Thursday, October 31, 2019

Presidential Order

You have to be of a certain age—and I am of that age—to remember when sometime in grammar school there was stress placed on knowing the order of the presidents. Who was first? Who was the sixteenth? Who followed Lincoln? Etc. As kids, were were the first 'Jeopardy' contestants, and the teacher was Alex Trebek.

Quite honestly, I think I can reel them all off, in the right order. State capitals are something else I never have to look up. North Dakota? You mean you don't know?

The NYT is caught up covering the World Series. And why shouldn't they be? Except for the strike year (yes, they didn't play it one year) it's been going on continuously for over 100 years. It is the Fall Classic, no matter who is broadcasting it.

I have a friend who is also of the same 'certain age' I am. He's a presidential buff and all round American history buff. If the 'Final Jeopardy' question in the morning paper is presidential, I always ask him if he knows the answer. Sometimes I know the answer as well.

So when the NYT did its look back section on prior World Series the other day I had to run the following by him. It made no sense to me, but maybe I was missing something?

"President Trump is the first president not to throw out a pitch at a major league baseball game since Theodore Roosevelt. William Howard Taft started the tradition in 1910 in Washington..."

Dave was all in. His buzzer beat all buzzers. "Taft followed Roosevelt. It's wrong."

The sentence implies that Roosevelt came after Taft, which of course he didn't. There was no tradition before Taft, so therefore Trump cannot be the "first president since Roosevelt" since Taft came after Roosevelt.

Sometimes I'll take advantage of the online letters to the editors email feature and inform the NYT of a boo-boo. I have seen things I've pointed out become corrections. In this instance, I did so twice, and never even received an email acknowledging the email. A correction does not appear in either yesterday's, or today's paper. No big deal really.

Knowing your presidents used to be considered important. "Who is the president?" is still one of the first questions asked when testing for cognitive impairment. Never mind the order. That's advanced.

One nice feature of the paper is a reprint "From the Archives" of a World Series game classic. The other day the news story filed by John Drebinger about Don Larsen's perfect game for the Yankees against the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium was reprinted, complete with box score and a picture of what then was the Yankee Stadium scoreboard, complete with the Ballantine Ale ad and the Longines clock that appears stopped at 3:06, the conclusion of the game. The nine inning line score is complete, with the little x in the Yankee half of the 9th inning.

Dave, the same presidential friend, remembers being in the Warwick drug store on 6th Avenue and 55th Street after school, across from his apartment house, and hearing the final radio play-by-play. Memories.

My father was at the game, and so were 61,518 other people by Mr. Drebinger's account. (The box score says the attendance was 64,519), There was a good deal of work absenteeism in that era, with day games the norm. My father's boss took him to the game. No ticket stub or program from the game was ever brought home.

And what a compact box score it is. Two pitchers, both starters going all the way, with Sal Maglie taking the loss for he Dodgers. Imagine a 1 p.m.  game finished before the last soap opera was over on television.
Neither my friend, or myself, watched much televised baseball. In that era, there was but one camera, behind home plate in the broadcast booth to deliver all the action. Most TVs of the era were still black and white. The game was hardly the visual delight that it can be today.

Imagine a game going that fast today. Based on Mr. Drebinger's account there was only one Dodger batter that ran the count to three balls, Pee Wee Reese. No stepping out of the batter's box then. If you did that you got beaned, or at least were listening to "chin music." Hardball was played harder.

President Trump is only still the first president since Taft not to throw out a first pitch. Since the Nationals have now won the Series, the president could still show up on Opening Day in 2020 and hurl a ball, either from the stands, or the mound.

I quipped that he doesn't want to get dirt on his Armani suit, but it's more than that. To no one's surprise, he's chronically vain.  A Kevlar vest under an Armani suit is felt to make him look fat. And he can't have that. And you know he's not wearing a windbreaker.

Even if he's re-elected and still doesn't want to throw out a first pitch anywhere, the game will go on. And on, and on, and on.

Will there ever be another perfect World Series Game? More importantly, will there ever be a 2 hour and six minute game again?

