it has invited and advertised as such some 400 “leaders” from public and private enterprises to come in and schmooze about where “we” go from here. Among the leaders invited to speak are Jamie “One Bank” Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Lloyd “Lil’ Lord” Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, and Stephen “The Librarian” Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group; there will be quite a few distinguished economists, including Paul Krugman – I like this guy alot ( a landsman, a kid I might have played ball with if only he hadn’t been inside doing homework and such) for an academic and a Nobel Prize recipient he is often a lone voice on the Times’ op-ed and I know he is heard in the counsels of power and yet seldom heard or heeded by those same decision makers and as he has
been a frequent talking head on those Sunday morning affairs his voice has been mingled with the likes of George Will or some FoxNews flunky or a Mary Matalin and thus subverted in a way because it now appears what he has to say is no more important than Mary Matalin or that strange looking Greta person or my secret crush, Peggy Noonan, and these shows never bother to elucidate that such people have been wooden dummies for the so-called conservative-right-wing plutocrats and their peons for quite some time, say, at least since the Nixon Administration, and their hatred of liberalism and their worthless economics and deadly foreign policies haven’t worked and yet here they are week after week still mouthing the same useless -for the rest of us- opinions and arguments that got us here in the first place- as if what they have to say has value – equal value – to anyone else sitting around the cameras – Mary Matalin ? She has been a stiff-kneed foot soldier on behalf of everything the rightwing republicans have done to this country without ever expressing shame or reservation.
A party hack to be sure much like her equally outspoken husband but there’s blood spilled in the name of party loyalty and this specious patriotism that is often espoused in the name of freedom and democracy. And yet the networks insist on having them as guests – do they think they make “good” tv?; they’re tv personalities now like Howdy Doody and Homer Simpson; the sponsors like the “safe” expectancy of their mere presence. They’re not the only ones of course. Krugman’s exposition is whats best for everybody, hers is what’s best for the republican pluocrats, yet all is equal in the eyes of the tv cameras and no one is saying they’re not. This past Election is a watershed in our collective narrative and the Republicans are still attempting to hijack the country’s sentiments by ignoring the results – they still cannot abide a Black man in the whitehouse and thats where they remain. The irony – if thats what it is – obtains for the purpose of the participants at this Times’ event as tradition often shows that a goodly portion of the mob attending is Democrat-voting but are not bound by such and have given large wads to both parties in hedging and strengthening their mutual investments. Its not personal, Sonny, it’s business. The Money Interests are always meeting to make sure their business is getting along – from the G-8 or the G-20 or whatever it is now to the US Chamber of Commerce or the Heritage group or AEI or various Roundtables, the Manufacturers Association, a whole menu of deep-pocketed hoo-hahs with an ante piled high that they want to make sure it remains within arms reach. The poor and middle-class, whats left of them, get the few chips that accidentally (?) fall off the table. The conference bills itself as the “opportunities for tomorrow” and the “outlook for the economy” – but its the agenda of the .001% and is quite insulting to the rest. Even with Krugman’s presence this is a pretty lopsided affair (he is, afterall, a Times’ employee also). But thats ok. Its their building, their “square”, their meeting and lunch is probably on them too, but you better bring some cash just in case. The Agenda bespeaks billions. Its a “working-day” affair really; on Wednesday, Dec. 12 just register at 7 A.M. leave at 5:30P.M. or after the Krugman half hour interview, if you’re still around. Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. is slated to give a hearty welcome at 8:30A.M. and then return to laying off some more editors because as everybody knows digital readership just doesn’t generate nearly the revenue of print readership or something – perhaps Mr. Andreessen, the software billionaire, who is a participant in one of the half-hour segments can enlighten the assembled about this, but I doubt it. I don’t believe Jamie One Bank
is too concerned about these developments as it was toward the end of the 19th century that its namesake J.P. was an early investor in the Times’ and I’m sure the bank has seen a nice return since. One Bank Jamie takes the stage next for a talk on “Global Climate for Finance”- what opportunities beckon. If they’re like his last bit of taking a flyer wherein his bank only lost several billion well, there’s plenty of suckers left to make up for it. It is good to remember – says I – that it was JPMorgan Chase who invented those high-falutin credit default swaps so as to lessen or eliminate all risk but not the mortgage loans themselves, keeping them off the books so to speak and then cutting them up into their own securities package and cutting some more into what would be called tranches and then there was some convoluted rating system to which a price was tagged-as if the original mortgage and attendant insurance was a Sonny Liston and needed to be divvied up among a dozen different managers and handlers until you didn’t know what or who was running
things or who owed what to whom, and then selling them to investors, a huge impetus that helped build the awesome housing bubble during those fabulously kooky years of unimagined wealth for the already wealthy few – think of it as “fantasy” banking and one of the chief reasons (there’s much more but for now…) why the economy is the way it is right now. But Jamie One Bank will not be speaking about that- in all fairness he wasn’t there at the time. Alibis are not necessary but Dimon has let it be known that he doesn’t take too kindly to the talk of “renewed” bank regulations emanating from certain reformers. For God’s sake the man only “earned” $23 Million in 2011 and besides we (the USA) have already been down this road before; during Teddy Roosevelt’s “trust-busting” years and then just prior to WWI there was something called the Pujo Committee – A Congressional investigation into the “money trusts’, it did not have the chops to really affect things but it did help usher into existence the Fed and bring out certain salient facts regarding the banks and trusts and was highlighted in a book by Louis Brandeis called OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY And How The Bankers Use It; and during the Depression the “Pecora” Investigation named for Ferdinand Pecora who was an assistant d.a. in New York and one of the chief counsels to the United States Senate Committee on Banking and Currency who in March, 1932 began to investigate the causes of the Wall Street crash of 1929. (The photo of J.P. Morgan, Jr. with the little person on his lap was taken during these proceedings) As a result of these hearings Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1933 to separate commercial and investment banking and established the Securities Exchange Commission. There were other “investigations” years later ; during the 1950′s Estes Kefauver, a liberal Senator from Tennessee -I know
, but you really can’t make this stuff up- held a few Senate hearings on the monopolistic practices of US industry, such as steel, automotive, pharmaceutical, even the bread “cartel” and concluded that within the U.S. there was no real price competition anymore – in fact it didn’t exist – and this was over 50 years ago. Its been 100 years since Louis Brandeis wrote that book. Kefauver, however, is better known to history as chairing the Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce during the early 50′s. If Thomas Dewey attained some notoriety pursuing “Murder Inc” during the 1930′s the Kefauver hearings were even more memorable as they were televised.
