October 17

Amber pages

Nathanael West, novelist, born today in 1903 - click here for my piece about his "Scarlet Letter" in "Private Collection"

And normally I list the births first, and the events only afterwards, but I cannot resist placing these two side-by-side, the West which is really the most innocent love-story, with nothing more intimate anywhere than the kiss placed on the forehead of a dying man by his daughter, and yet banned as an obscene work, and the stage musical "Hair", which sang every obscene word in the English language, performed one crowd-scene entirely in the nude, advocated sexual liberation, and did everything it could to get itself banned, but instead was revered for several decades of uninterrupted performance as the apogee of liberation, and travelled the world to do so; first performance, at the Public Theater in New York, today in 

And then, yet another coincidence, because the narrator of West's novel is living in Salem, Massachussetts, in 1642, just fifty years before the witchcraft trials which Arthur Miller would recount in "The Crucible", as an allegory for the disgraceful MacCarthy witch-hunt in Communist-era America; Miller was born today, in 

I don't usually write about criminals and gangsters either, unless there is something very specifically interesting - as is the case with Michel van Rijn and the "discovery" of the "Lost Gospel of Judas" - the full tale of which is in my "Travels In Familiar Lands" - or something decidedly personal. 

So, today in 1931, "Scarface", Alphonse Gabriel Capone, Al to his tax accountant, boss of the Chicago Outfit, was convicted of income tax evasion, and sent down for eleven years. Did I mention his tax accountant? John, or really Yankel, Factor, son of Abraham and Lya Factrowitz, born in Lodz, Poland, on January 10th, 1889, though our family archive has his marriage certificate from 1900, which claims that he was born in London, and another that is rather more authentic, placing him with his parents in Zdunska Wola, like his half-brother, the cosmetics genius Max Factor. 

"Jake the Barber" to the FBI and the IRS. And yes, mishpucha - family. One of the very few documents in existence that has both JF Kennedy's signature, as President, and Bobby Kennedy's, as Attorney-General, is the document pardoning cousin John - and why would the Kennedys issue a pardon to Al Capone's senior finance man, operator of Las Vegas casinoes...? Ah yes, a tale that I will take much pleasure in recounting.

But I shall skip "1945: Juan Peron became dictator of Argentina", and simply refer you, and with much pleasure in that too, to September 19, the day he was GER'ed.

One of the American almanacs that I have been using has "1989: San Francisco Bay area earthquake (World Series postponed)" - and I roar with laughter every time I look at it. The American sense of priorities caught here to perfection, endorsing my conviction that, should ever revolution break out on the streets of America, all the government would need to do is bring forward the date of the Superbowl, and put it on the TV, live and free. The streets will empty as soon as the announcement goes viral.

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