Thursday, February 11, 2010

Last Man Rescued

Every once in a great while, I read something new in my studies of World War II that makes my jaw go slack. In early 1944, the Allied Strategic Bomber Offensive adopted the transportation plan attacking German synthetic oil plants whenever possible and otherwise attacking the German rail system. By February of 1945, German rail traffic was at a standstill. A few months later, while reading Richard Frank’s Downfall, I learned that in the Pacific, the U.S. Army Air Force did not adopt their version of the transportation plan until August 11 of 1945, just before the end of the war.

On August 12, bad weather made flying missions against Japan impossible. On August 13, a young Army P-47 pilot named Bill Taylor flew a mission to strafe railroad traffic on Kyushu, the southernmost of the Japanese home islands. His plane took a great deal of ground fire and, by a narrow margin, he managed to fly his crippled aircraft out to sea before making a crash landing on the water. He got into his one-man life raft and noticed that he was within sight of the Japanese coast. He knew full well that if the Japanese spotted him and sent a boat after him, his chances of survival would be nonexistent. The Japanese had a habit of killing downed American flyers in very unpleasant ways. At first, Lieutenant Taylor told himself he wasn’t going to pray just because he was in a bad situation. However, after twenty-four hours in the water, he changed his mind. He later related that he told God that if he lived, he would become a minister…and a gymnastics coach.

In the early morning hours of August 15, the last day of the war, a U.S. Navy ship managed to pick him up and Bill Taylor achieved the distinction of being the very last man rescued in the entire war in the Pacific. Little did he know at the time that he had almost exactly another fifty years to live. Lieutenant Taylor made good on his promises. He became an ordained minister…and a gymnastics coach. In later years, I got to know Bill Taylor pretty well. When I was a kid, he was my church’s youth minister and he taught a gymnastics program. Stop snickering people, Reverend Taylor was a good gymnastics coach and more than forty years ago, I was a pretty good gymnast. Bill Taylor is just a footnote to history. He also plays a role in a great historic “what might have been.” A great many Americans engaged in guilt-mongering over the end of the war in the Pacific with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What most people fail to understand is that the results could have been far worse. The U.S. Army Air Force only targeted the Japanese rail system for the last four days of the war. Had the bombing continued, the country would have been completely destroyed. This, along with the near-total destruction of Japanese merchant marine shipping, would have had ghastly consequences. Before the development of Japanese ocean shipping and rail in the 1850s,, the population of Japan was just under 30 million people. During World War II it was 70 million.

Readers, it staggers the imagination what would have happened to Japan’s civilian population with no effective food distribution system. Way before the end of 1945, Japan would have faced a famine reminiscent of what the Ukraine experienced in the early 1930s. Even after a Japanese invasion, please explain how the Japanese could have fed their people without a rail system. When General MacArthur arrived in late August of 1945, he soon became aware of the desperate nature of the Japanese food situation. He ordered his troops not to eat the local food to avoid exacerbating the situation and he cabled his superiors in Washington, “Send me food or send me bullets.” Only prompt American grain shipments prevented catastrophe. Even with American aid, the entire population of Japan was on very short rations until late 1946.

All things considered, General MacArthur and the American occupation authorities showed the Japanese a great deal more humanity than the Japanese ever showed any country they overran.

Stan “The Man” Wilder – Another Bodacious Bailiff

On the fifth floor of the Franklin County Courthouse, one of the more conspicuous figures is a bailiff by the name of Stan Wilder. He’s a fine professional, and I’ve always enjoyed working in his courtroom. A few months ago, I had a teenage client who showed up for court dressed like a real gangsta, with low-hanging pants that would have fit Dumbo the elephant. As we entered the courtroom, Bailiff Wilder said to my client, “Tuck your shirt in and pull your pants up.”Mr. Wilder’s tone of voice and demeanor would have made a Marine drill instructor proud. The kid immediately pulled his pants up and tucked his shirt in. If Mr. Wilder told that kid to sit down, I doubt he would have stopped to look for a chair.

