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Existential Stuff

REMARKABLE INFORMATION! An Interview with a Legendary Man of Words!

May 13, 2014

Recently, I had the REMARKABLE good fortune to sit down with Zander Crane Pierce, the legendary crime author and one of the Heights’ most famous residents!  Zander, of course, is the creator of Ryder Aday, the hard-boiled P.I. who prowls the streets of Brooklyn raisin’ hell and ropin’ in the bad guys!  Aday’s catch phrase, “I don’t make the rules…I just break ‘em!” has been in the Merriam-Webster dictionary of Idiomatic Phraseology since 1994.

Between 1951 and 1975, Z.C. Pierce wrote 71 Ryder Aday books, including Aday to Kill, A Murder Aday, Aday to Pick Up Trash, Aday in Vegas, Aday in the Docks, A Dame Aday, A Bad Night to be Aday, Aday Chasing Reds, Aday in the Bathhouses, Aday in the Nuthouse, Aday in Hollywood, An Apple Aday Keeps the Reaper Away, Aday in Court, Aday Turns to Knight, Aday to be Stabbed in the Back, I Dodge A Bullet Aday, Aday to Love ’em and Leave ‘em, Aday on the Bowery, Aday at Yankee Stadium, The Night We Called It Aday, Aday at the Remodeled Yankee Stadium, and many others.

Eleven different movies have been made based on Pierce’s Ryder Aday books, with the lead character being played by actors from Vic Damone to Brian Keith, Mike Mazurki to Peter DeLuise, and perhaps most famously by Fred Williamson in 1974’s Aday to be Badasssss.

Mr. Remarkable visited Zander Crane Pierce in his basement apartment on Hicks’ Street.  Pierce brought the whole building in 1974 with the money he made from selling all rights to the Ryder Aday character to Sid and Marty Kroft (who intended to develop him into a Talking Chimp P.I. for a Saturday Morning series, to be voiced by Louis Prima; Prima’s catastrophic stroke in 1975 prevented the show from going ahead).  Today, Pierce lives in the front quarter of the basement, the only part of the building he actually still owns; Pierce has had to sell off the building piece by piece,  largely due to a gambling addiction in the 1980s that saw him lose nearly 20 million dollars betting on Division I College Basketball (he lost 800,000 dollars alone on a single Brandeis vs. Hamilton game in 1990).  As for the rest of Pierce’s once-considerable fortune, most of it was lost in the divorce settlement with his third wife, newscaster Pia Lindstrom.

I would be delighted to announce that Pierce is a spry and sharp 84 years young.  But that would be a lie.  He is a confused, unwashed, and due to a fall on Montague Street in 2013, he hasn’t left his basement hovel in 15 months.  Nonetheless, we should honor great men like Zander Crane Pierce, and Despite his recent ignominy, Mr. Remarkable was delighted to sit down with his legendary Brooklynite, and discuss one of this boroughs most fascinatin’ fictional characters.

PIERCE:  Did you bring the Ramen, Gertrude?

MR R:  I’m not Gertrude.  But I did bring the Ramen you requested.

PIERCE:  Hmmm. Shrimp?  You brought me Shrimp Ramen?  Do I look like a Chinaman to you?

MR. R:  No, no Sir.  There’s chicken there, too, right underneath.

PIERCE:  Damn right there is.

MR. R:  We met once before, at a Seder hosted by Clay Felker and Norris Mailer in 197 –

PIERCE:  We met once before, at the premiere of The Jolson Story.  Who knew Larry Parks was a commie bastard?  I did, that’s who.  I could smell the stink of red on him a mile away, yes I could.

MR. R:  I wasn’t at the premiere of The Jolson Story.

PIERCE:  Jolson?  Why the hell are we talking about Jolson?

MR. R:  Uh, right, we are here to talk about Ryder Aday.

PIERCE:  Of course.

MR. R:  What’s your favorite Ryder Aday movie?

PIERCE:  That would have to be Aday Waay Out West, the comedy starring Pat Buttram, Slim Pickens, Aldo Ray, and Carol Doda.  That was a helluva picture.

MR. R.:  Yes, 1967.

PIERCE:  Yes 1967 what?

MR. R:  That’s the year they made the picture.

PIERCE:  What picture?

MR. RAday Waay Out West. 

PIERCE:  Now that was a funny picture.  Almost as good as Jolson Sings Again.  Y’know, history has not been kind to Larry Parks. I went to the premiere of that film with Jinx Falkenberg.  Do you know how good Jinx Falkenberg looked in a sweater?  As Mr. Webster said, ‘Voom comma Va-Va-Va-Va.’ God help me.

MR R:  Uh huh.

PIERCE:  William Demarest tried to make the moves on her that night.  Now, as far as I’m concerned, Demarest can do no wrong, but if he’s gonna go pilot fishin’ offa my pier, he’s no better than Larry Parks, that dirty red.  Sure could sing, though.

MR.R. Larry Parks?

PIERCE:  I’m talking about Demarest, you idiot.  Few people knew that.  Demarest could sing like a little bird.  A sweet little bird.  Such a pretty sweet little bird.

MR. R:  Let’s talk about Ryder Aday.

PIERCE:  Of course.

MR. R:  Who was the inspiration for Ryder Aday?

PIERCE:  That’s easy.  Demarest.

MR. R:  You saw him as an older man?

PIERCE:  I never saw Demarest!  What the Tom, Dick, and Harry are you accusing me of?  I didn’t see him as an older man, a younger man, or an in-between man!  I love the ladies.  Always did.  Just ask Wanda Hendrix, Virna Lisi, Dagmar, I dated ‘em all!

MR R:  Abby Dalton…Yvonne Craig…you had a bit of reputation!

PIERCE:  Whaddya mean I had a reputation?!?  I don’t care what you heard, I love the ladies!  I mean, yes, I took a bath with Demarest once – we all did.  The man loved his baths.  It was a very small tub.  Extremely small. Yes, I sponged his back a little.  But that’s all!  Okay, we took a nap together afterwards. But Demarest was always napping!  He said it’s what separated the real men from the lady boys.  Yes, we spooned a little.  That much is true.  Fred MacMurray took pictures.   Boy, did he take pictures.

MR. R:  Did that have anything to do with Fred Mac Murray being cast as Ryder Aday in 1961’s Aday in East Berlin?

PIERCE:  In a word, yes.  But I thought he did a good job.  He used a light meter an’ everything.  The contrast in those pictures was amazing.  Why, Life magazine could have used them.  I mean if they went in for that sort of thing.

MR R:  Are there any plans for any more Ryder Aday mysteries?

PIERCE:   Are you kidding! I don’t own the rights to the character.  Sid and Marty Kroft, those little gonnifs, they sold it to the Wetson’s hamburger chain, and then Wetson’s went under, and I think the bankruptcy court gave it to some creditors, I dunno, then somehow Albert Shanker got a hold of ‘em and when he died he willed them for perpetuity into the pension fund of the United Federation of Teachers. Can you imagine?

MR R:  Yes.

PIERCE:  Yes what?

MR R:  Yes, I can imagine –

PIERCE:  You couldn’t imagine a red nose on a clown’s face.  So anyway, around that time I was dating Lori Saunders, and I thought it’d be nice to write a character she could play in a TV show or a film, so I came up with Sassy Ba’dey, wrote a coupla those stories, Ba’dey at the Montreal Olympics, Ba’dey for Badguys, but no one was buying.

