Saving Anne Frank

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For two years, Anne Frank’s family hid in secret rooms in Amsterdam, knowing that a curtain left open by mistake, a wayward noise or a nervous conspirator’s phone call to the Nazis could land them all in concentration camps. Of the eight Jews hiding, seven died before the Holocaust was over, including Anne, whose diary was a testament to the horrors of the Nazi regime. She died of typhus at age 15 at Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany.

By Tony Castro

 

AS A THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD schoolboy I grew up wanting to save Anne Frank.

Allow me to clarify that.

As a young man, the son of a World War II army veteran, I grew up wanting to save Anne Frank.

I’m still not clear, I fear.

As the son of a World War II decorated veteran who told me stories of the horror he saw at Nazi concentration camps, I grew up wishing there was some way I could go back in time and save the six million Jews killed in the Hitler holocaust. And when I read Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 2.45.03 PMThe Diary of A Young Girl.  I wasn’t sure if I’d fallen in love with young Anne and wished I could save this damsel in distress or whether I simply wanted to save mankind.

I must confess that about that time I had also seen Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet and had fallen even deeper into a trance of fascination with Anne Frank, whom I saw personified in this beautiful young actress.

Anne Frank. Elizabeth Taylor. What can I say? I was a child of the 1950s. I knew no no young Jews in my hometown. I knew of Jews only through my religion, Catholicism, and its claim at the time that Jews had killed Jesus Christ, which I knew in my heart wasn’t true. Each Sunday at my church, with those enormous murals of the Stations of the Cross adorning its walls, I would see Roman soldiers leading Christ to his death and crucifying him. I didn’t see Jews hammering nails into his hands and feet.

So the only other Jews I knew about were those killed in the Holocaust from the stories I heard my father tell. They were more like confessions, as if he were trying to exorcise those scenes from his mind, to rid himself of the worst horrors he had seen in the war.

And, of course, I knew Anne Frank. I knew of Anne Frank. I was among the many millions touched by her story, her fears, her aloneness, her hopes.

She haunted me, her story and her photograph. She looked unlike any young woman I knew at that time. Of course, as I said, there were no Jews in my hometown, though that’s not correct I now realize. There were no Jewish people  who lived in my side of my home town, Waco, Texas. And, to be honest, for the longest time, I had no idea that my side was the wrong side of town, the poorer, working side of Waco where I felt out of place, as if I didn’t belong there or any other place. Like the Jews the Nazis had killed in Europe.

“Are we sure we’re not Jewish?” I asked my family at the dinner table one night.

“No, we are Roman Catholics,” my mother quickly answered me.

“But that bothers me,” I said. “Wasn’t it the Romans who crucified Jesus?”

“No, the Jews killed Jesus,” mom said.

“Who said so?”

“The church said so,” she said.

“No, they’re wrong.”

“The Bible says they did.” Mom was insistent.

“No, the Bible doesn’t say that,” I said. “It says that the Jews turned Jesus over to the Romans and left it up to the Romans to decide.”

“You shouldn’t be reading the Bible by yourself,” mom said. “Father Dols says you should only read the Bible with the guidance of a priest.”

“Why? What’s to understand that I would need a priest to explain?” I said. “Quod scripsi scripsi, Pilate said. What I have written I have written. Jesus was the King of the Jews, Pilate wrote, and Pilate’s Roman soldiers crucified Jesus.”

Mom looked at my father.

“Eat your dinner before it gets cold,” he said.

I looked at my little sister who appeared to be in another world.

“What are you day-dreaming about?” I asked her.

“I’m thinking about how I really love fillet mignon,” she said.

She was crazy, of course.

“This isn’t filet mignon we’re eating,” I said. “It’s spaghetti.”

“I’m imagining it’s filet mignon,” she said.

This was my family. Full of denial. My mom didn’t believe that it was the Romans who had crucified Jesus Christ. My sister wanted her pasta to be steak. And my father would have nothing to say if it weren’t about the Dallas Cowboys.

And I was in love with Anne Frank, a girl my age, once, whom I felt I knew better than anyone else in the world. For what was it she had written?

“Writing in a diary,” she had said, “is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.”

One day all the world would wish it had saved Anne Frank.

 

Tony Castro is the author of  Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and A Final Rite of Passage.

 

The Baseball Presidency: The Making of George W. Bush

This story was originally published in Inside Houston magazine in 2001.

George W. Bush may have symbolized the perennial Baseball Presidency.

George W. Bush’s life and White House years may have best symbolized the perennial Baseball Presidency that has long existed in America.

GEORGE W. BUSH REMEMBERS THE most memorable experience of his freshman year at Yale being the April day in 1965 that he left the campus and boarded a flight for Houston. When his mother Barbara picked him up at Hobby Airport, she could barely contain her own excitement. She was treating her son to the first game to be played at the Astrodome, the world’s first domed stadium billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by the Astros’ original owner, Judge Roy Hofheinz.

“I’ve got the best seats in the house for us,” she told her son. Fittingly, some would say for the Bushes, a family with its roots in Connecticut, the Astros were playing the Yankees. The New York Yankees were the most storied team in baseball, and their aging superstar Mickey Mantle was one of George’s favorite players.

“Great, mom,” said Bush, who was then eighteen. “I can’t wait.”

“They’re called skyboxes.”

Today, Bush shakes his head when he recalls that day and arriving at one of the Astrodome’s 53 luxurious skybox suites. “We got up in the skybox,” he says. “It was the very top of the Astrodome. The players looked like ants. I said, ‘Mom, these may be wonderful seats, but where are the players?’”

It may be that the source of some of President George W. Bush’s greatest political strengths ­ — the unpretentiousness and mellow good nature that warm up voters and are serving him well in Washington –­ goes back to his childhood and to his unquenched and impassioned love of baseball, a game never so rhapsodized in the nation’s capital as it has been since Bush became the country’s 43rd president.

President George W. Bush throws out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game.

President George W. Bush throws out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game.

