Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Big Gun - Rock Hill, S.C.

Sue and I have passed by an old abandoned American Legion Post in Rock Hill several times now. Each time we do I always mean to get out and have a closer look at the Vickers 6551-A anti-aircraft gun that sits outside of the old brick building. There are literally hundreds of such guns, cannons and the like displayed at the thousands of VFW’s and American Legions across the country. And I have always been fascinated with each and every one.

This one was most likely assembled from an original pre-war Vickers, and then outfitted with an automatic fuse igniter at a later date. The nameplates; or nomenclature; on the gun bear me out as far as the dates are concerned. The gun was manufactured in the opening years of the war, and then refitted in 1943. The latest plate affixed to the weapon bears the year 1943.

Most likely this gun came from duty on the Carolina coast after the War had ended. It probably did see some action, as the U-boats were only 10 miles off shore and sinking ships off Cape Hatteras on a regular basis at the time. These guns could fire at surface vessels as well as aircraft. 

When the war ended and the government found itself with a surfeit of weaponry, much of it found its way to the local VFW’s and Legion halls which dot the land. They make impressive markers. Actually, I would love to have this baby in the back yard. I know just where I’d put it, right off the brick patio on the lawn. Man, that would be something!

Here's picture of a fully manned and ready Vickers in the early days of World War Two;

And for more information about this weapon, which played such a large part in the war, go to;



Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday - Free PDF File

Rooftop Reviews is pleased to announce that there is now a full, chronological listing of every article posted here since March 29, 2009; which is the actual birthday of this blog. It runs about 69 pages long and grows longer with each day. Which; of course; makes it too long to post.

It runs the gamut from our first, non-illustrated book review of “The Sugar’s In the Bottom of the Cup”, a memoir set in San Francisco of the early 1900’s, and goes on to reviews of music, a 30 chapter auto-biography of myself, some short stories, poetry, a bit of politics, and everything you can possibly think of in between. There are even a few guest columnists in the mix, ranging from Stuart Sokol’s cab driver story to a few crew members reminisces of the Coast Guard  Cutter Cardigan, which used to sit in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, near where I grew up. I've interviewed a few interesting people and even made some close friends along the way. Not a bad job, though it doesn't pay well at all. As a matter of fact; it doesn't pay at all!

If you would like a copy of this list just e-mail me at robertrswwilliams@yahoo.com and I will wing a PDF copy of the index right back to you free of charge. I don’t expect many takers, but the offer stands. The next logical step is for me to begin the laborious process of creating an alphabetized Index, a task which I am not looking forward to. This table of contents is the start of that endeavor. With about 1700 postings; and some 5,000 pages of writing; to review, it will take a bit of time.

I never even thought that I would be doing this blog for a long period of time, and although it has a limited following, which is currently down to about 150 people a day, from 59 different countries, I have really enjoyed doing it. Sometimes I get ready to give up on it, but then I get an e-mail from someone who just read something I wrote months, or even a couple of years ago, which touched them in a special way.

I've had notes from the children of my elementary school teachers; and other people whom I’ve never met that ran across something I wrote about their parents, who owned a local store where I worked as a kid; and even some authors and a couple of bonafide stars. My all-time favorites are from Ernest Borgnine and Olivia DeHavilland, which are both framed and hang in my den.

At any rate, starting about the 10th of December I will be posting some of my favorite Christmas postings from the last 4 years. It’s mostly a collection of holiday movie reviews, some unusual Christmas music and a few assorted stories, including something new about my Uncle Irving and the Fat Man.

As always, it’s a pleasure to write these posts, and an even greater pleasure when you respond to something which I have written. So, keep the e-mails coming. I prefer them to comments as they allow me to be more expansive and personal in my responses. But, either way, I always answer each and every one. Remember, if you do comment anonymously I can only reply beneath your comment, so you have to check back.

Well, no matter how you may have landed here, thanks for stopping in. About 30% of the people who do find their way to this page return, and I look forward to their visits every day. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Heart and Mind


The following piece was written after hearing Rush Limbaugh rant that unless your Heart and Mind are in lockstep with one another, nothing concrete can ever be accomplished. I decided to explore that thought in a mathematical sense, using the old Postulate and Theorem approach. The following is a result of that exercise.

Postulate: That the Heart and Mind need be connected and in lockstep in feeling and thought in order to achieve coherent or productive thoughts and actions. (ie: Results)

Theorem: That a disconnect of Heart and Mind leads to inaction and internal conflict resulting in non-productivity, or worse, a wrong course of action, or even inaction.

Proof: (Actually I am going to disprove both the Postulate and the Theorem.)

The Heart and Mind are separated for a reason. One keeps the other in check and allows us to explore the Theorem in an objective manner. Each acts as a conscience to the other in order to “check” bad behavior or reckless actions based on errors of our own thinking.

For example: Raising kids. Your kid has wrecked the car – again.  You feel like killing him for it.  But, in your Heart you feel it is the right thing to do. Your Mind tells you no, it’s wrong, and therefore keeps your passion in check.

Conversely: You love your child and know, in your mind, the child needs to be disciplined. Your heart breaks as you do what is considered necessary to rear your child properly, though your Intellect tells you that you are acting in a responsible manner.

So, if your Heart and Mind were ever in lockstep there would be no checks or balances on your actions. Everything you say and do would be deemed; in your Heart and Mind; to be permissible; indeed, even necessary.

History is full of instances of this sort, and all were basically intolerant at best, and horrific in their worst incarnations.

Conclusion: Both the Postulate and the Theorem are wrong. The Mind and Heart, operating in tandem would preclude any real self-examination since the conclusion would have already been drawn that your actions are correct. You cannot lose an argument with yourself when your Heart and Mind are joined.

I suppose that if your Heart and Mind were united on a good thing, that would be an exception. But who can say that they can be trusted to label something good without any internal self-examination of the motives and principles involved in making a decision when it affects others? And isn’t self-examination, by necessity; a division of the Heart and Mind?

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Phil Spector" with Helen Mirren and Al Pacino (2013)

You’ve got to admire a movie about a person as famous as Phil Spector which begins by telling you it is not the truth. But then again, with Phil Spector, you just never really know anyway. The movie, written by David Mamet, is narrowly focused on the Mr. Spector’s first trial for the murder of aspiring actress Lana Clarkson. Helen Mirren plays his attorney in this highly imaginative, yet oddly engrossing film.

Shifting between the events of the trial and the personal life of this famous icon as the trial takes place helps the viewer to decipher the oddities of Mr. Spector’s thinking. The beleaguered attorney, who at first despises her client, finally comes to have a begrudging respect for his self-proclaimed genius.

