Tag Archives: bastards

January 12th

On this day in 1995 Qubilah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X was arrested for conspiring to kill Louis Farrakhan.

Qubilah with Malcolm

This is in fact a really shitty little story of a woman being hounded, nasty little FBI informants and, being left with a feeling that it all seemed to be about getting one over on Malcolm’s daughter rather than any real awful murder about to be committed.

Why do I think that? Qubilah had seen her father murdered when she was just four years old. From that moment onwards her mother, Betty Shabazz believed that Louis Farrakhan had been involved in the murder of Malcolm. Farrakhan has denied being actively involved, but at times has said that maybe the things he said led to it happening. Then again in a speech he gave in 1993 he said:

Was Malcolm your traitor or ours? And if we dealt with him like a nation deals with a traitor, what the hell business is it of yours? A nation has to be able to deal with traitors and cutthroats and turncoats.

To be honest, if a man who I had reason to dislike, fear and possibly

Qubilah escorted into court (May 1995) by her lawyer

hate, said that about my father’s murder, I’d be strongly inclined to believe that he had been part of the conspiracy to murder him. Qubilah did hate Farrakhan and worse, she was worried about her mother’s safety. Betty was vocal and without fear in her belief that Farrakhan had planned her husband’s murder. Her daughter feared, rightly or wrongly, that Farrakhan might also plan the murder of her mother.

Forward to 1994. An old school friend of hers, Michael Fitzpatrick, claimed that she called him and asked him to murder Farrakahn. She definitely did call him and there was talk of how dangerous Farrakhan was and that she wanted him dead. Unfortunately for Qubilah, what she didn’t know was that Fitzpatrick was an FBI informant. They spoke throughout May and June of that year. He asked her to marry him and actively encouraged her to talk about her hatred of Farrakhan and her desire to see him murdered.

However, luckily for Qubilah, Fitzpatrick also started recording his phone conversations with her, probably at the request of the FBI. After her arrest she was indicted on the charges of using telephones and crossing state lines in a plot to kill Farrakhan. A couple of surprises came up at this point. One was that the recordings made by Fitzpatrick to prove her guilt, made him look like he was entrapping her. She came across as unsure, nervous, tentative and an unwilling conspirator. The other was that Farrakhan himself spoke in her defence, saying he did not believe her capable of murder, that she was a good girl who had been led astray. Certainly, Qubilah was, by then, suffering from alcohol and drug problems. Her life had not been easy, she was almost certainly paranoid and Fitzpatrick and the FBI had used this to push her into breaking the law.

This is the bit I find so despicable. Hadn’t the woman suffered enough? I mean really, did the FBI think that she was some sort of national danger? Anyway! It was clear that it would be hugely difficult to find her guilty of the original charges (which could have seen her do up to 90 years in jail) and so a plea bargain saw her maintain her innocence, but she took responsibility for her actions. She was then required to undergo psychological counselling and drug and alcohol abuse treatment for two years in order to avoid prison.

As far as I know, the FBI weren’t told to sort themselves the fuck out and nothing happened to Fitzpatrick, even though a good kick up the arse was the very least he deserved for being such a nasty little shitehawk.

Unfortunately, there was more sadness in the Shabazz family in the years following this, but let’s end on something that at least approaches a happy ending. I am in no mood to bring myself and all of you down any further than I already have.

Today is the birthday of French actor and serial dater of hot women, Olivier Martinez.

His name won’t mean much to you if you never read the gossip pages, because while he is an actor, he’s not really that famous as an actor. He is however famous for being good looking and dating, cheating on, breaking up with and then dating, a number of hot famous women. It has been said of him that given the number of women he has probably had pre-marital ghastliness with, his wank bank is probably as big as Fort Knox.

His Milkshake brings all the girls to his yard

He first came to notice as the boyfriend of Mira Sorvino and has since been attached to a lot of famous women, including Kylie Minogue, Rosie Huntington-Whitely and is now, allegedly, engaged to Halle Berry. He’s definitely been her boyfriend for a while and he’d probably be mad to not want to marry her. Well, for all I know she could be as mad as a box of frogs, but she is stunningly beautiful.