A few minutes later, after we’d resolved the kid’s case, I commented to Mr. Wilder that if that kid had someone like him at home, the kid would not be in court to begin with. I managed to get Mr. Wilder to crack a smile.

Deborah Pryce

A few months ago, I was having lunch with my father at the independent living center where he resides. He pointed out to me that Deborah Pryce, who is the Congressperson for this district. He also mentioned to me that Representative Pryce had adopted a biracial child and commented in his most sage voice, “She’s going to have problems later on.” I managed to refrain from banging my head on the table in exasperation. Instead, I let out a very deep sigh and patiently explained to my father that as a lawyer who spends a great deal of his time in juvenile court, I know more than any sane human being about what it takes for a child to wind up in a PCC (Permanent Change of Custody). Unless someone resents some charge of positively horrendous conduct on the part of Representative Pryce, I would say that the child she adopted has won the grand price in the adoption sweepstakes. I realize that my father’s perceptions of race relations are rooted in his experiences growing up in Arkansas in the 1920s and 1930s. I also manage to mildly comment that if my father knew anyone of any color or social status who went through life without having any problems, I would very much like to know who they are.

Visit to Lucasville

More than ten years ago, a woman retained me to look into the case of her one-time boyfriend who was serving thirty years to life in Lucasville. (That’s Ohio’s maximum-security prison.) I learned that he’d taken a plea bargain to avoid a possible death sentence. He had been charged with stabbing a convenience store clerk to death in order to steal a case of beer. Shortly after that incident, his girlfriend discovered that she was pregnant. Welcome to the world, kid. You are so screwed. I found the visitor’s waiting room at Lucasville one of the most depressing places I’ve ever seen. A great many women with children, and most of the white women had biracial kids. Well, maybe one of those kids will grow up to become President, but that’s not where the smart money goes.

I did speak with the young man at some length and found no basis for an appeal. Trying to be useful, I did manage to make one helpful recommendation: that when his first parole hearing rolled around in twenty years, that he might want to get rid of the three-inch swastika tattooed on the back of his left hand.

Just recently, another lawyer pointed out to me that, perhaps, that young man’s tattoo was not so much a political statement as an effort to protect himself from would-be predators.

James Trimble and Christina Ricci

In the movie The Addams Family, Christina Ricci played Wednesday Addams and, in once scene, arrives at an Addams family Halloween party dressed in her every day clothes. When a sweet old lady asks the young lady, only 11 years old, what she has come dressed as, Ricci replies, in a matter-of-fact voice, “I am dressed like a psychopathic serial killer…We look the same as everybody else.”

I was reminded of Ricci’s comment a few years later. I was once a member of a National Guard contingent in Athens, Ohio. The platoon sergeant was a man named James Trimble. I thought he knew his job quite well and I couldn’t help but notice he wore the 82nd Airborne patch on his right shoulder. Years before, he had seen combat in Grenada. One month, I noticed Trimble wasn’t around and I made some inquiries. To my shock and horror, I learned that he was in London Correctional Facility for having molested his own seven-year-old daughter. I enquired further and, with the permission of Trimble’s family, I consulted with his defense counsel. I actually read the confession he had signed. I even visited Trimble in prison. While he was evasive, he did not deny the charge against him. That conversation took place almost twenty years ago. I still cannot fathom how anyone could commit such a horrible act against any child, let alone their own. Perhaps Christina Ricci and the writers of The Addams Family had a point: sometimes psychopaths look just like everyone else.

Sherman’s Straight Shooting

General William Tecumseh Sherman is remembered today, 125 years after his death, for two quotations. One is “War is hell,” and the second is, “The Sherman Statement.” Sherman was a great soldier who had absolutely no political ambitions. This is a rather ironic because both his adopted father and his older brother John were U.S. Senator. He once commented that if he had the choice between serving three years in Washington, D.C. or the same amount of time in prison, he would gladly choose the latter. After triumph of President Grant’s second term, some Republicans tried to encourage Sherman to be a candidate for President. Sherman wouldn’t hear of it. He stated categorically, “I will not run if nominated and will not serve if elected.”

