The Bronx Zoo and Mario's on Arthur Avenue 4-24-10

The Bronx Zoo and Mario’s on Arthur Avenue


Richard J. Garfunkel


Hello from rainy Tarrytown. Yesterday was a fabulous spring day. Linda played tennis indoors in New Rochelle and I drove 15 miles up to the Armonk tennis Club and played for an hour and a half with a young guy 35 years my junior. The weather was pristine. I got back home at 1:15 pm, showered and got dressed. We both got ready for our trip to the Bronx Zoo. Our friend, Diona, who a retired professor of Bio-Chemistry at Marymount/Fordham College is now a docent at the Zoo, and with her husband Ron, organized the tour. So my old friend Warren, whom I met in 1953, and his two daughters; Zannie and Katie and son in law, Nanno, met with us and our friends Bob and Corinne at the zoo at 2:45 pm.

The Zoo, which was founded in 1901, is a remarkable place covering 265 acres. Fordham University owned most of the land which became the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden. Fordham sold it to the City of New York for only $1,000 under the condition that the lands be used for a zoo and garden; this was in order to create a natural buffer between the university grounds and the urban expansion that was nearing. In the 1880s, New York State set aside the land for future development as parks. In 1895, New York State chartered the New York Zoological Society (later renamed to Wildlife Conservation Society) for the purpose of founding a zoo.

The zoo (originally called the New York Zoological Park) opened its doors to the public on November 8, 1899, featuring 843 animals in 22 exhibits. The first zoo director was William Temple. Hornaday Heins & LaFarge designed the original permanent buildings as a series of Beaux-Arts pavilions grouped around the large circular sea lion pool. Many exhibits, for example World of Birds and World of Reptiles, maintain the original taxonomical arrangement, while others are arranged geographically, such as African Plains and Wild Asia. These same buildings still stand today around the seal pool.

Once we gathered all together, we made our way past the majestic eagles, and the hunched over vultures, and the huge Andean condors. We were just in time for the seal feeding, which was crowded with people of all ages, cultures, and economic strata. Everyone loves seals!

After the seal feeding, they could eat 30 pounds of fish during the day, Diona led us to the Madagascar House, which featured lemurs. They are a class of strepsirrhine primates that is endemic to the island of Madagascar. The name is derived from the Latin word lemures, signifying ghosts or spirits, from which they earned their name due to the ghostly vocalizations, reflective eyes, and the nocturnal habits of some species. Although lemurs often are confused with ancestral primates, the anthropoid primates (monkeys, apes, and humans) did not evolve from them; instead, lemurs merely share morphological and behavioral traits with basal primates. Meanwhile they are attractive and engaging animals that dote on their young, live high up in trees in the rain forest, and are representative of scores of varieties. Though it was hard to leave the Madagascar House, we pressed on past the flamingoes as we worked our way to the Congo Gorilla Forest, a 6.5 acre preserve, where we watched the antics of those legendary creatures. The gorilla lives in a tightly-knit group of up to 30 animals, lead by a dominant male known as a silverback. This male leads and protects this group of animals whose weights range from 150 to 500 pounds. After a few charges by one of the gorillas, at the thick glass that separated all of us from the preserve, we all decided to move on.

As we were running out of time, we moved quickly to see the lions. Lions are the most social of all the wild cats. They live and often hunt together, but have a reputation for terrible manners when it comes to sharing food. Related females form prides of around 15 members, while males (related and unrelated) form nomadic coalitions that compete for access to prides. Female offspring of pride members remain in the group as adults, but male cubs leave as they approach adulthood at around three years of age. When a new coalition of males comes into a pride, they often kill young lions so their mothers will be ready to mate again. We were able to observe a large male and his one-year old daughter. The daughter kept on pacing along the fence and the moat that separated us from her territory. The lions were anticipating the up-coming feeding time and in reality were not interested in the spectators. It was now 5:00 pm and we had decided to finish our visit and make our way to our cars.

It was a full day and we made plans to eat at Mario’s, on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Located in Belmont (Little Italy) — “the safest neighborhood in America,” five generations of the Migliucci family have been turning out fresh, robust Neapolitan food since 1919. Mario’s isn’t too far away, and we were able to reserve a private room and a set-up for ten. We arrived by six, I said hello to the owner, who’s a friend of WVOX’s Bill O’Shaughnessy, (that is the station where my show The Advocates is broadcasted) and we were treated royally. It was a great meal, with a terrific antipasto featuring clams, mussels, calamari, egg plant and stuffed mushrooms. We had a few bottles of Italian red wine and everyone ordered their own specific dishes. I had my usual tortellini with Bolognese sauce and Linda had sole francaise. By 8:30pm all the all bread, wine, appetizers, and entrees were consumed. We spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out the bill of faire, but all was solved and we headed home, exhausted, but satiated with a day of tennis, a tour of the zoo, and a large enjoyable meal.





