covers his soullessness. Kapp openly reveals this callous calm late in the book, saying, "Jews were wrapped in an evil mystique. Did I still share those beliefs? Frankly, it depended on what day of the week you were to ask me."
As his career flourishes, Kapp's sins of inaction grow: he indirectly causes a girl's death, doesn't protest while a rival's head is bashed in, happily accepts money from Nazis while allowing them to expel superior Jewish musicians from his orchestra, carries on adulterous affairs, and is hardly ruffled when his wife is crushed in a hotel bombing.
Kapp is without a moral center, a witness to and happy beneficiary of the surrounding terror. He just wants more success; when obstacles appear, he matter-of-factly hates them until they are eliminated by circumstances beyond his control. Then he simply forgets them and moves on.
Time and again, other characters shudder as they realize how empty he is: a prostitute says that he embodies "misfortune"; a professor slowly realizes that "there is something ... loathsome about you"; and a superior tells him frankly, "On one hand, you appear humble and respectful ... on the other, it turns out that you are really arrogant and hateful—without having earned the right." At novel's end, when Kapp's lover saves him at great personal risk, he gives her neither thanks nor goodbye, but just goes whistling out the door, never to see her again. Calmly he tells us, "What could I say? The times were what they were."
This blankness gets at the novel's most unique aspect: Kapp benefits from many atrocious deeds but rarely does he delight in them. He is not actively cruel, nor is he an example of banal evil; more, he is a character who shows that an absence of emotion can be itself a manifestation of evil. Rather than feeling guilt or sorrow or even joy when he witnesses cruelty, Kapp is generally relieved—because his life has been made easier. What Grinberg has done with Variations on the Beast is given voice to a strange and singular narrator: a man callous, talented, ambitious. Kapp is a pleased witness to a horrible world, and as the stars arrange themselves to thrust success upon him, he enjoys it all without glee and without guilt. He frustrates our expectations of what a villain should be; this is not the broad cruelty of Humbert or Compson ... and so it is not, then, a cruelty we recognize, a border we're familiar with. And there, in that unfamiliar territory, is where the success of the novel lies: while we expect something more—joy, guilt, something—we get nothing, and this is perhaps the most unsettling thing of all.
Sean Bernard is a fiction writer and writing professor at the University of La Verne
By Albert C. Lasher
Probably the best piece of advice I received in the course of my career as a journalist arose in connection with the most important public figure I had occasion to interview, Anthony Eden, the UK foreign minister at the time.
It happened in the course of my year at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, which ran through May '52. Eden was scheduled to speak at Columbia. In that era the itinerary of a public figure of the first order of magnitude was published in the relevant local dailies. I was assigned to do a sidebar on that aspect of the coverage. He was coming up from Washington by train, scheduled to arrive in early afternoon and was to be guest of honor at a dinner at the Manhattan home of Lewis Douglas, formerly Ambassador to the Court of St. James. That is, Douglas had been the U.S. ambassador to the UK, domiciled in London. He and Eden had become great friends.
I wanted the guest list to plug into my story. I needed Douglas' home phone number. Not incidentally, I got on Eden's New York bound train at the Newark station and managed to talk my way into his private car. I spent 15-20 minutes alone with him. The best thing I got out of the interview was that he was reading The Cruel Sea, a best seller by Nicholas Montserrat, a Canadian author. Eden was cautious, but altogether charming.
In any event, I started making calls to get the Douglas home number. I called the UK delegation to the UN, the British consulate in New York, the British embassy in Washington and a couple of reporters who covered the UN. Nothing. I was getting uptight. I had a 5 PM deadline.
I was hunched over my desk, just completing one of my failed phone calls, when I sensed a nearby presence. It was John Hohenberg, a bear of a man, a great reporter who had covered the UN for the New York Post and was now a professor at the J school. He asked me what I was up to. I told him of my frustration, probably in more detail than was necessary because I wanted him to know how hard I was trying to get the damn number.
Hoppy, as the students called him privately, listened politely. Then he said: "Have you tried the Manhattan phone book?"
There it was. I had the number. I looked up at him sheepishly. "Lasher," he said, "always try the front door first."
Mrs. Douglas answered the phone herself and gave me the names of her guests.
PROUD MOMENTS IN B.C. HISTORY
By David Levin
My last column as Sports Editor of Vanguard appeared in the issue of May 7th, 1943. On May 14th I reported for active duty in the army. Two items in the column, unknown or forgotten, recall proud moments in B.C. history.
Behind The Sport Scene
By David M. Levin
In one of the finest gestures by any of the country's college athletes, Brooklyn College's athletes – all teams – are initiating a petition to both major baseball leagues urging the immediate removal of Jim Crowism from professional baseball. It's an action which all colleges would do well to emulate; one for us to be proud of.
Professional sports have profited a great deal from college athletes. No only from the numerous athletes developed and trained at college, but also from the high spirit which the public has carried over from the college to the pro field. It was the wholesome spirit of keen rivalry and intense competition that first endeared the college game to Joe Fan, which made the pro game hit its present popularity peak.
The old "college try" and rooting for the underdog are as American as baseball itself. Yet, the most fundamental of all American doctrines--an equal break for all---has been shamefully violated by professional baseball. That so obvious a contradiction has existed and does exist between college and pro fields, not even the big league moguls deny. Their continued practice of this unfairness, however, is equaled only by the public's apathy in the matter.
College youth has set the example. College basketball's recent National Invitation Tournament in which appeared a Toledo quintet (with four colored players and a colored manager) and exhibited the finest brand of sportsmanship seen all year in the Garden, was sufficient proof on a nation-wide scale, that the public ignores the color line in athletics. It spoke eloquently for the practical success with which colleges have met.
It is high time professional sports followed suit. This step, initiated by Brooklyn College's athletes is laudable. It is hoped that other colleges take the cue.
Four years later, in 1947, professional baseball ended Jim Crowism as Jackie Robinson joined the........... BROOKLYN..... Dodgers.......Coincidence?
Sgt. Fred Levy, ex-Kingsmen of the '37, '38, and '39 elevens was here on furlough recently from Camp Davis, N.C. Reminiscing of his grid days at B. C., Fred recalled the time in '37 when Brooklyn's Sid White and Colorodo's Whizzer White were running neck and neck for the high scoring title of the nation.
Kingsman White trailed Western White by a TD going into the final week of the season, and Brooklyn was playing Fort Hamilton. After a sustained drive, Oshins' men were in possession on the soldier's six yard marker and the quarterback called to White to take it over on an end sweep. Sid had averaged over ten yards per carry all season, but refused to go through with the play.
As Fred Levy put it, "All his touchdowns came on long runs, so he didn't want to have any TD set up for him. It would ruin his average for long goal line gallops." So Irv Roth took it over and B. C. lost out on its last chance of having the country's top-scorer. "That was probably the greatest team Brooklyn ever had" reflected Fred.
THE ANNUAL ISAACS RATINGS OF ESOTERIC DISTINCTION
By Stan Isaacs
Can you name the bridges across the river Seine in Paris? You can't? Well, that is because you are not a devotee of the not-quite-world famous Isaacs Ratings of Esoteric Distinction (IRED). This is an enterprise treasured by some, laughed at by many, in which we fill the gap of creating and rating categories that nobody in his/her right mind ever before thought of putting under the looking glass.
IRED fans know that the category Bridges Across the Seine were rated in 1968, the ninth annual edition of the IRED that delighted or puzzled Newsday readers for some 40 years. Seine Bridges have an honored place in the IRED annals along with Characters in American Fiction, 1997; Oxymorons, 1987; and the ever-popular Seven Santini Brothers (moving men in New York (1972). And for the record, the Pont St. Louis was the No. 1 Bridge Across the Seine.
The ratings, which were launched upon an unsuspecting world in 1960 and moved to thecolumnists.com precincts in 2001, were conceived as a loving spoof of the The Ring magazine boxing ratings. In those days The Ring was the only entity that dealt in ratings, but they have since mushroomed like, well, mushrooms, inspiring the IRED to rush in where nobody else dared tread.
New categories achieve the limelight every year except for the one staple, "Chocolate Ice Creams," which highlights the ratings every year. The proprietor rejects the accusation of elitism for listing chocolate ice creams from foreign way stations on the grounds that the love of chocolate ice cream is a universal craving. Early on I declared myself an authority on chocolate ice cream and have been at it for so many years--ever on the lookout for new finds, ever tasting--that people don't dispute my claim too vigorously. I admit that when people who don't know my name say, "You're the chocolate ice cream nut, aren't you,?" I modestly nod in acceptance.
The IRED, as regulars know, are nonpartisan without redeeming social value and are calorie free. Here, then, are the 46th annual Ratings of Esoteric Distinction:
Chocolate Ice Creams: (1) Berthillion, Ile de St. Louis, Paris; (2) Haagen Dazs; (3) Dr. Mike's, Bethel, Conn.; (4) Bassett's. Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia; (5) Godiva; (6) Olympic Mountain, state of Washington; (7) Double Rainbow, San Francisco; (8) Merci's, Vienna; (9) Ben & Jerry; (10) tie, Edy, East Coast, Dreyer, West Coast.
Pseudonyms Used by Benjamin Franklin: (1) Alice Addertongue; (2) Obadiah Plainman; (3) Abigail Twitterfield; (4) Friend to the Poor; (5) Americanus; (6) Busy Body; (7) Anthony Afterwit; (8) Dr. Fatsides; (9) Rustcus; (10) tie, Historicul Homespun, Fart Hing.
Deck of Cards Kings: (1) Spades (David); (2) Hearts (Charlemagne); (3) Clubs (Alexander the Great); (4) Diamonds (Caesar).
Songs Composed by Johnny Mercer: (1) "Accentuate the Positive;" (2) "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby;" (3) "And the Angels Sing;" (4) "Goody, Goody;"(5) "Strip Polka;" (6) "Lazy Bones;" (7) "G.I. Jive;" (8) "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe;" (9) "That Old Black Magic;" (10) "Blues in the Night."
Chicken Hawks: (they never served or avoided service in the Armed Forces but advocated war in Iraq): (1) George W. Bush; (2) Dick Cheney; (3) Paul Wolfowitz; (4) Richard Perle; (5) Rush Limbaugh; (6) Bill Kristol; (7) Tom DeLay; (8) Bill Bennett; (9) Scooter Libby; (10) John Bolton.
Spellings of a Jewish Holiday: (1) Chanukah; (2) Hanukah; (3) Hannukah; (4) Channukah; (5) Chanukka.
Prominent Cornell Alumni: (1) Ruth Bader Ginsberg; (2) E.B.White; (3) Brud Holland; (4) Henry Heimlich: (5) Christopher Reeve; (6) tie, Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut; (8) tie, Dick Schaap, Keith Olbermann; (10) tie, Lucy Broido, Louise Davis, Sally Friedland; Tevis Goldhaft, Ward Goodenough, Don Ironside, Judy Levinson, Gay Rosenbaum, Martha Steele, Wellington Sun.
Actors in "Twelve Angry Men," the Greatest Ever Moviecast: (1) Henry Fonda; (2) Ed Begley; (3) E.G. Marshall; (4) Lee J. Cobb; (5) Jack Warden; (6) Jack Klugman; (7) Joseph Sweeney; (8) Martin Balsam; (9) John Fiedler; (10) George Voskovic; (11) Edward Binns; (12) Robert Weber.
Aspects of Samuel (Mark Twain) Clemens: (1) Novelist; (2) Polemicist; (3) Journalist; (4) Riverboat Pilot; (5) Traveler; (6) Husband; (7) Mover and Shaker; (8) Stand-up Comedian; (9) Silver Prospector; (10) Entrepreneur.
Satchel Paige's Rules for Staying Young: (1) Avoid fried meats which angry up your blood; (2) If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts; (3) Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move; (4) Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society--the social ramble ain't restful; (5) Avoid running at all times; (6) And don't look back--something might be gaining on you.
The Wright Brothers: (1) Orville; (2) Wilbur.
Famous American Literateurs of Their Time Who Have Fallen by the Wayside: (1) James Branch Cabell; (2) Gene Stratton Porter; (3) Thomas Bailey Aldrich; (4) Floyd Dell; (5) Jack Conroy; (6) E. W. Howe; (7) David Graham Phillips; (8) Helen Hunt Jackson; (9) E.D.E.N Southworth; (10) Winston (not the real) Churchill.
Chinese Months: (1) Horse; (2) Dog; (3) Monkey (4) Rooster; (5) Dragon; (6) Tiger; (7)Sheep (8) Ox; (9) Hare; (10) Ram; (11) Pig; (12) Snake.
Bill Nack's Guest Rating of Gray Race Horses: (1) The Tetrach (1911); (2) Native Dancer (1950); (3) Mumtaz Mahal (1921); (4) Spectacular Bid (1976); (5) Daylami (1994); (6) Lady's Secret (1982); (7) Skip Away (1993); (8) Holy Bull (1991); (9) Silver Charm (1994); (10) tie, Oil Capitol (1947), Determine (1951), Decideldy (1959); Winning Colors (1985).
Early Big League Baseball Teams: (1) Lebanon Pretzel Eaters; (2) Des Moines Undertakers; (3) Providence Clam Diggers; (4) Terre Haute Hottentots; (5) Troy Collar & Cuff Makers; (6) Utica Pantups; (7) Cincinnati Parkers; (8) Evansville River Rats; (9) Hartford Wideawakes; (10) Scranton Choctaws.
Most Photographed Persons of 1934: (1) Eleanor Roosevelt; (2) Franklin Delano Roosevelt; (3) Babe Ruth; (4) Jack Dempsey; (5) Mary Pickford; (6) Douglas Fairbanks; (7) Al Smith; (8) Jimmie Walker; (9) Benito Mussolini; (10) Adolf Hitler.
Class Acts: (1) Bill Moyers; (2) Rachel (Mrs. Jackie) Robinson; (3) Paul Newman; (4) Joe Torre; (5) Tony Dungy; (6) Larry Merchant; (7) Anna Quindlen; (8) Calvin Trillin; (9) Sylvia Carter; (10) Dr. Bonnie Ashby.
Small Northeastern Colleges: (1) Haverford; (2) Wesleyan; (3) Swarthmore; (4) Bowdoin; (5) Middlebury; (6) Wellesley; (7) Amherst; (8) Tufts; (9) Hamilton; (10) tie, Lafayette, Lehigh.
Pair of Twins Polish Leaders: (1) tie, President Lech Kaczynski, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Different Names of a Certain Movie Producer: (1) Schmuel Gelbfisz; (2) Samuel Goldwyn; (3) Samuel Goldfish.