Anyway,he’s 46 today, still hot, still making laydeez go weak at the knees and occasionally being in a film that no one ever gets to hear about. I’m not going to wish him a happy birthday. I’m not being churlish, but frankly the man has everything. He needs nada from me!


Leave a comment

Filed under Almanac

April 14th

On this day in 1881 some heavy shit was going down in El Paso, Texas. Mosey on down with me pardners and I’ll tell y’all about it.

My name is Dallas and I'm about to kill you dead.

Now the first thing you should know about this part of the world in the latter part of them there nineteenth century years is that it was one helluva fighty ole place. In this very year the Southern Pacific, the Texas and Pacific and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railways arrived in the town and the population grew to 10,000. Doesn’t sound like that much by today’s big city standards, but it was pretty much a boom town at the time. The boom was great for the economy, but a real bugger for the crime statistics, and that, my friends, is where we come in. You see, in the middle of this fightiness, there was a gunfight. It was epic. It was awesome. It was The Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight. Sure, you’re all more familiar with the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but let me tell you something, those shooters took about 30 seconds to kill three people. I call that, well, frankly, disappointing. So let’s forget about the O.K. Corral and learn all about a real gunfight! Yeehaw!

Here’s what happened leading up to that fateful day. One of the big crime problems was cattle rustling and Johnny Hale, a rancher just outside the city, was a noted cattle rustler. He’d been stealing cattle from some Mexicans and two vaqueros (that’s a Mexican cowboy) named Sanchez and Juarique had been up to El Paso looking for thirty head of cattle he’d stolen off them. But, they’d been gone some time, and their friends and neighbours had set up a posse to come looking for them. Now, this was 1881, and even back then there was a deal of racism aimed at Texas’s Mexican neighbours. Mexicans were not allowed to carry firearms within the city limits. This is not what caused the problem though. The mayor, when he heard why the posse was there, was pretty sympathetic and allowed them to keep their guns and hunt out that low down dog, Hale. A constable called Gus Krempkau rode out with them to the ranch and lo and behold, they found the corpses of Sanchez and Juarique close to the ranch.

Turns out that Hale and some of his cattle rustling brethren were worried that the two Mexicans would find the cattle and come back with more men to dispense justice. So, two of them, Fredericks and Pervey, killed them stone dead. The whole sorry affair was taken to court where it was decided that Pervey and Fredericks would stand trial for murder. Krempkau, who spoke Spanish, was on hand to translate for the Mexicans. When the court adjourned everyone headed out for dinner and beer and that should have been the end of it. But, of course, there was more to come.

Hale had turned up with a friend of his, George Campbell, who had been the town marshal of El Paso (he lost the job because he was a drunk and a dick). They were not happy, but retired

The street where it all went down

to a local tavern to drink and drink and drink a little more. Across the road from the tavern, the newly appointed town marshal, Dallas Stoudenmire, was eating some dinner. He’d been in the court room too and knew all that had gone down. All was quiet until Gus Krempkau arrived at the tavern. Hale and Campbell were pretty much the worse for wear by this time and Campbell started trash-talking Krempkau for being a Mexican lover and talking their goddamned greasy language. He probably said worse. If Deadwood has taught us anything it’s that people in frontier towns and places like that swore like utter fucking bastards back in the day. In the midst of the trash-talking, Johnny Hale – who was so pissed he could barely see straight – got hold of one of Campbell’s pistols shouted “I got you covered, George!” and shot Krempkau. And now the stopwatch starts. Krempkau reeled back and collapsed against a wooden joist, he pulled out his own gun. Dallas Stoudenmire had heard the shot and he ran from the diner with his pistols drawn. He started shooting as he ran and gunned down an innocent bystander, a young chap named Ochoa; this did not slow him down, not even a little bit. Hale saw that his ass was on the line and managed to jump behind an adobe pillar, but Stoudenmire was too quick for him. Hale, popped his head around the pillar and Stoudenmire shot him right between the eyes. Campbell screamed at Stoudenmire to keep out of it, Krempkau, on the verge of losing consciousness shot Campbell twice. One bullet hit him in the wrist, breaking  his hand, the other got him in the foot. He screamed again and Stoudenmire whirled toward him and shot him, hitting him square in the stomach. He carried on walking toward Campbell who was now writhing in agony. Stoudenmire stood over him. Campbell’s last words were “You big bastard! You’ve murdered me!” And indeed he had.