MR R:  Yes, I remember that!

PIERCE:  You don’t remember bupkiss.  You didn’t even remember when you, me, Larry Parks, Billy Martin, Lou Walters, and Arnold Steng went to the Latin Quarter and pulled a train on Irish McCalla.

MR R:  Excuse me?

PIERCE:  Irish McCalla, my friend. All you needed to do was promise that broad a pancake breakfast and she’s on her back faster than Max Baer Jr.

MR R:  Surely you mean Max Baer Sr.?

PIERCE:  No, I most certainly mean Max Baer Jr.  Demarest showed me some pictures.

MR R:  I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.

PIERCE:  Don’t play coy with me!  Abby Dalton’s been talking to you, hasn’t she?  What did she tell you about Demarest?  I don’t care what the world thinks, he was my sweet little Willie.  Is that ramen done yet?  Because my stories are on TV.  Can you see yourself out?  Frickin’ Abby frickin’ Dalton.  Thinks she’s the Queen of Sheba, that one.

Mr. Sommer’s opinions and general grasp of reality are entirely his own, and may in no way reflect the actual character of the people whose names are mentioned in his column. 

Timothy Sommer has achieved some degree of notoriety working as a musician, record producer, MTV/VH1 VJ, journalist, club and radio DJ, and music industry executive.  He is currently writing the book for I, Madame!, a Broadway musical based on the life and work of Waylon Flowers and Madame, and he continues his work to preserving the music and memory of New York Mets organist Jane Jarvis.


From the Web


REMARKABLE INFORMATION! How a Fella on Hicks Street Helped Send Man Into Space!

May 4, 2014

Hooray for a Hometown Boy!  On April 20, a small museum on Hicks Street opened to honor Doktor Dieter Viehmann, whose work in propulsion mathematics helped put men on the moon!

You may not have heard of ol’ Dieter, but his precise calculations helped his pal, Robert Goddard, launch the first liquid fueled rocket!  The little one-room (plus alcove) museum has been opened by Die Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftliche Verbesserung und Vergesslichkeit der Dinge, die Geschehen Kann oder Maynot Haben, Bevor wir Geboren Wurden, so Lassen Sie uns Einfach mit Dingen, Warum Nicht? (The German American Friendship Society for Scientific Improvement and Forgetfulness of Things that May or May Not Have Happened Before We Were Even Born, so Let’s Just Get On With Things, Why Not?), and it tells you simply everything you need to know about the legendary Herr Doktor Dieter, who emigrated to Brooklyn Heights in 1921, where he set up a little basement workshop on Hicks Street.  Communicating by mail and telegram with the famous Doctor Goddard, who lived in Ohio, our homeboy Herr Doktor used his knowledge of obscure math concepts like Continued Fractions and Sphere Eversion to help calculate potential parabolic velocities.  Viehmann’s personal eccentricities and extreme political beliefs later stained his reputation, which is perhaps why it’s taken so long for him to be honored in his hometown; Viehmann was deported in 1938 when it was alleged he was conducting experiments in Mendelian Eugenics (his phrase) on neighborhood dogs that he kidnapped, and he further damaged his reputation by standing on the sidewalk outside the Ahavas Israel Shul in Greenpoint every Friday night for four years and cooking ham and buttermilk soup in a giant tureen while singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” in Yiddish.

After his deportation, Viehmann used his almost obsessive knowledge of the Fourier Coefficients (a0=1af0f[x] dx, ah=2af0f[x]cos 2πhax dx, and so on) to help the Third Reich develop X-Ray Weaponry.  Alas, his tic-like habit of singing the patriotic songs of Irving Berlin in Yiddish (it is likely the Herr Doktor suffered from an undiagnosed form of Tourettes Syndrome) caused his undoing, and following prolonged torture by the Reich’s most notorious interrogator, Wilhelm Tim-Tuefel, Doktor Dieter Viehmann died a horrible death in the Brandenburg an der Havel Prison camp outside Berlin.  The new Viehmann Museum doesn’t gloss over this, and they include an actual page from the Doktor’s Prison Diary, in which he writes “I have cut out my own tongue with a shard from a broken mirror to stop me from singing the most disgraceful songs that caused my spiritual defenestration.  Yet I cannot help humming them.  Why, oh why, did I ever let my darling wife Mitzi take me to that production of This is The Army by that merciless Hebrew genius of melody?”

In happier news, the museum also features a great little ball pit for the kiddies!

And Now.,..The Three Dot Round-Up! 

 Mr. Remarkable highly recommends the great new show at Faux Felines, that terrific new drag club on Kent and 11th in Williamsburg!  I was especially taken by a special Tribute to Lady Newscasters, starring Miss Christiane A Man Poor, Lady Diane Saw Ya, and the REAL Lara Spencer (who knew?!?  She tucks very well!)I had a simply scrumptious meal at Le Pain Quotidien on Montague Street, but I got nothin’ but quizzical looks when I asked them why their John didn’t have “traditional” French toiletsAll you young ‘uns can go on and on about Game of Thrones, but just give me a little Adam 12 on the ME Channel, and I’m happier than Joey Heatherton with a Percodan prescription!As I write this, the New York Mets are STILL playin’ above .500!  I haven’t been this surprised since Christine Longet was set free.  I have a bet with Mister Marty Allen (“Hello Dere!”) that if the Amazin’s finish above .500 for the season, he has to dye his famous crazy hairdo Mets’ Blue and Orange!Hey, if you’re like me, you have very fond memories of Sid and Marty Kroft’s Banana Splits TV show – I mean, there is nuthin’, and I mean zero-zilch-nada-null-нульовий-bupkiss-rien-nix-nought- aon rud-doodley squat- គ្មានអ្វី- שום דבר –nuthin’ funnier that chimps in people’s clothing singin’ rock music, is there?!?  Well, good news for all of you lovers of jaw-flappin’ simians in tuxedos!  The FX Network is gonna be airing MonkeyTV, a show based around an all-chimp group called Guns’n’Lemurs, and their rise to the top!  I can’t wait, and until then I’ll stand in front of the TV holding my banana!Speakin’ of bananas, I don’t go to Broadway much these days – the prices for tickets are higher than Paul Simon’s bail, and the quality is lower than Paul Simon’s tail! – but I must say I am truly looking forward to seeing Harvey Fierstein’s new musical about Harry Belafonte, The Banana Boat Song Trilogy.  It opens at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in September!   Maybe by the time it opens, I’ll finally be able to take the R Train from this luverly little town to the Big Apple!…AND THAT’S WHY I LOVE LIVIN’ IN BROOKLYN!

Mr. Sommer’s opinions and grasp of reality are entirely his own. 

Timothy Sommer has earned a considerable reputation as a musician, journalist, record producer, music industry executive, MTV/VH-1 VJ, and purveyor of minor cultural dada-ism.  He is currently writing NOVA, OTTO? AVON, a palindromic history of the German love for Lox and Shakespeare.  He also continues his efforts to get one-time New York Mets’ reliever and long-time Toronto Blue Jays team medic Ron Taylor into the Medical Wing of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. 