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Press on Masterpiece

I missed the WSJ review of this six-part BBC series on the drama of two rival UK newspapers, The Post, a tabloid that is quite similar to our own New York Post, and owned by a media titan who doesn't act like Rupert Murdoch, but is, and The Herald, the left-leaning, far less sensational paper that is struggling mightily against The Post.

I've watched four of the six episodes so far shown on our PBS station WLIW21. I only stumbled onto the series after seeing a promo for it on another WLIW show I was watching from the DVR. Lucky me.

I love good newspaper stories, and this one is a beaut. Dorothy Rabinowitz (who once did write for the New York Post), in her review is entirely accurate that while the fearlessness—with all the right journalistic qualities—of the female lead, Charlotte Riley as Holly Evans, makes her the heroine, Ben Chaplin as Duncan Allen hardly comes across as a villain. We start to like him.

I love inverted British names. Duncan Allen. Either name could be a first or last name. Somewhat like a car ferry that goes back and forth with the bow that is later is the stern when returning from the other shore. Like Robert James. Billy Elliot. They're great.

Holly's accent has a touch of a Scottish burr, which is understandable since the actress is from a county in Northern England that nearly abuts Scotland. In the BBC production of the detective series 'Vera,' DCI Vera Stanhope, played by Brenda Blethyn  and others in the cast all have a bit of the same burr, because the 'Northumberland and City police' is quite close to Scotland. Mr. Blethyn is also from Northern England, where the Scottish burr must creep into speech.

Duncan Allen does steal the show. Ms. Rabinowitz is correct that rather than boo his character we are completely charmed by it. His flexible logic is so flexible it might seem he could convince you that what you think is the worst thing in the world, is really the best thing in the world. He gets the best dialogue. It's almost Shakespearean. Typical British.

It is great to see David Suchet, who most of us are accustomed to seeing him play Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, glide into the newsroom as the owner of the enterprise, George Emmerson (how British; two m's) without a mustache, and make himself clear to his star editor-in-chief in soft tones and raised eyebrows.

Duncan Allen is a force in the land. He can meet the Prime Minister, and piss him off when the PM and his family appear in a front page photo adjacent to an accused sexual predator character, á la Harvey Weinstein, Joshua West, who has to take refuge in his private club when The Post starts its story about his predatory liaisons.

Holly gains access to this burnished, glowing, soft amber lighted, leather padded lair and confronts Mr. West. It does seem amazing that she gets as far into the place as she does wearing a raincoat and jeans lugging a purse that couldn't fit in the overhead. She is almost a female Detective Columbo. Her conversation with Joshua doesn't go well, or does it? You'll have to watch.

Duncan gets to meet the PM at least twice so far. In the second face-to-face, the tea and biscuits are withdrawn from the table at Downing Street by a statuesque female assistant who is as brusque as the PM when Duncan doesn't please the PM. It's great.

So far, this is the first series I immediately want to watch again.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Advance Obit

Being an outsized public personality beyond the age of 70—and President of the United States—The New York Times surely has an advance obit already sketched out for his demise. They're not being wishful, they are being practical. There are likely 1,200 pre-written obits for major personalities of all stripes, in the morgue waiting to be lifted to a designated page when the time is right. A pre-written obit will get updated when the time comes. The advance writing helps save time on deadline for getting a piece out that is topical.

It is no news that obituary writing has become playful when it can be. I love reading obits, not because I'm glad someone has passed away–so far I think I've only ever personally met maybe one of the people who've been given a tribute obituary–but because I enjoy an especially well-written one.

There are nuggets of information, memorable quotes, and lively descriptions in a well-written obit. Obituary writing is a specialty, and nowhere is it more on display than in today's NYT obit on Robert Evans, Hollywood producer, that gained front page, below-the-fold placement. The obit is by Brooks Barnes, a byline name I'm not familiar with, but one I hope to see again.

In some people's eyes, front page for a Hollywood producer might seem too high a pedestal to place Mr. Evans, but it all depends on what else is going on at the time of his demise. He made it to the front page, and probably doesn't know it. Such is life.

In a one sentence paragraph, Mr. Barnes describes Mr. Evans.

Mr. Evans, with his bolo ties and burnt-bacon tan, served as a bridge between old and new Hollywood.

