Friday, May 15, 2015


I doubt any critics will be surprised that on Thursday, 27 August, 1909 - opening day for the industrial test tack called the Indianapolis Motor Speedway -  two men were killed. The day began with Barney Oldfield setting a closed track speed record, covering a measured mile on the crushed stone and tar and water soaked  surface in 43 1/5 seconds – 84 miles per hour. And then Louis Chevrolet ran 4 laps (10 miles) around the 2 ½ mile oval in 8 minutes and 56 seconds – 67 miles per hour - another world speed record. But the centerpiece of the opening day was sponsored by a company that made natural gas lamps for automobiles, the “Prest-O-Lite 250 mile, $1,500 Trophy” race.
Even though there were only nine cars entered, the track surface quickly began to come apart. Arthur Chevrolet, driving a Buick, was lapping the field when, on lap 52, a stone kicked up by a slower car hit his goggles, driving glass fragments into his eye. Somehow he safely pulled off the track. Six laps later driver Wilfrid “Billy” Bourque, was warned by his riding mechanic Harry Holcombe of a car coming up from behind. While barreling down the main stretch at over 75 miles an hour, Wildrid looked over his shoulder, thus not seeing a deep rut torn in the surface just in front of the start/finish line.
The big steering wheel was jerked to the left, sending the car careening through a fence and slamming into the embankment of a drainage ditch. Following the laws of the conservation of energy, the back end of the car kept trying to continue at speed, lifting up to overcome the obstacle,  flipping the car upside down and catapulting the unrestrained passengers out of the cockpit. Harry Holcomb was hurled into a fence post, breaking both his arms, several of his ribs and smashing his skull. He died instantly. With a death grip on the over sized steering wheel Wilfrid "William" Bourque, stayed with the  2,300 pound car longer, slamming into the earth closer to the upended car.  Doctors found both of his legs were broken, one lung was punctured by broken ribs and his skull also fractured. He died without ever regaining consciousness. The Marion County coroner John J. Blackwell blamed the condition of the race track for the deaths.
But principle owner/promoter Carl Fisher (above), who was also an Indianapolis auto maker, insisted the track was safe. And Friday's races were held without incident. Then, on Saturday, 29 August, in front of more then 35,000 fans, the crushed stone track came apart again. This time a racer went off the track and plowed into the crowd. Again a riding mechanic was killed, this time along with two spectators, Homer Joliff, and James West. When another race car smashed into supports for a pedestrian bridge over the main stretch, the race was halted 65 laps short. Critics started calling the speedway “Fisher's Folly”.
But Carl was no fool. He canceled races set for October, and instead replaced the entire surface with 3,200,000 ten pound paving bricks. Guardrails were also installed on all four turns. “The Brickyard” was thus born, as was the myth that tragedies at the track immediately inspired new safety improvements. The first “Memorial Day 500 mile Sweepstakes” was held on Saturday, 27 May, 1911, and was won by Ray Harroun with his riding mechanic replaced by a rear view mirror, so Harroun would not have to turn his head to look for overtaking traffic. But in fact, Harroun's innovation inspired a rule requiring all cars to carry riding mechanics, which was not lifted until 1936, after another unlucky 13 riding mechanics had been killed at the track
Between the first tragic event in 1909 and 1950, 36 drivers and riding mechanics, two track workers and five spectators were killed at the Indianapolis Speedway, including 12 year old Wilbur Brink (above), who died while sitting in his own front yard at 2316 Georgetown Road . On Memorial Day, 1931 a rear wheel broke off a race car and came careening across the street, crushing the boy. It would be 1999 before wheel tethers would be required on all Indy cars to prevent that from happening again, or at lest make it less likely.
But who were these men who risked their lives to drive in circles in 1950?  Over half of the drivers who started the 1950 Indy 500 would die in racing accidents. The risks seem obvious today, because they still drove without seat belts (not required until 1956) roll bars (1959) or minimum standards for helmets (1960).  But to that generation of drivers, the dangers were accepted.  Almost without exception, they raced not because they loved speed, although they might. They raced because they were good at it, because if you won it paid better than an hourly wage, and even if you lost, it did not involve a much greater risk than construction or farming in the days before work place safety regulations.