This put the kibosh on any “draft Sherman” movement. Today, any time a politician denies having Presidential ambitions, reporters will follow up by asking, “Are you willing to make a Sherman statement?” I have yet to hear anyone do so. General Sherman set a standard for straight shooting that will never be exceeded, unparalleled in the past century.

Walter Brennan’s Secret

Some of my readers might remember Walter Brennan as a character actor in Westerns who usually played the excited old codger who bursts into the sheriff’s office, proclaiming, “Sheeeriff, Sheeeriff! Black Bart’s come into town and says he’s aiming to kill ya! What you reckon we oughta do?” It comes as no surprise that in the 1930s, Walter Brennan won three Academy Awards as Best Supporting Actor in the short space of five years. A few actors have won three times, but no one has ever done so in such a short period of time. I recently learned Walter Brennan’s secret. Back in the 1930s, film extras were allowed to vote for Oscar winners and, apparently, Brennan was extraordinarily nice to the extras on his films. Shortly after, Brennan won his third Oscar, the Academy changed the rules and eliminated the film extras from the voting pool. I’ve never seen any of Brennan’s Oscar acceptance speeches, but I hope he remembered to thank the little people.

Jim Corbett

I once saw a news item about a game preserve in India founded by a big-game hunter named James Corbett. Indeed, it was named for him. When I first read that, I thought, “Dang, that guy really got around!” The James Corbett I knew was an American boxer who was heavyweight champion from 1892 to 1897. I learned there was an English Jim Corbett who was in the English Army and was an avid conservationist and, perhaps, the best big game hunter who ever lived. For readers who disdain big-game hunting, Colonel Jim Corbett was one of a kind. He specialized in killing maneaters who were usually ld and decrepit. Of the 19 tigers and 14 leopards Corbett killed, almost all of them had attacked and killed people. Corbett’s opponents, virtually all of them maneaters, had taken down approximately 1200 people. Corbett, therefore, performed a public service. I also learned that Corbett did not use beaters, as some rich dilettantes did. He went after them with nothing but his rifle and his dog and his ONE dog, named Robin. (How appropriate that a great hero would have a sidekick named robin.) Colonel Corbett lived to be 80 and was escorting then-Princess Elizabeth when she was notified her father had died and she was now queen. Colonel Corbett died the year I was born. Had I ever met him, I suspect I would have liked to ask him what duct tape he used to keep his gargantuan brass cojones from clanking together and giving away his position. Readers can decide for themselves who is more macho: a heavyweight champion or a hunter who specializes in tracking down maneaters.

As long as I’m on the subject of hunters, I’ll mention someone at the opposite end of the scale from Corbett, for whom I have nothing but the utmost respect. Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu fancied himself a big-game hunter and enjoyed shooting bears at one of his national parks. The game keepers set up feeding stations for the bears located close by a shooting blind where Ceausescu demonstrated his prowess as a marksman. Upon reading about this, I thought that for all the skill he showed, he might as well have gone out to a local cow pasture and blazed away at a herd of Holsteins. I thought President Ceausescu was a thoroughly evil man who deserved being executed along with his equally evil spouse at the time of the Romanian Revolution. While he was shot, personally, I thought it would have been poetic justice if he had been fed to the bears.

Happy Birthday, Jack Nicklaus

January 21 marked Jack Nicklaus’ seventieth birthday. We are very proud of him in Central Ohio. In fact, Nicklaus attended the same school I did, Jones Junior High, about fifteen years before I did. For many years, Jack’s father operated a drug store on Lane Avenue, less than a mile from where I grew up. I’ve only met Jack on one occasion. It was at an Ohio State football game in October 1979. I managed to get his autograph and told him, “Jack, the best is yet to come.” He smiled and replied, “We’ll see.” Seeing as how that conversation took place seven years before Jack’s legendary victory at the Masters in 1986, maybe I was right.