Of course “their” economy has nothing and everything to do with the rest of us. As far as I can tell there is only a couple of women participating in this farce, at least as advertised. One is the Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. Now here’s someone who is making stuff-
“Aiming to pump new life into its beverage division, PepsiCo is developing a range of snack-based drinks, according to The Financial Times. Speaking at Beverage Digest’s Future Smarts conference in New York yesterday, PepsiCo chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi said that the company has a “whole range of products… in the pipeline that are value-added products that can be snacks made into beverages.”
While Nooyi did not name any specific PepsiCo-owned snack brands or products – which include Quaker Oats, Frito-Lay potato chips, and Cap’n Crunch cereal – to be utilized in the new beverages, she pointed to an oatmeal drink sold in Brazil and PepsiCo’s Naked brand of juices and smoothies as examples of liquid snacks with mainstream consumer appeal.
“A way to grow the beverage business is to take foods and drinkify them,” Nooyi said at the conference.”
Part 4 – FIX THE DEBT AND PASS THE GATORADE
Cheetos Shakes, anyone? Ms. Nooyi is probably a helluva executive. This company has business-literally all over the globe and employs over 300,000 and is continuously voted among the best companies to work at; its cited for its diversity and benefits and has set up humanitarian foundations and worked for civil rights and, lets face it, its been in business for over a century. And yet its business model is fashioned upon the best tradition of monopoly capitalism
JP testifies about political contributions
“no matter what the future brings as time goes by…”
just as J. P. Morgan had visualized the interests of those huge Trusts over a hundred years ago- around the time Pepsi was started- the same as the Rockefellers and the Bell Telephone investors- the way the giant banks of today have been structured-the old image of one fish eating another and being eaten by another and on and on- consolidation and less competition – the stockholders win – or do they? These business models were also utilized by Organized Crime and the corporate structure of most of these monopolies mirror some of the (famous) organizational charts of La Cosa Nostra. The overlapping directorates of corporations were masterfully critiqued by Louis Brandeis a century ago and yet the tradition abides and is probably stronger than ever- parallel relationships within major crime families serve to strengthen their “market” projections and the carving up of territory is a corporate-syndicate-political fact of american life. These multi-nationals generate their own gravitational field. One indisputable fact of American life is the nexus of corporate and political power that comes to bear on the harried citizens of the republic. One of the more curious results of the scattering of that meeting of crime bosses up in Apalachin was that for the first time the FBI under the woefully pathetic thumb of JEHoover had -for the first time- to finally admit that there was such a thing as “Organized” crime with a corporate structure and officers and recruits and everything else. But what is never considered organized crime is that special place reserved for corporate honchos and the duly elected representatives of the people (he said with tongue deeply planted in cheek). A fellow named Don Kendall was once head of PepsiCo, also, while at the same time was a major member of the SUGAR LOBBY (not really a big surprise) and a very good friend of Richard Nixon and anytime something occurred down in the southern parts of the hemisphere where they grow sugar that Mr. Kendall thought was not in the best interests of his corporation he just called on his friend Dick-as a matter of fact he
When old friends meet. Kendall and Nixon in Dallas Nov. 21, 1963.
did just that when he expressed certain reservations about the freely elected President of Chile at the time, Dr. Allende. Of course other American corporations did the same but no matter what the investigations of later years came up with the crimes committed and abetted by the United States were never categorized as “organized”. I’m convinced even that had these events been under the control of “Organized” crime they would have been less intrusive. Lately I’ve been wondering about the disingenuous campaign that the well-connected Peter Peterson and other Business Roundtable -types have been plugging on “Fix The Debt”( wherein a bunch of these rich machers want to simply cut to the bone and get rid of completely things like Social Security-at least as a government-distributed entity- and Medicare and most anything else that people depend on) – somehow coming from their lights it doesn’t quite have the gravitas of say a person with the rep of a Frank Costello or a Don Vito if they were to turn to their constituency and say , “Fix the Debt” – and it was. Ms. Nooyi’s company doesn’t have nearly the violent rep as say the Gambino or Genovese Family but is that an anthropological bias or a myopia of sorts afterall the directors or capos or the don of the family has not listed the family business on any stock exchange I know of or has publicly advertised under their name the goods and services they offer but they manage to get their message across and provide a comfortable living for their managers and associates and what is more like the PepsiCos of this world these “entities” are almost brand names in their rarified world as they have managed through all kinds of official” crackdowns” and internecine warfare and whacks and hits and all kinds of bad press to have hung around for quite some time doing their business. PepsiCo publicly trades on the exchanges (I believe the price is around $70 a share) and is a known brand- as we have said- for over 100 years. They sell their Pepsi soda of course and a myriad of other beverages and some of America’s favorite food- from Cheetos to gatorade to Lays potato chips to Doritos and tostitos and Ruffles and Mountain Dew
MINSTRELSY LIVES. WE’LL CRINGE AND SHAKE OUR HEADS BUT WE’LL BUY IT JUST THE SAME.