“Baseball,” Bush said in an interview during the 2000 presidential campaign, “has been a part of my life since before I can remember. It is a pursuit for optimists. To come to the park every day, you have to believe you can win.”

Perhaps it is the optimism built on baseball that, in part, explains how Bush became president, surprising critics who said he wasn’t smart enough, defeating a Democratic candidate who had been bred for the presidency, confounding journalists who almost universally opposed him in the sanctity of their own private voting booths. How else is this second Bush presidency to be explained? Had it been not a case of enough Clinton helping Democrat Al Gore’s presidential campaign or of too much Clinton personal hijinks in the public consciousness? How had Bush done what few thought he could do? And if this marks the end of what the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once called the “imperial presidency,” as Washington pundits are saying, what will the Bush years be called?

Call it perhaps the Baseball Presidency. What Bush himself might say is that it just goes to show how far the America of soccer moms and hip-hop sports culture mentality has strayed from its traditional national pastime. The America that Bush grew up in ­ and the America that brought major league baseball to Houston and built the Astrodome ­ remains an America with an undying game that has been slowly reclaiming its place as a cultural expression of the national character. As cultural historian Jacques Barzun once observed about the country and baseball: “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”

Perhaps part of understanding Bush is understanding baseball — that the game has the image of stability and conservatism, that it is individualistic but still emphasizes teamwork, that it is anti-intellectual but cannot be won through sheer brute force or strength or emotion but through cleverness, thought, guile, and technical mastery of small details. “Baseball is, to be sure,” as American Studies expert Gerald Early has put it, “an American cultural Declaration of Independence… There is something about baseball’s checks and balances that mirrors those checks and balances of the Constitution.”

And baseball, in the famous words of Saturday Night Live’s mythical baseball great Chico Escuela, has been vetty, vetty good to George W. Bush. It has been, other than his family, the most important aspect of his life. Baseball made him a success after a series of business failures. Baseball made him rich, and baseball launched his political career. Baseball was his vehicle both for embracing a family tradition and for leaving his father’s shadow. Baseball also gave Bush a powerful, if intangible, asset: It made him what he always claimed to be: a “regular guy,” not a president’s son from Andover, Yale and Harvard, but a guy who spit sunflower shells in his box seat while hobnobbing with the on-deck batter.

Indeed, if ever a new American president itched impatiently for baseball’s traditional opening day with its red, white and blue stadium bunting and the innocent expectation of the long season ahead, the day when, as chief executive, he might stroll out to the mound at the heart of a lush, manicured diamond and from there throw out the first pitch of the season — that president is George W. Bush, who when he was the owner and managing partner of the Texas Rangers attended nearly every home game in the old Arlington Stadium, sitting in his front row seat in Section 109, Row 1, behind the Rangers’ dugout, with his cowboy boots perched on the railing, passing out autographed baseball cards of himself to fans.

“I want the folks to see me,” Bush said of his non-skybox persona, “sitting in the same kind of seat they sit in, eating the same popcorn, peeing in the same urinal.”

When he attended the opening day game at the Astrodome’s successor — the new retractable-roof stadium Enron Field

George W. Bush's autographed baseball collection, which once adorned the Oval Office, is now housed at the Bush Presidential Library.

George W. Bush’s collection of baseballs autographed by some of the game’s all-time greats, which once adorned the Oval Office in the White House, is now on display at the Bush Presidential Library.

with a full-size, detailed vintage locomotive that runs on 800 feet of railroad track beyond the left field wall ­ Bush had moved up from the skybox set. Last April 7, two days shy of 35 years since attending the opening of the Astrodome, Bush and his father, former President George Bush, were guests of Enron chairman and chief executive officer Kenneth Lay. It was a union made of money, politics and baseball. Enron, the largest supplier of electricity and natural gas in the United States, was the single largest contributor — more than $555,000 through its employees — to Bush’s political dream. Lay had personally given over $100,000 to Bush’s political campaigns, more than any other individual. He was also one of the “Pioneers” — a Bush supporter who had collected at least $100,000 in direct contributions of $1,000 or less.

Critics have long claimed that Lay and Enron have had Bush and his father in their hip-pocket, pointing to favorable treatment the company has received in deregulation legislation in Texas while Bush was governor and in what may be ahead for Enron’s interests in world markets. For baseball purists, more interesting than the charges of political favoritism may be the metaphor Bush used in dismissing the allegations on the day of the Astros’ 2000 season home opener. “The governor,” said Bush spokesman Scott McClellan, “is an avid baseball fan who has attended games his entire life. And we’re not going to swing at a political wild pitch that’s low and in the dirt.”

In a sense, Bush’s life has been one long baseball metaphor, his personal field of dreams, his connection to a happy childhood when he collected bubble gum baseball cards, played Little League baseball and, like other youngsters of his time, wanted to be Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. Baseball had also been bred into him. His grandfather, Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush, had played baseball at Yale. His father had been the star Yale first baseman who met Babe Ruth, and George W. attended his first baseball games as a baby when his father played for the Yale team.

As young Bush was growing up in Midland, Tex., his father helped coach his son’s Little League team. “It was the one sport my dad shared with us as kids,” says Marvin Bush, who is 10 years younger than George W.In Midland, young Bush spent long hours playing baseball in a field behind his house and became a catcher on his Little League team, the Cubs. Barbara Bush was the only Little League mother who could keep score at games, and she remembers her son as “the most enthusiastic player” who made the all-star team as a catcher. George Bush, in a letter at that time to his father-in-law, described “Georgie” as “so eager. He tries so very hard.”

“He had trouble,” says Fay Vincent, the former baseball commissioner and a friend of the Bush family who spent a summer in Midland in the 1950s. “I used to tease him about it. I remember him striking out a lot.”

“Well, he was a good catcher,” says his Little League coach, Frank Ittner. “But he was like his daddy. He couldn’t hit.”

George W. Bush played Little League Baseball in Midland, Tex.

George W. Bush played Little League Baseball in the 1950s in Midland, Tex., where his family knew future Commissioner Fay Vincent.

