All posts by Bobby Franklin

Ogunquit Playhouse Congratulates Wells and Ogunquit High School Graduates

Ogunquit Playhouse staff members welcomed and cheered the 2020 Wells and Ogunquit high school graduates as they made their way past the historic theatre in a 131 car parade on Sunday, June 7, 2020. Each June, Ogunquit Playhouse hosts the Wells High School Convocation at the theatre, where students spend a day preparing for the ceremony under the guidance of faculty and the Playhouse technical crew. Later in the day, families come to watch the students perform, sing songs and deliver messages of inspiration and hope. Traditionally, as part of the ceremony, Ogunquit Playhouse gives each student a voucher to return to the Playhouse to enjoy a show.

This year, due to the pandemic, all such activities were cancelled. But, this did not dampen the spirits of the students or the enthusiasm of the Playhouse staff! Each student received a voucher to use in the future, when the Playhouse is once again open. While the stage was not an option for celebration this year, a lively parade around the front of the theatre made up of smiling, happy and proud students brightened the day!

“Each year it is an honor to welcome all of the Wells and Ogunquit graduating students to Ogunquit Playhouse, to celebrate their great achievements and to wish them well in their future endeavors. One of our top priorities is to provide opportunities for young people to connect to the arts, and theatre in particular, to broaden their perspectives and instill an awareness that will carry with them all their lives,” stated Executive Artistic Director, Bradford Kenney. “While this year broke with tradition, we hope the wonderful memories that were made instead, will be as cherished. We look forward to the day when we can welcome these young graduates into our beloved Playhouse to enjoy a show, but for today, our heartfelt congratulations and all best wishes to the 2020 Wells and Ogunquit graduating class!”

Ogunquit Playhouse will focus on reimagining the 2020 season to carry on its mission and fundraising efforts to ensure the financial viability of the historic non-profit theatre. Public support is crucial in this time of global health and economic crisis. For more information on how to contribute and to stay connected during the coming year, visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org

Rest In Peace Pete Rademacher

Pete Rademacher

Olympic Champ Was Only Man

To Challenge For The Heavyweight Title 

In His First Pro Bout

By Bobby Franklin

Rademacher On The Attack Against Patterson

(Pete Rademacher passed away on June 4th. I wrote this column for the Boston Post Gazette last year.)

Pete Rademacher had an outstanding amateur career culminating with a Gold Medal in the heavyweight division at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. Rademacher won all three of his bouts by knockout and won the final in first round for a very impressive finale to his performance.

Pete Rademacher, Jose Torres, and James Boyd

Leading up to his Olympic victory Pete showed he was one of the best amateur boxers in the word.. He won numerous titles including the Seattle Golden Gloves, the Chicago Golden Gloves, the All-Army Championship, and the National AAU Title in Boston in 1953. He had a final amateur record of 72 wins against 7 losses.

After winning the Olympic Gold, Rademacher got it into his head that he was ready to fight for the world heavyweight championship. Rocky Marciano had just retired and Floyd Patterson and Archie Moore were signed to fight for the vacant title. This bout would take place in November of 1956, just months after Pete competed in the Olympics. He was convinced he could beat either man. 

The Weigh In

When Patterson won the title Rademacher approached Cus D’Amato, Floyd’s manager, with the idea. Cus, always looking for a soft touch for Floyd, agreed, but told Pete he had to raise $250,000.00 for Patterson’s end of the purse plus put an additional $100,000.00 into escrow in order to ensure a rematch if the unthinkable happened and Floyd lost.

Pete found two backers and they set up a company called Unlimited Enterprises a small manufacturing firm. The idea was for the fight to publicize the new company and Pete’s purse would be his salary as vice president. 

The fight was set in Rademacher’s home state of Washington both because it was the only place it would draw a crowd and the commission there was the only one that would sanction such a bout. Pete has said he was a 10 to 1 favorite not to show up. Truth is, the fight was thought to be so one sided that the odds of 10 to 1 in Patterson’s favor were meaningless as no one was taking bets.

The fight took place on August 22, 1957 in Sick’s Stadium in Seattle. Former light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran was the referee. A crowd of 16,961 showed up producing a gate of $243,030 far short of the anticipated sell out that would have brought in $400,000.00. There was no live home TV or closed circuit broadcast of the fight. 

The United Press called the match “weird” and Rademacher a “sacrificial lamb”. It is not an exaggeration to say this fight was an embarrassment to boxing. The two leading contenders for the title at that time were Eddie Machen and Zora Folley, and they were both being passed over in favor of an amateur getting a shot at the title. The heavyweight championship had now sunk to perhaps its lowest point ever with this circus. What’s really crazy is that Rademacher managed to come up with the $250,000.00 to pay Patterson. 

Pete Drops Floyd

As for the fight; well, it went longer than anyone expected and Pete showed plenty of courage. He even managed to floor Patterson for a count of four in the second round. The plodding challenger landed a right hand that did the job, but it would be his one moment of glory in the bout. Later, Pete would say it was his biggest mistake as it only made the champion mad.

Patterson would score six knockdowns before sending Rademacher to the canvas for the seventh time for the full count in round six. After the fight referee Loughran said about Pete “He is the most courageous fighter I have ever seen.”

Rademacher vs Paterson

Patterson would continue ducking the top contenders after this fight facing the likes of Brian London and Roy Harris before losing the title to Ingemar Johansson. He would go on to win the title back from Ingo and then fight him a third time. After that he would take on the unranked Tom McNeely before losing the title for the final time to Sonny Liston.

Rademacher would continue fighting and in his next bout was stopped by Zora Folley. He and Folley had been opponents in the amateurs where they traded wins over each other. Pete had a final professional record of 15 wins (8 by KO), 7 losses (6 by KO), and 1 draw. His biggest wins were over George Chuvalo and Bobo Olson. He lost to such men as Brian London, Karl Mildenberger, Archie Moore, and Doug Jones. He would later become a boxing judge and referee. 