In 1950 what may have been the most naturally talented driver who would ever race in Indianapolis  arrived at the track from California. His name was William “Bill” Vukovich; or to the press “The Mad Russian” or more accurately "The Silent Serb". His few friends just called him "Vuky". He was by all the accounts of those who saw him and who raced against him, the greatest natural driver they had ever seen. His father had been a carpenter who, on 13 December, 1923, had shot himself - on Bill’s 14th birthday. Vuky had to drop out of school to support his mother and his five brothers and six sisters. He began racing hot rods on the weekends, because he earned up to $15 for winning a race.
It was a cut throat competition. If Vuky didn’t win, his family might not eat. Vuky warned his older brother, when he took up the sport, “Don’t tangle with me. On the track you are just another driver.” By his 18th birthday Vuky was winning races regularly. And despite burns on his hands, broken shoulders, cracked ribs and a broken collar bone, all suffered in accidents, he was now earning up to $50 a week, at a time when the highest paid union workers (typesetters) were making $75 a week. 
To the local press, he became “The Fresno Flash”. Vuky didn’t smoke or drink and he stayed in shape by running daily.  All he cared bout was winning races. He was, in the words of one competitor, “…the epitome of excellence in motion”. And daring.  In one race Vuky so frightened his riding mechanic, the man could not stop screaming.  Finally, while the car was airborne yet again, Vuky took his hands off the wheel and told his complaining companion, “Okay, you drive it.” After the race the mechanic retired. But Vuky won that race. It was the age of “iron men in steel cars”, when trauma and fear were things to be endured but not talked about because nothing could be done to mitigate them. And the shy, quiet Yugoslavian with the lead foot seemed to fit that image.
Vuky couldn't get a ride on his first trip to Indianapolis in 1950, despite being the National midget car champion. But in the 1951 race, Vuky started in the 20th position and 15 laps later he was running 10th. Fifteen laps after that he was out of race with a broken oil tank. But for his 29th place finish, Vuky earned $750. And he earned respect. The next year he was hired to replace three time 500 winner Mauri Rose, who was retiring. With a competitive car under his hands, Vuky was leading the 1952 race when a steering pin broke with just 8 laps to go, sending him into a wall. He finished 17th.
In 1953, Vuky led 195 out of 200 laps and survived scorching temperatures (130 degrees Fahrenheit on the track, which caused one driver to die of heat prostration). And he won his first Indy 500 by 3 ½ minutes over the second place car of Art Cross .
 Vuky's purse was $89,496.00 (the equivalent of $760,000 today). And there can be no doubt, he won the race because of his skill. his physical conditioning, and because of his determination. 
But neither can there be any doubt, the victory and the effort were draining his body and mind. He was still running, still trying to prove himself worthy to a father who left.
The next year, 1954, Vuky won again, becoming only the third driver in history to win back-to-back 500’s. Roger Ward, who would go on to win two 500s himself, said that “Bill Vukovich was probably the greatest actual driver we have ever known…”. Vuky’s formula for success remained simple. "The only way to win here is to keep your foot on the throttle and turn left." The money was important, because Vuky had two growing children to support.
At the start of the 1955 race Vuky (above, left) and Jack McGrath (above, right) dueled through gusty winds for the lead. But Vuky took first place on lap 26 and never gave it up. By lap 48 he was leading McGrath by 10 seconds and had a full lap lead over 26 of the 33 other cars in the field. Then on lap 54 Jack McGrath dropped out with mechanical problems. Vuky seemed to be well on his way to an historic three straight Indy 500 wins.
Then, on lap 57 Vuky swept out of Turn Two and started down the 5/8 of a mile long back stretch. Just in front of him were the slower cars of Roger Ward,  NASCAR driver Al Keller and rookie Johnny Boyd. Vuky was approaching a window for a pit stop and he took the opportunity to glance down at his rear tires (the drive wheels) to check for wear. That may have been a fatal mistake, because suddenly things began to happen with lightening speed. A guest of wind had hit Ward’s car just as it came off the 14 degree banking of the second turn. This shoved him into the outside wall (above, smoke). No one caused it. It was a racing accident. 
Ward's car bounced off the wall sideways. The edge of both left side tires caught on the bricks, and his car flipped twice (above, right).  Keller steered left, away from of Ward’s car (above left).
Roger Ward' car landed right side up in the middle of the track (above center). Meanwhile, Keller (above left), trying to avoid spinning out on the infield  grass, turned his steering wheel to the right, back onto the tack. But he over corrected.
Keller clipped Al Boyd’s car, sending it in front of Vuky 's number 14.  In that instant, and just for that instant, the track was completely blocked. Nobody was to blame. It was the classic “racing accident”. Vuky’s left front tire struck Boyd’s spinning right front tire. The moving surface catapulted Vuky's car into the air. (above, right) at over 130 miles an hour.
