Sunday, February 28, 2010

Avery Brundage


In 1936 the President of the United States Olympic Committee was Avery Brundage, former Olympic athlete, successful building magnate, and complete dick.

The best thing that can be said of him is that without his tireless effort to lick Hitler's butt-crack, Jesse Owens would not have had the opportunity to be an Olympic legend. This is ironic, because Brundage was also a tireless racist.
"The fact that no Jews have been named so far as to compete for Germany doesn't necessarily mean That they have been descriminated against on that score. In forty years of Olympic history, I doubt if the number of Jewish athletes competing from all nations totaled one percent of those in the games. In fact, I believe one-half of one percent would be a high percentage." - Avery Brundage, July 26, 1935
Among other accomplishments, Brundage struggled to keep Jim Thorpe from having his Olympic medals posthumously returned. While this may have had nothing at all to do with the fact that Thorpe kicked Brundage's ass in the decathalon and the pentathalon in the 1912 games, though it is a documented fact that Brundage was the one who reported Thorpe's paid exhibition baseball games to the Olympic committee.

Brundage had a soft spot for totalitarian regimes - Fascist and Communist - arguing against boycotting the 1936 Winter and Summer Games in Germany, or later as IOC President opposing the Eastern Bloc tradition of paying their athletes (because as he said, it was their way of life) while stringently opposing professional athletes in the West.

And women. He believed women should not be Olympic athletes. Avery Brundage was all kinds of asshole.

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Day

"Eleanor Roosevelt's "My Day" was a syndicated newspaper column published from 1935 to 1962. During those years, Eleanor wrote the column consistently six days a week, the only interruption being when her husband died, and even then she missed only four days. The column allowed Eleanor to reach millions of Americans with her views on social and political issues, current and historical events, and her private and public life. Dealing with subjects far out of the range of the conventional first lady's concerns, "My Day" is an outstanding example of the breadth of issues and activities which occupied Eleanor Roosevelt's life." - The American Experience, PBS
March 12, 1936

If one thing more than another on a trip of this kind reminds you that you are not just an ordinary lecturer and that you can not separate yourself from being the wife of the President of the United States, it is the beautiful flowers that greet you wherever you go. You can not wear more than a certain number and you can not take them with you, so you tentatively suggest that the hotel be kind enough to send them to a hospital and pray that some one else will continue to enjoy them as much as you do during the time that you have them with you.

The other thing which is quite amusing is the tremendous anxiety to take proper care of me—policemen and plain clothes men spring out of the ground at every turn. In Washington or New York City an occasional policeman will say "hello" or salute with a smile but that is the extent of the excitement which I arouse. In short away from one's usual haunts one is much more conscious of being the wife of the President than one ever does at home!

The train trip to Cleveland this morning was uneventful. I read a plan for helping us out of the depression, submitted by some one in Iowa. I also read the whole of the National Student Federation's magazine and the morning papers. A few people waved to me from the station platforms on the way and when we pulled into Cleveland there was quite a crowd at the station. The committee met us and as usual the photographers and the press were our first visitors after we reached the very comfortable Cleveland Hotel. Then we lunched with the committee and from two-forty-five to four-thirty I visited WPA projects. Miss Nell Moley and Mrs. Samuel Halle came to call for a few minutes and I enjoyed very much talking to Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Burke at luncheon. Mrs. Clark was particularly interesting in describing a new form of community agency which she hopes will render civic work much more efficiently. There was quite a little mail here which we have been hurriedly going through and in a little while we will dine and after my speech tonight, we take a train for Dayton.

- E.R.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Not dead.

It has been my intention to log on every day with at least a small piece of info about my subject. Life has intervened, and at least I can say it is writing related. Next Tuesday, my new play On the Dark Side of Twilight opens at the Alcazar in Cleveland Heights. As the 2010 Great Lakes Theater Festival Outreach Tour, it will visit 22 locations in Cuyahoga, Summit and Lorain Counties. I wrote it, I am acting in it. I am very tired and have little time for study. I will revisit this page often, however, once the tour is underway.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Billboard

On January 4, 1936, Billboard magazine published its first music hit parade.

