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Archive for July, 2011


Disclosure: when I was a contributing reporter for The Boston Globe sports pages in 1989, I had the pleasure of meeting my writing idol, the amazingly talented Leigh Montville. Not only was Montville the most original sports columnist I have ever read, he was also incredibly nice to a 19-year-old reporter from San Juan and the Bronx.

I have followed Montville’s career for the past 22 years, from his stint at Sports Illustrated to his current calling as a sports biographist. To this day, his book Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero, is one of the BEST biographies ever written.

This year Montville returns with Evel: The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil, and Legend.

For an boy growing up in Nixon’s America, THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ. For several years in the 1970s, Knievel defined what a rebel was all about: with his daredevil appearances on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, his bravado, and more importantly, the coolest toy ever.

The BEST TOY EVER!!!!

Here is an excerpt from the book, which describes the time Knievel wanted to jump Snake River:

The man of the moment made the moment a family affair. If this was going to be his last day on earth, then he would go out looking like a church deacon, Linda and the three kids would be there. His mother would be there from Reno. His father had been there all week. (“Bob always had to have a challenge,” his dad said at a press conference, sounding a bit like Ward Cleaver. “I tried to discourage him for years for fear of injury.”) His eighty-one-year-old grandmother, Emma, would be there. His half-sisters would be there from both sides of the family tree. His cousin, Father Jerry Sullivan, a Catholic priest from Carroll College in Helena, Montana, would give the benediction before liftoff.

His lawyers, accountants, bartenders, friends, and fellow reprobates from long ago had appeared already at the site. Bus trips had gone down from Butte. There had been a mass migration from the city, people driving the 364 miles in five, six, seven hours, depending on speed. The Butte High band had gone down to play the National Anthem. Everyone had assembled, former promoters, fans, everyone …Ray Gunn, his first assistant from Moses Lake in the early days, had returned for the show, friends again, signed up now to watch the jump from a helicopter and carry a bottle of Wild Turkey to the other side for an instant celebration.

The day would be part wake, part wedding reception, an all-time Humpty Dumpty experience. The broken pieces of Robert Craig Knievel’s life would be put together for this one time as they never had been put together, not once, in all of his years.

He would fly from Butte in the Lear in the morning with his family. Watcha would be at the controls and would buzz the crowd at the canyon, a dramatic touch. Watcha and everybody else would switch to a helicopter at the Twin Falls City- County Airport, arrive at the site to great applause, and the man of the moment would put on the flight suit in his trailer, and the show would begin.

Unless, of course, he canceled the show.

“I have two demands that if you don’t meet I’ll cancel the show,” Knievel said in an early morning phone call to Bob Arum from Butte.

Arum prepared for the worst.

“First,” Knievel said, “I want to have all the press meet my helicopter when it lands. I want to make a statement.”

Arum said that would be impossible. Moving the entire press corps through the crowd could start a riot. (Another riot.) What he could do was bring Knievel to the press tent. That was possible. Knievel could make his statement that way. Same result.

At a time when America battled with an unpopular war, a bad economy, and loss of prestige in the world (sound familiar?), Knievel was DA MAN, the American who said fuck it to the rest of the world. This little Puerto Rican Italian boy loved every minute of it, and for the Tony Hawks and Shawn Whites of the world, without Knievel, the X Games would be just a pipe dream.

So, congratulations to Montville. You had me in 1986 when I started reading you religiously in Boston. And your grip on my mind is still tight.

As for Knievel, I leave you with this video gem:

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Washington is a strange place, especially the last few weeks as absurdity rules the air. But this post is not about debt talks. This post is about Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, the leader the Latino Rebels have called EL GALLITO REBELDE.

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez

Yesterday, Congressman Gutiérrez was arrested near the White House during a demonstration that protested President Obama’s non-committal response to the Dream Act. While the President spoke La Raza, Gutiérrez and others protested. And then they were arrested.

For those who think that this is just some publicity stunt by Gutiérrez, you’re wrong. This congressman of Puerto Rican descent is one to not think about poll numbers, pundits, tracking trends or re-election. Instead, Congressman Gutiérrez LEADS. He ACTS. Whether it is calling more attention to the Dream Act or exposing the civil rights abuses by the current administration of Puerto Rican pro-statehood and Republican darling Luis Fortuño, the Gallito Rebelde will fight the good fight.

Gutiérrez also released a statement regarding how poorly he feels the White House is handling immigration:

Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) reacted to President Obama’s address to the national annual conference of the National Council of La Raza in Washington.  At one point in the President’s speech, referring to his ability to exercise discretion in immigration enforcement, the President said, “Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own.”  At that point, many in the crowd chanted “Si Se Puede” and “Yes You Can,” interrupting his speech momentarily.  The following is a statement by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez:

I agree with those in the audience who said “Si Se Puede” and “Yes You Can” when the President said he could not do anything about deportations.  I have been traveling the country the past three months asking him not to take the law into his own hands, but to exercise the broad discretionary powers he has under current law that allows him to prioritize individual deportations.

Indeed the President acknowledged that his Administration is trying to prioritize deportations for serious criminals and threats, and I have encouraged him to do more to put non-criminals, young people, and the spouses and parents of U.S. citizens at the back of the line.  Twenty-three Democratic Senators, two former INS General Counsels, and his own Homeland Security staff agree he has this power under current law.  Republicans like Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith and Senator David Vitter have filed bills to take that power away from this President, so I think they agree with me and the audience that he has powers under current law.  So far, according to the Obama Administration, they are using this discretionary power in fewer cases than the previous President and they are deporting more people than any previous President.

We need the President to fight for us and to make it clear he is doing — and not just saying — everything possible to help.  The question is whether the President will exercise the powers he has under current law to give DREAM Act students and other immigrants relief from deportation when it is in the national interest of the United States.  But he has to expend the political capital to do it, which he has been reluctant to do.  The Latino and immigrant voters I talk to — and those at NCLR conference — seem to think that his personal investment in helping immigrant families is lacking.

This White House is proud of their deportation and increases in border security, but it is simply not the case that the President’s hands are tied when it comes to enforcement and people, like those in the audience, know it.

We applaud the Congressman and all the other DREAMERS who will not give up this fight.

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Today, the Latino Rebels are proud to present a charity event for #LatinoLit icon Miguel Algarín, the co-founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café. The event, which will feature over 30 performers, will start today July 24 at the Phoenix Bar in the East Village.

You can donate online here.

The iconic Miguel Algarín is a man deserving of various accolades, among his most noteworthy being founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café in the Lower East Side in the early 1970s—a place where marginalized voices founded a movement and created a home that Allen Ginsberg once described as “the most integrated place on the planet.” Out of the Nuyorican Poets Café were born books and legends—too many to report here.

So what’s the point?

The man responsible for carving a space for literary and counter-cultural expression in the urban war-zone of the 1970s Lower East Side/Loisaida is in need of our help. Miguel is being forced to vacate his Lower East Side apartment this summer. As a 70-year-old disabled man this is proving to be quite a challenge. So to help offset the cost of his legal fees and other expenses we are throwing a party to raise money for him.

Así mismo.

As a living icon who has given a platform to thousands of marginalized voices in his lifetime, we feel that this is the least we can do for Miguel and hope that you can join us in our celebration in honor of him. Yes, the goal is to raise money, but the way in which we’ll do that is by having fun. Come join us as we revel in the Lower East Side/East Village poetry and performance legacy he helped create.

You can donate online here.

(Note: All money raised will go to Miguel Algarín. Neither The Phoenix, Latino Rebels, nor the performers will receive any funds raised—we are all volunteering our time.)

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