Pete Rademacher

Pete eventually went to work for the McNeil Corporation of Akron, Ohio. The company manufactured swimming pool products and Rademacher earned nine patents for products he invented, things such as kick-board training devices for competitive swimmers and wave-quelling lane dividers for pools. After retirement, he served as golf director for the American Cancer Society helping to raise over $1 million for cancer treatment. 

The last I have been able to find out about him is he is living in a nursing home in Sandusky, Ohio. 

While the fight with Patterson was something that never should have been allowed to happen, Pete Rademacher did show real courage in the bout. He was also pretty creative in how he made it all come about. He went on to do a lot of good things for worthy causes, using his fifteen minutes of fame to good advantage, so some good did come from it all. 
 

 

SPEAKEASY ANNOUNCES TWO NEW  FREE VIRTUAL AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVES

When You Can’t Go To The Theatre, The Theatre Comes To You

A play discussion group focused on contemporary female voices and a weekly Q&A with the artists of SpeakEasy’s 30th Anniversary Season are the two new audience engagement initiatives set to debut at SpeakEasy Stage next week.  

All events comprising both these initiatives are free and open to the public.  

To sign-up for any of these discussions, or for more information, the public is invited to contact SpeakEasy Community Programs Manager Alex Lonati at alexlonati [at] speakeasystage [dot] com

First up, beginning Wednesday, May 20 at 5PM, is a five-week half-hour series offering an insider’s guide to the five shows making up SpeakEasy’s 2020-2021 Season, which is also the company’s 30th Anniversary year.

SpeakEasy Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault and Community Programs Manager Alex Lonati will be the hosts for lively discussions with the key artists associated with each upcoming show.

The schedule of shows and artists is as follows:

Once On This Island – Wednesday, May 20, 5:00-5:30pm

Artists present: Director Pascale Florestal, Music Director David Freeman Coleman

People, Places & Things – Wednesday, May 27, 5:00-5:30pm

Artists present: Director David R. Gammons, Actress Marianna Bassham, Actor John Kuntz


Slave Play – Wednesday, June 3, 5:00-5:30pm

Artist present: Director Tiffany Nichole Greene

Bright Star – Wednesday, June 10, 5:00-5:30pm

Artists present: Director Paul Daigneault, Actress Laura Marie Duncan, 

Choreographer Misha Shields, Music Director Eli Schildekraut

The Inheritance – Wednesday, June 17, 5:00-5:30pm

Artist present: Director Paul Daigneault

Those interested can join by tuning into SpeakEasy’s Facebook page for each live 30-minute Q&A session. In addition to learning more about each show, participants will also find out about the season selection process, production plans, and the artists’ inspiration, and also be able to ask questions.

Next, on Thursday, May 21, SpeakEasy Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault and Community Programs Manager Alex Lonati will kick off SpeakEasy’s Play Discussion group, which will focus on the works of four contemporary female playwrights, and which will, for at least three of the four sessions, have the writers join in the conversation.

The first installment will feature a chat with Mr. Daigneault and Ms. Lonati, who will offer tips to participants on how to read a play.

After that introduction, the group will focus on the following four plays:

  • Cost of Living by Martyna Majok – Thursday, May 28 from 5:30 – 6:30pm
  • Cambodian Rock Band by Lauren Yee – Thursday, June 4 from 5:30 – 6:30pm
  • DIASPORA! by Phaedra Michelle Scott, developed through SpeakEasy’s The Boston Project Thursday, June 11 from 5:30 – 6:30 

Wild Goose Dreams by Hansol Jung – Thursday, June 18 from 5:30 – 6:30pm

Martyna Majok, who won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Cost of Living; Phaedra Michelle Scott, author of DIASPORA! ; and Hansol Jung, who wrote Wild Goose Dreams, are currently scheduled to attend the discussion of their plays. 

 All discussions will take place on Zoom, so that everyone can see those participating and share comments.

Scripts will need to be purchased in advance, which will help support the playwrights during this time when all productions are on hold.  The script for DIASPORA! will be distributed in advance for free to all participants since the play is still in development.  

 Each discussion will also be hosted by a veteran Boston actress, who will help facilitate the conversation as well as offer their perspective on the play from an acting standpoint.  At press time, that list was still being confirmed.

Individuals may sign up for as many of these discussions as they like.

Questions on either initiative may be directed to Community Programs Manager Alex Lonati at AlexLonati [at] SpeakEasyStage [dot] com.

Interview With Len Abram, The Author Of “Empty Doorways”

Author Len Abram Talks About His Novels, The Process Of Writing,  And How He Chooses His Subjects

Interviewed By Bobby Franklin

It is my pleasure to welcome Len Abram to speak with us at Boxing Over Broadway.

With a PhD in literature, Len Abram taught at three universities, including the University of Maryland armed forces program (Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, and Bermuda).  He taught Marines on Okinawa for a year and learned to SCUBA dive. 

When teaching jobs went scarce, he became a technical writer for networks and financial services, with customers, such as MasterCard, NATO, Department of Defense, the Federal Reserve, Japan Airlines, and Fidelity Investments.   At Fidelity, he earned a stock broker’s license and wrote articles for customers. He interviewed experts, such as Peter Lynch, Suze Orman, and Larry Kudlow.

Empty Doorways is his third novel. His first was also a crime novel, with some of the same characters, The Medallion, followed by an historical a novel set in World War I, Debris: A Novel of Love, War and the Lusitania. 

He has completed – more accurate than ran — eleven Boston Marathons, the last one in 2019 in seven very long hours.  

Boxing Over Broadway: Hi Len, thank you for speaking with us at Boxing Over Broadway.