and Quaker oats and ricearoni and aunt jemima pancake mix. These products for the most part – and I have enjoyed them all – are efficient sugar delivery systems to steal a phrase from the tobacco corporations investigations and exposes of a few years ago. A country with the healthcare racket we have such a product as PepsiCo offers and sells by the billions is sure to cause havoc with the health of the nation. Now I realize that there are hundreds of thousands of hardworking employees who contribute to the well being of this nation in many ways thanks to the opportunities offered by PepsiCo (some even in this country) -however to what end is what they make really contributing in a positive way -in the long run of course. But Ms. Nooyi and her managers are living right as Pepsico made a $10 BILLION PROFIT in 2011 and paid only 6.3% in taxes! Pass the Doritos Shake, sister. Sugar is a powerful and destructive product- destructive to human beings over the long term. Its addictive, but legal. Read up on it and its brutal history in this part of the world. In today’s Times there was a story about a 15 year old who was getting a petition up to pressure PepsiCo to actually reformulate how they make Gatorade (!) It seems they have been using BROMINATED VEGETABLE OIL which contains bromine, a substance used to make flame retardant material in upholstery. The kid doesn’t want it in the Gatorade. Kids. What are ya gonna do?
Part 5 – HOW TO BE A BILLIONAIRE
“… it has been estimated that 40% of every dollar we spend on goods and services goes to banks as interest.”- thats not Louis Brandeis although I bet he wrote that somewhere, too, and I apologize to the usurped source but I have forgotten where I copied this little tidbit and in light of the horrifying events of Friday past I’ve lost the thread of everything else-which somehow brings me back to Jamie One Bank who like many bigshots comes by his profession in a familial fashion; his father and grandfather were in the financial services business and I can imagine many sons and grandsons following the same road, its only natural I guess and certainly convenient in a networking sort of way. It was-with much more difficulty – for the fathers and even grandfathers of say certain other “organized” families to have their sons continue the family business in the way they had become accustomed but nevertheless the family name remained sometimes long after the individuals themselves had stopped being involved or had retired -some permanently, from the business. Much like the “legitimate” businesses and “houses”
THIS DID NOT END WELL
that Jamie One Bank’s family worked at. Both father and grandpa worked at an old investment house called Shearson for many years and were quite comfortable enough to see to it that young Jamie went to Harvard and was able to work at the venerable Goldman Sachs during his summers. To the manner born as the bard would say “a custom more honored in the breach than the observance” although it hasn’t imposed on his true loyalties as Cathy New in the Huffington Post has pointed out: “…in fact, Dimon has even said that he’d be willing to pay higher taxes on his own income, which was around $23 million last year alone. Add to that, the CEO is a member of Fix the Debt, a nonprofit group with the mission to promote ways to reduce the national debt. Yet JPMorgan, the biggest bank in the country by assets, appears to be unwilling to sacrifice its own tax benefits to help bring down the national debt. Instead, it has spent millions this year alone lobbying Congress to extend a key loophole that allows the bank to avoid paying a tax bill on its foreign income.”
(The S.E.C. has leveled claims against a handful of major banks, including JPMorgan and Credit Suisse, that they painted a deceptively rosy portrait of the securities while some of the underlying loans were already showing signs of delinquency.- A.P. 11/16/12)
(“In 2010, the S.E.C. secured $550 million from Goldman Sachs. In that case, the agency focused on a single mortgage security created in 2007, just as fissures spread through the housing market. Goldman allowed a hedge fund manager, the S.E.C. claimed, to help construct the security, then bet against it, but never alerted investors.
The S.E.C.’s investigation into JPMorgan included creating troubled securities itself, as well as misleading investors through its Bear Stearns unit, the troubled investment bank it purchased at the urging of the federal government in 2008.”)- A.P. 11/16/12
TWENTY-THREE MILLION DOLLARS in 2011. Just imagine. It would have taken my old man another 500 years to earn that as an accountant working down on Maiden Lane- just across really from the Chase headquarters. Jamie One Bank does it in one year.(Update: this post is taking a little longer than I expected so I am able to include this hot off the AP press as of Jan. 16-
AP/HuffPost | January 16, 2013 at 08:02 AM
JPMorgan Chase has cut CEO Jamie Dimon’s 2012 pay by 50.2 percent, to $11.5 million, over the London Whale trading loss that cost the bank more than $6 billion earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing an internal report made public Wednesday. The bank also seperately reported a boost in earnings)*
* All spelling checked by the Huffington Post
(MEANWHILE FOUR MONTHS LATER -(we’re still amending) this article by the most astute and good-hearted Les Leopold appeared in the AlterNet.com :
April 18, 2013
The new Rich List is out — yet another example of financial pornography. While nearly 15 million Americans still can’t find jobs due to the 2008 Wall Street-created crash, the top hedge manager, David Tepper, earned $1,057,692 an HOUR in 2012 — that’s as much as the average American family makes in 21 years!