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Existential Stuff

REMARKABLE INFORMATION! Facts, facts, facts!!!

April 3, 2014

Hello, Princesses and Princes in this, the most Kingly of Counties! Ah, yes, if you were kind enough to visit me in this space last week you may have noticed that, ah, um, I went a little Margot Kidder on you all!  And if you were in the vicinity of Henry and Joralemon Streets last Tuesday at about 10 PM, that barking you heard was me (I am sad but compelled, as part of my therapy, to admit that)!  And it wasn’t actually random barking; it was my Asta imitation, the same one that won me a $10 gift certificate at the Abraham & Strauss Employee Talent Show in 1959! But a quick visit to Carrie Fisher Center for the Treatment of Percodan Addiction seems to have made me at least partially able to participate in (what they CFCTPA call) “life with the normals,” so my nurses have handed me a glass of Clamato, a Zagnut, a legal pad, and a pencil, and instructed me that it would be “good for my therapy” if I got back on the wagon and churned out another column!!!

Well, since I wasn’t exactly out and about this past week (unless you call confinement to a mattress in a 5’ by 7’ windowless room on Swinburne Island “going out”), Mr. Recoverin’ Remarkable is going to have to dig into his archives for this week’s column!  (Oh, by the way, dearest readers, The Carrie Fisher Center is on Swinburne Island, and Swinburne Island, for those who don’t know, is a man-made Island – built in 1873 – in the Lower Bay, not too far from Staten Island; it originally housed the doomed and quarantined sick who were pulled off of Ellis Island. Real estate is cheap there, and the CFCTPA knew a bargain when they saw one, so they snapped it up and put up a few sheds and a Quonset hut, and imported a couple of doctors from, as far as I can tell, the Philippines).

(Oh, by the way, the poor chap pictured below isn’t me, but the unfortunate Leon Czolgosz, who you, dear reader, shall learn a little more about shortly.)

Fortunately, I have a file set aside for precisely these occasions (I last utilized it in 1986, when my depression over the suicide of Queens borough President Donald Manes tipped me into a catatonic state for three weeks).  The file is labeled Remarkable Facts!, and it contains all sorts of Tantalizin’ Tidbits and Insanely Amazin’ Info I’ve collected over the years!  AND IT’S ALL TRUE!!!

  • Researchers at Duke University have determined that 8 out of 10 people will become sleepy if they stare a dog directly in the eye!
  •  In the Netherlands, it is considered exceedingly rude to touch a stranger’s bicycle tire!
  •   The reason we call a prostitutes’ client a “John” is because of a very public scandal involving Indianapolis mayor John O’Dwyer in 1904!
  •   When President Lyndon Johnson was depressed, he would have aides roll him inside a carpet and throw him down a flight of stairs!
  • The original name of IHOP (the International House of Pancakes) was IHOPWESOOT (The International House of People Who Eat Spaghetti Out of Troughs)! In 1955, brothers Jerry and Al Lapin opened two IHOPWESOOTS – one in Siler City, North Carolina, the other in Greeneville, South Carolina.  These eateries were great successes, so the brothers opened a third IHOPWESOOT in 1956 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Problems with the North Carolina health department forced the two N.C. IHOPWESOOT’s to close in 1958, so in 1959, Jerry and Al reconfigured these two locations around a breakfast and pancake friendly concept, shortened the name, and the rest is history!  Oh, the one remaining IHOPWESOOT (the South Carolina one) changed its’ name in 1962 to Ye Olde Spaghetti Feedbag, and remains open to this day!
  • Jared Folgle – whom the world knows as “the Subway guy” – is the grandson of atomic spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg!
  •  Before Merv Griffin created Jeopardy!, he created a less-successful game show called That’s No Lady, That’s My Chimp!
  • The Black and Tan, a libatious staple of every Irish pub, was invented in 1916 by a Dublin-based terrorist group working for Irish independence, The Blacken Ten!
  • The actual inventor of the recording process later known as the Edison Disk was Leon Czolgosz!  After Thomas Edison stole Czolgosz’s idea, the inventor descended into madness, culminating with his assassination of President William McKinley in 1901!
  •  Due to the fact that he was born in England, funnyman Bob Hope was briefly interred as a Suspicious Alien by the U.S. Government during the 1938 Cordell Hull Poisoning Crisis!
  • The dog breed name “Pit Bull” originated with legendary British Prime Minister Winston Churchill!  Churchill, who was notoriously cruel to animals, owned four Staffordshire Bull Terriers, whom he kept chained in a small cage behind his quarters in the War Office.  The Prime Minister took to feeding the dogs only peach pits, which he claimed kept them “hungry, healthy, and regular as a soldier,” further citing that when he had been a prisoner of war himself in a Boer prison camp, his captors had fed him only on peach pits, and he had “turned out fine.”  Before long, due to their simple and constant diets, people around the War Office began to refer to Churchill’s dogs simply as “Pit Bulls.”

(Mr. Sommer’s opinions and grasp of reality are entirely his own)

Tim Sommer has been employed to varying degrees of gainfulness as a musician, record producer, DJ, VJ, and music industry executive.   He is currently working on Beame!, a musical about New York City’s much maligned elfin Mayor of the same name, and he recently testified before the veterans’ committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame that middle reliever Terry Leach was the best pitcher he ever saw.


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Existential Stuff

REMARKABLE INFORMATION! What We Can Learn from Leander “L’il Doodles” Weaver

March 26, 2014

Boy, what a week!  Last thing I heard, planes had spotted debris in the South Pacific!  Big deal!  I can look in my refrigerator and spot da provolone, da mozzarella, and de Brie!

Folks, I only kid.  There’s nothing funny about air disasters.  Why, it seems like only yesterday that a private plane crash in California’s San Rafael Mountains tragically ended the life of two of our greatest and goofiest second-generation funnymen, Red Buttons Jr. and Leander “L’il Doodles” Weaver.  It happened back in ’88:  these two up-an’-comers had rented a plane to take them from State Line, Nevada, (where they had been performing with fellow celebrity scions Frankie Laine Jr. and Lou Costello Jr.) to the yearly Chabad Telethon in Hollywood (Red Jr. and L’il Doodles weren’t performing – they were just manning the phones, something they were doing to spit-shine their image after they infamously made some off-color jokes about Rebbe Manachem Mendel Schneerson).  But if L’il Doodles was still with us, I know what he’d say…

“I’m not sayin’ my date last night was reluctant to put out, but she went down slower than Malaysian Airlines 370.”

…And that’s because ol’ Leander could find humor in anything, and believed any situation could be brightened by a smile.  So, folks, if you are offended by these jokes, write my lawyer,  L. Ike I. Giveadamn, Esq. But seriously, I want to pay tribute to the “laugh at anything” spirit of Leander Weaver, and that’s why I’m barbequein’ these rib-ticklers.  Leander had a hard life:  despite having a famous dad (and an even better known relatives – L’il Doodles’ uncle was television pioneer Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, and his first cousin was actress Sigourney Weaver!), Leander suffered from a rare condition called male galactorrhea; in other words, his breasts produced milk.  This condition first manifested in Junior High, so you can imagine what a living hell gym class was for Leander.  This rare disorder plagued him his whole life; not only did Leander give milk, he gave it prodigiously, and it was not uncommon for him to have to change shirts six or eight times a day.  In addition, the small “pinky” toes on each of Leander’s feet had fused to the adjacent “ring finger” toe, causing Leander to walk with a very peculiar gait – he would begin a step on the “toe” of his foot, as opposed to the heel.  Most people assumed Leander walked that way for comic effect; but he did not, my friends, and due to this strange gait, by the time he was 25, he had the shins of an 80 year old.  Oh, and he had one wandering eye, the result of a rather well-organized albeit shameful assault he suffered at the hands of the girl’s volleyball team in 10th Grade.  I suppose it was all these adversities that made Leander Weaver want to make people laugh – the louder he could make them laugh with him, the less he would hear them laugh at him.

