Monday, July 17, 2017

Clinton LeForge Runs Amuck In Ypsilanti

Ypsilanti Daily Press--August 26, 1935.
To the reader: The documentation for this post was collected by the late George Ridenour and Lyle McDermott of the Ypsilanti Historical Society.

Clinton LeForge was known as a collector of Native American artifacts and fancied himself a self-taught expert in archeology. He spoke about his collection wearing an Indian headdress and a ceremonial robe and claimed Indian blood coursed through his veins.

"Whatever the Indian has done has been in defense of his wigwam and hunting grounds," LeForge said in an Ypsilanti Daily Press interview. "The Indian killed only in defense of his family. Trespassing on Indian land meant death in the native code." 

LeForge believed peace-loving Algonquins and the warlike Iroquois used the Ypsilanti area as a neutral burial ground. He gathered over 3,000 artifacts such as arrow heads, spear heads, tomahawks, and grinding stones from his property and searching along the Huron River, Ann Arbor Trail, and the Sauk Trail--all known Indian pathways.

Local farmers familiar with Clinton's interest in Indian artifacts would give him relics they found while plowing their fields. During the excavation of the Detroit Urban Railway in 1901, many Indian remains and artifacts were removed by souvenir hunters who damaged many of them. Clinton got his share, you can be sure of that.

Even a casual investigation of the LeFurge/LeForge family records reveals Clinton had nary a drop of Indian blood in his background. For that matter, he also claimed he was a veteran of the Spanish-American War, but there is no record of his enlistment. His 1930 Federal Census report indicates he had no military service. It is clear that Clinton LeForge was a raconteur and not above stretching the truth, nor creating it out of whole cloth when the purpose suited him.

When LeForge died in 1949, his estate included his Indian artifact collection valued at $2,488.50 and some Mayan pottery valued at $285. How this material was appraised is undocumented. What is known is his widow Grace LeForge did not share her husband's enthusiasm for Indian artifacts and sold the collection to a private collector for an unknown amount of money.


Ann Arbor News, March 15, 1935.
In 1931, tired of scratching a living off the land, LeForge tried his hand at selling insurance and practicing law. But in March of 1935, LeForge was named as a suspect in the murder of seven-year-old Richard Streicher, Jr, an Ypsilanti child found stabbed and frozen under the Frog Island Bridge in Depot Town.

Prior to the boy's killing, LeForge represented Mrs. Lucia Streicher in a divorce action which was dropped immediately upon Richard's death. The buzz around town was that Lucia and Clinton were having an affair. The day after the boy's body was found, LeForge went to the Streicher apartment at Lucia's request and removed Richard's toys from his bedroom, an act that raised eyebrows in the community and set idle tongues wagging.

Ypsilanti Daily Press, March 8, 1935.
Then, for some reason known only to her, Lucia Streicher turned on Clinton and implicated him as a possible suspect in her son's murder--a charge he vehemently denied. LeForge wanted to clear himself of malicious rumors circulating around town, leading him to take a battery of polygraph tests on two separate occasions hoping to clear his name--one polygraph given locally at the Ypsilanti State Police Post and the other in Lansing at Michigan State Police Headquarters. Lieutenant Van A. Loomis, state police polygraph examiner, wrote in his analysis of the data that he was convinced LeForge was innocent and knew nothing that would help solve the Streicher case.

Further damage to LeForge's reputation came eight months later when he was arrested on November 28, 1935, for the embezzlement of $3,685 from the estate of Darwin Z. Curtis. That was a huge sum of money during the Great Depression. LeForge pleaded guilty to the charge and made restitution to the Curtis Estate, paid $50 in court costs, and resigned from the Michigan Bar Association. The judge sentenced him to five years probation--a virtual slap on the hand. After LeForge's disbarment on September 8, 1936, nothing more is known publicly about his activities until his accidental death on August 30, 1946.

LeForge was operating a saw mill on his property at 7120 Ford Road. He was milling a 2" x 8" length of timber when the saw blade kicked the board back hitting him squarely in the chest crushing his ribcage. When Grace went outside to check on her husband, she found him dead on the ground. The Washtenaw County Coroner came to the farm and pronounced him dead at 6:00 pm. Clinton I. LeForge was sixty-four years old. He was buried in a family plot in Highland Cemetery on September 2, 1946, leaving a two-mile length of county road as his legacy.