It was all over. Krempkau, Ochoa, Hale and Campbell all lay dead. Now, call me picky, but I think that all of this may have taken a tiny bit longer than five seconds. Indeed some bystanders said afterwards that they thought it was closer to ten seconds. I guess four dead in ten seconds just don’t have that same ole murderous ring to it. Either way, there were still more dead than they managed at the O.K. Corral and in much less time, but for some reason it’s always been overshadowed by them thar Earps and that thar Doc Holliday. I dunno, I guess that maybe the guys from Tombstone had better P.R. agents or something.  But Dallas and Gus have me now and I’m bigging up those shooty men for fearlessly waving their guns around and killing each other for no damn good reason at all. Respec’ y’all!

For Today’s birthday we’re sticking with the law, but going for a less-shooty kind of law man. Today it’s Frank Serpico’s birthday. If you thought he was just a character in a film, played by Al Pacino, shame on you!

Serpico at the time of the Knapp Commission

Frank Serpico was a simple NYPD police officer. He worked as a patrol man, in finger printing and then got assigned to plainclothes where things got a little, sticky. Serpico was pretty disgusted by the widespread corruption he encountered and as a result of him trying to avoid it and refusing to be a part of it his career there was short-lived.  However, he didn’t just walk way from it. He spent the next years trying to bring the corruption to the attention of his superiors. Funnily enough they didn’t seem that interested. He was stymied by red tape and bureaucracy and seemed to be getting nowhere until he hooked up with another officer, David Durk, who felt the same way that he did. Now he head someone on his side, but as time passed  they were still being ignored. Finally after years of trying to go about things the right way, Frank went to the press. In 1970 he contributed to a New York Times story on corruption in the NYPD. This forced the mayor of NYC to do something and the Knapp Commission was appointed to investigate police corruption.

In 1971, Serpico was with other officers on a drug raid, when it became clear that his peers were not happy with him. The story of how he got shot in the face is long and convoluted, but at its heart lies the indisputable evidence that while the officers on the raid with him may not have deliberately sent him to be executed, they certainly did not give him back up, support him, or call in his injury when he was shot. Without the assistance of an Hispanic man in the building being raided, Serpico may have died. As it was he was left deaf in one ear and in constant pain from gunshot fragments left in his brain.  Later that year he testified to the Knapp Commission, becoming the first NYPD officer in its history to have the courage to publicly confront corruption in the force.

He retired in 1972 and after spending a decade living in Europe he returned to live in upstate NY. He lectures at universities and

Frank Serpico as he is now

police academies, helps out officers in similar positions to his own and campaigns against corruption and the weakening of civil liberties. Frank Serpico is an ordinary man who refused to stand by and see dishonesty cow honesty into silence.  When Al Pacino met him in 1973 to talk to him in preparation for playing him, he (Pacino) asked why he had done what he did, with all its concomitant risks. Frank replied, “Well, Al, I don’t know. I guess I would have to say it would be because … if I didn’t, who would I be when I listened to a piece of music?”

I doubt this blog is your cup of tea (or even coffee), Mr Serpico, but if you happen across it, I want you to know that I think you are a genuine hero, a good and fine man who refused to stay quiet. We need more people like you and it makes me happy to tell people a little more about you. Happy birthday, sir, and I hope you have many, many more.

Leave a comment

Filed under Almanac

March 24th

On this night in 1944 76 men began breaking out of Stalag Luft III. If you’ve seen The Great Escape, then you have half an inkling of what was happening because this was that escape!

The man in charge of the whole thing was a British officer by the name of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell RAF. He was kept with other British officers in one part of the camp and at some point in 1943 he called an escape committee meeting and this is what he said: “Everyone here in this room is living on borrowed time. By rights we should all be dead! The only reason that God allowed us this extra ration of life is so we can make life hell for the Hun… In North Compound we are concentrating our efforts on completing and escaping through one master tunnel. No private-enterprise tunnels allowed. Three bloody deep, bloody long tunnels will be dug – Tom, Dick, and Harry. One will succeed!” This is just top, because it means that everything we saw posh officers say in British war films was pretty much true to life. And that is just what this bunch of men did; they attempted to make life hell for the hun, the cunning devils.

Big X. Roger Bushell the mastermind behind the escape

The notion was that if one of the tunnels was found, it would be all fine and dandy because the Germans would never guess that two other tunnels were being dug at the same time. No private enterprises was also a good idea because it meant that all the good escaping brains were being focussed on one spectacular escape. The original idea was to get all 200 men housed in the prison camp out at once. All of them to be wearing civilian clothing and all with forged papers and equipment. This was escape writ big with a huge capital E!

As Roger said, the tunnels would be bloody long and bloody deep. Digging them deep was difficult, but it also meant there was less chance of them collapsing and/or being discovered. A lot of what you see in the film about the disposing of sand and earth from the tunnels is accurate. They did put it into socks that hung down their legs and let it drop in little piles around the camp and in gardens that the prisoners were allowed to work. But as you can imagine this was not enough; there was an awful lot of earth coming up from these three mega-tunnels. The problem was partly resolved when a camp extension made Dick’s exit unworkable (an extension making dick unworkable? Who’d a-thunk it!), so Dick became a place to store equipment, clothing, documents and the earth and sand for the other tunnels. Even that wasn’t enough and in the end, they started getting rid of more of it under a seat and down in a huge gap in the camp theatre.

The Germans were well aware that something was afoot, but failed to discover any of the tunnels. The digging of the tunnels took place over a long period of time and included most of the men in the camp. Then late in 1943, the camp gained a huge influx of American prisoners who were also included in the escape plans. The increased activity got the guards even more suspicious and they discovered Tom in September 1943. Work then stopped on Harry until January 1944 because the men were aware that if Harry was to be of any use, they needed to hold back and allay suspicions for a while.

How did they get clothes? There were some friendly guards in the camp who were happy to give them clothes for bribes and to provide information like train timetables and give them official papers which they could then copy and forge. At this stage I could

Here's Harry, who no one was longing to marry. Look how narrow it is!

waffle on about all the details interminably, but la, la, la, most of the Americans were removed and therefore no Americans, except maybe one flight lieutenant escaped in March (Wot! No Steve McQueen on a motorbike!), things got more hairy, the Gestapo got more snoopy and what had been intended to be a summer escape became a spring one. There were 700 men in the camp at this time, but only 200 were to go. The first 100 were made up of serial offenders (i.e. tried to escape quite a lot), those who spoke German well and those who had put in a lot of work on the tunnels. This group was expected to have a very good chance of escaping. The next 100 were thought to have very little chance of success and they drew lots for inclusion. They mostly had no German and their papers were not as good as those of the first lot; they had to travel at night for the best chance of success. They were known as the “hard-arsers”.

So, here we are. It’s the night of the escape and they’re all scuttling along Harry and getting over any claustrophobia (the tunnels were only 2ft square, it makes me perspire like a pig just thinking about it) they might have. It wasn’t a good night for an escape. There was snow and the entrance door to Harry was frozen shut and it delayed the escape by an hour and a half. Then there was an air raid that turned off the camp electricity including the light in the tunnels that slowed them down even more. At about 1am the tunnel partially collapsed and had to be repaired. Of the 200 scheduled to escape only 76 got out. And then?

It was all a bit of a clusterfuck really. The 77th man through the tunnel was seen emerging by the guards and surrendered. The ones already out were contending with the coldest March in 30 years and the snow already mentioned was 5ft deep. The men heading to the railway station couldn’t find it until daylight because its entrance was recessed. In all 73 of the 76 men were recaptured almost immediately. Of those 50 were executed including Roger Bushell. The three who managed to escape were Per Bergsland and Jens Müller, both Norwegian, and Bram Van Der Stok who was Dutch. All three were pilots in the RAF.