Len Abram: Thanks for this opportunity.

BOB: You have written three novels — The Medallion, Debris, and your latest, Empty Doorways. While Debris is a historical novel, how would you describe The Medallion and Empty Doorways?  Is Empty Doorways a sequel to The Medallion? 

Len Abram

Len Abram:  Debris, A Novel of Love, War and the Lusitania, required research: from the politics and strategies that shaped World War I, to the ship designs that made the Lusitania so fast, to the German submarine U-20 that sunk the ship, killing 1200 passengers and crew.  I learned that spies on the New York docks targeted the ship for attack.  I fictionalized who those spies were, how they got there, and what happened to them. 

The Medallion and its sequel Empty Doorways are contemporary detective stories. Like most people, I get my information from reading newspapers or watching TV news about crimes in metropolitan Boston. I did take several courses in gun use and gun safety, how to operate and fire the Glocks my detectives carry. A .357 pistol plays a role in Empty Doorways. The bullet can go through an engine block. I learned to load and fire one.

BOB:  Is Boston important in your stories because you live in the area and are familiar with it or is there something special about Boston that adds to the flavor of your books?

Len Abram: The cabbie Sasha Denisov gets many of his fares at South Station, one of two major Boston transportation centers. Not far from the station is the Boston Police headquarters at Government Center, where Detectives Schwartz and Di Natale work.

As realtors say, Location, location, location. Like lives, stories have a context. Boston appears in all three books

As realtors say, Location, location, location. Like lives, stories have a context. Boston appears in all three books. Even the historical novel Debris focuses on a distinguished Boston family of the early 1900s. The Lindseys built the chapel on Newbury Street in memory of their daughter Leslie and her husband Stewart, drowned when the ship sank. To this day, weddings are performed in the chapel.

The Medallion and Empty Doorways are set in today’s Boston, its neighborhoods, such as Mattapan, and its surrounding cities, such as Cambridge. The two books mention shared events, but can be read in or out of sequence. Major and minor characters reflect the ethnic and cultural varieties that make up the communities of the city – and add vitality and richness to life here. 

From the Boston Common, when we look up Beacon Hill at the State House, we might see its golden dome as our highest ideals we climb to reach. If beyond our grasp, we continue to try. 

BOB: Tell us a little about the characters that are common to both books. How did you come up with the names for them? Their personas?

Len Abram: My three major characters are taxi driver Sasha Denisov and Detectives Ben Schwartz and Al Di Natale of Boston PD Homicide.

Immigrant Sasha Denisov grew up in the Ukraine, as did my parents and cousins. They served in the Russian army like Sasha, but the cabbie was in the special forces Spetsnaz, after which he names his cab company. Sasha’s name I drew from Ivan Denisovich, the everyman character in Solzhenitsyn’s novel of the Gulag, the Soviet Union’s concentration camps. Like so many, Sasha fled his native land for a better life.   

Ben Schwartz, an outstanding detective, is in his 50s, a couple of decades older than his partner Al Di Natale. Originally from New York, Schwartz is Jewish, not observant like his wife Evie, but each year he goes to a synagogue to pray for a murder victim, one of his cold cases, which he is determined to close in The Medallion.  

Schwartz’s partner Al Di Natale, with the lyrical Italian name, is a former Catholic altar boy from Woburn. Di Natale is a decorated Army combat veteran, who distinguished himself as a patrolman to become a young detective. Di Natale is very handsome, an asset and a curse. His vanity may ruin his marriage.

In Empty Doorways, Schwartz and he join the rest of Boston searching for a missing 12-year-old boy from Mattapan.  

BOB:  Why this topic, these characters? 

Len Abram: Many years ago, I taught eighth grade in an inner-city Boston school. I told one disruptive boy to stay after school as punishment. He couldn’t. He had to meet his parole officer. On parents’ night, the mother of one of my black students, tall like the missing boy in Empty Doorways, said to me, “Mr. Abram, please learn my boy,” By that she meant teach and maybe lead or influence her son. I think of all those parents and grandparents, who want the best outcome for their children – and what they are up against in some of our neighborhoods. I think I speak for them in my writing.  

BOB: Tell us a little about your journey to becoming a novelist.

Len Abram:I love reading stories and I learned that I love telling stories too.  I have a PhD in literature and taught for seven years, four of them in the Far East for the US armed forces education program. I ended up as a tech writer in computer networks when there were no teaching jobs. 

I have always written essays and book reviews, along with my technical writing. One day I left work, which was next to South Station, and I noticed the cabs lined up for fares. I had an idea about a taxi cab driver, an immigrant from the Ukraine, who risks his life while pursuing the American Dream. I wrote a paragraph, and showed it to a friend. “Why don’t you do something with this?” he asked. That started me writing novels.  

BOB: Writing is a tough job that takes a lot of discipline. How do you structure your creative time?

Len Abram: I joked to another writer when my third book was published: the victory of tenacity over talent. Some truth in that. One of the characters in Empty Doorways is given a saying or motto for his recovery from a severe injury: Never Quit. 

I’ve had many setbacks and many rejections about my writing. I don’t know how much talent I have. Someone has said that talent is everywhere. Whatever success is, it takes more than talent. 

When I am writing a novel, I work five days a week, three to four hours my limit. Right now, I am in between novels, and just finished a book review. That sharpens my skills while I am thinking of my next project. 

BOB:  Will there be a sequel or will you move to another topic?

Len Abram: Whether these two detective books begin a series – we’ll have to wait for the next novel on that score. But I am planning one. 

BOB: This seems like something that could work quite well as a TV series. Any plans to adapt it into a screenplay?

Len Abram: An editor and friend is a professional screen writer. We are talking about a series based upon the cases of Detectives Schwartz and Di Natale. 