The Richard Streicher, Jr. Murder: http://fornology.blogspot.com/2016/11/little-richard-streicher-ypsilantis.html

Monday, July 10, 2017

Clinton LeForge--Grandson Of An Ypsilanti Pioneer


To the Reader: The documentation for this post was collected by the late George Ridenour and Lyle McDermott of the Ypsilanti Historical Society.

One of the most colorful and controversial residents of Ypsilanti was Clinton Isaac LeFurge. He was born in Superior Township on June, 1885, to Insley B. LeFurge and Mary Ette Gale. In his mid-thirties, Clinton changed the spelling of his last name to LeForge. While looking through an heirloom family Bible, he found the names of twenty-two Leforge (sic) ancestors recorded on the flyleaf dating back to January 12, 1723.

Almost 200 hundred years later, Clinton chose to adopt that spelling and capitalize the letter F. LeForge is how his name appears in most public documents. The David LeForge family Bible is in the collection of the Ypsilanti Historical Society, contributed by Mrs. Dwight A. (Cora) Peck, Clinton LeForge's sister.

Young Clinton grew up a farm boy on his parent's 160 acre farm which ran along what was locally known as Paper Mill Road leading to the Huron River. He attended Bennett--a one-room schoolhouse on Geddes Road about a mile from his house. He showed promise as a student, so his parents sent him to Ypsilanti High School--a two mile walk.

The LeFurges: Insley/Mary and Clinton/Cora--1903.
It was common at the turn of the twentieth century for farm kids to drop out of school in the eighth grade to work the family farm. Many young women received little formal education beyond the domestic chores they learned at home. Graduating from high school was a significant achievement, but Clinton was not satisfied with that. He went on to earn a law degree in 1908 at Detroit College of Law, but it would be twenty-three years before he would practice law.

The following year, Clinton married Edith Grace Crippen and wasted no time starting a family. Soon they had two daughters and two sons. Earning a living to support his growing family through farming prevented Clinton from pursing his legal career. To compound matters, his father Insley died May 5, 1915, leaving him his mother's only means of support.

On November 12, 1920, Mary Ette transferred ownership of the family farm--160 acres of prime farmland--to her son Clinton in exchange for her "full use and possession of" the farmhouse until her death. For Clinton's part, he agreed to "keep up repairs and pay taxes during that time" as well as work the farm. The transfer was not recorded in the Washtenaw County Register of Deeds until January 30, 1924.

Sometime during the 1930s, Detroit Edison was stringing electrical lines in Superior Township and officially renamed Paper Mill Road, changing it to LeForge Road. In those days, it was customary to name county roads after the name of the predominate land owner. The same can be said for Gale, Vreeland, Geddes, Wiard, and Whittaker roads, among many others throughout Washtenaw County.

Clinton LeForge was a well-known figure in Ypsilanti as a self-taught Native American expert and collector of local Indian artifacts. For five years, he maintained a law office on South Huron Street before things started going wrong for him. More on that in my next post: "Clinton LeForge Runs Amuck In Ypsilanti."

How Ypsi Got Its Name: http://fornology.blogspot.com/2015/08/ypsilanti-michigan-history-whats-in-name.html

Friday, June 30, 2017

How I Sold 2,000 Terror In Ypsilanti Books in Six Months

My first shipment of direct-marketed books

On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, my publisher Sam Henrie of Wheatmark Publishing interviewed me for their Authors Academy webinar entitled How I Sold 2,000 Books in Less Than a Year. I recently learned that most self-published books sell fewer than 50 copies and 200 is considered a success. Sam wanted me to discuss my marketing secrets. My number one piece of advice for beginning authors, "When the muse comes looking for you, she better find you writing."

In this sixty minute interview, I discuss how my marketing plan evolved from the publication of my first book Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel (2011) to the release of my current book Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked (2016). 


My first book talk with Zug Island first edition.
If you are not as sick of me as I am of myself, give a listen. Afterward, I think you will agree that getting New York professional voice artist Chris Ciulla to narrate the audiobook was the correct choice.

This recorded-live webinar interview was conducted over the phone. Please excuse the slight lag time between questions and answers.