 Vuky's car just cleared the low outside wall, and then came down nose first, the heavy engine driving itself into the pavement of the service road (above, center). Again, conservation of momentum drove the rear of Vuky's car forward, sending it head over tail, flipping down the service road. On that first flip, Vuky's head clipped the bottom of the pedestrian bridge (above, background) stretching over the backstretch, almost decapitating him. 
Having passed under the bridge, Vuky's car was now cartwheeling down the service road outside the wall. 
The nose of the roadster slammed into the hood of a parked car, tore across the hood of a red pickup truck (above)....
...and then crashed onto the top of a jeep, occupied by two national Guardsmen. 
Vuky’s car then flipped once more, before slamming into the ground  upside down (above, center), 400 feet  (2 city blocks) from where it had sailed over the fence at 130 miles an hour. Fire broke out from the ruptured fuel tank within seconds.
A friend of Vuky’s from Fresno, Ed “Smokey” Elisian, came out of the number two turn just after Vuky went over the wall. Sensing what had happened, he slid to a halt on the infield grass and then ran across the track (above, in white, center) almost being struck by another racer, desperate to reach his friend. 
He and others tried to lift the car to pull Vuky out, but the flames drove the would-be rescuers back. Ed Elisian kept repeating, “I’ve got to get him out.” But it was twenty minutes before fire equipment arrived (there were no fire engines stationed on the outside the track) and the car was finally cool enough to be tipped over to pull Vuky’s lifeless body out of the wreckage.
Looking at the car after the crash (above), it is difficult to believe a man died in it. The car remained largely intact, except for the cutting made to allow removal of Vuky's body. All of the violence of the impact had been transferred directly to the driver.
The fear and horror was that Vuky had died in the fire, burning alive while trapped under his car, trying to claw his way out (above). But the autopsy showed he had died before the fire ever broke out, from a basal skull fracture suffered while flipping under the pedestrian bridge. That obstruction would be removed the next year, in 1956, and replaced by a tunnel.
Bill Vukovich has a record never equaled at the Indianapolis Speedway, and one that may never be matched.  Now only did he lead the most laps for three years in a row, but he led 72% of all the laps he ran in competition at the Indianapolis Speedway. Could he have won three in a row? When asked, Vuky was pragmatic: "I plan on driving a couple of more years here anyway. And a guy can keep on winning here. He's got to have luck, sure, and the right combination. But it's not impossible. Nothing is impossible."   There was no second place for Bill Vukovich. And that is still true. He is buried in his home town of Fresno, California.
Details of the crash have been exhaustively researched by Rex Dean, whose web site offers a comprehensive and well written forensic account of Vuky’s final accident. The death toll at the speedway now totals 66, the last driver killed being Tony Renna, who died in October 2003, in a crash during tire testing. The attendance on race day now exceeds 300,000 people. The average speed for the 33 racers for the 2014 Indy field was 223 miles per hour, and the winner covered the 500 miles in 3 hours and 5 minutes. Safely
Impressive, for a track designed in 1908, for cars averaging 90 miles per hour, in which safety was less of a concern than pushing the car to the breaking point of its parts. The human spirit, its courage and traumas, has survived the test track called the Indianapolis Speedway  for over a century.  But the cost has been high.
- 30 -

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

AIR HEADS Part Eight

I would say there were four truly amazing things about Cal Rodger(above) s’ transcontinental flight of late 1911. The most amazing thing (to me) is that Cal smoked 19 cigars a day during the 49 days it took him to cross America: that's 931 cigars in total. Where did he get them all?  How was he still breathing when it was all over, after inhaling all those exhaust fumes and all that tobacco smoke? The second most amazing thing is that he burned 1,230 gallons of gasoline to cover 3,220 miles, for an average of 38 miles per gallon; not bad! Detroit couldn’t match that a hundred years later. The third most amazing thing about the flight of the “Vin Fiz Flyer” is that during those 49 days Cal had been actually airborne just three days, ten hours and four minutes of total actual flying time, giving him an average air speed of 51.59 miles per hour. That means that he was “grounded” for forty-five days, sometimes because of bad weather, but mostly because of mechanical problems and crashes. And that brings me to the fourth amazing thing about Cal Rogers’ flight. Despite all the bandages he had adorning his body and the leg cast he was wearing after his last crash,. Cal had survived. He even survived when his engine exploded less than 200 miles from the finish line.
