Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rosie the Riveter - Happy Women's History Month, Ladies




In honor of all the Rosies who stepped up to fill the work shoes of the men in uniform. America would never be the same nor would these women.


I love this link. I hope you do also: 


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GarCzR_6Ng&feature=em-share_video_user

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Detroit's Beloved Weatherman Sonny Eliot

Sonny Eliot and friend.
Weatherman Sonny Eliot was well-known to generations of Detroiters. He began his career in 1947 at the very beginning of television broadcasting in Detroit and spent thirty-five years at WWJ (now WDIV), which included seventeen years hosting "At the Zoo." For many years, he was the Master of Ceremonies for Detroit's J.L. Hudson's Thankgiving Day Parade. In 2010, Eliot retired from broadcasting.

Sonny Eliot was a cultural icon for Baby Boomers and their parents. Once called the Ernie Harwell (Detroit Tiger sportscaster) of weather, Eliot had an unprecented 50% share of Detroit's television market during his weather segment. Perhaps he is best described as a borscht-belt comic weatherman and best known for his hybrid blending of weather conditions like "snog" for snow/fog, "cloggy" for cloudy/foggy, and "droudy" for dreary/cloudy. In addition to his television career, he was the author of four children's books. Eliot had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to make people laugh.

Marvin Schlossberg was born on Hastings Street December 5, 1920. He was the youngest child of Latvian Jewish parents. His mother nicknamed him "Sonny." He credits his mother for his sense of humor. His parents owned and ran a hardware store on Detroit's East Side. As he grew up, Sonny developed a passion for flying.


B-24 Liberator bomber
"During World War II, he was a B-24 bomber pilot who was shot down over Germany. Flak tore into his plane in February of 1944. He held the bomber as steady as he could while his crew parachuted before he jumped. Sonny was apprehended by a German farmer armed with a pitchfork and spent eighteen months in Stalagluft I until the end of the war. The POW camp was located near Barth, Germany. It was liberated the night of April 30, 1945, by Russian troops. The American prisoners were soon evacuated by American aircraft in "Operation Revival" and returned home.

Mel Butsicaris, son of Johnny Butsicaris and nephew of Jimmy Butsicaris, the Lindell AC bar owners, gave me permission to share his Facebook post on the Sonny Eliot he knew.

"Sonny was an incredible man and many stories have been told and written about his life. He lived, worked, and played in Detroit, so people felt like they knew him because he would take the time to acknowledge them. Uncle Sonny is what I called him. He was a unique man and a joy to be around: funny, smart, adventurous, generous, and fun-loving. He fit in with anybody he was with.

"People would see Uncle Sonny hanging out at the Lindell AC (Athletic Club) sports bar during the week. My dad even gave him an office on the second floor of our building. But on the weekends he focused on his two loves--his wife Annette and flying with my dad in an airplane they co-owned. Flying was their shared addiction.

"Uncle Sonny made everyone feel like a friend, so people naturally felt like they knew him. I have lost track of how many times people have come up to me and say they saw Sonny Eliot drunk at the Lindell feeling no pain, or Sonny was so funny after he had a few drinks. Newsflash! Sonny Eliot did not drink alcohol.

"To all the people that bought Uncle Sonny a drink in the Lindell, I am sorry for overcharging you, but you insisted I make him a drink. I would give him his usual glass of soda water with a splash of ginger ale for some color and a lemon twist. I would put my finger over the pour spout so it only looked like he was getting whiskey. His drinking was an act, but his wit, fun-loving personality, and his genuine kindness were real."


Marvin (Sonny Eliot) Schlossberg died peacefully among family and friends in his Farmington Hills home on November 16, 2012, at the age of ninty-one. Sonny Eliot led a remarkable life touching the lives of millions of Detroiters and leaving us better for the experience.

