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Archive for January, 2018

Chip shots

With the Chiefs down and out once again, this seems like a good day to forgo the long ball and go with some flair passes and quick hits up the middle. Here goes…

Mike McGraw

The death Saturday of this longtime, legendary Kansas City Star reporter is a loss not only to local journalism but to the entire metro area. Besides winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for an expose on the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he relentlessly bored into the questionable convictions and harsh sentencing of the five people suspected in the 1998 explosion that killed six Kansas City firefighters. As a direct result of his work, the youngest of the five people convicted was released from prison last year. That defendant, Bryan Sheppard, paid McGraw the ultimate compliment when he said, “He had fought for so long to go after the truth.” 

Mike McGraw

One story of McGraw’s that got a bit overlooked was essentially solving one of Kansas City’s most enduring and maddening murder mysteries — the July 1970 shooting of black political leader Leon M. Jordan outside his Green Duck  tavern. In a 2010 story, McGraw and another Star reporter placed ultimate responsibility for the murder on a mob-connected, liquor store owner named “Shotgun Joe” Centimano. The reporters concluded that Shotgun Joe hired some African-American men — never identified — to take out Jordan and make the crime look like something other than a mob killing. The apparent motive was to try to reduce the ascendant power of the black political organization Freedom Inc., which Jordan co-founded.

McGraw, who was 69, died of cancer. He had a hell of a career and, moreover, a relaxed manner and gentle smile that projected authenticity and warmth and put sources at ease.

Scott Tucker

From standout human being, McGraw, we turn to a true turd, Tucker. (Like Chiefs’ games, journalistic transitions aren’t always seamless.)

Co-king of the payday lenders along with brother Joel Tucker, Scott Tucker was sentenced Friday to 16 years and eight months by a U.S. District judge in New York.

Scott Tucker

To me, this amounts to a hard slap on the wrist. The government was asking for 20 years; the defense was asking for 15; and the judge came down in between but leaning toward the defendant.

I don’t understand that. Here’s a guy who exploited an estimated 4.5 million people through “deceptive loan terms and illegal interest rates” and who already had a conviction for bank fraud in 1992.

Moreover, he didn’t exhibit an iota of regret for his crimes, describing himself in a letter to the judge as “an entrepreneur, a jobs provider, and a contributor to the American economy.”

At least he didn’t get out on bond, like most rich criminals do; he was taken into custody right after the sentencing…Tucker, who lived in Leawood, is 55 years old. I hope when he comes out, it’s toes up.

 

Anthony Piercy

Sorry to bring you back-to-back turds, but we might as well deal with them together.

This totally discredited former Missouri state trooper who watched Brandon Ellingson drown after bouncing the handcuffed young man from his speeding patrol boat on May 31, 2014, is now suing to try to get his job back. He was fired in December by Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Sandra Karsten and now alleges that Karsten exceeded her authority in firing him last month.

It’s going to be a sorry situation if a judge concludes the head of the highway patrol can’t fire a totally unfit trooper.

Anthony Piercy

I mean, take a look at this guy…He’s not only temperamentally unfit for the Highway Patrol, he’s not physically fit. I suggest that he move on to professional wrestling, where everything is fixed and all punches are pulled.

 

Newspaper advertising campaign

I have said for years The Star should embark on a marketing campaign to remind people of its importance in the life of the metro area and to try to re-establish its public profile. For a variety of factors, its relevance has slipped significantly the last 10 to 15 years, and circulation figures indicate it’s going to take some dramatic steps to turn the tide — and even that might not work.

The New York Times and The Washington Post, by contrast, have been experiencing tremendous expansion of their influence and readership by being consistent and 0strong voices in the face of chaos in Congress and the White House.

At this point, they could just sit back and count their new subscribers and watch the money roll in. But one of those papers, The Times, is taking the opportunity to launch a new marketing campaign, emphasizing the importance of speaking truth to power.

The campaign got underway on two full pages of the Times’ print edition today. Here’s what those pages look like…

 

Happily, this campaign is taking to the airwaves, too, starting with an ad on tonight’s Golden Globe Awards show.