©2006 by Stan Isaacs, thecolumnists.com/. This column first posted Dec. 4, 2006.
By Larry Eisenberg
Several months ago, our American Express bill contained an $800+ Priceline charge. I phoned Customer Service, said that it was a mistake and the rep said that it would be removed. A few weeks later, we received a letter from an American Express "executive," stating that a man--whom we didn't know---had spent five nights at a Newark Airport hotel, via Priceline, and charged it to us. As though this were proof of its validity, the bill was reinstated. I wrote irate letters to the idiot who'd sent the letters, as well as the C.E.O. of American Express, wondering how and why they would dare to bill us for a charge that not only wasn't ours, but hadn't been made with our cards. Weeks and weeks later, I received a call from a cipher, saying he was "trying to straighten this out." As I got more and more overheated at his company's imbecilic behavior, he said, "Sir, you're giving me misdirected hostility." I told him it was perfectly directed and wondered why it had taken so long for somebody to respond to my letters, considering that, besides this being a bogus charge, we had been members of American Express for several decades and always paid our bills on time. In essence, he said that American Express was very busy because of the volume of complaints. Never too busy, though, to send an erroneous bill right on deadline. Finally, a couple of months later, it occurred to some brainiac that the charge had, indeed, been fraudulent and it was removed.
HELLO. COMPUTERS! IT'S YOUR TURN: Six days after my most recent computer was installed I noticed that the picture on the desktop (It used to be called a screen. I wonder what you now call the top of your desk) didn't fill the entire monitor, so I called Compaq Customer Service. After hearing my problem, Chrissie, in New Delhi, said she would give me the names and addresses of repair shops in my neighborhood. I said I'd had the computer for less than a week and I wasn't planning to carry it to a repair shop. Her reply: "It was just an option I was offering you." I said it was curious that that was her first option and hung up just in time to avoid telling her what a putz she was. The next person I called in the same department--AllahBillGates Be Praised!-- actually knew how to fix it, and did, within moments.
Two weeks later, I noticed that my monitor (desktop, screen, informational window, gedempte glassware, whatever) was not turning off automatically in the amount of time that had been originally set. Again I called Compaq Customer Service and asked how to reset it. Todd, in Auckland, kept putting me on hold to consult colleagues and manuals, then ran me through a series of complicated maneuvers until he said it was done. I thanked him and asked how long it would now take for the monitor to turn off. His answer: "Oh, it'll never turn off now." I said (screamed), "You mean you've just spent 45 minutes doing the exact opposite of what I asked you to do?" He put me on hold and I hung up. Moments later, while I was still cursing him, he called back to give me another 45 minute instructional on how to undo what he had done.
IS IT EVER OVER? A couple of months ago I tried to log onto my Visa bill, but when I typed in an ID and a password I got a message saying it wouldn't go through, so I called Customer Service. After listening to my problem, Katie, in Antarctica, asked what I'd like as my new ID. I told her "Lawrence," spelled it and had her spell it back, and she said that it would be listed immediately. A few hours later, I logged onto Visa and discovered that my password was now "Lawerence." Again I called C.S. and, when I told Brad, in Tierra del Fuego, that his colleague had misspelled my name and I wanted to change it, he said, "Oh, that can't be changed. It's written in stone!" My response: "Fine. Tell the Pharaoh to cancel my Visa card!" He put me on hold and came back with the good news that I, indeed, could revert to the real spelling of my name. A week later, I got my password in the mail and when I tried to log on, I couldn't get through. So-o, I speed-dialed Customer Service on Pluto (Since it's no longer a planet, they have room for consultants and phones) and Spock (That's how he identified himself. Who was I to argue?) said the reason was that I had misspelled my ID—that is, I had stupidly/naively/foolishly spelled my name correctly. Again I went through the "written in stone" bit and again I triumphed. But this time, because "Lawrence" was already taken, it had to be Lawrence 1." Spock said that they would mail me my new password.
The following week, I received a letter from a Chase Visa assistant vice-moron, welcoming me to Chase Online. Two paragraphs later, I was informed: "Your Chase Online user ID is "Lawerence 1."
I sent him a letter that said "Fueck you."
FOURTH OF JULY by David M. Levin
REMEMBERING THE BARD OF VANGUARD by Jewell Elizabeth Golden
FOOTLOOSE IN GERMANY by Norman Gelb
PREPARING FOR MY FIRST PLANE TRIP by Larry Eisenberg
GLIMPSES OF VANGUARD by Jack Leavitt
TILDEN REDUX by Josh Greenfeld
HIDING OUT ON LEXINGTON AVENUE by Albert C. Lasher
THE LIFE & TIMES OF THE COPYBOY SEVEN by Stan Isaacs
SCRIBBLES ABOUT VANGUARD'S ANTEDILUVIAN DAYS by Muriel Levin Mandell
UGLY HISTORY--JUSTICE SCALIA'S CONTINUED USE OF THE PHRASE 'MIXED BLOOD' AGGRAVATES OLD WOUNDS by Bill Taylor
GENESIS by Pearl Shaine Panes
YES, I DID by Herb Dorfman
FOND MEMORIES OF BROOKLYN by Myron Kandel
Quadrangle Issue 2
From Larry Eisenberg, editor of the Quadrangle section of the web site:
Welcome to Issue 2 of Quadrangle, containing some great stuff, including contributions from early Vanguard members that many of you may not have known (e.g., David Levin & Muriel Levin Mandell).
We welcome feedback. Here are two links: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org Send your email feedback there.
FOURTH OF JULY
By David M. Levin
The word “ Nuremberg” to people of our generation conjures up the infamous Nuremberg Aryan racial laws of 1935 and the post-World War II Nuremberg War Crimes trials of Nazi war criminals. My connection to Nuremberg occurred in 1945.
I was a soldier in Germany in General Patton’s 3 rd Army when the war in Europe ended on May 8 th. Since Pearl Harbor in 1941 there was neither the mood nor the time for national celebrations. But with Europe at peace for the first time since 1939, the U.S. Army European High Command decided to go all out with a giant celebration of Independence Day on the 4 th of July.
They decided to hold the celebration in the largest available arena... the Nuremberg stadium. This was the site of Hitler’s massive rallies at which over 100,000 Nazis chorused “Seig Heil” as they saluted the dictator. In size it was comparable to Chicago’s Soldiers Field.
GI’s came from all over Germany and I was one of those present. I found myself up at the grandstand with the announcers and celebrities. At least half-a-dozen army bands were playing American patriotic songs (It’s a Grand Old Flag, I’m A Yankee-Doodle Dandy, etc.) and it was a festive, joyous treat.
The entertainers included Ingrid Bergman, and “non-Aryans” Jack Benny and Larry Adler, the harmonica virtuoso. When Ingrid Bergman was introduced, I was standing next to her. So I took her under the arm and walked her to the microphone. We looked out on a sea of over 100,000 cheering soldiers. I got the autographs of Bergman, Benny and Adler on a Luxembourg 100 franc note, the only piece of paper I had.
The poetic justice of having these two Jewish entertainers performing at Hitler’s favorite venue made the celebration that much sweeter. We felt we were enjoying the fruits of victory at the perfect address. It was a thrill of a lifetime.
Fast- forward forty years. I had been living part of the year in Israel since 1980 and was in Jerusalem when I noticed an announcement in The Jerusalem Post that Larry Adler was going to perform as soloist with the Jerusalem Symphony. Larry Adler was a harmonica virtuoso who performed classical works with major symphony orchestras. If it was a piano concerto, his harmonica played the piano part; (Geshwin’s Rhapsody in Blue); a violin concerto (Vivaldi, Bach) ...the violin part, etc.. He was a true musical genius. I bought a ticket and attended the concert.
During intermission, I decided to go backstage and try to meet Larry Adler. There was a long, slow line of people who had the same idea. Gradually I inched forward until finally I had arrived at his dressing room. He looked at me quizzically, as if to say “Do I know you?”.
I spoke first. “Do you remember July 4 th 1945 ?”
Three seconds elapsed. His face lit up. “Were you there?” he blurted out.
“I sure was!” I said.
“Wasn’t it wonderful ?” he said.
“It was a thrill of a lifetime,” we chimed, as we embraced.
Two strangers who shared an unforgettable moment of history were joined in nostalgic recollection.
He proceeded to tell me he had been disgusted with the atmosphere in the U.S. after being blacklisted by the McCarthy hearings and had been living in London for over 30 years. I told him his harmonica playing had improved over the past forty years and wished him good luck.
Larry Adler died on August 6 th 2001 in London at the age of 87. In its obituary The New York Times added a rare comment that “Larry Adler was rumored to have had an affair with Ingrid Bergman”.
And I was there when they met.
Recently on the Internet I learned more about Larry Adler. Composers Vaughan Williams and Darius Milhaud composed works for him. He wrote several film scores including Genevieve, for which he received an Academy Award nomination in 1953. From England he continued to give concerts around the world, make recordings, write books, and even work as a food critic for a British magazine. He wrote Jokes and How to Tell Them (1963) and his autobiography, It Ain’t Necessarily So (1985). A biographer once observed that Mr. Adler is “a good example of the adage ‘Living well is the best revenge’ “. An interesting interview with him in 1997 is on a website of The Free-Reed Journal” which recounts George Gershwin saying to Adler “You made the damn-thing sound like I wrote it for you” when Adler finished playing Rhapsody in Blue.
Over the years my family and others have asked me: How was it that I was up in the grandstand with the celebrities? I did not remember until last summer, when I was going through army memorabilia. I found the answer…It was a Vanguard Press Pass.
David M. Levin (BC class of 1946 )
REMEMBERING THE BARD OF VANGUARD
By Jewell Elizabeth Golden ( formerly Jewel Kurtz & even Hoops Kurtz)
Montgomery County , Maryland has its Woman's Day at the end of March. I like to offer my services and looked around for a catchy title. Since many of the women attending would be homeless, or from shelters, or from populations that struggle, I looked for an appropriate title. I remembered my many English- major friends and, tongue in cheek, sent in, "To Be Or Not To Be Stressed."
Much to my surprise, it was chosen. And even more surprising, it heads the list of 10 other 2:30pm workshops in the program. No doubt the Bard of Vanguard's influence is felt even out here.
FOOTLOOSE IN GERMANY
By Norman Gelb
I received an e-mail from a cousin the other day (February 2007) saying she met a guy named Wolf at a gathering of academics in New York who wanted to know if she and I were related. Told that we were, he asked that she pass along his regards to me.
His name rang a bell but I couldn’t put a face to it. I googled him and discovered he was the author of several impressive-sounding works on law and sociology but there was nothing to indicate how we might have known each other. So I e-mailed him and asked had we played basketball together as kids in Borough Park, was it in Boylan Hall that we had met, or was it during basic training at Fort Dix? His reply released a flood of fond memories for me.
When I was a GI in Frankfurt during the Korean War, being In Europe was exciting in itself. On top of that, I led a wonderful double life while in the army there. Writing news at the American Forces Network wasn’t as much fun as playing dead at VANGUARD but it was fun enough, as was hanging out with my army buddies - Jim Mackin, Art Oestreicher, Red Jackman, Don Shanor - in still war-battered Germany. My other life there started when I got to know some German college students at the Jazz Keller joint in downtown Frankfurt and began dividing my free time between them and my army pals.
I asked for and got the overnight shift at AFN, which no one else wanted. A couple of days a week, after writing the 7:00 a.m. newscast, I’d hop a trolley into town from AFN quarters, to the Von Bruening Schloss, an old mini-castle on the banks of the Main River in the Frankfurt suburb of Hoechst. I would head for the dormitory of Goethe University where I would sack out in the room of one my student friends. When their classes finished for the day, they would wake me and we would hang out together, either in town or around the university, until it was time for me to hop the last trolley back to Hoechst and what was probably the only newsroom in a castle (mini or not) ever.
It was a great life, which brings me to where this started: the hard-to-place guy who sent me regards through my cousin in New York. Wolf turned out to be one of the German students on the fringes of the group of students with whom I mostly played around with in Frankfurt - Werner Wilkenning, Gerd Griggs, Waltraut Klemm - partying, boozing, screwing around, arguing, the works. These were people I had arrived in Germany expecting to hate but of whom I became enormously fond.
In an exchange of emails, Wolf told me that in the late 1950s he had emigrated to the States where he had continued his studies. In time, he had published several academic papers and tomes and had risen to professorship at various colleges. Though now retired, he still has an office at NYU. (We hope to see each other when I am next in New York).
I was of course flattered that he remembered me; we had known each other hardly at all back then. But even more pleasing were recollections of those days which his making contact turned loose for me--of people, places and goings on--memories of the thrilling times of a 22-year-old GI footloose in Germany.
PREPARING FOR MY FIRST PLANE TRIP
By Larry Eisenberg
In June 1953 my cousin Natalie was in the middle of a three-month residence in Miami, a legal requirement for the divorce suit she had filed --and I decided to visit her. The plan: Train from New York to Washington to spend a weekend with my brother Phil and his family, then plane from Washington to Miami. Since I'd had a lifetime of motion sickness in every kind of vehicle, along with nausea in a movie theater while watching wild ocean waves--and I had never been on a plane before--I decided to take a fairly new pharmaceutical called Dramamine.
On my last night in Washington I went into a drugstore on 14th & G Street -- the center of town at the time - -and maybe now as well. Greeting me from behind the counter was a man in a white coat, who smiled and said, " Waddle gonna be ?" In a town where many residents spoke with a Southern drawl, this guy sounded like Menasha Skulnick parodying a Jewish accent.
"I'd like Dramamine, please."
He nodded knowingly and began searching through shelves and drawers, all the while humming, "Diddle-dee, diddle-dee." When he couldn't find the product, he raised his head and asked, "So vot is dis Drremameen faw?"
"Air sickness," I replied.
Again he did the diddle-dee, looking through shelves, slamming doors and drawers.
Finally, sighing and shaking his head, he asked, "Vot kind 'air sickness you got---dendruff?"
GLIMPSES OF VANGUARD
By Jack Leavitt
In writing about Vanguard, I realize that I'm writing more about myself than about our embattled Brooklyn College newspaper. A justifiable slant, I assume, since what I know most about is myself, even with a vagrant memory and a distorted perspective. Like pointillist painters, we create images by putting dots here and there and then moving far enough away that we benefit from the smudged illusion of a complete picture.
I entered Brooklyn College in January, 1947 at the age of fifteen. A day or so into the semester, a tall, thin student hobbled into Miss Wylie's English class. Future editor Arthur Lack, on crutches, with a cast covering an entire leg, the victim of a sideline crunch at a football game he was reporting on as a stringer for the New York Times. We became and remained friends until his death.