The end of this almost ridiculous attempt was pretty tragic, but all the men involved knew they were risking their lives. As Bushell had said back in 1943, they wanted to give the Hun hell and they did. Too many of them paid for it with their lives, but it’s unlikely that any of them would have thought this too great a price to pay. The film is great. Entertaining, engrossing, dramatic and full of twists and turns, but the real life events were, if anything, even more dramatic even if they didn’t involve a motorcycle, a baseball and a half-blind forger who went on to turn into that dreadful murderer John Christie. Life is more of a shitstorm than fiction. True fact.

Today was the birthday of much maligned comedian and fall guy for Hollywood excess, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.

Arbuckle with his great friend Buster Keaton.

These days if Roscoe is remembered at all it is for the scandal that ended his career. His career is hardly known to us at all and his influence on the great names of his time is likewise forgotten. I’d like to tell you a little about Roscoe, but first we’ll get the scandal out of the way.

In 1921, Roscoe and a group of friends drove to San Francisco and booked three hotel rooms, one of which was to be their party room. One of the attendees was a woman called Virginia Rappe. She was taken ill at the party and two days later she died of peritonitis from a ruptured bladder. Roscoe was arrested on charges of rape and manslaughter. It was alleged that he had raped her and his body weight had ruptured her bladder and killed her. Three trials followed. The first trial resulted in a 10-2 not guilty verdict and was declared a mistrial. The second trial returned a 9-3 guilty verdict and another mistrial was declared. At the third trial the jury took just six minutes to return a unanimous not guilty verdict. Five of those minutes were spent writing this:

Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done to him… there was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime. He was manly throughout the case and told a straightforward story which we all believe. We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgement of fourteen men and women that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame.

I could honestly write page upon page about this. What happened to the man was an abomination. He suffered so much in the courts, in the press (that bastard William Randolph Hearst made a fortune out of maligning him), his films were banned, his career ruined and all for spite, rumour, gossip and people making up the most stupid stories in the world that had no basis whatsoever in fact.

Before all of this, Roscoe had been the highest paid star in Hollywood. He had a $1 million a year contract from 1918-1921, which was mental money in those days. He was hugely popular and incredibly talented. He mentored Charlie Chaplin and helped him come up with his little tramp character, he discovered Buster Keaton and later in 1927 also discovered and gave Bob Hope his start. He had

Roscoe with his last wife, Addie, not long before his death at the age of 46

started in vaudeville after being abandoned by his father upon his mother’s death (Roscoe was 12), because his father was convinced that Roscoe was a bastard. He also had a beautiful singing voice. Enrico Caruso heard him singing and told him he should give all the other nonsense up and be the second best singer in the world. On top of this he was a kind, gentle, generous and generally lovely man. Far from being a big old rapist, Roscoe was shy around women and known as the most chaste man in Hollywood by all who knew  him. He did however have a drink problem, which led to him having problems with his legs, which led to doctors prescribing morphine and you can guess what that led to.

Throughout the twenties it was difficult for him to find work and he was persona non grata in films. He went back to vaudeville and toured shows. His alcoholism remained a huge problem, especially as he lost most of the friends he had made in the movie business. There was one notable exception. Buster Keaton did all he could to help his friend and remained loyal until the Roscoe’s death. Things began looking up in 1932. He was signed by Warner Brothers to make some two-reel shorts, which were very popular – although the idiot British wouldn’t show them because of the decade-old scandal, FFS – and in 1933 he was signed to make a feature-length film with them. On June 28th 1933, he had finished his last two-reeler, he had the contract for the feature, his life was well and truly back on track. He said to friends that it was the best day of his life. That night he had a heart attack and died in his sleep.

He was a lovely man who was proof that sometimes there really is a whole lot of thick and disgusting smoke with no fire at all. Most of his films are lost as no one bothered to preserve the negatives. He was talented, generous, warm and kind and all of that meant nothing at all when a bunch of utter bastards decided to go after him. Happy birthday Roscoe and if you come just a little closer I have a custard pie just for you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Almanac