America’s new math: 1 Wall Street hour = 21 years of hard work for the rest of us.)
PART 6- IN WHICH THE ASHES OF DAMON RUNYON ARE DUMPED OVER TIMES SQUARE
I’m sure his father and grandad would be very proud of their boy, in fact I’m sure the entire Shearson company, actually its full name was Shearson Hamill – named after the two astute businessmen who founded it back in 1902 – would be too. For seventy years it was called Shearson Hamill and was a mighty player among the Wall St. community until the market crash in the early 1970′s when it found itself a little short of cash ( remember it had survived the Crash of ’29 and several downturns in the interim) and like many a bank and financial house before it it was ripe for the taking now and so merged for the sake of survival and its vested board. It merged with a firm called Hayden, Stone which was run by a guy named Sandy Weill who was already becoming a big fish himself. Ten years or so after this transaction my father would be able to state on his resume:
“Supervised the final consolidated return of Shearson Hammill with the assistance of tax members of Touche Ross & Co. The refund claim on this return was contingent upon the upcoming merger. the pressure of completing this return was intense as the $6 million refund check was the major obstacle in completing the merger. Needless to say when the return was approved and the check received, it was a gratifying accomplishment.”
Nice going, dad. Of course he was sending his resume out at the advanced age of 55 because his little accounting firm that he had worked at for over 20 years was merging with a bigger firm and he soon became a player to be named later. He never again attained fulltime employment. But Shearson went on and it was now called Shearson Hayden Stone, at least for a little while as there were plenty of other fish for Mr. Weill to come upon. Hayden, Stone was another old Wall St. titan and if its name is still a little familiar its because Charlie Hayden was a main funder of what is the Hayden Planetarium – favorite destination for generations of NYC schoolkids on countless happy field trips out of the dingy classroom. I’m convinced that my native city is full of ghosts and the grid-drawn geography of its imagination keeps folding back and over places that once were and are no more except in a perpetual memory of what was at least as far as one’s own life continuously intersects the crossing streets and I find great amusement ( in my city of dualities) to learn that old Charlie Hayden whose planetarium I visited often as a schoolkid resided for a goodly part of his life at the old Savoy-Plaza Hotel -up on 5th Avenue between 58th and 59th- and it
Savoy Plaza Hotel
so happen that it was there on May 6, 1951 that my mom and dad were married. The hotel was razed in 1964 – I believe the same year as the old Penn Station, there’s just no stopping “progress” – and replaced by the GM
Building, which I think is still standing today (along with its anemic stock-ok its my blog isn’t it?). My father loved arithmetic so he became an accountant, at least that is what he told me. Not an ambitious man by any means he liked what he did (but not enough to finish up his CPA) and preferred to take a vicarious view of things and to place a wager every now and then. One of the great joys of his accounting life was to be taken to lunch by one of his rich clients- no really, a lunch -at an upscale restaurant where the service was impeccable and the food superb. One of his clients always took him to an old red sauce italian ristorante at the edge of Little Italy – Patrissy’s- on Kenmare. The guy had made a fortune in the leather business and three or four times a year he would invite my dad to a lunch at Patrissy’s, which I have since learned was a fixture at that location since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Anyway, besides the dark-wood, turn of the century old New York charms of the place and the Osso Buco my father would always order there was one custom of the place that always thrilled – the restaurant would always have one table – the same table -
“Try the veal”
reserved at all times, no matter how busy they were, no matter how backed up the waiting time ( usually it was pretty quiet, but occasionally..) this table remained waiting for just one party. And you didn’t and shouldn’t have to ask who. I wonder if Jamie One Bank or Lil Lloyd have had such a custom in their lives.
“The goose that lays golden eggs has been considered a most valuable possession. But even more profitable is the privilege of taking the golden eggs laid by somebody else’s goose.”- Louis Brandeis
Part 6- AND THE PIZZA SAUCE TASTES DIFFERENT, TOO
I never did bother to think about where Patrissy’s, which in 2000 had gone the way of Luchow’s and Reuben’s and Lindy’s ( which was the favorite eatery of The Big Bankroll himself, Arnold Rothstein. Famous not necessarily for its splendid cuisine but for its cheesecake – a detail that did not escape Damon Runyon or Frank Loesser. It was usually from Lindy’s that Arnold – now you have to try to be a little contemporaneous here because by the time he met up with that fatal bullet at the hotel, Rothstein was one of the most famous people in America- liked to make “phony phone calls”. According to his wife, Arnold was a superb mimic- the guy forever linked with fixing the 1919 World Series could do
George Kirby- Rothstein could do female voices too!