This is not that list, but they were surely on it.

All My Life - Fats Waller
Alone - Tommy Dorsey
A Beautiful Lady In Blue - Jan Garber
Did I Remember? - Shep Fields
A Fine Romance - Fred Astaire
The Glory Of Love - Benny Goodman
Goody Goody - Benny Goodman
I'll Sing You A Thousand Love Songs - Eddy Duchin
I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket - Fred Astaire
In the Chapel In the Moonlight - Shep Fields
Is It True What They Say About Dixie? - Jimmy Dorsey
It's A Sin To Tell A Lie - Fats Waller
It's Been So Long - Benny Goodman
Lights Out - Eddy Duchin
A Melody From the Sky - Jan Garber
Moon Over Miami - Eddy Duchin
The Music Goes Round and Round - Tommy Dorsey
The Music Goes Round and Round - Riley-Farley Orchestra
Pennies From Heaven - Bing Crosby
Take My Heart - Eddy Duchin
There's A Small Hotel - Hal Kemp
These Foolish Things - Benny Goodman
Until the Real Thing Comes Along - Andy Kirk
The Way You Look Tonight - Fred Astaire
When Did You Leave Heaven? - Guy Lombardo
When I'm With You - Hal Kemp
You - Tommy Dorsey
You Turned the Tables On Me - Benny Goodman

Monday, February 8, 2010

In The Heights

Laminated black-and-white photograph of the Heights Theatre in Coventry commercial district. Marquee says "Movietone" and "I Married a Doctor" and "Show Boat; Irene Dunne, Allan Jones." Another sign advertises a dry cleaner and "surgeon." Streetcar tracks are shown in foreground. Back of photo is labeled "2781 Euclid Heights Boulevard" and "Heights Theatre, Euclid Hts. Blvd. and Coventry." Scanned image has been lightened, as original photo is dark. (Cleveland Heights, Ohio) - Cleveland Memory

Black-and-white photograph of Cedar Lee Theatre taken in 1936. Includes signs on marquee for "Sylvia Scarlet" "The Garden" and "Murder Case." Also it reads "Shirley: Captain January!" Additional signs for Burrows, The Nut Shell, and Bowling. - Cleveland Memory

Scrapbook sheet of photos of Heights High band at their home football field and at Lakewood, dated 1936. In some photos they are in lines and other formations, including the "H" for Heights High. East Derbyshire Road in background. - Cleveland Memory

Sunday, February 7, 2010

All Roads Lead to Cleveland


Click on image to enlarge.


Teaching and Learning Cleveland: Walter Hagemann, "All Roads Lead to Cleveland Cartoon, Cleveland Plain Dealer June 21, 1936."

There will be more on this ...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Red Salute


"True! Timely! Terrific! See the effect RED teachings have on the youth of today!"

The Circle Theater was located at Doan's Corners, the area at Euclid Avenue and 105th & 107th Streets. Originally the Hoffman Theatre, Loew's assumed management of this 2,000 space and converted it from a live theater to a movie house. Bought by Max Marmostein in 1935, he made it a space for live performances and film.

In 1936 there was a showing of The Red Salute, which attracted the kind of protests this movie also found in other large cities. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, this anti-Communist "screwball comedy" really pissed off left-leaning college students at Western Reserve University. An army brat (Stanwyck) is in love with a Commie agitator, so her father, a General, arranges to have her kidnapped (by an aunt) to Mexico where she falls in with an AWOL soldier (Robert Young) but after returning to the States she reunites with the Communist boyfriend. However, in the end the dopey dogface convinces her that a) Democracy rules in spite of b) comparing Democracy to Communism is like comparing Christianity to Vegetarianism.