David Mamet both wrote this film and directs it. He may have an agenda in getting Mr. Spector’s sentence reduced; or at least mitigated. He is currently housed at California Health Care Facility (CHCF), which is located in Stockton. He was sentenced to 19 years to life for the murder, which he still denies having committed.

The highly fictionalized film does manage to recall some of the juicier moments of a career gone awry. Al Pacino, who plays the infamous record producer, does a great job in dress and mannerisms, although his dialogue is pure Al Pacino. During the scenes in Mr. Spector’s home I kept expecting him to pull a machine gun from beneath his robes, yelling, “Meet my little friend!” But dialogue aside, the choice of Mr. Pacino to play this part was a very good one. He is built roughly the same as Mr. Spector and they actually do look alike.

You will have to get over the shock of Mr. Pacino changing wigs for almost each scene, but then again, that’s what Mr. Spector did in real life. Just look at his trial photos and you will see a vast array of hairstyles ranging from long ringlets to an outrageous Afro which would be the envy of Angela Davis in 1968.
Mr. Mamet has written some great dialogue in his attempt to explore the bizarre world of Phil Spector, recalling some of his finest moments, as well as his worst. Along the way he reminds the viewer of some of Mr. Spector’s greatest successes. From the Ronnettes and the Righteous Brothers, to his producing the Beatle’s album “Let It Be”, Mr. Mamet has painted a picture of a man who is at once seriously talented, and fatally flawed.

The only assertion which I can actually take issue with in this film is the claim that his production of the Beatles “Let It Be” made it a hit. It should be noted that the Beatles had already moved on to record their real last album, “Abbey Road”, in the summer of 1969; leaving the disastrous and unmixed recordings from the “Let It Be” sessions unfinished.

With the Beatles themselves disinterested in working on the album, their regular producer; George Martin; allowed it to be “farmed” out to Mr. Spector, who proceeded to overdub it with orchestras and tape loops. The only Beatle even involved in that effort was John Lennon, who was not at his best at the time. The album has since been re-released; produced by George Martin; with all of the excessive layering removed. It has been retitled “Let It Be – Naked.” 

And, speaking of naked, here's Phil Spector without his wigs.

Monday, November 25, 2013

JFK's Grave - January 1964

It was 50 years ago today that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was laid to rest. My family made the trip to Washingto, D.C. about 5 weeks after the assassination to pay our respects at the grave. There were still crowds waiting in line to see the grave, which was nothing like it is today.

This photo shows the grave at the time of our visit. The President's son, Patrick, who had been stillborn the previous August, is interred to the right in the photo.

The gravesite today is a concrete monument, which leaves you feeling disconnected, both from the man, and the events of his life and death. When I was there, the earth was still freshly turned, and the only thing separating the people from their fallen leader was a white picket fence.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Jack Ruby Shoots Lee Harvey Oswald Live on TV


If you were alive on Sunday November 24, 1963 then you have never forgotten the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby as it played out in real time across America. I was watching TV with my parents when the transfer of Lee Harvey Oswald was taking place. I guess that everyone was doing the same thing. This was live TV at a time when we had just one satellite.

This film is a bit different from most of the other clips you might be seeing of the event. It seems to have been taken from a slightly different angle than the others, showing Jack Ruby emerging from screen right more clearly than some of the others. In most of the still photographs you only see a vague blur in place of Jack Ruby. He is obscured by the others in the crowd. In this clip you can actually see Ruby gut shoot Oswald.

The three days beginning Friday November 22nd, 1963 with the President’s shooting; and ending with his burial at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday November 25th, are days which can never be forgotten by those who were alive at the time. I remember thinking that I was living through history. I was 9 years old and a big fan of Abe Lincoln, so I could not escape the magnitude of what was happening.

But nobody expected to see Jack Ruby kill Oswald on live TV. Later on, of course, we found out that Ruby was present at the press conference on Friday at the police station where Oswald was held. He was even there for the press conferences which included Oswald, almost as if he were just waiting for the chance to shoot him. On Sunday, November 24, 1963, either in emotional distress; or by design; Jack Ruby got his chance.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Lee Harvey Oswald - Midnight News Conference 11-23-1963


There is one thing which has puzzled even many skeptics over the last 50 years concerning the assassination of President Kennedy, and the subsequent killing of the suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald. That is why he was paraded; literally; in front of reporters in a hallway, and later on in a conference room at which Jack Ruby was present? At that conference Mr. Ruby even offered a correction to a question about the Fair Play for Cuba movement.

When people are accused of a high profile crime; even back then; they were secluded for two reasons. The first is that you really don’t want the trial to begin de-facto on TV, which raises the possibility of a mistrial later due to a tainted jury pool; and the second reason is that you don’t want some nut job killing the suspect for any reason at all.

In the case of Lee Harvey Oswald, he was paraded 3 times before the news media, and even allowed to give a midnight conference with TV reporters. The full footage of that conference is not on You Tube, so I have used the hallway footage to illustrate my point. Why was this man placed in front of the public at all?

The answer is patently simple. They wanted him dead. Look at who was in charge in Dallas at the time of the President’s murder? The Mayor was Earle Cabell, the brother of Charles Cabell, the CIA director who had been fired after the disaster at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Every-one else was subservient to this man. At stake was the fate of the Oil Depletion Allowance, which resulted in some very powerful people, all of whom had ties to the Intelligence Community, the Oil Industry and Army Intelligence to actually be involved in the President’s motorcade route when he was killed.

Deputy Police Chief George Lumpkin was driving the lead car. Lumpkin was the friend of Jack Crichton, who was a member of the Army Intelligence Reserve Unit. Lt. Colonel George Whitmeyer, who commanded all of the Reserve Units in Texas, was in the car with him. He was not on the approved list of people riding in the motorcade and basically forced his way into it by virtue of his rank.

When the pilot car passed the Book Depository he instructed Mr. Crichton to stop the vehicle so he could relay instructions to the Dallas Policemen who were handling traffic at the corner of Elm and Houston. It is not known what the nature of that conversation was; only that it was conducted by a man with ties to the military and the CIA who should not have even been there at all.

The links go on and on; but the central question will always be why was Oswald paraded before anyone at all in the less than 48 hours he would be in custody before he was murdered by a man known very well to the Dallas Police Department? Remember that when Oswald was shot, one of the detectives handling him cried out, “Jack, you son of a bitch!” That footage will be posted tomorrow.

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK - A Very Special Window

I am one of the many people who have never given up on the search for who killed John Kennedy. It is one of my favorite "parlor games." In a way I hope it is never solved as it would deprive me of a lifelong hobby. I was 9 years old when Kennedy was killed in Dallas. It was a major event in my young life.

