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March 2, 2010 / johndahlman

Tuesday coolness… The Kisseloff Collection ~or~ how to burn endless hours reading neat stuff.

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Except this isn%u2019t a sandwich sign. I have no idea what you would call it, but it%u2019s essentially the same thing. Actually, it looks like one of those stocks that people got locked into in a New England town for the crime of adultery, cursing or parking your horse in front of someone else%u2019s house.

Either way, four bits for a haircut sounds pretty good too me, although you have to be a kid to qualify for that one. That doesn%u2019t make sense to me. My grandfather had about eight hairs on his head when he got into his thirties. Why should he have had to pay the extra dime? As usual, click on the photo to supersize it and if you%u2019re unfamiliar with the series click on the tag to the right.

February 26th, 2010

Alfalfa and Me

Oy, it%u2019s been a while since my last post. First, some old business. In my last post, I asked if anyone could recognize the two fellas in their short johns standing by RFK. No one got the correct answer (because no one tried to answer it), but in case you%u2019re interested they are two running backs for the New York Giants, Ernie Koy and Tucker Fredrickson. The photo is part of a large collection I have%u2014  and will post over time %u2014 of pictures taken for Eliot Asinof%u2019s wonderful book about pro football %u201CSeven Days to Sunday,%u201D in which he spent time as a fly on the wall at the Giants camp in 1966. Great book, terrible team. Oh well.

Now on to new business. In the mid-1980s, I made my first trip to California to research a book that eventually went into the trash. Still, it was a great trip. To amuse myself, I bought this guidebook to dozens of gruesome historical sites around the city and decided it would be fun to make a photo album of me standing like a tourist in front of some of these places, generally oblivious to the horribleness that went on inside. Afterall, I was playing the archetypal American tourist (%u201CYes, Martha, take a picture of me on the grassy knoll%u201D without a sense of irony) This really became the inspiration for my %u201CEve%u2019s Apple%u201D book, which also went nowhere. Still, I thought I%u2019d post some of the pictures of me in my brown-haired days as the Gruesome Tourist.

The first shows me in front of the house where Alfalfa (aka Carl Switzer) from the Li%u2019l Rascals was shot and killed over a gambling debt. I actually knocked on the door and the lady who owned the place let me in and showed me the room where he was killed. She took me to her son%u2019s bedroom and showed me the bullet holes, which were still in the wall. Apparently, the kid made a little living charging people to come and stick their fingers in the holes. I explained to her that I didn%u2019t practice checkbook journalism, so she let me off the hook.

Here%u2019s the shot:

February 8th, 2010

In Honor of the Saints%u2026

%u2026and the end of football season, my lovely and long-suffering wife suggested an item with a football theme. I went digging through my memorabilia and came up with this:

I figure people will know the guy in the suit, but anyone want to take a whack at the two guys in their underwear? The next post I%u2019ll fill you in on the story.

Funny though, when I started to look for football stuff, I remembered I used to have a football signed by the then Super Bowl champs, the 1970 Kansas City Chiefs. Alas, I also remembered I sold it years ago to pay the rent on my apartment. Now that had an interesting back story. In the late 1970s, my Dad represented the estate of some guy known in New York City as the %u201Cporn king.%u201D Now this was when VHS and Betamax were fighting a death battle, and after the porn king%u2019s estate was liquidated, there were a few things left over that no one claimed, because, I gathered, the guy%u2019s whole family was ashamed to be associated with him.

One of the items was a top-loading RCA video recorder. These things sold for big bucks in those days, way more than I could afford. He also had a complete porn library. My Dad offered me the VHS machine, and he also asked me whether I wanted a bunch of x-rated movies to go with it. Idiot me, I said no, but did he have any Marx Brothers? It turned out the porn king was a fan, and he had a complete collection. This was when a video cost forty or fifty bucks, so the dozen or so films were actually worth more than the Jeff Kisseloff estate. Anyway, I got the VHS (which in the five years that I owned it I could never once figure out how to use the timer to tape a show off the TV) and a film collection that made me the envy of all my friends. Of course, had I chosen %u201CThe Devil and Miss Jones%u201D and %u201CDeep  Throat%u201D I would have been even more popular, but you know, a person can have just so many friends.

The day the recorder and films were delivered there was something else in the box: you guessed it, the signed football. Now, how and why he got it I have no idea (maybe he made a porn film called %u201CKansas City, Here We Come%u201D), but I now owned it, that was, until the day the landlord came knocking and there was nothing in my checking account. To tell you the truth, I can%u2019t say I really miss it much. I still have the Marx Brothers films though. I think my Dad ended up with some highlights from the rest of his library. So porn king, may you rest in peace. In death, at least, you gave me a lot of laughs.