***

How I Sold 2,000 Books webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o77sREwmPXY

mp3 link: 20170614HowISold2000unedited.mp3 

mp4 link: 20170614HowISold2000unedited.mp4

Terror In Ypsilanti audiobook (5 minute sample listen): https://www.amazon.com/Terror-Ypsilanti-Norman-Collins-Unmasked/dp/B06XS9HJD2

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Terror In Ypsilanti Wins Book Awards


Literary Classics Press Release, Rapid City, South Dakota:
"The 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards and Top Honors Book Awards Finalists have been announced. Selected from submissions by entrants around the globe, these distinguished honorees are recognized for their contributions to the craft of writing, illustrating, and publishing exceptional literature. In this highly competitive industry these books represent the foremost in literature in their respective categories."

***

This month, I learned my book Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked won a 2017 Literary Classics Silver Book Award in their true crime category. Last month, I earned a similar honor from the 2017 International Book Awards as a finalist in their true crime category. I am hoping to hear from a third writing competition to made it a clean sweep. 


Winning, placing, or showing in one of these writing contests gives authors bragging rights and the documentation to label their work award-winning. Winners receive a certificate suitable for framing, a roll of award emblems to festoon their book covers, and a digital emblem file for internet use.

The hosting organization announces winners with a press release and provides promotional opportunities through their business website and social media outlets. Often, there is a formal award ceremony offering press, photo, and networking opportunities. This year's Literary Classics Book Awards ceremony takes place over Labor Day weekend in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

As I wind down my Terror In Ypsilanti book tour this summer, I plan to shift my attention towards the film industry. So far, two media companies have shown an interest. One company pitched the idea to A&E, but the network is taking their programming in a different direction. Not to worry! There is still plenty of time to shop the project to other production companies, so I am not discouraged.

Terror In Ypsilanti has been out less than a year and garnered more attention and success than I expected. All formats--a quality paperback, digital ebook, and audiobook--are doing well. My publisher Sam Henrie of Wheatmark, Inc. tells me that Terror In Ypsilanti is their best selling title. For more information, click-on the book cover image in the right-hand sidebar.

***

Literary Classics Seal of Approval Book Review: For Immediate Release Literary Classics pr@clcawards.org Literary Classics is pleased to announce that the book Terror in Ypsilanti, by Gregory Fournier, has been selected to receive the Literary Classics Seal of Approval. 

The CLC Silver Seal of Approval is a designation reserved for those books which uphold the rigorous criteria set forth by the Literary Classics review committee, a team comprised of individuals with backgrounds in publishing, editing, writing, illustration and graphic design. There’s nothing pretty about murder, and Gregory Fournier’s Terror in Ypsilanti is a testament to that fact. A compilation of first-hand reports of the moments leading up to and following the gruesome deaths of Michigan co-eds, this book follows John Collins, the convicted mass murderer of Michigan, and explains the evidence leading to his arrest and subsequent conviction. 

Extensive research has culminated in this ultimate reference guide for information on John Collins and the Ypsilanti murders. Told in narrative, each incident is detailed, including descriptions of the victims, crime scenes, witnesses, etc. Each of the cases were quite complex, but Fournier presents the facts concisely and objectively. Riddled with graphic detail, this book is not for the faint of heart. Regardless, for anyone wanting specific information on the Ypsilanti murders, or as a general case study, this book is an excellent resource. To this day, John Collins maintains his innocence. Multiple interviews and witness reports are presented showing both sides of the case. After reading the book, the reader is free to draw their own conclusion.

Amazon Author Site: http://www.amazon.com/Gregory-A.-Fournier/e/B00BDNEG1C

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lunch With Soupy Sales in Detroit

Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman on January 8, 1926, in Franklinton, North Carolina. His father Irving Supman immigrated to America from Hungary in 1894. He was a Jewish dry goods merchant. Later in life, Soupy would quip that the local Ku Klux Klan bought their sheets from his father's store. Milton's nickname came from his family. His older brothers were dubbed "Ham Bone" and "Chicken Bone." The youngest son was "Soup Bone." Milton (Soupy) Supman enlisted in the United States Navy and served in the South Pacific. After the war, he earned a Master's degree in journalism. His oldest brother had become a doctor, and his other brother became a lawyer. Soupy had little choice but to go into show business.

After graduation, Soupy worked as a morning DJ and performed a comedy act in nightclubs. In 1949, Soupy Sales began his television career on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati with "Soupy's Soda Shop," television's first teen dance program. The show was cancelled after a year. Soupy moved to Cleveland and did a late night comedy/variety program called "Soupy's On!" where he took his first pie in the face which became his trademark. After a couple of seasons, Soupy left Cleveland for health reasons. "The station manager was sick of me," he quipped.

