Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy 176th Birthday, Mark Twain

Wish you were here, Sam. Of course, you'd probably be the most dangerous man alive, but I think you'd be able to handle it.

What would you say about America now? I wish I knew.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Over 50,000 Page Views!

Thanks everyone- 50,000 page views (49,999 of which may be from me- not really!) of this blog.

Some other interesting L by L stats: The London Eye post,, is the single most popular at 366 views. Next is Happy Birthday, Little Walter,, at 70 p. v.'s.

Why are these so popular? I have no idea. Really. I don't think it's only the subject matter, and I know it's not the writing, as much as I'd love to think that had something to do with it.

It's a mystery!

Hopefully there are folks who look at everything or a lot of things when they come here. That would be nice. It's certainly part of my intention, but hey- I'm just happy with 50,000 page views!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thinking About Dwight Frye

Dwight Iliff Frye (February 22, 1899 – November 7, 1943)

As "Karl" in The Bride of Frankenstein

And here's what I was thinking: whatever it was that he did, he did it better than anyone else. Ever.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Smokin' Joe

Joe (right) and Marvis Frazier at Fight Night © Breton Littlehales
Joseph William "Joe" Frazier (January 12, 1944 – November 7, 2011) died of liver cancer, one of the few things he couldn't KO with his powerful left hook. He was only 67.

Frazier came of age as a boxer in the late afternoon of the fight game: early Don King, post- Sonny Liston and the obvious influence of the mob, and squarely in the last great years of boxing, the Muhammed Ali years. This I know, because although I've never followed sports, I knew who Joe Frazier was, just as I knew who George Foreman was, just as I, like almost every American male of my generation who saw Ali at the Norwegian Winter Olympics stand with his arm jerking uncontrollably, wept at the sight of the champ on his sad descent.

Joe Frazier was also a champ.

A relatively short but powerful man, Frazier was known for his devastating left hook, the partial result (it was said) of a childhood accident that permanently crooked his left arm. He came to national attention through the 1964 Olympics, where he won a gold medal, fighting his final opponents with a broken left thumb.

He defeated Ali in one of the greatest heavyweight bouts of all time, the so- called "Fight of the Century" in 1971, having secured the undisputed title by defeating Jimmy Ellis the year before. It was a fight that put both Frazier and Ali in the hospital. Frazier was 27, Ali 29.

In 1973 he was easily defeated by George Foreman in Jamaica. Although he would never be heavyweight champion again there was one more truly great fight left in him.

Dubbed the "Thrilla From Manilla", it was the fight that Ali said afterward made him think he was close to death. "They said you were through, Joe," Ali reportedly said during the fight. "They lied, pretty boy," Frazier shot back.

Frazier's trainer Eddie Fuch threw in the towel at the beginning of the fifteenth round, thereby giving the bout to Ali. Joe Frazier would fight again, but he was never able to recapture the glory he had achieved, even in defeat.

The fight left a permanent mark on Ali as well. His ring doctor Ferde Pacheco advised him to quit boxing. Pacheco felt the damage Joe had inflicted was too much on the charismatic fighter. "I told him to quit. I said he could really hurt himself if he kept boxing. But he kept boxing anyway."

Joe retired to Philadelphia, opened a gym and trained fighters, including his son Marvis. A brief comeback in 1981 convinced him to retire permanently and he was allowed, unlike, say, Joe Louis, or Sonny Liston, to age gracefully, mentoring young fighters happy to study with the champ. 

I met him at Fight Night, an annual event here in Washington, DC. I was photographing for the Washingtonian Magazine, shooting portraits of the great fighters in attendance. Joe was gracious to a fault, and wore one of the best- fitting tuxes I've ever seen. The only time he bristled was when I mentioned (in a very neutral way) Ali. "He's doing magic tricks now. That's all he can do," he said. He had never forgiven Muhammed for the verbal invective Ali had spat out in the months prior to their bouts. The old rivalry was still alive in these two.

My generation, the so- called baby boomer generation, is losing its heroes at a rapid rate these days. This is nothing new- it was a tough time in which to grow up. Every time you heard a radio station at night play four songs in a row of the same artist, you could be sure they were dead, like Hendrix or Janis Joplin. Otis Redding, John Lennon, Elvis, even a manque like Jim Morrison, all went way too soon.

It may seem, in that context, that an icon like Joe Frazier lived a good full life but now, as I am sixty, it seems to me too brief, way too short. A tough man, a good man, a mentor, a father... these are all things to be celebrated. But a lot of guys are those things or at least some of them (I'm not so tough).

But how many guys get to be the champ?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I've Smelled That Gas Before

Good old California.

As the Occupy Wall Street protest continues peacefully in New York City, police in Oakland, CA are hurling tear gas and arresting protesters. According to news reports, the mood remains festive (free barbecue and ice cream) and the smell of pot permeates the air. I love that last- the smell of pot and tear gas was THE smell of the California '60's- much like the smell of urine and Gauloise cigarettes in Paris during the same era.

Of course, that's what the press says, but it's probably true. In California it's less harmful and way less frowned upon to smoke a joint in public than a cigarette.

In a "Day of Mass Action" the Port of Oakland has been shut down in the general strike and banks have closed. ATMs were blocked by trash dumpsters and protesters smashed windows at Wells Fargo and Bank of America branches.

One woman was delayed in traffic fifteen minutes while marchers blocked the street. She honked her car horn in solidarity. However, a man driving a Mercedes tried to run his car (what a detail- of course it was a Mercedes!) into a group of protesters, injuring two. Or so it has been reported.

Maybe this is the beginning of the '60's again, just as the '60's were the beginning of the Beats again, etc., etc. I guess it really does go in cycles (or circles).

Wouldn't it be great if they do something about the music while they're at it?

Thanks to Time Magazine for these fine photographs.