Recently- about 4 years ago- a window purported to be the one Lee Harvey Oswald fired from, was offered for sale on E-Bay. The price went as high as $3 million dollars! But, even more intriguing is the fact that the buildings owner, oilman D. Harold Byrd, had the window removed shortly after the assassination and framed in his office. This begs the question;

Who is D. Harold Byrd? And what is his connection to the Book Depository?

In May 1963 when the planning for the President's Dallas trip began, Mr. Byrd purchased the Sexton Building and renamed it the Texas School Book Depository. Sounds like the school system owned it. But in fact it was a private company owned by Mr. Byrd, who was, as I have already stated, an oilman who was no fan of the president. With the Kennedy administration hammering away at the Oil Depletion Allowance; which is still in effect today; Mr. Byrd stood to lose millions of dollars if the allowance were terminated.

The Sexton Building sat on one of the routes necessary for the President to reach his destination at the Trade Mart. The other route was around the corner, and changed at the last minute. The Convention Center had already been booked for November 22nd by Pepsi-Cola for their annual meeting, during which they would be discussing the shortage of sugar due to Castro's continued hold on Cuba, which they blamed on Kennedy's policies concerning the island, and the increase in the price of sugar which was cutting deeply into their bottom line.

Mr. Byrd was also the founder of the Civil Air Patrol- the group that links Oswald and David Ferrie to JFK's murder. Mr. Byrd was a former employer and partner with George DeMorschildt, the man who, along with his wife; and later with Ruth Paine; befriended Oswald in Dallas in the days leading up to the assassination.  And, both were connected to George H.W. Bush, President of Zappata Offshore Oil. Zappata is the entity that "donated" the million dollars demanded by the Watergate Burglars to ensure their silence in the wake of the Watergate Burglary, which toppled the Presidency of Richard Nixon.

6 weeks prior to the assassination of JFK, and only a few weeks after Mr. Byrd had the building opened for operation, Lee Harvey Oswald was steered to the job there by Mrs. Ruth Paine, who was an acquaintance of Mr. Byrd's. Coincidence? Probably not. The chances of ever really knowing the truth are probably slim to none. But the story of Mr. Byrd, and his purchase of the window from the building he owned at the time of the murder of JFK, smacks of a man who wanted a trophy of sorts from one of the most shocking deeds of the 20th century. At any rate, it's food for thought.

Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal in 2009 about this window; and another one; which was also removed from the Book Depository. It seems that there is some speculation about which window is the real window. The article makes interesting reading, as it underscores just how much of an impact JFK's assassination had at the time, and the fascination which it still holds today, 50 years after that day in Dallas.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Little Margaret" - Sheila Kay Adams (1982)


You never can tell where you might run into music. In this case I ran across the name of Sheila Kay Adams while reading about the murder of a young VISTA volunteer in Marshall County, North Carolina. Curious as to who she was I went to You Tube to find out. This was the very first thing I watched and listened to.

North Carolina is rich in mountain music and folklore. Ms. Adams has spent the better part of her lifetime chronicling that culture and keeping it alive. In this film, from You Tube; of course; Ms. Adams is singing a sad mountain ballad to a group of children. I’m sure that some people will find the song inappropriate for children, but it speaks to the history of mountain culture more than anything else. This kind of singing and storytelling is the backbone of what Ms. Adams does.

Ms. Adams is also a skilled “claw hammer” style banjo picker and composer, and her agility and expertise with her own “drop thumb” style of playing have won her much acclaim. She has been featured on NPR’s “The Thistle & Shamrock” program with Fiona Ritchie.

According to the information on Wikipedia, as well as her own website; which is listed below; Ms. Adams hails from the town of Sodom Laurel, located in Madison County, which is near Asheville. She comes from a long line of traditional storytellers and balladeers. 

She has actually learned; and promulgates; the Irish, Scottish and English versions of just about every ballad that arrived in our country from the late 1700’s and on. As such, she is the repository for much of the culture which unites us all as the pioneers our ancestors once were. In today’s world of division, this is an awesome achievement.

Please take the time to visit Ms. Adams web site at;  http://www.sheilakayadams.com/

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Act Together" - Ron Wood (1974)


The Rolling Stones needed a new guitarist when Mick Taylor left the band in 1974. And what a fit they found when they took in Ron Wood. Although he would not become an “official” member of the band for a few years, his style influenced the Rolling Stones to such an extent that the Rolling Stones of today is almost indistinguishable from some of Mr. Wood’s earlier work on his 1st solo album “I’ve Got My Own Album to Work On.”

In this live video; colorized at a later date; Ron is joined by Keith Richards for this great performance of “Act Together” from Mr. Wood’s solo album. Notice that Keith Richards is playing the piano for this one.  Mr. Wood and Mr. Richards later combined their talents in a group called The Barbarians; or, as they have become known; the First Barbarians; as the group had a couple of different incarnations.

Keith Richards vocals are almost identical to Ron Wood’s. They harmonize vocally as well as they weave their guitars while playing for the Stones. It’s no wonder these two got along so famously.

If you really want to read about how the two met and blended their musical abilities read Keith Richards incredible autobiography “Life.” The sections dealing with the making of Mr. Wood’s solo album; with a little help from his friends; is a great insight into how the Stones sound evolved from the more “poppish” musical genre into the cutting edge band which it still is today. This video is a great place to start.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Hail Columbia" - Our First National Anthem


For years I thought this song was called “Rally Round the Liberty Tree.” As a child I always heard that extra word in the chorus, and somehow it became the title in my mind. It wasn’t until I was watching the mini-series on John Adams that I noticed that the words were wrong. That’s a joke- I mean that I had the words wrong.

I love the Star Spangled Banner; especially the history behind the writing of it; but sometimes when I think about it, and realize that it wasn’t our National Anthem until 1931, I find myself looking back at songs like “Hail Columbia” and “America the Beautiful” and wonder how it was that we didn’t have a National Anthem sooner than we did.

But, as much as I prefer “Hail Columbia”, simply because it was written at the time of our nation’s birth, rather than some 25 years later at the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812, I would never change it. How would we ever play baseball without it? Can you imagine, even for a moment, 70,000 people or more, singing “Hail Columbia” before the game? 

That being said; let me briefly make the case for “Hail Columbia” as the true National Anthem. First of all, it was widely considered to be the National Anthem up until the time that “The Star Spangled Banner” was designated as such in 1931. The song is wholly American in composition, unlike the “Star Spangled Banner”, which was written by Mr. Key as a poem and later set to an old British air.

By contrast, Joseph Hopkinson wrote the poem, which was added to Phillip Phile's music. Both were Americans; one an immigrant and the other native born. Joseph was the son of Francis Hopkinson who was personally known to General Washington from the War for Independence. This allowed him to send the words and music to Washington in 1798. The lyrics were the same as the General had heard at his first inauguration in 1789, but this time the music was different. The original title had been called “The President’s March” but was now billed as “Hail Columbia” due to a change in the words by Mr. Hopkinson.