(Sidebar: Arthur missed military service because he was his family's sole surviving son. His older brother, a crewman aboard an Air Force bomber, had been shot down over Germany and presumed killed. Though affected by the loss, Arthur used to announce, "What did I do during the war? I, sir, was a notary public."
During my first year at Brooklyn College I knew of Vanguard and hoped to join its staff but kept myself too busy functioning as president of the Brownsville Boys Club. Among my duties was publicizing the club's activities and those of the board president, Abe Stark, whose political campaigns eventually led him to become Borough President of Brooklyn and President of the New York City Council. I wrote and delivered speeches, sent out press releases and maintained contact with reporters from many of the city's newspapers. My journalism career was flourishing, but at the wrong end. I wanted to become a reporter rather than a source.
At some point in 1948, I joined the Vanguard staff and received Gene Levitt as a foster father because of the similarities in our names and Bea Stahl as a foster mother as (I assume) punishment for one or both of us. After writing a few articles of no special moment (I remember slugging one of them, "Bongo, bongo, I don' wanna leave the Congo," but can't remember why), I joined the sports staff. In those days agitation reigned throughout the athletic department. Two popular coaches--Morris "Tubby" Raskin in basketball and Lou Oshins in football-- recently had been forced out of their coaching jobs and were replaced by outsiders Al Baggett and Ted Rosquist (Baggett's public strategy for victory: "Our aim is to outscore our opponents." Rosquist's refusal to let me scrimmage with the football team: "They'll knock your ass over end and you'll sue the school." For the Vanguard sports staff, the substitutions were evil. We were incensed.
Using the best journalistic sources, i.e., rumor, gossip and paranoia, several of us suspected that the coaching shakeup grew out of the college administration's supposed anti-Semitism. I received clearance to develop an article exposing the corrupt system. With promises of confidentiality and some unobtrusive arrangements, I met a high ranking member of the athletic department off-campus, in his parked automobile. Mutual suspicion filed the air. We chatted tensely because, while my interest lay in a front page story, he worried about keeping his job. Since I felt that the information the professor was giving me was too skimpy and unprovable, I told him that I thought we wouldn't run a story. As a peace offering, I said, "But even though I'm not your friend, please don't treat me as your enemy." He glared at me, "Don't flatter yourself." No headlines ever developed from our inquiries, except the years-later indication that our administration was more anti-union than religiously bigoted.
While today we Vanguard alumni may have mellowed towards one another, we suffered through nasty in-fighting during our journalistic tenure. To the college leaders, the staff consisted of lock-step radicals. But within our own ranks, we strode in a leftward direction along different routes. Sloganeers and table-pounders vs. "Yes, but on the other hand . . ." At a turning-point election for our next editor, the bad leftists appeared to be reaching majority support until the good leftists were saved by --hurrah!--a self-described group of sports staff liberals: Jack Zanger, Herb Steier, Bill Mehlman, Sam Markowitz, and I, with perhaps two or three now-forgotten colleagues. We voted for reason and good will, the best way to assure Vanguard a long, respectable life. (In real time, roughly a year).
Because I worked at Abe Stark's clothing store at night, I skipped most of the staff's production duties and avoided late evening trips to the printer. My loss -- if the stories about what folks did in those unsupervised adventures are true. Even so, I received neat reporting assignments, chiefly features. Soccer coach Carleton H. Reilly twinkled when he complained that, in my interview with him, I mentioned how he leaned back in his swivel chair and picked out ear wax with his pinky. Abraham H. Maslow, the psychologist who identified "self-fulfillment" in his theories of personality development and changed his terminology to "self-actualization" when he gained worldwide fame, complained that I unnecessarily mentioned his spooning up a green jelly-like medication during our interview. One of our editors found difficulty in understanding what I meant when I referred to Joan Magazine, who had just been named "Miss Subways," as the second Brooklyn College girl "to have reached such depths."
My most notable feature was one I myself promoted, executed, and enjoyed. I interviewed Vanguard's prime adversary, our college president, Dr. Harry D. Gideonse. The negotiations for the interview were a trifle difficult because the administration wanted us to agree to submit the proposed article before publication while we felt uncomfortable with possible censorship. Eventually, I thought I'd do a respectable enough job that we'd be able to run what I wrote. And that's the way life turned out. I humanized our leader, teasing him in a respectful way. When the interview appeared, the editors liked it enough to suggest that I do a follow-up to describe more of Gideonse's achievements. The president agreed and Vanguard ran a second article. Hands around the maypole in perfect harmony. Who could ever claim that Dr. Gideonse and Vanguard were enemies? (About a year ago, Harry Baron sent me a partial copy of the interview that he had more or less salvaged, roughly three quarters of the first article. Reading it, I felt good about what I had written. The question, of course, is whether I then showed ability or now have reduced my standards).
For the struggles which led to the administration's suspending Vanguard, I generally appeared on the sidelines, away from decision-making activities. But I soon became a front-line player. At our office, Mike Levitas called me over--I always picture Mike with a curved pipe and elbow patches on his jacket--and solemnly explained that, as editor, he had been invited to address an on-campus rally describing the quarrels sparking between Vanguard and the administration. For personal reasons, he felt that he shouldn't be the speaker and asked whether I would represent the paper. Sure! I felt comfortable doing so and briefed myself on the facts of the controversy. As I now remember our sinning, Vanguard had run an editorial about the Middle East which consumed an inch and a half of newsprint longer than an opposing editorial, thus violating the equal space edict under which we were required to operate.
Bob Kurland, the editor of the Brooklyn College evening newspaper, Ken, sympathized with our cause. As I watched him, he typed out, "We, the editors of a free and uncensored newspaper . . . . " I interrupted him, "Bob, you're not free and uncensored." He answered, "I know. But if I don't say that, they won't let me print anything."
Speech time arrived. In a large lecture hall, wearing a blue Eisenhower-style jacket, I spoke to a receptive crowd. Seated in the first row was a faculty representative (could it have been a Professor Price?) who cheered me on, smiling and gesturing as he took notes of what I was saying. Over earlier years, through my boys' club fund raising activities, I had learned how to be good-mannered before an audience. Lots of eye contact, focusing one on one whenever I could, bright phrasing, dramatic pauses. I was charming. Trust me. I really was, and my cheerful manner must be given full marks when we arrive at the events I soon inspired. Think of Kipling: “If you can bear to hear the words you've spoken . . ."
While I can not remember exactly what I said, I well remember my goal--to show that the Vanguard staff conscientiously tried to present the news in a fair manner and to express our opinions in a responsible way. In the long conflict between authoritarian controls and free-wheeling expression, we're likely to blunder in the way we express ourselves, but the value of tolerating mistakes far exceeds the supposed benefits from suppressing expression or controlling thought. Reworked John Stuart Mill, whom I learned about from Dr. Gideonse. Years later, I summarized these views with the thought that: The best hope of liberalism is laughter at the stake.
When I finished my speech,still smiling, people applauded. I had won over my audience. Reason had triumphed. Back-patting time, if I could twist my hand far enough between my shoulder blades! Just then, a woman rose from the back center of the room. Charlotte Goldberg, the dark-haired leader of the Labor Youth League, an activist Marxist group. "I agree with everything Jack Leavitt has just said, " she proclaimed. ("How nice!" I thought , "The day's a success!!") "So," she continued, more loudly than I had spoken, "Let's show the administration they can't get away with this! LET'S MARCH DOWN TO DEAN MARONEY'S OFFICE AND DEMAND OUR RIGHTS!"
The audience--my audience, the folks I had charmed with reason and good will-- stormed off to the dean's office, muttering along the way. I stayed in the room, trying to find traces of reasonableness which I might have missed. From what I later learned, as soon as the group congregated at the targeted office, Dean Maroney ordered out the custodians, with mops and sudsy water buckets. "When we see dirt, " he explained as his troops soaked the protesters, "we clean up."
Vanguard briefly became Draugnav, an off-campus, self-funded publication which lasted only a short time. Norman Gelb and I wrote the front-page editorial. Although Norm excised my references to our having to work at cafeteria tables while busboys rattled dishes all about us, we featured a lead sentence I most treasure:
" Brooklyn College deserves a student newspaper."
A fine thought. A fine obituary.
By Josh Greenfeld
Write first and research later. Also the time lag in comebacks.
In writing my brief reminiscence about Tilden High School I did not Google. But recently I did and discovered that, in the late '30s and early '40s, Tilden was the largest high school in the United States in terms of student population. No wonder we had a morning and afternoon session plus two annexes during that period.
I had marveled at the quality of the faculty without looking at the principal. He was Dr. Abraham Lefkowitz and, to smart-ass kids like myself in the age of Lepke, we would refer to him as Lefky. We knew little about him. He seemed a distant figure who we were only aware of in the one in every four assemblies each official class had to attend in an auditorium with a limited seating capacity. But a Google check reveals that Dr. Abraham Lefkowitz was one of the founders of the American Federation of Teachers, had once been a candidate for Congress on the Socialist Party ticket in Manhattan, and in 1948 had conferred a high school diploma upon a student who had refused to take a loyalty oath. He also had been, in his early teaching days at Dewitt Clinton in the Bronx, the mentor of Max Schactman, a seminal figure in the history of the American left -- the man who led the Trotskyites after breaking with the old man himself over the issue of supporting a Stalinist Russia in World War II -- into what became the modern Socialist Party of Michael Harrington and others.
Dr. Lefkowitz evidently hired good teachers and did not hound energetic students, unlike the next educational administrator with a doctorial prefix I encountered. Which brings me to the time lag in comebacks:
In the spring of ’46, HDGideonse mandated a schedule change which would necessitate B.C. students having to stay on campus a longer day because of extended lunch break periods in which no classes were to be offered -- thus ruling out the chances of holding down the part-time jobs so many depended upon. It was the elitist HDG’s way of showing contempt for the bread-and-butter aspects of a working class education. On Student Council we formed a committee, which I co-led with Roz Kasdan to protest such a change. Vanguard, under Bert Hochman’s editor-in-chief aegis, was behind us. We collected petitions with thousands of signatures; we held an honest referendum, which further revealed overwhelming student opposition; we held a mass rally in front of the library that filled the quadrangle. But HDG (not unlike our present U. S. President) was intransigent. And at one meeting in his office, after we once more were arguing the student case, HDG said, “If the Board of Higher Education wanted a President who would just follow student whims they could have hired any Tom, Dick or Harry.”
“But your name is Harry,” I said.
And HDG gave me one of his down-the-nose looks. “I use the phrase proverbially.”
I would tell the story, ending it at that.....Until one day Sid Frigand put the proper tag on it. “You know what you should have come back with,” Sid said, “ And you’re a dick, too.”
HIDING OUT ON LEXINGTON AVENUE
By Albert C. Lasher
I’ve written a couple of books. I’m proud to have “Author” as part of my job description. Hardest job I ever had. The best part was seeing the finished package on the shelf.
The better of the two books was Twenty Million Careless Capitalists (Doubleday, l967), co-authored by me and my Wall Street Journal colleague, Carter F. Henderson. At the time we took on the project, we had both morphed into functionaries at large public corporations; Carter as chief speechwriter for IBM, then in its heyday under the redoubtable Tom Watson and me as Assistant to the Chairman of Lily Tulip Cup Corporation (maker of paper cups, not women’s lingerie).
These were jobs that came with built in pressures and required more than 9 to 5 attention. Moreover, Carter and I both were bachelors, which made heavy demands on our discretionary time. The book required a great deal of research, much of it requiring interviews with financial movers and shakers (e.g. chairman of the Securities & Exchange Commission). I get tired just thinking about it.
We ground on, working together most Saturdays with a typist and a professional researcher from Fortune magazine (that’s where our $2,000 advance went) at Carter’s IBM offices, then at the corner of 55 th Street and Madison Avenue.
Our contract called for a finished manuscript in 18 months. We didn’t make it.
Our editor, Sam Vaughan, later to become President of Doubleday, made his office at 270 Park Avenue, whose rear entrance was on Lexington, just south of 47 th Street. My office was on the corner of Lexington and 42 nd Street. Sam and I would run into each other occasionally at lunchtime on our way to one or the other of a multitude of eateries lining both sides of Lexington Avenue.
I stopped going to my usual lunchtime haunts. I was consumed with guilt and fear that if I ran into Sam he’d be reminded of our contractual obligation and ask us to return the advance, which we had already spent. We expected a lawyer’s letter any day.
Sure enough, one day a letter from Doubleday arrived at home, about a year after we were to have delivered the product. It was addressed to me, but the salutation read, “Dear Carter and Al.” It was signed by Sam Vaughan. A one liner: “Did I say anything wrong?”
We called him to thank him for his patience and good spirit. We eventually delivered the book. It was no way a big time profit producer. Few business books are. But, we sold out the edition (4,000 print run, massive for the category) and were featured by two business book clubs. Carter and I each bought a case and handed out copies as gifts from time to time. It’s been 40 years. His are all gone. I have eight left.
THE LIFE & TIMES OF THE COPYBOY SEVEN
(Would You Believe They All Started As Copyboys?)
By Stan Isaacs
This is an updated newspaper story. Originally it was most of a column I wrote for Newsday on Jan. 14, 1972. It was about seven copy boys who worked in the late 1940s and early 1950s on the New York Daily Compass which, before it folded in 1952, was a feeble voice for radical-liberals in the early Joe McCarthy days.
The seven men who worked together in their early 20s went assorted ways. Out of the group came two Supreme Court cases; some novels; books of poetry; show business and magazine entrepreneurship; hit songs; a doctor; and a sports columnist.
I recap the Copyboy Seven here, updating where they are today in italics.
1. The first, an NYU man--one of the best-liked in the group--went on from copy boy to a desk job at the Morning Telegraph and then to editorship of the Harvey Publications comic book publishing company. He wrote popular songs, including Johnny Mathis’ hit “Warm” and worked on a Broadway play. He published two novels, one of them “Streets of Gold.”
Sid Jacobson continues to write novels. He lived in Great Neck, was divorced, met his second wife on the Long Island Railroad and now lives in Los Angeles where he is a consultant to the comic book company. He co-authored a well-reviewed comic book version of "The 9.11 Report."
2. The second, also an NYU graduate, became a college professor. He traveled to many parts of the world and worked on different campuses. He was married three times. His first wife threw him over for a teaching assistant on a college campus who he hired to shape up his wife intellectually. His second wife pursued him to the Near East to land him. He wrote a few books of poetry. He was best remembered as the fellow who would throw a party at his Sheepshead Bay apartment and then charged all invited guests on their way out.