I recently read about a time when Jack Nicklaus and former President Ford played a round of golf with the world’s greatest golfer. No, not Tiger Woods; I’m referring to former President Bill Clinton, who was unquestionably the world’s greatest golfer whenever he signs his own scorecard. President Ford was disgusted when Clinton gave himself an 80, when that was nowhere near what he’d shot. Apparently, Nicklaus shared those sentiments because he commented to Ford, “Yes, 80—with fifty floating mulligans.”

Rommel the Soldier

During Rommel’s inter-war years, Rommel was able to impress a rising German politician named Adolf Hitler. Rommel distinguished himself during the invasion of France in 1940 and for two years, his Africa corps fought the entire British Army to a standstill. Finally, his people were overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers. In early 1944, Hitler chose him to command the Atlantic Wall, to prepare for the Allied invasion. In early 1944, a British commando unit made a raid on the French coast and one of the units and officers were taken prisoner. To the young lieutenant’s amazement, he was taken to Rommel’s headquarters for an interview with the field marshal himself. They had a nice chat and Rommel commented that it was a shame that the British and the Germans were not fighting on the same side against the Russians. No doubt Rommel was sincere in what he said. He spoke excellent English and, like many Germans, was an avid Anglophile. The young officer commented that he did not think that would be possible because of the extent of the differences between England and Germany. When Rommel asked him what he meant, the young officer replied, “for example, your country’s treatment of the Jews.” At that point, Rommel snapped, “You are talking politics. We are soldiers.”

At the end of the interview, Rommel gave an order that the young officer was not to be harmed. It was not until the end of the war that the young British officer fully realized how lucky he’d been. Rommel knew that Hitler had issued express orders that any captured commando was to be summarily executed. In sparing the young officer’s life, Rommel was disobeying a direct order from the Fuhrer. When that young lieutenant reported his conversation with Rommel to his superiors after the war, they found it hard to believe until British Occupational Forces looked into the archive and found transcripts of the conversation, finding the officer was correct. In hearing that anecdote, I have profoundly mixed feelings that Rommel had the moral courage and gallantry to spare a captured enemy, even at the risk of his own life, but I’m deeply saddened that Rommel undoubtedly had considerable knowledge of the ghastly nature of the Nazi regime’s treatment of Jews. It is impossible not to admire Erwin Rommel. It’s also a mistake to admire him too much.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Academic Major

I just learned that Elizabeth Lambert is majoring in (I am NOT making this up) occupational therapy. After she *maims* people on the field, she helps rehab them. Oh, well, at least she isn't studying to be a funeral director.

Alaska 'Cicely' and Bethel

After spending over five years as a Public Defender in Bethel, Alaska, a town of about 8,000 that is 399 miles west of Anchorage, one question I've heard many, many times, is does life in Alaska bear any resemblence to the fictious town of Cicely, Alaska, depicted on the television show "Northern Exposure".

One huge difference is that 'Cicely' is set in a heavily forested part of Alaska, while Bethel is in tundra country. There's a popular inside joke in Bethel: "Around here there's a beautiful woman behind every tree." (There *aren't* any trees in tundra country.) In bush Alaska, the ratio of men to women is higher than in any other part of the United States. This gives rise to the saying amongst the womenfolk: "The odds are good, but the goods are odd."

Ironically enough, there were several very striking resemblences between Bethel and 'Cicely'. In Cicely, the actor John Corbett played the local disc jockey; in Bethel, there were only two radio stations (Anchorage stations are WAY out of range). One was a evangelical station, while the other was a very eclectic outfit- and all anyone had to do to get into show business was go down to the station and volunteer to work a four-hour shift.