BOB: In closing, why will people enjoy reading your Empty Doorways?

Len Abram: One of the characters in the novel says that if we cannot protect our kids, none of us is safe. If we cannot protect Gabriel Clay in Mattapan, how safe is any of us anywhere? 

The cabbie, the teachers, the parents and grandparents, the clergy, and of course the police, like Schwartz and Di Natale, are fighting to save the kids, in effect, our future. That’s worth writing about, and maybe reading. 

Thank you, Len Abram

 

BOB: We have included a sample chapter from Empty Doorways. Why did you choose this one?
Len Abram:  This chapter can standalone. Drug dealing is central to Empty Doorways, part of an underground economy worth many billions,ruining lives, and corrupting the young. Cartels from Mexico control much of the drug trade into our country, but locals take on distribution and street corner sales. In this chapter a Mexican cartel has decided to move from wholesale to retail, that is, replacing or coercing local distributors and dealers, like those in the novel, who must decide whether to go along — or fight.
Chapter Thirty-Seven From Empty Doorways

The road was as crooked as a tree root, following an ancient Indian or game trail, Castilla guessed. Paved once and forgotten, a token of good will from a Mexican government, perhaps hoping to stall another revolution by the campesinos. Pitted and washed out, the road was threadbare to the sand floor of the desert.  

The lights from the two vehicles cut tubes into the night, dark as poured asphalt. Clouds had squeezed together without a seam, leaving the stars as dim dots and the half-moon a shadowy boulder.  To their left on the horizon, the string  of lights, brighter than the stars on a clear night, was Texas. Their two vehicles were on the Mexican side of a desert, at least three quarters of the year barren, with a short, fierce  rainy season. The cloud cover meant that it would start soon. 

The torrent lasts a few weeks, not more than a month, Castilla remembered. He had grown up in a village a hundred miles to the south. Desert flowers bloom until the sparse land looked like a meadow. With the rains came flash floods, racing through the land to find the larger rivers to which the water belonged. The floods pushed aside what was in their way, trees, coyotes, snakes, cactus, rocks, cars, people.  His father and his dog Alonzo, in a pickup truck older than the one in front of them, had been swept away by such a flood. 

Hector Castilla was only ten. “Life has dealt us a hard blow,” his mother said, wrapping herself in black dresses borrowed from neighbors. She handed Castilla one of his father’s favorite hats, a sweat-stained Stetson. Castilla thought that the hat was in a trunk of clothing in the cellar of his villa. The passing of the hat, he realized later, marked the end of his childhood.  

The pickup in front was also a Ford, at least two decades old, the second time around for the odometer. The paint was worn to the primer. Rust had reduced the metal rocker panels to paper. Three men lay bound on the bed of the pickup. The truck belonged to one of the men, Ernesto Guerra, who was tied up in the back with his cousin Mateo and his friend Tomas. Guerra’s dog, a pit bull with a muzzle guard, lay next to him, the chain to his collar tied to a metal cleat. When Castilla’s men picked up the three, they were ready to shoot the dog if the muzzle guard came off. The dog was fearless. He growled and shot spittle through spaces in the guard. Guerra said to the dog, “Cochise, silencio.”  The pit bull dropped his clipped ears and lay quiet against him.  

El Nino, one of Castilla’s men, drove the pickup. He peered over the dash watching for gulleys that could break an axle. Beside him in a burlap bag were the weapons and ammunition taken from the three men, Guerra’s scuffed nickel .357 revolver and two rusty black revolvers of different calibers, belonging to the other two men, along with a fold-up knife and a barber’s razor, found in their  jeans.  Also in the bag taken from them were packets of brown heroin, stenciled with the brand names of WMD and Star Wars. Also, there were bags of marijuana, and hundreds of pills, in several colors and shapes.  The three men were caught selling in Castilla’s territory. 

The vehicle behind the pickup, Castilla’s, was a new black Escalade, shiny as an eel. It stayed far enough behind the pickup to avoid the stones kicked up from the tires. The more powerful lights of the Escalade overshot the pickup hundreds of feet and its wide tires bridged ruts. The new shocks and springs cushioned the ride for the four men inside, the driver Manuel, his thick knuckles wrapped around steering wheel, Marimacho and Felipe, Castilla’s two other bodyguards.  Hector Castilla sat in back next to Marimacho. El Nino in the pickup was also a bodyguard, the youngest in his service at 16. 

Castilla liked privacy when he did his business. With drones and satellites, that was getting more difficult. Driving late at night on off-roads in the desert was about as private as he could find. Besides, he and his men had driven out here before and no one had noticed them or what they left behind.  

Castilla was the only man smoking in the Cadillac, his brand, gold-tipped Dunhills.  The Escalade’s air conditioner sucked the cigarette smoke into the dash and returned clean air with a fragrance enhancer.  Castilla was short, even by Mexican standards, and did not like being reminded of his height.  One of the great drug lords, as the press called them in their love of medieval words, had the nickname of Shorty. Not for Castilla. 

His clothes and tastes didn’t suggest that they belonged to one of the wealthiest men in the Mexican state of Coahuila. This was in the economía ilegal, larger than Mexico’s legitimate economy and competitor of the government. Castilla only spent a great deal on his footwear; the boot maker from San Diego was an artist in adding three inches to Castilla’s height. 

He was third in line of the Sinola cartel. Emmanuel Sinola had a big map in his home, on a private island off the Mexican east coast.  Freighters and pleasure craft came offshore to pick up bales and packages to bring to the customers. Sinola had hacked out a runway on the island. He flew his jets and twin props into there. When he traveled at 500 miles an hour, Sinola could be home for supper from nearly anywhere in the country. 

