Posts Tagged ‘ History. ’

WATCHING THE PREAKNESS: A THOUGHT ABOUT COURAGE

EX-JOCKEY LEARNED THE HARD WAY

 

     Stewart I. Haupman was petting a $2,300 cockatoo when I met him several years ago at his parrot shop in Redondo Beach, California. But he wasn’t always in the exotic bird business.

     He grew up in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, a tough tenement section brimming with poverty and controlled by gangs. At the age of seven, he sold magazines and sang on weekends at Jewish weddings to help support the family

     Sharing a small two-bedroom flat in a tenement house with his parents, grandparents and a brother who had polio, he slept on a cot in the hallway.

     When he turned 14, he quit school, forged his father’s signature, and became a stable boy at the old Jamaica Race Track. A year later, he became an exercise boy at Hialeah, a track in Florida.

     It was there he got his first mount as a jockey. The third horse he raced, won! Within eight months, he had won 127 races and had become a full-fledged jockey.

     Over a period of eight years, riding for Sonny Jim Fitzsimmons, whom he described as “the dean of trainers,” he had won 832 races. “Being a jockey, that was my education. I rode and I broke yearlings for the DuPonts, the Vanderbilts, the Whitneys… “I owe a lot to those people. They taught me to be a human being. I learned to function in an area of society I never even dreamed I could be a part of.”

     As a winning jockey, the kid from Hell’s Kitchen not only rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, but found a pride within himself. “The racetrack gave me self-esteem. I had a great time. Winning a big race is an unbelievable experience.

     “You hear the crowd yelling, screaming. And You’re whipping and driving. Well, it’s exciting. You wave at the judges in the winner’s circle. There’s smiles. Applause. The track gave me the feeling of being somebody special. Like a track star.”

     During a race at Hialeah, his mount “snapped an ankle” and Steward went down in front of the pack. Trampled by six horses, he was “busted up bad” and spent nine months in the hospital, gained weight and lost that competitive edge to win.

     “To have success suddenly taken away from you — it was devastating! When you’re a kid, nobody paints you a rosy picture. Nobody tells you there’s a rose garden out there. You find it. Then, all of a sudden, it’s gone. It seems that nobody really teaches you that in life, you win a few and lose a few. You should never quit when you’re down.”

                                                               — Boots LeBaron —

 

 

PERSONALIZED OSCARS TO BEAT PREJUDICE!?

THE WILD AND WOOLLY HUMAN RACE

 

     DIVERSITY has many faces. They come in

different colors, creeds, genders, logic, ethnicity,

religions, prejudices, levels of narcissism and

variances of naivety. As the Academy of Motion

Picture Arts and Sciences proved with its Oscar

show on Sunday, we are an unpredictable species.

Each of us, in our own inimitable way, is a little

goofy. We tote these eccentricities wherever we go:

Showbiz, Wall Street, politics, the workplace,

into personal relationships, even sports. While

watching the Oscars and listening to comic Chris

Rock’s one-liners, the thought, loony as it may

sound, occurred to me: Why not create a dozen

golden statuettes each individually honoring white,

black, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay and

lesbian artists and technicians? Sure it’s a

logistical challenge. But the film industry has

a year to cope with it. To get them started, I

did a quick sketch of what these golden statuettes

might look like. Granted, it ain’t migraine proof.

But at least it’s a thought that might save the entire

celebrity industry from going bonkers.

 

Boots LeBaron

GET A LIFE: SAY HELLO TO THOSE WHO IGNORE YOU!

THE HUMAN RACE

 

WILDEBEESTS NEED RECOGNITION, TOO!

As we trudge along the wild uncharted

trails of civilization, there’s nothing

more refreshing than recognition

from another Earthling.

You know, a little eye talk, a smile,

a nod, a wink, a pinch, a salute,

or simply a pleasant, “Hi.”

It’s invigorating to encounter a

stranger smitten with acute benevolence.

After all, our journey is quite brief.

It can end abruptly, or painfully

last far longer than expected.  

So what’s the sense of traipsing

through life as sour-faced

scaredy-cats or pompous schmucks?

The laws of civilized-jungle-survival

are obvious: Steer clear of

grizzly bears in dark alleys.

Don’t tweak a werewolf’s snout.

Even at safe havens like

the Coffee Bean or Starbucks,

never fall for a line delivered by

an amorous silverback sporting a Rolex.

That beast wants nothing more than

to drag you off into the brush.

Predatory creatures definitely exist.

But that’s no reason to curl up

like a porcupine trying to hide your

very essence from pass’ers-by’.

If you bump into a wildebeest,

try not to be intimidated

by his scraggly demeanor.

Pounding beneath that gruff exterior,

you might discover a caring heart.

As those mousy mortals with

their deadpan pusses parade by,

startle them with a harsh, “Boooo!”