Just as with the “Star Spangled Banner” there is an interesting “backstory” here as well. It involves an actor named Gilbert Fox, who wanted to find more rousing lyrics to go with the “President’s March.” He had chosen the song for the debut of a benefit concert; I bet you thought that sort of thing began with Bangla Desh; which was only days away. The concert was undersold and slated to be a losing proposition unless he could come up with something new and exciting.

On a Sunday afternoon he went to see Judge Hopkinson and asked for his help in composing a new set of lyrics. When the actor returned the next day, the song was finished.

Mr. Fox was able to open his show on time, the following Wednesday April 25, 1798 at Philadelphia’s New Theatre. The song was a show stopper, calling for 12 encores, with the audience quickly learning the words and joining in on the chorus. This was clearly a song of the people.

The scene above, from “John Adams” is pretty much true to life, as only a few nights later, President Adams and some of his cabinet; then based in Philadelphia; caught the show.

Interestingly, the song has survived as the entrance march for the Vice President of the United States, and is played whenever he leaves or arrives, much as "Hail to the Chief" is for the President.

“Hail Columbia” by Philip Phile/ Joseph Hopkinson

 Hail Columbia, happy land!
 Hail, ye heroes, heaven-born band,
 Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
 Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
 And when the storm of war was gone
 Enjoy'd the peace your valor won.
 Let independence be our boast,
 Ever mindful what it cost;
 Ever grateful for the prize,
 Let its altar reach the skies.

 Firm, united let us be,
 Rallying round our liberty,
 As a band of brothers joined,
 Peace and safety we shall find.

 Immortal patriots, rise once more,
 Defend your rights, defend your shore!
 Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
 Let no rude foe, with impious hand,
 Invade the shrine where sacred lies
 Of toil and blood, the well-earned prize,
 While offering peace, sincere and just,
 In Heaven's we place a manly trust,
 That truth and justice will prevail,
 And every scheme of bondage fail.

 Chorus

 Behold the chief who now commands,
 Once more to serve his country stands.
 The rock on which the storm will break,
 The rock on which the storm will break,
 But armed in virtue, firm, and true,
 His hopes are fixed on Heav'n and you.
 When hope was sinking in dismay,
 When glooms obscured Columbia's day,
 His steady mind, from changes free,
 Resolved on death or liberty.

 Chorus

 Sound, sound the trump of fame,
 Let Washington's great fame
 Ring through the world with loud applause,
 Ring through the world with loud applause,
 Let every clime to freedom dear,
 Listen with a joyful ear,
 With equal skill, with God-like power
 He governs in the fearful hour
 Of horrid war, or guides with ease
 The happier time of honest peace.

 Firm, united let us be,
 Rallying round our liberty,
 As a band of brothers joined,
 Peace and safety we shall find.

Monday, November 18, 2013

"Met Her On the Mountain" by Mark I. Pinsky (2013)

When VISTA volunteer Nancy Morgan arrived to Madison County, North Carolina in 1970 she believed that she could make a difference in the lives of the working poor who lived there. And, to some extent she did. By most accounts she was a friendly and outgoing young woman who was determined to do what she could to help in the War on Poverty. Her future plans after her stint with VISTA involved obtaining her nursing degree and returning to Madison County to provide health care to the people who lived there. It just didn't work out that way.

One night in June, as Nancy was headed home to her cabin next door to the grocer’s, she was apparently abducted, raped and killed. Her body was left; bound; in the backseat of her government issued Plymouth, where it was found several days later by a passing motorist answering the call of nature.

What followed was one of the most botched investigations imaginable, with local law enforcement competing with the FBI for clues to solve the killing. The body was left on Federal land, and should have been a Federal crime scene from the beginning of the investigation until the last. Even local politics played a part in not solving the case of Ms. Morgan’s murder. The case is still unsolved as of this writing.

Social attitudes were also a sticking point in the investigation, with the more conservative local folks believing, in some measure, that Ms. Morgan was too sexually active. Books were found in her belongings concerning S and M. It was reported that she had several lovers in the area. It was even rumored that she was killed by a local woman, jealous of Nancy’s easygoing ways. None of these things were ever proven to have had a bearing on her murder. As a matter of fact, none of those things was ever proven at all.

The title of the book comes from the ballad “Tom Dooley”, which was actually written about a murder in Statesville, North Carolina. The author traces the roots of mountain violence back to the original settlers from Scotland and their clan wars. The violence was almost endemic there, and some of that culture did spill over into the Appalachian Mountain communities. The suspicion of outsiders also played a part in this true life mystery.

The most striking thing about this book is that the crime remains unsolved. The author, a VISTA volunteer, who although he never actually worked with Ms. Morgan, thinks he knows who killed her. Carefully culling everything known about the people with whom she dealt in Madison County, he pieces together a picture of good gone bad, and justice denied. This is a compelling book.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beech Nut Show (1958)


Nothing evokes memories of the 1950’s more than the tight harmony singing which was so popular then, or the appearance of Dick Clark introducing the public to music, as he does here on The Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. This particular performance was introduced by a forever young Dick Clark in the balcony of the theater from which the show aired on February 22, 1958.

The Chordettes are an absolute mainstay of the late 50’s. From their gowns and hair, right down to the innocuous songs, they are emblematic of the era.  Both "Lollipop" and "Mr. Sandman” are songs which have appeared in many movies; and memories; over the years. 

American Bandstand went through many incarnations after its beginnings in Philadelphia. In February of 1958 Mr. Clark was cast as the host of The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech Nut Show, which broadcast on Saturday nights at 7:30 from the old Little Theater in Manhattan. That theater is now the Helen Hayes Theater. The show aired until September of 1960. During the shows run, Mr. Clark was still hosting the American Bandstand in the afternoons in its usual dance format.

Although American Bandstand had been on the air in Philadelphia in some form or other for several years, it was not until 1957 when Dick Clark began hosting it that it began to make any traction. And even then, with a core audience of teenagers, it was being relegated to the rear in favor of other shows. The time allotted for each show was also changed several times over the years. At one point it was 90 minutes long; at other times it was cut to 60 and eventually even 30 minutes.

Dick Clark knew that this prime time show would fail simply because its core audience; teenagers and housewives; were engaged in other activities on Saturday evenings. But when it did, he simply went back to concentrating on American Bandstand, which, by 1960 had an audience of over 20 million viewers. In 1961 ABC shortened the show from 90 to 60 minutes, and by 1963 they were airing 30 minutes versions of the shows, which were now being taped 5 shows at a clip for the coming week. The airtime then was aimed at the after school crowd, broadcasting from 4-4:30 each weekday.