This area that was Doan's Corners has, of course, been swallowed by the Cleveland Clinic. Interestingly, I once performed I Hate This at the W.O. Walker Rehabilitation Center, which stands in virtually the same location.

Sources:
Red Scare Filmography
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

Friday, February 5, 2010

Our Gang Follies of 1936

We want the Flory Dories!



Originally released in November 30, 1935, this 16 minute short featured a number of firsts. Darla Hood debuted in this film under the nickname "Cookie" which was never used again. Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer began a long-running gag of singing a popular tune very bady - in this case, The Object of My Affection. And "Scotty" Scotty Beckett had what you might call a "last" - this was his last Our Gang short, though he did continue a successful film career. He had been lead actor George "Spanky" McFarland's main sidekick for some time, though his character was already being overshadowed by Alfalfa.

The Little Rascal/Our Gang shorts, produced by Hal Roach, began in 1922 and continued well into the 40s. They stood out at the time for their portrayal of kids as kids, rather than being coached to behave like small adults. In addition, they were stories about "poor" kids, and their drive and resourcefulness was an inspiration - even to me. One theme that sticks in my mind was how the rich kid, Waldo, would try and impress Darla with his newest toy, like a child-sized motorized car or small boat. Then the Our Gang kids would make their own, out of trash, and win the race or what have you.

It is true there were ethnic and racial stereotypes. Our Gang Follies of 1936 to take one example, features a gag where the lights go out in the house, and you can still see all the eyes of the black kids shining in the darkness. However, the depiction of kids of different races - and gender - playing together with no apparent hierarchy or animosity has to account for something.

Spooky Our Gang episodes!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Did you know ...


... the Cleveland Falcons (International-American League) played hockey at Elysium Arena from 1934-1936? Prior to the time, they were called the Cleveland Indians, and following that the Cleveland Barons.

... Margaret Hamilton was born in Cleveland and graduated from Hathaway Brown in 1921? She was a school teacher before she became an actress, and performed at the Cleveland Play House before being called to the stage in New York by 1932 and beginning her film career soon after. In the year 1936 alone she appeared in the films Chatterbox, These Three, The Moon's Our Home, The Witness Chair and Laughing at Trouble. She is best known for playing Cora in the Maxwell House coffee commercials. She is also sister to Dorothy Hamilton Brush.

... the uniform for the Cleveland Indians (baseball) team featured a stylized "C" on the cap in 1936, and a small patch depicting a full headdress-wearing "indian" in profile on the left breast? This image looks more like an actual human being than Chef Wahoo, which was not introduced until 1947.

... LIFE began in November, 1936, a weekly magazine unique in that it was devoted entirely to photojournalism?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Maternal Health Association

The Maternal Health Association opened its first branch on the West Side in 1936. Founders Dorothy Hamilton Brush and Hortense Oliver Shepard attempted to birth control at area hospitals and clinics, but their efforts were in vain, due to fear of the Comstock Act (which made it illegal to send "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials - including information regarding contraception - through the mail) and Cleveland's large Roman Catholic population. They provided contraception to married women (though not abortion) as well as marriage counseling. My grandmother used to work for the Maternal Heath Association.

In 1966, the MHA changed its name to Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland.

Sources:
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The 1936 Presidential Election

The state of Main had so long been a bellwether of national politics that there was and old saying; "As goes Maine, so goes the nation."

The Presidential election held on November 3, 1936, was the most lopsided in American history, if you judge by the Electoral College. Alf Landon took two states, Maine and Vermont, prompting Democratic chairman James Farley to quip, "As goes Maine, so goes Vermont."

This was not a foregone conclusion, and the conventional wisdom of the time was that the race would be close. The nation was still in the throes of the Great Depression, and there was a question as to how long the public would continue to blame the Republicans for it.