First, thanks to one of our ace  detective readers, Jack, you can now see the cover of the Life magazine that Harry Dubin was selling the day he was posing as a newspaper vendor in June 1957. Here it is:

Now the following long predates Harry, but I thought if any of you wanted to impress your friends by convincing them you were once a diehard Communist, here%u2019s your chance. Below is the front and back of a blank membership card in the Workers%u2019 Party of America, which was actually the above-ground unit of the Communist Party USA formed after its leadership was forced underground in the 1920s by the the goon squad, also known as the Justice Department %u2014 ironically.

Here%u2019s the card:

January 28th, 2010

Harry Dubin, Newspaper Vendor

If I were a better detective (and if I had actual time on my hands), I could probably figure out the date of this photograph from the issue of Life magazine that Harry is selling. By clicking on the photo, you can make out the %u201CI Am%u201D hed on the magazine cover, but %u201CI am%u201D what? %u201Ca zombie%u201D? %u201Ca Communist for the FBI%u201D? %u201CSpartacus%u201D? I suppose thumbing through the Life covers on Google might turn up the correct answer.

This is probably the grainiest photo of the bunch but it%u2019s clear enough to pick up what must have been the sharpest pair of trousers ever seen on a street corner vendor. Those are what people used to call %u201Cslacks,%u201D and I%u2019m sure they were a dead giveaway. How come people don%u2019t call them %u201Cslacks%u201D anymore? Probably for the same reason why people no longer buy newspapers. Things change.

January 25th, 2010

Harry Dubin, Lifeguard

I guess the only real question is whether the actual lifeguard let Harry wear his bathing suit. Either way, you can see all too well why lifeguards were popular with beachgoers. As always, click on the picture to supersize it, and click on the tag to the right for information about his great series, which is approaching its end.

January 19th, 2010

Harry Dubin, Hurdy Gurdy Man

If you lived in Manhattan in the %u201970s and %u201980s, or if you commuted to the area around 57th Street and Broadway, you%u2019re apt to remember the guy who used to station himself by Lee%u2019s arts supply store, and, canteen in one hand, a cup in the other, would belt out %u2018O Sole Mio and other operatic classics in a voice so strained and off-key that it would peel the remaining paint off the sides of the nearby buildings. Really, he%u2019d be screeching out those songs, and my vocal chords would hurt. Nonetheless, he would be out there day after day for years before he disappeared. Then, at some point in the mid-90s, I was walking down the block, and there he was singing again, and suddenly it was like old times: The Upper West Side was no longer gentrified (My favorite line about that neighborhood, %u201CI remember Columbus Avenue when it was on the West Side%u201D), Tom Seaver was on the mound for the Mets and Richard Nixon was still thought of as a national disgrace. Alas, the poor fellow%u2019s voice was even worse than it was before. Barely, a whisper, he could hardly even screech. Even the pigeons took pity on him and refrained from shitting on his head. Homeless people dropped quarters into his cap.

Anyway, he%u2019s no longer there, and neither am I. Manhattan is now a playground for tourists and the wealthy, and there are actually two or three hundred people who think that Richard Nixon was a great guy.

All this bloviation is an introduction to the photo below of Harry doing another great acting job, singing his own version of %u2018O Sole Mio (I%u2019m sure much better than the poor guy on 57th Street) in a borrowed green sport jacket and pants that are either his rolled-up or the other fellow%u2019s that are too short. I think I recognize his loafers though. The only thing missing is the monkey. Harry told me he was very proud of this shoot, because several people did put coins in his cap. They probably felt sorry for him, he admitted. Click on the photo to supersize it. For those new to this series of photos of New York in the 1940s and 1950s, click on the tag at the right to read all about it and follow it from the beginning.

More anti-Semitic highlights from J. Edgar Hoover%u2019s bedside reading list. There%u2019s even a subscription form on page 4. Two dollars for 26 issues, a bargain!

If you click on the pdf to download it, you can enlarge it to read some of the articles, but because it%u2019s a lousy copy, the headlines will have to suffice for most of the articles. I do think though that the headline %u201CSecret Jew Government%u201D offers a pretty good hint as to the the nature of the story.

My response again is %u201Cif only.%u201D I%u2019d make myself Secretary of State. Wait, a minute, why aim so low? That%u2019s Premier Kisseloff to you in the SJGA (Secret Jew Government of America). Nominations are now open for cabinet posts.

January 14th, 2010

Harry Dubin, Firefighter

Unless they were employing some kind of winch back then that isn%u2019t currently in use, it would be hard to distinguish Harry, the 1940s-1950s firefighter in this picture, from a current member of Engine 13, a downtown New York house when this was shot. I do think though this is one of Harry%u2019s greatest acting jobs, or maybe his red face is just the result of  exertion. But clearly he%u2019s watching the flames, waving gawkers out of harm%u2019s way, and, most importantly, not wearing his fancy brown loafers.

As always, click on the photo to supersize it and on the Harry Dubin tag at the right for background on this great series.