WWJ video tribute to Sonny Eliot--https://youtu.be/Y0iVuyfDUjM

Sonny Eliot news story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZD-gKG5-g8

Monday, March 6, 2017

Yellow Journalism, Truth Decay, and the Cult of Ignorance

Joseph Pulitzer II
Yellow journalism was a term coined during the newspaper circulation wars of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer II at the end of the nineteenth century. Rather than relying on mere facts, their newspaper articles featured sensationalism, crude exaggeration, scandal-mongering, and mud-slinging.

William Randolph Hearst
Competition between Hurst's New York Journal and Pulitzer's New York World to sell newspapers lead to the saber-rattling which helped ignite the Spanish-American War and guide Theodore Roosevelt into the White House on a "bully pulpit."

In today's Internet world, yellow journalism is served up as click-bait--otherwise known as the quest for eyeballs and dollars. The politics of division play out daily on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Headlines of these political posts are written for their shock value with reactionary wording and a sense of urgency to attract and hold their target audience.

Sensationalism, scandal-mongering, innuendo, biased opinions, malicious rumors, and misinformation masquerading as truth are the tools of the yellow journalist's trade. Once their tightly controlled alternative facts become dogma, their followers adopt these beliefs as elemental certitudes immune to facts. 



Manufactured news stories by hyper-partisan propaganda machines systematically cater to powerful political and social movements. These stories display a strong ideological and journalistic bias to suppress or distort the news with a reckless disregard for the facts. Fake news on both sides of the political spectrum tries to manipulate public opinion. Truth is the first casualty, then goes the public's faith in its free press and media outlets. Distrust of factual news results in truth decay.

"Don't confuse me with the facts" has become an anthem for too many people in America. When journalistic ethics and professionalism are cast aside, the public is the ultimate loser. The average person does not know who or what to believe any longer and cynicism sets in.

I came across a Psychology Today article from 2014 that is a snapshot of America from our recent past. It has a prophetic quality in light of this nation's recent change of stewardship. "The Cult of Ignorance... Anti-Intellectualism and the Dumbing Down of America" https://sott.net/en313177

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tucson Festival of Books - March 11th and 12th

Join me and other Wheatmark Publishing authors on the University of Arizona mall March 11th and 12th in booth 137. I will be featured from 2:30 until 3:30 PM on Saturday, but my books will be available all weekend. This is the third largest book festival in the nation. Only one week away.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Detroit’s Lindell AC - The Nation’s First Sports Bar



Johnny in front of the original Lindell Bar

In 1949, Greek immigrant Meleti Butsicaris with his sons—Johnny and Jimmy—leased the ground floor of the run-down Lindell Hotel and opened their bar on Cass and Bagley avenues. At first, they couldn’t afford to have a sign made with a different name, so they went with the hotel’s signage and called their tavern the Lindell Bar and the name stuck. The bar was near Briggs Stadium, where the Tigers and Lions played, and the Olympia arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings.

Legend has it that a young New York Yankee second baseman—Billy Martin—suggested to the brothers they change the drab atmosphere of the bar with an athletic theme. That would not be difficult. In addition to being co-owner of the bar, Johnny Butsicaris was also the official photographer for the Olympia. He had plenty of original sports photographs he could use. It was not long before sports memorabilia adorned the walls with autographed photos of Detroit sports stars, signed team jerseys, bats, and hockey sticks--even a jock strap belonging to Wayne Walker, a Detroit Lion linebacker. The new look helped define the bar’s clientele.

Jimmy with Andre the Giant.
The Lindell soon became a hangout for Detroit sports figures and players from visiting teams. It wasn’t long before local sports writers and celebrities performing in Detroit found a home at the Lindell. National celebrities like Milton Berle and Jayne Mansfield would stop in. Local celebrities like Detroit’s favorite weatherman Sonny Eliot and Detroit News sports columnist Doc Greene were regulars. Even the Beatles and their entourage went to the bar after their Olympia concert.