Just browse through You Tube and look at the many changes in American Bandstand over the years. They reflect the changes in our unique American culture. From the music to the way the audience dressed, these shows are time capsules of their era. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - A Walter Lantz Cartoon (1941)


In this classic cartoon from just shortly after the draft began in 1941, the Ray Price and Hughie Prince composition of the iconic song, which is mostly associated with the Andrews Sisters or Bette Midler, gets a full blown workout as a Chicago bluesman is caught up in the first round of the draft.

This cartoon was made just after the January 1941 release of the Andrews Sisters recording, which was featured in the Abbott and Costello film “Buck Privates.” That film also had an earlier composition in it called “Beat me Daddy Eight to the Bar” which is almost identical to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, but is about a piano player instead. But “Bugler Boy” must have hit a stronger, more major chord with the public, as it was even nominated for an Academy Award. (Pardon the puns.)

This is a very fun cartoon to watch, and in spite of claims about racial stereotyping. Walter Lantz did receive many complaints about the cartoon, some even from the NAACP, and eventually stopped doing the stereotypical characters altogether. He even went so far as to see that none of those cartoons which he had produced ever made their way to television; which is kind of a shame; as there are valuable lessons to be learned by viewing the mistakes of the past.

At any rate, enjoy the cartoon for the music and the fluidity of the animation, which are both great examples of the era in which they were produced. And, in spite of the “politically correct” crowd, are still enjoyable to watch today. 

And here are the Andrews Sisters performing the song in the movie "Buck Privates."


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Things Which Go Bump in the Night

I was sleeping through the cold snap the other morning when I kept on hearing these thumping noises coming from different parts of the house. Even the upstairs, and the staircase itself, seemed to be alive with strange thumping sounds, as if small objects of furniture were being moved about. “Hell,” I thought sleepily, “It can’t be much- maybe the wind.” With that in mind I rolled over and went back to my morning nap.

A little while later I awoke to the sounds of tickling laughter, which; I soon realized; was coming from the “music room” and I even detected a melody to the cacophony of sound emanating from that location.

Thinking back to the time I caught two of my guitars “nesting” in that same room, I fully expected that the two were at it again. But I wasn't prepared for what was in store when I entered the room! I wanted to laugh but realized that that would only encourage them to further antics, so I went in stern-faced. That is, I walked in backwards so as to give them some privacy. That’s a joke. “Stern-faced” and a ship- see what I did there?

Anyway, during the early morning hours when the temperature dropped a bit upstairs, the Washburn got cold and lonely; which explains the movement I heard from upstairs; and come down to visit with the Yamaha, drawing the attention of the Ashland, which happened to be nearby. Not wanting to be left out of anything, the Ibanez crept softly from my bedroom and joined them in what became a kind of pajama party for the instruments.

As with all parties involving young folks; all of the guitars are between 8 and 22 years old; things soon got out of hand when one of them decided to play with itself. This caused the others to chime in and soon those efforts resulted in that cacophony of sound which I spoke of earlier.

“What the hell”, I thought, quickly losing my stern look. If they want to play, let ‘em. It’s probably good for them to get together without me every once in a while. I just hope they weren't making fun of me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Goodnight Mister Tom" with John Thaw (1998)

This is a truly wonderful film. During the Second World War, and the Nazi blitz of London, many of the children from all classes were evacuated to the country side in order to ensure their survival. William is one of those children. He has the misfortune of winding up; by default; in the home of “Mister Tom” Oakley, played by John Shaw with great depth and compassion.

Tom is an aging widower who has lost a wife and child during the First World War, when he was serving in the Royal Navy. He has spent his entire life grieving their loss, earning him a reputation around his village as a bitter man. When William is thrust upon him with no notice he at first rebels against the whole idea. But, with the war on he finds himself the victim of a mandatory order, and so must make the best of things.

As he struggles to get used to William’s presence he finds that the boy has been severely abused. He is also suffering from the effects of living in war torn London, with every noise frightening him. As Tom comes to know the boy better, they develop a trust with one another.

William’s mother recalls him to be with her in London, without official permission. Once she has the boy back with her she begins to exhibit the signs of religious fanaticism borne of the effects of the war and the arrival of another child, father unknown. She begins to beat William again, as well as neglect the baby girl, whom William has grown to love and tries to protect.

Meantime, back in the village, Tom has become lonely for the presence of the boy. It seems that they both really needed one another; each to escape their own demons. So, accordingly, Tom sets off for London to find the boy. What he discovers when he arrives shocks his sensibilities, and after being denied permission to take the boy back home, he kidnaps him, much to William’s delight.

But the day of reckoning comes and a struggle between the letter and the spirit of the law takes place. The winning side will decide William’s fate, as well as the future happiness of Mister Tom.

This is a beautifully crafted film, something the viewer has come to expect from the BBC productions and English cinema in general. This movie has been around since 1998, but its message never gets dated and the film remains as relevant now as it was when it was first released.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"American Epic" by Garrett Epps (2013)

I don’t often take exception with a book I have read. I either like it, or I don’t. The rare time that I do give a bad review to a book is usually a reaction on my part to some misinterpretation; or attempt at indoctrination; in a book which concerns history. This reaction is intensified when that book is about the United States Constitution. So, let’s just say that this book; while not an out and out misrepresentation; is, in my opinion, an attempt at indoctrination of the reader to the author’s point of view. And quite simply, that view is that the Constitution is flawed; and though it is never stated; the author seems to find it damaged enough to need replacing.

Whenever you read a book about the Constitution you should look for one thing immediately; the placement, or exclusion of the document about which the author is writing. If it is entirely missing from the book; as it was with Ray Raphael’s “Constitutional Myths”, which I reviewed here earlier this year; then you know something is wrong, as the author doesn't want you to see the real document in question.  


The second way to keep people from diligently comparing what the author wants you to believe with the actual text in question, is to bury that document in the back of the book as part of the Appendix, as Mr. Epps has done here. This has the effect on the reader of reading the indoctrination portion first, then the actual document; which is now perceived to be “flawed”; afterwards.

Mr. Epps takes the Constitution apart Article by Article; Amendment by Amendment; telling us all what the founding fathers really meant to write. He even tells us why. I find this fascinating, that he; and only he; can divine the true intentions of the daring and learned men who risked it all to found our nation.

The rewriting of the Constitution as envisioned by Mr. Epps begins with the very first Article in the Constitution; well; actually before that when he claims the Constitution was forced upon the States without any input from the people. This is an absurd claim, bolstered only by small anecdotal stories which are not borne out by the outcome of history. This is the same reasoning which allows people to claim that the Constitution usurped the Federalist Papers; which were a temporary and imperfect way to govern our newly formed nation, though they did serve a purpose while the Constitution came into being.