I still remember where I was when I heard that Leander had died (I really didn’t give a crap about Red Jr. – he was a nasty piece of work, though he did a great routine about the Wilbur Mills and Fannie Fox scandal):  after a hard day at The Bugle covering the fallout from Geraldo Rivera’s groundbreaking reports on the conditions at Willowbrook, I had plopped down in the Barcalounger with a pitcher of cool Rob Roys to my left and a Swanson’s Salisbury Steak Dinner on the TV tray in front of me.  I had flicked on the Motorola and I was trying to decide between Alias Smith and Jones on Channel 2 or Me and the Chimp on Channel 7.  Then a bulletin came on TV…

WAIT.  That’s what I was doing when I heard that Alabama Governor and Presidential Candidate George Wallace had been shot!  Damn.  L’il Doodles and Red Jr.’s plane didn’t go down until 16 years later.  Dammit.  Percodan is a cruel mistress, my friends.  It leaves holes in your memory bigger than the questions the grieving families must have about the REAL fate of the passengers on Flight 370.  If only my friend Artemis Kenyon was here to solve the mystery!  But that’s another story, and maybe I’ll tell it to you sometime.  Wait…I told it to you last week, didn’t I?  My god, Jerry Lewis told me this would happen. Or was it Bernice Massi?  Man, she was hotter than a three-dollar pistol, yes she was.  She put the “Broad” in Broadway.  When I was a kid in Little Neck I had a dog named Duke, named after Duke Snider, and I once saw Chuck “The Rifleman” Connors buying a Chevy Impala at a car dealership on Northern Boulevard.  My friends used to call me Johnny Ringo because I would never stop talking about that TV show.   What was I talking about again?

Mr. Remarkable is indisposed, and has asked me, his nurse, to think of ‘stuff’ to put into something called…THE THREE-DOT ROUND UP!  Boy, there was a long line at CVS today – two of the automated checkout machines were broken! Boy, if you like pizza, Brooklyn is the right place to live!Stephanie, she’s the lady who does dispatch at the car service company my brother works at, she says her boyfriend was an extra in that picture The Wolf of Wall Street…wait…Mr. Remarkable says “You’re doin’ a crappier job than Pia Lindstrom” (whatever that means) so he wants me to just write down exactly what he saysI’ll tell ya that Joey Heatherton didn’t have much in the chesticles department, but her tush was firmer than the first tee at AugustaI don’t know about you, but I still turn on the TV late on Sunday night expectin’ to see The George Michael Sports Machine…Burns ain’t nothin’ without Schrieber and Schreiber ain’t nothing without Burns, those two lovely kids really ought to give it another gothe other day I was standing on Montague Street and someone came up to me and asked me where “Stan’s Church” was!…AND THAT’S WHY I LOVE LIVIN’ IN BROOKLYN!

(Mr. Sommer’s opinions and grasp of reality are very much his own)

Tim Sommer has achieved some small degree of note as a musician, record producer, DJ, VJ, and music industry executive.   He is currently writing a book titled Eddie Deezen: The Thinking Man’s Sammy Petrillo (and the role of other Lewis Manqués in the Culture of Hollywood), and he continues his efforts to get the New York Mets to permanently rename the Third Base Coaching Box at CitiField after Ed Yost.





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Existential Stuff

REMARKABLE INFORMATION! The Amazin’ Mystery of Artemis Kenyon

March 19, 2014

The Remarkable Mystery of Flight 370 – still unsolved as of this writing – has the world enthralled.  And it reminded me of a man I once knew who was a solver of great mysteries such as these.

Our story starts on U Thant Island.  As you know, U Thant Island is that tiny rock that lies in the East River just south of Roosevelt Island.  It is the smallest of Manhattan’s many Islands, and is named for the beloved Burmese Director General of the United Nations, Dag “U Thant” Hammarskjold.

In the early 1970s, U Thant Island had only one resident:  the legendary spiritualist, psychic researcher,  and cosmologist Artemis Kenyon.  Kenyon, who lived in a hole 12 feet deep and four feet wide carved into the living rock of the island, had been given the property by the United Nations as thanks for his work finding Hammarskjold’s plane after it mysteriously disappeared in 1961.  Kenyon’s specialty was solving aeronautic mysteries that could not be resolved via more conventional means.

How did I meet this remarkable man?  In late 1972, a plane carrying Congressmen Hale Boggs and Nick Begich vanished in Alaska, and I visited Kenyon for his assistance with a piece I was writing on the strange disappearance.

Kenyon, who ritually dressed only in baseball shirts once used in actual Negro League Baseball Games, offered me a cup of Lichen tea, which I politely declined, and an odd candy of his own invention fashioned out of dried eel and caramel (which I accepted; it tasted like the bile of the elderly). He then shared with me the 60-volume history he had written, in verse, of the legendary lost world of Mu.  Kenyon claimed that the massive work had been dictated to him by an elder spirit of Mu named Chappy of Çatalhöyük, Tighearna (God) of the Pipe-Whistle. Inexplicably, Kenyon had written the massive tome in a recently dead language called Jassic, a Hungarian dialect that appeared to have become completely extinct some time in the 19th Century.  Confiding in me, Kenyon explained that the 60-volume epic was really a hidden history, masked in metaphors and riddles, of the fairies and demons who hide in the ether and direct traffic in the sky.  He further explained that all of his clues regarding the many aviation mysteries he had solved over the years came from interpretations of the Mu text.

Artemis Kenyon was a remarkable man.  He died in 1977, mysteriously vanishing during that summer’s great blackout, his remains not turning up until 1980, when they were found in the meatpacking district by a film crew working on the movie “Cruising.”   Kenyon’s great history of Mu’s ethereal spirits was never located, nor was it ever copied; but I am quite sure that somewhere in its’ lost pages, decipherable only by the great Kenyon himself, lies the answer to the puzzle of flight 370.

Kenyon, incidentally, was the father of high-spirited TV-taxi film crit  Ignatius Malachy “Sandy” Kenyon.  In fact, when you hear Kenyon screech “I’m Sandy Kenyon!” he is actually saying “I.M. Sandy Kenyon,” paying tribute to the full name given to him by his father Artemis and his mother, TV funnygal Judy Graubart.  Oh, and Artemis Kenyon’s daughter from a prior marriage was long-time Orson Welles paramour, Oja Kodar.  What a remarkable man!

