Rich Or Famous

November 14, 1957 – Apalachin Mafia Summit Bust

Home of Joseph Barbara, Apalachin, New York. Photo: Gordon Rynders, New York Daily News

Home of Joseph Barbara, Apalachin, New York. Photo: Gordon Rynders, New York Daily News

On November 14, 1957 approximately 100 key Mafia bosses, advisors, and their bodyguards converged on Apalachin, New York to meet at the 53-acre estate of Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara.  On the agenda: resolve conflicts among the families of La Cosa Nostra (the American version of the Sicilian Mafia) regarding gambling, casinos, local and international narcotics smuggling and dealing, garment industry rackets (manufacturing and loansharking), trucking, labor and unions, and other operational issues.  Recent hits and attempted hits on leaders of individual families also needed attention to prevent all-out war, particularly between the Genovese, Scalice, and Anastasia factions.

Edgar Croswell, a local New York trooper, had grown curious about Barbara estate activities after several suspicious encounters with previous guests.  Learning that many local motel rooms were being reserved by Barbara’s son, he started keeping a close eye on the residence.  As the luxury cars and limos flocked to Barbara’s house, state police began taking down license plate numbers.  Background checks revealed the presence of known criminals, reinforcements were called in, road blocks were set up, and eventually a lot of expensive tailoring was ruined as mob bosses and underlings tried to escape into the brush.  Guns and $100 bills were scattered across the hillside, continuing to turn up for months afterward.

Joseph Barbara

Joseph Barbara. Photo: Geocities/Organized Crime Syndicates website

Fifty-eight men were apprehended, roughly fifty escaped.  Among those consigned to the “paddy wagon”: top figures Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joseph Profaci, and Joseph Bonanno.  Their explanation that the gathering was a “get-well-soon” coffee clatch for Barbara went over like a set of cement overshoes.  Up to this point, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had been reluctant to admit the existence of organized crime in America.  The Apalachin summit bust made the syndicate and its influence painfully clear, and Hoover responded by creating the “Top Hoodlum Program” to pursue Cosa  Nostra bosses throughout the country.

The Apalachin summit of “Who’s Who” in 1957 American, Canadian, and Italian mafiosi inspired many portrayals in books and film.  A version of the event appeared in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather Returns, and was also referred to in Hollywood’s Goodfellas and Analyze This.

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November 10, 1957 – Elvis at the Honolulu Stadium

Elvis Presley arrives in Honolulu on November 9th, aboard the USS Matsonia. Photo: Elvis Australia website

Elvis Presley arrives in Honolulu on November 9th, aboard the USS Matsonia. Photo: Elvis Australia website

On November 10, 1957, Elvis Presley gave two concerts at the Honolulu Stadium in the American Territory of Hawaii.  Arriving by the cruise ship USS Matsonia for his first visit to the tropical paradise, Elvis promptly fell in love with the beautiful setting and friendly people.  Hawaii became his favorite vacation destination, the setting for three of his films (Blue Hawaii, Girls! Girls! Girls!, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style), and his chosen venue for several large concerts, including a March 25, 1961 fundraiser to help build the USS Arizona memorial.

On this visit, Elvis planned three concerts, the two at Honolulu Stadium, and another the following day at the U.S. Army’s Schofield Barracks.  Elvis-o-philes will want to know that The King stayed at Henry J. Kaiser’s newly opened Hawaiian Village Hotel, conceived on a “village plan”, where “various sections of the development were designed in specific types of motifs indicative of the culture of the hotel’s surroundings”.  If Room 14A still exists, it may be one of the many pilgrimage sites for enduring generations of Presley’s many fans.

The November concerts in Hawaii would be Elvis’ last concerts in the 1950’s.  One month later, after enjoying Christmas at Graceland, Presley received his long-expected draft notice.  In March of 1958 he would be inducted into the United States Army and assigned to Fort Hood, Texas for basic training.

November 6, 1957 – Happy Birthday, Lori and Greg Singer!