Stanley Cooperman, the most intellectual of the Seven, at last report taught at British Columbia U.. He died some 20 years ago.
3. The third, another NYU man, drifted aimlessly for awhile. He drove a taxi in Los Angeles, and now is celebrated for having picked up a fare a few blocks from Union Station without knowing how to get to it. He also learned later that the beautiful blonde he had had in his cab with whom he talked about movie industry labor relations was a rising star named Marilyn Monroe. He eventually flowered in show business as an entrepreneur of midnight folk song concerts in Greenwich Village.
Art D’lugoff owned and operated the renowned Village Gate nightclub for a few decades, which featured Woody Allen and Alan Arkin, among others.. He hosted events there and promoted shows in Chicago and Greenwich Village. Always an irrepressible optimist, he helped launch a jazz museum in Manhattan. It hasn’t materialized. He summered on Fire Island with his wife, a feisty Israeli photographer. They have four children.
4. The fourth, also NYU, the brother of the above, joined him in show business, helping launch their folk song concerts by standing outside Carnegie Hall, hawking flyers advertising their productions. “Come hear the bawdy Israeli folk songs,” they would shout. He teamed with a friend to write the hit song, “Cindy, Oh Cindy,” which earned him thousands of dollars and paid his way through medical school. While a doctor, he has been a silent partner and adviser in his brother’s enterprises.
Burt D’lugoff settled in Baltimore where he has run a drug clinic, taught at John’s Hopkins and Baltimore U. medical schools. He has long been active in medical circles. He married later than the others, to a nurse., who died last year. They had two children.
5. The fifth man, everybody knew, would become the most famous and notorious of the Seven. A City College graduate, he was regarded, not without affection, as a Sammy Glick so unabashed that he could teach Glick a few tricks. He went on to publish a lucrative, handsomely-packaged erotic magazine, “Eros,” that is tame by today’s standards. He lost a celebrated censorship case that was ruled on by the Supreme Court. The others backed his civil libertarian defense, though there was some facetious talk of forming a committee to help send the irrepressible one to jail for just one day. He served a short sentence .
Ralph Ginzburg was a world class writer of promotion ads. He published a muckraking magazine that was a factor in Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign and also hustled a consumer magazine with full-page ads in the Times. His time in jail, however a blot on civil rights in this country, did not suppress his boundless enthusiasm. He was a prize-winning photographer for the New York Post. Ginzburg died on July 6, 2006 at the age of 76.
6. The sixth, another City College man, was often in the shadow of the fifth who helped him land the copy boy job, extracting a fee for the favor. He was the lively movie critic when the Compass folded. He went on to write a successful series of juvenile biographies about athletes. One of them, Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn, sued for invasion of privacy. Spahn lost the case in the Supreme Court.
Milton Shapiro, married too early, was divorced, moved to England where for a time he lived the life of one of the swinging bachelors of London town while turning out articles and books on outdoor and medical subjects. He is remarried and an editor and consultant with medical magazines.
7. The seventh, a Brooklyn College man, moved into the Compass sports department. When the paper folded, he freelanced for two years, then joined the remarkably successful Long Island paper, Newsday. He worked there for almost 40 years as a sports reporter, columnist and editor, and feature columnist.
Stan Isaacs is 15 years removed from retirement from Newsday, a freelance writer with a regular spot on the website: www.thecolumnists.com. He is married with three daughters and four grandchildren, two of whom he expects will be contending for the U.S. Open men’s singles and doubles championships in 2013.
©2003 by Stan Isaacs.
SCRIBBLES ABOUT VANGUARD'S ANTEDILUVIAN DAYS
By Muriel Levin Mandell
I was a freshman at Brooklyn College in 1938, the year the college moved from a single dreary downtown brick building to a campus with a quadrangle of buildings including the impressive library. It’s hard for me to believe, but that was nearly seventy years ago.
I was feature editor of my high school newspaper (the Eastside Criterion of Paterson, NJ) and high school correspondent for the Paterson Morning Call (I think it was 3 cents a word and on a good week I made $3.)
I made a beeline for the Vanguard office and stayed there until I got my degree. The intimidating editorial staff, as I remember them, included Gerson Goodman, Leo Bogard, Israel Diamond, and Joe Wershba. I don’t remember how I got my first assignment – to interview the book sellers who were supplying us with used text books – but I do remember that I handed it in signed with an initial (M. Levin) and was outraged that the staff assumed it was written by a guy; it was printed with a masculine by-line (Martin Levin).
The time I was there was a turbulent one with the war in Europe in the background. The Young Communists and the Young Socialists cornered all of us who were not committed and proselytized constantly. And the Vanguard was constantly at odds with the autocratic Gideonse Administration during those four years, including those when I was associate editor and Beatrice Gelber was editor. I would be lying if I said I remembered what all the fuss was about but fuss there was, probably about all the things that students still complain about. (And yes we were told we were spoiling the school’s reputation and ruining our chances for decent jobs.)
Because we all lived at home during those years -- there were no dorms -- it was the Vanguard that provided not only intellectual stimulation but our social life. I lived in Brooklyn at the time and during lean times could even walk the mile or so from home, but a whole crew rode all the way from the Bronx, and occasionally stayed at one of our homes.
Vanguard was the springboard for my career. I went on to take a Master’s at the Columbia School of Journalism, worked for the Brooklyn Eagle during that year, and went on to the Washington bureau of ONA and JTA – and at the age of 21 wrote two columns a week, covered the White House, the State Department, the Capitol. Back in New York, I was a magazine editor, did public relations for a New York State agency and for WMGM. After my children were born, I started to write children’s books and have had published a dozen or so, mostly non-fiction, which have been translated into dozens of languages and anthologized.
WORDS TAINTED BY UGLY HISTORY--JUSTICE SCALIA'S CONTINUED USE OF THE PHRASE 'MIXED BLOOD' AGGRAVATES OLD WOUNDS
By Bill Taylor
One marker of progress in American race relations is the public rejection of racially charged statements made by government officials or other public figures. The defeat of George Allen, who had been a prohibitive favorite for re-election to the Senate until he employed a racial slur in referring to an Indian-American, was a sign that this country is moving forward. Likewise, presidential aspirant Joseph Biden suffered a public setback when he described rival Barack Obama as an African-American candidate who was “articulate and clean,” thereby resurrecting stereotypes of other African-Americans as inarticulate and unbathed.
But there remains at least one forum where racially loaded language is occasionally used by leading public figures without any reporting or public notice — the U.S. Supreme Court.
In December, the Court heard oral argument in two cases challenging diversity programs in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle that take race into account as one factor in assigning students among schools. During the argument, Justice Antonin Scalia asked counsel for the Seattle school board what criteria the school board used to identify a student’s race.
“I mean, what if a particular child’s grandfather was white?” asked Scalia. He continued, “There must be some criterion. There are many people of mixed blood.”
The lawyer noted that the system allowed parents to self-identify their children, a technique that is used in the U.S. Census and many other information-gathering activities. “Seems like a big loophole,” Scalia grumbled.
To give the justice the benefit of the doubt, his use of “mixed blood” may have been intended to dramatize his skepticism that racial identity is related to the goal of diversity. But he did not explain this.
To those who have forgotten recent history, the term “mixed blood” may sound vaguely poetic. It is not. It is ugly language from a time when white Americans separated themselves by law from black Americans to avoid what officials freely called “contamination.”
ONE DROP OF BLOOD
The words were not always so harsh. Early in the 19th century, Thomas Jefferson proposed an assimilationist goal for American Indians, saying, “You will mix with us by marriage. Your blood will run in our veins and will spread with us over this great continent.”
But when the abolition of slavery was followed by the end of Reconstruction, “mixed blood” took on a different meaning. As part of the adoption of Jim Crow segregation laws in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Virginia and at least 16 other states enacted laws prohibiting “a white person [from] marrying other than another white person.”
If the races were to be kept separate, of course, there had to be a way of identifying membership in a race. Various definitions of people other than white people were adopted, including, at the extreme, a person with “one drop of Negro blood.” Virginia made the thought process behind its Racial Integrity Act very clear in 1955 when the state Supreme Court upheld the 1924 law: The court wrote that the law was designed to preserve racial integrity and “to prevent the corruption of theblood” or the “creation of a mongrel breed of citizens.”
It took another dozen years before the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia (1967) struck down that law as a violation of the 14th Amendment. In the 40 years since, “mixed blood” has all but disappeared from the vernacular.
JUSTICE MARSHALL SPEAKS
But not from Justice Scalia’s vocabulary. He has employed the term going back to 1990.
In that year, the Supreme Court heard two cases involving challenges to federal policy favoring the issuance of more broadcast licenses to minorities in order to further the goal of viewpoint diversity. Scalia launched an attack on the policy, asking whether minority groups were determined “by blood” and asserting that “this has to do with nothing except blood, isn’t that right?” As he peppered the lawyers defending the policy with questions, he used the term “blood” eight times and argued that the Court was being asked to accept a congressional finding that the government “may predict human behavior on the basis of human blood.”
In defense of the policy, the late J. Roger Wollenberg replied to that last remark that Congress could determine that people belonging to a group subjected to discrimination on the basis of their skin color might have a different perspective from others and that this perspective might hold whether the minority members were rich or poor. That gave then-Justice Thurgood Marshall an opening. Up to that point he had been silent, observing high-court protocol that one justice does not challenge a fellow justice in oral argument.
Marshall said, ostensibly to Wollenberg, “You are constantly talking about blood. What statistic . . . do you have that there’s a difference in people’s blood?” Wollenberg protested that he had not been talking about blood and was not aware of any difference. Scalia, however, was undeterred and continued his questioning with the next lawyer.
WHO ARE WE?
Race continues to be the issue that clouds men’s minds and drives them to misjudge their fellows.
My late friend Wiley Branton, who represented the students trying to desegregate Little Rock, Ark.’s all-white Central High School, had a fine legal mind, a down-home manner, a cherubic face, and an olive complexion that often led people to assume, mistakenly, that he was white. One of Wiley’s stories began with a phone call from an old high-school classmate. George was in trouble with the law in a Florida Panhandle city. Although the criminal complaint filed against him involved a minor matter, as a black man in a white town he had to take it seriously. So he called Wiley.
Wiley then called the legal authorities to tell them that he would be representing George. In that call, he managed to suggest that George was a kind of retainer for the Branton family and that Wiley was providing legal services as an act of noblesse oblige.
When Wiley arrived in Florida, he was warmly received. Within a few days, the district attorney asked him to address the segregated bar association and the sheriff invited him to go duck hunting. In short order, the charges were dropped.
Wiley and George decided that, with victory in hand, it would be prudent to leave Florida immediately. As they drove away, they needed to use a rest stop. As Wiley recounts it, George got out of the car first and was told that no restroom was available to him but that he could use the back of the building. Wiley made the same inquiry and was directed to the restroom. Wiley said when he got there, “I heard old George splashing up against the wall outside, and the absurdity of it all just struck me.”
A part of what is absurd these days is the conservatives who keep asserting that the nation is finally ready for Justice John Marshall Harlan’s ideal of a colorblind Constitution and that the law should stop acknowledging race. But the words of an Allen, Biden, or Scalia belie the notion that the last significant stumbling block to a colorblind society is race consciousness within the law.
Thurgood Marshall is gone, and it is up to the rest of us to hold public figures accountable for their racial statements.
Published By Legal Times, March 5, 2007
(Aside from being an outstanding Vanguardian, William L. Taylor has been a civil-rights lawyer for more than 50 years, having worked on Thurgood Marshall’s legal staff at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the 1950s and served as general counsel and later staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the 1960s. He now chairs the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights. His memoir, "The Passion of My Times, "was published in paperback last year).
By Pearl Shaine Panes
When I read Larry Eisenberg’s “In the Beginning” on the Vanguard website, I told him, “I could SO identify! It inspired me to recall my own “beginning.”
Little me walked into THE OFFICE when Larry did, during the reign of Queen Thelma of Rosenberg, shy and overwhelmed by all those “worldly” women and men who smoked and cussed and vied for the witiiest remarks. Would I ever belong? At any moment I expected to hear “Off with her head” or “Take her to the tower.”
I did, however, manage to pick up some survival skills and in no time learned their smartass ways (except for smoking) by abandoning my “born-in-Connecticut” sensitivities and adapting to a more daring discipline. I was even weaned off kosher food by Sid Frigand later on by eating at a nearby Chinese restaurant and helping him form the “Lobster Club.” I was getting more sophisticated by the minute.
It wasn’t long before my mother wondered why I spent so much time in school. Even my boyfriend at that time was “jealous” of Vanguard. I was the first of my siblings to go to college so I could have told my mom how demanding the curriculum was, but I opted to tell the truth...well, not the whole truth. She was proud that I was writing for the school newspaper and devoting time to that endeavor...but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had found a new home.
Indeed, the Vanguard office was where I lived during my college years. I remember parties we had and skits we wrote. Every one on the masthead was a close friend. A trek to the printer late at night was an adventure (I still have my “Beat NYU” slugs) and an evening of fun with my fellow issue editors. Even getting called on the carpet by Gideonse with the rest of my (all male) compatriots on the Executive Board was a unique, though scary, experience.>
And there’s so much more...but the most important thing I learned on Vanguard was ... nothing was funny that wasn’t serious and nothing was serious that wasn’t funny.
YES, I DID
By Herb Dorfman
At lunch recently, the name of Joe DiMaggio came up. It was a small Vanguard lunch, as a matter of fact, and we were gathered to nail down the particulars of the new Vanguard web site section you are reading right now – Quadrangle. DiMaggio’s name had been mentioned in a talk to the Silurians by Gay Talese, and that reminded me of the connection between the writer and the baseball icon.
In 1966 I was a field producer for ABC News, and I was down at the Yankees’ spring training camp to ask how they felt about coming in last in the league the year before. DiMaggio had been hired as a coach. Coincidentally, it was the 25 th anniversary of DiMaggio’s hitting in 56 straight games (still a record) and Esquire magazine observed that by putting him on the cover, batting and wearing a business suit. Gay Talese wrote the story.
I interviewed DiMaggio and other Yankee greats (Mantle, Whitey Ford, etc.) and then I asked DiMaggio if he liked the Esquire story. “Tell you what”, he said. “I’m going in to take a shower. Come with me and we’ll talk about it.” So we marched into the locker room, where DiMaggio took off his uniform and everything else, and beckoned me to come into the shower with him.
Yes, friends, I was witness to the magnificent DiMaggio body, and while there’s not a gay bone in my body,. I thought it was a beautiful sight. Years after he had finished playing baseball, he still looked like an athlete in his prime. Just thought I’d mention that.