"Burnt-bacon tan."  You've got to love it.

I don't know Mr Barnes, I don't know if he's been dying to use that description for ages and now just got the right opportunity, or if it just came to him as he was writing today's obit. It doesn't really matter. It's in the paper, and is now fair game to use whenever you spot someone with that deep brown tan in New York in January or February that looks expensive.

Right from the lede, you know you're going to be reading an obit that's a bit of a standout, regardless of what your opinion or knowledge (if any) of Mr. Evans is. It's a beaut, and won't take you long to read.

Describing someone's complexion got me thinking. Will the advance obit for President Trump make any reference to the color of his cheeks, chin and forehead? Will a cheeky obit writer try to get one past the editor and describe Mr. Trump has having a complexion that is "a dangerous Agent Orange incandescence." We will have to wait.

Meanwhile, there is no doubt an advance obit for George Hamilton is filed away in The Times morgue, waiting to be lifted to a page. Anyone who has ever seen George will know that even in a black and white photo, George has a tan. He has a "burnt-bacon tan."
But that's already been used. Brooks Barnes and Robert Evans beat him to it.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Builds Strong Bodies

It is no secret that there seems to always be something that reminds me of something else. In fact, I have this fantasy that I'm lying somewhere, on my death bed, and I tell whomever is there to listen, what the exact final moments remind me of. Of course I slip away before I can fully say what the experience I'm having reminds me of. It is my Rosebud moment. My enigmatic passing.

But, since I don't seem to be anywhere near those final moments, readers of these posting get to read what something reminds me of.

I try to read my way through two newspapers a day, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Even when I don't succeed I hold onto the papers for a while and try and catch up with enough sustained reading that gets me through the pages before Wynken, Blyken and Nod takes over and the papers fall to the floor.

I prefer the book reviews in the WSJ over The Times because they don't review many novels. I'm not one for novels. Thus, since I'm nearly current, I read Wednesday's WSJ review 'The National Palate, American Cuisine' by Paul Freedman.

It must be a bit of a doorstopper because it weighs in at 451 pages and lists for $39.95. It is not a cookbook, but rather a historical narrative of food in America, our early eating habits, and now our fast food, prepared food addictions.

The review does recount how the book touches on the '50s and '60s when Madison Avenue was making all kinds of claims for us to believe. Kellogg's Sugar Pops were "sweeter and the taste is new, they're shot with sugar through and through." Rhymes were big. So was sugar.

Wonder Bread helped "build strong bodies eight ways," until the '60s when "four more ways were discovered." Yes, Wonder Bread did tells us there were now 12 ways to held build strong bodies. "Helps build strong bodies 12 ways." More is always better. Still is.

Jesus, I remember the wrappers on Wonder Bread at the grocer across the street from the house. There was a big 8 displayed at each end. Then of course the advertising ratcheted it up to 12 ways.

But that isn't what I remember most about the bread or the ads. I remember the new ads for Wonder Bread proclaiming its benefits with the now trumpeted 12 ways. The ads and jingle were now an earworm.

Then why when I went to the grocer across the street do I remember seeing the bread with a wrapper that had an 8 at each end, rather than a 12?

The bread was fresh. It wasn't stale. But it was bread that was labeled to only help build stronger bodies 8 ways! What happened?

I never asked. There were no exposés on TV or in the newspapers that Wonder Bread had slipped and was now engaging in false advertising. But there it was. Fresh bread that had gotten demoted.

Having now moved past my own Wonder Years, I can think of an easy explanation. They used the old wrappers on the fresh bread. Sort of like screwing up the air mail stamp and producing the Inverted Jenny. They must have had a supply of them to get rid of, or someone reached into the wrong bin setting the machines up, and viola, 8 Ways on 12 Ways bread.

Talk about cynicism. Even the bread was lying to us.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Maureen and The Herald Tribune

Maureen Dowd, as many probably already know, did win a Pulitzer for Commentary in 1999–twenty years ago. That was when, to me, she was a better writer than she is these days. These days she appears only once a week, on Sundays, and most of the time turns in a piece that reads like she phoned it in while having breakfast at a diner, filled with the names of name-drooped publications, like The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Only sometimes my comments get approved to appear. I understand.