Young Bush didn’t have to hit. His future, financially at least, was secure. Though he might not have known it, he was a stockholder in father’s booming oil company. “Little George,” says Ittner, “had a million shares of letter stock, so he probably was one of the richest Little League players in Midland.”

More importantly, during this period, Bush gained an intangible quality from his family’s competitive nature and from having to overcome his limited physical talent to acquit himself as a Little Leaguer.

“The blind drive to win is a hallmark of the Bush family clan,” says Gail Sheehy, who wrote the controversial profile on Bush for the October 2000 Vanity Fair, claiming he suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia. “One thing that G.W.’s childhood friends told me repeatedly was that he has to win, he absolutely has to win and if he thinks he’s going to lose, he will change the rules or extend the play. Or if it really is bad he’ll take his bat and ball and go home. So I had very little doubt that he would win this election in the end, no matter how long he had to play it out.”

Like countless other youngsters of his time, Bush also collected Topps and Bowman baseball trading cards that came wrapped with a piece of bubble gum in the pre-collectibles rage era. Bush, however, went one step better. He sent cards with self-addressed, stamped envelopes to big league players, asking for their autographs. Most of them obliged and returned the cards. A decade later, he gave the cards in a leather-bound collection to younger brother Marvin. Later Bush tried to get them back only to be told by Marvin that they had been lost, “just to get him off my back.” When informed by a reporter that Marvin admitted still having the collection, Bush’s face lit up. “This is a breakthrough story! I finally found my Willie McCovey autograph!”

Bush’s great-uncle, Herbert Walker, was then one of the original owners of the New York Mets, so George W. and his brothers attended the team’s first spring training. Uncle Herbie even named his dogs Metsie and Yogi, after manager Yogi Berra, the former New York Yankee catcher and another of Bush’s favorite players. “George always wanted to buy a baseball team,” recalls First Lady Laura Bush, “to be an owner like his Uncle Herbie.”

Bush himself, however, was not destined to be even the ballplayer his father had been. At Andover, he still organized an intramural stickball league. At Yale, he was a pitcher his freshman year but didn’t stick with the team. After college, Laura Bush recalls that Bush coached a Midland Little League team through “quite the poor season.”

After completing a Harvard MBA, Bush, like his father before him, went into the oil business. Oil had made his father rich, but young Bush struggled. His oil company failed, and he had to be bailed out by relatives and powerful friends of the family. It was in the oil business, however, that Bush made the connection that would ultimately change his fortunes. In 1984, Bush merged his small company with the oil exploration operation of family friend William O. DeWitt Jr., whose father had owned the St. Louis Browns baseball team and later the Cincinnati Reds — and who later alerted Bush that the Texas Rangers were for sale.

Former President George W. Bush talks baseball with new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Former President George W. Bush talks baseball with new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.

In 1989, as part of a consortium of investors, Bush became an owner of the Texas Rangers with whom he became the highly visible managing partner. Ultimately, however, what would transform the fortunes for the Rangers franchise was the $190 million Ballpark in Arlington, which replaced the team’s outdated minor league park in the same city. Bush became one of the leading campaigners on behalf of a local sales tax election that paid for two-thirds of the facility.

After he was elected Texas governor, Bush withdrew from the day-to-day operations of the Rangers and put his interest in a trust. With a presidential bid looming, the partners eventually decided to sell the team to Dallas businessman Thomas O. Hicks in 1998 for $250 million. Bush’s $606,000 investment turned into $14.9 million, mostly because of the new ballpark and because, through his original contract with his partners, Bush’s stake in the team went from 1.8 to 11.8 percent.

“He’s probably retroactively gotten a lot more credit for running the Rangers than he really did,” says Houston Chronicle sports columnist Mickey Herskowitz, who collaborated with Bush on his campaign biography but was later dumped and replaced by campaign communications director, Karen Hughes. “Bush was the front man, the PR man, the hand-shaker.”

During his years with the Rangers, Bush became particularly close to Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, whom he had met on the campaign trail for his father in 1980. Bush helped to convince the aging pitcher to stay five years, rather than the single season Ryan had planned — in part because Ryan liked what he saw. “He promoted the ball club as much as anybody I’d seen,” says Ryan, whom Bush later appointed to a state wildlife commission.

“I enjoyed being a Ranger and getting to know (President) Bush and his family, finding out about his dad and what kind of baseball fans they were. I really respected the fact that he always sat in the front row at the ballpark, whether we were doing well or not doing well. Sitting with the fans, he didn’t hide, he always signed autographs and talked about the team.

“I think the fans realized he was a baseball fan and was committed to doing everything he could to make the Rangers a top-notch organization.”

Bush took something else away from the Rangers besides friendships and a small fortune. In his years with the Rangers, he also developed a management style that served him well while he was governor ­ and which has helped him in the first few months of his administration.

“I’m not so sure you can segue from baseball to a presidency,” Bush says of his management style, “but there are some lessons about management, about developing a strategy. Baseball is a marketing business. It’s a business of being able to relate to fans and convince fans to come out. This is a business about adding value.

“I do build teams. That’s what a president does. He builds an administration of people heading in the same direction with the same goal.”

Yankee legend Derek Jeter gets a congratulatory pat during his finale game in Texas from President George W. Bush.

New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter gets a congratulatory pat during ceremonies before  his farewell game in Texas from President George W. Bush.

In his young presidency, Bush has had one evening that aides say has stood out from all the rest. On the first Wednesday of February, not even the mid-day drama surrounding the capture of a gunman outside the South Lawn of the White House could sidetrack the president’s evening plans. George F. Will, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and intellectual laureate of conservatives, had arranged a relaxing evening for the new president with some people he regards as being among the most gifted individuals in America.

When John F. Kennedy was president, he hosted a dinner at the White House to honor Nobel Prize winners and welcomed the guests by saying, “This much genius has not been in the White House except possibly when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

On this evening, President Bush would not be equal to that kind of wit, but then again Thomas Jefferson never won a Cy Young Award, managed four World Series champions, been named the American League’s Most Valuable Player, or broken Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man record.

