Sugar Ray (1951)
the king, the master, my idol.
Born in Ailey, Georgia on May 3 1921, Walker Smith Jr is better known to boxing fans everywhere as 'Sugar' Ray Robinson. The name came from his early days when, in order to box in a Harlem gym, he borrowed his friend Ray Robinson's Amateur Athletic Union boxing card. The description came from his future manager, George Gainford, who said when he first saw him that he boxed 'as sweet as sugar'.
He boxed as though he were playing the violin.
Sportswriter Barney Nagler
After turning professional at the age of 19, Sugar Ray embarked on a spectacular career which led to his being declared 'pound for pound - the best boxer of all time' when Ring magazine reviewed its first 75 years of existence in 1997. Robinson held the world welterweight title from 1946 to 1951, then was the middleweight champion five times between 1951 and 1960.
His career was marked by a series of feuds with other boxers, perhaps the most spectacular of which was with Jake LaMotta. It began with a brutal victory for the lighter welterweight Robinson over the middleweight LaMotta, then Lamotta handed Robison his first defeat in 41 professional bouts on a TKO. Sugar Ray avenged that with three more victories over the heavier man and then on 14 February 1951, after stepping up to middleweight, Robinson met LaMotta again at Chicago Stadium. Sugar Ray tore into the 'Raging Bull' in a St. Valentine's Day Massacre and the referee had to stop the bloodbath in the 13th round. LaMotta later said 'I fought Sugar Ray so often, I almost got diabetes'. The two rivals did make one more public appearance together, in 1986 Sugar Ray was best man at Jake LaMotta's wedding.
Robinson's fame was not only based on his skill in the ring, he became a major star outside as well. With a nightclub in Harlem and a pink Cadillac and a crowd of hangers-on including a dwarf mascot, barber, masseur, voice coach, secretary and the inevitable beautiful women, he spent his way through an estimated $4 million earned from boxing. By the mid-1960s he had to resort to show business to recoup his fortunes.
Sugar Ray Robinson, one of boxings all-time greats, died at age 67 on 12 April 1989, in Culver City, California, after suffering from Alzheimer's disease and diabetes.
Someone once said there was a comparison between Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Ray Robinson. Believe me, there's no comparison. Sugar Ray Robinson was the greatest.
Sugar Ray Leonard
Fighter of the Decade, 1980s
'What would be better than walking down any street in any city and knowing you're a champion?'
In the recorded history of professional boxing there has only been one undefeated world champion in ANY weight class - Rocky Marciano, World Heavyweight Champion from September 1952 until retiring in April 1956.
Born Rocco Marchegiano in Brockton, Massachusetts on September 1 1923, the infant Rocky almost died from pneumonia at 18 months of age - but even then his remarkable stamina was evident as he recovered completely. While growing up Rocky gained a reputation as a scrapper and troublemaker, but this was overtaken by his athletic success at high school. A centre and linebacker on the football team and also catcher for the baseball team, he began a lifelong habit of training to the limit which was to pay great dividends in his later career.
After leaving school to seek employment in order to bring in money to help the family finances, he eventually found a position in the local shoe industry as a 'last puller' - a job which pumped up his arms and increased upper body strength. Drafted into the US army just as the war was ending, Marciano volunteered to represent his unit as a boxer and was quite successful, reaching the final of the AAU National Championship1.
Returning to Brockton after leaving the army, Rocky had a try-out for the Chicago Cubs baseball team, but although his batting was excellent, his relatively weak throwing arm let him down. Back in Brockton again, Marciano embarked on a fierce training regime to ready him for a shot at Professional Boxing. And what a shot he had! His first 16 Pro fights were won with knock-outs, and after an undefeated record of 42 wins2, he was ready to challenge for the World Championship.
On 23 September 1952, before 40,379 spectators in Philidelphia's Municipal Stadium, Rocky Marciano climbed into the ring to face Jersey Joe Walcott in what many have called 'the greatest title fight of all time'. The more experienced champion started in great style, knocking Marciano to the canvas for the first time of his career - but the challenger wouldn't even rest for a full count and came back up after three seconds and there followed 12 rounds of pure aggression from two determined fighters. Using his experience to the full, Walcott built up a commanding points lead on the judges scorecards and had only to last out to the end of the fight to retain his title. But in the 13th round, Walcott was caught against the ropes and Marciano unleashed his 'Susie Q', the devastating punch that had won him so many bouts - in Walcott's own words; 'Soon as it landed, the lights went out…'
On April 27 1956, after six successful defences of the World Heavyweight Championship and with no serious contender to his title in sight, Rocky Marciano announced his retirement from Boxing. On August 31 1969 he boarded a small single-engined Cessna aircraft in Chicago to fly to Des Moines for a ringside appearance at a boxing match there. The plane crashed two miles South of the airfield killing all three occupants.
