Thanks to John Lee, who was part of the superb technical crew that worked on the movie, I’ve learned that “Toxic Zombies,” a.k.a. “Bloodeaters,” a.k.a. “Forest of Fear,” a.k.a. Il ritorno degli zombi,, in which I play a small part, is one of 2,700 movies on VHS tape acquired by Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, according to this Yale Daily News story. The story mentions “Toxic Zombies” at the outset, evidently because of its gory title–also mentioned are “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and “Buried Alive”–but without mention (until my comment below the story) that its writer, producer, director, and star was a Yale Law School alumnus, my late friend (he was in his office on the 100th floor of One World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001) Charlie McCrann. You can read more about the making of “Toxic Zombies,” and find links to a trailer and some reviews, here.
Coney Island Brewing Company’s “1609 Amber Ale” takes its name from the year Europeans first set foot on what we now know as Coney Island. I paired it with a “Smokin’ Henry” (smoked turkey, Black Forest ham, smoked Cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and Russian dressing) from Lassen & Hennigs.
Here are my tasting notes:
Color: bright amber.
Head: moderate, stood up well.
Aroma: banana and peach, with a toasty malt undertone.
Flavor: good balance of fruit and malt flavors, with a hop finish that’s satisfying but not overwhelming.
Technical details (from the brewery’s website): There are five kinds of malt used. Along with the usual two row barley, there are carapils and caramunich, melanoidin, and chocolate malt. The hops are Cascade, Amarillo, Tettnang, and Northern Brewer. ABV is a moderate 4.8%.
This is a well made, satisfying ale that complemented a tasty sandwich but could be enjoyed by itself. The flavor is complex but well balanced.
From the Web
When I was in Mrs. Blalock’s 12th grade English class at Robinson High School in Tampa, I was required to give a book report every six weeks. Mrs. Blalock said students must begin each report by saying why they had read the book. With a tip of the hat to my still loved though long deceased teacher, I’ll begin this with a disclosure: I read this novel in part because the author is the daughter of a friend, neighbor, and fellow Grace Church parishioner. “In part” because another reason for my reading it is that it’s set in the neighborhood I’ve called home for the last almost 32 years, Brooklyn Heights, though at a time long before I came here; indeed partly before I was born.
The story begins on VJ Day, August 14, 1945 (this is the date Japan’s unconditional surrender was announced in the U.S.; Japan did not sign surrender documents until September 3, which is now the official VJ Day). Wally Baker and her mother, Stella Wallace Baker (Wally’s full name is Beatrice Wallace Baker) go out into the pandemonium filling even the streets of staid Brooklyn Heights. Stella is taking Wally to the nearby house of Stella’s parents, Waldo and Gigi, who are both physicians, as is Stella. As the day progresses, we are introduced to Waldo’s and Gigi’s housekeeper, Loretta Walker, an African American woman who also serves as Wally’s caretaker, and to Wally’s closest friend, Ham, who is Loretta’s son. We are also, in conversation, made aware of William Niederman, a PhD in mathematics and the college roommate of Stella’s husband and Wally’s father, Rudy, who, at Rudy’s urging by telegram from the South Pacific, becomes a boarder in the spare bedroom of Stella’s and Wally’s apartment “for the duration.” The duration is now over, and Rudy will be coming home to his wife and daughter,
As VJ day draws to a close, Loretta and Wally arrive at Stella’s apartment a little later than planned; there they find Stella dead on the kitchen floor, a suicide.
From this beginning, the story takes us from Wally’s girlhood to young womanhood and, at the close, motherhood. It is a bildungsroman, or novel of growth, but also a todtsroman. It is punctuated by deaths–Stella’s, as well as the death of her first love and fiancé, who is killed by a log falling from a truck as they travel to his parents’ summer house, which sets the stage for Stella’s later, at first reluctant, marriage to Rudy; of Wally’s younger brother Georgie, who succumbs to whooping cough because no penicillin is available, it having been sent overseas for the troops; of Waldo and Gigi; and of an ant queen. It is also shadowed by the fear of death–of Rudy’s, when he is with the Navy in the South Pacific, and of Ham’s, when he enlists in the Army and is sent to Korea. At its close, though, it is a novel of life. Its ending, like that of Peter Wheelwright’s As It Is On Earth, brought to my mind the final sentence of Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater: “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Life, both natural, in the form of ants, and imaginary, in the guise of Wonder Woman, pervades the narrative of Wally’s growth and maturation. Ham becomes interested in the ant colonies he found in Waldo’s and Gigi’s back yard, and collects some to form a captive colony inside a fish tank. He communicates his enthusiasm to Wally, who does the same. Gigi takes them to the Museum of Natural History and introduces them to Vernon Somersby, an entomology curator. Somersby is impressed and offers them regular tutelage. He gets Wally onto a team of researchers who are studying how ants communicate, and she makes an important discovery.