That evening, Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, Chicago Cubs skipper Don Baylor, and Baltimore Orioles’ future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, their wives and Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane were all getting their spring training sendoff. They dined with the president on veal chops and salad in the old family dining room, then had ice cream and cookies shaped like French fries and hot dogs for dessert.

“He was so gracious,” said Glavine. “He said, ‘If you don’t mind, I’d like to show you around.’ We were looking at each other like: ‘Are you kidding me?’”

The guests got the presidential tour, although it was not the extensive one Bush wished he could have given them. For the first time in his nineteen days in office, Bush was struck with a tinge of regret that he had not yet brought to the White House the more than 250 autographed baseballs, collected since his childhood, that had adorned his gubernatorial office in Texas. The balls were signed by Joe DiMaggio, Mantle, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and other legends of the game.

Bush had also left behind several baseball bats, including one from his beloved Texas Rangers with his name engraved and another from home run record-breaker Mark McGwire, wishing him luck in his presidential campaign. Bush, however, added to that collection that night, getting autographed baseballs from his guests and even putting his presidential signature on baseballs that some of the players brought with them.

“I never dreamed about being president,” Bush told his guests, rephrasing a line he has used often in talking about himself. “When I was growing up, I wanted to be Willie Mays.”

 

Tony Castro, a former Sports Illustrated staff writer who covered George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, is the author of the forthcoming biography, Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son (Brassey’s, Inc.).

Copyright, Tony Castro

Gehrig & The Babe

Gehrig and The Babe GALLEY COVER loRes

A Conversation With Tony Castro on Hemingway

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Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and A Final Rite of Passage by Tony Castro is now available at Amazon.com.

 

What brought you to this subject and then what compelled you to write an entire book on it?

 I think my lifelong fascination with Ernest Hemingway had its genesis in my youth when an English teacher who had taken a special interest in my insatiable appetite for reading introduced me to The Old Man and The Sea. I quickly found myself devouring that book and in rapid succession every Hemingway short story and novel that I could find – and eventually earned me the reputation of having read every book in my hometown public library in Waco, Texas.

The obsession with Hemingway eventually led to an unauthorized visit to Cuba in the 1960s along with a group of Chicano movement activists and members of the Students for a Democratic Society. The revolutionary romance of Fidel Castro’s Cuba had made it a popular destination for the New Left, but I was hardly the political sort. I was an undergraduate at Baylor University, a conservative Baptist college in the heart of the South’s Bible Belt, and through a Latin American studies professor at the University of Texas made the connection of a lifetime. He had known Fidel Castro in Mexico in the 1950s, and he arranged for me a special tour of La Finca Vigía, the Hemingway home in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba.

So I guess I was a romantic with a destiny of which I wasn’t even aware. A few years after college, I moved into a writer friend’s house in Houston, which had an unexpected connection to Hemingway. Was it simply an incredible coincidence that my friend’s previous housemate had been Teo Davis, the son of the wealthy American expatriates who had hosted Hemingway in his last two visits to Spain before his suicide?

A couple of years later, while on a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, I shared this story with the two professors with whom I was studying literature – the Mexican writer and future Nobel laureate Octavio Paz and Homeric scholar Robert Fitzgerald. Both urged me to also spend time during my fellowship studying the newly opened collection of Hemingway papers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Both Paz and Fitzgerald joined me the first time I visited the collection. Fitzgerald bailed on us afterward, but Paz and I closed down the Faculty Club at Harvard that night toasting Hemingway with shots of tequila.

Then in the 1980s, in yet one more twist of coincidence, I finally met Teo Davis in Los Angeles where we began a friendship that has spanned over three decades. It was Teo who introduced me to Mike Hamilburg, a literary agent who represented me until his illness and death. Mike had known Teo for several years, and he tried for well over twenty years to convince Teo to write a book about his experience as a child with Hemingway when he had stayed in Spain at the Davis villa La Consula in 1959. Mike said he didn’t think Teo had ever written a single word, and if he did, I never read a word of it either. Teo didn’t want to write that book or couldn’t. Finally, after years of trying to coax the story out of him, I gave up. It was then that Teo, somewhat relieved that I was going to stop pestering him about his story, said that I should write the story and that he would help as best he could. This book, though, isn’t the book Mike had envisioned Teo writing, nor is it the book I tried to get him to write. That book Teo took with him to the grave.

So what is this book about?

For me, there has always been in the story of Hemingway and Spain an allure so sharp and fresh that there was never any question of writing this book. There has been, from the start, the joy of rediscovering the world in which he walked and traveled, both in the 1920s and again in 1959. Here was a canvas as generous, colorful, and grand as any in Hemingway’s life. As the story pushed forth, there was at every turn the excitement of history never told, of connections hidden for decades, of old mysteries answered.

The story of Hemingway the icon was well known. The story of Hemingway the man and his friendship with Bill and Anne Davis at their magnificent home had been buried. Getting that story was slow work. After a good while, I felt I had become the crypt of Hemingwayolé en La Consula. As my patient wife Renee used to say (but seldom aloud – for which I thank her) about this project, great effort went in but nothing came out until now.

For me, too, as a child of the 1950s who read The Old Man and The Sea thinking I was the boy Manolin, I suppose I have been looking for Hemingway all my life, and perhaps it seems fitting that I think I have found him at an age when I now see myself in the old man Santiago. Looking for Hemingway about Hemingway at that age we all dread of being: Old, losing our train of thought, unable to do what once came so easily, too quick to show our frustration at our slowness but still holding on to the hope of one last glimmer of youth. And it is not an easy age to face, especially for publishers. More than a few just flat out said they didn’t think any readers, especially Hemingway fans, wanted to read about him as an old man, pathetic at times, feeble and paranoid.

Being a life-long Hemingway lover, I found that hard to believe, unless it’s just simply old age some of us don’t want to face, whether Hemingway’s or our own. For those who fear this life stage, I can only say that I found it inspiring in the research to learn that Pablo Picasso in his sixties was having affairs with gorgeous youthful women more than forty years younger – young enough to be his granddaughters. A dirty old man? Maybe not so dirty if you’re Picasso.