January 12th, 2010

FDR and the Jew Haters

Back in the  1970s when I was working for Alger Hiss, helping him read through some  40,000 pages of FBI files to put together a new legal appeal of his 1950 perjury conviction that sent him to jail for 44 months , I was constantly amazed at the frightening garbage that J. Edgar Hoover subscribed to. I%u2019m not talking about the Police Gazette or Photoplay, but rather extreme right-wing, anti-Semitic propaganda that we regularly found among the documents. It was clear he wasn%u2019t gathering evidence against the purveyors of this material. Rather, he seemed to enjoy their publications as evidenced by the occasional positive reviews he%u2019d append to the cover or back page. All the while, (and we saw this in the documents), he had his agents compile lists of left-wingers to be picked up and placed in detention camps in the event of a national emergency. If he compiled lists of right-wingers it was only for dinner invitations.

While going through the documents, I pulled a few of the most ridiculous and made copies of them. Two or three of them still survive. To fully appreciate this material though, it%u2019s important to understand the kind of virulent attacks against Roosevelt that occurred on a nearly daily basis. Apologies for the following history lecture (excerpted from a book I%u2019m writing), but some of this is actually pretty interesting

To Roosevelt%u2019s opponents, extremism in defense of capitalism was no vice. Rumors were spread that polio had rendered the him insane, or worse, that he was secretly Jewish. His Brain Trust, according to one Senator was under the influence of %u201CHitler, Mussolini, and Lenin.%u201D  Chicago newspaper publisher Frank Knox said the New Deal legislation was in effect a %u201Crape of democracy.%u201D The President of the National Association of Manufacturers declared %u201Cindustry is now in politics or %u201Cbe destroyed%u2026by economic crack-pots, social reformers, labor demagogues and political racketeers.%u201D

Instead of just complaining, Alfred P. Sloan of General Motors, Edward Hutton or General Foods and other leading industrialists opened their wallets to anyone opposed to FDR. They bankrolled the Liberty League with unlimited funds to destroy the New Deal via a propaganda campaign that, according to George Wolfskill and John A. Hudson %u201Cpictured the United States on the brink of chaos, threatened by bankruptcy, socialism, dictatorship and tyranny.%u201D If that didn%u2019t go far enough, a cabal of businessmen plotted a coup against Roosevelt.

Ironically, the New Deal didn%u2019t do nearly as much for America%u2019s poor as it did for big business. Negro tenant farmers, for example, continued to suffer terribly despite the New Deal%u2019s Agricultural Adjustment Act. As Harry L. Mitchell wrote in The Nation in June 1935, a year after the bill%u2019s passage, %u201CThe human consequences of an economy of scarcity have become more clear. The complete failure of the %u201CNew Deal%u201D to benefit the men and women who do the work in the fields has been disclosed.%u201D

While sharecroppers continued to live in substandard conditions, Sloan%u2019s General Motors rebounded strongly in 1934 with sales showing an increase of nearly 50 percent over 1933. Despite the complaints of the Chamber of Commerce, retail sales rose 13 percent and while the National Association of Manufacturers was lambasting FDR%u2019s policies as communistic, industrial profits surged some 70 percent in 1934. The number of bank failures in 1934, dropped precipitously to 56, while deposits were on the rise.

The President %u201Creally had saved capitalism,%u201D said Harold Ickes.

As I said, a lot of the propaganda was anti-Semitic. The extremists liked to refer to the administration as %u201CThe Jew Deal,%u201D because of a number of FDR%u2019s closest advisers were Jewish. The sad part is though, was FDR%u2019s basically gutless response to the name-calling. I%u2019ve read several learned histories which talk about the president%u2019s timid response to the Holocaust was partly as a result of not wanting to appear to be too sympathetic to the Jews, lest it hurt him politically. This, of course, had enormously tragic results. When Hitler basically offered his Jewish population to the West, the US and Europe closed its doors to them (see Arthur Morse%u2019s %u201CWhile Six Million Died.%u201D). When in the last days of the war, Eichmann sped up the trains carrying thousands and thousands of Hungarian Jews to their deaths, FDR easily could have ordered the bombing of the train tracks but didn%u2019t. By the way, Hiss was in the State Department then. One of his buddies was a fellow southerner named Breckenridge Long, who single-handedly bottled up the passports of thousands of German Jews trying to flee German in the late 1930s. If you don%u2019t believe me, pick up Long%u2019s diary of the period, in which he essentially brags about keeping the Jews out of the US. This was also during the period when Whittaker Chambers was accusing Alger of having Communist sympathies. If only.

So here%u2019s a copy of one of the more popular anti-Roosevelt propaganda pieces. In a small sense this kind of shit is funny, but in a much larger sense it really pisses me off (Click on it to read it in all it%u2019s glory. Extra credit to anyone who can identify all the names without resorting to Wikipedia):

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