Communication, or the lack of it, is the major theme of the novel. Wally regards Stella, who is reticent about her life away from Wally, as a mystery. Bill Niederman is a mysterious figure, engaged in secret war work. A failure of communication between him and Stella, once rectified, sets the action going. Ham is infuriated by Loretta’s late disclosure of his true parentage. Wally is grateful for RADAR (always in all caps), a form of communication of which the initial recipient is unaware but which reveals the recipient’s location to the sender, for keeping her father alive in the war. There’s even a discussion, by Bill Niederman after he returns to teaching math at Rutgers, of the “Traveling Salesman Problem,” which has to do with establishing the most efficient routes of travel or communication.
Wally is a fan of Wonder Woman, perhaps in part because she wonders about her mother, who is something of a wonder. Some time before Stella’s death, when her mother is away, Wally goes into her bedroom and finds, in a box under the bed, “the most remarkable costume [she] had ever seen.” There is a blue sequined cape on which were “long silver triangles plunging from shoulder to hem, like daggers.” Its lining is “electric-blue silk with blood red piping.” Under it is
a matching dress, short with a sequined bodice and more of those spangly silver daggers on a blue field. Under the dress lay a blue and silver headband and a pair of silver high-heeled booties. It was the costume Wally would have conceived for her mother, if her mother was a superhero.
What clinches it is that Wally sees, embroidered in the lining of the cape, Stella’s maiden initials: “S.W.” Wally takes this to mean “Silver Wonder.”
Worlds opened up in Wally’s mind like accordion folds. Long-standing conundrums sorted themselves out…. All those days and nights she was away, too busy for Wally–she’d been striving to make the world safe for her daughter. And the sense of withholding that Wally had sometimes felt, the sense that her mother was keeping something from her, all that made sense now, too….She was Stella Wallace Baker by the light of day, and the Silver Wonder, a shining streak of justice, by night.
My fellow Brooklyn Heights residents will find some interesting history here. Jim Crow was not absent from our neighborhood, as we see when Wally and Ham go to swim in the St. George Hotel’s Olympic size poll, and the woman at the entrance directs Ham to the “colored changing area.” Ham endures a severe beating when he and Wally go down to the still active docks below the Heights and a longshoreman takes offense at his being there with a white girl. Finally, we get to see what it was like for those living on Columbia Heights–including Waldo and Gigi–when Robert Moses’ “Brooklyn and Queens Connecting Highway” (now the BQE) takes away a large chunk of their back yards.
When the World Was Young is published by Random House, New York (2014).
From the Web
Long before there was Led Zeppelin, even before there were Yardbirds, there was Neil Sedaka. Brooklyn born and raised (his father was a cab driver) and trained to play classical piano in Julliard’s preparatory school program, Sedaka found his true love in pop music as a teenager. He and lyricist Howard Greenfield, a boyhood friend, became one of the songwriting teams–along with Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman–who had offices in the Brill Building, a 1931 vintage office building at Broadway and 49th Street with an elaborate art deco entrance (photo). Producers Don Kirshner, George “Shadow” Morton, and Phil Spector also had offices there.
Sedaka, like Carole King, was a singer as well as a songwriter. His recording career began in 1957 with “Laura Lee” on the Decca label. His first song to chart was “The Diary,” on RCA, for which he continued to record through the remainder of the 1950s and ’60s. He cracked the top ten in 1959 with “Oh! Carol,” which made it to number nine. In the summer of 1960 “Stairway to Heaven,” which apart from its title bears no relationship to the later Led Zeppelin hit, also reached nine on the hit parade.