impressions like Rich Little or, my favorite, George Kirby. He would be hanging out at Reuben’s or Lindy’s awaiting his many phone calls – these were more like his official offices really, gambling thousands and making his deals with a pastrami sandwich on the side-and he would have no hesitation picking up the house phone and taking a take-out order from time to time to help speed things along and occasionally a noted actress or actor would call up and order something and Arnold would take the single order and then go outside and call the deli himself imitating the person’s voice and ordering instead of one club sandwich he would order say eight dozen with a couple of gallons of mustard and pickles and beverages for a whole regiment to be delivered asap- such a kidder!) and other NYC eateries, may have obtained its meat and poultry. Fifty years before this closing – around the time my folks got married- my father was working for a small accounting firm on Fifth Ave. that mostly handled corporate audits and statements for a few “important” clients one of whom was a slaughterhouse over on the west side of Manhattan- in what the speculators today refer to as the meatpacking district. Fair enough, I guess, for back in the day those train tracks that may still peek out beneath the surface actually were used by real freight trains loaded with real live livestock and poultry and whatever else moved on four- hoofed feet to deliver their goods to whole city blocks full of these abattoirs and it was one of these businesses my father and his firm had as a client. The place was owned by a man named Berke, Milton Berke, at least it said so on the papers. My father was quite taken with the contrast that existed within – in order to get to the offices upstairs you had to walk through the killing floor, there may be a technical term for it but that is how he described it for that is what it was, it was, afterall, a slaughterhouse and after passing through it and the workers in their bloodsoaked aprons and bloody white long coats and blood smeared elevator doors and the attendant odor you would take the elevator up and the doors would open to a plush red-velvet and wood paneled office with brass fixtures from the turn of the century, huge leather chairs, and the smell of cigars and cigarette smoke. This would be Mr. Berke’s office. In an adjoining room, maybe a little larger, but with the same furnishings and decor and what appeared to be a new collection of telephones was where a guy my father called “Ash” had his office.
In the years following the surrender of Germany and Japan there was probably no place in the world’s recorded history that held as much promise and challenge and hope and wonder as the city of New York. It must have seem the center of all creation; to have emerged from the horrific war physically unscarred, intact, the city stood in all its vertical wonderment triumphant and supreme. It was to steal a phrase the best of times. The city at that time was ” full-up’ -as several chroniclers have written, not an apartment to be found. People were coming from all over and, of course, they were already here.
“New York was triumphant, glossy, more disorderly than ever, but more “artistic”, the capital of the world, of the old European intellect, of action painting, action feeling, action totally liberated, personal, and explosive…New York was now rich in aluminum and steel buildings, buildings that resembled the massed file cabinets and coded systems they were built to hold. There were banks on every corner. The great New York light, the glare of New York, the unmatchable effrontery of New York had never been so open…The straightness of the streets-columns in a bookkeeper’s account book-made you run and claw your way to your goal.There was always an immediate goal. Up and down, straight and across, numbered and ranged against each other like a balance sheet, the great midtown streets were glowing halls of power. The sharpness of outline was overwhelming. The tritest word for the city was “unbelievable”. Its beauty rested on nothing but power, was dramatic, unashamed, flinging against the sky, like a circus act, one crazy “deathdefying” show after another.” -Alfred Kazin, New York Jew
A new age seemed to be dawning- all that promise and hope and, yes, new found power and yet at the same time old fears were being re-generated, old
He had a list, too
corruptions returning, old prejudices remained. But hadn’t we been here before? Maybe not as grand or spectacular but certainly the rush of new beginnings; youthful imaginings and new enthusiasms, all that – that feeling you get when you’re walking on the Brooklyn Bridge and at the midway crossing between the harp-strung cables and the whole city lies before you and the harbor entrance on the left where your forefathers and mothers passed enroute to a better life or at least a less dangerous one.( Or perhaps the rush of driving over the Queensboro Bridge with Gatsby, always seeing the city for the first time-no matter how many times you have crossed it- “in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”)
Welcome Home !
This would in a sense be the last time New York would arrive at such a pinnacle – I imagine the first time was right after the first World War and the onset of the “roaring 1920′s”. A ticket-tape welcome home for the troops ( my father’s father arriving with the new century and passing through those same harbor waters liberty as it is inscribed and taking up his cornet instead of a rifle to join the fighting boys overseas
Grandfather was in the Gang
by playing in a vaudeville troop entertaining them on the way to Armentieres or some such songplace ), the start of Prohibition; and the onset of the “Red Scare” in the summer of 1919 – and the welcome home after the nazis and Japan surrendered and the dancing in the streets and the parades and those iconic images of New Yorkers celebrating; and then the business of reaction-anti-labor laws begin and the onset of the “Red Scare” again. And no ticket-tape returning cheers since ( I don’t think there was one for that Korean “action’) not for Vietnam, not for Iraq and Afghanistan- where else?
Thomas Wolfe called the city a stony-hearted mother. If it was now the center of all things it was also the hustlehub of the world- as if it was anything else, only shinier. It was as sports fans old enough to remember or old enough to have been told knew only too well the epicenter of the sports universe. In the decade or so following the defeat of “the axis” and while the Korean “action” was still being played to a draw, the city would be witness to three championship baseball teams, the coming of age of professional football and basketball, pro boxing bouts in all the boroughs (I’m not sure of Staten Island, however) and for a jubilant but brief moment the best college basketball in the country.
Disillusion is a kick in the ass. New Yorkers seem to spend a lifetime defending against it or donning an insouciant cynicism assuming a worldly aspect of hard knocks and sentimental politics. By the time they’re old enough to vote they already understand the compromises the city has already extracted. Its gritty, alright. But for that spark of promise, that oblique light that warms the visions of its youth – if they can at least recognize it as such as there are kids even of today who never venture forth from their own dear stoops and corners – the beckoning downtown world seems forever out of reach.
PART 7- IT WAS ALWAYS THE CITY’S GAME
“There was a time when New York was everything to me: my mother, my mistress, my Mecca, when I could no more have wanted to live any place else than I could have conceived of myself as a daddy, disciplining my boy and my daughter. I was young, the war (the one that ended in 1945, the only one that will ever be “the war” for people my age) was just over, and I was free.” -from Nights In The Gardens of Brooklyn by Harvey Swados.