The Advocates 4-21-10

Wednesday, April 21, 2010, at 12:00 Noon, I am hosting my show, The Advocates on WVOX- 1460 AM, or you can listen to the program’s live streaming at One can call the show at 914-636-0110 to reach us on the radio.  My guests are Barbara Burt, the Director of the Frances Perkins Center in Newcastle, Maine, and Mr. Christopher Breiseth, former President and CEO of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, and a Board Member of the Perkins Center.


Our subject is Frances Perkins, a fighter for social justice, and the role of the Frances Perkins Center: and their effort to support and sustain Social Security


Barbara Burt is a graduate of Boston University and Harvard University School of Education, Barb brings varied experience to the position. She has been a writer and editor for many publishers and educational institutions, including Houghton Mifflin, McGraw-Hill, Scholastic, National Geographic, and Harvard University.




Long an advocate for responsive government and progressive politics, Barbara joined Common Cause in 2003, eventually becoming vice president and director of national election reform programs. In 2007, Barb became the online communications director for Chellie Pingree's successful campaign to represent Maine's First Congressional District in the 111th Congress.


Dr. Christopher N. Breiseth is the immediate past president and CEO of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, located at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, serving in that position from 2001 to 2008. He was president of Deep Springs College in California from 1980 to 1983 and of Wilkes University from 1984 to 2001. He earned his B.A. in history at UCLA, a Masters of Literature in Modern British History from Oxford and a Ph.D. in European History from Cornell. While at Cornell, he lived at the Telluride House where Frances Perkins was a guest for the last five years of her life while she was teaching at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Together, Breiseth and Miss Perkins organized two seminars for house members, one with Henry A. Wallace, the other with James Farley. Following Miss Perkins's death in 1965, Breiseth wrote an article, “The Frances Perkins I Knew,” which provides some of the material on Frances Perkins's life at Telluride House for Kirstin Downey's book, “The Woman Behind the New Deal.” The article is available on line. He also served for a year and a half in 1967 and 1968 as Chief of Policy Guidance for the Community Action Program which was part of the Office of Economic Opportunity, President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. He is married to Jane Morhouse Breiseth and they have three daughters and two grandchildren.

 Meanwhile, the mission of The Advocates is to bring to the public differing views on current “public policy” issues. “Public policy,” therefore, is what we as a nation legally and traditionally follow.

One can find my essays on FDR and other subjects at All of the archived shows can be found at:  Next week on WVOX The Advocates will host Shari Gordon, Norman Solovay, and Mary Beth Morrissey and the subject will be “Divorce American Style.”


Submarines, the Goodspeed Opera and LObsters 4-20-10

Submarines, The Goodspeed Opera and Lobsters

Richard J. Garfunkel

April 20, 2010


The Connecticut coastline abuts right against the Long Island Sound, and there are a number of lovely resort towns that stretch east of New Haven and right to the Rhode Island border at Westerly. These towns that stretch from Madison to Mystic, each offer a typical, but individually unique quaintness. Certainly on one stretch of Route I, from Clinton to Old Saybrook, a hungry visitor can find an incredible number of venues to satiate that craving for cuisine from the sea. When it comes to clams, mussels, lobsters, chowder and the entire accoutrement that goes with it, one can’t go to far wrong. Of course our visit was a few weeks before the real season opens on the 1st of May, but there is plenty of parking along all of the road houses like, Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale, the Westbrook Lobster, the Harbour Seal Restaurant, and the Clam Castle. After a two hour trip up I-95, we pulled into the Water’s Edge Resort at about 6:30 pm. Water’s Edge is located in Westbrook, right on the Long Island Sound’s shoreline , and is a beautiful time-sharing resort and hotel, where we had booked a comfortable and commodious duplex. The town itself is bordered by the communities of Essex, Clinton, and Old Saybrook, where the Connecticut River empties into Long Island Sound.After unloading the car we headed out for dinner, and decided on Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale.

