Sunday, March 16, 2014

So...How Did I End Up Reading Gay Talese's 1966 Piece On...

...Frank Sinatra Yesterday Morning Anyway?

Well, let's see....

First, I was roused early by the Whackadoodle.

Then I made the coffee.

Then I made the usual Saturday morning proPundit rounds, looking for stuff I might have missed in the last week which, a little later, led to this.

Then, around 8:00 am, with C. and littler e. on their way to catch the ferry with said Whackadoodle in tow, I sat down with the flying squirrel (no longer really a) kitten in the quiet house and watched the latest episode of that TeeVee joke delivering mechanism with the pretend scientists in it.

And in this particular episode one of the jokes ran on for quite a while.

And it involved Harlan Ellison.

Who, if you don't know, is a SciFi writer (and more) that Mr. Glass goes on about all the time.

He is also the guy who wrote, arguably, the best ever (original Shatner version) Star Trek episode.

And, it turns out, he once almost got into a fight with Frank Sinatra because, ostensibly, he was wearing weird boots in a fancy-schmancy Beverly Hills pool hall.

A pool hall where the guy doing the hustling was Leo Durocher.

How do I know this thing?

This thing that should be part of a Don DeLillo novel, but isn't?


Before the twenty-one sitcom minutes were even done I was already sniffing around the edges of the Google-cache, which led me to the aforementioned piece by Mr. Talese:

...Frank Sinatra, leaning against the stool, sniffling a bit from his cold, could not take his eyes off the Game Warden boots. Once, after gazing at them for a few moments, he turned away; but now he was focused on them again. The owner of the boots, who was just standing in them watching the pool game, was named Harlan Ellison, a writer who had just completed work on a screenplay, The Oscar.

Finally Sinatra could not contain himself.

"Hey," he yelled in his slightly harsh voice that still had a soft, sharp edge. "Those Italian boots?"

"No," Ellison said.



"Are they English boots?"

"Look, I donno, man," Ellison shot back, frowning at Sinatra, then turning away again.

Now the poolroom was suddenly silent. Leo Durocher who had been poised behind his cue stick and was bent low just froze in that position for a second. Nobody moved. Then Sinatra moved away from the stool and walked with that slow, arrogant swagger of his toward Ellison, the hard tap of Sinatra's shoes the only sound in the room. Then, looking down at Ellison with a slightly raised eyebrow and a tricky little smile, Sinatra asked: "You expecting a storm?"

Harlan Ellison moved a step to the side. "Look, is there any reason why you're talking to me?"

"I don't like the way you're dressed," Sinatra said.

"Hate to shake you up," Ellison said, "but I dress to suit myself."

Now there was some rumbling in the room, and somebody said, "Com'on, Harlan, let's get out of here," and Leo Durocher made his pool shot and said, "Yeah, com'on."

But Ellison stood his ground.

Sinatra said, "What do you do?"

"I'm a plumber," Ellison said...


Here's the (slightly ironic) thing.

Mr. Talese's magazine piece, which Esquire likes to call the best ever, is often held up as an example of a mid-sixties bit that helped launch the 'New Journalism', at least in part, because it was written without his ever having interviewed Mr. Sinatra.

Talese didn't see it that way. Specifically, he said that what separated him from the true purveyors of the emerging form was that he never strayed from facts.


As for ibogaine, boo-hoos, sunshine specials, motorcycle gang stompings, bats in the desert, Samoan attorneys on ether, dead Hemingways, roof-top golf and all that?


You know.

That became the realm of that new journalist of the purplish sage that I, personally, consider to be the world's first blogger.



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