Today, the aging, dying Hemingway is one I have come to love and appreciate as much as the young romantic Hemingway, for in his mortality lie the same fears, regrets and self-recriminations that all of us face in our own way as we reach that stage in our lives.

 

A theme in the book is the Lost Generation. Explain why.

Hemingway made famous the Lost Generation of post-World War I in Europe —

American expatriates thought by many to have been drunkenly decadent, wildly self-indulgent, and irretrievably ruined. It was the cultural backdrop for his breakthrough novel The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926. And it’s a theme not that dissimilar from what emerged in the months of Hemingway’s 1959 visit to Spain. Ernest chased young women as unashamedly in 1959 as he had pursued the beautiful and recently divorced British socialite Lady Duff Twysden in 1925, being as insensitive to Mary as he had been his first wife Hadley back in the mid-1920s. And Hemingway in 1959 behaved almost as badly as he and his entourage did back in 1925. But there were other similarities. A writer who visited the Davis villa in Spain in 1959 said Bill and Annie Davis were “the Gerald Murphys of the fifties, transferred to the new high bohemian playground of the Gold Coast of Spain.” The Gerald Murphys were a wealthy American expatriate couple known for their own lavish soirees on the French Riviera where they entertained writers and artists of The Lost Generation in the 1920s. And this was the exact kind of setting surrounding Hemingway in Spain in 1959.

 

You did a lot of research. Tell us about it.

Of course, there were countless interviews with my friend Teo Davis, son of Bill and Anne. But there was a matter also tracking down memoirs, unpublished and published, letters, journals and books, particularly some in Spain. This period of Hemingway’s life was never written about in any depth by anyone but instead it was finding bits and pieces in various sources, mostly in Spain and Paris where the Davises had homes. I was also incredibly fortunate while I was a columnist at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner of being a desk mate to the late Jim Bacon, who was perhaps the most famous print journalist who ever covered Hollywood. He knew a number of people in Hollywood who had known Hemingway and the Davises, people like Lauren Bacall and Orson Welles. Even in the 1980s, I was playing around with the idea of a book about Hemingway in Spain, the Ms Bacall and Mr. Welles were gracious in providing me with their insights.

In addition to Hemingway, who was the most compelling figure in the book to you?

Without a doubt Bill Davis. It seems that almost everyone who knew him came away feeling that he remained a mysterious stranger to them, no matter how much time they spent with him. To many of them he was Rick Blaine, the Humphrey Bogart character from Casablanca. It took me a long while to understand that even his children Teo and his sister had deeply-seeded personal issues with their father that were never resolved. It is one of the tragedies in their lives that the children never felt as loved by their father, nor their mother, as Hemingway had been. As Teo sadly put it: “We weren’t Hemingway.”

 

Five Things You Didn’t Know About DiMaggio & Mantle

Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as rookies on the 1951 New York Yankees team.

Baseball legends Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as teammates on the 1951 New York Yankees World Series championship team.

From DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers (Lyons Press) available at Amazon.com.

1. Both Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle were golfers who enjoyed being on the links — so long as someone else was picking up the green fees, such as sponsors of celebrity tournaments who often sought them out, paid then well and stocked them with apparel and equipment, including expensive sets of golf clubs. DiMaggio’s garage in San Francisco was full of top name sets of clubs given to him but which he had never played with and sometimes gave to friends as birthday and Christmas presents.

2.While playing with the Yankees, both Joe and Mickey regularly ate at the Stage Delicatessen on 54th Street in Version 2Manhattan where they became good friends of owners Max and Hymie Asnas and their families. The Asnas brothers often made them special meals that were not on their menu. In Mick’s rookie season, they even housed Mantle and some teammates in an apartment above the deli.

3.Both Joe and Mickey were cheap when it came to spending money on the women they married. The four and one-half carat, emerald cut diamond engagement ring that Joe gave to his first wife Dorothy Arnold, the actress he married at San Francisco’s St. Peter and Paul Church on Nov. 19, 1939, was paid for by Newark crime boss Ruggiero “Richie the Boot” Bojardo. Merlyn Mantle’s wedding ring for her 1951 marriage to Mick was bought by Theodore Mantle, Mickey’s half-brother, who had used most of his army discharge pay to help pay for it.

4.Both Joe and Mickey had their names carried on by sons who led tragic lives. Joe DiMaggio Jr., died Aug. 6, 1999, at the age of 57,  apparently of natural causes — five months after his father’s own death. He was estranged from his father. When his father died, Joe Jr. was living in a trailer and working in a junkyard. Mickey Mantle Jr., struggled against the alcoholism that engulfed his father and other family members and died Dec. 20, 2000, at age 47, from complications of cancer.

5.Both DiMaggio and Mantle turn up in files of the FBI. According to one FBI document: “Our microphone surveillance covering Rhode Island hoodlum, Raymond Patriarca has revealed that Patriarca has unidentified connections in the Rhode Island State Police; that he is considering putting  Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio on the Board of Directors of Hancock Race Track, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, to lend ‘class’ to the race track.” In Mantle’s dossier, on document links Mickey to illegal prostitution and gambling operations and reports that” in the course of an interstate gambling investigation — which originated in Oklahoma, Mantle’s birthplace — the athlete’s Dallas phone number surfaced.” An FBI redaction mark hides what Mantle supposedly bet.

 

 

‘DiMag & Mick’ Redefines DiMaggio-Mantle Relationship

“There have been a number of wonderful books about Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle but none are as good as this one.  I thought I knew everything there was to know about these two Yankee legends.  Boy, was I wrong!  Tony Castro has given us a great piece of sports journalism. Many of the intimate details found in DiMag & Mick are simply jaw-dropping.”