Meanwhile, on our way up to Westbrook, we had a problem with our cigarette lighter and thus our GPS. The next morning, Linda searched the yellow pages and came up with a few options for our car. One was the All Pro Automotive Center in Old Lyme, so we headed east on the Boston Post Road. On the way we passed through Old Saybrook. This town is where the Connecticut River Meets the Sound.  It is one of the oldest towns in the state, incorporated on July 8, 1854 and has a long history dating back to 1635 when it began as an independent colony known as the Saybrook Plantation.  The colony was started when a company of English Puritans headed by Viscount Saye and Sele and Lord Brook, and led by one John Wintrhop, Jr. erected a fort to guard the river entrance.  This settlement is the site of the Pequot Conflict (war) in 1636.  Yale University was founded in Old Saybrook as the Collegiate School for the education of ministers in 1700.  The Saybrook College of Yale University Seal is used as the Town logo on its letterhead and town-owned vehicles. On our way, we stopped at Smith Brothers Transmissions, but unfortunately they could do us no good, and after 45 minutes of tinkering around, we headed up the road to Old Lyme, where All Pro Automotive Center was located. They knew what the score was, they found the blown fuse very shortly, they recommended a heavier battery for the Jaguar, and it wasn’t long before the car was ready, the bill was paid, and we were back on the Post Road.


So, while we had to wait for Dana and Jon to arrive from Boston, where they have lived for quite a number of years, we headed down (west) the Boston Post Road (Route 1) and stopped at the Clinton Antique Center. Linda found some decently priced pieces of Wedgwood, and I found three interesting military books: Death in the South Atlantic (the sinking of the German raider, the Graf Spee), The Chindit War (Orde Wingate fights the Japanese in Burma, ) and Osprey’s 49th Fighter Group, (Tom Lamphier and his friends, with their P-38 Lightnings, shoot down Admiral Yamamoto!).

Our “adult” children arrived about noon at the Water’s Edge and since every one was hungry we drove west on Route 1 and stopped at the Westbrook Lobster in Clinton. Linda and I split a Caesar salad and a lobster and the kids each had chicken francaise and barbecued salmon. The Town of Clinton traces its history from 1663 when the land between Guilford and Saybrook, as they were then bounded, was known as Homonoscitt.  In that year, a committee was appointed by the General Court at Hartford to lay out this area as a plantation. In 1667 the settlement was designated a town and named Kenilworth. By the middle of the eighteenth century, through changes in usage, this name became Killingworth. In 1838, the southern portion was incorporated by the General Assembly as the Town of Clinton, the northern portion retaining the name of Killingworth. The line marking the division between the towns of Killingworth and Clinton was the same as that which divided the first and second ecclesiastical societies, or, as they were later known, “school societies,” which were established in 1735.

As in most small New England shore towns, life centered about fishing, farming, shipbuilding, and the church. One of the early leaders of Clinton's church was the Reverend Abraham Pierson. In 1701, when the General Court of the Colony in Hartford granted a charter for “the founding of a collegiate school within His Majesty's Colony of Connecticut, ” its founders chose the Reverend Mr. Pierson as its rector. The first classes were held in his parsonage in Clinton. In later years the school was moved to Saybrook and then to New Haven, where it eventually became Yale University. But today there are fortunately no British Redcoats, who derogatory were called lobster backs, and lobster is still the main attraction along this coastline.

After our enjoyable and filling meal, we were off to the outlet mall, where everyone got something. By the way there were great bargains to be had, and I bought a couple of golf shirts at 33% off list. After all of our shopping and running around, we decided on Chinese food, and let our Garmin GPS direct us to a few nearby. We finally agreed on a Taste of China, and ordered the usual cuisine and took it with us back to our rooms. Meanwhile, one can hear, with great clarity, all the New York radio stations and we were all happy listening to another Yankee victory. The Mets meanwhile began another marathon with the Saint Louis Cards, and almost seven hours later they eked out a narrow 3-2 victory. I don’t know whether the Mets won or the Cards gave it away, but the hapless boys from Queens needed a victory. It was a terrific sports weekend with Red Sox being swept by the Rays, the Celtics coming back and beating the Heat, and the opening up of the Stanley Cup’s early rounds.

We were all up pretty early. It was unseasonably chilly, but the rains that plagued both New York and Boston must have passed north of the Sound and therefore we remained quite dry. After breakfast we decided to head up to Groton, which is a town located on the Thames River in New London County and is the home of the Electric Boat Corporation, which is the major contractor for submarine work for the United States Navy, and the Navy's SUBASE New London. The Avery Point section of Groton is home to a regional campus of the University of Connecticut. We decided to see the Submarine Museum which is located right next to the Electric Boat Yard which  produced all our submarines, including the all the atomic submarines built under the guidance of the legendary Admiral Hyman Rickover. Groton, Connecticut was established in 1705 when it made its separation from New London, Connecticut. Over the years Groton has become a very populated city with numerous monuments that makes it one of the most historical cities in the area. A hundred years before the town was established, the Nehantic Indians were settled in Groton, Connecticut between the Thames and Pawcatuck Rivers. The Nehantic Indians were brutally attacked by a band of red skinned invaders. These invaders burned their wigwams, destroyed their cornfields and food supplies and a few possessions were stolen. Many of the Nehantic Indians warriors were tomahawked. The survivors fled to Misquamicut, Rhode Island.

The newcomers to the land were the Pequots, a branch of the Mohawks, who were most feared in the region. They were brave, heartless and had little sympathy which allowed them to create horrifying types of torture for their enemies. They wrote their names in blood and fire all over, but also in Groton. As the Pequots population grew it forced them to move eastward into the Connecticut Valley. But soon enough they began to rampage through the villages of the River Indians. The Peqouts finally rested and made their headquarters in Groton and built 3 villages at Groton Heights, Fort Hill, and Mystic. This was all prime Indian country. The land supplied them with all they needed to survive, and there was game of all kinds.

The summer on 1614 was the first time the Pequots ever met the white settlers. They started trading furs for the settler’s goods. Things like steel knives, needles and boots. In 1633 the Dutch bought land from the Pequots and permission for River Indians to bring their fur for trade. Meanwhile the English bought land for settlement away from the local tribes. The Dutch had unintentionally killed the Pequots Chief. This created a need for revenge by the Pequot tribe, so they attacked. Soon after attacking the new leader of the Pequots Sassacus realized that they were in grave danger because the English hated them and so did the surrounding Indians. The Pequots had been expelled from their land by white settlers. They too could see the beauty of the land as it was covered in forest and flowing with wildlife and all types of birds and animals that they have never seen previously.

The first settlers of Groton had to be farmers because they needed to provide the necessities of food and clothing. The land was mainly made up of rocks and trees and farming was not easy. Because of the earlier glaciers it wiped away all of the top soil. Therefore, all of the rocks and trees had to be removed before any work could be done to the ground. Livestock was also very important to the settlers. Cattle were great for providing dairy; pigs and sheep for wool and animal protein; and the oxen did the heavy farm work.

Meanwhile the centerpiece of the Submarine Museum is the USS Nautilus, SSN 571, which is anchored permanently in the Thames River and is accessible to all who wish to climb down its steep ladders, and squeeze through its water tight doorways. The Nautilus was made possible by the successful development of a nuclear propulsion plant by a group of scientists and engineers at the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission, under the leadership of Captain Hyman G. Rickover, USN. Hyman George Rickover (January 27, 1900 – July 8, 1986) was eventually raised to a four-star admiral in the United States Navy. He invented and controlled the naval nuclear propulsion. Rickover was known as the “Father of the Nuclear Navy“, which as of July 2007 had produced 200 nuclear-powered submarines, and 23 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and cruisers, though many of these U.S. vessels are now decommissioned and others under construction. With his unique personality, political connections, responsibilities, and depth of knowledge regarding naval nuclear propulsion, Rickover became the longest-serving naval officer in U.S. history with 63 years active duty. Rickover's substantial legacy of technical achievements includes the United States Navy's continuing record of zero reactor accidents, as defined by the uncontrolled release of fission products subsequent to reactor core damage. He was incredibly controversial. He refused to wear a navy uniform in his later years, was quite acerbic, he didn’t tolerate fools easily, and was tough as nails. He personally interviewed all of the officers who applied to work in the nuclear navy, and many were “washed out” because of his strict standards of excellence. His interviews with these candidates were often fraught with sarcasm, biting comments, and a sense of urgency. He was quite tough and even many WWII veterans of the submarine service were also cashiered out of the new and emerging nuclear navy because they could not meet Rickover’s exacting standards. Over the course of Rickover's record-length career, these personal interviews amounted to tens of thousands of highly impressionable events; over 14,000 interviews were with recent college-graduates alone. These legendary interviews loomed large in the minds of Navy ROTC students. Varying from arcane to combative to humorous, and ranging from midshipmen to very senior naval aviators who sought command of aircraft carriers (which sometimes lapsed into ego battles), the content of most of these interviews has been lost to history, though some were later chronicled in the several books on Rickover's career. During his wartime service, as noted later in the January 11, 1954, Time magazine issue that featured him on its cover: “Sharp-tongued Hyman Rickover spurred his men to exhaustion, ripped through red tape, drove contractors into rages. He went on making enemies, but by the end of the war he had won the rank of captain. He had also won a reputation as a man who gets things done.