…I have a feeling 2018 is going to be a huge year for The Times and The Post, and I think we should all be grateful these two papers are doing what they’re doing. If not for them, those who now hold sway in Washington could well demolish everything in their path, and our nation could be reduced to the likes of Turkey, Iran or Russia.

May the press — and presses — continue to roll!

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One witness estimated Terry A. Gray was going 80 miles an hour when he careened down the 23rd Street ramp off northbound I-435 last Sept. 17 and triggered a chain-reaction crash that left two people dead and another with a serious brain injury.

Sometimes, as we know, witnesses tend to overestimate the speed of cars passing them and being driven recklessly. Not in this case. Crash investigators determined Gray was actually going 90 miles an hour when his black, 2015 Dodge Ram pickup slammed into an SUV, which, in turn, hit two other vehicles and sent them flying.

When the metal settled, 3-year-old Ryan Hampel and 16-year-old Samantha Raudales were dead, and Samantha’s father, Edwin Raudales-Flores had suffered a serious brain injury. (In early reports, the father’s name was listed as Geovanny Raudales.)

Earlier today, I’m happy to report, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office charged Gray, a 51-year-old Independence man, with several felony counts — enough to put him behind bars for life, provided he is sentenced to consecutive rather than concurrent terms.

Gray faces two counts of DWI, resulting in death or, “in the alternative,” two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of DWI resulting in serious physical injury or, “in the alternative,” two counts of assault.

(The “in the alternative” language is just as confusing to me as it must be to you. Suffice it to say there are plenty of charges and evidence to put this asshole away for a long, long time. The prosecutor’s office lists 25 prospective witnesses.)

Terry A. Gray’s Dodge Ram pickup, after he dished out carnage on the 23rd Street ramp

Unfortunately, I don’t think Gray is off the streets as of this writing. A records clerk at the Jackson County Detention Center told me tonight Gray was not in the jail. The prosecutor’s office is requesting that a judge set Gray’s bond at $75,000 after he is booked.

(I regret, also, that because Gray apparently has not been arrested, I don’t have a booking photo to show you.)

**

The question I’ve been grappling with since I first learned about this crash is: Why in the world was Terry Gray going 90 in a 40 mph zone?

In today’s charging documents, the prosecutor’s office shed gave some insight into that…Gray was high on marijuana, and he was mad —- mad because traffic leaving a Chiefs game had slowed him down on northbound I-435.

“He stated he was upset at all of the traffic and probably should have gone the other way,” a police probable cause statement says.

One witness described the black truck as it proceeded northbound on I-435.

“He (the witness) observed a black truck in front of him swerving shoulder to shoulder. The swerving was abrupt as if he was jerking the wheel. He (the witness) decided not to pass the truck due to its driving and stayed behind it. Other traffic stayed behind it as well and the truck suddenly took the 23rd St. exit. He did not see the crash.”

Another witness picks it up from there:

“As she (the witness) took the exit, the truck drove around her on the driver’s side shoulder at what she believed to be 80 mph. The truck continued down the exit to the stoplight. She observed the stoplight to be red and the truck kept driving at the same speed. She never saw any brake lights on the truck and the truck ran into the back of a car that was sitting at the red light. The truck kept driving across the entire intersection until hitting the rock wall on the other side.”

Just reading about it takes my breath away…What we have here is a 51-year-old man (51!) hurtling along, high and pissed off, without a lick of concern for anyone’s well-being, including his own.

…Not even after the crash, when people were injured and dying. One witness told police:

“He did not seem to have any regard about anyone else involved in the crash and had no remorse. He was kicking things around and throwing things into the back of his truck.”

**

Regular readers know I’ve been following this case since it occurred. Because it was complicated — with a lot of elements, witnesses and forensics — Gray has been walking around a free man the last three and a half months.

Today, finally, is a gratifying day for three groups of people: the families of the victims who died, those who were injured and survived and the public at large.

Let’s just hope this pathetic excuse for a human being is apprehended before he gets behind the wheel of another vehicle and harms anyone else.