The Singer Family in Portland, Oregon, summer of 1962: (Left to right) Jacques, Gregory, Lori, Leslie, Marc, and Claude (standing)

The Singer Family in Portland, Oregon, summer of 1962: (Left to right) Jacques, Gregory, Lori, Leslie, Marc, and Claude (standing). Photo: The Oregonian

On November 6, 1957, older brothers Claude and Marc Singer welcomed two new members to their extraordinary family – twins Lori Jacqueline and Gregory.  Their parents, Poland-born violinist and symphony conductor Jacques Singer and pianist and tall Texas beauty Leslie Wright Singer, were soon to oversee a household of budding prodigies.  Their talented offspring eventually found success in movies, music, dance, television, and modeling.

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Lori Singer at the PGA Awards, January 22, 2011

Lori’s professional talent and accomplishments have been impressive; as a cellist, she made her symphonic debut at age 13, was accepted at the Julliard Performing Arts School in New York City, and won the 1980 Bergen Philharmonic Competition following her graduation.  In addition to school and music studies, she earned spending money as a model, represented by the Elite Modeling Agency in New York.  In her spare seconds, she began studying acting and made her debut on the television series Fame in 1982.  (Older brother Marc paved the way with star turns in the movie Beastmaster and its sequels, the television mini-series V, and many other silver- and small-screen performances, including American Conservatory Theater Shakespearean productions.)  Lori is perhaps best known for her role as pastor’s daughter Ariel Moore in Footloose with Kevin Bacon.  She also appeared with Tom Hanks in The Man With One Red Shoe, and received awards for her performances in Trouble in Mind and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts.  She has appeared in several other movies, continued to perform in classical music venues, and in 2013 co-produced the award-winning documentary, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.

Greg Singer. Photo: Manhattan Symphonie

Greg Singer. Photo: Manhattan Symphonie

Lori has been a tough act to follow for her brother Greg, even though she only got a 3 minute head start.  A very talented violinist and conductor in his own right, Greg’s progress as an artist always required more work and determination than the almost effortless success Lori enjoyed.  He also studied at Julliard as a teen, played with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and American Symphony Orchestras, and in Broadway shows, ballets, and operas.  He has managed the Naumberg Orchestra and New York City Symphony.  He currently lives across town from Lori playing his violin, conducting the Manhattan Symphonie, and running his own W. 80th Street shop, Gregory Singer Fine Violins.

I have a remote personal connection to Lori and Greg, from their years spent in Portland, Oregon while their father conducted the Portland Symphony Orchestra from 1962 to 1972. The twins attended Ainsworth Elementary School, where they became good friends with my trumpet-playing, wonderful future husband.  My future husband greatly missed Greg and Lori after they left for New York and Julliard.  In 2010, after almost forty years, he reconnected with the twins, spending a music-filled afternoon with Greg in his violin shop and speaking with Lori by phone.  We continue to wish them much success and happiness.

November 4, 1957 – Time Magazine Reports on Jimmy Hoffa and the AFL-CIO

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AFL-CIO President George Meany

On November 4, 1957, a Time magazine article reported on the recent vote by AFL-CIO union leadership to oust the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) from the parent organization.  AFL-CIO President George Meany, “the stocky, onetime plumber’s helper with a mind and heart as tough as cast-iron pipe”, together with his Executive Council, followed through on their promise to sever ties to the IBT if they elected James Riddle Hoffa president.  Hoffa and the Teamsters were dirty; unless they cleaned house, Meany wanted nothing to do with them.

Hoffa had risen through the IBT ranks over the past ten years.  Through strikes, boycotts, fraud, wiretaps, bribery, and perjury, the union and its leadership had become one of the most powerful labor groups in the nation.  Newly-elected President Hoffa’s predecessor, Dave Beck, had been called to testify before Sen. John McClellan’s powerful Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and had taken the Fifth Amendment 140 times in response to questioning before that body.  Now Hoffa was confident that the AFL-CIO Council wouldn’t have the guts to kick out the IBT – the IBT contributed over $840,000 in per capita dues annually, and too many industries depended for their livelihood on transportation by Teamster truckers.  An angry IBT could easily tie up deliveries, perform raids, and splinter the resolve of the parent group.