In July of 1951, Congress authorized construction of the world's first nuclear powered submarine. On December 12th of that year, the Navy Department announced that she would be the sixth ship of the fleet to bear the name Nautilus. Her keel was laid by President Harry S. Truman at the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut on June 14, 1952. After nearly 18 months of construction, Nautilus was launched on January 21, 1954 with First Lady Mamie Eisenhower breaking the traditional bottle of champagne across Nautilus' bow as the submersible slid down the ways into the Thames River. Eight months later, on September 30, 1954, Nautilus became the first commissioned nuclear powered ship in the United States Navy. I can remember quite well when it was launched, when it sailed under the North Pole and when it broke all the endurance records of a submersible. The museum itself tells the remarkable history of the submarine from its earliest days as a one-man self-propelled vessel called the Turtle, to the gigantic Ohio Class Trident II atomic submarines which are 560 feet in length and weigh over 16, 000 tons. After our tour, the kids headed back to Boston, and we headed over to Mystic. Linda also found out that the naval personnel are all assigned to a three- year stay at the museum. That is quite a change from the rigors of Iraq and Afghanistan, where many of these men and women spent a tour. I had a great time talking to one of the men, who happened to have his young family there on Sunday. He was well schooled in naval history, and I had an enjoyable time exchanging naval vignettes about WWII.

Mystic is a historic locality, though it has no independent government. It is not a legally recognized municipality within the state of Connecticut. Rather, Mystic is located within the towns of Groton (west of the Mystic River, and also known as West Mystic) and Stonington (east of the Mystic River).Historically a leading seaport of the area, the story of Mystic's nautical connection is told at Mystic Seaport, the world's largest maritime museum, which has preserved both a number of sailing ships (most notably the whaler Charles W. Morgan) and the seaport buildings ashore. The village is located on the Mystic River, which flows into Long Island Sound, providing access to the sea. The Mystic River Bascule Bridge crosses the river in the center of the village.

A major New England tourist destination, the village is also home to the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, and notable for its research department, dedication to marine life rehabilitation and not captivity, and its popular beluga whales. The business district, on either side of the Bascule Bridge, where US 1 crosses the Mystic River, includes many popular restaurants including Mystic Pizza which inspired the name of the 1988 film, though that was not the location of the restaurant in the film. Scenes in Mystic Pizza were shot in Mystic, Stonington, Noank, Watch Hill (RI), and also at the Planetarium at Mystic Seaport. We didn’t stop at Mystic Pizza. Linda revealed that they only rated a “17” in Zagats, so we passed. By the way Johnny’s Pizza in my old hometown of Mount Vernon gets a “27” rating! We strolled around town, relaxed in a coffee house, looked over the book store, went into a great Army-Navy store and took some pictures of the sailboats anchored on the Mystic River. From Mystic, it was on to New London, where very little was going on. Maybe it was because it was a Sunday morning, and the tourists were in the coastal towns.

We headed back to Water’s Edge, relaxed for a few hours. At 5:00 pm we made our way up to the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, to see Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, which is located 19 miles north of Westbrook. The Goodspeed isa non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of musical theater and the creation of new works, was formed in 1959 to restore the Goodspeed Opera House to its original Victorian appearance. The Goodspeed reopened in 1963 and, under the direction of Michael P. Price and since 1968 it has sent 16 productions to Broadway. Goodspeed productions have won more than a dozen Tony Awards, while Goodspeed Musicals have won two special Tonys. The opera house was originally built by a local merchant and banker, William Goodspeed. Construction began in 1876 and finished in 1877, but despite the name, it was not in fact an opera house, but rather a venue for presenting plays. Its first play, Charles II, opened on October 24, 1877. We had been here once before when we went to see, Most Happy Fella in 1992. The show at that time had been in the midst of two major revivals. The first, a limited engagement by the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center, opened on September 4, 1991 and played 10 performances in repertory. Four months later, a duo-piano version, transferred from the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut to the Booth Theatre on Broadway and ran for 229 performances. We had a quick meal at La Vita Gustosa on Main Street (10” pizza) which is right across the street. We finished our last bite at 6:28 pm and left just in time to climb up to our $45 mezzanine seats. The theater holds 390 people and I quickly estimated that it was about 90% full. Meanwhile the show was significantly different from the production we had seen at the Broadway Palm Theater in Mesa, Arizona in March of 2004. The producers added two songs, I’ll Share it With You, and Who Do You Love, I Hope, and removed Indian Ceremonial. This new production was modeled on a more politically correct and racially sensitive one, which removed perceived stereotypical and demeaning references to Native Americans. But, all in all, the show was quite good. The leads, Jenn Gambatese, who played Annie Oakley and Kevin Early, in the role of Frank Butler were great. They both have wonderful voices and were supported quite well by a very engaging cast. The show has a wonderful score, featuring such standards as: There’s No Business Like Show Business, They Say its Wonderful, Anything You Can Do, and You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun. Of course, the show was originally opened on Broadway, at the Imperial Theater in May of 1946 with Ethel Merman and Ray Middleton. It ran for 1147 performances and was revived for a short Broadway run of 78 performances again in 1966 with Merman in the lead and Bruce Yarnell as Butler. Jerry Orbach played the role of Charlie Davenport. The 1999 Broadway, at the Marquis Theater ran for 35 previews and 1046 performances and featured Bernadette Peters, with various leads following, including; Susan Lucci, of soapbox opera notoriety. In 1950, Metro Goldwyn Mayer made a well-received movie version of the musical. Although MGM purchased the rights to the film version with an announced intention of starring legendary singer-actress Judy Garland as Annie, early work on the film was plagued with difficulties, some attributed to Garland. Garland was fired and replaced by the brassier, blonde Betty Hutton. In 1957, a production starring Mary Martin as Annie and John Raitt as Frank Butler was broadcast on NBC. In 1967, the Lincoln Center production described above, starring Ethel Merman and Bruce Yarnell, was broadcast on NBC.