My heart goes out to the Raudales and Hampel families. A couple of months ago, a daughter of Raudales-Flores told me in a Facebook message her father was making good progress but doctors didn’t know if he would make a full recovery. Subsequent attempts to contact the daughter were unsuccessful. I wish Mr. Raudales-Flores the best.

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John F. Kennedy was an inspiring and widely loved president, but he did a terrible and lasting disservice to public health and welfare when he was inaugurated.

It was cold on Jan. 20, 1961, and Kennedy had announced beforehand he was going to wear a top hat, returning to a long tradition that his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had broken.

But by the time the inaugural address rolled around, the hat was gone. So was the topcoat he had worn in the inaugural parade. When he stepped up to the microphone, with the temperature at 22 degrees, his only real protection from the elements was a “morning coat.”

Ever since then, men have, in the main, eschewed hats, exposing their heads to frigid conditions and increasing their chances of coming down with colds, or worse.

Women, on the other hand, seem to demonstrate better judgment when it comes to head protection (and just about everything else, for that matter). They understand not only the utilitarian advantages of hats but their power to rivet people’s attention…If you need an example, just go to a Kentucky Derby (left) and see firsthand.

**

I’ve been thinking about hats a lot lately, with our own single-digit temperatures here in the Midwest. As many of you know, I’m seldom without one, regardless of the season. I wear them for both warmth (in the winter) and as a fashion statement (regardless of temperature). I tell you, watching people running around without hats in conditions like we’ve been experiencing just makes me shake my smooth, warm head.

For all the virility and stupidity Kennedy demonstrated on his inauguration day, you would think that public awareness of what befell President William Henry Harrison 120 years earlier would serve as an enduring lesson in the importance of the hat.

Although his inauguration was held in early March, it too was a bitterly cold day. Demonstrating his manliness — I suppose — he declined to wear a jacket or hat, made a two-hour speech and afterward developed pneumonia. He died 31 days later. In his case, the operative mathematical equation was: cold + no hat + long speech = death.

**

Another example of men feeling they had to appear macho in the face of freezing weather was the duo of Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper Sunday night on CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live show. With temperatures dipping to 9 degrees, Cohen and Cooper had on bulky coats and thick gloves but were bare headed. Cooper seemed almost incapacitated at times. I don’t know whether it was the cold or his personality or a combination of the two, but he looked stiff and frozen.

Smarter were those in the crowd, most of whom arrived hours before the annual ball drop. It seemed like a much higher proportion was wearing hats this year than in many previous years.

**

My father, the late Robert J. Fitzpatrick, was a hat wearer and hat collector. He had a hall tree full of hats — mostly for show — including a pith hat, an authentic sombrero and an Irish hat he wore the time he was grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Louisville.

But, like me, he wore hats mainly to keep the heat in. Here are photos of father and son, then, being practical and displaying the good looks of two Fitzpatrick generations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hats off — I mean on — to a great 2018!

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Having forsaken football because of the incidence of head injuries, I spent most of New Year’s Day listening to oldies and watching replays of Harsky & Stutch.

(Just kidding about the latter…Dean Martin once used that line on The Johnny Carson Show and I’ve never forgotten it.)

But I did listen to the oldies, which is a great way to spend time when you’ve got some on your hands.

As frequent readers know, I often gravitate to songs from the early ’60s — songs that helped get me survive the loneliest year of my life, which was my freshman year at all-boys St. Xavier High School in Louisville.

The 1960-’61 school year was especially rough partly because, along with a bunch of my friends, I made the big jump from my neighborhood parochial school, St. Agnes, to a big school downtown, which drew students from all over town. Some of those guys were cut from rougher cloth than those of us from the relatively prosperous “East End,” and some were pretty intimidating.

Besides the increased distance from my safe and comfortable neighborhood, another factor in my unease was the building itself. It was a dingy dump that didn’t even have a gym suitable for the St. X Tigers’ basketball games.