AND NOW IT’S TIME FOR THE THREE-DOT ROUND UP!  Hey, you know who loves Brooklyn Heights?  I do, that’s who!  My love affair with this neighborhood is legendary, I mean Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw couldn’t hold a candle to us.  But why can’t I get a pint of Ben & Jerry’s after 10 PM?!?  Like you, like me, like noted Ben & Jerry’s fan Ted Bessell, I love me some sweet n’ cold stuff with lot’s of gooey an’ chewy an’ crunchy stuff inside, but the nice gents at the all-night candy store near me ONLY have Haagen Dazs, and Mr. R. E. Markable (that’s me!) has NO darn idea where somewhere is open that might sate my late-night craving for a trough of da good stuff!Best o’ luck to the brand new People Who Dyed hair salon on Clark Street! (do I get a free trim for that plug? Here’s hopin’!)Here’s somethin’ logical:  CHEESE is made from milk, an’ MILK CHOCOLATE is made with milk – it was only a matter of time before someone blended the two and made Chocolate Cheese!  Well, hooray for the weird beards at Curds and Wythe on Wythe Street in Williamsburg, who have been making artisanal cheeses and dairy products from their storefront at Wythe and N. 1st for a little over a year now.  They’ve just come out with not one but TWO varieties, Monster Muenster Mocha and Chewy Chocolate Cheddar.  How do they taste?  Well, imagine licking the deck of a slave ship  (jus’ jokin’, guys – we kid everyone here at RemInfo HQ! Tho’ next time be a little less stingy with the free samples)I wanted to note the sad passing of Dario D’Abbruze, a/k/a Roslyn Kind-Of, the world’s best known (and only!) Roslyn Kind impersonator.  As you all know, Roslyn is the super-talented singin’ sister of superstar Barbra Streisand, and dear sweet Dario created his own niche in the crazy, mixed-up industry we call Le Biz by devoting his too-short life to honoring Ms. Kind’s considerable skills and style.  Dario was 62, and a memorial concert is being planned, so watch this space for details Hey, if you want to spend a compelling evening at the theatre, I highly recommend the Prospect Players’ production of an exciting new play, It Should Happen To You (It Happened to Me), a one-man show based on the life and loves of Peter Lawford.  Brooklynite Kevin Hogan does an absolutely stellar job making Lawford’s legendary trials and tribulations come to life…AND THAT’S WHY I LOVE LIVIN’ IN BROOKLYN!

(Mr. Sommer’s opinions and grasp of reality are very much his own)

Tim Sommer has achieved some small degree of note as a musician, record producer, DJ, VJ, and music industry executive.   He is currently teaching a class at C.W. Post on the semiotics of Mantan Moreland’s famous “Mashed Potato” joke (“Lexicon, Language, and The L’il Gal in the French Maid’s Outfit”), and he continues his efforts to get Ron Swoboda into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

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REMARKABLE INFORMATION: Jus’ Gossip and a Gaggle of Giggles

March 12, 2014

For the past few weeks, Mr. R.E. Markable (thaaaat’s me!) has been like a boring Sunday school teacher: a lotta long stories and no gossip!  (Though most Sunday school teachers haven’t stayed up late with William Burroughs and Bobby Darrin trying to conjure the sprit of Aleister Crowley, but that, m’friends, is another story!).  So, for this edition of the column that the late, great Jimmy Breslin once called “A helluva lot of typing for someone who dropped out of St. Francis,” we are JUST gonna catch up on items for…


How ‘bout a big Three-Dot Cheer for TBS:  Not only are they trying to reach the kiddie market with their new Saturday morning live-action entry, L’il Dallas, they’re actually casting Larry Hagman III (that’s right – the original J.R.’s great-grandson!) as the 11-year old Mean Widdle Texan!…And just to create some confusion, the young’un Hagman is NOT to be confused with the up-and-coming Bushwick band, The Larry Hagman Three, who have just released their debut 7” record on Brooklyn’s own Straight to L record labelI don’t know about you, but sometime this Politically Correct stuff can get outta hand:  General Mills is gonna be CHANGING the magical l’il leprechaun on the Lucky Charms box to something “less offensive” to the sensibilities of people of Irish Descent.  Apparently, the new box-star (and I’m quotin’ from the press release, folks, don’t blame ol’ Mr. Markable!) will be a character that “…more realistically and respectfully embodies the achievements and legacy of the Irish People.” I would say I am speechless, folks, but you know I always have something to say!  I haven’t been so offended since The House of David baseball team was forced outta businessIt seems that so many ‘big name’ people have died recently that some very important dearly departed are fallin’ through the cracks.  SO I would like to take a second and tip the ol’ Three-Dot Yarmulke to some of the names you may have missed in the smaller type of the obituaries: The talented Marty Johnson, the younger brother of comedian Arte Johnson, died on February 23 at age 74.   Marty was the co-star of the 1966 ABC military laffer You and Watt Army about an entire family – The Watts, of course – who get accidentally drafted into the Military.   Marty played the bumbling private who gets to share a tent with the Watts (a role originally written for funnyman Howard Morris). The show may have only lasted four episodes (it was personally yanked from the airways by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who called the show “an almost treasonable offense to any man who has ever served his nation’s flag”), but it put the “Ho” in “Ho Chi Minh”You know who else  also passed recently with relatively little fanfare?  That’s right, one-time Heights’ resident Lysander Eurphrosyne “Maynard” Agnew, the younger brother of Vice President Spiro Agnew.  Maynard, who was known for his trademark beret and goatee, turned his back on the “establishment” legal and political career path his famous brother pursued and chose instead to live life as (what we use to call!) a “beatnik.”  Maynard lived in the Heights during the early 1960s, where he briefly ran the legendary Like, Books bookstore.  Always a thorn in his brother’s side, Maynard was appointed ambassador to the tiny Micronesian nation of Palau in 1969, and he remained there for the rest of his life;  by 1990 he had asserted a nearly-godlike sovereignty over the coral atoll of Kayangel in Palau, with many comparing him to Kurtz in Heart of Darkness.  Lysander died  on March 1 in Kayangel at age 91, brutally beheaded by his eldest granddaughter, Mariur Ngiratkel “Click Click” AgnewWhoever said you couldn’t get a good Quinoa Spelt Scone in this town hasn’t been to the lovely and charming Le Pain Quotidien, which brings a touch o’ France to ol’ Montague Street.  Lovely atmosphere and the food is Tres Bon!  Better get there fast before some Germans march in and they start selling sauerkrautHey, I’m only Joking when I take jabs at the Jermans – some of our best Brooklynites were Huns!  The amazin’ John A. Roebling,  the man who built the Brooklyn Bridge,  was born in Germany, and didn’t come to America until he was 25With the success of GIRLS, it should come as no surprise that the networks are scrambling to put more shows on their sched set in Brooklyn.  In September of 2014, The Lifetime channel is gonna unveil Windsor Terrace, an evening soap about luscious lady Vampires living in a glamorous mansion.  Kelly Packard and Jamie Gertz are set to star, with Bronson Pinchot as the ladies’ Transylvanian butler.   Also, in a bid for the desirable 20-something female demographic, Oxygen has announced a fairly transparent Girls rip-off called Greenpoint Dolls.  No casting has been announced, but oddly they will be shooting exteriors for the show in the Los Angeles hipster district of Silverlake, and interiors in Toronto. Finally,  the CW has already started shooting Sombrero, about a private eye named Luke Sombrero who prowls the streets of Downtown Brooklyn breaking rules and catching bad guys.  The title roll is being played by Eric McCormack, who you may remember from Will & Grace…AND THAT’S WHY I LOVE LIVIN’ IN BROOKLYN! 