While they’re scurrying away,

eyes cast downward and

tail tucked between their legs,

howl after them, “Hey!

I’m just a fellow traveler

in search of a kind word…

I don’t even bite!”

— Boots LeBaron —

MOGULS LACK COURAGE! PROOF: SUNDAY’S OSCAR RACE!

A PEEK AT HUMANITY’S WILDERNESS

FOR SUNDAY’S OSCAR RACE: TALENTED WOMEN

AND OTHER MINORITIES GET THE COLD SHOULDER!

     Want a dose of truth? Watch the Oscar ceremonies on the ABC-TV Network Sunday, February 28. Think about the talented minorities who are being ignored by the motion picture industry. They deserve a crack at recognition despite the color of their skin, their ethnicity, the massive gender inequities, the indignities they must suffer as they climb the theatrical ladder en route to prove their creative and technological abilities in a celebrity-obsessed glamour world where all powerful schlumps, narcissistic moguls, and greedy decision makers reign supreme.  

     Are we so blind to our imperfections, unaware that we are devoid of compassion and lack the intuitive integrity to recognize and reward the talent that stands before us? Some minorities are struggling for recognition. Others deserve praise — even Oscar consideration.

     Are we so absorbed by our own insecurities that we fear makingwaves, using professional clout to enhance the recognition of those who deserve such praise?

     What a bunch of political bullshit! Such cowardess is not only a Hollywood felony, it is a flaw that affects the entire corporate and blue collar world.

     Hollywood is not the only industry that ignores and suffocates the hopes and dreams of highly talented men and women who have paid their dues bleeding, sweating and surviving in workplace environments to prove their worth.

     All levels of management, experienced in walking the corporate tightrope to power, are guilty of turning their backs on talented yet highly skilled, underpaid women and other minorities, who deserve recognition.

     Granted, there are capable decision makers in myriad businesses who have the integrity and foresight to evaluate the potential of an artist or up-and-coming financial wizard.

But at Sunday’s Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences’ TV fiasco hosted by a black man named Chris Rock, where are these self-anointed geniuses hiding? In a closet?

     Nevertheless: Hurray for Hollywood, the news media and the crusaders for justice and equality for bringing this slice of prejudicial outrage to the limelight in a world that could use an enema the size of Pluto (or Planet 9) to cleanse its tarnished soul.

                        — Boots LeBaron —

WILL YOU VOTE FOR SUPERMAN OR WONDER WOMAN?

The Human Race

ONLY THE SHADOW KNOWS WHO’S THE RIGHT CANDIDATE!

Who knows what skull-duggery lurks in the hearts

of politicians running for this year’s

presidential election? Not even The Shadow

knows. Some of you might remember the

spooky crime fighter who petrified radio

audiences before the advent of television.

He had the ability to “cloud men’s minds.”

Thanks to politics, it’s not a lost art.

Today on TV, politicians and other talking

heads constantly cloud voter’s minds.

For proof, tune in to the New Hampshire

primary and listen to mudslingers doing

the hootchy-kootchy as they compete for the

the world’s most influential position: The

U.S. presidency. The current political

extravaganza is not only a sad act to

witness, but at times highly entertaining.

How do we separate the incomprehensible

gobble-dy-gookers from trustworthy

political warriors? Who will be the most

prolific fighting for our individual rights?

         It ain’t funny. The challenge for voters is monumental.

Many these well-financed combatants are

brilliant debaters. Don’t tell me a scant number

of these political saints aren’t dancing the

waltz to garner votes. They focus on whatever

issue their target audience needs to hear:

Immigration, energy, the economy, gay rights,

taxation, separation of church and State.

a woman’s right to choose, stem-cell research,

gun control… You name it. We

fall for brilliantly conceived lines delivered

by TV’s talking heads, radio babblers and scores

of Internet twiddlers voicing their slanted

messages into the ozone. Who should we trust?

Remember, Superman and Wonder Woman are

are comic book characters. Yet U.S. citizens hunger

for the kind of conscientious integrity in humans

that such superheroes are identified with.  

Who should voters with such diversified demands

know which political barrister in the race

for commander and chief is the most righteous?

How do we convince voters to first do their

home work and then turn out to vote en masse

relying on keen instincts governed by

hearsay evidence?”

Got me!

                      

           — Boots LeBaron —

NAVAL COMMANDER LOCKS HORNS WITH GEN. PATTON

THE HUMAN RACE

 

WORLD WAR II MEMORIES OF GEN.’BLOOD-AND-GUTS’ PATTON

 

     Naval Commander Lloyd J. Ellis wasn’t about to let “Old Blood and Guts” intimidate him. As Gen. George S. Patton boarded

the troop carrier, anchored off the coast of Southern Italy, Ellis

stepped forward and snapped a salute.