                                      Peter Golenbock, author of Dynasty: The New York Yankees 1949-1964 


“In the genre of biography, it’s rare these days to read a brand new story.  It seems that every story worth telling has been told many times over.  However, with his latest work, Tony Castro gives us a compelling and completely new account of the friendship – as complicated as it is misunderstood – between two of the greatest heroes of the sports world, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.  This is not only an informative and vastly researched book, it’s also quite moving… and, I dare say, a lot of fun.  I enjoyed it immensely.” 

J. Randy Taraborrelli, New York Times best-selling author 


“For all their valor on the field, Joe and Mickey were complicated people off it.  Tony Castro breaks that down in this revealing book about two American legends and what made them tick.”

                                                           Marty Appelauthor of Pinstripe Empire

 


 

“Tony’s work illustrates the human side of the athlete. His diligence into the deeper life off the field shows that our heroes also have feelings and are more than just that homerun or double in the gap. It’s refreshing to gain the access into all aspects of their lives to see what really build these men into the immortals that they truly became.”

–Andrew Vilacky, Safe at Home Ballpark Collectibles, Cooperstown, NY

 


 

DiMAG & MICK is a fulfilling book that will satisfy any baseball fans need for a look inside the real lives of these legends. Being a friend of Mickey’s for over 25 years, Tony has done an amazing job capturing not just the ballplayer, but also the man.”

–Tom Catal, Mickey Mantle Museum, Cooperstown, NY

 


 

“For one thrilling summer and fall, two baseball giants — Joe DiMaggio, a flickering but still brilliant star at the end of a legendary career — and Mickey Mantle, an ascendant comet in his rookie season — played together for the New York Yankees, baseball’s most storied franchise. In DIMAG & MICK: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers, award-winning journalist Tony Castro takes the reader beyond the field and the locker room and into the lives, loves, and heartbreaks of two of America’s greatest sports stars and cultural icons, during a time when America seemed innocent and full of promise. DIMAG & MICK is a must-read for sports fans, for Yankees followers, for students of American history.”

— Ruben Castaneda, author of ‘S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in D.C.’


“Tony Castro resurrects ­­­­­­––warts and all­­––the Hall-of-Fame careers and personal lives of legendary Yankee greats Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle From Mantle’s baptism in New York’s glamorous and seductive nightlife to DiMaggio’s graceful feats on the field and publicly stoic departure from baseball, Castro has produced a remarkable work of journalism.”

— Dale Tafoya, author of ‘Bash Brothers: A Legacy Subpoenaed’

Napoleon & The Shroud

Napoleon and The Christ-2

‘An inspiring book about a primal force of history and faith.’

“Almost since the beginning of time, armies had marched into war bearing symbols of protection from higher powers. Plutarch wrote that in leading his troops Alexander the Great would shift “his lance into his left hand, and with his right appealed to the gods… praying (to) them, if he was really sprung from Zeus, to defend and strengthen the Greeks.” In Biblical times, the high priest Aaron served as a religious figure who traveled together with the military. In feudal Europe, armies carried papal flags to show that their campaigns had the blessing of the church. So, too, Napoleon in his first presiding military assignment to Italy had ignored orders from the French Revolution’s ruling Directory to dethrone Pope Pius VI and shutter the church. Instead Napoleon outfitted each of his regiments with imperial standards that had been blessed by the pope.”

From Napoleon and The Christ, due out in 2019 in the U.S. and France, commemorating the 250th anniversary of Napoleon Bonaparte’s birth.

 

DID NAPOLEON UNVEIL an astonishing truth concealed for centuries? When Napoleon came to power he had the Musée du Louvre, located on Paris’ Right Bank, renamed in his honor — and soon the Musée Napoleon was overflowing with the artistic spoils of war as Bonaparte’s Grand Army swept across the continent. Among the cultural artifacts that made their way to Paris were hundreds of paintings and sculptures, including every image Napoleon could find of Jesus Christ,as well as the sacred relics from the crucifixion. Why? Why this obsession from the conqueror who had fought endlessly with Pope Pius VII who ultimately excommunicated him? What did Napoleon know that had eluded everyone else for over seventeen centuries?

 

NAPOLEON & THE CHRIST

By TONY CASTRO

In Napoleon and The Christ, Napoleon Bonaparte is on a grail quest through the treasures of the Vatican, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame Cathedral — as well as in Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land — for a breathtaking historical secret, one that has proven through the centuries to be as elusive as it is enlightening. In a frantic race against time, Napoleon seeks out the unique religious relic of Jesus that he believes holds the key to his destiny.

Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t an emperor — he was a Christ in his own mind. He had all of France and much of Europe under his thumb, but what obsessed and drove him mad were the relics of the Passion of Jesus Christ: a piece of the cross, a nail from the crucifixion, the crown of thorns, and, most of all — the Shroud of Turin, the linen cloth bearing the image of a crucified man believed to be the historical Jesus of Nazareth.

Napoleon and The Christ — due out in 2019 — is the previously untold story of perhaps the two most remarkable giants of world history, one of the greatest military generals searching for answers in the mysterious burial shroud of Christendom’s prince of peace.

TONY CASTRO is a Harvard and Baylor University-educated historian, Napoleon Bonaparte scholar and author of several books, including the landmark civil rights history Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America, which Publishers Weekly acclaimed as “brilliant… a valuable contribution to the understanding of our time.”

He is also the author of critically recognized biographies of Ernest Hemingway and baseball legends Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, with a forthcoming dual biography of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig (Triumph Books) in April 2018.

He is currently working on a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte.

As a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, Tony studied under Homeric scholar and translator Robert Fitzgerald, Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz, and French history scholars Laurence Wylie and Stanley and Inge Hoffman.

 

The dust jacket photo for Napoleon and The Christ is from a painting at Versailles known as Bonaparte au Pont d’Arcole, 1796, by Antoine-Jean Gros, showing Napoleon leading his troops in storming the bridge.

Remembering Pal and Mentor Tommy West

Tommy West, a friend and inspiration — the reason I went into journalism, other than that I wanted to one day meet and interview Audrey Hepburn — was stationed while in the army at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and posted these observations about those times.