But Meany and the AFL-CIO Executive Council held firm, Time reported.  After ninety minutes of discussion, and ninety minutes of deliberation, the Council gave its verdict: the Teamsters were suspended on a 25 – 4 vote.  Only representatives from the Teamsters, “scandal-tinged” Bakery Workers, “powerful” Carpenters, and Letter Carriers unions had sided with the IBT.  “Under George Meany’s tough hand,” Time declared, “a powerful majority had shown that the AFL-CIO would risk its own future to protect honest unions from creeping corruption.”  If Hoffa and his cronies were removed from power, and Teamster abuses were corrected, the IBT could return.  Otherwise, the Council would recommend expulsion.

Hoffa had been cocky with reporters before the hearing, but he marched out “grim and glum”.  Soon on the heels of the AFL-CIO smack-down, a Manhattan federal court ordered Hoffa to stand trial on perjury and wiretapping charges.  Also, in Washington, rank-and-file IBT members secured a preliminary injunction preventing Hoffa and his followers from assuming union leadership, alleging election fraud.  Things weren’t looking good for Jimmy.  Were his leadership days numbered?

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Teamster’s President, Jimmy Hoffa

Where Were They Then? – Ben Bradlee

Ben Bradlee at Newsweek's Washington bureau, late 1950s. Photo: Mike Lien, The New York Times-Redux

Ben Bradlee at Newsweek’s Washington bureau, late 1950s. Photo: Mike Lien, The New York Times-Redux

Benjamin Crowninshield “Ben” Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post, was a towering figure in American journalism with a rich family history (literally and figuratively) and a broad experience of life and the world. His family relations and close friendships included Old World royalty and New World privilege. He moved among people who made the news and then made sure they were the news. He is best known for giving Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein free rein to follow the slim story of the Watergate Apartments break-in to its damning conclusion, ultimately bringing down President Richard M. Nixon and radically remaking the journalism profession for all who followed. Bradlee not only served his country by pursuing the truth, he also served in the Pacific during World War II as an naval intelligence officer. He participated in numerous operations including the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle ever fought. After the war, Bradlee immediately started on his career as a reporter for the New Hampshire Sunday News, Newsweek, and the Washington Post.

Where was Ben in 1957? Through a connection at the Post, Bradlee had been assigned to the United States French embassy in 1951 as a press attaché. There he joined the staff of the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange (USIE), which produced Pro-American films, magazines, research, speeches, and news items for use by the CIA throughout Europe (propaganda, if you like). Bradlee’s official role with USIE ended in 1953 and he began reporting for Newsweek in 1954.

In 1956, Ben interviewed members of the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), or National Liberation Front of Algeria. The FLN was a socialist political party with a revolutionary guerilla arm fighting to liberate colonial Algeria from control by France. The war of liberation lasted from 1954 until 1962, when the French government agreed to a cease-fire, Algerian independence, and mutual cooperation between the two countries.

As a  American resident of France, working as a foreign correspondent, Bradlee’s contact with Algerian forces was not looked upon favorably by the French authorities. His background in intelligence raised red flags – was he really just a reporter for Newsweek, or was something else going on? A biographer of Post publisher Katharine Graham, Deborah Davis, later described Bradlee’s actions in 1956 as having “all the earmarks of an intelligence operation.” “I flew back to Paris, and next morning went to see Ambassador Dillon to let him know what I had been up to in Algeria,” Bradlee wrote in The Good Life: Newspapers and Other Adventures, his 1995 memoir. “When I got back to my office on the Rue de Berri in a taxi, I was suddenly surrounded by cops and black Citroens. Two cops got me by the elbows, lifting me off the pavement, and asked me to come along with them.”