'This man was one of the greatest champions ever. He refused to accept defeat. And nobody beat him.' Sonny Liston.
Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
The 1957 film 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' was an epic World War II prisoner-of-war drama starring Alec Guinness, William Holden and Jack Hawkins.
Directed by David Lean and based upon the novel of the same name3 by French author Pierre Boulle, the film was the years top box-office smash. At the Academy Awards it won seven Oscars from eight nominations, Best Picture, Best Actor (Alec Guinness), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Score, Best Film Editing, and Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
Colonel Saito: The bridge must be completed by May 12. If it is not, I must kill myself. Now what would you do if you were me?
Colonel Nicholson: Well, I suppose I'd have to kill myself.
The film is set in a POW camp in Burma4, in 1943. At the start of the film we see a column of British soldiers marching into camp, sent to build a bridge for a rail line the Japanese were building between Malaysia and Rangoon.
A conflict immediately develops between the British CO, Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) and the Japanese Commandant, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa). The Japanese officer is determined that all prisoners must work on the bridge and the British officer is equally determined to stick to the Geneva Convention which states that officers may not be forced to perform manual labor. In one of the most memorable scenes of the film, the Japanese Commandant, desperate to finish the bridge on schedule, has the British Colonel thrown into 'the oven', a corrugated-iron sweat box, as the assembled soldiers sing 'For he's a jolly good fellow'.
Eventually the Japanese officer is forced to give in and agree that officers will not be required to work on the bridge. Colonel Nicholson is released and then performs an strange about-face - believing that the best way to keep up his mens' morale and unite them as a military force is by instilling pride in their task - he becomes obsessed with building the finest possible bridge.
In the film's other main plotline, Holden (playing Shears, an American sailor who is impersonating an officer to receive better treatment in camp) escapes into the jungle. Eventually reaching Allied lines, he is hospitalised where he meets with Major Warden (Jack Hawkins), a British officer who blackmails him5 into joining a commando group organised to destroy the bridge.
Following a gruelling trek through the jungle the three commandos with their native bearers reach the bridge on the eve of the opening of the railway and are astonished to see the bridge completed and ready for use. Under cover of night the explosives are placed on the main bridge supports and wires are led back underwater to a plunger so that the destruction of the bridge can be combined with the crossing of the first troop train due next day.
At dawn, however, it is revealed that the water level has dropped and the explosives and wires can be seen from the bridge. Colonel Nicholson alerts the Japanese Commander and the two of them trace the wires back to where the Commando waits to detonate the charges once the train arrives. The British soldier kills the enemy Colonel, but Nicholson is so far deranged that he struggles to prevent the destruction of the bridge that he has come to consider his pride and joy.
The Japanese guards on the bridge having been alerted, Major Warden opens fire with a mortar attack from his position on the hillside overlooking the bridge, and Shears attempts to cross the river to assist the other Commando. The Commando is however shot and then Shears dies. Colonel Nicholson is shocked back to his senses and sees that he is spoiling his own side's attempt to block the enemy railway. 'What have I done?'
At that moment, just as the train begins to cross the bridge, Nicholson is hit by shrapnel from a mortar blast and collapses onto the plunger of the detonator. His beloved bridge and the enemy train are blown up.
The film ends with the camp doctor surveying the devastation and issuing the epitaph... 'Madness!...Madness! Madness!
'To tell the truth is the first duty of all revolutionaries; to fool the people always brings the worse consequences.'
Born in the Oriente Province of Cuba on August 13 1926, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was the son of a local landowner. Having been educated by the Jesuits and gained a Law Degree, he married into one of Cuba’s wealthiest families and was expected to settle into a comfortable lifestyle - but he was always a rebel.
Having gone into private law practice with two partners in Havana in 1950, Fidel's idealism was directed into helping the under-privileged poor of Cuba. For this purpose, he planned to campaign for a seat in parliament in the 1952 election for the reformist Cuban People's Party - but the government of President Carlos Prio Socarras was overthrown in a coup d'etat led by General Fulgencio Batista and the election was cancelled.
Following a failed attempt to have the new regime declared illegal by the Cuban courts, Castro turned to more direct methods. On July 26 1953, he led an attack on the Moncada Barracks in Oriente province, about half of the 165 attackers were killed and Fidel and his brother Raul were captured. They remained in prison until released in a general amnesty in May of 1955.