Meantime, we got to talking about Esquire. And DiMaggio, gesturing with a bar of soap in his hand, was not a happy camper. “This was about baseball, right?” he asked, ”about the 56 games and all that ? Right?” I nodded. “Well, you know what? He gave me maybe one question about the 56 games. That was it!”
“Nothing else?” I asked.
“Marilyn!” he said. “All he wanted to know was about Marilyn! Can you believe it?”
Dimaggio, as you know, had been married to Marilyn Monroe. Now they were divorced. The divorce made almost as much news as the marriage. No one seemed to know much about what prompted either the marriage or the divorce. The one story that seemed to sum up the inevitable problem was the trip they made together to an army installation, but she went alone to speak to the GI’s. When she got back, she said to him: “Joe, you never heard such yelling and so much applause!” And Joe said, “Yes, I have.”
How desperately I wanted to ask him about their short time together, why it broke up, and what she was like, say, close-up. But when I remembered what he said about Gay Talese, I locked my lips.
When I got back to New York, colleagues said: “What did he say about Marilyn?” I know what they really wanted to know. So what the hell.
I made up some stuff. DiMaggio never knew.
FOND MEMORIES OF BROOKLYN
By Myron Kandel
1.Alternate side of the street parking.
2.Ate at Kishke King ( 10 inch hot! dogs)
3.Ate dinner every Sunday night at Lee's Ch inese Restaurant. (or a reasonable facsimile)
4.Ate Italian food at (fill in your choice)
5.Bought bobka at the original Ebingers .
6.Bought Ebinger's Black-Out Cake (and didn't count the calories)
7.Bought knishes from Mrs. Stahls in Brighton or Mom's knishes..
8.Bought knishes on the beach and didn't mind the sand.
9.Bought pickles out of a barrel.
10.Can name all the Brooklyn High Schools.
11.Don't speak with an accent - everybody else does.
12.Drove over the Marine Park Bridge for a 10-cent toll and Brooklyn Battery Tunnel for 25 cents.
13.Everybody knows somebody from the neighborhood even if it's your mother's cousin's son-in-law's sister's boyfriend.
14.Got a "Kitchen Sink" at Jahn's.
15.Got a J.D. card and feeling like Al Capone.
16.Had a prom date at the Club Elegante.
17.Had roller skates with keys.
18.Hand ball in the schoolyard.
19.Hit two sewers in punch ball.
20.It's not the "shore", it's the "beach" idiot.
21.Kings Plaza.... how come we get the crappy mall?
22.Knew who the neighborhood wise guy was, but you'd never tell the cops.
23.Knew Rosie's Candy Store, headquarters for Murder, Inc!!
24.Know what E.J. Korvettes stands for (Eight Jewish Korean Veterans).
25.Know what the F.W.I.L. on the Lundy's Restaurant in "The Bay" stands for (It's the brothers, Frederick, William, Irving and Louis).
26.Know, or at least your hips do, what a Charlotte Russe is.
27.Owned a pair of shoes from Thom Mcann
28.Played a t Faber's Fascination and Skeeball - saved tickets for junk.
29.Played Ring-A- Levio ;at dusk.
30.Played Hit The Penny; Stoop Ball; Skelly; and Potsy.
31.Rode the Cyclone.
32. Saw the Dodgers at Ebbets Field.
33.Remember Bohack's, Packer's and Associated.
34.Remember Coney Island fireworks every Tuesday night in the summer. Watching from your roof.
35.Remember submarine race watching at Plum Beach. Heck, if you even know where Plum Beach is.
36.Sheepshead Bay is for fishing and seafood.
37.Shopped at Pitkin Ave before the mall and all the dreck.
38.Swear that George and Sid Deli had the l-e-a-n-e-s-t pastrami.
39. Went to Steeplechase and rode the horses.
40.There is a bagel bakery a few blocks away.
41.There is at least one pizzeria within 1 block of your house and a candy store on the corner.
42.Thought "Buddy's Fairyland Kiddie Park" on Utica Ave. was a major amusement park.
43.Thought going "away to college" means NYU, Pace, or Pratt.
44.Waited for Bungalow Bar or Mr Softee guy to come around your block.
45.Walked along the Coney Island Boardwalk with a Shatzkin's knish.
46.Washed it down with a Sunny Boy orange drink.
47.Went to a Bar Mitzvah at the Paradise Caterers on Pitkin, sometimes two on a weekend.
48. Rode the Trolleys.
49.Went to the "real " Fortunoff's on Livonia Avenue.
50.Went to Alan Freed rock ! &roll concerts at the Brooklyn Fox or the Brooklyn Paramount. Went the night before for good seats.
51.Went to Saturday matinees at the Ambassador or Loew's Pitkin.
52.You ate at the Horn and Hardart Automat or the Famous Cafeteria.
53.You can correctly pronounce places like Long Island, but aren't exactly sure where it begins.
55.You don't go to Manhattan; you go to "The City."
56.You have no reason to go to Queens.
57.You know and go to the REAL Nathan's - Coney Island.
58.You know someone with mob ties.
59.You know the difference between going with, seeing, fooling around with and going out with someone.
60.You know what a "Jo hnny pump" is.
61.You knew when someone got carpeting, their "oil cloth" was in a roll by the garbage.
62.You made a scooter from orange crates and an old skate.
63.You made carpet guns that shot old linoleum projectiles.
64.You never realize you have an accent until you leave.
65.You waited for the rides on a truck to come to your neighborhood for 10 cents a ride.
66.You walk down "The Avenue" and see at least a handful of the people you knew growing up.
67.Your friends came over to hang out on the stoop.
68.You've had a pigeon crap on your car and/or your head.
69. Rode the elevated (EL) lines or the BMT cut out to The Beach.
70. And the most important reason that you're a Brooklynite or at le ast have the soul of one, is the attitude that you have and NEVER want to lose!!!!!
ROCKY VACATION by Larry Eisenberg
NUTS by Albert Lasher
PROSECUTING ERROL FLYNN FOR BEING A NAZI SPY by Jack Leavitt
ON SOLVING THE IRAQ DILEMMA & OTHER THOUGHTS by Sid Frigand
HELP! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY! by Herb Dorfman
AFTER SIX YEARS A STATUE AROSE IN BROOKLYN by Stan Isaacs
LAST HORIZON (FROM THE TOP TO THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLD) by Pearl Shaine Panes
THE SEPTUAGENARIAN RELATIONSHIP by Sheila Solomon Klass
SCHOOL OF THE BIG SHOULDERS by Josh Greenfeld
RUPERT AND ME by Myron Kandel
VARIATIONS ON THE BEAST by Henry Grinberg
VANGUARD ROOTS by Jewell Kurtz Golden
Quadrangle Issue 1
By Larry Eisenberg
We arrived at the Edmonton, Alberta airport on August 16, 2003, to
begin a seven—night tour of the Canadian Rockies. I watched the
luggage swirling around the carousel, being joyously grabbed by owners.
And watched. And watched. But my suitcase didn't slide down—a
recurring event in my life. Somewhere, maybe in the Bible, God hath
proclaimeth that, yea, no matter where he flyeth, the belongings of the
peasant, Lawrence of Aggravation, shall, forsooth, goeth
elsewhere on a regular basis. It also said something about
carrion—which I assumed was a misspelling.
Well, the happy—except for me—tour group loaded onto a
bus for check-in and dinner at Alberta's classiest hotel, the Sheraton
Grande. (My main course was a steak that had been broiled 90 minutes
before our arrival. Barbara, my wife, said it looked like a hockey puck.
Thank you, ABC Tours). Later, I used a toothbrush supplied by the front
desk (they had lots) and went to bed in a borrowed T-shirt.
Sleep was not restful. Breakfast was not soothing—but at least
the omelet hadn't been cooked the previous night.
Many anxiety-packed telephone calls to United Airlines followed,
before, during and after checkout from the Sheraton. All
luggage—except..well, you know—was loaded onto the
bus, where my fellow tourists sat smugly in their opening-day look-
at-me outfits while I was still wearing the sweaty rags from my
Our first destination: the West Edmonton Mall, featuring 800
stores—I mean, is there a more important reason to travel?
A couple of hours after non-shopping, as I was about to reboard, our
guide, Walter, informed me that my suitcase had been located, shipped,
via taxi, and was now on the bus. A small cheer went up from several
passengers. Most others didn't give a crap.
Sighing with great relief, I thought: Life is going to be good,
But, as God proclaimeth on the second day, "Wait till you see what
I'm doing the rest of the week."
After a couple of days of riding up and down glorious mountains and
walking on a glacier, I found myself out of breath. Lifting luggage in
our rooms (three hotels in the first four nights) also took its toll.
Then, on August 20, at the lavish Fairmont Chateau on Lake Louise, I ate
a huge buffet dinner and went to bed moments later.
In the middle of the night I woke up with pains on the left side of
my chest and up and down my left arm. I thought: heart attack.
But I fell asleep again and the pains didn't return—until about
noon that day, while we were on our tour bus in the town of Banff.
Barbara asked our guide to take me to the town's hospital.
I was the only patient in the Mineral Springs Hospital's emergency
room (The first miracle; you thought I was kidding about the Bible,
didn't you?) and was immediately escorted to an examining area,
where I undressed and was connected to many wires—pumping me with
oxygen and nitroglycerine. The staff took blood, gave me several
cardiagrams, constant blood pressure tests and x-rayed my chest.
Overriding the unreality of this situation were the attentiveness,
intelligence and caring attitudes of the doctor and at least three of
the nurses who were treating me. They kept cheering me on and telling
They also asked Barbara to call my doctor back in New York, who faxed
them a copy of the echo cardiagram I had taken three months earlier.
Several hours later they concluded there was no specific evidence of a
cardiac condition, but a spot on my chest X-ray suggested that I might
have developed a blood clot on my lungs as a result of the plane trip
(Like losing the luggage wasn't enough). Their equipment, the
doctor said, was not sophisticated enough to pinpoint the problem (they
mostly treated injured skiers there) and he was sending me—by
ambulance—to a hospital in Calgary. Just before I left, my head
nurse, Donna, handed me a furry toy lion and said, "What did the lion in
'The Wizard of Oz' want?" I couldn't remember and she said, "Courage.
Take this with you. "
On the opposite gurney in the ambulance was a constantly-moaning
older man with a bladder infection, who was in much worse shape than I.
I kept thinking: He's going to die... and I'm next.
Some vacation. A paramedic attended both of us
constantly while Barbara sat next to the driver who made the 75-mile
trip in 70 minutes, arriving in Calgary at 6:10 P.M.
At the frenetic, crowded Foothills Hospital I was undressed and
connected to all the drips. After they took blood, I was told they would
do several tests and examine my x-rays—a two-hour process.
Everybody was concerned, attentive, bright and often funny. The two
doctors who attended me also said there was a good chance I might have
to stay overnight for an additional test in the morning. Barbara was on
the phone constantly with our insurance company and Walter, our guide
back in Banff; the latter, a great guy, arranged a room for us in a
Calgary hotel (My senior doctor said that if I had to remain overnight,
I'd be more comfortable in the hotel than in the hospital. Boy, they
know how to live there!) The problem was that whoever had packed my
clothing at the Banff hospital had forgotten my shoes. Also, all our
medications for night and morning were back there. We gave them a list
and they promised to duplicate them.
At about 9:00 p.m., one of the doctors came up to my gurney and said,
"I have good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?"
She answered, "You have no heart problems and no lung problems and
you don't have to stay overnight for another test."
"What's the bad news?" I asked.
"That we wasted your time," she said.
I wanted to kiss her.
Barbara and I decided that instead of staying in Calgary overnight we
would return to Banff—except that I still had no shoes. A nurse
said there was a hospital closet full of clothing abandoned by patients
(Living or dead? I didn't care) and she brought me a pair of black
sandals, whose front featured the face of some absurd comic strip
character. She added that she had called Greyhound and they had a bus
going to Banff at 11:15 p.m. We arrived back in Banff at about 1:00
a.m. on Thursday and the Greyhound security guard—as nice as most
Canadians—got an employee to drive us to our hotel.
This adventure lasted 12 hours. The lesson to be learned for anybody
of a certain age who's going on a trip: (1) Avoid high altitudes (in
this case 7,000 feet) if they've ever been a problem—although I'd
checked out two doctors before our trip and they'd said it was okay for
me (2) Don't lift heavy suitcases; you're not Tarzan anymore (3) Don't
eat a dinner that could feed half of Pakistan and then go right to bed,
and (4) Consider traveling with just a carry-on (United also lost my
suitcase on the trip home—but by then, who cared?). Just as
important: Before leaving on a trip, buy subsidiary medical insurance
and, if you're going to a hospital, immediately telephone your basic
Most significant, to me, was the attentiveness, caring—almost
loving—attitude of all the medical personnel I had encountered.
While being the only patient in an emergency ward is as rare as a
psychiatrist not spending August in the Hamptons, compare my civilized
treatment with the attitudes of personnel in New York hospital emergency
rooms, where some of them are too busy discussing romances and what
they're having for dinner to pay much attention to people in pain
(Catch Herb Dorfman's adventure below).
The courageous little lion sits in a corner of my desk and every
morning, after I pat its furry head, I think about Psalm 30.5 in the
Bible: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
By Albert Lasher
I have a severe allergy to nuts. Tree nuts (e.g. walnuts, pecans,
almonds). Not peanuts, or ground nuts as they call them in The Gambia, a
tiny country on the West coast of Africa and the world's largest
exporter of this agricultural product. Peanuts are legumes,
vegetables characterized by a pod that splits in two parts. Like
You may have read somewhere that nuts can kill. If I eat even a tiny
quantity, say ¼ of an ounce and cannot get to a doctor for an adrenalin
injection within 2-3 hours, I'd suffocate from an acute attack of
asthma. I never eat nuts, knowingly. But once or twice a year, I get
gastronomically blindsided. The last time was in a great looking green
salad, with hazelnut dressing. Over the years, I've had a number of
My family has known about this problem since I was about 4 years old.
Here's how they found out:
My parents kept a strictly kosher house. In our case, that meant that
my mother never, ever, served food that came prepared by anybody other
than herself or my grandmother. No canned goods. Nothing that came in
from the store in jars or cartons, except eggs and dairy products such
as sour cream and pot cheese.
My mother made her own ice cream and fudge candies.
Until Barton's opened its first
Barton's, some of you may recall, was a chain of kosher candy shops,
now defunct. But in the Orthodox Jewish community of that period, its
appearance was welcomed. In celebration of some occasion, my father came
home from work one evening with a beautiful box of Barton's chocolates.