Oh!  One more thing!  Before I go, I wanted to pass along a joke told to me by one-time Brooklyn resident Elliot Gould:

A bar walks into a dog.  “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form,” says the bar.  “Rough!” says the dog.  The bar looks out from within the dog, whose psyche-soma self he has entered through the process of Tonglen meditation, and notices that the dog needs to get it’s nails cut.  “Geez, you should really clip those, pal,” says the bar.  “How is it walking on those?’”  “Rough!” says the dog.  Then the bar asks “What is life like when we don’t recognize the emptiness inherent in all things subject to dependent origination?”  “Rough!” answers the dog.  The dog, conscious of its’ existence in both conventional and ultimate reality, realizes he is thirsty and asks the bar for a beer.  “I can’t serve you,” says the bar, “You’re only four.”  “Rough,” says the dog.  “The self is made up entirely of non-self elements,” the dog adds, trying to maintain his balance while having an entire bar inside of him.

 (Mr. Sommer’s opinions and grasp of reality are entirely his own)

 Tim Sommer has achieved some degree of note as a musician, record producer, DJ, VJ, and music industry executive.   He is the author of an acclaimed monograph about the career of TV and Film Star Marty Ingels, and continues his efforts to get Frank Viola into the Baseball Hall of Fame.



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REMARKABLE INFORMATION! The True Story of How an Olympics (almost) Grew In Brooklyn

February 25, 2014

I don’t know about you, but I generally think of the Winter Olympics as the Second Darrin of Olympic Games…but boy, the airborne, ice dancin’ excitement of the Sochi Snowthletes may have me changing my mind about that!  Yessir, ol’ Mr. Remarkable had a grand old time sittin’ back in his Craftmatic, a Rob Roy in one hand (don’t be stingy with those bitters, barkeep!) and a Lucky Strike in the other, watching winter’s most talented boys and gals go for the gold.

But did you know that the Winter Olympics were once almost in Brooklyn!

The story starts in 1936 with Stephen W. McKeever, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  One day while watching a ball game, he and his pal Robert Moses  (yes, the master builder – try sayin’ those two words three times fast!) were jawin’ about the pomp and spectacle of the recently concluded Olympic Games in Munich.  They agreed that the krauts could sure put on a show, but they thought they could do better! So McKeever and Moses decided to join forces and bring an Olympics to Brooklyn!

The first thing they needed to do, of course, was put together a good proposal, and pitch it to the International Olympic Committee, who were then headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland.  Now, Moses and McKeever cleverly thought that getting the winter games would be easier than getting the summer ones!  The Winter Olympics were only a few years old at that point (they had started in 1924), and they weren’t the big deal they were to later become (in fact, the first Winter Games in the U.S., in 1932 in Lake Placid, had been a decidedly tepid affair – only fourteen events in four sports were staged, and many of the world’s greatest winter athletes were no-shows because they didn’t want to spend the money to come over from Europe!).  In fact, this was one of the things Moses and McKeever wanted to change, and oh boy oh boy, they had big plans.

In January of 1937, McKeever, Moses, and famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, arrived in the land o’ banks and chocolate (that would be Switzerland! Ha!) to try to convince the IOC to award the 1944 Winter Olympics to Brooklyn!  Here’s what McKeever, Moses, and Mies had in mind:  They wanted to build an ARTIFICIAL MOUNTAIN in Prospect Park for all the downhill skiing and bobsleddy-type events; they wanted to convert Bed Stuy Armory into a state-of-the-art indoor arena to house hockey and skating; and they wanted to put a ROOF on McKeever’s own Ebbets Field, so they would have a site for a majestic opening and closing ceremonies befitting the grandeur of the games!

Boy, the ’44 Brooklyn Winter Olympics was sure gonna be a sight to behold!

Moses, of course, had long-term goals in mind:  he hoped to make the Prospect Park mountain permanent and create an income generatin’ tourist attraction to bring skiing and hiking into the city (it would be called Mount Moses, of course); and he also wanted to keep the dome on Ebbets Field, to create a forward-looking monument to the future which he hoped would compliment his plans for the 1939 World’s Fair, then being built in Flushing Meadows’ Park.

Well, when the Moses and his pals presented their ambitious plans to the crusty old burghers at the IOC, the reaction was swift.  Henri de Baillet-Latour, the Belgian head of the IOC, bluntly pronounced “C’est le travail de rêveurs et les Juifs, bien haut sur l’opium Hébreu” (“This is the work of dreamers and Jews, clearly high on Hebrew opium”); and with that one withering sentence, he dismissed Moses, McKeever, and Mies, and awarded the 1944 Winter Olympics to the city of Cortina d’Ambezzo, Italy.

Moses was never one to take defeat lightly.  Angrily, he announced that he would start his own International athletic competition to compete with the Olympics; this would be called The World Congress of Athletic Progress, and he would hold it every two years, to be permanently housed in the new Brooklyn winter paradise Moses was planning on building.  Now, McKeever thought that such an endeavor would surely bankrupt Moses, McKeever, the Dodgers, and the borough of Brooklyn, so he suggested to Moses that they all be good sports and accept that you win some, you lose some (a phrase first attributed, by the way, to the Roman Emperor Elagabulus; very shortly before his execution in 222 A.D. for his “unspeakably disgusting life”, ol’ King Gabby famously said “vincis, aliquam perdas”).   Well, ol’ master builder Moses didn’t like that kind of conciliatory talk, and he attacked his former partner with a rather large decorative ashtray presented to him in 1935 by New York Governor Herbert Lehman.  This incident was later hushed up, but there are some who believe the injuries Moses inflicted on McKeever contributed to his death in 1938, though that’s never been remotely proven.

But that’s another story, and Moses plowed ahead with his plans for his own personal Olympics.  To help promote the idea, he enlisted some corporate sponsors, high-profile politicians, and contemporary celebrities for a radio telethon to both raise money for The World Congress of Athletic Progress and familiarize the public sector with the concept. So, on November 14, 1937 a telethon titled Champion Spark Plugs and Pepsodent, the Antiseptic Toothpaste Present Muscle, Pride, and Progress aired on the Mutual Broadcasting Network, beamed live for eleven hours from the Mutual studios at 1440 Broadway.  It was quite an event!  Hosted by Comedian Fred Allen and surrealist painter/celebrity Salvador Dali, the remarkable evening also featured performances by the Boswell Sisters, Orson Welles, Kay Kyser, Chester Lauck and Norris Goff of Lum and Abner, Ed Wynn, noted juvenile Eddie Cantor impersonator Larry “L’il Banjo Eyes” Kase, the Dandy Dixie Minstrels, and star athletes from the New York Giants (Moses had switched team allegiances after the rupture of his relationship with McKeever).

