Month: April 2018

jr11Ross was never a “in-ring talent” and spent most of his days commentating or behind a microphone and a result, he possesses an invaluable insight into the promotional side of the business and how stars and heels are created and then sold to the public.  Contained within the pages of this book is a story that every pro wrestling fan should read.   Some readers may be tempted to think that because he was not a “superstar” in the sense that most people used to, he does not have an amazing story to tell.  I would like point out that they would be highly mistaken. In fact, Ross’ story is just as crazy as others that have been told.  The reason is that not only did he know the best but partied and traveled with them as well.  Like a sponge soaking up everything in its vicinity,  he observed and learned over four decades what it takes to survive in the crazy world of what my father used to call “rassling”.

Ross in typical autobiographical style, recounts his childhood and his path to becoming a man as he graduates high school and tries his hand at college.  But wrestling steals his heart and nearly his life as he goes through several marriages that produced two daughters.  His last marriage to Jan Ross is the most moving and tragic.   In March, 2017, she was on her way home from the gym on her scooter when she was struck by a vehicle driven by a seventeen year-old. She suffered severe head trauma and died shortly after at the hospital.   The book is partly dedicated to her memory.

I honestly believe that wrestling fans will truly love this book.  Ross takes us deep behind the scenes and the past comes alive with some of the most colorful characters in pro-wrestling history. Ric Flair, “Cowboy”Bill Watts, Dusty Rhodes,  The Junkyard Dog and Ernie Ladd are just some of the legendary figures Ross became closely acquainted to.  The book is a step back into time to an era that some would call the glory days of wrestling when promotions were scattered across the country.  The WWE was still the WWF and the competition came in the form of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) and Mid-South Wrestling (MSW) which later became the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF).  But a young visionary out of the Stanford, Connecticut would changed the industry forever the life of Jim Ross. His name is Vincent K. McMahon.

Undoubtedly, the crux of the book is the time JR spent with the WWE.  While his early days in the business are entertaining and revealing, the majority of fans remember him chiefly from that time.  Like many other stars, Ross had an interesting and at times odd relationship with the man nicknamed “Vinny Mac”.   McMahon, in a fitting gesture, wrote the foreword to the book.  And regardless of what battles they may have had backstage or the peculiarities that may have existed in their working relationship, it is quite clear that McMahon valued the man who became the voice of his organization.  And it was through McMahon that Ross went from a mainstay in the business to one if its legends.  The anecdotes are interesting and the section on the Montreal screw job will be of high interest to long-time fans.

The New York Times declared the book a bestseller and for good reason.  I assure you that once you start the book you will be hard press to put it down.  Ross covers it all and pulls no punches.  Pro-wrestling is a fascinating industry with the good, the bad, the ugly and the tragic.  Friends and mentors die, stars get injured, deals fall through and once close co-workers drift apart over time.   In some ways, it is a reflection of life.  However, it is how we navigate it that makes the difference.  This is an incredible story from an incredible person who exemplifies what dedication truly means.  And for wrestling fans, the next time you hear yourself say business is about to pick up, you can thank good old JR.

ISBN-10: 168358113X
ISBN-13: 978-1683581130

Autobiography

liftonThe murder of John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) continues to maintain its place among the greatest crimes in American history.  The official story as published by the Warren Commission is that former Marine Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963)  fired three shots in six seconds from the sixty floor of the Texas School Book Depository, fatally wounding Kennedy and severely wounding Texas Governor John Connally (1917-1993).  To many, including the author of this book, David Lifton, the government version seemed to be the best and final explanation.  But over time Lifton came to doubt the official story and after obtaining a set of the twenty-six volumes that composed the Commission’s investigation, his doubt turned into disbelief and lead him down the path that culminated with this national bestseller.

At the time his odyssey began, Lifton was a law student at UCLA.  Working on campus was a law professor by the name of Wesley J. Liebeler who served as a Warren Commission attorney.  Disillusioned by the official report, he decided to confront Liebeler about the many discrepancies he found in the final report.  Over the next several years, the two men would become more closely acquainted as Lifton dived deeper into the murder and Liebeler sought to preserve the Commission’s report.  Ironically Liebeler is the person that suggested to Lifton that he should one day write a book.  He eventually did and this is book is a must read for anyone with unanswered questions about the murder of John F. Kennedy.