Hoo hah! This was a first in our household. Just before I went to bed,
they gave me one of the candies. Twenty minutes later, I began swelling
up with hives, turning fiery red and fighting for breath.
My parents wrapped me in a blanket and carried me via elevator down
to the lobby of our Brooklyn apartment building, where a medical doctor
had an office. In those years, it seemed, every apartment building ad a
doctor's office on the lobby floor. The doctor gave me a shot of
adrenalin and 20 minutes later, I was fine. My parents and I went back
Whereupon, because I was such a good boy in the doctor's office,
they rewarded me with another Barton's candy.
PROSECUTING ERROL FLYNN FOR BEING A
By Jack Leavitt
The San Francisco Court Of Historical Review, in August 1992,
posthumously tried Errol Flynn on charges that he had served as a Nazi
spy. Understanding my role as a prosecution witness requires an
awareness of my earlier responsibilities in preserving the security of
our republic. As an ensign aboard the McCoy Reynolds, DE 440,
patrolling the wartime waters of North Korea in mid-1952, I understood
the perils threatening our national security. Since we sailed in enemy
territory, bombarding the coast with 54-pound shells from our two five-
inch cannons, we were close enough to shore to make us vulnerable to
capture. Every man aboard the Reynolds had to perform to his highest
abilities to carry out our mission.
Our captain studiously (perhaps enviously) evaluated my warrior
talents. When he announced his assignments for General Quarters, the
extreme readiness condition, he assigned me the ultimate responsibility
for safeguarding our fleet's secrets. At the cry, "All hands man your
battle stations," I was to rush to the cryptographic shack, where we
kept our coding equipment, and stand in the corridor outside the door.
Just stand there, eyes and ears full speed ahead, listening attentively.
If the loudspeaker ever blared, "Abandon ship, abandon ship," I would
spring into action. My job was to relieve the officer inside the shack
so that he could rush off to the lifeboats along with the rest of the
crew. As my shipmates scrambled for safety, my duties called for me to
locate the sledgehammer, which lay near the ship's safe and flail away
at everything breakable in the small room. Smash, bang, thwack!
When I had broken enough gear to deprive the enemy of any usable
splinters, I was authorized to make my way to the rescue area, either to
join my shipmates or to wave goodbye to those already afloat. As a
further sign of the captain's faith in my command abilities, what I did
with the sledgehammer was left to my own discretion.
Though fired on, the McCoy Reynolds escaped damage. My virginal
sledgehammer remained unscathed. Years later, as the San Francisco
Court Of Historical Review addressed the question, "Was Errol Flynn A
Nazi Spy?" , a friend remembered my wartime exploits and knew that I
would lend credence to those proceedings. I accepted responsibility
for marshaling evidence against the Tasmanian-born, swashbuckling actor
who had died thirteen years earlier. Soon enough, pressures intensified
against me. Little things, small warnings, but I knew that dark forces
On being called to the stand in a City Hall courtroom, I defiantly
demanded protection. I produced a weeks old threatening letter,
supposedly from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, warning me that
unless I cut the weeds which blocked PG&E's inspectors from reading my
meters, the utility would stop supplying me with services. A ruse! A
pretext! A plot! They were trying to isolate me! I insisted. Leaving
me in the dark, defenseless. All to silence me!
Courage prevailed. I testified. From my researches, I exposed Flynn
for embracing a Japanese movie star in his most successful films. (And,
since she was born in Tokyo, what else could Olivia de Havilland have
been but Japanese, our one-time eternal enemies?) To whom but Nazis
singing, "We're sailing against England," did Flynn, as Robin Hood, cry
out, " Welcome to Sherwood"? While Flynn's stunt double carried out
the most exciting dueling scenes before the cameras, Flynn himself took
long swims into submarine-infested Pacific waters, where he easily could
have rendezvoused with U-boats. How would Flynn have carried secret
documents to the enemy, the very kind of documents I patriotically would
have destroyed during my North Korean campaign? Easily. Attorney
Melvin Belli (a defense witness, blinded by friendship for the actor)
once showed me a souvenir Flynn had given him—a preserved walrus
penis, or pizzle. That pizzle was long enough,
cylindrical enough and waterproof enough to contain whatever documents
the Axis needed for victory. Sex and treason conjoined!
Most damning of all—and a powerful inducement for the
conspiracy hoping to silence me—was a photograph I refused to
carry into the courtroom myself for fear of being attacked and robbed.
Instead, I entrusted the picture to my chief security officer, who
delivered it to me as I crouched on the witness stand. (Using my nine-
year-old daughter as a courier, may I gloat, successfully baffled the
enemy.) The photograph exposed Flynn for what he was: a Nazi officer,
smiling among other Nazi officers, all in full, dazzling, swastikaed
uniforms. Standing right near Flynn, smiling as broadly as Flynn
himself, was the more significant person age the conspiracy anxiously
strove to protect. "Who?" you wonder, as well you should: None other
than Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States. Hail to
the chief. Sig hail!
The tentacles of fear and corruption, however, reached even into the
halls of justice. Despite my evidence, the judge acquitted Flynn.
Apparently feeling guilty himself, he tried to keep me calm by assuring
the crowded courtroom that I was a fine attorney. The woman sitting
next to me—a show business critic for television and radio
stations—whispered, "I didn't know you were a lawyer." I snapped
back, "What did you think I was?" a moment before I fell in love. She
answered, "An actor."
Errol Flynn and I, strangers thrown together in the wrong
ON SOLVING THE IRAQ
DILEMMA—PLUS THOUGHTS ON THE CIA & TACO BELL
By Sid Frigand
(Originally Appeared In The Columnists.com, Jan. 1, 2007)
GET RID OF IRAQ COMMITTEES
So who needs a
committee to tell us what to do about Iraq? Committees are a waste of
time. Unless they are appointed to rubber-stamp the dictates of the top
dog, the best they can do is reach a "consensus." That means
compromising on what really ought to be done. Who was the sage who
defined a committee as "a bunch of people meeting for hours while only
one of them takes minutes?"
GIVE IRAQ THE WHEREWITHAL TO DEVELOP WEAPONS OF MASS
In one ingenious stroke we can cool the Iran
crisis by restoring a balance of power in the Middle East. Once Iraq can
wave the big nuclear stick in Iran's face, Iran would then begin talks
with any nation who will listen. The Bush Administration hawks, now de-
feathered and without talons, could also take some "we told you so"
solace. Israel needn't worry because a nuclear attack on this
nation—smaller in size than New Jersey—would also devastate
large sections of the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and possibly
Egypt as well. They are the ones to worry about Iran.
IRAQ'S OLD BRITISH NAME IS MORE APPROPRIATE
Just remember that Iraq was never a nation. It's a ‘place', with deep
internecine hatreds among the Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, Sheikhs and
assorted warlords and Imams. Rename it, but this time we must use the
correct spelling: "MESS-UP-O-TAM-IA."
PAGING MATA HARI
Recently, while performing my
daily ablutions and futile grooming ritual, I heard on WINS (the all-
news station serving the New York metropolitan region) that the next
segment of news was being sponsored by the CIA. At first puzzled. I then
recalled a pleasant experience when my wife and I dined at an on-campus
haute cuisine restaurant operated by the Culinary Institute America in
Hyde Park, N.Y. "How nice," I thought, "the Institute is introducing the
listeners to its five eating establishments open to the public."
But no, it wasn't that CIA–it was the CIA. America's
most covert organization was openly recruiting on the airwaves. Good
pay, plenty of promotion possibilities, interesting assignments, serving
your country, etcetera, etcetera. The 30-second pitch ended with the
assurance that the CIA is an Equal Opportunity Employer. However, I bet
that if you received an A or B in the college course "Torture 101" you
will most likely get a preferred rating on your application.
JEALOUS OF TOXIC BELL
There is a timeworn maxim
among veteran Broadway and Hollywood press agents: "Don't worry whether
the stories about you are good or bad–-as long as you get your name in
the paper and they spell it right."
Would that consolation still be valid for Taco Bell? Sure thing!
Here's why. As each once-tainted Taco Bell outlet is reopened, it bears
an official looking message in the window saying that the store has been
thoroughly inspected and certified by health officials as meeting health
standards. What a relief for the consumers! They will flock back in
droves, unsure and tentative about competing fast food places. Do
McDonald's or Wendy's have reassuring signs in their windows? Better be
safe. Go to Taco Bell.
It would be no surprise if the chain food outlets began to feature
"Bacterium du Jour" dishes. MacDonald's is reportedly introducing
"Chicken McColi" as a come-on; Burger King, not to be outdone,
will be featuring a "Bacillus Burger" (regular and whopper size).
The Olive Gardens will be plugging new Italian seafood special –
"Salmonella Surprise"—and the Tavernas, following suit,
will be coming up with a traditional Greek dish,
This Spring, don't be surprised if you stop off at your favorite
Starbucks and find "Latte Lysteria" posted above the counter. One
caveat: it will cost $6.25 for a Grande.
HELP! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!
By Herb Dorfman
If you haven't been to an emergency room lately, your conception of
it is probably something you saw in a television drama (like, for
example "ER"). . You know the scene. The ambulance screeches up to the
door of the ER, the back of the ambulance opens, and out comes a
stretcher with two EMT's pulling it and with the patient already
attached to an I-V! A doctor and two nurses rush out of the ER asking
technical medical questions ("What was his PT-GT? Did he have a
pluglet," and so on. The patient is wheeled right into the examination
area where brain surgeons and podiatrists are waiting to go to work on
him. And then someone says: "We got to him (her) just in time. Another
fifteen minutes and it would have been too late!".
Alas, dear Vanguard friends, one learns sadly that the ER should not
be called ‘emergency' – but rather ‘eventually." Here's my
A few weeks ago, with the help of wife Esther who drove the car, I
was driven in a frenzy to the Emergency Room of Lenox Hill Hospital in
Manhattan. The problem was in my legs, making it hard to stand. In fact,
if I tried to stand I would fall straight to the ground. Esther drove to
the ER entrance where I was met (via a telephoned request) by an orderly
with a wheelchair. I managed to crawl into the wheelchair but my
suspicions should have been aroused when the orderly didn't know how to
unfold the foot rests. "Can you hold up your feet while I wheel you in?"
he asked. When I explained that that was precisely the problem – I
couldn't control my feet! — he looked clueless. He looked around
for help! Fortunately, a nurse going off duty stopped and showed him how
to do it – in about three seconds.
Then I was wheeled into an interview area and then into the main
emergency waiting area. That was about 12 noon. I then spent about eight
hours in emergency. Did I say just me? There were about sixty of us, and
every time I looked around, no one seemed to have left the scene.
Gradually, a small rebellion was born. The waiting alone was unbearable.
Even more gruesome was that some people who waited for hours and hours
were in real pain – and several were bleeding!
While we were waiting, there was a change of shift – new doctors, new
nurses, even new handymen. So, of course, there were new interviews.
Once again most of us answered the same questions, showed again where it
hurt, and were again told we would be taken care of "soon". Since every
patient was accompanied by at least one family member (usually more than
one) the crowd was huge. And those family members were scurrying around
asking anybody in a white gown ‘how long will it be?' "Soon".
After about eight hours, I realized that my legs were sturdy enough
to stand on and I could walk. Not so fast. The one thing they did do
while I was there was to take some blood from me and run it through the
computer. They didn't like some of the numbers they saw. So now the
reason I came to the emergency room in the first place – I couldn't
stand up — became completely irrelevant! I was moved from the ER
to the hospital, where I spent 3 1/2 days while they took a bucket of
Fourteen hours after I came to the ER, they decided to put me in a
hospital bed. Okay, I'll give the hospital itself some credit. They did
But thank God it wasn't an emergency.
AFTER SIX YEARS A STATUE AROSE IN
By Stan Isaacs
(Stan Isaacs, a Vanguardian, recalls that he often cut
classes at Brooklyn College to go to Ebbets Field to see Jackie Robinson
in that historic 1947 season. Isaacs had a nearly 40-year career at
Newsday as a sportswriter, columnist and sports editor before retiring
Pee Wee Reese was the heart and soul, the guts of the team that came
to be known, courtesy of Roger Kahn, as "The Boys of Summer." The
Dodgers of Reese, Jackie Robinson, Carl Erskine, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider
and Roy Campanella played together for almost a decade. The tone of
class that endeared them to Brooklyn fans was set by the actions,
demeanor and soft-toned wry approach of Reese.
Anybody who covered that team adored Reese, who came to Brooklyn in
1940 and was the leader of the team through 1957 and for a year after
that when the Dodgers had skedaddled to Los Angeles.
I covered the Dodgers on and off for the Daily Compass and Newsday
from 1949 until they left Brooklyn. The last time I saw Reese was at
Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame ceremonies inducting Bill Veeck. Seeing
him there with his son Mark, the documentary film maker, I had an odd
thought and timorously approached Mark to ask him something.
I said, "All of us who covered the Dodgers loved your father.
Sometimes, though, a person who was a beloved public figure, would be
regarded quite differently by his family. Was your father the same kind
of person to you as he was to the public?"
Mark Reese considered the question, paused, looked at me and said,
I thought of that meeting when I was driving off to the St. Patrick's
Church in Brooklyn on a summer day in 1999, thinking about what I would
say as a speaker at a memorial for Reese, who had died, August 14. It
occurred to me that there ought to be some memorial for Reese in
Brooklyn. I felt, though, that the practice of naming a highway for a
ball player was no great thing because we would hear discouraging
morning traffic reports about there being a breakdown on the Jackie
Robinson parkway or slow going on the Joe DiMaggio West Side
For all his 16years as a solid ball player with the Dodgers, the
thing that stood out most about Reese was his befriending of Jackie
Robinson. This was personified by his action on May 13, 1947 when he
made a gesture of friendship to Robinson when Jackie was being pilloried
by Cincinnati fans and players, probably during pre-game practice at
Reese, a native of nearby Louisville, quietly walked over to Robinson
and put his arm around Jackie. In a biography by Arnold Rampersand,
Robinson was quoted as recalling the incident this way: "Pee Wee kind of
sensed the sort of helpless, dead feeling in me and came over stood
beside me for a while. He didn't say a word, but looked at the chaps who
were yelling at me and just stared. He was standing by me, I could tell
The hecklers ceased their attack.
There are no photos of that incident. But Lester Rodney, the sports
editor of the Daily Worker, made that trip out west with the Dodgers and
he recalled seeing it. "It was quick," he said, "and I thought it was
typical of Pee Wee." Rodney , now 94, retired in Walnut Creek, Calif.,
does not remember if he wrote anything about it.