There’s always the sadness of our collective memory and of what disillusionment reveals. This Ash that my father spoke of was a New York “character”, some would call him a legend – but not really- he was just some smart-alecky kid who as coincidence would have it had grown up in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn as my father-in-law but at least a decade apart. He was well-known enough that Jimmy Breslin wrote an obituary about him – I wish I could find it again- and if memory serves he leads it with young Ash (his real name was Irving), a talented high-school (New Utrecht?) basketball player standing at the foul line practicing missing his foul shots. An adorable detail that was also recorded in Nick Tosches‘ book on Sonny Liston.( Apparently, everyone from Ocean Parkway to Cropsey Ave. knew this about young Mr. Ash.) Such determination and purpose could only lead a youngster to becoming one of the most popular bookies in New York and later Las Vegas. My old man, of blessed memory, was kind of caught up in the romance and excitement of gambling and meeting this guy Ash at the time was just what a frail young man just starting out in his career didn’t need but certainly enjoyed. His reputation – such as it was – proceeded him, as they say, and my own man in his own way and time had already met several and even played with some of
The City’s game
New York’s best athletes during his healthier high school and early college days before an onset of an illness that would leave him quite constrained for the rest of his life; fellow basketball friends and opponents who either participated or knew of or suspected but never really knew or were told by some and lied to by others that there was a whole other game within the game going on, that there were other skills to be honed and incorporated and that even at the highest end of play the boys were bought for and the faith and pride of the city was just so much collateral change to be thrown away. Even 20 years after Ash had practiced his missed foul shots the kids were still missing on purpose. And yet its still Ash who will be remembered for diligently practicing as yet another notable writer and editor, David Remnick, in his book on Muhammad Ali, ”King Of The World”, includes him in his story anent Sonny Liston’s moment of fame:
“In Las Vegas, Liston came to know a gambler and a bad boy named Irving “Ash” Resnik, the athletic director” of the Thunderbird Hotel. Resnik had grown up in Brooklyn and was a basketball star. But he was the sort of basketball star who practiced missing foul shots, should the need ever arise to shave a point. According to one of his close friends,
Collector’s can have this $1 chip for $30 The price of fame
Resnik came out to Las Vegas largely because he owed more than seven thousand dollars to Albert Anastasia and was slow in paying up. The debt was now so old that Anastasia had put a contract out on his life. He was saved only when a friend in the meat business, Milton Berke, paid off the marker…”
So it seems Tosches and Remnick were readers of Jimmy Breslin, I mean who wasn’t that took an interest in the characters and the streets and the politics and “human interest” of the city; Breslin was a guy from Queens like my old man, they even attended LIU at the same time- Breslin, I think was an English major – my father would always remember an essay someone wrote in his English comp. class – it wasn’t Breslin’s -about a young kid traveling around with the House Of David Semi-Pro Baseball Team trying to grow a beard. I don’t know why I remember that but about this time LIU was one of the schools caught up in the point-shaving scandal. Breslin excelled at what may be called the common-man angle to journalism- you know neighborhood types caught up in the whirlwind of world events. “Colorful”, as they say, and infinitely readable. Damon Runyon with a degree. In all fairness ( an odd choice) the point-shaving scandal was a country-wide phenomena as a whole bunch of the nation’s top “basketball” schools were implicated, but I do believe New York paid the largest price. But it had nothing to do with Ash. He was a star basketball player in Brooklyn – although you will not find his name listed among the standouts of NYC basketball, which is a long and storied list – years before and at NYU and later in the crazy quilt world of professional basketball in the years prior to the formation of the NBA. Evidently, besides missing foul shots on purpose, this guy could really play. If we were to try to re-construct in a prolix-ic fashion his younger years we would include such biographic conjectures as some of his fellow schoolmates at New Utrecht High School (incidently it is the school’s facade that is used in the opening shot of “Welcome Back, Kotter” as it was Gabe Kaplan‘s, the famous poker player, alma mater, too) – which taking a clue from birthyears would have included (perhaps) the great operatic baritone, Robert Merrill, who later in life found joy and contentment in singing the Star-Spangled Banner at Yankee Stadium; Arnold Stang, a short
Could not find one pic of Arnold with a Chunky
“chipmunk-like” character actor who achieved his greatest success pitching “Chunky” chocolate bars on TV; Gene Barry, who played a guy named Burke on TV but before that portrayed Bat Masterson- see a previous post about Bat- also on TV; New Utrecht had its share of athletes (we trust) but evidently its a school most noted for the comics that attended: some years ahead of Ash were Abe Burrows and Cy Feuer who would collaborate on the musical “Guys and Dolls”; Jack Carter and Buddy Hackett attended at the same time some years after Ash did, Carter, of course became a famous stand-up and appeared, it seems, more times on Ed Sullivan than most (or so I think) and Hackett, of course, became a veritable
Buddy nee Hacker,