Having read multiple books on the assassination, I would like to point out that Lifton focuses on the medical evidence surrounding Kennedy’s murder.  He does not go into great detail about Oswald’s life, murder or the life and murder of J.D. Tippit.  This is strictly about the postmortem events from the time Kennedy was declared dead at Parkland Hospital until the official autopsy report was published by the physicians who were on call at Bethesda Naval Hospital when Kennedy’s body was brought in. I warn readers that the subject matter graphic as it pertains to the autopsy and a large number of anomalies with Kennedy’s body that by all appearances, occurred before the official autopsy even began.  Almost like a horror movie, the body tells signs of makeshift surgical procedures, unexplained bruising and conflicting testimony between doctors in Dallas and Maryland.  But as Lifton explains, the body is the evidence.  Skeptics might be tempted to ask how on earth could such changes have been made to Kennedy’s body before it arrived at Bethesda?  Well Lifton asked himself the same question and many others that have been answered through exhaustive research and due diligence in the most plausible manner to date.  But what is even more sound about Lifton’s work is that he supports his conclusion based off of evidence that is publicly available and in some cases, was hiding in plain sight.  His case is further supported by statements he obtained from numerous individuals who were at either Parkland Hospital, Bethesda or part of Kennedy’s entourage that escorted the body all the way back to Washington.

There are those of us who will refuse to believe that the Government could engage in such nefarious activity.  On the surface it simply seems absurd.  But we soon learn that there is far more than meets the eye.   As Lifton is continue to develop his case for a frontal shot a key event takes place changing his life forever.  On a FBI report filed by Agents Francis O’Neill and James Siebert is a section  in which they state that surgery had been performed on the president’s head prior to the autopsy.  I confess that as I read that section of the book I nearly jumped out of my seat.   This statement served as the catalyst for Lifton to change gears and become one of the most respected researchers to date.  As I continued through the book I noticed that at times chills ran down my spine.  As the story progresses, the macabre becomes a reality and it dawns on the reader that there was more to that day that had nothing to do with Lee Harvey Oswald.  This is a story that the Government did not want its citizens to hear.  But like Oswald’s murder, it refuses to be put to rest and leaves many unanswered questions.

There are many books about JFK’s murder, each taking a slightly different approach.  To get an idea of the overall picture of what happened that day, I always recommend to new readers Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy by the late Jim Marrs (1943-2017).  For others that have passed beyond that point, Lifton’s work is a critical addition to every researcher’s library.   The narrative is chilling: unexplained changes to the president’s head indicating prior dissection, two ambulances, two caskets, a helicopter and other mind-boggling postmortem incidents reveal a darker and more sinister plan in effect that most could not begin to fathom.   However, there are still many interviews that were classified and thousands of pages of others that remained classified. When they finally are released we can only guess or shudder as to what they might reveal. Until then, we have authors such as David Lifton that force us to take a close look at what is considered to be best evidence.

ISBN-10: 0881844381
ISBN-13: 978-0881844382

Investigative Report JFK

ellsbergThe names of the 58,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War that are found on the memorial in Washington, D.C., are a reminder of a conflict deemed by many to be the worst the United States has ever been involved in.  The withdrawal of U.S. forces in March, 1973, brought a sigh of relief to the American public which had long grown tired of a war with no end in sight.  The dark truth which we now know is that we did not by any means accomplish the mission.  And the mighty American war machine failed to secure a victory. I have met many veterans of the war and have an uncle who served.  What I recall most about all of them is that they do not speak of their experiences while in combat.  I know the memories are there and for some of them, they were unable to leave parts of the war behind.  Today we call it PTSD, but back then you simply found a way to move forward in life.   But why were they in Vietnam to being with?  Was the domino effect really a threat to the United States?

On May 11, 1973, Daniel Ellsberg found himself the talk of the town as charges pending against him for espionage were dismissed by U.S. District Judge William Byrne. He had been indicted for leaking what became known as The Pentagon Papers, the subject of this book and the topic of the movie The Post starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.  The New York Times, after several battles in court, was finally allowed to move forward with its plan to publish The Pentagon Papers and contained in the pages of this book are the documents that the U.S. Government tried in earnest to hide from the American public under the guise of “national security”.   Ironically, the facts that are revealed in this book have absolutely nothing to do with national security but rather several presidential administrations that failed to find a workable solution to Indochina.

The late Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara (1916-2009) has been called the architect of the war and was loathed by many because of it. However, the title is misleading and in some ways unfair. The war had many architects either by wishful thinking, uncontrolled ego or naiveté.  What is truly ironic is that as the war waged on, McNamara became a strong voice of dissent.  And in spite of what we have been led to believe, our existence in Indochina began many years before 1965.  The story of U.S. involvement in Vietnam is a long tale, filled with hard truths, false truths, deception and ultimately failure.  But this is how it happened and why.

The papers are divided into several sections which correspond to a different aspect of the conflict.  The administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson are examined to understand what each cabinet did and did not do as it grappled with the growing headache.   Step-by-step Southeast Asia opens up as black hole as more advisors are committed, instability rages in South Vietnam and war hawks finally get their wish as the United States jumped nearly feet first into a jungle conflict that proved to be nothing short of disastrous.  Rolling Thunder, troop deployments and South Vietnamese politics are just some of the issues that antagonized Washington for nearly a decade.