It happened on November 3rd, the day after Cal’s brief meeting with Bob Ward in Arizona. Cal had just left a refueling stop in the desert at Imperial Junction, California, (meaning he had crossed his last state border!) and was climbing out over the expanse of the Salton Sea. Without warning the Number One cylinder in his Wright engine exploded catastrophically. It blew out the entire left side of the engine block, and Cal’s right shoulder and arm were peppered with shrapnel. Screaming pain tore at his consciousness, and Cal’s right arm was almost useless. Somehow, he executed a banking turn over the salt waters and glided the “Flyer” back to Imperial Junction. He managed to land safely, again, with just one arm: Cal had become quite a pilot. After two hours of surgery a doctor was able to remove most of the metal from Cal’s arm.
The engine was destroyed (above), but the “Vin Fiz Special” carried a spare, which “Weggie” was able to install. It took a little longer because the crew was short handed. An explosion of estrogen in the Pullman Car of the "Special" had driven master mechanic Charlie Taylor to quit and jump ship back in Texas. The man who had built the original engine for the Wright Brothers had set out alone for California.
The next day Bob Fowler, heading the other way, was almost across New Mexico when he ran into his own mechanical problems. A clogged fuel line chocked off his engine near the isolated water station of Mastodon, 16 miles lonely outside of El Paso, Texas. There was no town at Mastadon,  just a water tank where the single rail line and a siding ran between sand dunes, and it was a very lonely place at the time. It still is, especially since the railroad has "moved on". On satellite photographs today it looks like a drawing, all straight lines through a tan background. It was only a little more lonely in 1911. New Mexico wouldn’t even become the 47th state for another 68 days. Once he was safely down, Bob Fowler cleared the clogged fuel line, restarted his motor and tried to get airborne again. But the the Cole Flyer couldn’t break free of the sand. Bob would have to wait for a shift of the wind. Except, it didn’t shift.
Meanwhile, still headed west, Cal didn’t even wait for his wounds to heal. Early on the morning of 5 November,  wearing an arm sling to match his leg cast, he made the hop from Imperial Junction through the San Gregorio Pass to Banning, and from there on to Pomona, where he made a last refueling stop. And finally, at 4:08 p.m. on Sunday 5 November, 1911, Cal Rodgers landed at the Tournament of Roses Park, on the current grounds of Cal Tech.  He was met by 10 to 20,000 cheering people, most of whom had paid a quarter apiece to be there. The New York Times reported, ''...a maelstrom of fighting, screaming, out-of-their-minds-with-joy men, women and children.'' Cal was loaded into a car and driven around and around the stadium. And among all of the cheering and back slapping, poor deaf Cal kept asking, “I did it, didn’t I? I did it?”
They draped him with an American flag (above), and posed him next to the “Rubenisque” 1912 Rose Queen, Miss Ruth Palmer . And almost nobody who was in that crowd cheering Cal Rodgers had any idea that a deaf man had just flown coast-to-coast. It was quite an achievement. And nobody was prouder of Cal than Mable, unless it was "Weggie", his faithful mechanic, beaming up at him in the photo below.
Cal’s personal victory came a week later, in the Maryland Hotel, when he met with a representative for Mr. W.R. Hearst. W.R.'s pride was burning from the negative publicity over his refusal to extend the $50,000 prizes' time limit. So in an attempt to soften the blow  to his reputation, Heast wanted to present Rogers with a trophy, a loving cup.  Cal turned it down. He still wanted the money. And he wasn’t going to let W.R. off the petard he had hoisted himself upon, without it.
Unnoticed by the press was that Mr. J. Odgen Armour, owner and head of the Armour Meat Packing Company, had spent $180,000 (including Cal’s fee of $23,000) to support the flight. And they had paid all this to sell a really terrible soft drink that quickly disappeared after the publicity of the flight died down. Then, on 10 November, the "Vin Fiz Flyer" was in the air again.  The city of Long Beach had offered Cal $5,000 to actually complete his journey right up to the Pacific Ocean, in their town.
This final flight was going fine until half way there, when the engine quit. Cal landed, fiddled with the Wright engine himself, and started again. And again, the engine coughed and died, this time over Compton. And this time Cal plowed into the ground. And this time he did not walk away. He was pulled unconscious from the wreckage, with a concussion, a broken ankle, broken ribs, an injured back and burns. But his lucky bottle of “Vin Fiz” was still undamaged, hanging from the broken wing strut. By now Cal must have really hated that bottle.