Today's column is about Trump being Trump and cancelling the White House subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post, two newspapers that are always highly critical of our thin-skinned president, and who he feels should not be read by anyone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. My guess is that the car that comes by in the very early morning hours and throws my New York Times and Wall Street Journal in my driveway will not be cruising down Pennsylvania Avenue and aiming for the White house door. His loss, but he's never struck me as much of a reader anyway.

Dowd today scores a bull's-eye, and I attempted to give her credit for it, after so many times giving her heat for not being Russell Baker and adhering to at least a modicum of a work ethic.
Well, the Comments section was closed at 419 this morning at 8:50 A.M. EST. This means a good number of people responded to her piece, and did so early, likely late Saturday night when the Sunday online edition comes "off stone."

I opted for the less public display of my opinion by sending an email to I have no illusions that anything I write will ever make it into the NYT (other than my 1994 piece about the baseball and hockey strikes that Dave Anderson quoted in his Sports of the Times column on Christmas Day, 1994. I had to boast.)

I congratulated her on having it in her to write a good one. Somewhat like a veteran pitcher, banged up and operated on, who throws a shutout.

To me, the best part of what she wrote was the story that JFK was once made fun of because he once stopped having The New York Herald Tribune delivered to the White House. The Tribune was owned by the Reid family and was the Republican New York paper. The New York Times wouldn't allow it in the house. He'd read any of the other New York papers of the day, even The New York Post, but particularly liked The Herald Tribune.

You have to be of 'a certain age' to remember The Herald Tribune. My friend still tells the story of an elementary school teacher who made a current events assignment out of reading something in the NYT.

The family lived in Manhattan, and the school was only across the street. The teacher lived in their building on West 55th Street. The father had a FIT about the assignment, and confronted the teacher. Subsequent current event assignments were only ever completed from that household with stories from The Herald Tribune.

Ms. Dowd completes her JFK Herald Tribune story by telling us that JFK would sneak the paper in regardless of his outward stance, and eventually put the paper back in his graces.

And why wouldn't he? I remember The Herald Tribune, and to this day still miss it. If it were being published, I would be getting it rather than the NYT. I mean, sports, news, editorial cartoons,Walter Lipmann, and comics. How could you hate it? One of my favorite comics was 'Our Miss Peach.' I do miss that paper.

The Times of the era had a reputation since the '30s of being soft on Communist Russia. My wife's father, a strong union man and a NYC IRT subway motorman living in the Bronx, was amongst the many who called The Times a 'Pinko Commie rag." The pink comes from the arrest cards of those Communist Party members who were arrested at rallies in New York City. The cards were pink.

The NYT reporter who was perceived as being soft on Communism, was Walter Duranty, a Pulitzer winning journalist, who was felt to turn a blind eye on Stalin's atrocities. Duranty was the Moscow Bureau Chief from 1922-1936. His name was in the news recently for a suggestion that the Pulitzer committee should again consider rescinding the 1932 award. It is not going to happen.

Anytime you're alive you live in interesting times. And in our household there is nothing more interesting than my readership of the NYT, not for opinion, but stories–where else would I freshly read about Murf the Surf, or enjoy obituaries?

My wife, who is NOT a newspaper person, but a TV news person, principally a Fox News person at the moment, is usually making some stupid remark about my reading "the Pinko Commie Times." The phrase is so dated it's funny, but I know where it comes from. Da Bronx. I even showed her the recent story on Duranty and all she had to say was, "see."

No matter. My allegiance is not political, but based on reading something that is well written. After Trump won the election I wiseacred that it was amazing that the NYT was able to publish the next day, since so many of its staffers had to be in the ICU at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital suffering heart attacks when the concession speech came from Hillary. My guess is the hospital is still busy with staffers in the ER.

And there was have it. The Snowflake president, as Maureen calls him, who thinks the government will save money by cancelling newspaper subscriptions.

We do live interesting times.


The Scuba Diver

It does seem to happen that decades can pass without hearing someone's name, and then you hear of their name twice within a week.

Such is the case of first again hearing Maurice Nadjari's name when reading Corey Kilgannon's resurrection of the story of the 1964 Star of India heist from the NYC Museum of Natural History. Maurice Nadjari was not only the prosecutor who convicted Jack Roland Murphy (Murph the Surf) and his two accomplices, he also personally looked for the stolen gems that were supposedly stored underwater, attached to the hull of a boat in Florida. The jewels were not there, but were later recovered, and Mr. Nadjari never let them out of his sight, as they were spirited back to New York in an air sickness bag. (Do they still have those?)

In Mr. Kilgannon's story, Mr. Nadjari is interviewed through his son Douglas because the father is in failing health. The failing health finally won out, and Mr. Nadjari passed away this past Friday at his home in Huntington, N.Y.

Along with not hearing of Mr. Nadjari's name for decades, I hadn't given any thought to Murph the Surf, the charismatic jewel thief who pulled off the museum heist and who is himself still alive at 82, living in Crystal River, Florida, looking very much like he's able to catch a wave and surf in on his board and plant a kiss, or several, on a bikini beach babe.

Mr. Kilgannon's story is a treasure of memories to those of us who are certainly described as being 'of a certain age.' His story of October 20 is touched off by the Museum of Natural History's 150th anniversary celebration. The best part is that the 1964 heist is itself not on a milestone anniversary, having happened 55 years ago. The heist though, is a rich part of the museum's history.

In Corey's piece, Maurice Nadjari is a big part of the story. He was an assistant prosecutor in New York at the time, working for the legend Frank Hogan, the New York County DA, who dispatched Maurice to recover the jewels, or "don't come back."

With some derring-do worthy of a James Bond film, Mr. Nadjari makes a trip to Florida, where the surfer dudes sprang from to pull off the heist, and acquaints himself with the fences the jewels were quickly passed on to. Murph and his buddies have already been arrested two days after the heist, but the jewels have not been recovered. Thus, the mission to Florida.

Murph proved to be a piece of tabloid heaven when he and his buddies easily made a low bail and publicly proclaimed they were planning to fence the jewels, take the money, and spend the winter on Hawaii's North Shore surfing their wet suits off. The prosecutors were not thrilled about a weak case with no evidence, so Maurice and a gaggle of detectives were dispatched to Florida to bring the evidence back. And they do.

And now, within a week of hearing about Murph and Maurice, Mr. Nadjari has passed away at 95. His NYT obit, no doubt pre-written by the redoubtable Robert McFadden, takes us through Mr. Nadjari's life in six fact-packed columns, complete with photo of Mr. Nadjari holding a press conference with a pile of microphones in front of him. The old days, before cell phones were put in front of your face.

It's no secret I love obituaries. History is stirred up and floats to the surface, especially when it's someone like Mr. Nadjari who was a New York prosecutor who I heard of. When he was appointed by New York's Governor Rockefeller as a special prosecutor investigating police and judicial corruption, I remember the press describing him as being "blunt." He looked it. I wonder if there's a photo of him ever smiling.

Mr. McFadden's obit takes us through the career of Mr. Nadjari as he presented and prosecuted corruption cases. His ultimate conviction average was not very good, as many of his convictions were overturned, or many of his indictments were dismissed. If Mr. Nadjari was a starting pitcher, he would have been plopped in the bull pen.

Obituaries to me are fascinating. They always try to give us the origins of the deceased; the names and occupations of their parents. It's like some of those novels that don't get to the main subject's life until you first read about their family. Sinclair Lewis and John Steinbeck sagas.

The museum heist and the conviction of Murph the Surf takes all of two paragraphs in Mr. Nadjari's obit. When I read Mr. Kilgannon's piece, I wondered about the ethnic origin of Mr. Nadjari's name. You are not a New Yorker of  'a certain age' if you don't wonder about ethnicity.

On reflection, I concluded Mr. Nadjari was Syrian. He has the look of Shakespeare's Othello, without the full dark Moor complexion.  Turns out Mr. Nadjari's parents were Sephardic Jews who immigrated from Greece. His father was a clothes presser. Mr. Nadjari is revealed to have been an avid scuba diver. Thus, the derring-do of donning a diving mask and looking for jewels attached to the side of a boat. In another life, Mr. Nadjari might have been a sponge diver in Tarpon Springs, Florida, which is filled with Greeks.