     Only then did he notice that Patton had a pit bull terrier on a leash. “Hey, sir! You can’t bring that dog aboard this ship. Dogs are nothing but bad luck!” barked the husky young officer.

     “Is that so?” growled the legendary general pleasantly.

     “No animals allowed aboard this ship, sir! That’s the rule.”

     “Let’s you and I go to your office and we’ll talk about that… rule,” said Patton.

     Ellis was 78-years-old and living in a convalescent home when he told me this story in 1989.

     Of course, the confrontation with Patton took place aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, a troop carrier. It was in the midst of World War II and marked the beginning of what Ellis described as a shipboard friendship with the famous general, transporting him and hid Third Army troops across the Mediterranean.

     Twice, recalled Ellis, he brought Patton into two major battles in Southern France. As he stood barring Patton and his bull dog from boarding the ship, he recalled these words of old Blood and Guts: “Let me tell you something, mister Admiral. A smart man will sometimes change his mind. But a fool never will.  What are you????”

     “I gave in,” said Ellis. Let him keep the damn dog, but made him promisethat he wouldn’t let it eat in the dining room. That was a laugh. He fed his dog scraps at his table.

     “It was quite a sight. Patton marching around the deck with those pearl-handled Colts with that dog at his heels. I think he called him Willie. It was the ugliest pooch I’ve ever seen. A steward would follow them around, cleaning up its messes.”

     Ellis said he developed a “close friendship and respect” for Patton. On land and aboard two troop carriers, he transported the general and his GI’s into two invasions in Southern France. He also helped evacuate Patton’s troops from Southern Italy.

     “We did get into a lot of quarrels. But he always chose to ride on our ship. I guess that was because he liked to argue. We did a little bit of drinking, too. He drank nothing but Scotch — White Horse — out of the bottle.”

     Ellis recalled teasing Patton about his pistols. “Aboard ship, he usually wore a campaign cap, infantry boots, with them guns on his hips. One time I told him something like, ‘I figure the only reason a man would carry two pistols is that he’s scared!’      “He didn’t appreciate that. He told me, ‘If you’re so fucking brave, how come you didn’t join the Army?'”

     Having seen so many of his shipmates die, and having lost a younger brother in the war, Ellis a times was embittered about the mounting Allied death tolls.

     When he brought the subject up, he quoted Patton saying, “Don’t tell me any stories about death. I’ve seen too much of it!”

     Another time Ellis laughed when Patton told him that he wanted to personally shoot Hitler. “He said, ‘Don’t you laugh! That son of a bitch gave me trouble in North Africa, Sicily, and all over Italy. I’m personally going to shoot his ass — in Berlin.”

     Aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, Ellis and Patton were present when a dog,smuggled aboard by Patton’s troops, gave birth to three pups — a male and two females.

     “The next morning at breakfast, he named the male Thomas, and the females, W. and Hyde after the name of our ship. When we landed the troops in Naples, they [infantrymen] took them ashore.

     In Toulon, a seaport city in Southern France, Ellis claimed he brought Patton and an Army lieutenant to brothel. “It was above a bar. There were two armed Germans hiding in a closet. The lieutenant wounded both of them. I don’t want to say anymore.

     “After they hauled them away, Patton called me a sap and said they could have killed us. Then he joked: ‘It wouldn’t have mattered if they shot you. But I’m not ready to die.”

     Ellis described Patton as “an intelligent man, He cared about his troops. He was hard headed with a good sense of humor. Told a lot of jokes — the kind you’d never tell in a Baptist Church. He had this thing about being the ancestor of ancient warriors. I never took him seriously about that.

     The last time Ellis recalled being with Patton was aboard the Hyde. “We shook hands. I told him that I was going to try and get

a pass to Berlin; that I wanted to go to Hitler’s funeral. He thought I was serious. But I was just ribbing him.”

     General Patton, whose military career under his “mentor” John J. Pershing fighting Poncho Villa in 1916, died in Germany on December 21, 1945. Ironically, the cause of death wasn’t from a bullet or bomb. He suffered fatal injuries in an automobile accident.

     The reason I met the retired Naval and Maritime commander Ellis was when the then-mayor Katy Geissert) of Torrance, California, told me about an old serviceman in a convalescent home who had his American flag stolen. She said it had been autographed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. So I never saw the flag. And I’ve always wondered about the creditability of Comdr. Ellis’s story. Yet, during several long interviews, the old salt convinced me that truth was his weapon. And I loved every hour of it.

     I know you’re no longer with us, Lloyd, but it’s Veteran’s Day,  commander. Wherever you are, keep talking about those war experiences. Hope you  got your American flag returned.

 

         — Boots LeBaron

TWO UNIQUE VIEWPOINTS ABOUT HOMELESSNESS

HOW TWO VERY DIFFERENT MEN SAW LIFE ON THE STREETS

 

     I’ve had the opportunity to spend time learning about life from two very different homeless men: The late Mitch Snyder who spoke for our nation’s homeless, and Doug Grindeland, who spoke for himself.