Still determined to overthrow the Batista regime Castro went on a fund-raising tour, first in the United States and then to Mexico where he met up with the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. A group of Cuban exiles were formed into a force known as 'The 26th of July Revolutionary Movement', and these 82 men launched an attack on the north coast of Oriente province on December 2 1956. Badly planned, the attempt met with defeat; only 12 of the original attackers surviving. The 12 fled to the Sierra Maestra mountains and from there they waged a guerrilla war against Batista's government. With the aid of an effective propaganda campaign the rebel force grew to over 800 men. On January 1 1959 Castro led his victorious army into Havana after General Batista fled the country.
The new government was quickly recognised by the US but relations soon became strained as American-owned properties were nationalised and an agreement was made to buy oil from the USSR. By early 1960 the situation had deteriorated to the stage that the US government broke off all diplomatic relations with Cuba and a state of 'Cold War' existed between the two countries.
Castro's increasingly Marxist-Leninist policies, intended to improve the lot of the peasant classes, led to discontent among the Cuban middle-classes - many of whom fled to the US, establishing a large anti-Castro community centred on Miami, Florida. This encouraged a CIA backed attempt to destabilise Castro's rule (Link to 'Bay of Pigs' 1961). Further estrangement between the two countries was evidenced by the 'Cuban Missile Crisis' of 1962 which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
In the years since those early excitements the relationship between the countries seems to have stabilised somewhat6, with just the occasional flare-up to remind the world of the presence of of a Communist state in America's backyard.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of other Communist regimes has affected the Cuban economy adversely and led to an attempt to increase revenue by increased emphasis on attracting tourism to the island. But despite this apparent softening of his stance and the appearance of grey in his famous bushy black beard, Fidel Castro still appears to be very much in control of his beloved country.
The U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance -'spy'- plane was designed and built by the Lockheed Aircraft Corp. and first flew in August 1955. An unusual single-engine aircraft with glider-like wings, the original model had a wingspan of 80 ft for its length of 49ft 7in. With a range of over 6,000 miles and a ceiling of more than 70,000 ft, the aircraft project was initiated by the CIA who wanted accurate information on the Soviet Union. The aircraft was very tricky to fly, particularly because at the extreme altitudes it usually cruised at, the maximum speed it could reach and the minimum speed to prevent stalling are very close to each other7. Despite this, the aircraft has proven to be very reliable and has had a high success rate. It was a U-2 that photographed the Soviet missile facilities in Cuba and precipitated the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Later models of the aircraft also provided intelligence data during Operations Desert Storm and Allied Force and the U-2R is still in service today, used for 'high-altitude research'.
The most famous incident involving this aircraft took place on May 1, 1960. A U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers and flying from Peshwar in Pakistan was brought down near Svedlovsk, Soviet Union. To this day there are unanswered questions as to how the plane was brought down and the circumstances resulting in the pilot's survival and capture by Soviet forces. Theories range from the mundane (shot down by missiles) through the unlikely (rammed by a Soviet plane) to the imaginative (damaged by the shock wave resulting from the explosion of a Soviet jet blown up by a missile fired at the spy plane)8. The incident led to the collapse of a summit meeting between the Heads of Government of the United States, Soviet Union, France, and the United Kingdom, which began in Paris on May 16.
Following a show trial in Moscow, Powers was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment and 7 years of hard labor, but was exchanged for the Soviet agent Colonel Rudolph Abel in February 1962.
To sum it all up, I must say that I regret nothing.
Between April 2 and August 14 1961, a trial was held in Jerusalem that attracted the attention of the entire world. Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi officer formally entrusted with implementing the Nazi policy toward the Jews in Germany and all occupied territories had been tracked down by Israeli secret agents on May 2 1960, living under the assumed name of Ricardo Klement in a suburb of Buenos Aires. On May 11 he was abducted from a bus stop and brought to Israel to face charges in public for his involvement in the atrocities of Hitler's 'Final Solution'.
The public trial caused huge international controversy and sensation. News programmes all over the world were allowed to broadcast the trial live without any restrictions by the Israeli government. TV viewers worldwide saw a nondescript little man sitting in a bulletproof glass booth while witnesses, including many Holocaust survivors, testified to his role in transporting victims to the extermination camps. The horrendous descriptions of Nazi atrocities that accompanied some of the testimony forced the entire world to face the reality of the Holocaust - a fact often denied by apologists for the Nazi beliefs.
Eichmann's sole defense was to claim that he had been a petty government functionary and was merely following the orders of superior officers.
From the sentencing by the Presiding Judge, His Honour Moshe Landau:
'After considering the appropriate sentence for the Accused with a deep feeling of the burden of responsibility borne by us, we reached the conclusion that in order to punish the Accused and deter others, the maximum penalty laid down in the law must be imposed on him.'