In Cicely, Rob Morrow played Dr. Joel Fleishmann, a recent medical school grad from New York, who is hired to provide medical care for the town for a few years to pay off his student loans. Add the fact that Dr. Fleishmann is Jewish and the result is some very good "fish out of water" humor. Bethel is the location of the biggest hospital west of Anchorage and a great many of the doctors are paying off their student loans.

Once, the Bethel High School had a competition to see who could make the best speech in Yup'ik, the local Indian language. And the winner was....a kid named Solomon Krivens, a Jewish kid whose father was one of the senior doctors at the hospital. (A note to my Jewish friends: not all sterotypes are negative, and not all sterotypes are inaccurate.)

In Cicely, Janine Turner played a bush pilot. I never met a female bush pilot, but I did once fly to a small village (got to see the Yukon River from the air) That experience gave me a whole new understanding of the term "white knuckle flying". Nothing like flying a thousand feet about the tundra at a bit over a hundred miles an hour, feeling the winds shake the plane *constantly*. Until quite recently, Alaska state law (AS 02.35.110) *required* that in addition to standard survival gear- food, fire starting gear, sleeping bags-every bush flight had to carry a firearm- in case you crash, and a hungry bear shows up. While it is no longer state law, bush flights still carry firearms, and as far as I can determine, in over 50 years of Alaskan statehood, there has *never* been a mishap involving a bush flight firearm. (If there ever had been, no doubt the bastards at the New York Times would put it on the front page every day for six weeks! The New York Times just *loves* to tell Alaskans how they should run their state, which is why their writers would be very well advised to never set foot in bush Alaska.)

In 'Cicely', the town's leading citizen and head honcho, was a sixty-ish retired Marine fighter pilot and astronaut named Maurice Minnifield (played by Barry Corbin- a real life former Marine) In Bethel, we had a sixty-ish retired Marine Sergeant Major named Joel Bowles. To say that he was a colorful character would be quite an understatement. After 30 years with Uncle Sam's Misguided Children, he'd done quite well as a businessman, and had a fishing boat called the "Semper Fi". I once told him that he reminded him that he reminded me of Barry Corbin's character, and that was the *only* time I ever saw Sgt. Major Bowles at a loss for words.

Several years ago, a guy in Bethel recorded enough songs about local life to make an album. The title track was "Paris on the Kuskokwim", which was absolutely halarious. I just checked youtube-there isn't a clip containing "Paris on the Kuskokwim", but there are several clips about the Kuskokwim River.

Every year, in January, Bethel hosts the Kuskokwim 300 sled-dog race. Several thousand people get on the ice (including me- the *only* day of the year that I'd be out there) to watch the race start. I once heard Bill Maher make a snarky comment (*everything* he says is snarky) to the effect that if you hit dogs they will run. That comment would have made me lose all respect for Bill Maher- if I had ever had the slightest shred of respect for him to begin with. Hitting dogs simply is *not* done. *E*V*E*R*. Those dogs run because they love to run. I've seen the starts of *five* K300s and the dog teams are always jumping up and down, eager to get started. (a dozen teams of eleven dogs each- there's a whole lot of barking going on).

In Cicely, there's just one General Store. In Bethel, we had got three large grocery/general stores. One way you can be sure that you're in bush Alaska is that the first store items they put antitheft devices on are the bottles of mouthwash. I don't drink alcohol at all; I really can't imagine getting drunk on mouthwash. In the United States as a whole, Prohibition lasted 1919-1933; it is still in force in a great many Alaska bush towns, it is still in force. It makes quite a bit of sense too- there is a horrendous problem among the Yup'ik people with alcohol abuse. (By Yup'ik standards, you're not *really* drunk until your BAC is above .25)

One aspect of Alaskan bush life that the writers of "Northern Exposure" completely missed was the residual Russian influence- Alaska was a Russian possession until 143 years ago. Some of the most common names amongst Yup'iks are Ivan, Evan, Sergie, and Vassily, and Wassily. I once got on the phone to a client named Wassily Sergie to inform him that I had a great offer from the DA's office on his drunk driving charge. It was not until the next day that I learned I'd been mistaken. The DA's offer had been for *Vassily* Sergie- also charged with drunk driving. The Yup'ik word for non-Yup'iks is "Gussack", a mispronunciation of "Cossack". And in Bethel, you're considerably closer to Russia than you are to Anchorage.