Mr. Epps claims; in a very narrow reading of events; that the Representatives of the individual States had no idea that they were assembling to write a new Constitution. They were there to amend only the existing set of rules which pre-dated the Constitution. It was all a secret cabal; a plot of which no one was aware. Not even the legislators themselves. He would have you believe that it was all so hush-hush that when these representatives went home, and the Constitution was finally ratified by all the states, no one took notice of that change.

I’ll use just a few instances to outline what I perceive to be very narrow readings of the Constitution on the part of the author;

Page 22; paragraph 3 states that nothing in Article 1 Section 8 applies to the territories annexed after 1787. That’s right; he actually says that. I do not think a response, or criticism is in order here. Just take a trip to any state which has been annexed since that time and you will see that America is whole. We may not agree on things, but the country is governed, on the whole, by the United States Constitution. I think it would be hard to find many people who would dispute that.

Page 71; paragraph 4 quotes Article 4 Section 3 as stating “no new state shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the consent of the legislatures of the States  concerned as well as that of Congress.” He then moves the semi-colon and attributes new grammatical meaning upon the whole Article based on a very narrow reading of that semi-colon. Clearly, the purpose of the Article was to bind the Colonies together as one, without having the Northeast break away from the southern states at a time when dissolving our new democracy would have been disastrous.

This was also the basis for denying the right to leave the Union to the Southern States in 1861. Had the founding Fathers not included this Article there would have been no legal basis to keep the country whole and weather the storm of the Civil War. Wise men indeed were these founding fathers of ours. I suppose; according to Mr. Epps; that West Virginia does not have the right to exist; since it violates that Article. But that would be a very narrow reading; ignoring the fact that West Virginia left Virginia when Virginia violated that Article to become the capitol of the Confederate States.

I’m going to skip forward a bit, or else this review will be enormously long. On page 174 Mr. Epps finds what he perceives to be the first time the words “the Right to Vote” appear in the Constitution, as Part of the 14th Amendment. Technically this is true. But if you skip back to Article One Section 2 of the Constitution you will find that “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the people of the several states…” The italics are mine. The meaning is clear; the people shall chose; or vote; for their representatives. Of course the 14th Amendment was one of the so-called Reconstruction Amendments, composed after the end of the Civil War, but the difference in language aside, the intent is clear on both occasions; the people shall chose; or vote, for their representatives.

This was a difficult book for me to read and to review. The difficulty in reading it was due to the feeling that, in my opinion, this book was written with the agenda of undermining the people’s faith in the Constitution. The difficulty in reviewing it is that I dislike giving a bad review. This is probably only the 4th such one I have done in 5 years.

Don’t take me wrong; there is much going wrong in Washington, D.C. at the present time. With that assertion I cannot disagree with Mr. Epps. But the Constitution is not the problem. The problem lies with those people in power who ignore it, and abuse it for their own gain. The answer, therefore, lies in changing those people, and not the Constitution; except, of course, by Amendment.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Why We Fight" - Frank Capra (1942)


During the first months of the Second World War Hollywood Director Frank Capra; who had just released the film "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart: was serving in the Armed Forces when he received an unusual order. He was to be tasked with making films, which would explain to the American Public, just why we were at war and how we got there.

These were propaganda films, plain and simple. But the one difference between our films and those of our enemies was this; our films were made in reaction to the atrocities being committed in Europe and the Pacific. They were, in that respect, educational films. The Nazi's had been using film to vilify specific ethnic groups such as the Gypsies and the Jews, in order to facilitate political policies engineered for the destruction of those groups.

Some of our films, particularly the cartoons of the era, did depict the Japanese as savages. Although this was "painting with a broad brush", so to speak, again it was in response to an action undertaken by that group to begin with, and not a vilification for political or territorial gain, other than to redress the wrongful action of that group. The proof of this is in the treatment of our enemies after the war had ended.

While the other group was using propaganda in order to subjugate the entire world, we were using it as a motivation to stop that effort. Some may not see a big difference, but I do.

Today is Veteran's Day, a holiday which was originally called "Armistice Day" and created to honor those who fell in the First World War, which was billed as the "war to end all wars." All it really accomplished was to set the stage for the Second World War, which set the stage for Korea, Vietnam and the list goes on and on.

Take a little time today to talk with a Veteran about their service. Most are only too happy to share their experiences. Even if you; or even they; have not always been in agreement with what we have fought for, the men and women who have served, have all served with the best of intentions on your behalf. And, that may be the most noble service of all.

For the story of my Grandfather William Shone Williams and his time in the trenches during World War One, use this link;


Sunday, November 10, 2013

"The Fresh Vegetable Mystery" - Max Fleischer (1939)


It seems there is a never ending treasure trove of Max and Dave Fleischer cartoons which I have never seen. All I have to do is browse You Tube for them. In this classic from 1939 the vegetables have all gone to sleep for the night, with mama Carrot laying her babies to sleep on a bed of lettuce.

The Potato Cop has just left the potato sack Precinct and has a free beer form the mouse hole saloon before he begins his patrol. It isn't long before things start to go wrong on what should be an ordinary night.

Some of the vegetables have been menaced by what appears to be a giant cockroach and the Potato Cop is at his wits end. But, when the baby carrots fall victim to a kidnapping all hands pitch in to solve the crime, fearing the worst for the little ones.

In classic Fleischer form the mystery is soon solved and the answer to the puzzle concerning the giant cockroach is revealed. A very clever and fun cartoon, this offering is a good example of just how far the Fleischer studios were able to push the boundaries of imagination.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Night of Broken Glass

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York in the 1950’s and 1960’s was like growing up in the shadow of the Second World War. To know about the Holocaust is one thing, but to live amongst people who were affected by it; either by a friends family members, who were left behind in Europe and never made it through the war, or the many survivors; or refugees as they were known; who bore the blue inked numerical tattoo affixed to their wrists, was quite another. That tattoo identified them as survivors of the death camps, and these persons were revered, as they had looked death squarely in the eye and lived.

Today is the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass”. This photo shows the shock and fear on the faces of the little boy and his mother, prompting me to wonder if they were Jewish. Most likely they were not; as any sane person of Jewish heritage would have been indoors when this photo was taken after the first night of killing and burning had ended. But shock and fear know no ethnic boundaries, and these 2 people may just be reacting to the world having gone mad; seemingly in an instant; although the storm had been gathering since about 1933. Like Katrina in New Orleans, most people hoped the big storm would never arrive, changing everything.