I remember “Stairway” fondly because it was one of the songs that I heard many times on the car radio, along with Roy Orbison’s enthralling “Only the Lonely,” the Hollywood Argyles’ hilarious “Alley Oop,” and Ray Peterson’s bathetic “Tell Laura I Love Her,” when my parents and I went from Tampa to visit my mother’s relatives in Pennsylvania and my father’s in Indiana during the summer between my eighth and ninth grade years. I always enjoyed these road trips, and music I heard on them got engraved on my memory. An intriguing feature of “Stairway” is the rising “Bwaaaaah!” sound at the end of each chorus. The musicians credited on the song include Irving Faberman on timpani; this sound is likely produced by pedaling the drum. There’s also a sax bridge by the then almost ubiquitous King Curtis.
Sedaka continued to have hits for RCA through 1961 and ’62, when he reached the top of the chart with “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” His slow ballad version of that song, released on the Rocket label, reached number eight in 1975, but topped the “easy listening” chart, giving Sedaka the distinction of being the only artist to have topped charts twice with different versions of the same song.
Neil Sedaka will celebrate his 76th birthday tomorrow, March 13, 2015.
Brill Building photo: San Francisco Public Library.
From the Web
Coney Island Brewing Company recently released a new brew, Overpass IPA. Why “Overpass” and why the elephant on the label? The overpass in question is the Brooklyn side overpass of the Manhattan Bridge as it descends toward earth a ways inland, and the elephant is because the artists who years ago settled into lofts in the formerly industrial neighborhood beneath and around this overpass called it “DUMBO” for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.” Alas, those artists, other than those who became successful enough to pay ever increasing rents or to buy, have since been banished, as New York’s Bohemia is forced farther and farther afield by the inexorble workings of the real estate market.
Last year Coney Island Brewing released “Seas the Day India Pale Lager,” which I tasted and reviewed. Having gotten Overpass, their first India Pale Ale, I couldn’t resist sampling them side by side (see photo above). The first thing that struck me is that, contrary to my expectation, the lager (on the left) is a deeper amber color than the IPA. Please don’t conclude from the photo that the lager produces a much more ample head. Before I poured the brews, I accidentally knocked over the lager bottle, which made it very fizzy. The IPA produced a full, foamy head which had largely collapsed by the time that on the lager had declined to the point where I could finish pouring it. As I did when I reviewed Seas the Day, I paired both brews with a spicy Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich from Hanco’s.
Before this tasting, I tried the Overpass IPA by itself. My notes were: aroma–hops predominate, with floral undertones; flavor: hop bitterness dominant throughout. When I gave my wife a sip, though, her reaction was “Malty!” As the ale warmed in the glass, I got more malt flavor.
For this tasting I let both brews sit on the table for a while so that, when I poured, they were not too far below room temperature. This time I noticed malt flavor at the start in both brews, although the hop bitterness seemed more pronounced at the finish in the lager than in the ale. As it got warmer, the IPA seemed almost toasty. But as I ate the spicy sandwich, I noticed the hop flavor in the ale becoming more pronounced again. The principal difference between the IPA and the IPL was that the latter had more pronounced fruit overtones. This seems odd given that the hop mixture in the IPA includes two varieties–Centennial and Nelson-Sauvin, that are not used in the lager and are said to impart fruit flavors.
I find the Overpass IPA a fine, well crafted example of the style; one that, if not served too chilled, has excellent hop-malt balance. Of the two, I think the Seas the Day IPL is more interesting; but why wouldn’t an unusual brew like an India Pale Lager be so?
Coney Island Brewing has also recently released a 1609 Amber Ale, 1609 being the year Europeans first set foot on what is now Coney Island. I have a bottle, and will be reviewing it soon.
From the Web
The Mets are in camp; they’ve yet to play a spring training game. That comes Friday, against the Tigers. Signs are good: Matt Harvey can throw well following Tommy John surgery; David Wright is healthy (at least for now); everything else seems to be in good order. So, first, why do I have a photo of Babe Ruth, a Yankees hero, although I managed to find a 1916 shot of him in a Red Sox uniform? More about that below.