The only place to gather outside the school was under a low, corrugated-metal “smoking shed,” which angled upward on an unenclosed side and was supported by steel posts. Because the shed was the only covered space outside, many students, including me, took up smoking. (I gave it up my senior year, 1964, after the surgeon general issued his famous report warning of smoking’s health hazards.) In the winter, we would stand under the shed after lunch — shivering and smoking and wishing for the school day to soon be over.

Every day of that year seemed like an eternity. I wasn’t involved in extracurriculars — don’t know why, just wasn’t. Didn’t play sports. Tried out for the freshman basketball team but didn’t make it. And so it was day after day after day of getting on the bus, pushing through the school day, getting on the bus and coming home.

The weekends provided a brief respite, but the onerous prospect returning to school on Monday always hung over my head. There were some parties at people’s houses, and as I said in my last “oldies” post, I got my first kiss to Roy Orbison’s “Blue Angel,” which was released in 1960, so I did experience a limited level of romantic maturation during that freshman year…Overall, though, it was bleak; the opportunities to meet and spend time with girls was very limited. I just remember a lot of cold, gray days.

But the music…The music provided escape. The radio — specifically radio station WAKY — was my lifeline. The rock ‘n roll era was dawning, and the songs were phenomenal and plentiful. They lifted me out of the doldrums of school and carried me to the summer of 1961, when things started getting better. In the fall of 1961, a new, modern St. X school building opened and — wouldn’t you know it? — it was in my old familiar “East End,” about a 10-minute drive from home. The campus is still there and has doubled or tripled in size since that first year. With the opening of the new school, the cloud cover over my life began to lift somewhat.

Now let’s get to four of the songs that relieved the pain of that freshman year in high school.

**

“Poetry in Motion,” 1960, by Johnny Tillotson

The writers, Paul Kaufman and Mike Anthony, said their inspiration came from looking up from their work in the afternoons and seeing a procession of young ladies leaving a nearby school. In the recording, Boots Randolph (“Yakety Sax”) is on saxophone, and Floyd Cramer (“Last Date”) is on piano. “Poetry in Motion” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

My favorite part is the soaring, ethereal voice of the female back-up singer, who comes in about the middle of the song and again at the end.

“When I see my baby
What do I see
Poetry
Poetry in motion”

**

“You’re Sixteen,” 1960, by Johnny Burnette

This song was written by the Sherman Brothers — Robert and Richard — who, according to Wikipedia, wrote more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history. Their film scores include Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. “You’re Sixteen” topped out at No. 8 on the U.S. in December 1960.

“You come on like a dream, peaches and cream
Lips like strawberry wine
You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re mine”

**

“Finger Poppin’ Time,” 1960, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters

Ballard, born John Henry Kendricks, was a rhythm and blues singer and songwriter and one of the first rock ‘n roll artists to emerge in the early 1950s. One of his compositions was “The Twist,” which he put on the “B”side of a 1960 single and which, several months later, Chubby Checker took to No. 1.

Ballard and his group were a favorite of Paul Shaffer, longtime leader of The World’s Most Dangerous Band, on Late Night with David Letterman.

“Hey now, hey now, hey now, hey now
It’s finger pop poppin’ time
Finger poppin’ poppin’ time
I feel so good
Whoa, and that’s a real good sign”

**

“Moonlight Cocktails,” 1960, The Rivieras

 

Relative to the preceding three, this one is obscure. But as far as a droopy-drawers, hold-your-baby-close song, it is hard to beat.

According to Wikipedia, the song was originally written as a ragtime piece in 1912 by a man named Charles “Lucky” Roberts. Originally called “Ripples of the Nile,” Roberts wrote it as a fast song, but musicians found it very difficult to play in up-tempo fashion, and it was later re-scored as a slow song with its new name.

The lyrics were written by a New York attorney named James Kimball Gannon, who became a full-time songwriter when he was about 40. Interestingly, Gannon’s most famous lyrics are for the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943.

“Moonlight Cocktails” was first recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1941. It was a huge hit, topping the charts for 10 weeks.

As dreamy and transporting as it is, The Rivieras’ version failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100.

Hope you enjoy it…

“As to the number of kisses, it’s up to you
Moonlight cocktails need a few”

 

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