After the show, I was able to meet the charming and talented Ms. Gambatese, and I invited her to be a guest on The Advocates. We’ll see what happens. So it was a very successful, long, and entertaining day. We were on the road by 9:30 pm and within 30 minutes we were back at Water’s Edge and snuggly ensconced.

The next morning we packed the car, checked out, but altered our earlier plans a bit. We had first thought about going to one of the Yale University museums in New Haven, CT, but decided instead to work our way down Route 1, see some of the small towns and then find I-95 south and head back to Tarrytown. We actually made one stop in Madison, walked around their charming downtown, had our fill and found our way to the interstate. The trip was punctuated by many slow downs because of mid-day work on the road, but within two hours we were back in Tarrytown and glad to be home.





The Advocates 4-14-10

Wednesday, April 14, 2010, at 12:00 Noon, I am hosting my show, The Advocates on WVOX- 1460 AM, or you can listen to the program’s live streaming at One can call the show at 914-636-0110 to reach us on the radio.  My guest is Jeff Shesol, author of Supreme Power, and our subject is FDR, the Supreme Court and the battle over its re-organization in the 1930’s.

Jeff Shesol is a founding partner of West Wing Writers, a speechwriting and communications strategy firm, and is author of the forthcoming book, Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court (March 2010). He is an accidental speechwriter. In 1997, President Clinton read “Mutual Contempt,” Jeff’s book on the Lyndon Johnson-Robert Kennedy feud, and invited Jeff to become a White House speechwriter. Jeff, at that point, had written exactly one political speech in his life: nearly a decade earlier, as a Capitol Hill intern, he had drafted a tribute to America’s nurses.

During his three years at the White House, Jeff became the Deputy Chief of Presidential Speechwriting, a member of the senior staff, and took the lead in drafting the State of the Union Address, the President’s 2000 convention speech, and the Farewell Address. He covered a range of issues — from global trade and economic development to information technology, the federal budget, and the arts. He also helped lead the President's team of humor writers — a team that produced the Clinton comedy video, “The Final Days.”

Before he became a speechwriter, Jeff wrote and drew a syndicated comic strip, “Thatch,” which appeared daily in more than 150 newspapers. His book, “Mutual Contempt,” was a New York Times Notable Book and a Washington Post Critic’s Choice. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., called it “the most gripping political book of recent years.” Jeff continues to publish widely under his own byline, and appears frequently on television and radio.

A Rhodes Scholar, Jeff got his masters in history from Oxford University in 1993 and graduated from Brown University in 1991. He was the 2002 Anschutz Distinguished Fellow in American Studies at Princeton University, where he taught a course on the history of the presidential speech. Jeff lives in Washington with his wife Rebecca, and their two children.
 Meanwhile, the mission of The Advocates is to bring to the public differing views on current “public policy” issues. “Public policy,” therefore, is what we as a nation legally and traditionally follow.
One can find my essays on FDR and other subjects at All of the archived shows can be found at:  Next week on WVOX guest will be hosting representatives from the Frances Perkins Center, and we will be discussing their activities and the 75th anniversary of Social Security.

FDR- 65 Years Ago in Warm Springs 4-12-45

FDR – 65 Years Ago in Warm Springs

April 12, 2010

Richard J. Garfunkel


At Warm Springs on April 12, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent his last day on this earth. He was doing his work until the end. He was dictating to his main secretary, Grace Tully and Dorothy Brady in the terrace of his small pre-Civil War home, known as the Little White House. He was accompanied there by his distant, but loyal cousins Laura “Aunt Polly” Delano and Margaret “Daisy” Suckley.


