What I’m Reading

March 2016

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Fun City and Miss O’Dell…the 60s and their importance on our life and memory

 

    Fun City: John Lindsay, Joe Namath, and How Sports Saved New York in the 1960s
by Sean DeveneyFun City: John Lindsay, Joe Namath, and How Sports Saved New York in the 1960s

by Sean Deveney

Fun City is a fun book! In fact I would call it a masterpiece as it shrewdly combines the various strands on New York life in the late ‘60s into a fast paced and exciting narrative. Deveney focuses mainly on the personalities of the dashing New York Mayor John Lindsay and the spectacular football superstar Joe Namath, yet he also offers insightful accounts of the New York Mets and the New York Knicks championship season of 1969.Deveney’s portrait of Lindsay is concise and fluid as he pinpoints the major aspects that affected the progressive liberal Republican as he navigated his way through the colorful and chaotic world of late 60s New York City. Deveney’s sympathetic profile is especially relevant as we sit hear in an election year and yearn for a world where issues were discussed intelligently and passionately, regardless of party affiliation or political leaning. While Lindsay may not have been as strong a mayor as he aspired too- he never wavered from his views that called for social justice and pragmatic political approaches that benefited all. And Deveney does a wonderful job as he paints the colorful and contradictory saga that Lindsay essentially chose to live as an unswerving Liberal (with a capitol L) Republican……

As Deveney delves into the portrait of Namath and the supporting sports narratives his true genius shines through. Deveney places the Namath saga among the the gallery of New York heroes that stretches back to Babe Ruth et al, noting in particular Namath’s heroic similarities to the soon to be retired Mickey Mantle. Namath was in many ways the first true superstar in American sports as he used his astronomical $400,000 salary to indulge in that hedonistic lifestyle that defined the late 1960s, regardless of pop culture genre. As a player Namath was spectacular and erratic as he miraculously survived those brutal days of AFL vs NFL (on a shattered knee) and led the New York Jets to a historic Super Bowl triumph in early 1969.

While you might think you’ve read enough about the 1969 Mets and their mad dash to the 1969 World Series, Deveney is such a talented writer and weaver of historical strands that his take on Gil Hodges, Tommie Agee and Tom Seaver is well crafted, engaging and poignant.

I didn’t want this book to end…..it’s a powerful and detailed account of an important time in American history….whether viewed from the sidelines of politics or sports…Bravo!!

 

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Miss O’Dell (by Katherine Ketcham, Chris O’Dell)   
Being a lover of the Beatles story and having poured over the tons of historical account that have been published…I wanted to hate this rather personal account by Apple Records employee Chris O’Dell. Perhaps my annoyance stemmed from the fact that the book is “written” by two different people…O’Dell and her associate Katherine Ketcham. As it is presented in first person narrative- how can someone other than O’Dell be listed as the “writer”? That being said the writing is a bit clunky (at least in the opening chapters) and we are not quite sure who Miss O’Dell is and why she comes into contact with Beatles PR impresario Derek Taylor and lands a job at Apple Record in 1968.

As an out of place (i.e.. read not specifically talented or purposeful) music industry personality O’Dell offers a kiss and tell viewpoint on the late 1960’s travels of the Beatles and their record company Apple Records. While her fly on the wall remembrances are fascinating too a degree they ultimately seem frustrating as O’Dell lacks real insight as to what was really happening. Allen Klein, the executive who essentially exerts a Beatle-ending power play to essentially inflate his ego even larger- gets scant mention as we are instead treated to minute details of a party at George Harrison’s house in early 1970. The greatest rock band in the world is imploding and the “eyewitness” to history seems to have had her eyes closed…or at least looking somewhere else. And also..I have problems with books that use “direct quotes” from casual conversations from over 40 years ago…especially when the conversation was undertaken by soused rock star insiders while smoking hash…hahah

Yet this IS worth reading- O’Dell had a long and interesting career that connects her to the Stones and Bob Dylan and her onetime boyfriend Leon Russell. O’Dell also offers reflection on her trials and tribulations with alcohol and substance abuse and her devotion to being a good mother to her son. The Beatles and their contemporaries are presented here as normal human beings- a nice way to see them after all the books of adoration and deifying.

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