John Eby: George Plimpton, Sidd Finch and Dogwood campPublished 12:10pm Monday, April 19, 2010
While the “Paper Lion” seemed to leave no stone unturned during his life, he shared what “his great dream” was and that playing triangle for an orchestra had been more terrifying than any athletic exploit.
He had just attended a reunion with 40 Detroit Lions to mark his book’s 40th anniversary.
The literary quarterly he helped found, The Paris Review, which published the work of emerging authors, reached its 50th anniversary.
Mr. Plimpton seemed to have done it all, including photograph a Playboy centerfold, but a couple of conquests remained for consideration, he confided during his Dowagiac visit.
Singing opera was one. The other, Plimpton said, would be managing an enormous lyre-strumming professional wrestler, the Grecian Urn, who swore in Shakespearean oaths.
“He’d be a poetic figure with verses tattooed on his massive muscles: ‘Beauty is truth’ and ‘Truth is beauty.’ He’d be rather fey. He’d wear a green wreath … That’s my great dream, to sing opera and manage the Grecian Urn,” Plimpton revealed at Central.
While boxing three rounds with the light heavyweight champion of the world, Archie Moore (“he’d never been in the ring with somebody bleeding and weeping at the same time”), quarterbacking Detroit’s NFL team as the “Paper Lion” (though Alan Alda beat him out to play himself), goaltending for the Boston Bruins and popping up Willie Mays had their moments, the former Sports Illustrated boxing writer’s tensest, most terrifying turn as a “participatory journalist” was playing triangle with Leonard Bernstein’s New York Philharmonic.
Plimpton couldn’t read music.
He learned percussion after the maestro said his orchestra had little need on its Canadian tour for Plimpton’s primary instrument, “cocktail party piano.”
While Dowagiac debated whether Plimpton should talk about literature or sports during his visit, he told his funniest stories that Wednesday evening about music.
Who knew, until enlightened by Plimpton, of the sidesplitting world of classical music, where players secretly applaud each other by shuffling their feet onstage and cymbals sometimes sail like hubcaps leaving a car?
Ernest Hemingway remained the most captivating literary figure he interviewed for the Paris Review. He did some acting, from the movies “Reds, “Good Will Hunting” and “Volunteers” (playing Tom Hanks’ father) to voicing a spelling bee professor for “The Simpsons” and playing Dr. John Carter’s grandfather on “ER.”
I was a big fan of Mr. Plimpton, if not his April Fool’s Day prank he conspired on with SI 25 years ago, Hayden “Sidd” Finch.
The Chicago Sun-Times April 11 recalled the “PHENOM-enal hoax” and brought me up to speed. I didn’t know it was an Oak Park teacher, Joe Berton, who played the part of the supposed New York Mets fireball pitching prospect and aspiring French horn player or that Finch’s uniform and other memorabilia are at America’s Historic Roundhouse in Aurora, Ill.
Berton, 56, teaches art to junior high students and sculpts toy soldiers in his free time.
At the time, he was friends with Lane Stewart. They shot photographs at Shea Stadium which made it seem so authentic that the editors expanded it to 16 pages of an issue with an April 1, 1985, cover date. Plimpton wrote that Finch had never played baseball, but through meditation and spiritual devotion developed a 168-mph fastball Lenny Dykstra couldn’t touch.
Dogwood not just a fine arts festival anymore: It’s a camp for pampered pets and their owners who need quality time with their pooch in far northwest suburban Ingleside, Ill. It costs $420 to $700 for three nights and four days, depending on your accommodations. Dog-focused nature walks, swimming and campfires with agility training, cooking-for-canines instruction and bury-the-bone competitions. I know, it sounds like something Mr. Plimpton also made up.
Goldman Sachs charged: The government accuses the firm of defrauding investors by failing to disclose conflicts of interest in mortgage investments it sold as the housing market collapsed.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said in an April 16 civil complaint Goldman failed to disclose that one of its clients helped create – then bet against – subprime mortgage securities Goldman sold to other investors. Goldman, which earned a record $4.79 billion in the last quarter of 2009, denies the allegations.
Quips, quotes and qulunkers: “Industries like big oil and dirty biofuels love tax time because Uncle Sam hands them billions in giveaways. Just one example: Last year big oil giant Exxon Mobil reported a record $45.2 billion profit, but paid zero dollars to the IRS.
A key reason Exxon Mobil gets away with this? A recent Friends of the Earth analysis found that the oil and gas industry is slated to receive $32.9 billion in tax giveaways and other federal subsidies between 2009 and 2013. Oil and gas production isn’t the only polluting activity that provides corporations with windfalls from your tax dollars. The corporate giants – including big oil – that sell dirty corn ethanol, received $5 billion in 2009 from just one of many ethanol tax breaks. Corn ethanol causes even more global warming pollution than conventional gasoline, and growing corn for fuel causes harmful fertilizer and pesticide runoff. It is not something we should be subsidizing.
— Kate McMahon
John Eby is Daily News managing editor. E-mail him at john.eby @leaderpub.com.