A few days earlier, on the 9th, Lucy Mercer Rutherford, with whom FDR had been involved in a romantic way from possibly mid-1916 to the summer of 1918 and had been married to the late Winthrop Rutherford until his death in 1944 was traveling to Warm Springs. Along with her was the portrait artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff and the photographer Nicholas Robbins. Ms. Rutherford wanted a painting of the president and Robbins, who an excellent photographer, was friendly with Ms. Shoumatoff and assisted her in her work. On that day, FDR and Daisy drove 85 miles to Manchester, Georgia with a security detail behind them, where the president stopped for a Coca-Cola, and they met the two women who had parked their Cadillac. The Lucy and Madame Shoumatoff transferred to his car, and they all drove back to Warm Springs. Robbins, who was also a Russian, and a naturalized American, born in the Crimea as Nicholas Kotzubensky, was instructed to drive Shoumatoff’s car back to Warm Springs.


On the evening of April 11th, he had dinner with Henry Morgenthau, Jr., his Secretary of the Treasury, who was pressing the president over his idea to create an agrarian post-war Germany. He claimed that FDR had said that he was “with him 100%.”  But, Secretary Morgenthau was quite a bit concerned over the president’s health and found him a bit distracted, forgetful, and in his own words confused when it came to certain people’s names. When he left, after complaining about the State Department’s views on the reconstruction of Germany, his last views of the president were of a man quite happy, surrounded by three adoring women who were laughing and talking.


The next day, while he was working on his papers in the late morning, Ms. Shoumatoff painted his portrait. Being a Russian, Shoumatoff asked the president what he thought of Stalin. FDR said that he liked him, but he thought he had poisoned his wife. At the same time, Laura was fixing a floral arrangement, and Daisy was crocheting. His aide Bill Hassett came in with some papers to sign and read and was a bit annoyed with Ms. Shoumatoff’s presence. The president looked at his watch, after saying, “Here’s where I make a law,” and saw that it was 1 PM and said that the portrait session had to end in 15 minutes. At that express moment, both Laura and Lucy, who had left the room, were called back by Daisy when the president fainted. He had dropped something on the floor, appeared to be fumbling for it, put his hand to the back of his neck, and said almost inaudibly, “I have a terrific pain in the back of my head.” Not long after, he was carried by a Filipino steward Joe Esperancilla and his valet Arthur Prettyman into his bedroom, while Howard Bruenn, his doctor, was phoned. Grace Tully arrived into the room, prayed quietly as he had lapsed into complete unconsciousness. Dr. Bruenn, who arrived shooed, the women out of the room, called Dr. James Paullin, an Atlanta specialist and worked on the president. While he was on the line with FDR’s personal physician Vice-Admiral Ross McIntire, his labored breathing stopped 3:35 PM. Dr. Paullin, a specialist, who was part of FDR’s team of physicians, arrived almost simultaneously and gave the dying president a shot of adrenalin directly in the heart. It did not make a difference.


Lucy Mercer Rutherford and Elizabeth Shoumatoff, quickly packed up their belongings and her paints. The president’s chief bodyguard, Mike Reilly, of the Secret Service, found gas for them for the 186 mile trip back to Aiken, South Carolina. Once the car was ready, they were on the road not long after the president had been stricken.


The assumed physical relationship between Lucy Mercer and Franklin Roosevelt ended in the fall of 1918, with the discovery of a bundle of letters from Lucy that had been found by his wife Eleanor. He had become quite ill upon his return from an inspection trip of Europe and had to be carried from the USS Leviathan and transported to his mother’s townhouse in NYC on September 18th. With the affair exposed, a family crisis ensued, but in the end, FDR parted with Lucy. They may have met once or twice again, and the details of their parting conversations are not known. There is also no evidence regarding whether FDR revealed to Lucy any arrangements which he had made with Eleanor. Under the conditions of the reconciliation, FDR was not to meet or talk to Lucy again, and he and Eleanor would never share the same bed again.


This, of course, is interesting because Eleanor once told her daughter that sex was an ordeal to be borne, and that according to what has been written by members of the family, the fact that they didn’t share the same bed had already been met to avoid further pregnancies. One could speculate that after Eleanor’s 6th childbirth in ten years to her youngest son John, and her removal to a separate bedroom from her husband, that his attraction at age 34 to Lucy may have become more intense. It is hard to believe that a man of his age, with the high libido that all the Roosevelt men possessed, would or could be sentenced to a long celibate life.