In 1953, Soupy Sales relocated to Detroit and worked for WXYZ-TV Channel 7, the local ABC station. Soupy not only had the Lunch With Soupy program, he also hosted a Friday evening variety show called Soup's On, which featured musicians and jazz performers who were working one of the twenty-four jazz clubs operating in the Paradise Valley entertainment district in old Detroit. Top performers like Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, Charlie Parker, Della Reese, Dinah Washington, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis, to name a few, made guest appearences on Soupy's show. After an appearance, jazz artists would regularly sell out their venues.

Lunch With Soupy had a fixed-set of a kitchen with a window and a table and chair to the left and a door center stage in the background that would interrupt Soupy mid-sentence with frantic knocking. Naturally Soupy would stop and answer the door. Usually, Soupy would play against only an arm and a voice appearing from the door jam.

Soupy wore a dark Orlon sweater, a white shirt with an oversized checkerboard bow tie, and a beat up top hat. Besides the pie-in-the-face running slapstick gag, Soupy was know for the Soupy Shuffle (his signature dance) and his Words of Wisdom like, "Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you."

Pookie the Lion and Hippy the Hippo
If it was noon in Detroit and you were planted in front of a television set with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Soupy was on, you knew you were in for a good time. Regulars on the show were hand puppets Soupy interacted with. Soupy was the straight man for voice artist Clyde Adler who did the off-stage puppeteering and voice characterizations. The show's favorite puppets were:
  • White Fang, "The Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA." He appeared from the left corner of the screen only as a giant white shaggy arm and paw with black triangular claws. Fang spoke in unrecognizable grunts and growls which Soupy repeated in English for comic effect. White Fang often threw the pies when Soup's jokes bombed.
  • Black Tooth, "The Biggest and Sweetest Dog in the USA." She had a black shaggy arm and paw with white triangular claws. She had feminine grunts and groans, and always flirted with Soupy. Her trademark move was pulling Soupy off-camera and giving him big, noisy kisses.
  • Pookie the Lion appeared on the ledge of the window behind Soupy. Pookie was a hipster with a wicked wit. He lip synced novelty records or prerecorded bits. My favorite memory of Pookie was a routine called "Life Got You Down, Bunky?" It was a pep talk he gave Soupy every time Soupy complained about feeling blue. Comically, it was inspirational.
  • Willie the Worm, a latex accordion worm that popped in and out of an apple. Willie was known as "the sickest worm in all of Dee-troit." Willie had a perennial cold and an exaggerated sneeze. He read birthday greetings to Detroit-area kids. Sadly, Willie's health failed him. He did not survive the show's move to the Big Apple in 1964.
When Soupy took his show to WNEW-TV in New York City, it went into national syndication. This was the height of Soupy's popularity. His guest stars included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Judy Garland, and Sammy Davis. 

On New Years Day in 1965, to fill a few extra moments at the end of the show, Soupy made an off-the-cuff remark to the kids in his television audience. He suggested they go into their parents' rooms, find their parents' wallets, and take out the green pieces of paper with pictures of bearded guys and mail them to him. In return, Soupy said he would send them a postcard from Puerto Rico. The show was aired live and no transcripts or videotapes exist, so the exact language he used is not known.

Soupy's remark was an ad-libbed gag not meant to be taken literally, but an angry parent filed a complaint with the FCC. The way the press reported the story, it sounded like this was the biggest heist since the Brink's robbery. Some adults were livid that a TV personality would manipulate children for commercial gain.

Show business legend has it that the prank netted some $80,000. Soupy revealed publicly that he netted only a few real dollars which he donated to charity--the rest was fake money.

The station suspended Soupy. The outcry from Soupy's fans swamped the station's switchboards and packed their mailroom with demands that Soupy be reinstated. Within a week, his suspension was lifted. Soupy worked for two more seasons before he gave up the top hat and bow tie and moved to Hollywood to become a panelist on many game shows including What's My Line, To Tell the Truth, Match Game, The Gong Show, and Hollywood Squares in the 70s and 80s.

Milton (Soupy Sales) Supman died of cancer October 22, 2009, at Calvary Hospice in the Bronx. He was eighty-three years old. Soupy Sales is best remembered by his many fans for his trademark pie-in-the-face gag, but in the comedy world, Soupy is remembered for his inventive, anarchic brand of riotous, television comedy. 