The toll from the Night of Broken Glass was written up in terms of how many buildings destroyed, how many lives lost and the like. But all of those figures can never do justice to what was really lost in that night of Nazi fueled hatred. The 267 synagogues, stores, and homes destroyed that night at the direction of the Nazis, along with the vandalism of 7,500 Jewish businesses, and the killing of almost 100 Jewish people were just the tangible portion of the damage.

The events of November 9-10, 1938, while police and firemen stood by and watched; or turned a blind eye; signaled the selling of the German soul. And the judgment for that would be severe.

Kristallnacht marked the point of the Third Reich in which vulgar political rhetoric became vulgar acts of criminality. These acts would grow into the largest attempt ever made to annihilate any particular group of people. And that is the point of marking this grim anniversary. In our country today, we have so many hate groups, all engaged in violent and inhuman rhetoric. And that’s how it starts. With a bit of talk, leading people to become jaded in the face of veiled racism and prejudice.

And, what happens later, when it all spirals out of control? You wind up walking down a street scarred by once seemingly innocuous words; windows broken and holding your child’s hand in fear for the loss of everything you have ever known. Especially your own self-respect.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Frozen Ground" with John Cusak and Nicolas Cage (2013)

Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe, played by Nicolas Cage, realizes that something is drastically wrong when the department does nothing to investigate a series of murders which he considers related. All of the murders were of young women, mostly prostitutes, who were lured to “photography” sessions with the promise of several hundred dollars.  All were subsequently killed, over a period of years, and left in the frozen grounds outside of Anchorage. All, that is, but one.

Vanessa Hudgens plays the women who escaped, Cindy, only to be judged by the very police who were supposed to protect her. It becomes her word against their professional reputations, with the results being that justice is denied. Now, with the killer, Robert Hansen, played by John Cusak, looking for her; as well as her former pimp; she has nowhere to turn.

Jack Holcombe enters the picture with a sure fired conviction that these cases, although spanning a dozen years and at least 11 victims, are all connected and the result of one man; Robert Hansen. But proving it is difficult unless he can enlist the trust, and testimony of Cindy. She is, of course, reluctant to stick her neck out any further than she already has.

Based on the real life case of Robert Hansen, this film, written and directed by Scott Walker, will rivet you with its stark revelations of what depravity the human mind is capable of. Superb performances by all really seal the deal of this one, and make it a very tense and edgy drama.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rolling Back Voting Rights - Why?

Have you been wondering about the recent push in several states to roll back the Voting Rights Act of 1965? If not, you should be. Why on earth would anyone support taking away a right under the guise of its not being needed anymore? You have to wonder. Of course, there is an answer, and it’s not Voter Fraud. Let’s examine the history of why the Voting Rights Act was necessary in the first place.

On the surface it would seem to be all about the Right to Vote; and there is some merit in that thought. But the purpose; the need; for the Voting Rights Act went much deeper and exposed the more sinister forces against which African-Americans of the 1960’s were up against.

Racial Injustice was endemic in the South of 50 years ago. The worst place was in Mississippi, with the other Southern “Jim Crow” states coming in at a close second. The courts were manned by white judges and the jury pools were all lily white. No blacks need apply. As a matter of fact, since they could not vote, they weren’t even on the list for selection to serve on a jury. This meant that an African-American of the time would never face a jury of his peers, and therefore never receive equal justice under the law.

And that, in a nutshell, is what the current hullabaloo is really all about. Not the vote, but the administration of equal Justice in America. If allowed, the Conservative forces would have the Voting Rights Act repealed under the fiction that it is no longer necessary. But, don’t buy into it.

The truth is easy to see, and just as easy to manipulate. But, ask yourself these questions. If, as the Conservatives wish, the Act is repealed, what will be the effect upon the composition of jury pools in America in a few short years, as people find themselves falling off of the Voter Registration Rolls? What type of jury will you be standing before? Will they all look and think as you do? Or, will they be composed of people who are all different than you? And finally, would you be happy with that situation for yourself?

A lot of people gave a lot of time, pain and suffering to secure the right to vote for everyone. The photo above is evidence of that struggle. Those are Alabama State Troopers in action on Bloody Sunday; March 7, 1965 during the march from Selma to Montgomery. All of the people arrested that day stood before white judges and juries. How do you think that worked out for them?

So, don’t let the knee jerk slogans of Conservative politicos and the hidden agendas of bigots fool you with this one. It’s not just about the Vote; it’s about the fair Administration of Justice in the Courts. The new restrictions will affect the elderly and the working poor in a disproportionate manner. If you are an hourly worker you will be less likely to vote on Voting Day, and they will have cut back on early voting, making it even harder to do so.

The struggle to achieve these rights is not about race anymore; it's about the war between the rich and poor in America today. And that war parallels the fight of the Civil Rights Era. In the end, remember, the next ethnic group in that photo above could be yours.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Empire State" with Liam Hemsworth and Dwayne Johnson (2013)

Based upon the true life heist of an armored car company in 1982, this movie, set against the backdrop of the Bronx, really moves. In this drama, would be police officer Chris, played by Liam Hemsworth, takes a job at an armored car firm when he fails to get into the police academy due to something stupid he and a friend did years ago. Chris has matured since then, while his friend Eddie, played by Michael Angarano, has done all but that. He is a coked up loser, fueling his imagination with ideas of getting rich quickly, and easily. No matter what the cost is.
    
When Chris is involved in a shooting while trying to thwart a robbery attempt, he is placed on duty inside of the warehouse used to store the money. The place is run in a half assed way, with the security cameras not always working properly and the trucks often parked unloaded in the yard. In addition there is also very little security within the building. The only real threat, besides Chris, is the German Shepard who resides in the money room.

The real kicker is that no one actually knows just how much money there is in the room, since no one ever counts it, and the bosses are continually dropping by to make “withdrawals.” It is estimated that there was about $25 million in the room at the time of the robbery. The firm was actually a front company for the mob.

When Eddie is made privy to the details of the operation he cannot help but drag Chris into a scheme which has no chance of succeeding. When the caper is done and Eddie blows his half on a drug deal gone bad; about $8 million worth of bad; he goes back to get Chris’s half, even if it means the downfall of them both.

When Chris refuses to play ball with Eddie anymore, Eddie attempts to kill him, and Chris’s dad intervenes.It was only a matter of time anyway before either the cops, or the mobsters who control the territory would have found them.

Based on the real life heist of the Empire Company in 1982, this film will really grab you from the very start to the last moment. None of the cash has ever been found, even though we know it was hidden inside a statue in Chris’s front yard at some point. 

The film ends with the real life Chris; now free from prison; speculating on just where that money might be. And he does it with a smile.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The New Guitar

If I look extra happy here it’s with good cause. I just got an Ibanez EW20BGN; used and oh so pretty! Notice the graceful look of no “dots” on the fret board, and the lack of a pick guard which gives the guitar a fuller and more natural look. I don’t even use a pick except on the rare occasion when I play a bit of melody, so it’s no real big issue for me.