Meanwhile, out in the wilds of Mastodon, New Mexico, Bob Fowler was still stuck in the sand and beginning to think he would never get out. Finally, on 10 November, a two man Santa Fe work crew appeared over the horizon, pumping a handcar. And that gave Bob an idea. He talked to the railroad men and they agreed to help him out. Using railroad cross ties they fashioned a platform to sit atop a hand car, and then struggled to secure Bob's  “Cole Flyer” atop that platform. On the morning of Monday, 13 November, 1911,  the entire contraption was pushed from the siding onto the main line. Bob Fowler clambered into the pilot’s seat. The motor was started. And with railroad workers running alongside to stabilize the wings, the “Flyer” began to move along the track (below). This was much like the system the Wright brothers had used to launch their original flyer, back in 1903. 
And just as the Cole Flyer began to pick up speed, Bob looked ahead to see a column of smoke rising from the tracks. Instantly Bob realized he was on a collision course with a steam locomotive, headed straight for him. For a moment it seemed a variation of the joke about the first two automobiles in Kansas running into each other. The massive engine and the fragile airplane quickly ate up the ground between them, heading for the most unlikely collision in either aviation or railroad  history!
- 30 -

Sunday, May 10, 2015


"…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Macbeth; Act V, scene v
I wonder if there has ever been a good reason for a riot? The dictionary says a riot is “a violent disturbance of the peace by three or more persons”, but that definition doesn’t seem to really define the subject fully. The “Zip to Zap” riot of 1969 remains the only public disorder in North Dakota history, but the primary violation there seems to have been ‘group vomiting in public’. The Sydney Cricket riot of 1879 took less than 20 minutes from start to finish. And the English “Calendar Riots” of 1751 are the answer to the question, “What if they held a riot and nobody came?” But of all the stupid reasons to have a riot, the stupidest, the dumbest and the single silliest reason has to be because you found an actor’s rendition of Macbeth was “too English”."I bear a charmed life".
Macbeth: Act V, scene viii *****************************************************************************
This stupidity began in 1836 with a then 20 year old athletic rock-headed ego maniac from Philadelphia named Edwin Forrest. He was a sort of full-back version of the Michael Flatley, “Lord of the Dance”. Humbly, Mr. Forrest described himself as “…a Hercules.” As an actor, “…baring his well-oiled chest and brawny thighs…” Forrest milked every ounce of histrionics out of “Henry V” and every pound of pathos out of “King Lear”, bounding about the stage to liven up the "slow" parts of Shakespeare. By the time he was twenty, Forrest was earning $200 at day (today’s equivalent would be $4,000). Then Forrest decided to conquer the London stage, and parenthetically to study at the foot of the giant of Victorian Shakespearean over- actor, Edward Kean.“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak”
Macbeth; Act I, scene iii
**************************************************************************** Forrest was a minor hit in London playing supporting roles. While in town he wined and dinned the other giants of the English stage, Charles Kemble and William Charles Macready, and paid them homage. And as a memento of his trip, Forrest took home an English wife, the lovely and wise Catherine Norton Sinclair.
Forrest's return to America was greeted with packed houses and raves by most reviewers. There were some voices of dissent, such as William Winter, who wrote for the New York Tribune that Forrest behaved on stage like a maddened animal “bewildered by a grain of genius”. But such discontent was drowned out in the applause from Boston to Denver. American audiences liked their actors larger than life in those days, and Forrest was just about as large as he could get. In fact, everything would have been perfect but for two small details. First, Edwin could not resist sharing himself with every woman who swooned over his manly thighs (the vast numbers of whom Catherine had a little trouble dealing with), and second, Edwin decided to make a triumphal return tour of England in 1845"Fair is foul, and foul is fair".