'....the degree of his legal and moral responsibility for these acts of murder is not one iota less than the responsibility of the person who with his own hands pushed these human beings into the gas chambers.'
'....we have found that the Accused acted out of an inner identification with the orders that he was given and out of a fierce will to achieve the criminal objective, ....'
'This Court sentences Adolf Eichmann to death, for the crimes against the Jewish People, the crimes against humanity and the war crimes of which he has been found guilty.'
On Appeal in the Supreme Court of Israel, a Request for clemency was rejected and the Death sentence upheld9. Eichmann was executed in Ramleh Prison on May 31, 1962. His body was cremated and the ashes scattered in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, beyond the territorial waters of the state of Israel.
Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
What are the facts? Again and again and again - what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what 'the stars foretell,' avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable 'verdict of history' - what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your only clue. Get the facts!
Time Enough for Love - R. A. Heinlein.
Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988) was one of the foremost science-fiction writers of the twentieth century - many would say the greatest.
First suggested in a 'brainstorming' session with his wife in 1948 and eventually published in 1961, Stranger in a Strange Land, won the 1962 'Hugo'10 Award as Best Science Fiction novel of the year. The novel went on to establish a position as the 'bible' of the 60's counterculture and, to many, one of the main inspirations for the 'free love' movement of that era11.
The original manuscript was some 220,000 words long and publishers at the time were unwilling to take the chance of releasing a science-fiction work of such length. The book was therefore reduced to just over 160,000 words and published as such. After the author's death, his widow located a copy of the original typescript in the archives of his work and arranged for the publication of the unabridged version which was first published in 1992. Both the 'cut' and 'uncut' versions remain in print - a testimony to the importance attached to this work.
Valentine Michael Smith is the only remnant of a failed attempt to colonise Mars, born on the Red Planet and raised by Martians, he has not seen a human until the arrival of a second expedition a quarter of a century later. As legal heir to all eight of the original colonists under a contract signed before their departure, Smith is fabulously wealthy - but doesn't know what money is. Also, due to a fantastic (but plausible) legal precedent, he is in Earth eyes the owner of the planet Mars!
The first part of he book covers how he, and particularly a group of people who befriend him, manage to deal with this situation and the many interested parties who would like to gain control of this inheritance.
The remainder of the novel is concerned with Smith's attempts to understand humanity and find his own place therein. Further details may be obtained by reading the novel as it would be cruel to spoil it by writing more.
Woodstock (1964 to 1989)
I came upon a child of God,
He was walking along the road
And I asked him where are you going,
And this he told me
I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm,
I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band
I'm going to camp out on the land,
I'm going to try an' get my soul free
- Joni Mitchell, 'Woodstock'
Woodstock Music & Art Fair was the brainchild of four young men: John Roberts - heir to a drugstore and toothpaste manufacturing fortune, Joel Rosenman - a graduate from Yale Law School, Artie Kornfeld - a vice president at Capitol Records, and Michael Lang - producer of the two-day Miami Pop Festival, which had attracted over 40,000 people in 1968.
To this day, some of the details (such as who came up with the original idea for the concert) of exactly how the Woodstock festival came about are unclear, but the result has become legend.
The estimates ranged from 150,000 to 700,000, but the most common figure used, is that about 500,000 people showed up at Max Yasgur's alfalfa fields outside the town of Bethel in Sullivan County, New York.
The festival was supposed to start on the Friday but rumours of a blockade by concerned townsfolk inspired some to set out early and the road approaches to the site were pretty well jammed by Tuesday, many people just abandoning their vehicles and hiking in. Artists and staff had to be helicoptered in, food supplies too, once the scale of the crowd was realised.
The artists included Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Johnny Winter, Santana, Ravi Shankar, Credence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, Joni Mitchell, The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, Ten Years After, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the list goes on - almost a 'Who's Who' of late 60's music gods. The music began on Friday afternoon August 15 and carried on until mid-morning Monday August 18 1969.
'Three days of Love and Peace' was the rallying call - the facts show 3 deaths (one tractor accident and two drug overdoses), and over 5,000 recorded medical cases. The commonest incidents were cuts caused by bare feet walking over broken glass, drug abuse and a Woodstock speciality - burned eyes from staring at the sun whilst tripping out. For a city of half a million this was reasonable, but the figure of zero violent crime is unique!
The last bedraggled fan sloshed out of Max Yasgur's muddy pasture more than 25 years ago. That's when the debate began about Woodstock's historical significance. True believers still call Woodstock the capstone of an era devoted to human advancement. Cynics say it was a fitting, ridiculous end to an era of naivete. Then there are those who say it was just a hell of a party..
- The Times Herald-Record