Truth is, I got nervous when I read this New York Times story. Anything that indicates the Mets are doing something other than concentrating on playing baseball, especially if it smacks of premature triumphalism, puts me on edge. Sort of like Darryl Strawberry’s rap “Chocolate Strawberry.” recorded and released in 1987, just as the Mets were beginning their as yet interminable decline from their 1986 championship.
And the Babe? Thinking about players’ publicity appearances brought to mind a story I read some years ago. It was 1942, and everything had to be about the War Effort. The Babe was to be interviewed on Grantland Rice’s radio show, so one of the questions was how sports could contribute to that effort. Rice had scripted an answer; “Well, Granny, as the Duke of Wellington said, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” This was rehearsed several times until it seemed Ruth had it down pat, but when the show went live, he said, “Well, Granny, as Duke Ellington said, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Elkton.” Asked afterward why the deviation from script, Ruth said he didn’t know Wellington but did know Ellington, and while he’d never been to Eton, he married his first wife in Elkton, and would never forget that place.
Update: already the intra-squad sniping has begun.
Babe Ruth photo: Culver Images via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)
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Like last week’s TBT, this is a memory from my law school years; this one from the spring of 1968, when I was a first year law student and, as a transplant from Florida to Massachusetts, experiencing my first real spring since I was a child. I had spring fever bad, which wasn’t helping me concentrate on my studies. Many nights I stayed up late, trying to catch up on assignments and prepare for exams, and would always have WBCN, Boston’s first “underground” FM rock station, playing.
Probably because of my emotional state at the time, music I heard often got engraved on my memory. One night the DJ announced what he said was an example of “Southern white soul,” a song called “Georgia Pines” by a group I’d never heard of called the Candymen. He also mentioned that the singer’s name was Rodney Justo. The video clip below shows the Candymen performing “Georgia Pines” at Greenwich Village’s famous, and still extant, music venue The Bitter End in 1967:
Despite “Candymen” and “Rodney Justo” sticking in my memory, I didn’t follow them at the time. WBCN didn’t play the song again, at least not when I was listening, and no Candymen albums showed up in the record bins at the Harvard Coop. My principal musical interests at the time were the harder edged British Invasion groups–the Stones, the Who, the Yardbirds–along with Dylan and the country-tinged rock of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. From the last two I developed passions for, respectively, the “Cosmic American Music” of Gram Parsons and the protean Neil Young.
A few years ago I became Facebook friends with someone I had known in Tampa during my youth, and saw that one of that person’s other friends was a “Rodney Justo.” “Could it be?” I thought. I went to Rodney’s Facebook page and–sho’ nuff! It turned out we had both lived in Tampa and went to rival, though not arch-rival, high schools (I to Robinson; he to Chamberlain). Although I had never met him. I sent a friend request, which he graciously accepted. I learned that, before the Candymen, he had led a group called Rodney and the Mystics, which triggered a vague memory, as I’d probably heard of them during my Tampa years (they shouldn’t be confused with the Mystics who had the 1959 hit “Hushabye; those Mystics came from what is now my adopted home, Brooklyn). What I didn’t know was that Rodney and the Mystics became the go-to backup band for many established rock stars. Roy Orbison asked Justo to join his backup group, called the Candymen as a reference to Orbison’s song “Candy Man”. Although their principal commitment was to Orbison, the Candymen also recorded and performed on their own; witness “Georgia Pines.”
After the Candymen, Justo became a founding member of Atlanta Rhythm Section; the photo at the top of this post is of him while he was with ARS. The video clip below is of a reunited ARS performing “Doraville” live sometime in the not-too-distant past; Justo is the lead singer.
Some years ago Justo left the full time music world and took a job with a beverage distributor because he decided it was more important to be a successful father than a successful musician. Nevertheless, he still does gigs with Coo Coo Ca Choo, a ’60s-’70s revival band, in the Tampa area.
From the Web
She was a Brooklyn native, but her family moved to New Jersey, where she attended the private Dwight School for Girls in Englewood. She was a sixteen year old junior at Dwight when Jones signed her to Mercury Records and she recorded “It’s My Party,” which went to the top of the Billboard pop chart in 1963. Her recording and performing career continued through high school and Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied drama and literature. She later did some acting; the photo above shows her as Catwoman’s sidekick Pussycat in the TV series Batman.