The telethon was a disaster.  First of all, in order to emphasize the gravity of the event, Moses insisted that every reference in the script to the proposed inaugural games of The World Congress of Athletic Progress (slated at that time for February, 1942) include the date being written out in Roman Numerals.  This detail wreaked havoc with all the talent on the show, who found themselves attempting to pronounce “MCMXLII” as a word!  By the middle of the show, the considerable vocal talent had agreed upon a pronunciation of “Mick-Mix-ell” (as in “I’m Ray Corrigan, and Ernest Truex, Rosita Serrano and I want to tell you about The World Congress of Athletic Progress in February of Mick-Mix-ell”), and this infuriated Moses to such a degree that he physically attacked Ed Wynn’s wife and infant daughter.  Secondly, less than a third of the way through the marathon broadcast, news broke of the Japanese victory at Shanghai (in the ongoing and tragic Second Japanese-Sino War), and Mutual continually broke into the broadcast to update news about the event.

Within days, the grand idea of The World Congress of Athletic Progress was dead.  Moses licked his wounds, concentrated on the 1939 World’s Fair, had Rita Serrano deported to Nazi Germany, and went on to many great projects, but Prospect Park never got it’s mountain, Ebbets Field never got its’ roof, and the remarkable events of the global conflagration known as The Second World War preoccupied everyone’s minds for years to come.

There was an interesting fall-out from the event, however:  Salvador Dali and Fred Allen formed an unlikely friendship, with amazing results!  The artistic insouciance and conceptual savoir faire of the genius artist and the witty, fertile, and febrile mind of the great comedian combined to come up with one of era’s greatest inventions:  the toy we came to know as The Slinky.  But that’s another story.  Let’s just say that Dali saw the tightly coiled spring as the only possible reaction to the ludicrousness of the Civil War that had just wracked his native Spain (he envisioned the toys being dropped in the tens of thousands over the war-wracked plains of Andalusia), whereas Allen saw the ultimate commercial potential of the strange and mischievous object.

Once again, no time for THE THREE DOT ROUND-UP! Boy, there’s a lot of gossip and news piling up!  AND THAT’S WHY I LOVE LIVING IN BROOKLYN! 

(The author’s opinions and grasp of reality are entirely his own)

Tim Sommer has been employed as a musician, record producer, DJ, VJ, and music industry executive of some little note.   He is the author of the critically acclaimed I, WellonmellonThe Dark World of the Women in the Films of Jerry Lewis, and he continues his efforts to get the New York Mets pitcher Al Jackson into the Hall of Fame.














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REMARKABLE INFORMATION! The Story of Presidents Day!

February 17, 2014

This time of year, I get stopped on the street by little children, old ladies, butcher’s assistants, bellhops, international women with no body hair, all wanting to know the story of Presidents Day! Apparently, I told this fantastic and fascinatin’ tale on a talk show a long time ago, but for the life of me I can’t recall what show it was!  Tim Russert? Charles Grodin?  David Susskind? Carnie Wilson? Joey Bishop?  It’s all a blur, friends.  Lady Percodan is a cruel mistress.

Anyway, it’s a story I love to tell…so here, Ladies & Gentleman of the most Kingly of Counties, is the story of Presidents Day!

Like so many great American holidays, the roots of Presidents Day lie in Germany…but that part comes later, so let’s begin here:  Due to unforeseen problems in the calendar reforms introduced by Pope Pius XI and Vice President Charles Curtis in 1930, the year 1935 was going to be 26 minutes too long…unless no fewer than THREE new three-day weekends were introduced into the American work calendar! So in February of 1934 the government created Memorial Day and Labor Day, but they still needed one more!

Enter legendary film director King Vidor, who was an avid follower of current events (as we all know!); he was also a great friend of another Vice President, FDR’s John Nance Garner. In September of 1934 while Garner and Vidor were on the Hearst yacht pulling a train on Marion Davies, they were discussing the calendar problem. Vidor mentioned something interesting that had just happened in Germany:  the Nazis had introduced a holiday to commemorate the life and achievements of their legendary President, Paul von Hindenburg, who had recently died. In fact, not only had the Krauts created Präsident Tag, they had made it – you guessed it – a three-day weekend! (Or, as they call it, Einen Tag Nach Sonntag Knödel und Kalbfleisch ohne Angst vor Arbeitszeitverdauungsstörungen Essen – “An extra day after Sunday to eat dumplings and veal without fear of work-time indigestion”).

After cleaning up, Vidor and Nance discussed their brainstorm with some of the other guests on the yacht (who included actors Adolphe Menjou and Franklin Pangborn, Los Angeles mayor Frank Shaw, and George Putnam, the husband of aviatrix Amelia Earhart).  They all agreed that a holiday to commemorate America’s Presidents was a first-rate idea! Not only would it solve the calendar problem that was dangling over the very fabric of time like the Sword of Damocles, but the holiday could also boost the economy due to increased revenue from both tourism and Presidents Day souvenirs.

Within three days, Vice President Nance and the newspaper big-wig William Randolph Hearst were in Washington to present the Presidents Day idea to a phalanx of congressmen and senators (and also to seek out a legendary specialist to cure a rather persistent case of the Suppurating Gleet they had both acquired).  Provisionally, they slated the holiday for March to coincide with the birthdays of Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, James Madison, and John Tyler, but this notion got caught up in the heated racial politics of the day.  The southern contingent loved the idea of a March holiday, because it honored both hootin’ an’ hollerin’ Andrew Jackson and because John Tyler was the father-in-law of Reb-in-Chief Jefferson Davis.  The Northern politicos, however, bristled at the idea of turning the new holiday into an excuse to wave the rebel flag, so the whole Presidents Day idea stalled for a while, bogged down in partisan politics.

But the clock was ticking!  By now it was already the middle of October 1934, and 1935, with it’s potentially missing 26 minutes, was just weeks away!

Enter the legendary Adolphe Zukor, the founder and head of Paramount Pictures.  Born a poor Jewish girl in Hungary, few Americans loved their adopted land as much as ol’ Addie.  He had read about the holiday deadlock in Der Hollywood Teglekh Bleter, the popular Yiddish-language Tinsel Town gossip daily, and he sprang into action, getting directly in touch with ol’ FDR himself!  Zukor promised the President that if the Federal Government would move the proposed holiday to February, he would personally guarantee that Paramount would produce movies about the three Presidents born in that short and cruel month — George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and William Henry Harrison.

Well, that sealed the deal (an expression first heard, coincidentally, in the Presidential campaign of Benjamin Harrison, ol’ William Henry’s grandson), and F.D.R. used his considerable powers to push through the February date for the new Presidents Day Holiday!  But the kerfuffle over the new holiday wasn’t over yet!  Remember how I just said there were two President Harrisons (and you probably do, unless your memory is impaired by, say, an overwhelming Percodan addiction that greatly reduced your ability to recall events between 1972 and 1983, and left 11 years of your life a soiled, soggy fog of regret and sadness)? Well, some of the same southern politicos who were pressing for the March holiday were inexplicably confused by the relatively simply notion of there being two President Harrisons.  One of the leaders of the Southern Dems, South Carolina Senator James F. Byrnes, completely mistook the latter Benjamin Harrison for the former William Henry Harrison!  And since Benjamin Harrison was very forward thinking on segregation and civil rights, Byrnes and the Southern Dems – confusing, as I just said, William for Benjamin – said they would only approve the February holiday if Harrison was eliminated from the list of Presidents commemorated by the Holiday!

(Boy, what a story!)