Reese, ever modest, said his nomination to the Hall of Fame probably
stemmed from that incident rather than his feats on the ball field.
Certainly, his plaque at Cooperstown notes his role in befriending
All this prompted me to suggest that a proper memorial for Reese
would be to cast a statue of that action. The suggestion was picked up
on a Mets telecast that night, then Jack Newfield, a great muckraker,
took up the cause and wrote some strong columns urging the city to erect
such a statue. This goaded Mayor Rudy Giuliani into action, and
philanthropist Ted Forstmann put up seed money to get the project
So it was that a sculptor, Williams Behrends, fashioned the winning
model for the project that was unveiled at New York's City Hall the
morning of Sept.11, 2001. While the meeting was in progress, the sounds
of the second terrorist plane hitting the Twin Towers reverberated in
the room, and all activity stopped. The incident stalled the project for
some time until new Mayor Michael Bloomberg advanced the cause.
A total of 1.2 million dollars was raised by sports, civic figures
and the pennies of school children. This led up to a lovely, crisp
morning Nov. 1 outside the ball park of the Mets' farm team, the
Brooklyn Cyclones in Coney Island, where the statue was unveiled.
The wives of the ball players, Dottie Reese and Rachel Robinson, were
there along with their children. The son, Mark Reese, spoke eloquently.
He said, "My father had done his own soul searching. He knew that some
fans, teammates, and yes , some family members didn't want him to play
with a black man. But my father listened to his heart, and not to the
Dottie Reese said, "Pee Wee thought nothing of it. For him it was a
simple gesture of friendship. He had no idea that it would become so
significant. He would be absolutely amazed. I just wish he were here
I wish Jack Newfield were there, too. He died last December, and was
represented by his widow, Janie. Jack wrote those columns and he, union
activist John Turciano and I, having retired from Newsday, did some
behind-the-scene needling of the mayors' people to keep the project
alive. Newspaper pieces by Vic Ziegel in the Daily News, Joe Gergen and
Bob Keeler in Newsday and Bob Lipsyte and Frank Clines in the New York
The theme of brotherhood dominated the inspirational proceedings of
the unveiling of the statue. School kids, dignitaries, old Dodgers and
enthusiastic old Dodger fans were among the crowd of more than 300. The
cacophony of the inimitable Brooklyn Sym-phony band enlivened the
The mayor's people were generous in giving Newfield and me our due.
And friends were lavish in their praise. Among others I treasure the
comments of Marty Appel: "You left a fantastic legacy," and Larry
Merchant: "It's a monument to you, too, for a lifetime of good
I would urge anybody visiting New York to enjoy two splendid statues:
Eleanor Roosevelt at 72nd Street and Riverside Drive in Manhattan; and
Pee Wee Reese with his arm around his friend Jackie Robinson in Coney
Island. As Lonnie Wheeler of the Cincinnati Post wrote, "It stands
eight-feet tall, about two feet shy of the height at which a guy named
Pee Wee towered on a great May night at Crosley Field."
From the Top to the Middle of the World
By Pearl Shaine Panes
It was in December, 1975. Jack and I and Sid and Evelyn Frigand, our
frequent traveling companions, exhausted from lack of sleep, dashed to
JFK through snow and sleet to catch a plane to Lima, Peru, where we
hoped to find the secret of life in the high peaks of the Andes.
The four of us were whisked to the VIP Lounge (courtesy, Sid) where
we were plied with booze and pretzels so we would not notice the time.
Sidney, who had the most stressful work to run away from (he was Press
Secretary to Mayor Beame) proposed a toast: "To our Shangri-La. May we
find it in good health." Shangri-La, Shmangri-La," countered Jack, the
group's self appointed emcee, "when do we eat?"
Indeed, the flight on Braniff Airlines was late. Multi stopes made
it feel like a milk train, as we landed in Washington, Miami, Panama,
Quito and finally, in the early morning, Lima. We spent 12 hours on
what was to be a 7- hour trip, but our brief stay at the Lima Sheraton
was a restfu break before flying to the town of Cuzco,15,000 feet in the
Andes, the jumping-off point to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
The flight over the Andes in a small plane was frightening. Ev and I
thought we would hit a mountain peak at any moment. (That same flight
crashed into a mountain a few years later.) It was a relief to land in
Cuzco at last. Only problem was we could hardly breathe. The high
altitude needed getting accustomed to. At the hotel, modest and almost
primitive, we were served coca tea and advised to avoid exertion.
The next morning we headed for Machu Picchu on a creaky train. As
it wound its way through the formidable green and black tinged peaks of
the Andes, bathed at the top in sun and snow, I was reminded of the
film "Lost Horizon" based on the James Hilton novel, with Ronald
Colman, Jane Wyatt, Sam Jaffe and Margo. This might be Tibet and the
way to Shangri-La, I thought. Would I turn into a horrid old woman like
Margo did when she left that magical place? I wondered.
Through the grimy windows of the train we saw real llamas grazing and
local Indians wearing tightly knit caps and smiling at us. They seemed
so happy. What was their secret? We realized later that they had free
access to the coca plants growing in the fields and most plentiful in
Peru and Bolivia. Pure cocaine is extracted from the leaf of the coca
bush. Wow! Drugs on the cheap!
The train went as far as it could. Then we boarded a minibus which
would take us higher into the mouintains to Machu Picchu, which means,
literally, "old peak." We seemed to be climbing forever, fighting to
beat the afternoon rain, hungry, tired, giddy from anoxea, burdened with
flight bags and cameras (it was not considered safe to leave valuables
anywhere) and wondering whether it was all worth it. When we reached the
ruins at last, the sight was stunning.. The vast expanse of terraces and
stone stood quietly in place as it had done for 500 years. The valley
below was deeper than any of us dared to look at. We could almost touch
the clouds as we proceeded to go terrace hopping among the ruins.
Yes, it was worth it. As I giddily breathed the rarified air, I
said,"When else in my whole life have I ever been on top of the
After a splendid guided tour, we made our way back to Cuzco. We were
so tired, even the Inca jokes didn't help (e.g. seeing Inca spots in
front of our eyes...) but we welcomed our strange dinner (Sid swore we
had Llama balls and rice) and went off to see the much touted Peruvian
dance recital in town. The troop performed many traditional
dances...the rain dance, the sun dance, the moon dance, the dance of
the potato, and so on. The music sounded the same for each dance and
each number resembled the other.
Back at the hotel, Jack noticed the leak in our bathroom plumbing and
said he'd have to report it in the morning, so we just collapsed in our
bed. Some hours later, Jack woke me and shouted, "Don't get off the
bed!" I put the light on and looked down at the floor, flooded with
water, apparently from the leaky bathroom. Our only source of heat was a
small electric heater on the floor at the other end of the room. A
literal electrolyte surrounded us. No concierge in that place...no one
to call. Then I saw Jack practically leap from the edge of the bed
(infantry training) and pull the heater's plug out of the wall. Then we
called Sid, who managed to find someone to come and rescue us and our
belongings and put us in what seemed to be the maid's room for the rest
of the night.
The next morning, we left for Cuenca, Ecuador, to stay with some
friends of the Frigands. Sid and Evelyn told us how distraught they
were at the prospect of having to tell our children the news if we had
indeed been accidentally electrocuted.
Christmas and New Year's was wonderful in Cuenca (details for another
time) and from there we stopped in Quito, Ecuador's capital. A brief
tour brought us to the equator, which passes through Quito. "Touristy"
though it was, with food and souvenir stands all about, it was a thrill
to straddle that latitudinal line with one foot in each hemisphere.
"Wow," I thought, "when else in my whole life have I ever been in the
middle of the world?"
A few weeks after returning home, Jack and I got a letter from the
hotel in Cuzco. The management offered us a credit of $11 toward our
next visit there. The Frigands were hysterical when we told them.
THE SEPTUAGENARIAN RELATIONSHIP
By Sheila Solomon Klass
In 2001, I found myself alone after forty-five years of marriage. My
husband had died suddenly. Devoted family, good friends, and daily
minutiae helped fill the ensuing months; nonetheless, alone was alone.
The pervasive silence of a home once shared with a beloved garrulous
companion oppressed me. Then, accidentally, fortuitously, I found the
perfect companion! Elderly, single folk playing Solitaire or
shuffleboard should pay close attention. I didn't need "JDate" or
"craigslist" or any outside agent. And yet, I am now half of a couple
till death do us part.
Reading this, you're probably thinking: she ought to have known
better than to get involved again, or someone set the old sucker up or
sold her a bill of goods. Why doesn't she take her medication more
regularly? Poor relic.
Save your sympathy.
On a fateful afternoon about four years ago, at the age of seventy-
four, I was captivated and I jumped' into this new relationship well
after the parameters of my life were fixed.
I did it uncertainly and the madness of the adventure initially
intimidated me. It was not easy at first. Our problems and misadventures
have been internationally, even globally mediated in Bangalore, in
Dublin, in Glasgow; nonetheless, we two have remained slavishly close.
Whither thou goest I will go, I have pledged resolutely.
Since we've been together, Mac's lusty greeting starts each day for
me. "You've got mail!" he shouts jubilantly. So what if it's only
wordsmith's word of the day? If I've got mail, I exist!
Only once before, in the 1960's, did I, the quintessential Luddite,
reluctantly allow myself to be lured into such a relationship, one that
almost immediately went bad. Then it was by a flashy red Volvo. Living
in Bennington, Vermont, I had to either learn to drive or
spend my days chatting with the chipmunks and academics. The
automobile and I immediately hated one another. It got so bad I could
hear the gears grind as I approached the garage. In that struggle for
power, I was no match. The car won. I spent two years in the woods
deconstructing with the chipmunks and the academics.
A half century later I am still mortally afraid to operate almost
any machine: a microwave, a VCR, a cell phone, a copier. I‘ve never
faced the window of a washing machine without having that sick inner
feeling that I will break it. Machines sense my terror and are
immediately hostile in return. At my advent, they collapse or jam or
shut down immediately. Alarms ring, locks freeze, elevators get stuck
and airplanes delay departure.
I've been an agonized hunt-and-peck typist all my adult life —
because a writer HAS TO TYPE even if she is mechanically challenged.
I've survived one Smith Corona and one Olivetti. Unable to memorize a
keyboard, I've sought and typed with determination, slathering buckets
of White Out accompanied by showers of expletives. Those typewriters
crashed, but I persisted, working slowly, repetitively, resentfully.
So — when I saw Mac go on line and perform, I immediately
recognized magic. My brain hummed the "Ode to Joy." I was smitten. Did
I dare? Not at first, but I was so incredibly tempted I sneaked a second
look and a third. I decided to risk a relationship. Naturally, I looked
on u as very tentative, an experiment.
With Mac came the promises of The Kingdom of Heaven: Magic erasure,
pagination, word-count, duplication, instant printing, various type
sizes, the miracle of email, easy editing, transposing blocks of prose,
encyclopedic information—the world literally at my fingertips.
I still approach each rendezvous thinking nervously. if only I don't
break it.... Everyone assures me I can't, but what do they know? My
children laugh at me for phoning to ask if my emails were received. And
for making long HOW TO lists so I'll remember how to. Still, Mac is ever
faithful and reliable. I know exactly how to get him to respond to my
touch. Generally, we get on quite well except on those terrible
occasions at two in the morning when the cursor turns into a rainbow
dervish and I am warned THE SYSTEM HAS QUIT and ordered to LOG OUT, and
the screen seems frozen. Then, if I keep my head and telephone into the
vast darkness of the world, some anonymous knowledgeable Olympian, some
guru, somewhere, a cybernetic wizard will calmly begin to talk my
When I am reprieved and released, usually thoroughly exhausted, I
gently put Mac to sleep and I sit before him, a humble supplicant
caressing my idol with affection, warmed, indeed embraced by the soft
aura of his night light.
I am so lucky to have found happiness in this complex relationship at
As the glow pulses steadily like a valiant beating heart, to me it
signals eternity — in print.
Sheila Solomon Klass is the author of sixteen novels and a memoir.
Her most recent book, co-authored with Dr. Perri Klass, her daughter, is
Every Mother Is A Daughter.
SCHOOL OF THE BIG SHOULDERS
By Josh Greenfeld
How do you mourn the death of a high school, especially one whose
interior or exterior you haven't seen in more than fifty years?. Do you
deliver a eulogy, write an elegy or requiem or go straight to a
When I read recently in the New York Times that Tilden, along with
four other large Brooklyn high schools was to be closed my first
reaction was to reach for my old high school year book. But then I
remembered that I don't have it, that my Tilden Yearbook long ago wound
up as ashes at the fraudulently advertising Seven Santini Brother Fire
Proof Warehouse. No great loss. Except in that Yearbook of the Class of
June ‘44 – if not in a humor column in the Tilden Topics, the school
newspaper – was the opening line of a light verse: School of the Big
The poet – yes, I confess to the attempt at parody that was more
larceny— was describing the building's wings. And thanks to a
memory, at once judicious and vanishing, I can dredge up none of the
lines that followed. Still there is much that I do remember of the high
table Tilden presented me as a 14-year-old. For the depression hired
faculty included Ph. Ds and lawyers and dedicated scholars in all
fields. And the multitude of courses they taught, for better or worse,
shaped my life.
My fourth term English Honors class, for example, was Journalism,
where the diminutive Paul Benov, banging away on the radiator, would not
only stress the four Ws but also warn that newspapering was neither a
business nor a profession but a game; in my fifth term English Honors
class an erudite and suave looking Edward Gold led discussions of plays
such as Antigone and Enemy of the People and Major
Barbara and showed by his own example that one could be socially
conscious and have aesthetic values, at the same time. Sixth term
English Honors was Radio and Dramatic Writing, taught by the statuesque
Marjorie Dykes, who later became the first Principal of the High School
of Performing Arts. I recall our using some sort of primitive hookup to
broadcast a feeble adaptation of Our Town from one classroom to
another across the hall. It may not have been much in the way of radio
but as we raced between the two rooms, it was all great fun.
I learned from my Latin teacher, Miss Mckelvie, a long-striding
Scotswoman who walked two miles each way to get to Tilden every day,
never to use the literal translation of
res—thing—because there always would be a better and
more precise word than "thing;" that, in fact, there always could be a
better word than the first one that popped into my mind on most
occasions if I had the patience to seek it out. Jules Kolodny, who
taught European History and later became Albert Shanker's right hand man
in the Teacher's Union, would slip in observations such as, "Sometimes
the only reason for a war seems to be that it relieves the tensions of
the peace," that have long stayed with me. And even in the staid Physics
Department, the Chairman, William Menzies, was not without an informing
sense of humor. Once on a test asked to identify Robert Boyle I wrote in
answer, "Propounded the well known Boyle's Law." But Menzies wouldn't
buy my fake. Instead, he annotated, "How well known is it known, Mr.