The most notorious event in the history of the original Lindell Bar was a publicity stunt for a wrestling match between Detroit Lion defensive tackle Alex Karras and wrestler Dick the Bruiser. Karras needed the cash since he was no longer drawing his NFL salary. The week before, Karras was suspended from the NFL for the 1963 season for admitting he bet on football games.

Karras and the Bruiser in publicity still.
Karras was a friend of Dick the Bruiser from Karras's one season as a pro-wrestler. The Bruiser wanted to help his friend in need. The original idea was born in the mind of Dick the Bruiser. He proposed a publicity stunt in the Lindell Bar to increase the gate at the Olympia match. What began as a publicity stunt became a full-blown bar brawl. In the process, the Bruiser wrecked the bar. The scheduled wrestling match the following Saturday night earned Karras $30,000. [See the link below for more information on that incident]

The Butsicaris brothers took Karras on as a business partner with his $30,000 from the wrestling match. After the bar brawl, the three partners moved the location of the bar to Michigan and Cass avenues. They had no choice. The Lindell Hotel was condemned and scheduled for demolition.

Detroit News sports reporter Doc Greene suggested adding AC (Athletic Club) after the new bar’s name as a sly reference to the Detroit Athletic Club, an exclusive members-only club. Only the city’s business elite and socialites were members. Even famous sports figures could not enter the club without a special guest invitation from a member.

Doc Greene got many of his exclusive sports stories sitting at the original Lindell Bar. He did not want his bosses to know how much time he spent there getting his exclusive stories. In his Detroit News sports articles, he would write he was interviewing this or that athlete at the Athletic Club. It became an inside joke at the bar. Greene would call his wife and say he would be home soon when he was finished at the Athletic Club. As a tribute to Doc Greene, the reincarnated Lindell Bar became the Lindell AC.

Johnny’s son Mel Butsicaris remembers working the night an elephant was brought into the sports bar.

Sonny Eliot behind the bar at the Lindell AC. Photo courtesy of Mel Butsicaris.

“The most talked about photograph in the bar was not of an athlete or celebrity. Back in the 1970s, Bell Telephone and the Yellow Pages had a slogan about an elephant never forgetting, but you have the Yellow Pages for help. They were making a commercial across the street with a baby elephant.

Sonny Eliot
"You don’t see an elephant in downtown Detroit too often, so my dad and I walked over to watch. My dad told the film crew to come over to the bar and he’d buy everyone a drink. As a joke, my dad said while petting the elephant, ‘Bring your friend along.’ About an hour later, the front door opened with this guy pushing this beast through the door. We still can’t believe it, but the elephant fit through. We worried if the floor could handle the weight. Everyone had a good laugh when Sonny Eliot started giving the elephant Coca-Cola to drink. Shortly after, the Coke acted as a laxative for the animal. We used snow shovels to clean up the mess.”

Alex Karras and Curtis Yates
In 1980, CBS filmed a made-for-television movie in the Lindell AC bar called Jimmy B. and Andres. It was based on the true story of Jimmy Butsicaris, who wanted to adopt an African-American boy. Alex Karras starred with his wife Sharon Clark, and as the young boy, Curtis Yates. The bar was sanitized as a restaurant for the movie. The spin off became the ABC sitcom Webster with Emmanuel Lewis playing the child’s role.

Jimmy Butsicaris died in 1996, and his brother Johnny died in 2011. The Lindell AC sports bar, said to be the first in the nation, closed its doors in 2002. The building was scheduled for demolition to make way for the Rosa Parks Transit Center.

More information on the Alex Karras/Dick the Bruiser bar brawl:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Alex Karras and Dick the Bruiser's Detroit Bar Brawl

One of the most infamous chapters in Detroit sports history involved Alex Karras--defensive lineman for the Detroit Lions--and William Fritz Afflis--AKA wrestler Dick the Bruiser. What started out as a publicity stunt to promote a professional wrestling match between Karras and the Bruiser became a full-blown brawl at the original Lindell Bar on Cass and Bagley Avenues. 