So, Harrison was kicked to the curb, and the February Presidents Day Holiday was signed into law just in time, on December 19th, 1934, and the dilemma of the extra 26 minutes was solved.

I know what you’re thinking:  If Harrison didn’t pass the muster of the Southern Dems due to his support of Civil Rights, why did they support ol’ Abe?  Well, to be frank, I’ve never been able to figure that out.  I first heard the gist of the Presidents Day story from Nelson Rockefeller, Lou Walters, and Walter Winchell on one very, very long night at the Latin Quarter Club when I was still in my twenties, and I was able to confirm virtually all of it via extensive research conducted by my crack staff in the lonely days after the Apollo 1 fire on January 27, 1967 (everyone was pretty stunned, and I thought it would cheer everyone up to engage in some serious investigatory work!), but that was one question we never were able to answer.

Oh…and what ever happened to the Presidential biopics Adolphe Zukor promised an eager nation?  Well, that’s an interesting story in its’ own right, but I’ll try to “shorthand” it here:  The Abe Lincoln biography was re-scripted as a comedy vehicle for Paramount’s reigning bombshell, Mae West, and ol’ Banjo Eyes himself, Mr. Eddie Cantor.  In the film, titled Dumb Mr. Lincoln, Lincoln (as portrayed by Cantor) worries that Mrs. Lincoln (West) is cheating on him; and she is, in fact, carrying on with virtually everyone in sight, including Ulysses Grant and Vice President Andrew Jackson (played by the vaudeville team of Smith and Dale, also signed to Paramount).  She even has a peccadillo with Frederick Douglass (played by Cantor in blackface, surely one of the most offensive portrayals in Cantor’s otherwise distinguished career). A young Gary Cooper shows up briefly as the bodyguard at Fords’ Theatre who West distracts from his duty with her womanly charms.  Now, unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – the film was withdrawn almost immediately upon release, and all copies thrown into San Pedro Bay; movie censor Will Hays said that “…not only is this film a savage desecration of the memory of one of our greatest Presidents, but a scene with Mae West and Charlie Dale hints at a depravity only known in the darkest alleys of Algiers.”

How about that.

Now, the Washington biographical film also got handed over to the Paramount comedy department, but with happier results:  The L’il Georgie series, starring Jackie Cooper as young George Washington (and also featuring Ben Turpin and Ernie “Sunshine” Morrison), was a popular series of 12 two-reelers depicting somewhat idealized scenes from the childhood of our first President.

(Bizarrely, Dumb Mr. Lincoln got remade in the late 1960s, despite – or perhaps because of – the infamy and ignominy of the original picture. In the 1968 version, Lincoln is portrayed by Pat Buttram – Mr. Haney from Green Acres – and the lusty Mrs. Lincoln is portrayed by Beverly Garland, a last-minute replacement for Jayne Mansfield, who died just weeks before filming.  Arnold Stang plays Ulysses Grant, and V.P. Johnson by a somewhat miscast Nick Adams. A peculiar and discordant anti-war theme, obviously inspired by the contemporary situation in Vietnam, underlines the movie.)

WHEW.  Now, I warned you it was a long story, didn’t I?  No time left for the THE THREE DOT ROUND-UP!  But, as I said so many years ago on that mysterious talk show, you’ve been a great audience, AND THAT’S WHY I LOVE LIVING IN BROOKLYN! 

P.S.  You know…now that I think about it…I believe the talk show may have been Agronsky & Company.

Tim Sommer has been employed as a musician, record producer, DJ, VJ, and music industry executive.   He is the author of the critically acclaimed From Duel to Prinze:  How Suicide Framed Television in the 1970s , and he continues his efforts to get the city of New York to rename the borough of Queens after Gil Hodges.














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February 11, 2014

Now, we got a lot of reaction to last week’s piece about good ol’ Ennis Shalit and the invention of the Cobb Salad!  Apparently, there are some Doubting Thomas’s and Skeptical Susan’s out there who took issue with my account. This is America and I welcome all of these engaged voices!  As the late, great Arthur Treacher once said, “The only time to start complainin’ is when they stop complainin’!” Listen, friends: I just call ‘em like I hear ‘em.  Like my idols, Joseph Mitchell, Jimmy Breslin, Paul Harvey, and Lee Leonard, I am a collector of stories; The Big Apple is full of ‘em, and your humble correspondent is here with an old spiral notebook and a sharpened pencil takin’ notes.

Now, as you know, I took over this column in 1966 from its’ creator, the amazin’ Kermit Roosevelt Clinton-Henry, whose work was so admired in this parish that the city fathers named not one but two streets after him. The rest is history, and I am proud to be part of such an estimable legacy of accuracy and mirth.

Nevertheless, I will be the first to confess I am human and I do make mistakes.  So this week, I’m gonna do something I’ve never done before:  note some of my errors of the last 38 years.  As Brooklyn’s own Walt Whitman said, “All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect candor.”  So here goes (oh, and I’ve noted the original publication date of the column):

*  Borough Hall did not get it’s name from the burros that originally grazed there (6/11/94).

 *  The word “semitic” descends from Shem, the eldest son of Noah and Emzara, not from Shemp, the third born son of Solomon and Jennie Horowitz (5/4/02).

Walt Disney’s Fantasia was not “in part” based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion  (11/10/70).

*  Moe Berg, the second-string baseball catcher of the 1920s/30s who was also an Atomic spy (and who came within a hairs’ breadth of assassinating German physicist Werner Heisenberg), played for the Boston Red Sox, not the Boston Braves  (5/28/84).

*  During the manpower crisis of the First World War, trains on the IRT subway line were not manned by monkeys “most” of the time  (10/8/09).

*  The German title of Billy Crystal’s 1992 film, Mr. Saturday Night, was not Crystalnacht.

*  My statement that French Fries were “neither French nor Fried” was not entirely accurate  (8/2/80).

*  Funnyman Jerry Lewis did not have a stillborn twin named Jesse Garon Levitch (7/5/94).

 *  Speaking of the King of Comedy, there is no convincing evidence that in the early 1990s he was planning a sequel to The Geisha Boy exploring the “dark side” of Mr. Wooley, to be titled The Day Watanabe Cried, (10/26/93).

*  In my second-ever column (published on 3/5/66), I gave a misleading account of the censorship controversy surrounding the Disney film That Darn C**t.  The film, starring Don Knotts, Dean Jones, Roddy McDowell, Kathleen Freeman, Ed Wynn, and Clint Howard, was withdrawn from circulation not because of the somewhat risqué title, but because of a brief scene in which Clint Howard held hands with an African American child.

THE THREE-DOT ROUNDUP will be back next week!   Thank you for letting l’il ol’ me air some of my dirty laundry, and I am quite sure you very, very kind people will forgive me, AND THAT’S WHY I LOVE LIVING IN BROOKLYN! 

(Mr. Sommer’s opinions and grasp of reality are entirely his own)

Tim Sommer has been employed to varying degrees of gainfulness as a musician, record producer, DJ, VJ, and music industry executive.   This spring he will be in a bookstore near you with his co-author Paul Sherman promoting their new work, Dick Sargent:  Second Darrin But First in Our Hearts, and he continues his efforts to get the New York Yankees to rename Yankee Stadium after one of their best and bravest, Mr. Elston Howard. 



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