Being of Greek origins myself, I find it hard to recognize the Nadjari name as being Greek. The closest I get is remembering a very rich lady I once delivered flowers to in the Sherry Netherland Hotel whose name was Hadjiyiannis. She owned a floor in the hotel, her wealth I think coming from shipping, naturally.

In the non-denominational Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Maspeth, Queens, where my parents and other relatives are buried, there are many Greek names on the tombstones. In New York City, there are Jewish cemeteries, Catholic cemeteries, and the non-denominational ones. Growing up in New York, the advantage went to being Jewish or Catholic.

Near the family plot (sleeps 12 by the way–4 across by 3 deep–not filled and holding at 9) I always use the huge Hadjiyiannis mausoleum as a landmark when making a visit. I do not know if it is the same Hadjiyiannis I once delivered flowers to, but it is a Hadjiyiannis nonetheless.

In Marilyn Johnson's seminal book on obituaries, 'The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasure of Obituaries," She talks to the then NYT obit page editor, Chuck Strum, who stands guard over he advance written obits stored in the morgue. She describes the process of these obits and how it touches her "to see them guarded so carefully, as if the obits were hearts that Strum will transplant to the obits page after their hosts are declared dead."

It is easy to understand that we would probably soon see Mr. Nadjari's pre-written obit be updated and float to the surface, much like he did when he was scuba diving. After all, Mr. Nadjari was described as being in poor health at 95, needing his son Douglas to convey the heist story to Mr. Kilgannon.

But what of Jack Roland Murphy, Murph the Surf, shown to be in good health at 82 and running his program of Christian ministry for inmates?

I have no idea if there is a King Tut curse on being of an advanced age, mentioned in a newspaper, and subsequently dying shortly thereafter. Murph should certainly hope not.

If I were Jack (and sometimes I wish I were) I'd make sure to catch all the waves I could, kiss all the bikini beach babes on the shore you can, and keep living life to the fullest.

When thy put your name in paper, you never know what's next.


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Michael Armstrong Way

I may have just read the obituary of the smartest man there ever was.

On the surface, Michael Armstrong was a dedicated public and private servant whose genius is not revealed until you're about ⅔ of the way through the Sam Roberts NYT obituary in yesterday's paper.

Mr. Armstrong was noted for being the chief counsel to the Knapp Commission when it was investigating NYC police corruption in the early '70s.

Former NYC police commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said of Mr. Armstrong: "He pulled no punches in exposing the depth of corruption with a dramatic flair and was unbowed in his attempt to determine the facts."

As a chief of the United States Attorney's securities fraud unit in New York in 1967, Mr. Armstrong successfully prosecuted the government's case against Louis E. Wolfson for selling unregistered securities. The investigation even reached Justice Abe Fortas of the United States Supreme Court and led to his resignation.

Louis E. Wolfson owned thoroughbreds, notably Affirmed, the winner of the 1978 Triple Crown, the last Triple Crown winner before American Paraoh in 2015.  Wolfson's Harbor View Farm breed and raced several champion thoroughbreds.

Being a racing fan, I recognized Harbor View's silks in the scene from an Aqueduct race being portrayed in the movie A Bronx Tale, in which Sonny rips up his tickets before the finish, even though his horse is leading by gobs of lengths, all because during the race he learns Moosh, the permanently jinxed member of the entourage, bet on the same horse. Sonny's horse, after the huge lead, folded like a church cellar chair, and winds up off the board and up the track.

After the Knapp Commission post, in 1973 Mr. Armstrong is appointed by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller to finish the term of Thomas Mackell, The Queens County DA who was forced to resign after his son-in-law, who worked in the office, promoted a Ponzi scheme that crashed and burned. Up to then, Mackell was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, and a possible candidate for governor. Growing up and living in Flushing, Queens at the time, I remember all of this well.