     Mitch, in his forties, was a tough, angry, pensive activist. He had gained notoriety when he went on a 51-day fast losing 60 pounds, reaching an emaciated 118 pounds.

     That same year, 1983, the CBS-TV show “60 Minutes” made his plight famous. The objective of his fast was to force the Reagan Administration to renovate an empty federal building into an 800-bed shelter for homeless people in Washington, D.C. It worked.

     Several years before he committed suicide (1990) he told me: “Human beings are basically decent and caring creatures. But because we are a highly competitive and individualistic society, we’ve learned how to step over the broken bodies of our neighbors without seeing them.”

     The gaunt face and those dark, narrow-set despairing eyes bore the conscience of a man who had slept with hunger and degradation. Mitch literally walked in the shoes of the homeless.

     When I asked, if there was one meaningful statement he’d most like to make to the American public, what would it be? Here was his reply:

     “I was about 48 days into my hunger strike and was prepared to die when ’60 Minutes’ asked me a similar question. I knew I had millions of people out there listening to my last words. After I thought about it, I realized it was something we always say.

     “The public must reduce the distance between themselves and the suffering and lonely. The next time you see somebody sitting in a doorway, on a curb or wandering aimlessly, someone you know is alone and hurting, do something. Reach out in your own way and say to that person, ‘I care about you!”

     Mitch, at least in my book, was a rogue angel and the voice of America’s homeless.

     Doug Grindeland could have beat Mitch handily in an arm wrestle. He was a tall, thick-shouldered man with a graying goatee, clear blue eyes, and a salty sense of humor.

 When I met him, he was sitting at the counter of a Manhattan Beach restaurant having a cup of coffee. He was in his mid-fifties and had a “Want to Neck?” badge pinned to his sweater.

     The two men had never met. Each had their own skeletons to rattle. Mitch was riding a newswave while Doug, with his own set of loose marbles, lived on the beach. After he was layed off as a packaging designer at Hughes Aircraft Company’s Radar Systems Corp., the twice-divorced one-time B-29 Air Force crew chief with three years of college, “just gave up.”

     He blamed some of his woes on industry bottom liners. The saying he quoted was this: The purpose of life is finding your gift. The meaning of life is giving it away.

     “Because of greed,” he said, “the financial community today is too busy lopping off heads not really considering what’s inside of them. Sure that bothers me. Sometimes in life, you are given no alternatives. I put my time in grade. I want to enjoy life. For me, being homeless is still an adventure. I have no complaints.

     “People come to California on vacation to sleep out under the stars. I do it every night. I live off my bike. It’s not that easy. I don’t think a lot of people could handle this. When I’m out of money, I’ll go into a bin behind Winchell’s and pull out about 30 pounds of doughnuts. I’ll eat a few and feed the rest to the sea gulls.”

     A few years ago I ran across Doug at the beach. He was no longer homeless. He had spent a year at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles being treated as a manic-depressive. He was drawing disability and taking medication for what he describes as his “mental short-circuit.” But his opinion about the human race hadn’t changed.

     Here’s what he learned after living homeless for more than three years: “Before the VA took me in, I looked at people going to work every day, putting up with office politics, job abuse and other social pressures. They had to make a living wage to pay the rent. Me, I didn’t have to answer to nobody!”

     He admitted that surviving as a homeless person on the beach wasn’t Paradise. “I was mistreated, even bullied. One time three young men took my bike and the cans I was collecting, and threw them off the pier. Then they tried to egg me into a fight. I might have been a little touched, but I wasn’t crazy!” He laughed at that.

     As a homeless person he discovered that humanity has different faces. “You find good and bad. There are people who detest the fact that you’re not working. There are many more compassionate people than vindictive ones!    “So you learn humility. You learn how to survive on doughnuts. When you dig into a trash can because you’re hungry, you learn to discard your ego. Ego is such a handicap. When you’re homeless you see life from the streets on a day-to-day basis. The pretty little house with the white picket fence is like shooting for the moon.

     “There were a lot of things I appreciated,” he continued. “Every single day at the beach, you look up at the sky and it’s like a beautiful picture. Every day is different. People will see you digging for cans. They’ll come up, talk, give you some change. There were people who gave me twenty dollars. Despite the rotten eggs, you see a lot of caring people when you’re down.”

     Today, whenever Doug runs across a homeless person, he might say a few friendly words. “Usually, I’ll give them some money. Maybe a few bucks. Whether they spend it on food or booze, that’s up to them.”

     One time, during his homeless period, he met a woman in a saloon. “When she asked where I lived, I told her, I live at the beach. When I brought her home with me, was she surprised!”

 

              — Boots LeBaron

 

 

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