Castilla himself had a villa on the east coast, but not his own island. He was given his territory, like the other lieutenants, to be the chief executive officer of his own business, which grossed duffel bags of cash, with dozens of machines to count it all. Castilla just attended a meeting Sinola organized. He invited a professor at a famous business school in the United States to talk about improving their company. 

A Lear jet brought the man from Hartford to the island at twice his usual fee.  Castilla never went beyond the tenth grade of the missionary school, but he got a message from the lecture and his own observations:  if businesses don’t expand, they contract and start to fail. Stasis, estasis, in Spanish, that is what the MBA fellow from Yale called it.  

In his home, Castilla had a map of the United States. Pins showed where he sold or distributed. His area was there too, green pins for the most profitable, red and yellow for those less so, pins everywhere on the map, across the United States, except when he looked north. New York and New Jersey were saturated already with competitors. But in the place called New England, there might be room. Was life’s secret either grow or die?

 “Pass them. Head to the arroyo,” said Castilla, leaning over to tap his driver’s thick shoulder. 

Manuel stomped the gas pedal and moved around the lumbering pickup. In the dust behind, they saw it try to catch up. Another road veered to the right, this one just dirt, and dropped gradually into what was a valley, shallow and hidden. Organ pipe cactus towered over the tall Escalade. Manuel drove around desert willows that scratched the tires and fenders and barrel cactus shaped like bread crusts. 

Castilla said stop. Manuel signaled the pickup so he wasn’t rear-ended.  The kid El Nino drove well, great reflexes and fearless, but impulsive too.  They pulled to a stop, shut their engines and stepped out, leaving their lights on; Castilla got out of the tall Escalade backwards holding onto the door. The bodyguards looked around, but they were quite alone.

Still, they unbuttoned their coats to access their weapons, pistols with long magazines. Manuel pulled an AK-47 out of the vehicle and shouldered it. He went back to the Escalade and returned with a machete, well-worn in its scabbard. With it, a strong man could sever a head in a few seconds. 

“Get them out,” Castilla said. “Conseguirlos.”

El Nino dropped the gate on the pickup truck and dragged the men by their boots and sneakers onto the hard dirt.  The dog growled and yelped inside the mask, but he had little choice but to follow his master to the ground. They dropped hard, the men and the dog on the ground, raising dust in the beams of the Escalade. The dog was glad to be out of the vehicle and was wagging its tail. It tried to lick Guerra’s face inside the bite guard. 

The dog growled when El Nino pulled a 9mm from a holster. He stepped back, thumbed off the safety, and looked over at Castilla.  Manuel pulled out overalls and a cap from the Escalade and slipped these over his street clothes. He pulled the machete out of its scabbard and walked to the bound men.  The dog growled again. 

“Get them on their feet,” said Castilla. His men were surprised. They prepared themselves for the violence and he stopped them.  The acts did take resolve, an adrenalin spike, a gulp of Mezcal, a couple of pills, the snort of something white or brown, in order to shoot or butcher a person who was no danger to you. Usually with hands tied behind or worse, hands up, appealing for pity, mentioning children by name, their ages, anything to slow down or interrupt  what was about to happen, and they couldn’t stop. 

If he saw his men falter, Castilla bolstered their courage.

“You are not paid for pity,” Castilla had said once or twice and was repeated among his employees enough times to be misquoted or embellished.  “It’s enough I pity you. If I don’t, who will save you?”

They had heard the rest of the speech before. 

“This is war. Big countries like that cesspool from the north, Americanos, bomb their enemies with billion-dollar aircraft. Collateral damage when they kill thousands of innocents. War gives them the right. 

“We are at war and what about our rights?  At war with the government of Mexico, which will take away our livelihoods so we can go back to what? – selling trinkets to the tourists, dirt farming, with a few cattle or pigs, rice and beans and maize until our children look ready for the vultures? Or do we break our backs picking vegetables from sunrise until dark on farms or orchards of the enemy that stole our land? “

No, patron,” the men said. 

 The dog was sniffing the air hard to try to understand the place and the people.

“Now I will give you another lesson. Look, two of them have pissed in their pants, but not this one,” pointing to Ernesto Guerra. “They all think they have reached the end of their lives. Maybe they have.  I run a business, with computers, satellites, networks, jets, the best in machines and I hope the best in men.  Now we will see what kind of men we have here. Untie them. Also take off their shirts.” 

The bodyguards stood the three men up. Manuel used the machete to cut the tape. He let them take the tapes off their mouths themselves. They rubbed their wrists and arms. Their shirts were on the ground and they were cold. Guerra stepped forward and asked for aqua, water. They had a few prison tattoos, neighborhoods, but not an organization like MS-13. They did not know that the affiliation would have meant instant death. 

Felipe brought them three bottles from the Escalade. They drank. Finally, Guerra spoke.

Patron, we should not have been selling our bags in the area. It was my mistake. Not theirs. This is my cousin. This is my friend.”

Castilla stepped out the shadow of the Escalade. 

“Your tattoos says that you belong to no gang. You are not supposed to be in this area between me and Los Zetas.”

“That’s true, patron. It was my fault,” Guerra said. “We had extra bags and needed to get rid of them. Los Zetas allows us little parts of their territory, arrendamiento. It was only a few miles to yours and so we went. I won’t tell you it was the GPS, we had to make our quota…”

“Or what?” 

“We have a boss too. He don’t let us miss our quota. They beat us, especially my cousin. He is smaller.”

 “What if I made you an offer? Manuel could leave your heads somewhere as a reminder to others. But that hardly shocks anymore! What a fucking world when you can see worse on YouTube.”

“A job?”

“First of all, I know who you are, Ernesto Guerra. I hear about you. You have crossed into my territory many times, but this time we got you. I need someone to expand my operations. We are going to push.”

“Where?”

“You know New York?”

“Yes, there two years in and outside of the city. Long Island.”

