Alexander Nevesky Cathedral In Sofia, Bulgaria
By LIONEL ROLFE
I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but let’s get off this thing about poor picked on Ukraine standing up for freedom against the big evil Russians.
Would you feel sympathy if poor picked on Texas decided they wanted to secede? Maybe that might not be an entirely bad idea, given the reprehensible politics of the place. But still we’d probably object.
My best insight into Ukraine a couple or so years back when I stood in front of the National Library in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. I was fascinated by the statue in front of two brothers, Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, credited with inventing the Cyrillic alphabet which is used not only in Bulgaria but in Russia and a lot of other places. Read more
The author in photos from the era she’s writing about
BY MARY REINHOLZ
The white princess phone was ringing when I got back to Phoebe Whistlethorpe’s East Village flat at noon. It was my hostess on the line, calling from the green fields of Connecticut to say she’d be returning to New York in two days and asking me to pay the telephone bill “or those robots from Ma Bell will turn off service before I get home.”
She sounded breathless and more scattered than usual. Then she dropped a shit bomb that could put me at risk for a murder rap and serious jail time for killing Jed Scott while he was choking me to death in Arkansas.
“And oh, by the way, Joanna–sorry, I mean Cassandra,” she went on in a syrupy voice. “I met this divine man at a jousting match who used to work at a gallery in Pasadena…he remembers you from the Los Angeles Free Press as a sexy red headed reporter who covered the Renaissance Faire in Simi Valley. This is really funny– he said you tried to get him to pretend he was Robin Hood and to shoot arrows at a Sheriff’s Deputy. Did you really do that? I love it! Anyway, I told him, ‘Oh no, she’s not crazy like that any more. She dyed her hair this mousy brown and she’s very much the straight laced working girl in New York.’ I shouldn’t have said all that, should I?” Read more
Red Dog Saloon, Juneau, Alaska
By Bob Vickrey
When I walked through the swinging doors of the Red Dog Saloon, everyone in the dimly lit bar seemed to stop what they were doing to check out the stranger who had entered their private domain.
I found an unoccupied seat at the crowded bar and ordered a Kodiak Ale on tap. The bartender studied me before asking where I was from. Back then, the citizens of Juneau could easily recognize a stranger in town. This was in an era when Juneau was still a relatively isolated place, and long before the Princess Cruise ship invasion brought thousands of international tourists to its shores. Read more
By Beatlick Pamela Hirst
Before Daddy died, I can remember Mama at the ironing board, ironing sheets. This was before air conditioning and the white nylon sheers puffed wisps of warm atmosphere through the bedroom window, which was dim to my eyes, after leaving the dazzle of June daylight.
I could smell the new steam iron for which she bought special distilled water. No tap water. Mama was a nurse, she made hospital corners and she had a way of turning down the sheets and fluffing up the pillows that made my bed look so inviting. I just wanted to jump in, asked if I could and she generously nodded. Read more
By Mohammad Arafat
Our Gaza Correspondent
While walking west through the streets and lanes of Gaza to my university I noted something that was out of the usual. I noted that many of the homes were only partially constructed. Stanchions were there supporting the unfinished ceilings because there was no cement to finish them.
Gaza has become a place without cement. You don’t stop to notice such things until you realize something important is missing. At the entrance of one building, there was a guard I know named Abu-Osama. He had made a chair to sit on from two stones. He was boiling unsweetened coffee in a small kettle.
“Hello Abu-Osama,” I said.
“Hello Mr. Mohammad, you are so welcome,” he said. I took a seat, also made of two stones, beside him. Read more
“Col. Fritz du Quesne, a fugitive from justice, is wanted by His Majesty’s government for trial on the following charges: Murder on the high seas; the sinking and burning of British ships; the burning of military stores, warehouses, coaling stations, conspiracy, and the falsification of Admiralty documents.” He carried on hostile operations against the British government in various parts of the world under the following names: Fred, Fredericks, Capt. Claude Staughton, Col. Bezan, von Ricthofen, Piet Niacud, etc. His correct and full name is Fritz Joubert Marquis du Quesne. Prior to the war he was known as Capt. Fritz du Quesne, a big game hunter, author, explorer and lecturer.
-London Daily Mail, May 27, 1919
He is one of the most desperate and daring criminals we have ever had here.
His adventures read like a romance.
- Abraham I. Rorke, New York City Assistant District Attorney,
New York Evening Post, August 21, 1920.
On January 2, 1942, 33 members of a Nazi spy ring headed by Frederick Joubert Duquesne were sentenced to serve a total of over 300 years in prison. They were brought to justice after a lengthy espionage investigation by the FBI.