My favorite of her early hits (she continued to record, perform, and write music through much of her later life; her last album, Ever Since, reviewed favorably in The New York Times, was released in 2005) is “You Don’t Own Me,” described as an “empowering, ahead-of-its-time feminist anthem” by Daniel Kreps in Rolling Stone. The video clip above shows her performing it as part of the T.A.M.I. Show in 1964, when she was eighteen.
While “You Don’t Own Me” could be seen as an “answer song” to Joanie Sommers’ 1962 hit “Johnny Get Angry” (“I want a brave man; I want a caveman”), Gore didn’t see it that way, at least not when she recorded it. She thought of it as something a man could have as easily sung to a woman. Like all of Gore’s early songs, it wasn’t written by her. It was written by two men, John Madera and Dave White.
Gore was in college when she first realized that she was a lesbian. She didn’t announce this to the public until 2005, when she was hosting In The Life, a PBS show about LGBT issues. Her death was announced by Lois Sasson, her partner of 33 years.
Addendum: Friend Eliot Wagner has this observation:
While “You Don’t Own Me” was not an answer to any particular song, it responded to an entire era. The late 50s and early 60s were full of songs which instructed women on their role viz a viz men in society: not only “Johnny Get Angry”, which you mentioned, but also “Love and Marriage”, “Wives and Lovers”, and probably the most egregious of the lot, “Bobby’s Girl”. The fact that “You Don’t Own Me” was on the air was a grand signal that even if that era was not over, it would, in fact, soon be history.
It also occurred to me that 1963, the year “You Don’t Own Me” was released, was also the year that Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published.
From the Web
432 Park Avenue (center in the photo above) claims the title of tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere, and second tallest building (after the new One World Trade Center) in New York City, but if measured by roof height the tallest. It’s described by its architect, Rafael Viñoly, as designed around “the purest geometric form: the square.” Not only is the building’s horizontal cross section a square, but all the windows are squares. It dominates the midtown skyline with the grace of a colossal headless Pez dispenser, or upraised middle finger (the photo above was taken from Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park). Aaron Betsky admires its “relentlessness”; I demur. Betsky also celebrates how 432 Park “represents the transformation of this and every other city into a place for the wealthy to live and play” as if driving out struggling artists and other relatively impecunious but creative people, and the inexpensive infrastructure that supports them, constitutes progress.
With bad luck, we may be subjected to more Viñoly designs, like 125 Greenwich Street, all of which will end up being pieds a terre for billionaires, with perhaps a few lower floor, smaller apartments going to mere multi-millionaires.
Viñoly discusses his design philosophy in this video. He plays piano well.
The developers of 432 Park are CIM Group and Macklowe Properties. Harry Macklowe is a developer whose company was once fined two million dollars for reckless endangerment resulting from the rapid night-time demolition of two buildings. Macklowe compares 432 Park to the Mona Lisa.
From the Web
The label says “Belgian-Style Ale with Ginger, Orange Peel and Fennel Seed.” As I’ve mentioned before, I’m leery of brews with additives. To riff on The Lovin’ Spoonful, “All I want is malt, yeast, water, and hops just to set my soul on fire.” Still, despite initial strong doubts, I liked Coney’s summer brew, Tunnel of Love Watermelon Wheat. I found their autumn offering, Freaktoberfest, less pleasing. Pumpkin is not one of my favorite flavors, although the espresso beans added an interesting note.
So, here are my notes on “The Plunge”, which I had with a spicy take out from Curry Heights:
Color: vivid amber (see photo).
Head: ample, but not over-the-top (ditto).
Aroma: fruit and spices, hint of licorice (thanks to the fennel).
Taste: a rich mix of fruit, spice, malt, and a muted hop finish, with a touch of licorice. As the meal progressed and the ale warmed in the glass, the fennel accent became more pronounced, and malt carried through to the finish.
The Plunge went well with the spicy curry, its own spiciness complementing rather than amplifying or fighting that of the food. All in all, a pleasant drink, and one I’ll enjoy again. Would I compare it to a swim in frigid water? To me, it was more of a sitting in front of a fire on a winter’s night kind of beverage. At 6.9 percent ABV, it will warm you up. Technical details are here.