“A couple of hundred miles from New York, the capital of a state, the one called Massachusetts.  You speak English and know your way around. We’ll get you there. First, you’ll replace local dealers, not on the street, but the ones running the business from their offices and cars.  Second, we’re going to flood the drug market with lots of cheap stuff, especially heroin. We have another way to distribute, this time from the sea. The cheap price will expand our market. Later the price will rise. You don’t mind the sea, do you?”

“I can swim for an hour and the cold don’t bother me,” Guerra said. 

“You will be pushing out people who don’t want to be pushed. Some of them you will put on the side of the road.” The reference to the side of the road was from the cartel wars in Mexico, a convenient place to leave the dead.

“I understand and am not afraid,” Guerra said. 

“You’ll demand loyalty from the street pushers and will give them bonuses for selling our products. They will make more money because we will bring in more customers,” Castilla said. “Aimless American youth will come to us, first for fun and then for necessity. Interested?” 

Si, yes, I give my word,” said Guerra. 

“You like this powerful pistol,” Castilla said, holding the scuffed .357 Smith & Wesson his men had taken off of Guerra. The frame of the gun had to be heavy and strong. Castilla held one of the bullets in his palm. “This bullet could fit a rifle.”

“Yes, patron, they don’t get up and shoot back at me with this one.”

“Let’s see your loyalty,” Castilla said, tossing Ernesto Guerra his pistol and a couple of cartridges. Manual put the front sight of his AK-47 on Guerra’s chest, finger moving from trigger guard to trigger, while Guerra loaded the pistol. 

“Shoot your cousin Mateo. He’s worthless anyway.”

“Please, I can’t do that. He’s my wife’s cousin,” Guerra said. 

“Shoot the dog.”

Copyright 2020 Len Abram

 

Jess Willard Reconsidered

The Pottawatomie Giant Deserves Respect

By Bobby Franklin

Jess Willard

In the recent heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder both men were, to put it mildly, quite large. Fury at 6’9” weighed in at 273 pounds while Wilder at 6’7” tipped the scales at 254 pounds. Wilder usually comes in lighter but was bulked up for this fight. 

While both men are among the largest to ever hold the crown, there have been heavyweights in the past who would not be out of place in the ring with either one of them. Jess Willard at 6’6 1/2” and weighing in the vicinity of 245 pounds would be able to match eyeballs with Fury and Wilder, though Fury would have a couple of inches on him. 

Willard is best known for two fights, his win over Jack Johnson when he took possession of the Heavyweight Title, and his defeat at the hands of Jack Dempsey when he lost the crown. Both fights have the shadow of controversy hanging over them that obscure Willard’s performances in  them.

When Jess met Jack Johnson for the title on April 5, 1915 at Oriental Park in Havana, Cuba he was the latest in a string of White Hopes who were sought out to take the title from Johnson. The fight was held in Cuba because at the time Johnson was a fugitive from justice and would have been arrested had he returned to the United States.

Jack Johnson On The Attack Against Willard

The fight was scheduled for 45 rounds and took place in the afternoon. One of the myths surrounding the fight was that the temperature was scorching by the time the combatants had entered the ring. Arly Allen, who wrote the definitive biography of Willard stated after exhaustive research that the hottest it had gotten that day was 70 degrees. Looking at footage of the fight you can see the fighters were dressed warm when they entered the ring; Willard had a heavy sweater on. The fans also looked quite comfortable.

Johnson Vs Willard

The other myth that has been used to discredit Willard was started by Johnson years later when he claimed he threw the fight. Every boxing historian I know does not buy in to that. In fact, all you need to do is watch video of the fight and you will see in the early rounds Johnson going all out to knock out Willard. Jess survived this assaults from the champion and came on to knock out Johnson in the 26th round. While Johnson was not in the best of shape, weighing 225 pounds as compared to the 208 he weighed against Jim Jeffries five years earlier, Willard fought a very good fight showing excellent footwork for a man his size. Jess also had a powerful right hand which he used to finish off Johnson. 

Much of the blame for Johnson not being in great fighting shape falls on Jack as he refused to face serious opposition after he won the title. His toughest opponent was Jeffries who had been out the ring for six years when they fought. Johnson also had been leading a wild lifestyle. Would things have been different if Jess was facing an in shape Johnson? Possibly, but the fact is Willard won the fight fair and square after standing up to the best Johnson had to offer. 

Willard vs Dempsey

In the Dempsey fight things turned out differently for Jess. The controversy in this fight centered on Jack, who many believe fought with loaded gloves. This story was started by his manager Jack Kearns years later after the two had a falling out. It has never been proven or disproven and, while most historians don’t believe Kearn’s story that he put Plaster of Paris on Dempsey’s hands before the fight, there is reason to believe Jack had his hands wrapped in bicycle tape. The bicycle tape was legal at the time. There is also a theory that Jack had a metal bar in his hand when the fight began. I have written about this in more detail before as have many other boxing experts. It is something that will never be fully resolved.

In the first round of the fight, which took place in Toledo, Ohio on July 4, 1919, Jess took a terrible beating being floored seven times and being saved from a knockout by the sound of the bell. (Actually, a whistle as the bell had broken before the fight.)

That is what most people remember of the fight. What happened in the next two rounds is interesting as Jess was not floored again. He put up a courageous stand before his corner called an end to the fight after the third round. 

Jess Willard vs Floyd Johnson Drew A Huge Crowd

It has been written that Willard wanted a rematch with Dempsey but he didn’t help his chances at getting another go against the Manassa Mauler by staying inactive for the next four years. 1923 he stepped into the ring against Floyd Johnson, and while having some rough moments early in the fight came on to kayo Johnson in the 11th round. Willard looked fit and on the way back at the age of 42. He was then signed to fight Luis Firpo with the winner being promised a shot at Dempsey.