If you served in Vietnam, I forewarn you that the book might anger you in many ways. For others, this is a critical source of information in order to understand the war from a behind the scenes view.   We are often told that the military fights to protect the country and our freedoms that we take for granted.  But did a nation over 13,000 miles from U.S. soil really pose a threat to the most powerful nation on earth at the time? And what would we have accomplished if we had in fact won the conflict?   Perhaps Vietnam would have become a second Korea, partitioned between a communist controlled North-Vietnam and a U.S. controlled South-Vietnam.   Following the U.S. withdrawal, Saigon fell and the North achieved its goal of reunification.  Today the war is a distant memory for young Vietnamese but for the older generation, many painful memories remain.  The figures in the book are long gone but their actions will stay with us and the Vietnam war will always be a regrettable example of U.S. foreign policy gone wrong.

ISBN-10: 1631582925
ISBN-13: 978-1631582929

Investigative Report Vietnam War

20180602_232853On September 9, 1971, inmates at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, staged a revolt in protest of the treatment they received by prison officials and the living conditions employed therein.  Several days later, New York State Troopers regained control of the prison after approval from Governor Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979).   The siege had tragic consequences and ended with the deaths of nine hostages and twenty-nine inmates.  The fallout from the retaking was swift and to this day the story of Attica is considered the worst prison uprising in American history.  The riot caused sharp division among people with some believing in the inmates’ actions and others supporting the State of New York.  In fact, among Rockefeller’s most ardent supporters was President Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) who would himself resign in 1974 due to the Watergate scandal.   The riot and its aftermath were so powerful that even Hollywood became interested and produced the television series Attica (1980) starring Morgan Freeman and Against the Wall (1994) starring Samuel L. Jackson (1948-) and Kyle MacLachlan (1959-).  Both film productions earned award nominations and the stars in each film would go on to have successful careers in Hollywood.  However, the questions always remain, how much did the producers get right, how much did they get wrong and how much did they leave out?   Further, how much do we, the public know about one of New York State’s darkest days?

Heather Ann Thompson composed this Pulitzer Prize winning account of the Attica prison uprising and the legacy it left behind.   Contained within the pages of this book is a story that is sad, shocking and infuriating.  Today in hindsight, we will be tempted to ask ourselves how could this have happened?  For starters, the social environment in which the main characters existed is much different from today in some regards. Law and order were applied in a far more repressive context.  Make no mistake, the prison system today is plagued with brutality and prisoners routinely complain of suppression of their basic human rights by guards and officials.  The prison industrial complex has become a multi-million dollar business and each year more Americans enter the penal  system generating more revenue for investors and contractors.  This system of mass incarceration is exactly what the Attica inmates strove to fight against and today many of the lessons that were learned in the wake of the riot have been lost or neglected.  But this book is the place to learn about the Attica riot and why we can never forget it.

Thompson acknowledges that many of the participants in the story are no longer alive and any secrets regarding Attica went with them to the grave.  What remains are their public statements and official testimony.  Some of the names are cemented in history such as Governor Hugh Carey (1919-2011), Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale (1936-), attorney William Kunstler (1919-1995) and former New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner (1910-1991). But others will become known such as Frank “Big Black” Smith (1933-2004), former guard Michael Smith and prisoner L.D. Barkley whose speech was captured by television cameras as the inmates made their voices heard.   The amount of research that went into the creation of this book is nothing short of painstaking.  And as an added touch of intimacy, the author supplements the story with photos of those relevant to the narrative.

From the moment I opened this book, I literally could not put it down.   At times I found myself sitting in disbelief and how and why the situation unfolded as it did.  And incredibly, an inner conflict arose because as I waded through the book, I came to support the inmate struggle as they fought racism, class based discrimination and the monster that is mass incarceration while at the same time I found myself empathetic to the guards taken hostage, some of whom would also perish.  And it dawned on me that they were all human beings who had different roles to play during those four days.  Decisions and actions made many resulted in a tragedy that claimed victims both dead and alive. And that is one of the main points of the book.  But perhaps one of the most shocking is the disregard by the State of the well-being of its own employees.  What Thompson has truly shown us is that lives on all side were ruined that day and there truly were no winners.  Everyone directed involved in the Attica riot carries with them scars to this day, some mental, some physical or possibly both.  Thompson has done all of them a great service by re-telling the Attica story in a book that should be read by every American that wishes to understand the frustrations of those convicted of a crime and the direction of the American penal system.  This is a definitive account of what truly happened at the Attica Correctional Facility between September 9 and September 13, 1971.

ISBN-10: 0375423222
ISBN-13: 978-0375423222

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Investigative Report