icon to fellow standups for his improvisational out-of-the-side-of-his-mouth monologues and funny voice; but these funnymen would follow by about 20 years the creme de la creme-Moe Howard and his younger brother Jerome, better known to the world as Curley. Now I don’t want to get silly about this but if you check out the famous girls who attended through the years the list mostly includes writers and lawyers and what could be called “public intellectuals”. The boys- at least those mentioned here- are all Jewish and became clowns and comics. ( I wonder who was in charge of the guidance counselors there) But Ash continued to play basketball all through the pre-war and war and post-war years. It was the era of the fast dribble, long passes and the 2-handed set shot, as I read elsewhere. It was also before the shot-clock was mandated-which by the way was first implemented by the Syracuse Nationals in 1954 -. Reading the final game scores during these years you would think the games ended after just one quarter. Remnick put quotation marks around athletic director when describing Ash’s duties at the old Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas. I guess he was being ironic (ok, a smartass) but the man certainly had qualifications, as I say. He was, afterall, a professional athlete and scattered throughout the chronicles of the game you will come across his name in the
Troy N.Y. Times Record
January 15, 1947
box-scores and paragraphs of the sporting pages from Troy, N.Y. to Tuscaloosa, Al and points east and west. The above article from a Troy, NY paper in Jan, 1947, mentions that Ash – he would be around 30 years old- was the leading scorer in the league. Its a kick to consider that he played for the Troy Celtics then, before they were the Celtics of Boston they were the Celtics of New York and Brooklyn! As a matter of fact sometime in the early 40′s (Late 30′s?) the “Original” Celtics as the team from NY was once called was owned by the popular singer, Kate Smith, who is still heard these many years later on the radio and at ballparks everywhere during the embarrassing seventh inning stretch-tribute brandishing “GOD BLESS, AMERICA”, and one of the professional leagues
That’s Kate with the ball
during this time featured the Harlem Globetrotters. I just mention this to show that “athletic director” may not be too far-fetched even if it is meant to be ironic. Ash played throughout the shifting geography of the old professional basketball leagues – he played not only with the Troy Celtics, whose final year was the 1946-47 season, but with the Washington Brewers, maybe the NY Jewels; (Boston in the years before they were the great Celtics had names like the Whirlwinds and Trojans while Brooklyn had the Arcadians, the Visitations (much better than the Nets) and even they were Celtics for awhile; there were professional teams from Saratoga to Harrisburg, from Hartford to Elmira to Pawtucket; in Utica and Schenectady and Trenton. The great Max Zaslovsky played for the Chicago Stags- he had attended Thomas Jefferson High same as Danny Kaye and my Aunt May and Lil Lloyd Blankfein, valedictorian of the class of ’71. (Up until LeBron’s time Max was the youngest player ever named to the NBA All-Star team – we’re talking 60 years ago, now) In Philadelphia there was a team called the Sphas which is still considered “basketball’s greatest Jewish team”. Formed in the 20′s they were a “powerhouse” barnstorming” team that rivalled some of the best basketball teams in the country for many years. The Sphas – South Philadelphia Hebrew All-Stars – were American Basketball League Champions in 1936, ’37, ’40, ’41- and are the subject of a book by Doug Stark. One of their star players was a guy named Joel “Shikey” Gotthoffer, a NYC kid who was MVP of that professional league 6 times, a leading scorer in the late ’30s and early ’40s; he was described as “short and stocky, but smart and fast”. AND, according to Stark, once got into a fight during the end of a game against the Troy team with Ash Resnick and both were ejected. Shikey by the way went to James Monroe High with Hank Greenberg and both played on the basketball team that won 3 city titles. Another player on that Philadelphia team,
Before Amar’e there was Ralph
Ralph Kaplowitz, was a standout All-American at NYU before serving in The War; he was a teammate of Ash’s at Troy just before the nascent NBA formed; he was an original Knick-(the Knicks held their very first tryout camp at the Nevele Hotel in Ellenville, NY which just so happens to be the place where my parents went on their honeymoon and if my math is correct… well - and played in their very first game (they won)); and as connections go he was a friend of my father’s ( from the neighborhood) and years later sold insurance. I’m still trying to find out if Ralph and Ash played on the same NYU team during the latter 30′s.
New York is – at least was, a city of neighborhoods. Not so much anymore and even back during this time ,say the early 50s, this neighborly connection was starting to fray thanks to a number of confluences such as a man named Moses, the “rise of the suburbs”, the city’s deeply ingrained racism, certain sociological/psychological upheavals like the Dodgers and Giants abandoning the city later in the decade, unscrupulous real estate practices, the usual stuff. And in these long-ago neighborhoods lived local heroes. Guys – and gals, too – who distinguished themselves in sports or crime (we can discuss, later), religion, perhaps, business, of course if they did they wouldn’t be around too often anymore, “getting out” was an accomplishment in itself. Kaplowitz was one such hero. He was years older than my father and as a basketball star in city tournaments and on the NYU team he was looked up to and when he returned from the War, even more so. AND- he was an original Knick. Not to belabor this (but hey I’m enjoying this “swampy suck of self-indulgence”) but Whitey Ford was another neighborhood star. I think he attended Aviation High or the School of or something like that, anyway he was a kid from Astoria and long before he achieved fame and success as “whitey” ( remember his name was Edward) the neighborhood kids knew him by another nickname – Porky or was that Porgy? – and I can remember a time when my father took me to Yankee Stadium and as we passed by the players entrance there was a crowd gathered – as they do at these places- and amidst the push and tumult of kids and adults waving paper and scorecards and what not to be signed - this is in either 1960 or 1961( peak Yankee years, especially 1961 and lest we forget they were the only baseball team in town then)- my father, close enough within shouting distance, called out this name and Ford turned and moved pass this throng of pens and paper and reached for my father’s hand and I saw him sign a piece of paper my father held out to him. Neighborhoods counted for something once.