Greenfeld, if you don't know it?"
The Times piece written by the able Sam Roberts reminisced, not
surprisingly, about his own personal latter-day-than-mine Tilden
experiences. He pointed out that the more-or-less distinguished alumni
of Tilden included Sid Gordon, who later played for the Giants and
Leonard Garment, who later played for the Nixon Watergate legal team,
and Al Sharpton who now plays on any team that will give him a
microphone. But he failed to mention the one individual whose celebrity
for those of us who grew up in the big band era was a constant – and era
defining – experience. Helen Forrest, nee Helen Fogel, an early Tilden
alumna who sang with Artie Shaw ("All The Things You Are"; Benny Goodman
("The Man I Love"); and Harry James ("I Had The Craziest Dream" and "I
Don't Want to Walk without You.".).
And although East Flatbush Tilden was not part of the background of
literary biggies like Joe Heller and Arthur Miller as Coney Island's
Lincoln, its architectural blueprint sister school, on the Tilden Topics
newspaper contemporaneously with me (and Herb Stier) were Earl Ubell,
who after a stint at the Herald Tribune as a science reporter became a
TV weatherman and Alvin Moscow, who stopped off at the Times before
ghosting Nixon's Six Crises.
On Vanguard, of course, our high school identities were soon erased
— except perhaps for the Boys High Mafia — but Tilden, along
with the also sadly soon-to-be defunct Lafayatte was one of the factory-
sized high schools that fed largely to the Brooklyn College population
of our generation.
Frankly, I have no idea how the theory of replacing the big Tildens
with smaller community based high schools will work out. I do know I was
never "lost" in the corridors of Tilden – indeed, as I say, I think I
began to find myself there – and I suspect that the current faddish
educational ideas will change; they always do.
Meanwhile, although I never expected my own life span to exceed
Tilden's — I was born two years before Tilden and its big
shoulders — in my own hunched- over way I do derive no small
solace in the fact that while not everybody outgrows high school I have
managed to outlive mine.
RUPERT AND ME
By Myron Kandel
"This is Rupert Murdoch."
The voice on the other end of the phone line was clipped, but polite,
with a pronounced Australian accent.
"My good friend Clay Felker tells me that you write a good financial
column," he said. "I'd like to see some samples."
I had recently started a syndicated financial column with my former
Brooklyn College Vanguard and New York Herald Tribune colleague Phil
Greer. Titled "The Greer/Kandel Report," it was appearing three days a
week in dozens of big papers around the country, including the Chicago
Tribune, Washington Star, Miami Herald and Newsday, but it didn't have a
major New York City outlet. The Daily News had been interested in
running it, but said it had space for only 400 words, instead of the 750
we usually wrote. The Times didn't run any outside columns. So that left
the Post, which under Dolly Schiff, wasn't willing to pay any decent
money. But now, under Murdoch's new ownership, that might change, so his
call was welcome. Our syndicate, United Features, quickly sent him some
examples of our work.
Then we waited... and waited. Finally, an assistant to Murdoch called
and said the Australian press lord was so busy taking away New York
Magazine from his "good friend" Clay Felker that he didn't have time to
deal with our column, but would get back to us. A few weeks later we
received a letter saying that Murdoch had passed on our "application
for a job" at the Post to the proper authorities at the paper.
Phil, who had a short fuse, hit the ceiling. "We never applied for a
job," he yelled. "He called us about the column."
"Calm down," I said, "Our names ended up in the wrong pile, and it's
obviously a form letter."
I was right, and after awhile Murdoch's office called and asked me to
come in to meet him. In the meantime, several friends told me that
Murdoch had asked them to recommend a new financial editor for the Post
and they had mentioned me. I wasn't interested in that job, but I was
interested in selling him the column. I met Rupert in early February
1977, in a modest glassed-in office at New York Magazine. I entered with
a chip on my shoulder because he had wrested control of the magazine
away from Felker and other former colleagues on the Trib, where I had
been financial editor in its final years. But I did want the Post to buy
our column, so I tried not to show my resentment.
Murdoch got right to the point. "I'm looking for a financial editor,"
"I used to be a financial editor," I replied. "Now I'm a
"You can do both," he shot back.
Since I really didn't want the job, I had no compunctions about being
blunt. "I made my reputation on a classy paper like the Herald Tribune,"
I said. "I don't want to work on a schlock paper." In retrospect, it was
a pretty tough comment, but that was how I felt. Murdoch shrugged it
off, though, contending that the Post under his ownership would be a
responsible tabloid. He began questioning me about how I would run an
afternoon financial section. I was up on the subject because the
previous fall the two top editors of the Daily News, Mike O'Neill and
Bill Brink, had asked me to be the financial editor of their planned
afternoon edition, along with a commitment to run the column and provide
office space for Phil Greer.
"It's 90 percent certain," Brink assured me. But that 10 percent
carried the day when the circulation department of the News helped
torpedo the plan.
As we talked, not only about the paper but also about life and
politics in New York, I was impressed by Murdoch's intelligence,
curiosity and eagerness to learn about his newly adopted city. He was no
longer the one-dimensional ogre I had originally perceived him to be.
And the more I resisted his interest in having me head the Post's
financial department, the more appealing I seemed to become to him. (I
call it the reluctant-virgin syndrome). So the idea of taking the job
was no longer out of the question, especially when he agreed to give
Greer an office at the paper and run our column. I asked him how he
would react if I were to run a negative story about a friend of his. He
replied by saying, "I'll tell you what I told Dan Dorfman (a former
Herald Tribune colleague who had been writing an investigative business-
news column for New York Magazine). I told him I didn't care what he
wrote as long as it was accurate and fair."
Then Rupert paused, and said, "I told them the same thing at The
Village Voice (which he had acquired along with the magazine), and he
added almost plaintively, "but they don't listen."
Our meeting had lasted more than an hour, and I noticed a line of
people waiting to see him. I stood up and said, "When I came in, I had
no intention of considering the job, but now I guess we both have
something to think about."
"Sit down," he said. "How much do you want?" I replied that I really
didn't know if I would take the job, and would get back to him. But he
insisted, and the need to name a figure caught me by surprise. I didn't
know what Murdoch's parameters were, but then I had a sudden
"I don't know how you're paying, but you know who I am, what I've
done and what my ideas are," I said. I don't want to negotiate with
you. So just give me your figure, and I'll say yes or no. If it's not
acceptable, let's shake hands, and I hope we'll meet again."
He began scribbling some figures on a pad in front of him, finally
looking up and saying, "I'm going to offer you more than I expected,"
and he threw a number at me—one that was very acceptable, and more
than I expected (but I didn't tell him that).
"That's okay," I responded, and promised to get back to him within a
week. After talking to a number of people who knew Murdoch, and
consulting with Greer, I took the job. Rupert lived up to his promises.
He added more staff and space to the financial section, paid well for
the column, gave Greer and me a separate office to produce it, and never
interfered with my news judgment. And for awhile, he did try to make the
paper a respectable tabloid. But the Post soon began getting more and
more sensational, and I grew uncomfortable.
A meeting with the head of financial advertising sales brought this
situation to a head. He told me how, after years of trying, he had sold
a lucrative ad schedule to a major New York bank. It was a major
breakthrough, but after an ad or two appeared, the bank president's wife
berated him for advertising in such a sensational newspaper, and he
canceled the rest of the schedule. At the same time, the better
department stores continued to shun the paper.
That led me to meet with Murdoch. He listened closely and took
copious notes as I told him my feelings about the Post—its sports,
cultural, financial and op-ed sections were first-rate; Page Six was a
terrific innovation, and its reporters were sharp (the paper's political
bias in its news stories was not yet in evidence), but the sensational
direction of its first few pages were turning off potential readers and
quality advertisers. He said he was going off to Australia for a couple
of weeks and would talk to me again when he returned. I was encouraged,
but not especially hopeful.
While Murdoch was away, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, was seized,
and circulation soared, hitting 700,000 for five straight days, a record
for such an extended period. I liked that expanded circulation, but I
had the feeling that Murdoch would stake the paper's future on numbers,
not quality, And I was right.
When he returned, Rupert told me that the Post was on its way to a
million in circulation, and when that happened, those elusive quality
advertisers would have to come into the paper. I responded that I
disagreed, but understood his decision. "You've changed the ground rules
under which I came," I said, "and I feel I must leave." He thanked me
for my loyalty and hard work over nearly three years, wished me well,
and treated me generously when I left, at the end of 1979.
Soon after, I accepted an offer to become the financial editor and
one of the organizers of CNN and helped pioneer the coverage of business
news on television. After nearly 25 years on the air, I retired on March
14, 2005, my 75th birthday.
As a life-long journalist, I'm very unhappy with how Murdoch has
politicized the Post and the Fox news network. But despite frequent
requests to do so, I never became a Murdoch-basher. As a personal
relationship, the story of Rupert and me was a happy one.
[For the story of Mike Kandel's fascinating new project in
and for the state of New Hampshire, go to "Current
VARIATIONS ON THE BEAST
By Henry Grinberg
"Variations on the Beast," as many Vanguardites know, is the title of
my first novel, published at the age of 76, the writing of which was
interrupted for about a year of rehab after I had suffered a stroke.
Mercifully, even though I complain of lost mental brilliance (was I
ever brilliant?), I was able to pick up threads and plot lines and
finish the job. My task, as an unknown novelist, to discover a
publisher is a saga in itself. Happily, I was able to do so.
The novel tells the story of a brilliant orchestral conductor and
pianist during the Nazi era. Unhappily, the man is a dreadful human
being. I attempt to tackle the impossible question: how did the German
nation, so cultivated and law-abiding, manage to commit and countenance
We had a book launch last December 16th. About a hundred people
attended. I read, there was wine, and also a gratifying number of
I attach below two very enthusiastic reviews, one by Kirkus, the
other by Library Journal.
Since this is a barely concealed commercial message, if anyone is
interested in purchasing, it may be done so via the publisher's Web
KIRKUS DISCOVERIES, VNU US Literary Group,
What does it mean to be a mere fiend in a time of monsters? In any
other era, the life of Hermann Kapp-Dortmunder might have been just
another cautionary tale about the sins of hubris. In Variations on the
Beast, this gifted musical prodigy has been born into exactly the right
era—that of the Third Reich—to feed his monstrous arrogance
and narcissism as he rises to fame and glory. Told from Herr Kapp's
uniquely derisive point-of-view, the book captures his life over the
course of 11 episodes between 1917 and the end of World War II. Born a
bastard, the young musician stumbles into study under some of Europe's
great conductors in Vienna, Austria. Kapp's brusque nature pushes away
those who are trying to help him and enrages his competitors, but his
strutting potency, both musical and physical, helps him con and
manipulate mentors, friends and lovers. Kapp's ambition proves deadly
for Krisztina, his good-natured but eccentric girlfriend. When she
becomes pregnant, he abandons her. After she dies following a botched
abortion, the conductor is firmly committed to his bitter course.
Despite suffering from hysterical fits, Kapp is a slave to both his
ambition and his self-indulgence. His rise to prominence as the
generalmusikdirektor of Vienna's finest orchestra is assured when he
conducts Richard Wagner's Die Walküre, a performance that brings him to
the attention of the burgeoning National Socialist Party. Kapp changes
his name to the more refined Kapp-Dortmunder, rising alongside Hitler to
the heights of influence. By the time war breaks out, the conductor is
entrenched among Nazi leaders, including Goebbels and Göring, all the
while ignoring the sound advice of legendary composer Richard Strauss.
Grinberg succeeds in making the obsessive composer a convincing, if
deeply disturbing, character, and his questions about the behavior of
the "Good Germans"—those who reaped the benefits of Hitler's
machinations while ignoring the apparent atrocities in its
society—are valid; the intellectual curiosity makes the experience
of reading the book no less emotionally taxing. It all comes to an
implausible ending in which the maestro is simultaneously acquitted of
his crimes and permanently marked by them. A disquieting allegory for
the rise and fall of man, played out in the fractured soul of a
Edward Cone, NEW YORK LIBRARY JOURNAL, January 2007
An appropriate subtitle for this stunningly original novel would be
"A Study in Moral Turpitude." Grinberg recounts here the rise and climb
of Hermann Kapp-Dortmunder (who added the second name when he found out
that Kapp is slang for "condom"), who began as a young pianist in
a backwater of Austria-Hungary and rose to prominence as a conductor
during the German Nazi regime. Along the way he alienates almost
everyone he can't use to become one of the most unlikable protagonists
in recent fiction, with only his dazzling talent pulling him
The author peels off society's veneer and shockingly portrays the
poison of anti-Semitism that gripped Europe during the era. Cameo
appearances are made by the likes of composer Richard Strauss, conductor
Herbert von Karajan, Nazi bigwig Josef Goebbels, and the Führer himself,
lending depth and resonance to the tale.
The only question is, Why didn't one of the big houses snap this up?
Proof positive that we still need the small presses. Hats off to
Grinberg and to Dragon Press for giving us this book.
By Jewell Elizabeth Golden
(Formerly known as Jewel Kurtz and even as Hoops Kurtz,
Grandmother of 7)
I couldn't help noticing that one of the topics suggested for the
"Quadrangle" was something said by a grandchild. Well, how about a video
of a grandchild live and moving and sounding?
Here's Michelle Zimmermann, my first grandchild: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7442370971295163709&q=%22m
Actually, she is shown at Harvard as a member of the MIT debate team.
She is #1 in the country as a debater. Not being a scientist, like her
grandfather, I have no proof, but I do believe that her Vanguard roots
have something to do with this! All we did was debate all day long about
anything and everything or with Pres.G. or Dean M. or Dean B. Of course,
being a Romance Language major, when I wasn't draped over a staircase
or holding a candled wake, I debated all 'facts' that English or Poli
Sci or Journalism or History majors declared as true. And politics, if
it didn't have to do with 'puro castellano' or Andre Gide, Marcel
Proust, or Jean Paul Sartre I would attempt to tear apart any
So again we see the power of the Vanguard Mystique reaching into yet
another generation. We have spawned a member of the American
International Debate Team.
C'est mon histoire, et je vais le garder. Es mi historia, yes
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
If you'd like to comment on any of the offerings in Quadrangle, please address them to Lbeisenberg@aol.com with subject: "Quadrangle" and they'll appear on the website in the near future.