 Soupy and Pookie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB8e_uRzhMU

Friday, June 2, 2017

Final 2017 Terror In Ypsilanti Michigan Book Tour Schedule

2017 True Crime Category
Terror In Ypsilanti was released August 1, 2016, almost a year ago. Much has happened since. In addition to a quality paperback edition, a Kindle and all ebook formats are now available from Amazon <http://www.amazon.com/Gregory-A.-Fournier/e/B00BDNEG1C> at a reduced price. On March 31st, an audiobook was released by Tantor Media which opens up new markets for my book--also available on Amazon. And in May, the 2017 International Book Awards chose Terror In Ypsilanti as a Finalist in their True Crime category. The first half of 2017 has been kind to me.

Everywhere I speak, people come forward with stories about knowing one of John Norman Collins victims or of riding on the back of his motorcycle and living to tell the tale. I have had a couple of encounters with him as well. It is remarkable how many people are now willing to share their stories of memories long unspoken. Many local law enforcement members who worked on the Collins' case have come up after my talks and validated my work--foremost among them is former Washtenaw County Sheriff Douglas Harvey.

Jackson librarian Erin Kurtz and I.

My Michigan book tour this May was successful with talks in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, and four in Jackson. The Washtenaw Avenue B&N in Ann Arbor surprised me when they agreed to carry my book as a perennial local title. Copies are also available while supplies last at Nicola's Books on Jackson Avenue on Ann Arbor's west side, Brewed Awakenings just east of Saline on Michigan Avenue, and the Ypsilanti Historical Society in their basement archives on Huron Street. Autographed copies are always available on my author website--gregoryafournier.com.


My promotional window is closing as I gear up for my final three Terror In Ypsilanti book talks. If you want to learn more about the Washtenaw County murders or have me answer your questions in person, attend one of my last Michigan venues.
  • Wednesday, July 12th at 7:00 pm, Nicola's Books--Ann Arbor's Premier Independent Book Store. 2513 Jackson Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
  • Saturday, July 15th at 1:00 pm, Adrian District Library. 143 E. Maumee Street, Adrian, MI 49221
  • Sunday, July 16th from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, for the First Annual Book Club of Detroit Bookfest at the famous Eastern Market--Shed 5. 2934 Russell Street, Detroit, MI 48207 
Bringing this dastardly tale to light has been one of the most difficult and meaningful experiences of my life. I am proud to have paid a down payment on this debt to history.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dinner in Detroit with Andre the Giant


Andre as Fezzik the giant in The Princess Bride.

Andre the Giant was born Andre Rene Roussumoff on May 19, 1946 in France. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade thinking an education was unnecessary for a farm laborer. At seventeen, Andre trained for a wrestling career at night and worked as a furniture mover during the day to pay the bills. Wrestling promoters were quick to realize Andre's money-making potential because of his great size.

The Giant, The Hulk, and The Donald.
Andre the Giant was billed as The Eighth Wonder of the World through much of his career. His World Wrestling Federation tenure came to a crashing end during WrestleMania III in 1987 when Hulk Hogan gave Andre a body slam followed by the Hulk's running leg drop finisher. Andre's immense weight resulted in his chronic bone and joint pain. On that night at Silverdome Stadium in Pontiac, Michigan, Andre the Giant passed the torch to Hulk Hogan. In the 1980s, Andre branched out and co-starred in several films, most notably the giant Fezzik in The Princess Bride.

When Andre was wrestling in Detroit, he hung out at the Lindell AC sports bar. Over the years, people have written about Andre's gargantuan appetite for food and drink. Mel Butsicaris recalls one night when Andre came in after a wresting match at 12:45 am.


"Many people ask me if I ever met Andre the Giant. Yes. He wasn't just tall. There is a photograph of Andre holding up my Uncle Jimmy with one arm. Look at the difference between a normal person's head and the size of Andre's head. He kept a minivan at the bar with the front seats taken out. He drove from the back seat.

"You would not believe how much he could eat and drink. I remember one night when Andre ordered a cheeseburger with fries and two beers. We reminded him we were going out to dinner as soon as we closed the bar. Then, he ordered another and another.... In less than an hour and a half, Andre ordered nine cheese burgers with fries and two beers each. Our burgers were 1/3 of a pound of ground round. That's three pounds of meat, not to mention potatoes, bread, and eighteen beers.