So Kaplowitz once played on the same team as Ash, a fact that somehow did not make it into the narrative my father gave me, as if knowing what was coming he didn’t want to, I dunno, besmirch? tarnish? his hero’s story. I don’t think it was like that but there was an attempt to keep them separate in their ways. Kaplowitz was the “good” Jew but Ash represented a dark side that my old man found much more attractive. When he spoke of Kaplowitz years later it was with the utmost respect and there with still such a sense of the neighborhood hero about him that when Mr. K came by our house once – I guess it was about insurance- I was expecting someone 9 ft tall- Ralph, taller than my father, was, I think, 6-2 or 3. With the Ash story it was more wistful and ironic.
When Ash went out to Las Vegas he asked my father to come along. Evidently there was a great need for young accountants out there at the time, but my father thought he better not and beside he couldn’t leave New York, not for anything in the world. By the time Ash left New York he had already established himself as someone to know in a sporting way. Sometime later and I could never get the chronology exactly right – I just cannot remember- but I do remember my father telling me that when Mr. Berke died they found a note in his safe at the slaughterhouse; actually it was an IOU. The note simply said, “I owe Ash $50,000″. Remnick picks up on a story that Ash went out there because another friend set him up in casino work and Mr. Berke paid off a $7,000 debt Ash owed Albert Anastasia for which the Lord High Executioner (remember it was the sudden demise of Mr. A that was one of the primary considerations for that famous “unmeeting” up in Apalachin) had put a contract out on Ash because he was so late with making payment – can you imagine having the boss of Murder, Inc as a collection agency calling every day, sending threatening letters of intent? The Berke IOU makes me wonder about the uncollected debt and besides when the big boss wants you dead, well, even my father knew where to find him. Then there’s the part of the story told by Anthony Summers in his book on J. Edgar wherein he places Ash as “the Nevada representative of the Patriarca family from New England and an original owner of Caesar’s Palace.” Not only that but according to Summers a conversation once took place between Pete Hamill and Ash in which the subject of J. Edgar’s sexual preferences arose. For “some reason” it seems there were some very compromising photographs that Meyer Lansky – a reputed Organized Crime figure-reputed? hell he was like a founding father- had of J. Edgar and his boy pal Clyde that more or less made for a very interesting relationship between the FBI and what for years Hoover
For some reason Google images comes up with this when you fill in J. Edgar Hoover
would deny existed, the mafia. Of course, Lansky and the “mob” weren’t the only ones with the, uh, head shots. As mentioned above J Edgar (http://www.constantinereport.com/nazism/fbi-j-edgar-hoovers-recruitment-of-nazi-war-criminals/) wouldn’t admit to such an organization until that NY state trooper accidently stumbled upon all those Mafia Dons trying to be inconspicuous in the small upstate town of Apalachin back in 1957.
So back in 1957 while many of the leaders and capos and dons of J Edgar’s non-existent “mafia” are running around the woods of upstate NY and the Dodgers and Giants are playing their last games in New York, Ash is “directing athletics” at the Thunderbird Hotel. It was while at the Thunderbird where he hooked up with heavyweight champ, Sonny Liston. Ash was just one of many “mob” types that were associated with the champ throughout his fighting career. But Ash was friendly with everyone it seems during his years as a Vegas fixture. His NYTimes obit (Jan. 20, 1989) mentions that “His forte was bringing gamblers to Las Vegas casinos for high-stakes gambling, and he organized the first junkets that later became a fixture of the casinos.” It makes him more of a social director; a glad-hander, if you will. He was one of the guys who “kept an eye on Liston”, saw that his needs were met and that he was enjoying himself and, of course, later there were stories published that Ash was even responsible for Sonny’s sudden and tragic death. But he was also responsible for helping out ( if thats the right phrase) the great Joe Louis when the Champ was having his many fiscal issues with the government and god knows who and what else and Ash gave him a full-time job as a greeter when he was “managing” Caesar’s Palace.
JOE LOUIS statue at Caesar’s Palace.
Honored in death. Hounded in life.
And I think there were other sports’ names he did the same for along the way. He knew everyone, as I say, and those gambling junkets and excursions weren’t just for the high-stakes people but even for grandmothers on a lark from Florida – when my bubbe visited with a her women’s group from Miami she mentioned my father’s name to Ash who seemed not to recall him- after only 25 years?-but found a complimentary (small)stack of chips and a bottle of champagne in her room later. I think he found a greet and meet for Jerry Tarkanian, the basketball coach of that Las vegas school that was always in trouble with the NCAA. As a matter of fact Coach Jerry once signed a testimonial on Ash’s behalf along with Sugar Ray Robinson (!), Joe DiMaggio (!), Wayne Newton (!), and a local priest when he applied for a renewal of a gaming license. For those of you who are keeping score at home Jerry’s son, Danny, ran and lost in the Republican primary for Senator to that dingbat, Sharron Angle in 2010. She in turn went on to lose to Harry Reid who retained his seat and power in the Senate. Now young Danny is heading up some Republican anti-Harry Reid group that keeps trying to tie the Majority Leader to the Vegas Mob, afterall, Harry was at one time the head of Nevada’s Gaming Commission, and the Tarkanian kid is not averse to bringing up certain unfortunate associations that may haunt Senator-Won’t-Fix-The-Filibuster such as his dealings with a certain Ash Resnick (while he was Commissioner?) who was generous according to this group in his campaign contributions during Harry’s earlier runs. I mean Ash has been dead since 1989 and yet he is still making the scorecard. I can even remember watching Johnny Carson one (lonely) night when he had Buddy Hackett as a guest and Buddy mentioned that he had “just seen (or will be seeing) their mutual friend, Ash” over at the casino. Everybody knew him.