Bethel is one of 38 census areas in the US where English is not the majority language and one of *three* where the majority language is neither English nor Spanish. Over 60% of the population speak Yup'ik at home.

To be continued...

Mixed Feelings

There's an old joke that mixed feelings is what you experience when your worst enemy drives your new car off a cliff and it explodes in a fireball. That is exactly the feeling I got today when I learned that Somali pirates had hijacked a freighter..........

from North Korea.

Woody's Excellent Advice

On New Year's Eve 1969, Michigan's football coach Bo Schembechler suffered a heart attack at the age of 40. Shortly thereafter, he received a letter from his former boss, long-time rival, and lifelong friend, Woody Hayes. I have never read the letter, but I have a *very* good idea of the contents. It no doubt read something to the effect of "Now you listen *up* and you listen *good*, you mule headed S.O.B., you don't like taking orders from anybody, but when those doctors tell you to do something, you *do* it!"

Bo must have done something right; he lived another 37 years.

In the mid-70s, Woody Hayes had a heart attack. A few days later, he received a letter from Schembechler. The envelope contained the letter Woody had written years before, along with a note from Schembechler, which read "A very wise man once sent me this letter. I hope you'll take his advice."

Sue Lyon and Dominique Swain

Back in the 1950s, a young actress named Sue Lyon starred in Stanley Kubrick’s production of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Sue Lyon’s life went straight downhill from there. She had four failed marriages, including one to a man who was doing a life sentence in Colorado for murder. She once commented, “try having a normal life when you make your debut as a sex symbol at fifteen.” I thought of Ms. Lyon’s comment upon the release of the Jeremy Irons version of Lolita, co-starring Dominique Swain.

I read Nabokov’s novel and thought he was a genius as a writer. At the same time, I found the protagonist (Humbert Humbert) an absolutely loathsome creature. (Spoiler alert: Lolita came out fifty years ago. If you don’t know the ending, tough.) In the end of the book, when the narrator relates that Humbert dies of a heart attack after a short stay in jail, I thought, “No, no, no, I want him to do at least twenty-five in solitary.”

In any event, Miss Swain has not done any stints in rehab, has had no failed marriages, and has not appeared in the police blotter, so I guess she’s doing fine.

Tales From the Duke’s Daughter

I recently completed reading the book My Father, John Wayne, by Aissa Wayne, the fifth of Wayne’s seven children, his first by his third wife, Pilar. John Wayne’s film career spanned five decades, and was greatly popular, as evidenced by the number of times he was one of Hollywood’s top moneymakers. (Wayne is the indisputable champion of that list, while Clint Eastwood is a very distant second.) Aissa, incidentally, is just six months younger than I am and eventually became a lawyer. I found it an interesting read. She neither sugarcoats nor trashes her father’s memory. I was impressed with the portrait she drew of the man, who had his share of flaws, but certainly loved his children very much. I was also absolutely flabbergasted when Aissa relates who her father told her was the best actor/director with whom he had ever worked.

Anyone want to guess?


In November of 1910, a young boy in Columbus, Ohio, about a week shy of his fourth birthday, saw an airplane criss-crossing the sky for the very first time. The sight of that Wright Brothers model biplane fascinated him, and he ran after it, trying to catch up. He ran so far that he had a terrible time finding his way home. Anyone want to guess who that boy was?