The fight took place at Boyes Thirty Acres in Jersey City, New Jersey on July 12, 1923. Firpo kayoed Jess in the 8th round putting an end to any hope of the Pottawatomie getting his return bout against Jack Dempsey.

It should also be noted that both of Willard’s comeback fights drew huge crowds and the former champ remained extremely popular. A rematch with Dempsey certainly would have been a major attraction.

Jess Willard

So, what would have happened if Willard and Dempsey had fought again? I think it would have been a bit different than the first fight. Jess wasn’t imbued with the killer instinct. When younger, he  killed a man in the ring and that had aways haunted him. He believed, with good reason, that he was much more powerful than his opponents and had a certain fear of fatally hurting another. Because of this he often lacked aggression when fighting.

Before the Dempsey fight Jess was asked if he thought he might kill Dempsey. In fact many thought that was highly possible. When the bell rang for the first round you can see how Jess came out of his corner in a very calm manner. When the two went into a clinch Jess stepped back with his arms spread as if to say he wasn’t going to hurt the little guy. Willard was completely unprepared for the assault that was soon to take place. However, after taking that beating in the first round, he fought back hard and gave Dempsey a bit of a go of it.

In a rematch, Jess would have come out ready for battle. He most likely would have used his weight against Dempsey, not stepping back in a clinch but instead he would have roughed the champion up. Dempsey still would have won, but the fight would have gone longer and would have had more grappling.

Willard only had 28 fights in his entire career. He was a reluctant yet courageous warrior. In his two most notable fights he has not received the credit he deserved. Nobody though he would beat Johnson, yet he proved them wrong. Against Dempsey, he showed the heart of a champion and a strong fighting spirit. 

Jess really didn’t have the killer instinct that is needed in such a cruel sport. He did have great athletic ability, was always in great shape, and had tremendous courage. You might want to take a look at the fights I have discussed and reconsider your opinion of Willard.

Ogunquit Playhouse Cancels 88th Season Due to COVID19 Pandemic

Ogunquit Playhouse Executive Artistic Director Brad Kenney Announces 

Cancelation of the 2020 Season

By Bobby Franklin

I have been reviewing shows at the Ogunquit Playhouse since 2014, and have been attending performances since well before that. The  Playhouse has aways held a special place in my heart with its wonderful staff, incredible productions, and the warmth of all who are involved which includes all of its supporters.

The Playhouse is as much a part of Ogunquit as the ocean. Brad Kenney has been nothing short of spectacular since taking over as Executive Artistic Director in 2005. Not only has he brought in the best talent and productions, he has also built a community around the Playhouse that is nothing short of a very large and happy family. I know this has to be very hard on Brad and is a time of great sadness for him and all those involved with the Playhouse.

While I know he is on the ropes right now, with the support of the Ogunquit Playhouse Community Brad will bring the lights back on next year and soar to new heights.

Please considering sending a contribution to help them weather this storm. This is a difficult and sad time for the theatre community, for Ogunquit, and for our nation. We will get through this.

Statement from the Ogunquit Playhouse:

Following guidelines released this week by Governor Janet Mills in response to the reopening of Maine’s businesses, and responding to the safety challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and COVID19, Ogunquit Playhouse has announced that it will halt productions on all scheduled 2020 shows at its historic theatre and cancel its 88th season. Ogunquit Playhouse has not gone dark for a season since World War II.

Ogunquit Playhouse leadership reached the difficult conclusion that it must cancel its highly anticipated lineup of shows slated for its stage this season, with the hope of moving them to a future season. The decision comes after weeks of careful deliberation, extensive revisions to the season’s budgets and show schedules, and thoughtful health and safety planning to protect staff, crew, volunteers, visiting artists and patrons.

The historic non-profit theatre relies on the sale of tickets for 80% of its operating budget, and the cancellation of the 88th season will have a profound financial impact on Ogunquit Playhouse. Despite drastic cost-cutting measures, the Playhouse will incur financial damages exceeding $3 million. Its focus now will turn to raising funds to ensure the financial viability of the Playhouse and to carrying on its mission.

“Our commitment to the health and safety of our staff, artists, and audiences is our top priority. Although this decision is difficult and heartbreaking, we understand its necessity and are willing to do our part to stop this pandemic. Although we have cancelled our main stage productions, we will continue our mission of providing artistic content—in many new ways this year, while also focusing on raising needed funds and planning for an extraordinary 2021 season. Everyone at the Playhouse was excited and honored to be presenting these exceptional titles this season. Our hearts are with all the artists, actors, craftspeople, our seasonal staff and crew, who are severely impacted by these upheavals to their professional lives and livelihoods. While the months ahead still hold much uncertainty, it is our mission to be here for future generations and to preserve this beloved historic theatre, and we will do just that. Ogunquit Playhouse has weathered many storms for nearly a century and together we will emerge from this crisis, and look forward to brighter days, when we gather again at the Ogunquit Playhouse,” stated Bradford Kenney, Ogunquit Playhouse Executive Artistic Director.

This closure also disrupts the surrounding business community that depend on the theatre as a major economic driver in the region. Over 120,000 ticket buyers visit the Playhouse each season, and in turn patronize regional restaurants, hotels, and retail establishments.
Public support in this time of global health and economic crisis will help ensure that Ogunquit Playhouse continues to share transformative and entertaining shows, new works and world premieres on its historic stage for future generations.

For more information on how to contribute and to stay connected during the coming year, visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org.

About Ogunquit Playhouse: 
Ogunquit Playhouse, is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization listed on the National Historic Register. Its mission is to produce world-class performances, and new works, and preserve the historic playhouse for future generations. The theatre is located on Route One in Ogunquit, Maine and produces the finest Broadway shows each season. It also produces an annual holiday show at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH in late November and December. Follow Ogunquit Playhouse on Twitter (@OgunquitPH) and on Facebook (facebook.com/OgunquitPlayhouse) for behind-the-scenes info, photos and fun throughout the season. For more information visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org.