Macbeth: Act I, scene i. **************************************************************************** Forrest opened at the Princess’s Theatre in London, where he billed himself as “The Great American Shakespearean Actor”. That was his first mistake. Importing Shakespearean actors to England is like bringing coals to Newcastle; they don’t really need any more. And calling himself "Great did not go down well, either. When Forrest performed his Macbeth, the audience even had the audacity to “boo”. Forrest then made his second mistake when he decided that the negative reaction was a conspiracy hatched by of all people, William Macready."What 's done is done"
Macbeth: Act III scene iii
Oddly enough Macready (above) respected Forrest, even though their acting styles were diametrically opposed. Macready even thought of them as friends. Which made Macready all the more shocked when one night, during his “to be or not to be” speech in Edinburg, he discovered that the foulmouthed baboon hissing at him from a private box adjacent to the stage was none other than his erstwhile friend, Edwin Forrest. Forrest even wrote to the “London Times” to justify his gauche behavior as every 'audience members’ right to critique a performer on the spot'. That lit up the press from Leadville, Colorado to Inverness, Scotland. Every yahoo critic and hot headed fanatic had an opinion as to who was the more objectionable, the vulgar American, or the stuck up Limey.“Let not light see my black and deep desires”
Macbeth; Act I scene iv ********************************************************************************
In 1849, when Macready, “The Eminent Tragedian”, began what he intended as his farewell tour of America, he found that Forest had sown salt ahead of him. At every major city he played, from New Orleans to Cleveland, Forest was headlining in another local theatre, performing the same plays.When Macready opened on May 7th in “Macbeth” at the Astor Place Opera House in Manhattan (above), Forrest was opening in “Macbeth” at another theatre just a mile away. And the instant that Macready stepped onto the stage that first night in Manhattan,  it was, in the words of a modern critic, “Groundlings, grab your tomatoes!” The audience began to boo, and then to throw things. After a chair just missed beheading Macready, he took a quick bow and ran for the wings."...When the battle 's lost and won".
Macbeth: Act I, Scene i
********************************************************************************* If the troubles had ended there it would have been a mere footnote in theatrical history. But the next morning Washington Irving and Herman Melville stuck their gigantic egos into the mess. They circulated and published a petition signed by 47 ‘distinguished’ New Yorkers begging Macready to stay for just one more performance. Against his own better judgment, and facing threats of lawsuits from his producers if he quit early, Macready agreed to one more show.
“If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me.”
Macbeth; Act I scene iii
********************************************************************************* Overnight handbills blossomed on every lamppost in the Bowery; “Workingmen! Shall Americans or English rule this city?” The question was posed by something called “The American Committee”, obviously not a bulwark of artistic objectivity. But I still wonder who really paid for those posters? The city fathers ordered up 325 policemen, and called up 200 members of the 7th regiment, New York Volunteers, to guard the Opera House. And brother, they needed them.On Thursday, May 10, 1849 the troublemakers were kept out of the theatre, but perhaps 10,000 future New York Yankee fans gathered across Astor Place hurling first insults at the cops, and then moving on to rocks and bricks. Eventually the shower of stone shattered the plywood that protected the theatre’s windows and audience members inside were dodging missiles bouncing between their seats.“Is this a dagger which I see before me?”
Macbeth; Act II, scene i
******************************************************************************* Then the crowd charged the cops. The cops beat them back: twice. A handful of “Bowery Boys” tried to set the Opera House on fire. And the next time the crowd charged the 200 members of the 7th let loose a volley. When the smoke cleared, some 22 to 30 people were dead and more than 100 wounded, including some police officers. As at Kent State a century and a half later, many of those shot were innocent bystanders. But enough of the troublemakers had been scared enough to leave Astor Place, and rest of the mob followed. The Shakespeare Riot was over.
"All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”
Macbeth Act V, Scene i.
********************************************************************************* It would be comforting to say that Edwin Forrest suffered for his ego maniacal gambling with other people’s lives. But he didn’t. He just got more famous and more popular. Which may explain why, in 1850 Edwin  had the utter gall to sue Catherine for divorce, charging her with adultery.Yes, the biggest horn dog in America was claiming his English wife had been unfaithful to him. She hadn’t, but who could blame her if she had?  The press - on both sides of the Atlantic - published every nasty innuendo and allegation leaked by both sides. In the end, New York Justice Thomas J. Oakley awarded Catherine her freedom and ordered Edwin Forrest to pay her $3,750 (the equivalent of $92,000 today) every year for the rest of her life. It doesn’t appear as if Edwin really missed the money because he never paid it. True to his character he simply avoided New York State and kept every dime of his fortune. And when he died in 1876, alone and forgotten in his Philadelphia mansion, most of his estate went to Catherine because of the unpaid alimony. At least she outlived the old jerk.“Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.”
Macbeth: Act I, scene iv. ********************************************************************************* It all brings to mind the old English music hall ditty, “…They jeered me; they queered me, and half of them stoned me to death. They threw nuts and sultanas, fired eggs and bananas, the night I appeared as Macbeth.”
- 30 –

Blog Archive