When it comes to reporters I have known, one stands above all others. To use those immortal words of Pulitzer Prize laureate Bernard Malamud from The Natural, journalist Tommy West was ‘The the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.”

 

IT HAS HAPPENED SO MANY TIMES,

AMERICA FINDS IT EASY TO BELIEVE

By Tommy West

FT. HUACHUCA, AZ (June 7, 1968) — We awoke here this morning to learn that last night, less than 600 miles away, Don Drysdale had pitched his sixth shutout in a row and  Senator Robert F. Kennedy had been shot twice in the head.

Because even Dodger fans owe their first loyalty to the country that made their sport great, there was little to smile about this morning in the chilly darkness of the barracks.

Texas Newsman Tommy West

Texas Newsman Tommy West while at Baylor University (Paul Currier Photo)

There was once a time, not so very long ago, when the news that a major political figure of this country had been shot would have come as a resounding shock.

THERE WAS a time when America would have had to sit down in the fury of the moment and struggle to pull herself together.

It was that way five years ago, on that autumn afternoon in downtown Dallas.

“No,” everyone said. “Things like that do not happen in this country. I do not believe it.”

Then came Sunday morning outside the Dallas police station, and it seemed the world stopped for a moment and held its breath to wait fearfully for what would come next.

Calm eventually returned, and America groped for and found her reason. And the world turned once again.

IF WE LEARNED anything from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it seemed we learned we were not immune to the terrible, swift act of deranged social misfits and that even at this time, we too, can settle great issues with a sudden murder.

And so we began to talk of cure, because we had not talked soon enough of prevention. We talked about the Secret Service, and police protection, and about maniacs in our society. And most of all we talked about the quick and easy gun.

While we talked, cities burned. Would-be assassination plots were uncovered and young men committed unexplainable mass murders from beauty shops and university towers. We read about it all in the newspapers, and we shook our heads grimly.

THEN SWIFTLY and without warning, another assassin killed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even as the nation quivered at the news, the talking began anew.

Now it has happened again. The airwaves crackled with the news this morning, and all over the nation giant newspaper presses rumbled about their gruesome business.

But somewhere along the way the shock has almost disappeared. In its void is an almost nauseating bewilderment, born of frustration and kindled by helplessness.

Your friend shakes you gently awake. “Bobby Kennedy has been shot,” he says.

THERE IS no disbelief, because if he had said instead that Washington was on fire and nuclear bombers were winging toward America, you know you probably would have believed it just as easily.

It is almost as if you went to sleep, and when you awoke, the quiet, unquestioned confidence you once had in the American scheme of things has gone.

What is there to do?

Talk? But everything has been said. Campaign for gun laws and a society more sensitive to street corner peddlers of salvation? That too has been done.

So you rise, slowly, put on your clothes, slip into your slot in the great society, the society of a country that seems somehow strangely different from the one you used to think about in the third grade.

And when darkness comes, you almost catch yourself wondering who will be next. Because with faith rapidly falling, you must resign yourself to the cold fact that apparently the lunatics and the guns in this country outnumber the great men.

 

Tommy West was a prominent Texas newspaper reporter and columnist who died in 1998 at the age of 55. West graduated from Baylor University — where he was editor of The Baylor Lariat — in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He was born in nearby Bosqueville and began his career at 16 as a copy boy for the Waco Tribune-HeraldOver the years he wrote for newspapers in Philadelphia, Ft. Worth, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Cincinnati, Houston, Stephenville, and San Antonio. West worked as a reporter, columnist and editor for the San Antonio Express-News from 1980-1996. He penned well-read columns for the Express-News such as “Trails West” and “South Texas Spirit.” He was known affectionately there by his colleagues as “the Colonel.”

Adios, Lucy Casado: The End of an Era in L.A.

Lucy Casado, right, with Renee LaSalle, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Tony Castro at a presidential campaign fund-raising event at Lucy's El Adobe in Hollywood. Photo by Ryan LaSalle-Castro

Los Angeles restaurateur Lucy Casado, right, at a presidential campaign fund-raising event at her El Adobe Cafe in Hollywood with friend Renee LaSalle, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and author Tony Castro  (Photo by Ryan LaSalle-Castro)

ON A PICTURE POSTCARD California evening, a group of Tibetan monks in cardinal robes and gold undershirts traipsed across Melrose Avenue in Hollywood from the direction of Paramount Studios and then walked into Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe. A diner in the famous Tex-Mex restaurant took notice but assumed what many others might have in Hollywood.

“Hey, Lucy,” the diner said to restaurateur Lucy Casado, who was nearby. “It looks like you’ve got some more extras from Paramount.”

Lucy rushed over and embraced each monk as if they had just won an Oscar. They were that convincing, possibly because they were real-life Tibetan monks — and friends of Casado and her  husband Frank, who had invited them to dinner to celebrate a new kinship that had developed over near tragedy and apparent fate.

Only weeks earlier, Lucy Casado had found herself frantically praying over the injured body of her oldest son, James, who had been badly hurt in a traffic accident — hurtled from his pickup near the top of Laurel Canyon as he drove home from the San Fernando Valley.

As she meditated before a makeshift altar covered with candles and religious icons in one of the bedrooms of her home, Casado had had a vision.

“I saw monks praying and chanting for my son,” she later recalled.

James recovered to full health, and the vision stayed with Casado, who soon sought out and befriended a group of monks who came to Los Angeles accompanying the Dalai Lama later that year.

That began a relationship between Casado and the Buddhist monks that spanned decades and  became a symbol of the role she came to play in the pop culture and political salon that often played out nightly for almost half a century at Lucy’s El Adobe.

Sadly, that era has ended. Lucy Casado, the Doña of Los Angeles, died Tuesday at Good Samaritan Hospital where she had been battling cancer. She was 91.

Jerry Brown during his first term as governor with restaurateur Lucy Casado, his beloved friend who died Tuesday.

Jerry Brown during his first term as governor with restaurateur Lucy Casado, his beloved friend who died Tuesday.