Bradlee’s recent marriage to Antoinette Pinchot added to the suspicion. Toni was closely tied to two CIA figures in France – her brother-in-law Cord Meyer, and James Jesus Angleton, the husband of a good friend. Ben and Toni’s circle of connections seemed to indicate that Bradlee might have been doing more with the FLN than taking notes.

Consequently, Bradlee was no longer welcome in France. He returned to Washington in 1957 and continued working at Newsweek. Ben and Toni bought a house in the prestigious Washington, DC suburb of Georgetown. Very soon after, a new power couple moved in down the street: Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline. “I was on a roll being in the right place at the right time, a luck that stayed with me,” Bradlee wrote in The Good Life. For Bradlee, the year 1957 was the year he put his career on a fast track. Building an intimate friendship with future-President Kennedy would ultimately boost Ben’s professional credentials and provide insights and access into the halls of government.

Four years later, Newsweek was bought by the Washington Post. Bradlee played an instrumental role in the acquisition. Now at the Post, Ben moved up the ladder to become “the most lauded and influential American journalist of his era.”

October 26, 1957 – First American Woman Nobel Laureate Passes Away

American biochemist and Nobel Prize winner Gerty Theresa Cori. Photo: National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

American biochemist and Nobel Prize winner Gerty Theresa Cori. Photo: National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

On October 26, 1957, biochemist Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori passed away at home from complications of myelosclerosis. Gerty had been born sixty-one years earlier in Prague. Her father was a successful chemist, inventor, and sugar factory manager and her family participated in a culturally sophisticated circle which included author Franz Kafka. The Radnitz’ were Jewish. Gerty’s uncle, a professor of pediatrics, supported her in her desire to become a doctor at a time when women were discouraged from pursuing a career in science or medicine. In 1914, at age 18, Gerty entered the Karl-Ferdinands-Universitat medical school in Prague. She received her Doctorate in Medicine in 1920 and married fellow student Carl Cori the same year. Gerty was a vital, charming young woman who loved her studies, the outdoors, and mountain climbing. She converted to Roman Catholicism in order to marry Carl within his religious tradition.

Together, Carl and Gerty embarked on careers in research. They began in Vienna, but Gerty’s poor health due to post-World War I food shortages, and the increasing atmosphere of anti-Semitism prompted their emigration to America. First at the State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases in Buffalo, New York (now the Roswell Park Cancer Institute) and finally at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, the Coris made investigating carbohydrate metabolism their life’s work. Carl’s opportunities, and pay, were always greater that Gerty’s. Despite repeated institutional pressure to drop her as a research partner, Carl insisted on Gerty’s continued participation. They published many papers together and completed their ground-breaking work on carbohydrate metabolism. In 1947, Carl and Gerty Cori were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

What the Coris discovered – and is now called the Cori cycle – is the reversible process by which our cells break down glycogen into glucose for fuel or reconstitute glucose into glycogen to store for future energy needs. They specifically identified the “Cori ester”, the compound glucose 1-phosphate (and the enzyme that enabled its formation). The Cori ester is the key to the glycogen-glucose-glycogen pathway. Gerty Cori later went on to study diseases attributable to defects in the glucose metabolism-related enzyme, including diabetes.

Gerty won several prestigious awards during her lifetime. As a Nobel Prize winner in 1947, she became only the third woman laureate in history and the first American woman so honored. In 1953, she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Two Cori craters – one on the moon, one of Venus – were named after her. In April, 2008, the US Postal Service created a stamp in her memory. The American Chemical Society recognized the carbohydrate metabolism work of Carl and Gerty Cori with National Historic Chemical Landmark status in 2004.

Gerty suffered from increasingly poor health from myelosclerosis – a disease involving loss of bone marrow – during the last ten years of her life. In spite of pain and difficulty, she carried on her work as a professor and researcher at Washington University School of Medicine. Her discoveries, as acknowledged by the postage stamp bearing her likeness, “contributed to the understanding and treatment of diabetes and other metabolic diseases.” She was a pioneer in life and science, an example still of courage, determination, and passionate pursuit of a life worth living.