WGBH Presents “Mala” Thursday Night at 10:00

WGBH PRESENTS

A SPECIAL BROADCAST OF

MALA

A ONE WOMAN PLAY BY MELINDA LOPEZ

Collaboration with

ArtsEmerson and Huntington Theatre Company

Airs on WGBH 2 on Thursday, April 9, at 10 p.m.

Melinda Lopez
Photo Credit: Paul Marotta

With live theatrical performances closed due to the coronavirus, public media outlet WGBH has collaborated with Huntington Theatre Company and ArtsEmerson to bring live theater to the living room. WGBH will present a special broadcast of Mala, a poignant drama written and performed by local playwright and performer Melinda Lopez. This award-winning play will air on WGBH 2 and YouTube TV on Thursday, April 9 at 10:00 p.m.

“Theater is a powerful medium to process challenging times. So with our Boston theaters dark, we are thrilled to be able to bring this important work to local audiences in partnership with ArtsEmerson and Huntington Theatre Company,” said Jon Abbott,  president and CEO of WGBH. “ Our shared commitment to the arts strengthens us as a community.”

Set during a winter of epic snowfall in 2015, Mala is inspired by notes Lopez frantically typed to herself on an iPhone while she cared for her increasingly frail and consistently fierce mother. These short missives ultimately create a moving and generous portrait of the way taking care of family tests, deepens, and changes our bonds to the ones we love. Lopez, a regular on Boston stages, also performs the play, directed by ArtsEmerson’s Artistic Director, David Dower. Although the performance was taped in 2018, it will be broadcast for the first time on April 9. WGBH viewers will be able to experience the humor, honesty, and ultimately cathartic experience of this award-winning play by a celebrated local artist.

“At the time this was filmed, we were so grateful to the Huntington and to WGBH for their interest in capturing this show during its return to Boston,” said Dower. “But we had no idea how urgent and moving it would become to have it available to air in the middle of this moment. It seems now like a bit of a miracle that it exists to be shown in this way. The WGBH team has brought such love and care to the making of this broadcast, and Melinda’s performance is indelible. We are so proud to have been a part of making this possible and relieved to be able to still connect with our city in this time of standing together by standing apart.”

After performing to sold-out houses during its 2016 world premiere engagement at ArtsEmerson, Mala won the 2017 Elliot Norton Award for Best New Script. Huntington Theatre Company presented a return engagement of the ArtsEmerson production at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA in January 2018, where WGBH recorded and produced the broadcast. Mala went on to play a successful run at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater.

“Each time I have seen Melinda Lopez’s stirring play Mala, I leave the theater with a sense of breathless joy and optimism, marveling at Melinda’s ability to draw everyone in as if they were family,” says Peter DuBois, Artistic Director of the Huntington Theatre Company. “Melinda’s message of resilience seems especially relevant now, when so many of us feel isolated as caregivers who are worried about a parent or mentor. Melinda’s play has warmth, laughter, and beauty — things I know we all need. I am looking forward to sharing it with new audiences through WGBH!”

Following the broadcast, ArtsEmerson will host a pre-recorded online conversation between playwright/performer Melinda Lopez and director David Dower at ArtsEmersonBlog.org.

Statement From ArtsEmerson Regarding Cancellation Of Performances

SUPPORTING THE CIVIC EFFORTS IN BOSTON TO FLATTEN THE CURVE ON SPREAD OF INFECTION

ARTSEMERSON IMMEDIATELY DISCONTINUES ALL PUBLIC PROGRAMMING

ArtsEmerson today announces that it will suspend scheduled public gatherings beginning today, March 13, with the hope of continuing more regular activity by the end of April 2020. This decision comes in an effort to support the civic efforts in our region to flatten the curve on the spread of the infectious coronavirus (COVID-19).

In all instances, ArtsEmerson is investigating whether programming may be rescheduled to a later date, and all ticket-holders will be notified directly with information and instructions as soon as possible. For anyone holding tickets to one of these performances, ArtsEmerson requests that you wait for an email with instructions rather than calling the box office. Staff members are working as quickly as possible in these challenging times.

Impacted events will not take place on these dates:

·       Plata Quemada – March 13-15

·       La Chana, part of Shared Stories: A POC Film Series – March 13-14

·       Film: Cyrano de Bergerac – March 14-15

·       Film: All My Sons – March 20-22

·       Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower – March 26-29

·       Film: Wise Children – March 27-29

For more information, please visit www.ArtsEmerson.org.

Statement From The SpeakEasy Stage Regarding Cancelation Of “The Children”

SPEAKEASY STAGE CANCELS ALL REMAINING PERFORMANCES OF 

“THE CHILDREN”

Giving the evolving circumstances around COVID-19, and out of concern for the health and safety of its patrons, staff, and artists, SpeakEasy Stage Company has decided to cancel all remaining performances of its production of THE CHILDREN effective immediately, Paul Daigneault, the company’s Founder and Producing Artist Director, announced today.

Boston Theatre Scene Ticketing Services, which handles all of SpeakEasy’s ticketing, will be reaching out to all patrons holding tickets to these cancelled performances to discuss their options, which include donating the cost of the tickets, exchanging for tickets to a future SpeakEasy production, or getting a refund.

All proceeds from any donated tickets will go to support SpeakEasy programs and artists, including those affected by the show’s cancellation.  

On behalf of its staff and artists, the company would like to thank all its supporters for their patience and understanding at this time.  

For information on any upcoming shows or events, the public is invited to check out the company’s website (www.SpeakEasyStage.com) and Facebook page, or call SpeakEasy’s Administrative Office’s at 617-482-3279.