Born in El Paso, Tex., Casado and her husband opened their restaurant in the 1960s and in 1968 played host to Senator Robert F. Kennedy during the California Primary of his presidential campaign, just 24 hours before he was assassinated. She would go on develop a close friendship with future governor Jerry Brown in the 1970s when he was on the Los Angeles Community College District board of trustees and then California Secretary of State.

During his first two terms as governor, Brown could often be found at Lucy’s El Adobe. It became a California political-cultural footnote that the Casados played matchmakers in the famous Jerry Brown-Linda Ronstadt romance of the late 1970s — a much-ballyhooed relationship in the news media which some political experts at the time blamed in part for derailing Brown’s 1980 presidential campaign.

Brown regularly used the restaurant’s west room for his virtual Los Angeles office as well as his rendezvous with Ronstadt, who once cruised in on roller skates to give Brown a loving kiss while he met with two suits who looked on enviously.

“Magic happens at El Adobe,” Casado would say of her restaurant. “I don’t make it or control it. It just happens.”

“Lucy is an original,” Brown said in one interview. “She is Mrs. California.”

Now governor for a second time, Brown told reporters this week that he is “deeply saddened by the passing of Lucy Casado.”

Lucy Casado surrounded by Mayor Eric Garrett, actor Robert Patrick, former City Councilman Tom LaBonge and a few Buddhist monks at the dedication of Lucy El Adobe Plaza on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.

Lucy Casado surrounded by Mayor Eric Garrett, actor Robert Patrick, former City Councilman Tom LaBonge and a few Buddhist monks at the dedication of Lucy El Adobe Plaza on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.

“She was friends to the famous and to those who lived nearby and to politicians of both parties,” he said. “I spent many wonderful and memorable evenings at Lucy’s El Adobe.”

The restaurant also became a Hollywood destination for liberal Democratic politicians, while mining for political contributions in California. A wall in the restaurant is covered in photographs of some of the most prominent names in American politics and pop culture — from the late Hubert Humphrey to Ronald Reagan, from Dolly Parton to Drew Barrymore, from Cesar Chavez to Steven Spielberg.

“Eating at Lucy’s and getting her blessing,” wrote Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez.” is almost a rite of passage in L.A. politics.”

Over the years, Casado and her restaurant have also been credited for their role in nurturing and feeding promising young musicians, including Ronstadt, Glenn Frey and Don Henley of The Eagles, Jimmy Webb and Jackson Browne.

One of the musicians on Lucy’s Wall of Fame is jazz saxophonist Mindy Abair who hit No. 1 on the jazz charts with a track titled “Lucy’s.” The night the song topped the charts, Lucy was dining with her friend Tom Selleck, who, upon hearing the news walked over and surprised Abair with his personal congratulations.

Abair, like many others in the music and entertainment industry, suggests that there was something mystical about Lucy’s El Adobe, some nourishing nectar beyond the margaritas and arroz con pollo that always brought success to most who make regular pilgrimages there.

In remembering Casado, Eagles founding member Don Henley recalled her as a fellow Texan and a source of inspiration.

Lucy Casado with songwriter and longtime friend Jimmy Webb at the restaurant. (From Philip Bailey's Facebook page)

Lucy Casado with songwriter and longtime friend Jimmy Webb at the restaurant. (From Philip Bailey’s Facebook page)

“Lucy Casado was a mother figure to much of the L.A. singer-songwriter community,” he said in a statement. “Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she and her husband, Frank, along with their children, welcomed our rag-tag band of troubadours into their little restaurant on Melrose Avenue.

“It was a cozy, candlelit watering hole, where politics, food and music were often the topics of discussion, over a savory plate of mole poblano, washed down with the best margaritas in town. Lucy was as passionate as she was compassionate — a tough-but-tender little ball of fire from El Paso, Texas, who, like so many of us, made the pilgrimage to the City of Angels.

“She encouraged us in our struggling days and she delighted in our successes. We were all her children and we will miss her.”

Lucy was preceded in death by her Frank Casado, whom Republican political strategist Stuart Spencer called “a Mexican Toots Shor.” Frank Casado, who along with Lucy helped found the Mexican American Political Association, died in 1990. Lucy is survived by her daughter Patricia Casado and two sons, James and Darryl.

A memorial mass for Casado will be celebrated at Saint Victor Catholic Church in West Hollywood May 20.

Meanwhile, her tributes have only begun. Undoubtedly, some will be given at the El Adobe Cafe which now includes a piano room, with a baby grand whose keys have been played by the numerous artists Casado has befriended over the years. There is also a room adorned by statues of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony as well as likenesses of the Virgen de Guadalupe and the Dalai Lama.

The piano was a gift from songwriter Jimmy Webb.

“He needed a piano when he’s in town, so be bought one to go here,” Lucy loved to tell visitors. “Every time he’s in town, he comes and plays and eats too, of course.”

Webb even immortalized the restaurant in music, including in the song, “Adios,” recorded by Ronstadt with Brian Wilson, and featuring the line, “Drinking margaritas all night in the old cantina.”

Lucy Casado watches Buddhist monks creating a sand mandala at her restaurant.

Lucy Casado watches Buddhist monks creating a sand mandala at her restaurant.

It is in this old cantina that Casado set aside two weeks each fall for the monks and their making of a colorful sand mandala, which always attracted a steady trek of visitors, much like any other Hollywood roadside attraction.

“The mandala is beautiful,” Casado said in talking about the ritual, “but the tradition is that sand will be returned to sand — to symbolize the impermanence of life.

“Life is like that. We can celebrate it, and we can be celebrated, but we all have a time that is measured, so we should treasure those each grain of sand we have given to us.”

 

Tony Castro books include the 2016 releases DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers (Lyons Press) and Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and a Final Rite of Passage (Lyons Press).

How The Mick Became #7

Remembering Dynasty, Bums, and More with Peter Golenbock and Ralph Tyko who welcome author Tony Castro to the Zone for the first time. Tony wrote DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivalry, Yankee Blood Brothers.

Listen to the interview here.