With its suede strap and muted tone I fell in love with this guitar about 10 years ago, but passed it up for a Washburn D-11 in Ash. A great guitar for the price, but I always felt I had passed on the Ibanez too hastily. That one was in blue, but the color of this just about makes up for the wait.

The Exotic Wood series of Ibanez guitars feature a wide variety of woods found in Asia and the Pacific areas where the guitars are made. They are lighter than the woods used here in the States, but retain all the vibrancy and tone of our own native woods.

This guitar is made of babinga wood which grows in the forest of Cameroon, a small country in Central Africa, roughly the size of California. The weather is hot and humid; rainfall there averages about 400 inches a year. At 100 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter the average full grown babinga weighs an astonishing 56 tons!
In addition to the babinga wood top, back and sides, the guitar has a mahogany neck. The fret board is, of course, rose wood. This is my 4th guitar. I don’t really deserve more than 2, but each one is unique and irreplaceable. Each one brings out different music from within me, and in consequence they are my best friends.

The serial number on the guitar tells me a lot of things; such as where the guitar was made, when, and how many as of that date. Mine was made in China at the Saehan location on November 9, 2005 and was the 46th one made that month. I’m not sure yet how long that model was produced, so I don’t yet have an idea of how many there are out there, but you can bet that mine’s extra special. Thanks, Sue!

Monday, November 4, 2013

"The Investigator" by Terry Lenzner (2013)

What began in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965 as a peaceful one day protest, degenerated into a 3 week odyssey that wound its way through the Courts and into the living rooms of all America. Terry Lenzner was there. He was a young, idealistic assistant attorney for the Justice Department who had just cut his teeth the year before on the murder of the 3 Civil Rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

With a clear and crisp style, Mr. Lenzner takes us on a journey through the decades of the Civil Rights Movement; with all its attendant violence and moral outrage; and on into the Watergate Affair and beyond. From his first work with Robert Kennedy’s Department of Justice, and on through his later work as an independent Legal Investigator, he has been a front row participant in much of the history of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

The author defended the Berrigan Brothers for their ant-war activities, which were controversial to even those in the anti-war movement. His portrayal of the men, and their cause, were a bit of an eye opener for me, as the author paints a picture of the nuns and the brothers, taking communion with wine smuggled into the courtroom before the proceedings each day. It should be noted that Mr. Lenzner is Jewish. His account has changed my mind about the sincerity of the Berrigans, whom I considered to be a bit “over the top” in some of their actions. Although I still don’t condone the way they protested, I now understand their motivations more clearly.

I found the Watergate section of this book to be particularly interesting; and although Mr. Lenzner draws a slightly different conclusion than I do as to who started the chain of extortion which was at the heart of the Watergate Affair; the excitement of those times comes to life in his words. He is, after all, the first person to have ever subpoenaed a sitting U.S. President. And, in the end, both sides were the bad guys; with the CIA doing its level best to bring down the President by having him help cover up a botched burglary which he knew nothing of; and the President trying to blackmail the CIA with what he knew about Castro, the Bay of Pigs and even Dealey Plaza. It’s just a case of who was trying to screw the other one first, and more importantly; why?

The author has also represented the CIA’s “Dr. Death”; Sidney Gottlieb; an expert in poisons and the man most responsible for the suicide death of Dr. Frank Olson, who jumped from his room at the Statler Hotel in New York on November 28, 1953. Gottlieb’s testimony was instrumental in shedding light on the American government’s use of mind altering drugs to achieve “parity” with the Soviets, who were ahead of us at the time in this area of espionage during the Church Committee Hearings into the operations of the CIA and the MK-ULTRA program. Although the author seemed impressed with Dr. Gottlieb, this reader sees him more for what he was; a monster. Although his motivations may have been pure, his actions were monstrous. But, in the end, he was given immunity in exchange for his testimony.

When Mr. Lenzner moves into the private sector he finds no shortages of clients to serve. When the Mugar family of Boston wanted to purchase the RKO TV station, Channel 7, in Boston they faced a huge hurdle. They had to prove it was in the public’s best interest to have license transferred from General tire, the entity which held title to it at the time, to the Mugar family.

The only way to do that was for Mr. Lenzner to travel to Mexico in search of 2 disgruntled employees of General Tire who had been forced into retirement for their part in a scheme which made the company a lot of money, but got them fired and exiled to Mexico, where they could presumably avoid prosecution.

Carefully courting the 2 former mid-level executives produced a boatload of information involving foreign bank accounts used as political slush funds, as well as skimming of profits from one company to another. Armed with these revelations, Mr. Lenzner was able to successfully make the case for a change in the license. The Mugar family now owned Channel 7 in Boston.

From Civil Rights and Watergate, to his work on the Alaskan pipeline, and the investigations into Princess Diana's death, the Swift Boating of John Kerry, and even the Monica Lewinsky Affair, Mr. Lenzner has been in the forefront of just about every major headline making case in the latter half of the 20th Century. And, aside from Civil Rights and Watergate, many of those cases have had at least an indirect effect on all of us as citizens.

His career is storied and his path has been, at times, arduous. But the results he has attained; both in the form of his accomplishments, as well as the formation of his company, Investigative Group International; have always been the result of a deep seated belief in the proverbial “little guy.” And, who could ask for a better legacy than that?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Preaching About Girls - From "Coming to America" (1988)


If you have never seen this film before then you are missing out on one of the funniest comedies ever made. Briefly, since this not a review of the film, it is the story of an African Prince, played by Eddie Murphy, who comes to America in search of a bride to be his Queen. He is accompanied by his servant, played by Arsenio Hall.

During the film they each play several parts; all brilliantly; but one of my favorite scenes is the one with the Preacher, played by Mr. Hall, at the gathering of a local community group. I don’t think there is any real lesson in this scene, unless it is to lampoon the mega-churches of the time. This film was made when TV evangelists such as Jimmy Swaggart and the Baker’s over at PTL were in their heyday.

That day is quickly returning with the rise of the “mega-church” from coast to coast here in America. The houses inhabited by the Pastors of these “churches”; which are tax free; approach palatial proportions. Here in Charlotte we have the Elevation Church, with the pastor their earning an undisclosed salary and living in a 16,000 square foot house. But that is another matter.

Enjoy the clip, or better yet, get the film and enjoy the whole story. The film is rich in characters, and the story is incredibly funny. Interesting note; Art Buchwald originally pitched this same story line to the studio and was turned away. Imagine his surprise when the film came out, with the storyline centering around an African Prince, rather than a Jewish immigrant! He sued, and won.