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BGS: Occupied Territory

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And here’s another piece I’m honored to present–James Baldwin’s 1966 story about police brutality and racism:

On April 17, 1964, in Harlem, New York City, a young salesman, father of two, left a customer’s apartment and went into the streets. There was a great commotion in the streets, which, especially since it was a spring day, involved many people, including running, frightened, little boys. They were running from the police. Other people, in windows, left their windows, in terror of the police because the police had their guns out, and were aiming the guns at the roofs. Then the salesman noticed that two of the policemen were beating up a kid: “So I spoke up and asked them, ‘why are you beating him like that?’ Police jump up and start swinging on me. He put the gun on me and said, ‘get over there.’ I said, ‘what for?’ ”

An unwise question. Three of the policemen beat up the salesman in the streets. Then they took the young salesman, whose hands had been handcuffed behind his back, along with four others, much younger than the salesman, who were handcuffed in the same way, to the police station. There: “About thirty-five I’d say came into the room, and started beating, punching us in the jaw, in the stomach, in the chest, beating us with a padded club—spit on us, call us niggers, dogs, animals—they call us dogs and animals when I don’t see why we are the dogs and animals the way they are beating us. Like they beat me they beat the other kids and the elderly fellow. They throw him almost through one of the radiators. I thought he was dead over there.”

[Photo Via: Renata Cherlise]

BGS: The Mongoose

Moore,Archie swinging bat

Bunch of years ago, my pal John Schulian hipped me to “The Mongoose”, Jack Murphy’s long 1961 New Yorker profile of Archie Moore. Murphy was a sports writer in San Diego–you remember, they named the ballpark after him–and this was a one-off freelance assignment. It’s a really nice, meaty piece. Reason you won’t find it in any boxing anthologies is because it’s just prohibitively long.

Enter–the Internet! It took awhile to secure the rights–a few years of hunting around, in fact–but I’m proud to finally bring it to you. So if n your interested, head on over to The Stacks and check out this story about one of boxing’s great characters:

Moore is acutely aware of his special position as a champion—and, more particularly, as a Negro champion. “A Negro champion feels he stands for more than just a title,” he says gravely. “He is a symbol of achievement and dignity, and it is tough to be a loser and let down a whole race.” In 1959, not long after the Durelle fight, Sam Goldwyn, Jr., invited Moore to try out for the role of Jim, the runaway slave, in a movie version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Both Moore and his wife were leery of what they called “handkerchief-head parts,” and a Negro publication cautioned him against taking an “Uncle Tom” role, but he proceeded with the screen test, was offered the part, and signed a contract with Goldwyn.

Moore is unconscionably proud of the fact that he won the role in competition with professional actors as well as amateurs. (Among the latter was Sugar Ray Robinson, who was then the middleweight boxing champion. “Ray lost the part because he was too sleek,” said Archie. “They didn’t have sleek slaves in those days.”) Moore has boasted about how, although he was training for a title fight at the time, he memorized a sixteen-page transcript for his screen test and went before the cameras after only one rehearsal. The way he tells it, his performance in the test alone entitled him to an Oscar. At the end of the scene, as he recalls it, the professionals on the set—electricians, stagehands, and the like—broke into spontaneous applause. “Tears came from the director’s eyes,” says Archie. “Goldwyn was dabbing his eyes and shaking his head in wonder. An electrician told me it was only the second time in 30 years that he had seen such emotion during a test.” However accurate these recollections may be, the director of the movie, Michael Curtiz, appears to agree with Moore’s own estimate of his talent. “Archie has instinctive acting ability,” said Curtiz. “He seems to know just the right inflection to give a line, and his facial expressions are marvelous.”

When Moore first saw the script of the movie, he noted that the offensive word “nigger” appeared in it now and again, but he said nothing about this until the part was his and the contract signed. Then he began maneuvering. “I’m not a clever man, but I know how to get things done,” he said later. “The script used the word ‘nigger’ at least nine times. I went through it with a pencil and struck out the word everywhere I found it. Then I took it up with Mr. Goldwyn. I told him I couldn’t play the part unless he would agree to the deletions. I told him, ‘You are a young man, Mr. Goldwyn, and times are changing. How could I play this part when it would cause my people to drop their heads in shame in a theater?’ Goldwyn thought about it and he agreed with me. He ordered the deletions. The man who wrote the script was furious; his anger meant nothing to me. I had saved my people from embarrassment.” (Actually, the word was used only once in the movie, and then when Moore was offstage.)

