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:

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 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked--2017 Book Talk Schedule

Photo by Nick Abadilla Photography
2016 was a busy year for me. Bringing Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked (TIY) to publication dominated the first half of the year. On August 1st, Wheatmark Publishing, Inc. brought out a quality paperback edition of TIY and a digital ebook edition. I direct-marketed the book as well as offering it online at Amazon, B&N, and ebook formats--notably Kindle, Nook, and KOBO. My year ended with selling the option for the digital-audio rights to Tantor Media, a publisher that distributes audiobooks in English-speaking countries worldwide.

For being an independently published book, I'm more than pleased with the reception TIY has received. Reader response has been overwhelmingly positive. One of my original goals was to get this shadowy story out to the public with the facts as they are known. That I have done.

2017 is shaping up to be another busy year. Most of my book talks last year were in Southeastern Michigan around the Detroit area. Only now am I beginning to work the San Diego County market. Being able to drive to an appearance, give the talk, and return home cuts my overhead expenses considerably.

My talk at the San Carlos Public Library last Friday, January 27th, went quite well, and I have scheduled a number of others. I hope to add several more venues as I go along. Here is my schedule thus far:
  1. Friday, February 3rd -  the LIFE @ San Elijo program at San Elijo Campus of MiraCosta College, 3333 Manchester Ave, Cardiff CA 92007. Building 200 is the most westerly on the campus. Parking permits aren't required on Friday afternoons, but please do not park in a spot marked “Staff.” 1:00 pm until 2:30 pm, Encinitas, Calfornia.
  2. Monday, February 6th - San Diego Educator Association (Ret.) featured speaker at their quarterly meeting luncheon at 11:30 am. San Diego, California.
  3. Saturday, March 11th - Tucson Festival of Books on the campus of University of Arizona at 2:00 pm. Meet and greet book signing at Wheatmark Publishing booth. Tucson, Arizona.
  4. Saturday, April 22nd - La Jolla Public Library, San Diego, California, from 2:00 pm until 3:00 pm.
  5. Thursday, May 11th - Ypsilanti District Library, Ypsilanti, Michigan, from 6:30 pm until 7:30 or 8:00 pm. This year's presentation will be different than last year's talk.
  6. Saturday, May 13th - Ann Arbor Barnes & Noble book signing, Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan, from 1:00 pm until 3:00 pm.
  7. Sunday, July 16th - Book Club of Detroit's First Annual Detroit Festival of Books at the Eastern Market from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm.
I've been very happy with the overall reception of TIY. Direct sales of autographed copies from my author website have been good, and my Amazon sales are strong. TIY reached #4 on Amazon's Biography/Memoir/Regional/Midwest category, despite splitting the market with the online retailing giant. Kindle and other ebook versions have been selling well also.

Since the presidental elections, the holidays, the inauguration, and the shifting of the setting sun, sales have moderated, but with the lengthening days, my outlook for 2017 is optimistic.