"Then we went to the Grecian Gardens restaurant in Greektown. Uncle Jimmy ask the chef to make Andre a special plate of food. They took a serving platter and filled it with a whole chicken, a couple of lamb shanks, pastichio, stuffed grape leaves, rice, vegetables, and all the Greek trimmings. Enough food to feed a family of four. Andre ate it all. We jokingly asked him if he wanted dessert. He replied, 'Not yet, I'll have another one of these,' pointing to his empty platter. I don't remember what he had for dessert."

Andre's huge size was the result of gigantism caused by excessive growth hormone. The condition is known as acromegaly. It causes pronounced cheekbones, forehead bulges, enlarged jaw protrusion, enlargement of hands, feed, and nose. Internally, it causes a weakening of the heart muscle.

Andre Roussimoff died on January 27, 1993 from congestive heart failure in a Paris hotel room at the age of forty-six. He was in Paris to attend his father's funeral and celebrate his mother's birthday. Andre's body was shipped to the United States for cremation. His ashes were scattered on his ranch in Ellerbe, North Carolina. Andre is survived by one daughter, Robin Christensen Roussimoff born in 1979.

Billy Martin's Detroit Fight Night:
http://fornology.blogspot.com/2017/04/billy-martin-fight-night-in-detroit.html

Saturday, May 6, 2017

2017 Michigan Terror in Ypsilanti Book Talks


Soon, I'll be wrapping up my Michigan Terror In Ypsilanti booktalks. I'll be at the Ypsilanti District Library on May 11th and the Ann Arbor Barnes & Noble on May 13th. To round out this mini-tour, I'm giving four talks for the Jackson District Libraries as well.

After a forty-five minute presentation, I'll take questions from the audience. Books will be available for purchase before and after the talks as long as supplies last. 


Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked is available on Amazon in a quality paperback edition. Kindle and all ebook formats are reduced to $6.95. Now, an audiobook can also be purchased on Amazon. Makes a great vacation or airplane read. Click on the book cover in the right sidebar for more details.

***

 Free five minute listening sample of audiobook:<http://www.audible.com/pd/Nonfiction/Terror-in-Ypsilanti-Audiobook/B06XSKGMMJ?action_code=AUDORWS0424159DCE>

Autographed copies of Terror In Ypsilanti are available at the sale price of $20 on my author website <www.gregoryafournier.com>

Friday, April 28, 2017

Billy Martin Fight Night in Detroit

Many Detroiters remember Billy Martin when he managed the Detroit Tigers from 1971-1973. He took an aging team of veterans and guided them to their first American League Eastern Division Championship in 1972. Better known to some fans may be the fistfight Billy Martin had with his star pitcher Dave Boswell at the Lindell AC sports bar when Martin managed the Minnesota Twins. Who better to tell that story than Mel Butsicaris, who was tending bar that night.

"I called him Uncle Billy. Billy Martin and my Uncle Jimmy (Butsicaris) were close friends. Martin was best man at my uncle's wedding. He was Uncle Billy to me.

Anyway, Billy Martin was managing the Minnesota Twins in 1969 when he told his players to take a lap around the field before heading to the locker room--a common routine for any sports team. His star pitcher Dave Boswell refused and Uncle Billy said you will if you want to play on my team. Boswell refused a second time and was benched. When the Twins came to Detroit to play the Tigers, Boswell was supposed to start the first game, but Martin benched him.

After the game, the whole team came to the Lindell AC sports bar as usual. Normally, coaches don't go to the same watering hole as their players, but Uncle Jimmy and Billy were close friends. They were sitting at the end of the bar quietly talking. The team was sitting at tables in a large group. Dave Boswell had a few drinks and started bad-mouthing Martin. The more he drank, the louder and more vulgar he got. He started yelling at Martin about his heritage and his mother's character if you know what I mean.


Billy Martin hard at work in a Yankee uniform.

Uncle Billy ignored him. Boswell got so obnoxious his roommate on the road Bobby Allison, a big, strong, power-hitting center fielder, was trying to get Boswell to leave the bar and sleep it off. Boswell got louder and more abusive. Allison kept blocking him until Boswell sucker punched Allison in the face. Bobby went down bleeding. Like a bench-emptying baseball brawl, the team jumped up to get between Boswell and Martin while getting Allison off the floor.