It turns out Mr. Armstrong did not want to run for the Queens DA election when the interim term ended. He had little taste for clubhouse politics and did what is the true genius part of his life. He pre-emptively disqualified himself from ever running for public office.

Mr. Armstrong found a reporter he could count on to remember three things he believed in. Things that were political suicide, that the exposure of saying these three things—that he wouldn't deny ever saying—would assuredly keep the Italians, Irish or Jews (in other words, the vast majority of the registered voters at the time in Queens) from ever casting a ballot in his favor, assuring the election of any opponent who ran against him.

"No. 1. I believe there's a Mafia and it's all full of Italians. No. 2. I think it was a disgrace for the Irish to remain neutral in WW II. And No.3. I sympathize with the Palestinians in the Middle East."

Just think if more people, of all stripes, were to record time capsule views that pre-disqualified them from ever seeking public office.

There would be no cable news channels. There would be no talking heads with endless speculative views and opinions on everything. There would be no public relation spin artists. There would be no televised Senate confirmation hearings because the candidate would have their proxy unfurl their very unpolitically correct viewpoints ahead of time. The candidate wouldn't even get seated. Soap operas and game shows would return to television.

To use the words from the Louis Armstrong (no relation to Michael) song: "What a Wonderful World."


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Kelleycanrun Did Run

The reminder from the Daily Racing Form was just what I expected: Kelleycanrun was going to next run on October 14 at Belmont in the sixth race. However, I was go to be away that week, so I needed to remember to bet the race from my phone to my betting account.

My wife reminded me, and I struggled that afternoon to navigate the betting prompts, but did get my bet in, conformed it, and waited for he result.

Since I never make any bet that could possibly be equated with the word "large" I let it go and reminded myself the next day to check my balance. It went up. Kelleycanrun did run well enough this time to win. I got what for me was a nice return.

My regret was that I wasn't at the track and therefore didn't get a chance to smooze my way into the winners' circle photo with Richie and the other the connections. Maybe someday.

I doubt the outcome of the race was immediately known, since Kelleycanrun won by a nose, this time ridden by Junior Alvarado. My guess is that no one was happy with Jose Lezcano's ride the last time out, having the horse too far back early in the race; failing with a good stretch run..

The whole six horse field was in a bit of a blanket finish in the Maiden Special Weight race at
7 furlongs on the turf. A nose, a length, another nose, a length and three-quarters and three-quarters of a length separated the finishers. A somewhat typical turf race finish, that was run in the excellent time of 1:21.3, likely earning a nice Beyer speed rating.

My own notion is that the quality of the competition was very good, and that some of the finishers are going to go on and win the next time out, including Kelleycanrun.  The payouts for Kelleycanrun reflect the second-choice favoritism: $8.30; $3.40; $2.30. I like to think if I was there I'd have also hit the $2 exacta for $23 with the outright favorite running second. Bobby G. of The Assembled, hit with his $20 win bet, again not backing it up with a place bet hedge. Some things don't change.

My hope is there is another race for Kelleycanrun before turf racing ends here in New York and lots of the stables head for Florida and the winter meets down there.

When I next go to the track I'll head to the photographer's office and buy the winners' circle photo. Not many people actually go to the track these days, but when you make it to the winners' circle no one ever has to be asked to smile.

Murph the Surf is ALIVE!

Thanks to Corey Kilgannon's piece in today's NYT, 'A Jewel Heist at the Museum,' when Murph the Surf gets the inevitable bylined obituary (and he will get a bylined obituary) I won't be saying to myself, "you mean he was alive yesterday?"  Mr. Kilgannon has reprised the October 1964 Star of India heist from the Museum of  Natural History, complete with a current photo of Jack Murphy at 82 in a tropical shirt looking very tan and fit in Florida.

I'm not sure if I had more time in life that I'd like to grow up and be just like Jack, but I'm sure there were parts of his life I would be envious of.

In Mr. Kilgannon's piece he recounts Murph telling him that immediately following the heist Murph was standing at the bar at the Metropole Cafe, listening to Gene Krupa's band. The Metropole was a live music venue  on 7th Avenue in Times Square with nearly topless dancers. They wore pasties. It was the era of Carol Doda. And if you're adventurous, you'll look her up and find that she got her own obit when she passed.