In the recent State of the Union address, John McCain was seen "sneering" as President Obama reminded everyone that the deficit was something he inherited. In the New York Times this past Sunday, Frank Rich noted:
Perhaps McCain was sneering at Obama because of the Beltway’s newest unquestioned clichĂ©: one year after a new president takes office he is required to stop blaming his predecessor for the calamities left behind. Who dreamed up that canard — Alito? F.D.R. never followed it. In an October 1936 speech, nearly four years after Hoover, Roosevelt was still railing against the “hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing government” he had inherited. He reminded unemployed and destitute radio listeners that there had been “nine crazy years at the ticker” and “nine mad years of mirage” followed by three long years of bread lines and despair. F.D.R. soon won re-election in the greatest landslide the country had seen.
FDR was famously good at using modern technological media to further his agenda. His "fireside chats" brought him into everyone's home, reassuring them that things were going to be all right. This put Landon in the position of having to criticize the New Deal, and to accuse FDR of veering toward dictatorship. One wonder what might have happened if the news media felt no compunction about playing up Roosevelt's physical disability, or extra-marital sexual ability.

This election also marked the first time African-Americans came out to vote in large numbers for any Democrat. Lincoln freed the slaves, gave blacks the (as-yet not well-protected) right to vote, while the Democratic Party ruled the Jim Crow south. However, thanks in large part to Eleanor Roosevelt's insistence, African-Americans felt the benefit of these new federal programs.

Sources:
Frank Rich, The State of the Union is Comatose, The New York Times, 1/31/2010
Wikipedia
Kennesaw State University

Monday, February 1, 2010

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

And now a word about the creative process ...


There's a piece on the Neo-Futurists in American Theatre this month. For over twenty years they have presented a show which is maddening in its simplicity. Returning from an aborted attempt to live in Los Angeles in 1991, my best friend and I spent one night in Chicago, caught their Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (TML) and my life was changed forever.

That is not hyperbole. I knew little of experimental theater, next to nothing actually. The N-Fs inspired me to learn more. But first they inspired my friend and I to rip off their act.


This was in the early 90s. Few, if any, knew of them in Cleveland. We protested we were creating a new form of theater for Cleveland audiences - and it wasn't as though we were calling ourselves "neo" anything, or that we were stealing the title of their show. No name tags, headphones, dark room timer, no pizza. We made up our own gimmicks as set-dressing for short, original plays we wrote ourselves in our own style.

However, the structure for TML was and is so basic, that trying to retro fit an original-appearing framework to it is much like the Windows operating system. As much as it wants to be MacOS, it is still just a clunky program running on top of MS-DOS.


Having said that, two years (more or less) producing short plays for Not-Too Much Light productions with names like You Have the Right to Remain SIlent! and Mind Your Own Business did teach me the art of writing short plays that abandoned the idea of character or setting, and cut directly to the point of whatever it was I wanted to say. As the original Futurists said, why spend two hours trying to make your point when two minutes will accomplish the job just as effectively?

There was a premium on originality among the intelligentsia who were the clowns my older brothers used to pal around with. As a high school freshman I was particularly impressed with a series of satirical articles he had written for the school paper. I had an idea for an updated sequel and went to him for permission to begin work in one and was roundly humiliated for the very idea. "Sequels," he snorted.

Believe me, I have been conditioned to feel that kind of contempt any time the word "sequel" is used in any circumstance. And you know, I am not sure that is an entirely bad thing.


However, I did spend the next several years wandering in my own neurotic wilderness, afraid to attempt anything. It is stunning to think now that I was involved in a comedy program on our local access channel for three years and never wrote anything for it. Strange to think I was surrounded by such a creative atmosphere, and yet did not feel confident enough to really engage it.

By the time Guerrilla Theater Company (for so we were called) was through, I was a writer, and a director, and not so crazy about acting any more. There was a time when it would have been ideal to contact Greg Allen about a legitimate franchise of the Neo-Futurists in Cleveland, and maybe someone should. But not me. I'd just be happy to attend, and hopefully have some pizza.