October 23, 1957 – Christian Dior and Fifties Fashion in France

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Designer Christian Dior and models in London, April, 1950.

On October 23, 1957, one of France’s foremost couturiers passed his haute torch to a young prince who would come to dominate the houses of Paris’ eighth arrondissement. The dying monarch was Christian Dior and the coming king was Yves Henri Donat Matthieu-Saint-Laurent. Dior’s father, a wealthy fertilizer manufacturer, hope his second son would become a diplomat, but uncooperative Christian loved art. During the years that father Maurice’s business flourished, Christian managed a gallery and exhibited works by the likes of Pablo Picasso. After the onset of the Great Depression and the loss of his subsidized gallery, Christian went to work for designers Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong. At the end of World War II and the French Occupation, Dior opened his own atelier in 1946. His first collection was presented in February, 1947.

Harper’s Bazaar then-editor-in-chief Carmel Snow captured the essence of Dior’s creations with the phrase, the “New Look.” With wartime fabric shortages becoming a thing of the past, Christian produced voluptuous styles, shapes, and silhouettes. Smoothly-fitted bodices, narrow waists, and flaring skirts gave society’s style-setters a most feminine and curvaceous appearance.

The house of Dior was highly successful through the 1950’s. Young, upcoming designers would join the atelier to learn and contribute their vision and skills. One such young man came to Paris in 1953 as the winner of the International Wool Secretariat designer contest. He stayed on in Paris to study at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and won the Secretariat competition again (beating out, among others, a young Karl Lagerfeld). On the strength of his sketches, and his shared sensibilities about fashion, Yves Saint Laurent was accepted into the Dior studio and began careful tutelage as a new apprentice.

Over time, more of Saint Laurent’s designs found their way into each season’s offerings at Dior. By August, 1957, Christian had decided that young Yves was the man to fill his slippers when the time came for a successor. He revealed his choice to Saint Laurent’s mother, who found the revelation confusing, since Dior was only 52 at the time.

Then, on October 23rd, Christian Dior passed away on holiday in Italy. Several conflicting reports as to the cause of his death have never been fully resolved. At 21 years old, Yves Saint Laurent took the reins at the grand house of Dior. His highly successful early collections were described as a softer version of Dior’s New Look, including the famous “trapeze dress.” Toward the end of the 1950s, Saint Laurent became interested in his world’s version of street style, the “beatnik” look. The press was not amused. After conscription and a brief stint in the French army, Saint Laurent came back in the 1960s and 1970s with his own atelier to become one of Paris’ powerhouse designers, with accomplishments and innovations almost too numerous to list. He was a bona fide member of the international jet set and a force to be reckoned with in haute couture for decades.

“Les Annees 50: La Mode in France” (The Fifties: Fashion in France, 1947-1957) opened last July 12th at the Palais Galliera in Paris. The multitude of pieces on display – basques, petticoats, corolla skirts, pointed shoes, bright floral prints, wasp-waisted or straight suits, strapless sheath dresses, cocktail, dresses, crystal embroidery, feathered hats with veils – “retraces the evolution of the female form through the decade 1947-1957: from the birth of the New Look to the death of Christian Dior and the advent of Yves Saint Laurent.” French fashion dominated the fifties closet-scape not only because of Dior and Saint Laurent, but also due to the contributions (included in Les Annes 50) of Jacques Heim, Chanel, Shiaparelli, Balenciaga, Jacques Fath, Pierre Balmain, Jacques Griffe, Hubert de Givenchy, and Pierre Cardin. Mary Hawthorne, writing for The New Yorker in their September 16th issue, contrasted the fashion on display with the clothing choices she observed among the exhibit-goers and the hijab-wearing demonstrators on the streets. If you are a fashion-loving fifties fan, plan to attend Les Annees 50 soon. The exhibit closes November 2nd.