The doors to the Metropole were open, but you could only see a narrow slice of the women dancing nearly topless on the bar. There was an angle to the entrance from the sidewalk, that if you jostled enough and tried to jump up and get taller, you could see a slice of one dancer. There was also a hefty bouncer in front. Not being of age to drink at the time, I could only go by the Metropole, hear the music and try and gain a peek. Times Square was Sin City.

The Star of India heist was a sensational news story of 1964 that featured a daring theft, non-existent museum security, colorful beach boy, Miami-based characters that killed no one and fired no shots. No animals were hurt during the heist, not even the pigeons that Murph disturbed on a ledge as he and Jack Kuhn inched their way toward a window to gain access to the gems displayed one floor below.

Daring jewel thefts always grab the imagination, and 1964 saw the release of the movie Topkapi in September, a tale of a thief being lowered onto a highly secure display of a jeweled dagger in Istanbul's Topkapi palace.

Murph and his accomplices were life imitating art. Never mind that they were rounded up two days after. The story lived on for months because the stolen gems, along with the centerpiece, the irreplaceable Star of India, a 563 carat golf ball-sized sapphire, were not initially recovered.

I remember the heist well. I was in high school, and when the dust settled, my father and I went to the Hall of Gems where the Star of India had been put back on display. We looked at the window the thieves were able to open, a tall rectangle that reminded me of the large windows in my grammar school, P.S. 22. The kind of windows that let a tremendous amount of light in, and were darkened when needed by green shades pulled up and down by tiny pulleys.

I remember looking at the stone and wondering what all the fuss was about. Sure, it was pretty, but I couldn't get my head around what they claimed it was worth. I'm just not a gem guy, I guess.

I learned a great many details of the case from Mr. Kilgannon's reporting.

  • Jack Murphy, 'Murph the Surf' really is a surfer, and apparently a very good one, winning championships in his early days.
  • Jack and the boys were alleged to have mugged Eva Gabor in a Manhattan hotel and relieved her of her jewelry. The charges were dropped when Eva wouldn't press charges because it interfered with her West Coast shooting schedule for her starring role in 'Green Acres,' one of the many silly '60s sitcoms. Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but insurance is probably even better.
When I read Mr. Kilgannon's piece I immediately emailed my son-in-law and told him his father had to read it in Sunday's paper. His father is retired NYPD, and while he's more my age and wasn't on the force at the time of the robbery, there is no doubt he's familiar with it.

My son-in-law, after reading the piece, wisecracked that Murph and the gang would have been better off if one of them married Eva and got the jewels in a divorce settlement. But obviously a life of crime was more exciting than a marriage to a very high maintenance spouse
  • The lead prosecutor, Maurice Nadjari is still alive at 95, and while in failing health, still tells details of the case to his son Dennis. In 1974 Mr. Nadjari became a Special Prosecutor appointed by Governor Rockefeller to investigate police corruption in the NYPD.
  • Maurice Nadjari recovered most of the gems when a deal was made with the thieves that the fence would relinquish most of the gems, no questions asked. Unlike the paintings from the Gardiner's Museum heist in 1990, the Star of India was recovered fairly quickly from a bus depot locker.
  • I did remember that the thieves received light sentences for their cooperation in recovering most of the gems. I also remember that Murph got himself in deep do-do in 1969 with murder charges in Florida and was sent away for a good stretch. Buy Murph did get paroled in the mid-1980s to administer the prison outreach program he developed while inside. Jack had developed a Christian ministry for inmates, and is still involved with the program. 
  • One of the detectives who worked the case, Jack McNally, is still with us at 85, alert and looking like a bear whose hug you wouldn't get released from. To me, he has the look of Jack Dempsey when he sat in his window seat at his Times Square restaurant.
When the museum reopens the gem wing next year and puts the Star of India on display again, maybe I'll make a trip there with my daughter and two granddaughters and tell them a little story.

My daughter can get various free admission passes through her town's library by reserving them. We've already saved a fair amount of money visiting the Intrepid and the Museum of Modern Art.

After all, Murph the Surf didn't pay to get in. Why should I?