Before signing with the Detroit Lions, Karras was a rookie professional wrestler and learned the skills and secrets of the squared circle. When the Lions picked him up, he gladly quit the wrestling game because he did not like daily life on the road.

Alex Karras played football for twelve seasons with the Detroit Lions from 1958 through 1962 and again from 1964 through 1970. One week before the bar brawl in 1963, the NFL gave Karras a one-year suspension for gambling on professional football games. NFL officials urged Karras to disassociate himself from the Lindell Bar because of alledged organized crime influence.

Mel Butsicaris explained to me that Alex Karras bought into the Lindell with brothers Jimmy and Johnny Butiscaris. Johnny was Mel's father and Jimmy was his uncle.The bar business was on the bottom floor of the old Lindell Hotel, a rundown flopshouse. The bar was less than a block away from the Leland Hotel where visiting sports teams stayed. The bar became a gathering place for Detroit and out-of-town sports teams. With Karras's recent NFL suspension, the Lindell was his only source of income, now that he was no longer drawing his football salary. Karras refused to sell his interest in the bar until his suspension was lifted.


William Afflis was an offensive left tackle for the Green Bay Packers from 1950 until 1954 before becoming a professional wrestler and changing his name to Dick the Bruiser. There was much more money to be made wrestling, so he quit the Packers. The Bruiser was five feet, eleven inches tall, built like a fire plug and just as tough. He wore a crew cut and had a gravelly voice that struck fear into his opponents. His finishing moves were the Atomic Drop and the Diving Knee Drop. After thirty-two years in the wrestling game, the Bruiser retired in 1986.

According to Mel Butiscaris, the Bruiser walked into the Lindell Bar on cue at 1:25 am on Tuesday, April 23, 1963.  The Bruiser pointed at Karras and bellowed in his gravelly voice, "I want that fat, (expletive deleted), four-eyed bartender to serve me." He was belligerant and continued verbally abusing Karras as the staged confrontation was scripted.

Tavern co-owner Jimmy Butsicaris refused to serve the Bruiser, and the wrestler grabbed Butsicaris's shirt and threw a short punch at him, tearing Jimmy's shirt as planned. Mel tells me that his uncle wore one of his old shirts for the occasion. That was part of the publicity stunt. Everybody in the bar knew the scene was staged. Everyone but Jimmy's visiting out-of-town uncle. He had just walked in the bar when he witnessed the mayhem.

Uncle Charley took a pool cue and came to his nephew's defense. He pasted the Bruiser in the face leaving a cut beneath the wrestler's left eye that needed five stitches to close. Dick the Bruiser on a good day had an impulse control problem. Bleeding profusely, the Bruiser gave free range to his rage and virtually tore the bar apart. The Bruiser tore a peanut vending machine off the wall and threw it through the television screen. Some of the bar patrons tried to subdue the Bruiser. Big mistake!

The Detroit Times reported that Karras hit the Bruiser across the back with a chair, but Mel Butsicaris disputes that account. He says the newspaper story was written before the brawl happened as part of the carefully planned publicity stunt. The real story is that Karras wanted nothing to do with the brawl and ducked out the back door.

Two Detroit cops walking their beat looked in the window and saw the melee. They phoned for some backup. It took eight Detroit policemen to subdue the Bruiser with wrist and ankle manacles before taking him to jail. Two policemen were seriously injured. The Bruiser easily made bail and had to appear in a Detroit courtroom the following Monday morning where he was arraigned on assault and battery charges.

Both Karras and the Bruiser told the police the brawl was a publicity stunt to promote their upcoming Saturday wrestling match at Detroit's Olympia arena. Prior to the brawl, Karras had signed on to wrestle the Bruiser because he needed the cash after his NFL suspension. In Karras's brief wrestling career, he and the Bruiser had become friends. After the brawl, the Bruiser told a local sports reporter that he heard Karras said he was a third-rate pro-football player, and he was angry about it.