2012 Prediction: Jon Huntsman

A few weeks ago, I told my collaborator that there was no chance of the Republican 2012 Presidential Ticket consisting of Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin, and he looked at me with the expression of a four-year-old who has just been informed about the truth about Santa Claus.

I’m making a prediction for 2012. This guy might not be who the Republicans pick, but he ought to be. How many people have heard of John Hunstman. Show of hands? Last year, Governor Huntsman resigned his post in Utah to win President Obama’s nod as ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. Governor Huntsman had previously served as our ambassador to Singapore, a post for which he was quite qualified, partially because he speaks fluent Mandarin as the result of a two-year stint on Taiwan as a Mormon missionary.

Governor Huntsman’s father is one of the fifty richest men in the United States, having made part of his fortune with a cancer research facility. His son has held a number of posts in the family corporation and served as Deputy Secretary of Commerce during the Reagan Administration. So take a look at his qualifications: success in business-check. Cabinet experience—check. Foreign policy experience- check. Held elective office with administrative duties—check. Military experience—no. (Nobody’s perfect.)

An interesting note about his family: Governor Huntsman has one wife, and they have seven children, two of whom were adopted. (One from India and one from China.)

Dutch, Lucky, Dixie and Dewey

In the early 1930s, a young Jewish man named Arthur Fliegenheimer, who, by dint of business acumen and an extraordinary penchant for violence, became the most powerful bootlegger and numbers-runner in the Bronx. He adopted the name “Dutch Schulz,” a decision he later regretted, since he said that if he kept “Fliegenheimer,” the papers would never have put it in their headlines. (Nor would it have fit.) His activities attracted the attention of New York’s new Special Prosecutor, Thomas Dewey. Schulz managed to beat one charge of income tax evasion, but he knew full well that Dewey would soon have a grand jury return another set of indictments. Schulz called a meeting of the heads of New York’s crime families, including the famous Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Schulz informed his colleagues that he was going to do the unthinkable: get rid of Dewey. Luciano and the others told Schulz that they could not agree to such an action because the resultant public outrage would bring heat upon all of them.

Schulz’s temper got the best of him. He stormed out of the meeting shouting that he would kill Dewey and they would thank him for it. After Schulz’s departure, the other bosses agreed that they would have to have Schulz eliminated. Shortly thereafter, October 24, 1935, Schulz was meeting with his accountant and two bodyguards in the Palace Chophouse in New Jersey, when a group of gunmen entered and killed all four of them. This particular mob hit has been depicted on film perhaps a dozen times.

Ironically, Schulz received his wounds while answering nature’s call and, as one writer put it, “had something other than a gun” in his hand at the time. Every Hollywood depiction has Schulz dying at the scene (for those of you who viewed the clip, could Tim Roth be any more of an overactor?). Schulz was still conscious when the ambulance showed up. He gave his stretcher-bearers $700 in cash, figuring that would get him the best possible care.

Schulz lapsed into semi-consciousness, and for almost twenty-four hours, babbled semi-coherently before he died. An autopsy later showed that Schulz’s killers were covering all of their bets. They had used rusty bullets, and Schulz died of peritonitis.

The postscript to this is another irony: it’s altogether possible that Luciano’s ordering of Schulz’s murder saved Dewey’s life. Within a year, Dewey supervised a prosecution of Luciano that sent him to prison for ten years. He was then deported, forced to spend the rest of his life in Italy.

Verne Troyer’s Basketball Team

I recently thought of a Seinfeld plot that was never written. In my story, Jerry and Kramer would be in the gym, where they would encounter Verne Troyer, better known as Mini Me. Troyer announces that he has gotten together a basketball team called “Five Bald Guys.” After much trash-talking, he challenges Jerry, Kramer, George, Elaine and Newman to a game of basketball with a proviso that Troyer was the only player on his team who gets to shoot the ball. Of course, they make a large bet on the outcome.