Lucy met the wealthy widower Winthrop Rutherford early in 1919 and entered his employ in an undefined role. It may have been as a quasi-governess to Rutherford’s young family of six. But Rutherford, a man in his 50’s, who was exceedingly wealthy and handsome, became enamored with her in short order. They were engaged and married on February 11, 1920. At the age of 29, Lucy had married a man who was 29 years older, or twice her age. The union was successful, the step-children adored her, and she gave birth to her own daughter in 1921. She was a dutiful, loving, and loyal wife, and the marriage lasted until his death in 1944. In the years from 1941 through the war, there were enormous pressures on President Roosevelt, and with Eleanor off traveling to all parts of the country and the world, he sought the company of friends with whom he could relax and escape from the burdens of office. During these years, he was visited at times by Lucy Rutherford. After suffering for years as an invalid, Winthrop Rutherford died in 1944, and Lucy made her first visit in March of that year to Hyde Park. With Eleanor gone, she ate with the president and Daisy Suckley and left by train the next day. There were other meetings, and it was said that he enjoyed immensely her company and her ability to make him relax and not make demands. Could one call her his mistress?  I would say that then she was a dear friend from another chapter in his life. He may have been always in love with her, but he did need trusted friends, and through the toll of war, these friends were few and far between. She, especially after the sickness and death of Missy LeHand and others, gave him that friendship and companionship which he so sorely needed.


Franklin D. Roosevelt was both the Soldier of Freedom and as James MacGregor Burns said,  “the Lion and the Fox.” He was the creator of the New Deal which halted and reversed the Great Depression. He authored the Four Freedoms and wrote the Atlantic Charter with Winston Churchill. He was the architect of victory for the Western World over the forces of darkness and enslavement. He founded the United Nations. His words and ideas would be incorporated in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He fought for victory to the end, and gave his life as an average soldier would in battle.


At his death Winston Churchill said, “In the days of peace he had broadened and stabilized the foundation of American life and union. In war he had raised the strength, might, and glory of the Great Republic to a height never achieved by any nation in history. “ To Churchill, as he stated, “for us it remained only to say that in Franklin Roosevelt their died the greatest American friend we have ever known and the greatest champion who ever brought help and comfort from the New World to the Old.”


In speaking of the late President, Churchill said in Parliament to the members of the House of Commons on April 17, 1945, “he died in harness, and we may say in battle harness, like his soldiers, sailors, and airmen, who side by side with ours are carrying on their task to the end, all over the world. What an enviable death was his.”









The Advocates 4-7-10

Wednesday, April 7, 2010, at 12:00 Noon, I am hosting my show, The Advocates on WVOX- 1460 AM, or you can listen to the program’s live streaming at One can call the show at 914-636-0110 to reach us on the radio.  My guests are Dr. Terry Kirchner and Patricia Dohrenwend, from the Westchester Library System and our subject is the future of libraries, how they are evolving, what they could look like in the future.


Dr. Terry Kirchner joined the Westchester Library System as Executive Director in January 2009 and oversees all aspects of the 38-member public library system. His experience in various management positions at public and academic libraries spans more than 15 years.


Previously, Dr. Kirchner served as Director for Access Services at Columbia University Libraries. There, he coordinated and led system-wide interaction between activities across 22 campus libraries, launched effective assessment and marketing programs, conducted ongoing strategic planning and implementation, and expanded the campus-wide interlibrary loan operations. In his prior position at the New York Public Library, Dr. Kirchner managed numerous public service operations, coordinated interlibrary loan operations across its major research centers, and directed the inventory and relocation of over 2 million volumes to an offsite, high-density storage facility.
Skilled in fostering collaborative and cooperative team-based work groups, Dr. Kirchner earned his doctorate in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University. He holds an MBA in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Baruch College and an MLS degree from Rutgers University. Dr. Kirchner has actively participated in the American Library Association and the New York Chapter of the Special Libraries Association.
Patricia (Patty) Dohrenwend is Director of Westchester County’s Archives and Records Center, a unit within the Department of Information Technology. She was elected as a Trustee of the Westchester Library System in 2002 and currently serves as Board President. In addition to this board, Patty also serves on two state boards supporting the work of the NYS Archives and the State Education Department: the Local Government Records Advisory Council (since 2001) and the State Historical Records Advisory Board (since 2006). Previously, she served for fifteen years as the elected Town Clerk of Eastchester, where she also has participated in many volunteer activities.
Meanwhile, the mission of The Advocates is to bring to the public differing views on current “public policy” issues. “Public policy,” therefore, is what we as a nation legally and traditionally follow.
One can find my essays on FDR and other subjects at All of the archived shows can be found at:  Next week on WVOX my guest will be Jeff Shesol, author of Supreme Power, FDR and the Courts.