[Photo Credit: Boxing Record Archie]

In Praise of the The Greasy Spoon

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Dig this Serious Eats post–which I found via Kottke–by Ed Levine about diners:

There’s one more diner criterion that I haven’t previously mentioned: The food is not usually a diner’s main attraction, nor should it have to be.

When I first started thinking about this post, I tried to devise an ultimate diner test: a list of dishes a diner has to do well to be considered a “good” diner. Then I ate in 25 diners across New York City and quickly realized that good food isn’t the ultimate test of a good diner.

I’m not trying to bash diner food here. I’m just saying that food is not what you come to a diner for, and it’s not why diners remain a vitally important part of our culture. Diners are so important because they are the greatest bastions of civility, service, and dare I say grace available to all economic strata in this country. Service-oriented restaurants, like Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe and innumerable Shake Shacks, are all about treating all guests with equal dignity and respect. And I love them for doing so. But diners have been doing this for years, and for an even greater cross-section of the population. The only dining institutions that reach a wider audience are fast food chains, not exactly known for their kindness to customers.

So many greasy spoons in town close up shop. I hope they are never truly extinct though. They are a window into our past.

[Photo Credit: Ian Boys]

Qu’est-Ce Que C’est?

talking heads

Most cool.

[Photo Credit: Ebet Roberts/Redferns, via Getty Images]

New York Minute

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What we’re reading…pictures by Reinier Gerritsen. 

Taster’s Cherce

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Herbs…

Beat of the Day

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This one brings me back. A cousin from Belgium visited the summer it came out. She bought the record and my sister, brother and I listened to it until there were a few scratches. Our cousin got so pissed that she bought a new one. But we were happy because, after all, what are a few skips? I can’t even tell you that I like this song. It doesn’t matter because it is so evocative that I can’t hear it without remembering where I was the summer it was released.

[Picture by Andre Juillard via This Isn’t Happiness]

Taster’s Cherce

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Pickle. 

All Together Now

LOS ANGELES DODGERS WORKOUT AT CAMELBACK

Coaches.

[Photo Credit: Jon Soo Hoo]

Sundazed Soul

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Sunday Schmeer.

[Photo Credit: The Food Gays]

Beat of the Day

blackmess

D’s back.

I worked on a movie called Belly that he did a track for. I remember him coming by a screening room, really short dude. He and his boy kept sneaking off to the stairwell to smoke an L.

Insurance Plan

Stephen Drew

Happy?

[Photo Credit: Frank Franklin III/AP]

I’m With Stupid

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Today’s water cooler chatter is all about the baseball Hall of Fame. The latest inductees will be announced in a few hours and word has it that Pedro, Smoltz, the Big Unit and Craig Biggio will all make it.

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

Afternoon Art

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Photograph by Leonard McCombe.

Taster’s Cherce

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Here comes the Sun King…

[Photo Credit: Frank Lee]

BGS: Lee Marvin Shoots from the Hip

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Dig Robert Ward’s Rolling Stone profile of Lee Marvin:

“Ford,” he says reverentially. “Fucking Ford. You’ll never see skillets and steaks like that in anybody else’s picture. He’s like the Dickens. It’s all about bigger than life. That’s what the old guys understood about movies. If it’s not bigger than life, put it on television.

“We got along from the start. Maybe I knew how to deal with him. The first day of Liberty, I was hanging around waiting for Ford to come in. Everybody told me how tough he was and not to say anything or he’d single you out and get on you the whole shoot. But as he walked in, I got up and saluted him. There was a dead silence. And then I said, ‘Well, chief, when the admiral comes aboard, the first mate has to pipe him in.’ He never got on me after that. He was a great lover of the navy, and he liked me because of it. He called me Washington. Because my family is descended from George Washington’s brother, James. Which few people know or expect.”

Which is an understatement. The standard guess on Marvin might best be summed up by a writer friend of mine who said, “He looks like he carne out of nowhere. He had no father, no mother, just spawned out there in some gulch and has spent his whole life hating the world that vomited him up.” Marvin would love that, for he’s worked hard to create his image. People don’t come over in bars with a glad hand and ruin his lunch. The reason is simple: they’re afraid if they do, he’ll kill them.

Beat of the Day

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Still diggin’…the low end theory.

[Photo Credit: Joel Levinson]

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver