Book Trailer For Madam President

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Those Confederate Monuments...and Arthur Ashe

When I was a boy in Richmond Virginia they were there. Lee was on his horse and further down Monument Avenue was Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart and then later Arthur Ashe. Arthur was added in  1995. He was from Richmond and after much controversy he made it onto Monument Avenue with the bearded generals. But as a boy I was in awe of the Generals on their horses. Southern boys saw the Civil War as little gray soldiers that were lined up against little blue soldiers. My great grandmother lived on Monument Avenue and I remember going to her dark and brooding grey-stone that felt like 1865 and then going to see Gone with the Wind. I saw that movie probably a hundred time with different relatives. It was the living bible for many Southerners and I probably read the book fifty times.

But then my family moved North to Chicago and it wouldn't be until a book tour for my book Tobacco Sticks  that I saw the generals again. They were there tarnished and old and now facing a revered tennis player. I didn't give it much thought then. I had written a novel about a young black woman wrongly accused in 1945 and I had studied race relations in the South for a long time. The South belonged to the past and the statues belonged to the past. F Scott Fitzgerald famously said "poetry is a Northern mans dream of the South." He had married a Southern girl and would write "Last of the Belles" and try and get his arms around these fleeting images of a world gone by.

So today, Arthur Ashe still faces the generals on Monument Avenue with his racket at the ready as if to say, my game, would you like to go for a set general? It was his game and now he might be the only one left standing.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Locked and Loaded: That Cowboy in the White House

Our first Cowboy in the White House was Teddy Roosevelt. Everyone groaned when he was elected and muttered "now that damn cowboy is going to be President." Roosevelt made his cabinet swim in the Potomac and rode his horse to work. He was the vigorous President and who is to say he would have reacted any different that Donald Trump to Kim in North Korea. I think he would have been more aggressive and surrounded North Korea with carriers and submarines and dared him to make a move. Not far off for the Donald right now. 

Locked and loaded. It is a cowboy metaphor. The gun is loaded and ready to fire. It might allude to automatic weapons but the imagery is one of a man ready to draw. The Wild West for Teddy Roosevelt was the Dakota Territory and then the World. The White Fleet, walk softly but carry a big stick all alluded to a man ready to draw if drawn upon. And after Roosevelt there was that echo that Presidents from Ronald Reagan on have used. The sheriff who is ready to fight to maintain justice. Is it not High Noon with the North Koreans? Gary Cooper has nothing on Donald Trump. 

Americans respond to this. We know who the badmen are. Teddy Roosevelt confronted men out West with guns drawn who easily could have shot and killed him. He faced them down and one time knocked one out with his fists. The badmen have to be confronted by the sheriff eventually. The cowboy does not back down. Teddy and Donald have that in far. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Echoes of World War II

Those Goddamn Japs. I have heard that before from the Greatest Generation. You cant blame them. They fought the Japanese for four years after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec 7 1941. The Japanese embodied everything that Americans hated for those war years. They attacked us and assumed we would cower and that they could consolidate their gains in the Pacific before we could fight back. A few of our carriers were not at Pearl and that happened to save us for that scenario. But what still echoes today is that Americans hated the Japanese yes because they attacked us, but there was a racial component.

Imperialist Dogs. That leaked out of Kims mouth recently. Close your eyes and listen to the the hyperinflammatory rhetoric and the racial component of the Korean Crisis  hits you between the eyes. The Americans are the aggressors and the Koreans are the pure people who have been wronged. North Koreans believe they are the purest race and that Kim is divinely chosen. In World War II we had the Emperor who was divinely chosen. The problem was that the Japanese were willing to fight to the last man woman and child for the Emperor. It took two atomic bombs to get him to tell his people it was over and even then the military wanted to fight on.

The North Koreans view us the same way we view them. Different. Odd. Dangerous. This was World War II thinking that allowed us to drop those two bombs. This is the racial component. Somehow the Japanese were not human. They had done inhuman things and so that allowed us to not treat them that as humans. We are drifting quickly to this same thinking. Hopefully, people will not be saying sixty years on...those Goddamn North Koreans.

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick

What part of Teddy Roosevelt's famous quote does Trump not get? Probably all of it. Then again, there is the Bad Cop Good Cop approach. Tillerson is the good cop being calm and rational while Trump is the bad cop talking about nuclear war. Tillerson says we just want to negotiate. Trump says we want to annihilate. Teddy Roosevelt knew that power backed by words was the answer. But not bragging backed by more bragging. If you have a Big Stick and speak softly then you probably wont have to use it. But if you shout and threaten and then don't use it, then everyone knows you are a bluffer.

Trump undoubtedly knows how to fight. He has done it all his life. From the schoolyard on where he would back down people with threats. When the justice department filed suit over a discrimination case Trump counter sued for millions. Punch and then counter punch. The folks at CNN are not used to this. They looked like they might puke as they contemplated nuclear war. Wolf Blitzer didn't look happy and Erin Burnett looked like she wanted to take her children and run for the hills. Trump has that affect on people.

But lets say Trump does get Teddy Roosevelt's famous edict. He knows he is backed up by a big stick and hes giving the guy with the bad haircut a little of his own. At a point a schoolyard bully is a schoolyard bully and you have to smack him back. It does take one to know one.

Forging A President How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosevelt

Monday, August 7, 2017

Judy Garlands Strange Encounter with John Dillinger During the 1933 Worlds Fair

It was hot. Judy was with her mother and sisters. They had no money and were singing at the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1933. This is six years before The Wizard of Oz would bring her fame. Judy decides to duck out and catch a movie at the Biograph. It is air conditioned and she stays for five shows and finally leaves when Manhattan Melodrama ends a final time with Clark Gable getting the electric chair. She walks into the lobby and then out to the sidewalk and sees a man she recognizes.

Garland thinks he is a movie star because she recognizes his face from the papers. This is Chicago after all and famous people are out and about. Judy asks him for his autograph and he obliges, giving her a grin. Then the man goes into the theater leaving the young singer staring at his signature. John Dillinger. The famous bank robber was going in to catch a movie and probably get away from the heat as well. Judy cant believe it and goes back to the fairgrounds to tell her mother.

Three hours later John Dillinger is confronted by the police and shot dead in the alley outside the
Biograph. He is thirty one. Judy sings that night at the Worlds Fair but she is not famous yet. Thirty years later she will tell her story of running into Public Enemy #1 on a hot Chicago night when she took a break from the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1933.

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Secret Six Who Got Rid of Capone

You think it was Kevin Costner who got rid of Capone if you saw The Untouchables. Elliott Ness was a treasury agent enforcing prohibition but he did not get rid of Al Capone. It took six Chicago Millionaires dubbed the Secret Six to put Al behind bars. They did it with money and bought a secret police force and formed the first witness protection program. And they were secret. Capone could never figure out the men though he had some ideas. Chicago was having a Worlds Fair in 1933 and something had to be done or no one would show up.

The Secret Six set up their own speakeasy to get information. They had their own gangsters who infiltrated Capones inner circle. They had their own enforcers who got information out of mobsters. And they had thousands to spread around, buy people off, and hire private detectives and investigators. Elliott Ness was running around at this time also but he was basically busting up stills, speakeasies and wiretapping phones. But to get the goods on Capone the Secret Six went after his business and began attacking Capone where it hurt and that was in the manufacturing of beer and whiskey.

They approached it like a business and studied Capones operation and began to wonder how he got his money. This would lead to the conviction on tax evasion that eventually would put Al Capone away. The Secret Six would never reveal their identities but even Capone recognized who put him away. "It was the Secret Six that put me away. They couldn't be bought."

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Friday, July 28, 2017

WGN Leaving the Tribune Tower

WGN is leaving the Tribune tower. No more going there on Sunday nights to do a live broadcast on a fifty thousand watt station that beams halfway across the country. You can only imagine the farmer out in Iowa picking up the voice of some writer being interviewed about his latest book. I remember once being on vacation in Minnesota and picking up WGN in the middle of the night. I was the distraught teen on vacation and it was like there was a bit of home sweeping across the cold dark skies of Northern America. And it will still be there but it wont be coming from the Tribune building anymore.

High up on seventh floor you can look out over the city before your interview. You cool your heels in the green room. How many people walked the halls? Sinatra, Newman, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe? You didn't come to Chicago and not do an interview on WGN. This would be before television when radio was King and the top of the mountain was the top of the building that also boasted one of the countries largest circulation newspapers. But that will be no more.

I was able to wait in august lobby of the Tribune building four times. It was always a Sunday night and no one was around. I would get a burger sometimes at Billy Goats  on lower Wacker and then head up to the seventh floor and wait in the green room and then into the studio. Rick Kogans show covers books and my last four have landed me across from him with the big WGN microphone in front of me. Always a great interview with a man who actually reads the books.

And then it is over and you drive home. You always wonder if you will do it again. Not anymore. At least in the Tribune building. That era is over.

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Books by William Hazelgrove