-Federal Bureau of Investigation, Duquesne Spy Ring, March 12, 1985
Frederick “Fritz” Joubert Duquesne (1877-1956) was a South African Boer who led an astonishing life on both sides of the law. Officer in the Boer army in the war with England, many times an escaped prisoner, pimp, newspaper reporter, foreign correspondent, novelist, spy and saboteur in South America where he blew up British ships during World War I, adviser on big game hunting to Theodore Roosevelt, publicist for Joseph Kennedy’s movie business. He feigned paralysis for five months to avoid deportation to England where he faced execution for the deaths of British seamen. And finally, he was the best known member of the largest Nazi spy ring broken up by the FBI during World War II.
Beyond his real exploits, Duquesne lived under some thirty aliases. He invented and reinvented his past at will, claiming to have been the greatest swordsman in Europe, attaching his ancestry to this or that aristocratic clan that momentarily appealed to him, granting himself military titles and medals, and producing endless accounts of battles, some of which he actually took part in. His most famous claim was to have guided a German submarine to sink the HMS Hampshire in 1916 at the height of World War I, killing Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War and the head of Britain’s armed forces. Read more
By LIONEL ROLFE
The obituary notice of a four-term California assemblyman who died at 86 the other day brought back memories of an odd and jarring time in my youth when he hired me to write a philosophy because he was then an aspiring politician.
When I first met Jim Keysor in the late ‘60s, I was a reporter at the Newhall Signal. On hot summer days, the president of the Newhall Chamber of Commerce would stroll across the patio to gab with us in our modest cityroom.
Jim Keysor was the chamber’s president, but he struck me a little different than the usual kind who becomes president of the chamber of commerce. This isn’t to say he was a fellow member of the counter culture. He wasn’t. He was a Mormon, from a prominent Mormon family, and he was a Democrat of sorts. Read more
BY LIONEL ROLFE
There’s a curious thing about talking union. It’s not cool. Unions ain’t cool. They’re so not cool you’ll notice almost nobody writes about them. They ain’t trendy. But they’re the coming thing.
True, most of the great folk songs about workers organizing are from yesteryear. But ignoring something doesn’t mean it’s not there. There are no doubt more songs yet to be written.
For many years, Harry Bernstein was the Los Angeles Times’ labor reporter, and while his politics were distinctly middle of the road, he knew his subject. During the glory years of the Times, he provided generally fair and knowledgable coverage of labor, which was amazing considering that the newspaper had been known as the most anti-labor rag in the world.
Bernstein was a good antidote to the newspaper’s history, and it also strongly suggested the owners really were trying to build up the old paper into something great and important.
Now Bernstein is gone, and the Times apparently has no one left who can or would be allowed to write intelligently about labor. Despite what you might think, Hollywood is not the only economic driver of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles area is one of the world’s greatest industrial areas, comparable to the Ruhr in Germany or the vast industrial areas of Shanghai. There’s a lot of organizing in the city these days. Some even dream of organizing Walmart and McDonald. Read more
With Editor Nan Talese at Book Expo in 1992
BY BOB VICKREY
When my former college journalism professor spotted one of my columns in the Houston Chronicle a few years ago, he sent me a note that simply read, “What took you so long?”
The question he posed in that message has been asked by others in recent years after I had spent the majority of my working life as a publisher’s representative for a well known East Coast publishing house before my retirement in 2008. I had entertained early plans to build a career as a newspaper reporter and columnist after college, but somewhere along the way I became sidetracked and landed a job in the book publishing business more than four decades ago.
After spending many years promoting other writers and their books, I have since become sympathetic with their plight as I attempt to regain firm footing and lose some of the rust accumulated during my long absence from writing. I began sending out my stories to newspaper editors in recent years and was pleasantly surprised to find several of them found space on their pages for my feature pieces. There was an uncomfortable, but somewhat exhilarating feeling of producing my own work after a career spent critically reading other writers’ efforts. Suddenly, I found the shoe was on the other foot, and now have discovered a greater appreciation of the writer’s quandary in walking the creative tightrope without assurance of a “safety net” to catch us when we are in free-fall. Read more
Mary in New York, early ’70s, on top;
the lower picture shows her near the end of the ’70s
Junkie town. That’s how a neighborhood in the East Village struck me when I first arrived in New York, swiftly discarding my carefree California ways to survive the spaced out speed freaks, pill poppers and heroin addicts who prowled like the walking dead around this dirty bastion of flower power, so often compared to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district.
Here I was, a former west coast golden girl who only a short time ago had driven a convertible through the Hollywood hills, listening to the Beatles and The Beach Boys in wooded rich hippie enclaves, now reduced to a reed thin fugitive hungry for money and connections, stamping through dirty streets littered with condoms, used hypodermic needles, dog shit.
“Be sure you have enough cash on you to give the junkies if they stop you—don’t fight them,” warned my hostess Phoebe Whistlethorpe, a one-time WASP princess who was putting me up at her railroad flat overlooking Tompkins Square Park where the addicts frequently gathered for drug buys. “You can get killed that way.” Read more