Up until then, Martin kept out of the situation. He told Boswell, 'I don't care what you say about me, but now you're beating up the team. Enough, everyone back to the hotel, curfew in ten minutes and bed check in fifteen.' The hotel was near the sports bar. The players started to march out forcing Boswell out with them. He breaks away from the pack and throws a wild punch at Martin, who ducks. Boswell takes another swing at Martin which he blocks.

Telling Boswell, 'You're all out of warnings,' Martin took him to school. Despite being six inches shorter and weighing many pounds less than his ace pitcher, Martin was a Brooklyn street kid and pound-for-pound the best boxer I have ever seen in or out of the ring. His fists were moving so fast it looked like a Popeye cartoon. It lasted for only six seconds but Martin landed about twenty punches to Boswell's stomach and face. Power-hitter Bobby Allison picked Boswell off the barroom floor and took him to the hospital.

The sports writers from Minnesota and the Detroit newspapers were there, but they agreed not to write about the story because it would only make the situation worse. It was not good for major league baseball. A couple of days after the brawl, a young reporter who was not a witness to the fight broke the story.

Because of  growing publicity concerns, Dave Boswell called a news conference when he was released from the hospital. Boswell stepped-up and said he was drinking and out-of-line. The fight was his fault. The Twins front office did not care. They fired Martin and the Tigers hired him the following season. To all those people over the years who said they saw Billy Martin challenge Dave Boswell to go outside and fight--you are busted."

Billy Martin died on Christmas Day, 1989, at the age of sixty-one in Johnson City, New York. His pickup truck was driven by longtime Detroit friend William Reedy (53). The truck skidded off a patch of icy pavement and plummeted 300 feet down an embankment. Neither Martin nor Reedy were wearing seat belts. Billy Martin was pronounceed dead of severe head and internal injuries. Reedy survived with a broken hip and ribs.

Billy Martin was born Alfred Manuel Martin. His Italian grandmother called him "Belli" [pretty] as a child and the nickname "Billy" stuck. As a major league baseball manager, Billy Martin built a reputation as one of the game's all-time best. He was known to work wonders with difficult ball clubs and not take crap from players, managers, or umpires. He could shape up a team and get the best from his players.

Unfortunately, Billy Martin had a self-destructive side too which followed him throughout his career. Notice the baseball card at the top of this post. Martin is giving the finger to the photographer. By his own admission, "I'm a very bad loser."

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Outrage and the Nature of Truth

 
One of Paul Newman's least known and seldom shown films is The Outrage (1964). The film explores the elusive nature of truth as three conflicting versions of the same crime are presented to a frontier judge before a burned out courthouse. The film is an adaptation of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950).


Newman plays the unlikely role of Juan Carrasco, a Mexican outlaw accused of raping a Southern belle and killing her aristocratic husband. The beguiling Claire Bloom plays the violated woman, and Laurence Harvey plays her Southern gentleman. Despite the lurid subject matter, Newman, Bloom, and Harvey give tongue and cheek performances in episodic flashbacks which entertain in unexpected ways.

Rounding out the cast is Edward G. Robinson as a cynical, larcenous gambler. His performance may be one of his best as he shines throughout the film. William Shatner plays a frontier preacher who has lost his faith after he hears the conflicting trial testimony. His performance is subdued and pensive making Robinson's portrayal of the sleazy conman all the more compelling. Howard Da Silva plays a down-on-his-luck prospector undergoing a moral crisis. He has withheld important evidence by not testifying at the trial.

The three men are waiting overnight in a rundown train depot for the next train out of town. A driving rainstorm sets the somber tone for the movie. As the three men discuss the Carrasco case, director Martin Ritt intersperses flashbacks depicting the various points-of-view which have as much to do with the truth as the basic facts of the case.

The Outrage is a provocative and thought-provoking movie filmed in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson, Arizona. Every Paul Newman fan should see this film at least once.

Trailer for The Outrage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt9xrEjQZPg

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Terror In Ypsilanti Audiobook Available


An audiobook version of Terror In Ypsilanti was released on March 31, 2017, by Tantor Media. The reading length is 11 hours and 52 minutes.

Listen to a free 5 minute sample from chapter one. I'm quite pleased with the narration by professional voice artist Chris Ciulla (Shula). Now available for purchase.

http://www.audible.com/pd/Nonfiction/Terror-in-Ypsilanti-Audiobook/B06XSKGMMJ/ref=a_search_c4_2_8_srTtl?qid=1491099172&sr=2-8

Friday, March 31, 2017

Terror in Ypsilanti Film Prospect

Since the publication of Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked in August 2016, my book has been well-received by readers. Most of my original goals for writing it have been met. But there is one prospect I want to pursue--bringing the book to the screen.