On April 27, 1963, a mere five days after the brawl, the men were scheduled for a grudge match. A disappointing crowd of only 10,000 showed up for the match which lasted only eleven minutes and twenty-one seconds. The crowd thought the two men were sell-outs. Nobody was fooled. The match was a humiliating defeat for the out-matched Karras, who took a beating in the ring for a $30,000 pay out. What the Bruiser made that night is not known. Whatever the amount, the two injured policemen sued William Afflis, AKA Dick the Bruiser, for a total of $50,000.


After his career with the Detroit Lions, Alex Karras became a television and movie actor, and co-host of ABC's popular Monday Night Football with Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford, from 1974 until 1976. Suffering from dementia in his final years, Karras died of kidney failure at the age of seventy-seven on October 10, 2012.

After retiring from the ring, the Bruiser bought the National Wrestling Association and became a promoter. Dick the Bruiser died from internal bleeding on November 19, 1991 in Largo, Florida at the age of sixty-two. He was weightlifting with his adopted son when a blood vessel ruptured in his esophagus.  

More tales from the Lindell Bar courtesy of Mel Butsicaris:
http://fornology.blogspot.com/2017/02/detroits-lindell-ac-nations-first_21.html 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Legend of Nain Rouge--Detroit's Red Dwarf Demon


The yearly Detroit Marche Du Nain Rouge celebrates the liberation of Detroiters from Nain Rouge--the Red Dwarf. Legend has it that in 1701, Detroit's French founder Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac was telling a fortune teller about a vision he had. Cadillac described a dwarfish creature with blazing red eyes and rotten teeth dressed in fur boots who was haunting his dreams.


The fortune teller interpreted this apparation to be the harbinger of the city's doom and the cause of Detroit's problems. The legend continues that Cadillac was walking one night when he confronted the Nain Rouge and drove him out of town with his cane--the Nain cursing Cadillac and his new city for an eternity.

Of course, there are no public accounts to support the folktale which first appeared in Legends of Le Detroit written in 1883 by Marie Caroline Watson Hamlin. She was a local folklorist who wanted to perserve French heritage in Detroit, where English had become the predominant spoken language. Since the Nain Rouge story, everytime Detroit was in trouble the Nain was spotted more than the Gnome in the Travelocity commercials. If there was a crisis, Blame It On The Nain.

Folklore has it that Nain Rouge reappeared on July 30, 1763 before the Battle of Bloody Run. Fifty-eight British soldiers were killed by Chief Pontiac's tribesmen. A tributary of the Detroit River turned red with blood for days after the battle. The river became known as the Rouge River. It was said the Nain was seen dancing on the banks of the Detroit River celebrating.

Detroit's Masonic Temple
The Detroit Marche Du Nain Rouge was instituted in 2010 by two Wayne State University law students--Francis Grunow and Joe Uhl--but it has grown into a costumed Mardi Gras-like community based event with a parade. The celebration is held on the Sunday after the Vernal Equinox to commemorate Detroit's liberation from Nain Rouge. Detroiters come together to unite against negativity and show support for their city. Revelers are advised to come in costumes to disguise themselves so the Nain can not take revenge.


The parade begins near the campus of Wayne State University, continues down the Cass corridor, and ends at the Masonic Temple where the embodiment of the Nain bashes the city from atop his float. An effigy of Nain is destroyed--banishing the evil spirit from Detroit for another year. The parade and celebration are meant to be light-hearted and fun. It's an opportunity for Detroiters, who anxiously await the rites of spring, to blow off some steam after three months of winter.

For a more detailed account of the devilish Nain Rouge, read this account from the Detroit Metro Times: http://www.metrotimes.com/detroit/the-legend-of-the-legend-of-detroits-nain-rouge/Content?oid=2404384