After the bet is made, we see Jerry and his friends cursing the outcome (some basketball fans may be able to see it coming). The “Five Bald Guys,” of course, are Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal. It would be great to hear Jordan, et. al. congratulate Verne on finding five more pigeons for the scam. For Shaq and Garnett, it would be an easy manner to hold Troyer high enough in the air to make every shot he took. I can just hear Verne Troyer taunting Jerry that it must hurt to know that he was dunked on 45 times.

Desmond Llewellyn

Desmond Llewellyn is best known for his portrayal of “Q” in the James Bond films. I was saddened when I learned in a car accident in 1999. He appeared in more James Bond films than any other actor and was working with his fifth Bond (Brosnan), having worked with Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Dalton.

The thing I always loved about the character of Q was that he was the only character in the series who is not in awe of James Bond. All the women had the hots for him; all of his superiors implored him to save the world, and Q was always saying, “Now listen closely, 007,” and “Don’t touch that!”

While doing a bit of web surfing, I came across a fascinating irony: at the outbreak of World War II, Desmond Llewellyn was a lieutenant in the British Royal Army who was captured in May of 1940. He spent five years in a German POW camp. Here’s the irony: Desmond Llewellyn served on the camp’s Escape Committee and was responsible for getting gadgets sent into the camp through Red Cross parcels.

John Cleese has taken over Llewellyn’s role in Bond’s life, playing “R.” I think it’s a shame he was never knighted.

p.s. Sometimes the gag writer in me thinks up scenarios that I’ll never get to produce. I think it would be hilarious if you got together a group of women who played Bond girls from Ursula Andress to Jill St. John to Denise Richards and have a vote by secret ballot as to who was the sexiest man in the Bond movies. The punchline, of course, is that there would be an upset winner: Desmond Llewellyn. I can imagine that Desmond Llewellyn was very popular with the ladies. After all, he had amazing equipment and he knew how to use it. ;)

Duty Driver

When I was stationed at Fort Mead, the watch bill rotation dictated that about twice a year, I would be assigned to be duty driver for the Navy detachment. Ordinarily, that was about as exciting as watching paint dry. I would drive a more senior NCO around to a checklist of locations. For example, to check the small Navy storage building at Fort Mead to make sure no one had made off with any supplies. It was about as challenging as having a morning paper route.

One evening in the winter of 1983/1984, I got a very big surprise. A horrible incident had happened on base: a young soldier’s wife had left him, and he did not take the news well. (Note to my readers: I didn’t witness this, but I heard about it.) He attacked her with a knife and stabbed her repeatedly. I understand that he gouged out one of her eyes. When the Military Police arrived, he pulled a gun and shot himself in the head That evening, I was assigned to go out to the airport and pick up that young soldier’s mother, a middle-aged black woman, and her minister. About all I said to her was my introduction, and a very quiet apology for what had happened. Aside from that, I made a very determined effort to keep my mouth shut for the rest of the evening.

The duty chief petty officer that night was Steve Hope, who was the bane of my existence for the two years I was at Fort Mead. About the only time I spoke up was to explain that our two visitors were not husband and wife, but parishioner and minister. It simply would not do, I explained, to put the two of them in the same room at the Fort Mead Guest Facility. I remember driving that woman to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to visit her daughter-in-law. I escorted her up to the young woman’s room and remained in the background. I remember her saying over and over, “I don’t believe he did it.” Again, I kept my mouth shut. I certainly wasn’t going to argue with her.

When she went in to see her daughter-in-law, I was standing in the hallway, about thirty feet away from the young woman’s hospital bed. I did catch a very quick glimpse of her face. The entire right side was covered in bandages and gauze. I can only hope that the plastic surgeons on Walter Reed’s staff were up for a big job.

After their visit, I drove the mother (I’m sorry; I don’t remember her name after twenty-five years) back to the guest house. I guess it’s some consolation that, while I have had my share of disappointments over the years, I’ve never come anywhere close to losing it like that. I have no idea what could motivate a man to commit such a heinous act.