Recently, I contracted with Voyage Media--a Los Angeles-based film development company specializing in turning indie books into screen projects. Their team created a Producer's Action Plan for Terror In Ypsilanti which includes an accurate abstract of the book, a demographic assessment, a market analysis, and a producer's recommendations for adaptation.

The next step is developing a screenplay. On the strength of Voyage Media's study, they presented me with two options--a two-hour stand-alone movie or a limited cable series. The movie option is viable, but due to the length and breadth of the source material, only a portion of the story could be told to create a "who-dunnit" mystery movie.

Tap on link at end of this post.
In 2013, the Investigation Discovery channel did a scripted docu-drama about John Norman Collins on their Crimes to Remember program entitled "A New Kind of Monster." By focusing only on one of the seven murders, the bulk of the story was never developed. As producer Rebecca Morton told me, there is only so much story that can be told in a forty-three minute episode. As amazing as it would be to see Terror in Ypsilanti on the big screen in a two-hour movie, telling only a slice of the story does not appeal to me. That has already been done.

Option two was preparing a pilot script for a limited cable series like Netflix's "Making a Murder" or HBO's "The Jinx: The Life and Death of Robert Durst." A six episode mini-series (one season) would allow a more complex look into the crimes of John Norman Collins and give a deeper sense of time and place to properly ground the story.

This option makes more sense from the promotional aspect too. Cable television consumes large quantities of material and provides many outlets for true crime material. The prospects for success are greatly increased. Target networks would include Investigation Discovery, Oxygen, HBO, Showtime, BBC, CNN, Netflix, and Amazon.

Because John Norman Collins is not a nationally known serial killer, a one-and-done movie does not provide time to grow an audience the way series television can. It seems clear to me that the small screen option is a better fit for Terror in Ypsilanti.

Voyage Media's development team noted that most true crime writers are not from the areas they write about. They feel I am uniquely qualified to tell this story. As a member of the Ypsilanti community at the time of these crimes, I personally know many of the first-hand participants depicted in my book. This fresh storytelling perspective may attract the attention of producers.

While a screenplay for a limited series pilot is being written, my Producer's Action Plan is currently entered in Voyage Media's database where production companies search for new material. Should a producer or acquisitions editor show an interest, I will be contacted directly. The process is fraught with failure at every turn, but at the very least, I will have a screenplay to use as a promotional tool rather than a vague idea to attract interest in the project. Even without a screenplay treatment, one media company is showing an interest.

http://fornology.blogspot.com/2015/10/a-crime-to-remember-john-norman-collins.html 
 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Terror in Ypsilanti Great Expectations

Wheatmark Publishing booth--Tucson Festival of Books March 2017
Since its release last August, Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked has done well. My publisher Sam Henrie at Wheatmark, Inc. recently told me most self-published books sell fewer than 50 copies. Selling 200 copies is considered a success. In eight months, TERROR has sold over 2,000 copies becoming Wheatmark's current top seller.

That distinction entitles me to membership in Wheatmark's Great Expectations Program. In addition to recognition in their publishing newsletter, I was awarded $2,000 in goods and/or services. This was totally unexpected and most appreciated. I look forward to working with Wheatmark on future projects.

To celebrate this personal milestone, I have reduced the price of my ebooks from $9.95 to a more competitive $6.95. Both Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked and Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel are available on Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Apple i-book digital editions.

Either book makes a good vacation or airplane read. I would like to encourage my American and International Fornology readers to order my titles postage-free using the convenient ebook option. No physical book to wait for in the mail. Tap the book image in the right sidebar for the Amazon/Kindle site.

Soon, there will be a digital option for book listeners. In June 2017, Tantor Media will release an audiobook of Terror in Ypsilanti. They chose professional reader Chris Ciulla (www.chrisciulla.com) to narrate the book. I've listened to some of his previous work, and I'm confident he will do a fine job.

Tantor Media is an Australian company that produces, promotes, and distributes digital audiobooks to English-speaking countries worldwide. In addition to the consumer market, Tantor specializes in libraries and audiobooks for the blind. I look forward to doing business with them.

Bouyed by Terror in Ypsilanti's success, I am looking ahead to a new challenge--bringing the book to the screen. More on that in my next post.

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: