Ministering To Muslims

At Yale, Woman Chaplain Does What Fundamentalists Insist Is A Man's Job

December 21, 2006|By ADRIAN BRUNE; Special To The Courant

Like the famous chaplains who defined Yale throughout its 300-year history, Shamshad Sheikh stands ready with a reassuring word or a religious article for inquisitive college students looking for divine counsel.

However, the words from the holy book Sheikh quotes and the prayer beads she hands out are quite different from the support offered by her predecessors at the Ivy League college, which was, after all, founded as a Christian divinity school in 1701.

Sheikh, 48, uses phrases from the Koran for emphasis and usually has a set of blue Subha in her pocket for students to use in salat -- the five daily prayers in which the 33 beads are used to repeat the 99 names for God, including the Wise, the Compassionate, the Merciful and the Good.

``Every day I try to do one thing that will make a difference in someone's life,'' said Sheikh.

Late last spring, Yale hired two associate chaplains in a groundbreaking move. The first, Callista Isabelle, a graduate of the Divinity School and a Lutheran, fell in line with Yale's Christian roots. But the second, Shamshad Sheikh, represented a historic choice for the school: She is Yale's first Muslim associate chaplain, and one of very few Islamic women chaplains in the world.

In the last five years, as the number of Muslim students has continued to grow -- along with a need to understand religious and cultural intricacies in a post-9/11 world -- more colleges and universities have hired Muslim chaplains. Georgetown University was the first, in 1999, but since then Muslim groups across the country estimate that at least 27 schools have appointed a Muslim chaplain, including Amherst, Georgetown and Trinity.

However, Yale has split with all of these other schools, and with the traditional, conservative voices of Islam, by hiring a female chaplain. Sheikh's appointment also figures in the controversy among Muslims on the roles women may play in religious leadership: While most schools of Islamic thought believe women may lead all-female congregations in salat, all sects insist a woman cannot lead a mixed congregation.

``Nowhere in the Koran does it say a woman cannot be a spiritual leader,'' Sheikh said. ``A lot of it is cultural and stems from the more practical aspects.

``In high school, however, I always questioned why Muslims didn't have nuns, like the Catholics. I always wanted to be a teacher -- to reach people's hearts with softness.''

Since coming to Yale in July, Sheikh has served as a spiritual adviser not only to Muslims but to Buddhists, Hindus and those who practice B'hai.

``As a colleague, she was a wonderful support and readily brought a Muslim perspective to our discussions that was invaluable,'' said Paul V. Sorrentino, the coordinator for religious life at Amherst College, where Sheikh previously worked. ``The Muslim community is not homogeneous and varies from highly secular to religiously conservative. As a result, not all students agreed with her religious views, but all were uniformly appreciative of her warm and friendly interactions and her efforts to serve the needs of students.''

At Yale, besides keeping her Bingham Hall door open to students and leading prayers for Muslim students, Sheikh has started a regular Friday gathering in which the community comes together over a Halal meal. During the holy month of Ramadan this fall, she also arranged an interfaith dinner with Indian students celebrating Diwali, the major Hindu ``Festival of Lights,'' which for five days celebrates the time when the seventh incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, Lord Rama, achieved victory over the Ravan, a demon king.

``It was the first time Eid [the day marking the official end of Ramadan] and Diwali were celebrated together on campus. We had about 200 students and a lot of food,'' Sheikh said. ``To me, there's no better way to make connections than over a meal. It's an informal setting in which you can just sit, eat, enjoy and learn from each other at the same time.''

Shared meals are an element of Sheikh's ministry that grew out of her upbringing in Karachi, Pakistan, rather than from her religion. The daughter of an agricultural manager and his homemaker wife, Sheikh was raised in an upper-middle class household in which three of the six children eventually came to the United States.

She credits her mother, who never went beyond the basic schooling for women in Pakistan, with encouraging her to get an education. And Sheikh says from a very young age she knew she wanted to join the Islamic clergy. ``For me, Islam is a form of cultural identity with spirituality at its center,'' she said

Sheikh enrolled at Karachi University and earned her bachelor's degree, followed by an Islamic law degree from S.M. Law College in her native city. Nearly 20 years ago, she came to Springfield to enroll in the master's of business administration program at American International College. She also became a Muslim spiritual adviser at both Amherst and Mount Holyoke and raised a daughter, now a student at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

``Shamshad is a person who is easy to connect to on a very human level. There is nothing intimidating about her, and one can indulge in conversation without the fear of being judged or scolded,'' said Madeeha Channah, a junior at Mount Holyoke, who described Sheikh as her rock in freshman year. ``Her down-to-earth nature, willingness to aid student initiative and to bring community together is remarkable.

``Shamshad integrated exceptionally well with the Mount Holyoke community. She always took special care of first-year students.''

All the while, Sheikh has been active on human rights issues -- something she hopes to continue at Yale. Shortly after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, Sheikh traveled to a refugee camp on the Pakistan border to bear witness to the suffering of Afghani women and offer them support and hope. She also traveled to Pakistan to help after the 2005 earthquake.

Though realizing that humanitarian organizations and the United Nations often frown on cash, Sheikh provided financial, spiritual and psychological support for people at the Kacha Garhi refugee camp on the outskirts of Peshawar. ``When I saw the level of poverty on that extreme, I would have given them anything I had at the time,'' she said.

Her efforts with not only the Afghani women but also the victims of the 2005 earthquake in the rural mountain villages of Pakistan have sent her lecturing to Harvard Divinity School and the Women's Bar Association of New York, among other places.

The lessons Sheikh recently learned in Pakistan ``reflect on every step of my life,'' she said, and she plans to continue passing them on to elite universities. She also says she hopes to take some Yale students to other refugee camps, perhaps in the spring.

``I don't use the word `challenge' because I love the work I do. The only challenge is that I don't have enough time,'' she says.

``Every day, I think, God has given me a whole day, and I look upon it and see that I haven't done enough.''

Iraqi Perspectives On War

May 29, 2008|By ADRIAN BRUNE; Special To The Courant

As a Navy lieutenant serving a one-year tour, Christopher Brownfield formed his own impressions of the war in Iraq. When he returned home to New Haven last year, he brought back Iraqi impressions of the war. He brought home Iraqi art.

In doing so, Brownfield became an accidental curator to an exhibit of 75 Iraqi sculptures, drawings, paintings and photographs showing at the Pomegranate Gallery in New York through June 21.

"Oil on Landscape: Art from Wartime Contemporaries of Baghdad" is the first major U.S. exhibition focused entirely on Iraqi art since the 2003 invasion.

"Americans might consider these works to be politically charged, but it's important for Americans to think about this from an Iraqi perspective," Brownfield said. "These canvases reflect Iraqi views on "Shock and Awe," suicide bombing and a homeland torn apart by bickering parliamentarians.

"To these artists, that's not politics - that's everyday life," Brownfield said.

When the "Shock and Awe" campaign to remove Saddam Hussein from power began, most Americans saw the unfolding events through remote, fuzzy television images of lights flashing and soldiers rushing the capital city.

Mohammed al-Hamadany painted an Iraqi perspective of that night: an installment of 25 color paintings depicting the abstract faces of anxious Iraqis peering through the windows of their homes, the Iraqi flag stained with oily handprints, decapitated women and empty, toppled ladders.

A chance occurrence led Brownfield to the artwork of al-Hamadany and the others in the show. When a State Department official invited him to dinner at the compound of Ahmed Chalabi, Brownfield went searching for a tie to wear with this borrowed suit. On his search, he hit up all the usual piecemeal all-purpose Iraqi stores, containing "everything from hooka pipes to Persian rugs to toothpaste," Brownfield said. But "about three layers in a particular one, and beyond the stereotypical Orientalist painting," Brownfield said he found original art that "aimed to send a message.

"I realized these artists had seriously studied art - that it hadn't just been a passing interest or a quick way to make money," he said. The officer eventually came across more work, met a few of the artists' friends and intermediaries, and opened up a clandestine exchange in which they brought more provocative works, and he passed on much-needed money as well as books on Western art.

Until now, artists in Iraq's capital city have remained a cloistered collective, keeping their pointed works in the back rooms of shops around the Green Zone and leaving the world at large without an indigenous perspective of the campaign.

Though Brownfield's collection largely focuses on post-invasion work, he also included art that represents Iraqi life before 2003. Besides the 5- by 2-foot "Shock and Awe" paintings he hand-carried through customs at Kennedy International Airport (to questioning by many officials), Brownfield brought back photo-realistic drawings of Iraqi people by Sadik Jaffar, who uses a "nom de guerre" meaning "one who sees the truth" (to protect himself from reprisals); metaphorical paintings of broken power lines created by As'aad al-Saghir; and Ahmed Nousaife's abstract depictions of Mesopotamia in more idealistic times.

Brownfield wrote and published a 70-page exhibit catalog, which features all of the artists' work, providing context and their connections to the insurgency. "Mohammed said a few weeks ago he felt as if he finally had 'a window to the outside world' - that now there's hope and a reason to keep creating," Brownfield said. "We found a place where they could renew the vitality of their work." Because of security concerns, the artists declined comment.

Initially, Brownfield bought the art for himself, but on his return to the U.S., he came across Oded Halahmy, an Iraqi ex-patriate, sculptor and owner of the Pomegranate Gallery in Manhattan's SoHo district, and the two discussed the possibility of a show.

"Chris' efforts, bringing these works to the U.S., completely related to our vision," said Halahmy, who opened the gallery a few years ago to introduce people to the artistic endeavors taking place in the Middle East and whose own abstract sculptures have appeared in the Guggenheim, the Hirschhorn and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He said, "Baghdad has historically been viewed as the cultural capital of the Middle East and primary innovator in the fine arts. Chris has helped demonstrate that these artists can create something out of the destruction."

The show has already received significant attention, and Brownfield plans to sell the most works, though he might keep a few of Jaffar's drawings. The gallery and Brownfield will distribute all the proceeds directly to the Iraqi artists, most of whom are unemployed and rely on artwork sales to feed their families. He doesn't plan any other similar show, hoping instead to find "foundations to carry the torch.

"These artists experienced things that would have torn them apart if they hadn't expressed them. But artists like Mohammed saw the possibility of sending their work abroad. He said, 'This is my one shot to send the world my message.' "

All The Pretty Horses

Eight Steeds In New Haven's Lighthouse Point Carousel Show Off A Winter Makeover

May 13, 2008|By ADRIAN BRUNE; Special To The Courant

The old carousel horse Thunderbolt had a broken leg and some serious scrapes and scratches, but the city of New Haven saw no reason to put him down.

Rather, Thunderbolt was removed from his pole last November by Plainville artisan William Finkenstein. Over the course of the winter, he and seven of his counterparts in the 70-strong herd endured sanding and stripping, retouching and rehabilitation before coming home for another seaside season at Lighthouse Point Park.

Beginning Memorial Day and running to Labor Day, Lighthouse Point patrons, including those who have booked more than 90 events under the carousel tent, will be able to saddle Thunderbolt and his fellow ponies for a jaunt into early childhood or a ride down memory lane.

"Thunderbolt was one of the worst [in terms of condition], probably because he is one of the most popular horses. He has a lot of life," said Finkenstein, one of the country's few carousel restorers. "More youngsters like to ride jumpers than the standing ones."

The return of the chestnut pony, whose dark mane runs along an electric blue halter and bejeweled saddle, marked the end of a $30,000 campaign to rejuvenate the carousel, which celebrates its 97th running this year.

"I have a 3-year-old nephew who can't go down the highway without stopping at the park for a ride at the carousel," said Sabrina Bruno, a project coordinator for New Haven's parks department, who oversees carousel operations. "And then I talk to people who leave a wedding here saying it's the greatest wedding they've ever attended because they rode a carousel pony again.

"It's as close to a fairy tale as you can get."

One of only about 100 carousels remaining in the country, the Lighthouse Point Carousel was cobbled together by several different carvers in 1911 and placed along Long Island Sound five years later. It remained there until the mid-1970s, when, amid a financial crisis, New Haven closed the ride and put the ponies in storage.

A few years later, a group of long-time residents founded Friends of the Carousel and aimed at returning the horses, worth between $25,000 and $50,000 each, to their rightful hitching posts. While the organization successfully completely its mission by around 1980, "now that the carousel is approaching its 100th anniversary, we've begun an even more aggressive campaign to redo the horses," Bruno said.

That push has required the skills of several artisans, including Finkenstein. A Norman Rockwell-inspired painter, he has restored carousels for 30 years, from those weathered by New England gales to the ones ripped apart by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

The exactitude of the profession sometimes requires great patience. When, after removing layer upon layer of paint on a carousel chariot, Finkenstein couldn't replicate one of New Haven's historical scenes, he consulted his grandmother's library for historic prints after exhausting local records.

"Every one is special. When I work on them, it's exciting to me to think about people, and time, and all the things these horses have done through the years," he said. "How many antiques can do the same thing they were designed to do at the turn of the century?"

For more information on the carousel, visit Rides cost only 50 cents, but nonresidents are subject to a $10 parking fee.

Two Slaves' Escape Stories, In (mostly)their Own Words

January 27, 2008|By ADRIAN BRUNE; Special to the Courant

Adrian Brune is a free-lance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.


by David W. Blight (Harcourt, 397 pp., $25)

The antebellum and postbellum periods of American history have inspired hundreds of significant works of literature on the horrors of slavery and the Civil War, but none more poignant than those produced by the victims of the "peculiar institution" - slaves themselves.

Frederick Douglass wrote one of the first harrowing slave narratives in 1845, followed by Sojourner Truth in 1850 and, 11 years later, by Harriet Jacobs, whose "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" for the very first time detailed slaves' sexual abuse. These books helped their authors, especially Douglass, achieve fame and a place in history, but hundreds of fellow freedmen also penned their plights and went unpublished.

Though fewer than a dozen slave narratives are thought to exist, in 2003 historian David Blight came across two: that of John Washington, an escaped slave from southern Virginia, and Wallace Turnage, a slave who ran away five times before gaining safety with Union troops in Alabama.

Blight, director of Yale University's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, took these hand-written accounts, given to him by their authors' relatives and friends and wove them into an engaging, provocative book, "A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom."

The book has an unusual format. In the first part, Blight tells the slaves' stories for them, providing details about their circumstances for context. While slave narratives usually end with the gaining of freedom, Blight, through historical documents gathered from descendants, attempts to recreate the men's post-emancipation lives in the second segment. The last section presents Washington and Turnage's stories in their own words, nearly verbatim.

As he notes in the first sentence of his narrative, Washington (1838-1918) was born into slavery in Virginia, the son of a white man he never knew. He spent his early years on a plantation, before his mother was sold to a Fredericksburg socialite in the 1840s.

After his master leased his mother and his four half-siblings to another planter - and Washington became a houseman - he developed a fierce determination to escape. Taking advantage of the Union occupation near Fredericksburg in April 1862, he crossed the Rappahannock River and found freedom in the army camps, eventually working as cook for Gen. Rufus King.

Experiencing more hardship, Turnage and his family were shipped from North Carolina to Alabama where he was sold as a field hand. After fleeing four times - and enduring harsh beatings upon his return - he made a dramatic final escape for a Union stronghold after hiding in a swamp for a week, dodging Rebel troops.

"Now when I got down [to the water] I seen a little boat. . . . It stood like it was held by an invisible hand; so I got in the little boat and it held me," he wrote. A few hours later, as a storm approached, Union soldiers pulled him aboard their gunboat.

Turnage went on to work for an officer in the Third Maryland Cavalry and then as a glass blower, watchman and waiter in New York, burying two wives and raising several children.

Washington worked in Washington as a house painter, eventually retiring to Cohasset, Mass., where one of his five sons was a railroad signal operator.

Sometimes grammatically challenging, their stories are nonetheless the most compelling aspect of "A Slave No More," though Blight retells them well. He adds little-known facts, such as Lincoln's meeting with black leaders, including Douglass, to ask for their endorsement of a plan to re-colonize the freed slaves in Africa. But he crosses into perilous territory when he speculates on their lives as free men, at points over-dramatizing.

That aside, the dearth of slave narratives and this testimony of overwhelming desire for freedom make the book a powerful addition to the black history library.

Art Of Freedom

Exhibit Depicts The Joy, Violence Of Emancipation In Jamaica

October 05, 2007|By ADRIAN BRUNE; Special To The Courant

In 19th-century Jamaica when everyone heard the cry on Christmas Day, "Jonkonnu a come!'' it meant the pageantry and festival was about to begin in the town squares.

Artist Isaac Mendes Belisario followed, sketchbook in hand.

On the streets, Belisario captured the scenes as former slaves and transplanted West Africans poured from their homes to watch singing, merriment and parades of actors dressed in lavish European-style costumes dancing the Jonkonnu, a blended masquerade.

Producing lively and colorful drawings of the celebrations, Belisario -- a white, Jewish, British subject -- would eventually give Europeans their first real views of Jamaican culture.

The Yale Center for British Art aims to bring the same experience to New Englanders through the exhibit "Art & Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds,'' through the end of the year.

"Belisario came to Jamaica at a time when the island was in the middle of a huge change. ... Nobody felt truly at home,'' said Gillian Forrester, the associate curator of prints and drawings and a Belisario aficionado. ``There was always this theme of displacement and assimilation, and a binary relationship between Jamaicans and Europeans in his work.''

Organized to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of Britain's slave trade, "Art & Emancipation'' is the first exhibition to exclusively focus on the visual culture of slavery and emancipation in 17th- 18th- and 19th-century Jamaica.

The exhibit -- the result of a yearlong global hunt for Belisario and other artists' works, including landscapes by Joseph Bartholomew Kidd, West African costumes and documentary lithographs by Adolphe Duperly -- chronicles the iconography of sugar, slavery and the changing Jamaican topography from the beginning of British rule in 1655 to the turbulent years of emancipation's aftermath in the 1840s.

The abolition of slavery, "was definitely not the end of the story in Jamaica,'' Forrester said. "The period afterward was a brutal one -- it was one of people trying to form an identity.''

"Art & Emancipation'' reflects the struggle, as well as the beauty, that emerges from a country of disparate people. Laid out in eight sections, the exhibit takes visitors through crucial periods in Jamaica's development, beginning with the introduction of slaves in the sugarcane fields, around 1655. Plantation life is depicted in Kidd's watercolor landscapes, and lithographs by Belisario and Duperly document the country's violent uprisings.

Central to "Art & Emancipation,'' however, is the concept of the Jonkonnu dance and Belisario's work surrounding it. Jonkonnu differed from other Caribbean cultural events, such as Carnival, in that it included references to religion, history and moral values, which eventually galvanized a group of African tribes -- the Igbo, Kongo and Yoruba among them -- to create a collective Creole culture.

Belisario was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1795 to a Sephardic Jewish family of Spanish or Portuguese origin. He grew up in a cosmopolitan family that moved back and forth across the Atlantic in response to changing economic, religious and political circumstances. Belisario trained as an artist under Robert Hills, a landscape watercolorist and drawing master.

From 1815 to 1818, Belisario exhibited landscape watercolors in London, but put aside his artistic endeavors in the 1820s when he took a job as a stockbroker and shuffled between London and Kingston. Settling in Jamaica in the 1830s, Belisario established a studio, where he produced small-scale watercolor portraits, before embarking upon his artistic renderings of the rebellion.

In 1823, members of Britain's House of Commons and the Anti-Slavery Society in London declared slavery "repugnant to the principles of the British constitution'' and called for its immediate end.

The country experienced several uprisings over the next 10 years until the Reform Act of 1832 effectively abolished slavery in favor of a period of "apprenticeship,'' in which enslaved children under 6 became immediately free, while their elders, although paid, remained tied to their former employers for four years.

The visual images produced at the time reflected a wide range of views toward emancipation. They included images that revealed the horrors of life under apprenticeship -- images used by humanitarian campaigners in London -- to more placid plantation scenes. Originally designed as a series of 12 volumes, Belisario attempted to meticulously record true life in Jamaica through his "Sketches of Character,'' the first of which consisted of four hand-colored lithographs accompanied by text explaining the various customs.

Ammo Boxes Are Music To His Ears

Soldier's Amplifier Business Grows -- Even As He Serves A Tour In Iraq


As a former nuclear submarine pilot, Lt. Christopher Brownfield learned a thing or two about the particulars of sound, learning to ``drive blindly'' deep under the ocean using nothing but sonar.

So when he wanted to give his older brother a special birthday present -- one the budding musician could actually use -- he decided to put his perfect pitch to use and build him a guitar amplifier. Unfortunately, the college English major knew nothing about putting together an amp.


It took three years and a lot of tinkering, but eventually he delivered: The older Brownfield received a small, funny-looking ammunition box full of sound. ``At first, my brother looked at the Ammo Box Amp a little strangely, but when I gave him the prototype, and he plugged it in, he seemed to forget about its unconventionality and my tardiness.''

And then Brownfield's brother started telling everyone he knew about his amp. Hartford musician Randy Collins, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and controversial rocker Ted Nugent came knocking for an Ammo Box Amp, and Brownfield's belated birthday present turned into a business.

Since last year, Brownfield, now on his first tour in Iraq, has operated Ammo Box Amps out of his condominium in New Haven. Despite dodging IEDs in Baghdad and serving as a liaison among the Department of Defense, State Department and the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity to oversee energy implementation in the besieged country, the soldier with a penchant for good tone has managed to keep his small shop running and growing.

``I've recruited two exceptionally talented technicians to continue building Ammo Box Amps while I am deployed -- their work is the best I've ever seen, as one might expect from instructors who train other people how to build control systems for nuclear submarines,'' Brownfield wrote in an e-mail from Baghdad's Green Zone, where he is stationed. ``We're hoping to take a shot at making music history, or at least help to make some great sounding performances.''

From overseas, he has coordinated events and seminars about building amplifiers with the masters of the trade, including Gerald Weber, the founder of Texas-based Kendrick Amplifiers, one of the most well-respected builders of custom amps in the country. ``I guess life here is not so busy as I've said previously, or maybe I'm just hyperactive,'' Brownfield wrote.

Usually discarded or recycled after transporting military ammunition, ammo boxes have been used as humidors for cigars, but not much else. One day while tinkering around in his studio, Brownfield realized how well the size of the olive green metal box would lend itself to military-grade sound components. He drilled a couple of holes in the side of one for knobs and cords, wired it, and plugged it into his Gibson Les Paul, then let the sound rip.

``It's hand-wired with a level of craftsmanship and detail that is nearly impossible to find,'' said Nick Lloyd, the founder and owner of Firehouse 12, a popular bar, music venue and recording studio in downtown New Haven. ``The amp has a level of clarity and detail I haven't heard from other guitar amps, at any price.''

Moore echoed the praise.

``Ammo Box Amps have the firepower I need when it's time to scorch,'' he said. ``It allows a sweet tone to become a raging beast and back again. It's immediate yet sensitive. The way I like my rock `n' roll.''

Brownfield's Ammo Box Amp, though cool to Moore, Lloyd and most other customers, does have a few setbacks its creator admitted.

``I wouldn't want to try to get one past airport security these days,'' Brownfield wrote from Iraq. ``One girl at Guitar Center actually asked me if it was a bomb when I brought it into their showroom to play through different speaker cabinets.''

Originally from Michigan, Brownfield settled in New Haven after finishing the U.S. Naval Academy in 2001 and taught the intricacies of submarine sonar systems at the New London Naval Base before the military shipped him off to Iraq as a ``individual augmentee'' -- support staff for the U.S. Army. Expecting to work closely with the operational army, the military placed Brownfield in Saddam Hussein's former presidential palace, where he serves as a junior staffer under Gen. George W. Casey, the U.S. ground commander in Iraq.

Brownfield has started writing a book about submarines, Iraq and the general use of defense spending in foreign policy, in addition to trying to run his nascent business thousands of miles away. Through e-mails, he has described an existence that is a complete paradox to accounts from the front line, though he hears the car bombs and the chaos unfolding around him every day.

``Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, provides four meals a day, during very flexible hours, in a wonderful dining facility immediately adjacent to a beautiful pool behind the palace -- the cost to American taxpayers: $35 per meal,'' he wrote. ``I live in a `small but fashionable air-conditioned trailer' in a `Riverside Villa,' as the Army calls it. Never mind that the river is the Tigris and it has on any given day four or five unknown Iraqi bodies in it.

``As I sit here inside an Internet cafe with chandeliers, marble floors and 60-foot high ceilings, I can't help but feel guilty about being here. Still, I feel as if I could do a lot more good if I stay than if they send me packing.''

Come August 2007, he hopes to part company with the Army. He wants to devote more time to Ammo Box Amps and then the pursuit of his graduate business studies at Yale's School of Management, which he deferred to come to the Middle East.

In the meantime, however, he continues to stock up on his much-needed ammo boxes while overseas and looks forward to the day he can ``annoy my neighbors sufficiently when I'm testing out the newly built amps.''

Saving `Guitar Man'

Sentimental Hamden Man Mounts Coliseum Icon -- Well, Part Of It -- On His Pizzeria Storefront


For years and years, he took New Haven's center stage in all his shimmering gold and fiber-optic glory, wielding his giant guitar over downtown residents. Now, like so many acts before him, the city's giant guitarist -- the one bolted to the side of the gradually disappearing New Haven Coliseum -- has been relegated to a smaller venue. At least, half of him has. His legs didn't fit.

Thanks to the saving grace of Leonard Reizfeld, a Hamden attorney and fan, passersby and patrons of his Blues Brick Oven Pizza now enjoy an encore by the guitarist who once shined from the coliseum. ``He's 40 feet tall; there was no way [all of him] would fit on the side of this building,'' Reizfeld said one morning in his pizza restaurant on Dixwell Avenue in Hamden, decorated with hanging, hollowed-out pianos and music-themed murals. ``He's so heavy, he's literally bolted through the walls.''

The coliseum's aluminum figures of a basketball player, ice skater and hockey player weren't so fortunate. They weren't adopted and were victims of wrecking crews. Reizfeld also owns the monster truck, but hasn't decided what to do with it.

The coliseum is being demolished as part of New Haven's $230 million Gateway Downtown Development Project -- the city's largest revitalization project in more than 30 years -- to include a hotel, conference center and housing.

The coliseum's demolition had been stalled for a few months, but workers have come back. By two weeks ago, none of the coliseum's external decor remained, save for its stenciled sign, which will soon be gone, too. Engineers are preparing a plan for imploding the superstructure.

Reizfeld, 45, wishes the city had found an alternative to removing the coliseum, which he fondly remembers as the place he saw the circus, hockey games and concerts. But others in city government aren't as attached, either to the building or the super-size silhouettes that were intended to call attention to the venue and the city.

"They bought these from an off-the-shelf company with the intent to dress the coliseum up,'' said Barbara Lamb of New Haven's Office of Cultural Affairs. ``As I recall, the original proposal called for the building to be ringed with these things. But that clearly wasn't going to happen. It's not like they're works of art. In my opinion, they didn't do anything to help it.''

Mayor John DeStefano agreed.

"They were my idea, then I began to hate them,'' DeStefano said in an e-mail.

During the late 1990s, as the coliseum's star was fading, DeStefano and the city blamed the building's lack of signage and set out to solve the problem with a large electronic message board announcing upcoming events to motorists on I-95. The state Department of Transportation nixed that idea, however, as too much of a distraction. So the city came up with the large ``The Coliseum'' sign and ``icons to highlight the types of events that took place at the facility,'' said Tony Bialecki, New Haven's deputy director of economic development.

Since the city has long prohibited large neon signs downtown, Signlite of North Haven came up with the five aluminum shapes, large enough to see during the day and lighted with fiber optics at night.

"Did they achieve their purpose? I suspect they added to the building such that if you were just driving into New Haven, you perhaps would realize that the rusting hulk of the garage was something more than just a large parking structure,'' Bialecki said.

When the city closed the coliseum in the fall of 2002, Reizfeld felt moved by the impending fate of the icons and bought the guitar man for $100. He then spent $450 to hire a 90-ton crane and recruited a crew of friends to bring him down.

"We had to unscrew him and then, when that didn't work, demolition-saw him off the building,'' Reizfeld said. ``It was a nightmare.''

Guitar man took up residence in Reizfeld's backyard for nearly two years while he devised a plan for the musician's next appearance. In the meantime, Reizfeld said, he bought the monster truck for $100; it's sitting on the demolition company's lot in Stamford.

The size and weight of the figures detract from their resale value, said Bialecki.

"To make use of them, and get the same effect as was intended on the coliseum, you have to have a significant building,'' he said. ``Few buildings have the type of wall space the coliseum did -- in some ways they were almost lost on the garage structure except at night when they were lighted and very hard to miss.''

A Legacy Of Their Own

Brakettes, Now A Pro Softball Team, Have A Six-decade History In Stratford

July 20, 2006|By ADRIAN BRUNE; Special to the Courant

The television cameras and many fans were long gone, but manager John Stratton and the Connecticut Brakettes were having what he likes to call ``a perfect softball experience'' Sunday at DeLuca Field in Stratford.

It was the bottom of the seventh inning, the score 6-6, with the Brakettes' Kelly Kretschman on second base in a National Pro Fastpitch game against the Texas Thunder. Then, with two outs, first baseman Kellie Wilkerson's single into left field drove in the winning run for a 7-6 victory that completed a four-game series sweep.

What was left of the crowd of 674 went wild and, for a few fleeting moments, the 16 women of the Brakettes -- one of seven teams in the nascent national professional women's softball league -- felt like Yankee superstars.

"They hit the ball exceptionally well today and we had some fans here, which makes all the difference,'' Stratton said. "My goal is for everyone on the team to enjoy themselves, and we did today.''

Though they don't wear skirts, have team names like the Rockford Peaches and get chastised by Jimmy Dugan about how ``there's no crying in baseball,'' professional women's softball is making a "League of Their Own'' comeback in the United States.

Women like the Brakettes -- college standouts and Olympians -- playing for seven teams across the country now spend their summers away from their day jobs, live together in large group houses and play softball before moderate crowds for a pittance, compared to what the major-leaguers make.

"These women are some excellent athletes -- most of them have been playing since they were 6 years old -- and they deserve an opportunity to showcase their talents after college,'' said David Carpenter, the Brakettes' owner. "When people really understand what a high-quality game softball is and how every play counts, I believe it will really take off.''

It hasn't quite yet, however. ESPN and ESPN2 broadcast some games -- ESPN showed the Team China vs. Team USA game last Saturday night and ESPN2 has the Brakettes on its schedule tonight at 8.

But each Brakette has a regular-season job. Some, like Jen Owens -- whose brother Henry spent some time this season as a relief pitcher for the New York Mets -- are high school teachers and keep their summers free for softball. Others, like Julie Brooks, a graphic designer, save up vacation days or ask their employers for three months off to live out their dreams. Many piece together coaching gig after coaching gig to make ends meet, with their eyes on the summer season.

The 12 women who live in the Brakettes' house in Monroe take trips to New York, watch other teams' games and fish in the pond out back during their free time. Not only have they come to know each other well, but ask anyone on the team and she can tell you stories about teammates.

How Sarah Pauly, considered one of the best pitchers in the league, was the last pitcher that left fielder Denise Denis faced in her college career at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, for example.

"A week after that NCAA game, I drove up [to DeLuca Field], saw Sarah and was like, `Don't I know you?''' Denis said in the dugout during Saturday's game. "She said, `Yeah, you're the one who was always fouling off my pitches.' I was up there for like an hour when I came to bat.'''

Or there are stories from childhoods spent on the diamond. Recent Louisiana State University graduate Stephanie Hill pointed to a woman on the Texas team during the game Sunday and told the story of growing up with her in New Orleans.

"I never thought when we were playing basketball and softball together as kids, we'd be playing against each other the NCAA regional [softball tournament] and then two months later playing professional softball,'' she said.

The history of the Connecticut Brakettes stretches back nearly to 1943, when Philip K. Wrigley came up with the All American Girls Softball League. Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner, attracted fans to women's softball, as many of his best major leaguers were going off to war. Possibly riding on the success of the league, which drew up to 3,000 fans per game during World War II, William S. Simpson organized the Raybestos Girl All-Stars in 1947, named after an automotive brake manufacturer. They became quickly known as the Brakettes.

The women's league faded in the early 1950s, but the Brakettes have lasted through six decades of both amateur and professional competition. Joan Joyce, a Waterbury native who played 17 years with the Brakettes, became one of the best-known female athletes of her time with a 429-27 pitching record, including 105 no-hitters and 33 perfect games. Joyce left the Brakettes in 1976 for the Women's Professional League and later became a professional golfer.

The Brakettes were the Yankees of women's softball, winning 26 national championships -- including eight straight beginning in 1971.

Stratton, who has been part of women's softball since working as a bat boy in the 1950s (his wife was also a softball player in the early days), hopes a corporate sponsor will recognize the sport's entertainment potential and come along to promote it.

``If we could get Revlon or even a place like Mohegan Sun to give the league $500,000 to cover some of these costs and pay these players, we would make it,'' he said. ``In Japan, all of the teams have a corporate sponsor and they pay the big bucks. No one here is making money at this right now.''

Least of all Carpenter, the retired owner of a manufacturing business, who has financed the Brakettes for the past 11 seasons, covering his players' room and board and paying them a salary ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 per summer.

``I feel by next year we'll have eight or 10 teams and be able to build the attendance. Right now, we're working on how to do more broadcasting,'' Carpenter said. ``I think when some corporations realize what a good game this is and that we have a stable league, it will attract some interest.''

Meanwhile, the Brakettes must finish the season, then return to their paying gigs -- or find one.

``My mom is my biggest supporter, but she's pushing me to get a job. I'm trying to break into a regular life,'' said Denis, a recent college graduate who will start working as a media analyst this fall.

But she has a few games -- and good times -- left.


Friends Hope Film Shows Buildup's Negative Effect

Back From College, They Find Milford Changed

July 02, 2006|By ADRIAN BRUNE; Special To The Courant

It's billed as the story of two kids who awoke from the American dream.

When high school friends Mike Stock and Liz Theis finished college they came home, but it wasn't to the Milford they'd known and loved. They arrived in a hometown, in their opinion, hijacked by behemoth malls, mega-churches and traffic.

So, they decided to make a movie, documentary style. "Milford, America 06460,'' has a definite point of view. It's about how their quaint, beachside, working-class community has developed into the commercial capital along Connecticut's shoreline.

"We wanted to know why the town has to sell out to be economically successful,'' Stock said.

"We wanted to know how much is too much. When does it stop? It's like one big Catch-22. They're supposedly making [Milford] better, but they're making it worse.''

"They'' are the developers, the city leaders and the urban planners of Milford, all directly and indirectly accused of helping to change the shoreline landscape.

The trailer for the film -- a work in progress in need of money -- takes its audience on a ride through Milford, starting with picturesque beaches, interviews at the annual oyster festival where locals complain about the traffic, and scene after scene of shopping malls surrounded by automobiles.

"One of the main points of this film is to get people to recognize that Milford isn't the only place this is happening, that everyone's hometown is being co-opted,'' Stock said. ``We've traveled across the country and seen lots of trees going down for Home Depot and Wal-Mart.''

Although the twentysomethings work on a shoestring budget -- supplemented by Theis' job slinging lattes at the Booktrader Cafe in New Haven and Stock's at a New Haven gallery and local package store -- and have yet to pull together enough footage for a full-length film, locals already know the project quite well. The pair have spent about $1,200 so far.

"It's typical. College kids go away for four years, come back, and there are going to be a few changes -- it's a natural progression,'' said Milford City Planner David Sulkis. "I used to get the best roast beef sandwiches at this place in high school and when I came home from college [and] found it had been torn down, I thought the world had gone to hell in a handbasket.

"They're not causing any trouble. There are many people who say Milford still does retain its charm.''

City officials generally see Milford's evolution the same way -- the result of the change that came in the 1950s with an interstate highway.

"The biggest change to Milford was I-95 with seven exits and entrances,'' said Robert B. Gregory, Milford's community development director. "Yes, some of the farms and open space started to disappear then and depending on your point of view, it's to the benefit or detriment of the town.''

Officials contend that Milford's town green and its duck pond will remain untouched by the chain-store commerce along Route 1. ``The green is absolutely sacred land; I don't think the city's fathers would ever let that happen,'' said Kathleen Alagno, the president and CEO of Milford's Chamber of Commerce.

However, Theis and Stock have interviewed longtime residents who question -- on and off camera -- the exponential growth, the congested streets, the removal of historic homes. Some say it no longer fits its own motto: "A Small City with a Big Heart.''

"It's not as good as it was years ago,'' said a Milford resident in a trailer for "Milford, America 06460.'' The new trailer is on a DVD and the old trailer can be seen at "At one time, we all lived in a neighborhood. No one locked their doors, no fences, no nothing.''

Two years ago, Theis, 24, finished a degree in film at Vermont's Marlboro College, graduated and then settled back into her Milford home, horrified by the changes her community had undergone. In 2004, she began hanging out with Stock, 27, a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, who lives with his mom, an employee of the city's zoning enforcement board.

"We were sitting around at his place talking about Milford, and he was saying how Milford would make a good comicbook,'' Theis said. " said, `Why not make a great movie?'''

Soon, the two formed Light & Sweet Productions -- a name taken from their addiction to Dunkin' Donuts coffee -- and started filming "Milford, America 06460.'' They had the gift of good timing.

Last summer, after seven years of eviction notices, protests, nature preserve studies and court battles, the city began the relocation of 174 families from the Ryder Mobile Home Park in Milford to make way for a new Wal-Mart. Across Route 1, just off I-95, the completion of renovations and expansion of the mall continued, while down the street, a Lowe's home-improvement store took over the space once occupied by World Jai-Alai.

"There's a great sense of loss. I have a scrapbook that I put together of Milford's lost buildings and people are amazed when they see that used to be the building where that Burger King now stands,'' said city historian Richard Platt, whose ancestors helped settle Milford 250 years ago. "It is a powerful thing to show people, who are very much dismayed when a developer feels like he has to clear away something and put anything bigger and better in its place.''

Initially, the two filmmakers focused on the Kingdom Life Christian Church, a mega-church built in the area a few years ago, and its proprietor, Bishop Jay Ramirez. The original trailer, in which the filmmakers portrayed Kingdom Life as opportunistic about Milford real estate, included scenes of traffic, a shot of Stock at a Dunkin' Donuts drive-through, spliced scenes from a porn film (referring to the church's goal of ridding the city of its adult entertainment store) and finally a portion of a sermon by Ramirez.

"It says in the Bible,'' Ramirez intoned in Light & Sweet's first trailer, "that without vision, people begin to perish.''

Ramirez attacked the trailer. In published reports, he called material ``slanderous'' and accused the filmmakers of being ``wannabes,'' with a ``little goofy website.''

Theis and Stock altered their approach, and cut a new trailer, but they said Kingdom Life and Ramirez will remain part of the end product.

The first trailer "was a comment on overbuilding in Milford -- that it could come crashing down,'' Theis said. "You want to talk about development in Milford, you talk about the Kingdom Life Church,'' which has snapped up millions of dollars of real estate.

The duo plan on shooting every day they are free from their paying jobs this summer and hope to be in post-production by October.

"Of course, we'll have the world premiere in Milford, after the film festivals,'' Stock said. "We're not only doing it for us. A lot of people are counting on this film.''

Theis and Stock will host a fundraiser at Daniel Street, a popular Milford nightspot, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. today. They will show a trailer of the movie and read from old letters and cards they gathered at the site of the Ryder Mobile Home Park, demolished to make room for the new Wal-Mart. Admission is $5.

Reconstructing Shakespeare

What Did The Bard Look Like? Exhibit Offers Six Possible Answers

June 23, 2006|By ADRIAN BRUNE; Special to the Courant

Scores of literature students and buffs think that, after 400 years, they know Shakespeare -- the balding guy with frilly neckware, a goatee and a stiff upper lip who brought us the mercurial musings of Hamlet and the amorous entreaties of Romeo.

Not everyone sees him that way.

British painter John Taylor saw William Shakespeare as a bit more bohemian, an Elizabethan hipster. His portrait has the bard in a long beard, plain white collar, disheveled hair and a gold hoop in his left ear.

The truth is nobody knows what Shakespeare looked like because there is no record that he ever sat for a portrait. But that doesn't mean people haven't tried to figure it out.

A new exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art opening today attempts to determine not only the true likeness of Shakespeare but also how the playwright and poet was understood by his fellow actors and writers.

``Searching for Shakespeare,'' a show that originated at the National Portrait Gallery in London, pulls together the best-known portrait, called the Chandos, and five other contenders that portray Shakespeare at different stages of life -- as a young man, a 16th-century beatnik and, finally, as the aristocratic artist most people recognize.``In all likeliness, Shakespeare had his portrait painted, as many others in his circle. Does that portrait exist? We can't be hand-on-heart absolutely sure, but (the Chandos portrait) has the strongest claim to being an authentic lifetime portrait of the playwright,'' said British art historian, Tarnya Cooper. That portrait was hung in Britain's National Portrait Gallery in London in 1856.

The display also includes supplemental material -- including books and original documents from his lifetime and his signed will -- to partially reconstruct the man behind the famous plays and sonnets. ``We'll never entirely know Shakespeare, or what he looks like, but I believe what we have found in the Chandos portrait is the face of a beautiful man who could write,'' Cooper said. While the Chandos portrait, named after a previous owner, probably shows the true Shakespeare, scholars cannot discount two other key artifacts in ``Searching for Shakespeare'' -- an engraving of Shakespeare that appeared in the first posthumously printed edition of his plays, and a memorial bust taken from his monument at a church in his hometown Stratford-upon-Avon. His family probably commissioned both pieces from portrait miniatures or another portrait, and through both, intentionally put forth a stately image of Shakespeare, which has been the most widely circulated.

The appearance of the Chandos portrait in 1856 and the gradual emergence of the five others in the exhibit threw curators and art historians for a loop.

``These portraits have widely differing virtues. For some we have a date and no certainty of the subject, for others we have a construction of the subject but a date that does not match the period of his life,'' wrote Sandy Nairne, National Gallery director, in the exhibit catalog.

``The history of each painting plays a fascinating and vital part of the Holy Grail question of whether a painted portrait can ever be authenticated.''


Throughout the 20th century, a competitor, the Grafton portrait, the first of the five, had numerous champions expressing the hope that it showed the real Shakespeare. Depicting a beautiful young man with the beginnings of a receding hairline wearing a scarlet jacket, the Grafton portrait features an inscription that records the sitter's age at 24 in 1588, making him an exact contemporary of Shakespeare. Found in the late 19th century in a tavern north of Yorkshire, conservators have not completely discredited the Grafton portrait, but largely believe the romantic notion of seeing Shakespeare in his youth drives the debate.

Another, the Sanders portrait, dating to 1603 reveals circumstantial evidence of Shakespearean authenticity. A damaged label on the back of the painting reads: ``Shakpere/Born April 23 = 1564 / Died April 23 -1616 / Aged 52 / This likeness taken 1603 / Age at the time 39 ys.'' Tradition has associated this work with a painter named John Sanders, who was somehow connected with Shakespeare's company, although no evidence of this has been found. Further investigation established that the sitter appears to be a man in his late 20s; in 1603 William Shakespeare was 39.

None of the three remaining portraits met modern-day criteria. A painting known as the Janssen portrait bore the words ``AE 46/1610'' inscription, was later discovered to be over-painted.

The Soest portrait -- thought to be the work of one of two brothers, Gilbert or Gerard Soest -- was probably painted in 1667, long after Shakespeare's death. In it, Shakespeare appears reincarnated as a man of sensitive disposition and fine manners, dressed in a doublet and without an earring.

Finally, x-ray technology uncovered a 16th-century Italian Madonna and Child painting under the last portrait, the Flower Portrait. ``Shakespeare has a halo and sits before a beautiful Venetian background,'' Cooper noted. Despite the extensive inquest into Shakespeare's life, Cooper doubts anyone will ever know the real William Shakespeare and that may be part of his eternal allure.

``He wasn't a company keeper; he didn't carouse. He was just an incredibly intensive writer,'' she said.

From Yale To China: Gifts With Meaning

Bequest Honors 1st Chinese Student


The ceremony had all the pomp and circumstance of a White House affair. The gifts from Yale to President Hu Jintao of China on his first visit to the school in late April were hand-picked for their exquisiteness and significance.

Yale chose to give the president of China a very old book and a poster.

The president of China gave Yale many Chinese books.

All the gifts were respectful bows to the very start of the relationship between the university and China, which began in the mid-1800s, when Yale admitted its first Chinese student, Yung Wing.

Yung, who graduated in 1854, later donated thousands of books to Yale. One of them, a book on Confucianism, was the book Yale President Richard Levin presented to President Hu (in a custom-made box, in keeping with Chinese tradition) along with what appeared to be a framed portrait of Yung.

The original portrait of Yung, commissioned by members of his family in 1999 and painted from a lithograph of Yung in his class book, remains in Dean Peter Salovey's office.

``You can't give originals away; people have given those things to Yale, and they don't expect them to give them to someone else,'' said Beatrice Bartlett, a professor emeritus of history and an expert on Yung Wing. ``I personally gave money for [the original] portrait, and I expected it to hang at Yale.''

Dorie Baker, of Yale's Office of Public Affairs, said, ``The copy of the painted copy of the [1854 yearbook] engraving of Yung Wing that was given to President Hu already has far more value than the original copy that hangs at Yale, for the simple reason that it marks an important historic occasion.''

The occasion was Yung's graduation from Yale College as the first Chinese student to earn a bachelor's degree at any North American college.

As it turns out, when it comes to diplomatic gift-giving, there are no specific rules, except at the State Department, where the Office of Protocol remains highly secretive. (Representatives said they could not disclose their specific standards). Exchanges of presents between dignitaries largely depend on the stature of the visitor and the purpose of the visit, according to both State Department officials and administrators at several universities.

Gift giving has changed over recent decades, especially at the government level.

Charles Hill, a former foreign service officer and lecturer at Yale, said that, more than 50 years ago, the heads of countries and institutions gave large, elaborate nationalistic gifts. The King of Saudi Arabia would give an American president an Arab stallion; Lyndon Johnson gave a Cadillac to Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin.

However, in the mid-'70s, public disapproval of the largesse led to more understated gift giving. President Nixon gave Chairman Mao tse-Tung Boehm birds (ceramic replicas of Audubon bird paintings), while President Reagan gave pieces of Steuben glass to visiting dignitaries.

``When Gorbachev visited Stanford [University] in 1990, Stanford gave him a reproduction of a Soviet-era poster about education,'' Hill said. ``That was more questionable [than Yale's gift of the Yung Wing portrait] because Stanford remained in possession of an artifact of Russian history.

``But, on the other hand, if they had given him the original, he probably just would have thrown it in his attic and forgotten about it as the weevils devoured it,'' Hill said.

When Yale officials set about planning for their gift to President Hu last summer (his visit was supposed to take place in September), they decided to focus on a gift related to higher learning, as did many U.S. universities.

The administration gradually came up with the idea of giving back one of the 1,280 volumes that Yung donated to Yale in 1878, the year after the university appointed its first professor of Chinese Language and Literature. Yung had stayed in the United States after his graduation, married an American and became a principal sponsor of the Chinese Educational Mission, which brought 120 young men to New England for study at prominent schools from 1872 to 1881. Yung, who died in 1912, and his wife, Marie Louise Kellogg, are buried in Hartford's Cedar Hill cemetery. A bronze statue of him donated by his native Chinese village of Nan Ping to Betts House remains in Yale's Department of International Relations.

The decision to give away a book donated by Yung was made only after ``serious consideration,'' said Linda Lorimer, Yale vice president. ``It is quite unusual to make a gift [from] under a university collection, and we would do so as only part of a larger partnership,'' Lorimer said.

Apparently, the reproduction of Yung Wing's portrait was intended as an extra for the Chinese government.

``The replica just gave a face to [the exchange],'' Lorimer said. ``New technology made a beautiful reproduction available to the Chinese. It's the equivalent of the portrait.''

Deputy Chinese Consul General Kuang Weilin said the portrait will hang in China's Ministry of Education, which was the hope of Yale's president.

``I assure you, it was taken back to China, and the people in China are handling it with all the standard procedures as any other gifts to the president,'' Weilin said. ``We knew it was a replica; we're always very happy to have received anything from the host, and we're very pleased to get a replica. The gift has opened up a new chapter in the history of exchanges between China and Yale.''


Slamming, Jamming Sisters

Women's Roller-skating Teams Back In Vogue


Her name is Ruby Wreckingball, and if you're on roller skates, cruising around a gritty, sweaty Wallingford rink on Tuesday and Thursday nights, she has one aim: to take you down, leaving you in the dust.

Wreckingball, known publicly as Jess Reiter, has the skills. She can ``jam,'' or sprint through a pack of other tattooed roller girls; ``block'' by heading off her opponent with a jab from the shoulder; and ``grab,'' moving past the others with a grasp of the waist and a quick, rolling sideward shift.

During a recent practice at Wheel World, Reiter coached from the sidelines as her young pack of roller derby proteges paid their dues with repeated spills.

"You got it; you got it; you got it,'' Reiter yelled as 30 women of all shapes and sizes practiced hairpin turns and often crashed into a wall.

Reiter, dressed in a hot-pink miniskirt and black CT Roller Girls T-shirt, said she spends a lot of time coaching, trying to get the nascent roller-derby league up and rolling. She can't wait for the actual matches.

"Roller skating and beating the crap out of each other -- what more could you want than that?'' asked Reiter, who took over as head of the league in the winter. ``You can bring aggression to the track and, when you're done, hang out with each other. It's a unique sort of sisterhood.''

It's a sisterhood with a growing popularity. In a few short months, CT Roller Girls, one of several new leagues across the country, has tripled in size from 11 to 30 people a night. Women from all over the Northeast, including southern Massachusetts and Westchester County in New York, converge in Wallingford in short skirts, fishnet pantyhose and bad-ass gear to strap on a pair of skates for a roll around the rink that includes body slams.

"I really like the concept of beating up on your friends and going out for a drink after,'' said Jenn Sarrel, a 37-year-old hairdresser from Woodbridge. "It's stress release without a doubt.''

The sport appeared to have reached its peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when "bouts'' of dueling women drew audiences of up to 30,000 people and network attention. After its demise in 1973, most promoters seemed content to let it skate into its good night.

With a new legion of women looking for ways to express themselves and have fun, Roller Derby has coasted back into the mainstream with a vengeance, thanks in part to the A&E TV show "Rollergirls.'' The Women's Flat Track Derby Association boasts about 30 leagues across the country.

As required by the WFTDA, all of the leagues follow the governing philosophy of "by the skaters, for the skaters.'' Individuals in each league act as its owners, managers and operators, undertaking all tasks from setting rules to scheduling bouts to building promotional websites, many of which feature menacing photographs of tough women.

Many of the women arrive at practice in the most punk-esque of outfits and all choose a roller derby alias, a moniker -- often a play on words or a famous name in history -- that conveys toughness, wittiness and intelligence.

"The image of a Roller Girl plays into this sexy Bettie Page attitude. What guy wouldn't want to see cute girls in short skirts, being aggressive and skating?'' said Jessica "Darla Damage'' Hudgins. "But it's not just an eye-candy sport.''

Other CT Roller Girls say boredom with the gym ritual brought them to the Wallingford Roller World. Still others say it's the good old-fashioned desire for human combat. But a large majority of the women say that a big draw has to do with nostalgia for the roller-skating rinks of childhood.

Reminiscence certainly brought Reiter to Roller Derby. She had heard about the sport from a few friends in the Las Vegas Sin City League, but shopping in a Goodwill store one day last year, she came across a pair of roller skates her size.

"When I was a little girl in junior high, I used to skate all the time, so I said, `Hey, I'll get these skates and skate around outside. It might be fun','' Reiter said. ``Then I saw an ad on about putting together a roller derby league and figured it was fate.''

At first, Ruby Wreckingball felt content to roll around, relive adolescence and learn her moves. But she soon became the league's co-founder, then became the CT Roller Girls diva-in-charge when other co-founder, Jenna ``May Jorpayne'' Keller, had to temporarily leave.

Today's roller derby affords many opportunities for bodily damage. Two teams compete, or "bout,'' by racing around a flat track, earning points when a "jammer'' -- or designated scorer -- from another team laps the opposing team's ``blockers'' who act as both offensive and defensive linemen, attempting to prevent the jammer from scoring while paving the way for their own jammer. It gets a bit brutal.

"It's a matter of knowing how to take care of yourself. Epsom salt baths and ice packs help,'' Hudgins said. ``We also have a number of massage therapists on the team.''

Reiter is determined to keep roller derby out of the hands of promoters, so the teams remain democratic and equal in ownership. With personalities such as Scarlet O' Hurtya, Jenghis Khan and Demanda Beatin, she admits that it can be a bit daunting.

"We have almost 40 different people together. Everyone has a different idea, a different vision and different motivations,'' Reiter said. "My job is to unify them under the CT Roller Girls; it could be a full-time job.''

The CT Roller Girls League hopes to divide into teams and begin bouting by the summer, possibly competing with teams from their sister league to the south, the Gotham Girls Roller Derby.

"We're young professionals, business slaves at work. This is a completely other role,'' Hudgins said. "I mean, how many softball leagues can you join?''


The Professor Who Was `God' ... Once

A Yale Grad Writes Her Hero's Biography

March 20, 2006|By ADRIAN BRUNE; Special To The Courant

Yale humanities professor Charles Hill has been near the center of every major revolution of the past 40 years and has dozens of stories to tell. Yet he seldom discusses anything outside of Machiavelli, Herodotus and civilization.

Not that there aren't clues.

There's the "Distinguished Speaker'' plaque from the Air Force Academy; the high-backed wooden chair in his office bearing the State Department seal; and, especially telling, a snapshot of a lone briefcase-carrying Hill leaving a 1988 press conference at Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

"Attention isn't something that's very interesting to me. It seems to use a lot of time that could be spent on something else,'' Hill recently said during an interview in his office. ``Ronald Reagan had a plaque on his desk which read, `There's no limit to what you accomplish, as long as you don't care who gets the credit.'''

To most, the soft-spoken, decorous diplomat-turned-Yale professor might appear to be a Cold War intellectual, a behind-the-scenes government type who dutifully served his country under several administrations in China, Vietnam, the Middle East and Washington.

But for Molly Worthen, a freshman who took one of his courses in 2000, Hill's stories and his views on international affairs begged exploration. By the end of the ``History and Politics'' seminar, she had become so intrigued by Hill's personal narrative, she decided to spend every moment chronicling it until her 2004 graduation.

In doing so, Worthen became the only student of Hill's to ever throw open the door to his complete -- and formerly classified -- life. That story is now ``The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost: The Grand Strategy of Charles Hill,'' a biography of a rare Washington figure who would rather discuss any subject other than himself. The 368-page book was published last month by Houghton Mifflin.

Acclaimed by some, who call it an eye-opening take on the high-level inner-workings of the government, and excoriated by a few (Publisher's Weekly called it a book in which ``the reader is drowned in youthful banalities and occasionally naivete,''), Worthen's biography of Hill attempts to scrutinize an important career while charting her changing relationship with a teacher she once idealized. At the same time, ``The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost'' tests the theory of Grand Strategy -- a class at Yale based on the theory that the virtuous, wise and brave must take note of life's details but always remain in the realm of ideas -- on its very own teacher.

"Charlie saw himself as a person living out the philosophy of grand strategy, and it empowered him on to great things in his professional life,'' said Worthen, who is now pursuing a Ph.D. in American religious history at Yale. ``But as much as grand strategy did for the country and his career, it caused poisonous effects on his personal life.

The Ideological Freshman

The first week of her freshmen course with Hill, a youthful, pliable Worthen inscribed the words "Charles Hill is God!'' on the inside of her notebook, finding his ability to dissect a complicated world to be mesmerizing, almost divine.

Worthen wasn't alone. The professor who always seemed so assured of the right path had a tremendous effect on his charges. Many of them requested him as their sophomore adviser and pledged to take the Grand Strategy course -- a one-year examination, complete with summer internship, of the basic tenets of empires. One even joined the Marines after Hill counseled him on the military's pros and cons.

Worthen, however, just wanted to study and write about Hill, even after he gave her a C- on her first paper, telling her, ``At times, you almost begin to analyze the text, only to invariably wander off into pretentious displays of pseudo-psychological erudition.''

A biography class Worthen took later in her academic career, taught by Hill's Yale colleague John Lewis Gaddis, provided the serendipitous moment for the young scholar. When she approached Gaddis about tackling Hill's character for a long-form project, Gaddis recalls saying that Hill wouldn't agree to it.

"I almost fell off my chair when I heard him say `yes,''' he said.

Hill opened up his personal archives -- more than 20,000 pages of verbatim records of every conversation he heard or shared -- which he had previously used to help former Secretary of State George Schultz write his memoir. Yet, a biography or autobiography never crossed Hill's mind. ``I just agreed to keep being cooperative,'' he said.

"I've found most of my colleagues in government and journalism want to do that [write a book]. But I don't much like looking back at things.''

The Worldly Wise Academic

Hill's desire to avoid the rear-view mirror is a theme that reverberates throughout ``The Man on Whom Nothing was Lost.'' Born into a professional family in the small, working-class town of Bridgeton, N.J., Morton Charles Hill formed his world view through the books he read, World War II, summers spent working construction in Ocean City, N.J., and as an undergraduate at Brown University.

Planning on spending his life in academia after finishing a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania and enrolling in an American Civilization graduate program, Hill decided to join the Foreign Service in the early 1960s to serve his country and escape his overbearing mother-in-law. After a couple of unsatisfactory posts, the U.S. stationed Hill and his then-wife Martha in Hong Kong, where he served for three years as a China watcher during Mao Tse-tung's Cultural Revolution.

Following China, he did a stint as a speechwriter for Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker in South Vietnam, then one for President Nixon's secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. During the 1980s, Hill shuffled between Israel and Washington, while President Ronald Reagan tried to negotiate peace in the Middle East.

After George H.W. Bush entered the White House in 1992, Hill retired from the Foreign Service and came to Yale as a lecturer when his second wife, Norma Thompson, joined the political science department. Grand Strategy, one of Yale's most infamous courses -- if only for its hawkish tendencies on a dove-like campus -- had its debut in 2000 and has since served as key training for diplomats in waiting.

Now 70, Charles Hill will never know the effect he has had on his students, especially Worthen. He steadfastly maintains that he will go to his grave without reading his biography. He's not interested in looking back.

"His career was one of the man in the shadows,'' Worthen said. ``Since very early in his career, he's had a vivid sense of his own role in history and been in a position to record history, but he'll never be overly self-important.''

Restorative Arts

Tears, Folds, Grime Disappear From Vintage Posters


Josephine Baker came to Lee Milazzo in tatters.

But despite torn corners and fold marks, Baker's beauty still radiated from the poster, beckoning people to join her for her show at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in February 1927.

So Milazzo, a vintage-poster restorer and gallery owner, took Baker's delicate likeness into his Stamford shop, Poster Conservation. After a long bath, some reconstructive surgery around the edges and a new linen bodice, the famous entertainer took center stage again.

``You don't see many of these,'' said Milazzo, pulling the restored Paul Colin-designed ``Bal Negre'' poster out of its drying rack. ``These posters were never meant to last; they were printed on the cheapest paper possible so they wouldn't. But at least this one will be around a few more years for a few more people to enjoy.''

From the absinthe-drinking, fast-living late-1800s through the early years of the Cold War, posters were everywhere: Colorful bottles of Campari lined Italian city streets; Cunard cruise ships invited people on ``votre route sur l'Atlantique'' from the subways of New York; and ``Le Gorille et la Femme'' lured people into the Casino de Paris to see a show featuring a woman and a gorilla.

In recent years, many of these vintage advertisements have started showing up in shopping-mall poster shops, on restaurant walls and for sale on the Internet. Most look perfect because they are reproductions; many originals that look just as good were once as tattered as the Baker poster.

Poster restoration is an art form in itself, but no design school teaches it, and only a handful of people practice it around theworld. Some, like Milazzo and Joshua Tangeman of New York's J. Fields Gallery, got into it by chance -- Milazzo while attending Parsons School of Design in New York (he left school to start his business), and Tangeman after a stint at Rhode Island School of Design.

Now that vintage posters have emerged from attics and thrift shops, restorers have become almost as sought-after as the art.

On a recent Saturday afternoon in his studio, filled with paper, dilapidated posters, drying posters, brushes and lots of glue, Tangeman rolled a coat of wheat paste onto a large piece of light-cotton canvas, applied a sheet of acid-free paper and pasted onto that a poster for ``Tiko and the Shark,'' a 1964 Italian B-movie. Back and forth, back and forth for about 20 minutes, he rubbed out any air bubbles.

The process, known as linen-backing, dates from the turn of the century but re-emerged within the last 20 years. Collectors, who recognized the posters' aesthetic work and who wanted to preserve them, would glue them to large pieces of cotton gauze or canvas, or even silk.

Vintage posters now come to restorers in a variety of conditions, meaning the restoration can range from a quick washing to a piecing together of large chunks of a torn poster like a mosaic, filling in gaps with bits of colored paper from unsalvageable ones.


``We recently had a relatively rare [Leonetto] Cappiello Absinthe poster which we probably shouldn't have started, because it was dry-mounted and very damaged as well,'' said Ian Wright of M&W Graphics, a restoration studio a few blocks from the J. Fields Gallery in Chelsea. ``And the worst-case scenario happened. ... It shattered into tiny bits.

``We actually put it back together like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle,'' he said, adding that most conservationists and galleries don't recommend that much restoration.

Tangeman and Wright learned poster restoration from Larry Toth, the original owner of J. Fields and the man many credit as the pioneer of modern restoration. Toth established J. Fields in 1979 and began using a heavier weight canvas backing that soon became a standard in the industry. Dealers appreciated its durability because they could roll, ship and shuffle the old posters from show to show with minimal damage. Picture framers valued it, too, because the poster no longer would ripple with the first change in humidity.

Vintage poster collecting began in Europe then migrated to the East Coast during the late 1970s, Tangeman said. ``Posters were the poor man's art. People could afford them back then,'' he said.

Somehow, images meant to sell products to the masses took on a certain individuality in their second lives as decorations.

``Posters show a sense of someone's mentality, whether they enjoy cooking, or they've visited a certain place or they're from a certain place,'' said Mickey Ross, the owner of the Ross Group, a poster gallery in Westport. ``Just today I had a customer whose husband worked in the oil industry. I showed her several old ones in that field, one for Priceless Oil and one for Shell.

``Some people collect military posters, some railroad, some aviation. What a nice way to use an interest, as the launching point for a poster collection,'' he said.

At the Chisholm Gallery in New York, ardent collectors can find originals by famed poster artist Adolphe Mouron Cassandre -- but none for less than $20,000.

Although Cassandre had no reverence for his work -- ``A poster ... is meant to be a mass-produced object existing in thousands of copies, like a fountain-pen or automobile,'' he said -- many collectors do today.

One of the pioneers of modern poster design, Cassandre came to Paris in 1915 to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, then the Academie Julian. Needing to earn extra money, the Ukraine-born artist took a job at a printing house. Forty years earlier, French printmaker Jules Cheret had invented the ``three stone lithographic process,'' which allowed artists to attain most colors with three stones -- usually red, yellow and blue -- and transformed European cities into vast street galleries and heralding the start of modern advertising.

Cassandre drew his first ad for a cabinetmaker, Au Bucheron (The Woodcutter), and took first prize at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs. With that ad and that award, Cassandre launched his own agency, Alliance Graphique, and revolutionized the printmaking industry with acclaimed posters for Vin Nicolas and Nord Express that were inspired, respectively, by the cubism of Picasso and the surrealism of Magritte.

``We just rehung the gallery, and now have a wall of Cassandre pieces, some extraordinary Cassandre -- `Le Jour,' for example, one he designed for a French newspaper from 1933,'' Gail Chisholm said. ``It's one of only two known examples in the world.''

Many critics consider Cassandre's prints legendary, but during a time of industrial, political and social revolutions, there was plenty of work to go around. While the First World War loomed, across the ocean in America, printmakers, including James Montgomery Flagg, thrived on propaganda art. After World War I, the French ruled supreme again with Art Deco, showcased at Paris' Decorative Arts Exposition of 1925, where simplified and streamlined shapes governed and sleek, angular letterforms ruled.

Although he worked for others besides his occasional lover and lifelong friend, Josephine Baker, collectors agree that French lithographer Paul Colin created some of his best designs when inspired by his muse, and the work lives on in places as far from Paris as Connecticut.

South African Wines Flourish

End Of Apartheid Spurs Growth In Production And Export Of Red And White Varietals


The year was 1652 and the Dutch East India Co., although thriving in trade, had a big problem: the scourge of the ancient mariner, also known as scurvy. With fruit consistently spoiling on the long voyages to the Spice Islands, known now as Indonesia, ships would dock with dozens of men sick or dead from the illness.

To attack the problem, the shipping giant dispatched Commander Jan van Riebeeck, a physician, to Table Bay at the Southern tip of the ``dark continent'' -- South Africa -- with the idea of establishing an agricultural foothold and re-supply port where ships would stop for fresh fruit. But, in the age of exploration, Van Riebeeck made his own discovery. Looking at the Spanish sailors drinking wine from other ships' pursers, he concluded that: ``Besides having much happier sailors than the Dutch, the Spanish had healthier sailors,'' said Robin Back, a South African vintner and partner in Fairview Vineyards, one of the country's most prominent vineyards today.

Van Riebeeck immediately ordered a shipment of vine shoots from Europe and planted the first cuttings in 1655. By February 1659, he wrote home, ``Today, praise the Lord, wine was pressed from Cape grapes for the first time.''

Though during the next century South Africa earned an international reputation for its dessert wines nurtured by persecuted French Huguenots, eventually war and disease -- the unfortunate byproduct of the colonization that created the intoxicating elixir -- and then apartheid decimated the vineyards and ruined global trade. But nearly 340 years after Van Riebeeck tended his vineyard, the South African government has sowed the seeds of change and its wines have flourished again.

``I never thought I would have seen the changes in my lifetime. I've gone from feeling shame for being South African to feeling complete pride,'' Back said. ``As a country and an industry we've come further in 12 years than America has come in 100.''

Today, winemaking has become a dynamic force in South Africa's agricultural sector -- the 14 wards that surround Cape Town and make up the country's Southern tip where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet. South Africa is the seventh-largest wine producer in the world -- just behind Australia and ahead of Portugal. From a single 17th-century experimental vineyard, 4,246 primary wine producers and 428 wine cellars have sprung, according to 2002 statistics from ``John Platter's South African Wine Guide.''

The primary reason for the proliferation of South African wines is without a doubt the end of apartheid, which resulted in the lifting of trade sanctions. But political action alone didn't improve sales. ``When democracy first took over, the wines were really bad,'' said Jim Kowalyshyn, the Connecticut sales representative for Vineyard Brands, the state's main distributor of South African wines. ``Most were very lean, acidic and earthy. They had a rubbery, jammy taste.''

To remedy this problem, South African vintners looked to the Old World for traditional techniques in refining their wines. Not possessing the delicate soils of Europe, however, they also embraced technology previously unavailable under sanctions, including remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems and satellite imagery to help them position their crops and maximize their harvest.

As a result of the drastic changes, South African wine has become one of the fastest growing sellers, especially on the West and East coasts. In Connecticut, Kowalshyn, who represents 15 South African labels, including Back's Fairview Vineyards, golfer Ernie Els' vintages and U2 lead singer Bono's Boekenhoutskloof, will sell 5,000 cases this year -- four times his sales in 1999.

``They [South African winemakers] turned it around quickly,'' Kowalshyn said. He estimates that nearly every fine liquor store in the state carries at least one South African brand.

Roots Of African Winemaking

A 20-minute drive from Cape Town, the nation's largest city, lies South Africa's answer to Napa Valley. The area is divided into regions, sometimes small wards, to differentiate between climate and soil type. A trip through the area provides not only an unparalleled wine-tasting experience, but also a lesson in the country's diverse history.

Many consider Stellenbosch -- an Afrikaner stronghold of the apartheid movement -- the finest wine area in South Africa, especially for reds. Nearly all the most famous South African wines grow in Stellenbosch -- more than 80 -- and the region has gained much acclaim for the wines from Engelbrecht Els, pro golfer Ernie Els' vineyard just over Helderberg Mountain in the heart of the Cape Peninsula. Englebrecht Els produces the Ernie Els signature bordeaux, as well as the Englebrecht Els traditional lineup of red wines and the $12 Guardian Peak, a cabernet sauvignon-shiraz-merlot blend known for its smoky, leathery undercurrents, a hint of wood and smooth tannins.

Wine critic James Molesworth of Wine Spectator magazine has called the Els bordeaux a ``sleek thoroughbred of a wine, and the best I've had yet from this region.''

Nestling Stellenbosch to the Northeast is Franschhoek, or ``French Corner,'' the land given to the French Calvinist Protestants, the Huguenots, in 1688 by Dutch East India Gov. Simon van der Stel, a cultured man who was dismayed by the poor quality of the food and drink. The wines coming out of Franschhoek wouldn't disappoint the discriminating European today.

Even though white varieties still comprise the majority of vineyard plantings, red grapes have tipped the balance a little more in their favor, from 15 percent red in 1990 to about a third of overall wine production, according to Kowalshyn. In 2000, more than 80 percent of new plantings were red, with shiraz, cabernet and merlot taking top billing. South Africans have added to the mix of reds by creating pinotage, a cross of the pinot noir and cinsault grape, which delivers light- to mid-bodied wines with blueberry aromas.

Though most vintners in Franschhoek merely attempted to mimic French winemaking, Marc Kent, proprietor of the region's Boekenhoutskloof winery, took the vine by the branch by planting a grape previously indigenous to France. The syrah grape, known for forming the backbone of most Rh0ne blends, now stands alone as its own vintage produced by Boekenhoutskloof.

A bottle of Boekenhoutskloof, named for a rare wood used to make exquisite caned chairs, will set an American connoisseur back about $40 -- an apparent exception to South Africa's reputation for producing European quality wine at reasonable costs. But Scott Randall, the wine buyer at Woodbridge's Amity Wine and Spirit Co., calls Boekenhoutskloof ``an exceptional quality for the price.''

``It's a $40 bottle that tastes like a $75 bottle,'' Randall said. ``People who drink Australian wines, who pay $20 for a Penfold's shiraz, are now trying South African wines at $15 a bottle.'' Boekenhoutskloof also makes Porcupine Ridge, a more budget-conscious syrah.

''When gas prices hit $3 a gallon, people tend to trade down -- substitute Budweiser for Heineken,'' said Randall. ``In substituting South African wines, they're spending less money, but not trading down in quality.''

Amending Apartheid's Injustices

In the post-apartheid era, racial progress has sometimes seemed to be little more than symbolic. Before the 1990s, under the Native Land Act of 1913, black farm workers had no rights to the land they tended, and using the ``tot'' system, vintners could partly pay their laborers with the liquor they produced, creating continuous patterns of alcoholism and poverty.

But South Africa's wine industry has taken some significant steps toward black economic empowerment -- one of President Thabo Mbeki's main platforms. Sometimes known as the Cape Crusaders, people such as Charles Back, the current owner of Fairview Vineyards, and Alan Nelson, of Nelson's Creek winery, have chosen to give their black workers a stake in the business by handing over large tracts of land, or even neighboring estates.

In 2003, Charles Back purchased 18 hectares (one hectare equals 2.47 acres) for Fairview's workers, who created the independent label, Fair Valley, and started exporting it to Great Britain. Fair Valley exports an average of 25,000 bottles a year and recently won a contract for distribution in the United States.

``South Africa has a lot of programs to right the wrongs of the past, but it is a lot easier to change the political than economical. We realized we needed to do our part to change the economical,'' Robin Back said. ``As white South Africans, we've been unfairly advantaged by systems skewed in our favor, and realized we have a role to play -- that we can't leave change up to the government.

``I think people have embraced the new South Africa and that they want to make the new South Africa work and go forward.''

A New Threshold

With a booming domestic demand, a surge in American and European interest, and a sizable apartheid recovery effort, South African winemakers have crossed a new threshold. Even so, many in the industry expect the country's wines to remain a niche market -- and they're fine with that.

``When you look at the growth since South African wines have been in the States, you'll see we're growing at a huge percentage from a very small base,'' said Robin Back, who travels across the U.S. for wine tastings 35 or so weeks out of the year.

``If you look at the floral kingdoms of the world, the Western Cape in South Africa is one of the smallest yet one of the most diverse -- the only one that fits in the over 9,600 plant species. We tend not to have the ability to make a uniform wine, and we think our potential for diverse flavors, instead of for production of one homogenous wine, makes us special.''


A Trunkful Of History

Long Lost Papers Of A Foreign Correspondent Illuminate An Extraordinary 20th-century Rebel


There he lay, on a couch in the Winter Palace library, his face buried in his arms in complete exhaustion.

It was 1917, and Russian Prime Minister Aleksandr Kerensky was living under heavy guard in anticipation of another turn in the revolution -- this one to overthrow him. Radical journalists Louise Bryant and her husband, John Reed, finally had their chance at a long sought-after interview, but they could not bring themselves to disturb the man whose government was about to fall. They both stood in the library for a moment, then left, according to Bryant's notes.

"Socialism is here, whether we like it or not ... and it spreads with the years,'' she later wrote in her book ``Six Red Months in Russia,'' based on her reporting from the Russian Revolution. "In Russia the socialist state is an accomplished fact. We can never again call it an idle dream of longhaired philosophers.

"And if that growth has resembled the sudden upshooting of a mushroom, if it must fall because it is premature, it is nevertheless real and must have a tremendous effect on all that follows.''

It was in damp, overcast Russia that the 32-year-old Bryant found a place in the sun after being so frequently overshadowed by Reed, a renowned journalist and a prince of the burgeoning bohemian community back home in New York's Greenwich Village. Although Bryant became an accomplished journalist, one of the first international female correspondents, she did not achieve the acclaim of Reed or even of her third husband, diplomat William C. Bullitt.

Now, thanks to the discovery by Yale University researchers of a trunk of her papers, Bryant has emerged again to claim a place in history. (One of the last spikes of interest in her work followed from the 1981 movie ``Reds,'' in which Diane Keaton played Bryant, and Warren Beatty portrayed Reed.)

"It's a collection we never would have expected in terms of its richness,'' said William Massa, the head of special collections at Yale's Sterling Memorial Library, which houses the papers. "It goes beyond anything we anticipated.

"There are never-before-seen poems from her affair with Eugene O'Neill; letters from Trotsky and (the) painter Marsden Hartley; the address book entries of Lenin, Freud and Helen Keller. We're ecstatic with its significance.''

It's also a collection that no one knew existed until a year ago.

In the spring of 2004, Massa said he received a call from a New York attorney for an ailing Anne M. Bullitt, Bryant's only child with Bullitt, a Yale graduate and the first ambassador to the Soviet Union under president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Yale had once kept Bullitt's papers, but after his death in 1967, his daughter asked for them back to write a biography. Last year, the family offered to return the papers to Yale, and when the archivists were preparing the collection, they found a trunk of Bryant's papers. They had apparently been sent to Bullitt upon his ex-wife's death in 1936.

In addition to signatures and photos of some of the world's most well-known figures, Bryant's collection contains articles and personal writings that document some of the early 20th century's most significant events: the Bolsheviks' successful takeover of the Russian government, Kemal Ataturk's succession as leader of post-war Turkey, and life in fascist Italy as seen through the eyes of Benito Mussolini, whom she interviewed. That trunk also held illustrations by Bryant as well as short stories and plays she wrote, primarily for the long-defunct Provincetown Players, which launched O'Neill's career.

The Sterling archivists are organizing the works, and an exhibit is planned next year.

"During her life, people criticized her, and history tended to make her out to be a lightweight. She was married to one of the most promising young men of the century and one of the century's well-known leaders,'' said Mary V. Dearborn, author of "Queen of Bohemia: The Life of Louise Bryant.'' "But when you look at this woman, you find an incredibly varied and rich life.

"She went against everything she was taught and the social climate at the time to take her place on a wider stage.''

Born Anna Louise Mohan on Dec. 5, 1885, Bryant was the third child of Louise Flick, a homemaker, and Hugh Mohan, a local journalist, politician and machinist who abandoned the family when Bryant was young. Her mother married a railroad conductor, Sheridan Bryant, who adopted the children.

After attending two local colleges, Louise Bryant moved to Oregon, where she graduated from the University of Oregon in 1909 before becoming an illustrator, then society editor for Portland's daily newspaper, the Spectator. About that time, she married Paul Trullinger, a dentist. Five years into their union, a handsome, adventuresome and completely unconventional John Reed swept her off her feet when he was home visiting relatives in Portland. Reed invited Bryant to New York, and she left her husband, never returning to Portland.

In the artistically and politically thriving climate of Greenwich Village in the late 1910s, Bryant flourished. With their offices next to each other in Reed's apartment, Bryant began writing articles for the radical journal The Masses and composing plays for the newly established Provincetown Players. Believers in the concept of free love, both Reed and Bryant had numerous affairs. Bryant's relationship with O'Neill continued for a number of years before ending painfully in 1918.

"For a year and a half -- perhaps for the rest of my life, too -- my love for you kept me in Hell,'' O'Neill wrote in one of his last letters to Bryant, discovered by Yale in the collection. "I lived only in that love, in the hope of those fleeting bits of Paradise you tossed me once in a while -- only to turn back to the other man the next moment.

"It is more than probable that you have burned yourself so deep into my soul that the wound will never heal and I stand condemned to love you forever -- and hate you for what you have done to my life.''

Their commitment to free love sometimes took a toll on Bryant and Reed's relationship, which was marked by separations and reconciliations. After her stint as a World War I correspondent in France for the newly formed Bell Syndicate, Bryant returned to Reed in the late summer of 1917; they reconciled and left for Russia four days later on a trip that would cement their relationship.

Arriving in Russia just two months before the Bolsheviks toppled Kerensky's provisional government and installed Vladimir Lenin as its premier, Bryant and Reed witnessed the upheaval from Petrograd, later interviewing its major players, including Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Catherine Breshkovsky. In that period, they compiled enough material for Reed's critically acclaimed book "Ten Days That Shook the World'' and Bryant's lesser known but in later years more heralded chronicle, "Six Red Months in Russia.''

Still, their time together was shorter than they might have thought. After a book tour and testimony on Bolshevism in the United States before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bryant returned in 1920 to Russia, and Reed. He had contracted typhus and soon afterward died. Overwhelmed by grief, Bryant threw herself into her work.

During the next two years, Bryant traveled throughout the world, filing cables for the International News Service from Turkey, Greece, Uzbekistan and other parts of the Central Asian territories of the Russian Empire. During that time, she caught the eye of Bullitt, who, according to Dearborn, "was in hot pursuit of Bryant and chased her all over Europe.''

In 1923, Bullitt finally caught her, and they moved to Paris, where they married. Bryant gave birth to Anne Moen Bullitt the following year.

By all accounts, the first years of their marriage were happy, though Bryant struggled with abandoning journalism for a return to the bourgeois domesticity she had escaped in Portland. She no longer reported regularly (aside from a few articles about Kemel Ataturk and Turkey), instead focusing on writing plays, short stories and poems, though few were published.

Three years later, doctors diagnosed Bryant with Dercum's Disease, a rare condition in which fatty deposits gather under the skin, and she began drinking heavily to relieve the pain. Citing her addiction and a lesbian relationship with sculptor Gwen La Gallienne, Bullitt divorced her in 1930 and took sole custody of their daughter. He supported Bryant financially but refused her visitation rights. She died just after the New Year in 1936 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Two years before she died, a group of Harvard scholars persuaded Bryant to give them several trunks of Reed's papers. She offered her own papers, but they were declined.

The trunk discovered by the Yale archivists apparently remained unexplored for nearly 60 years.

The Shakespeare Lady

Schizophrenia, Addictio n Reduce Once-promising Actress/writer To Street Theater 


NEW HAVEN — Many people once gladly paid to see her grace the stage of ``The Rep,'' Yale's famed Repertory Theater. But for the last six years, Margaret Holloway has had a different sort of audience.

Often found on the steps of Willoughby's Coffee House in the downtown arts district, her arena of choice, Holloway seems to be known to nearly everyone.

They like her act. The 53-year-old "Shakespeare Lady'' does an instant monologue for instant change, from Hamlet to Chaucer. Her favorite is seven lines of Medea's speech to Jason in Euripides' classic story of a woman betrayed.

"I like the Robinson Jeffers version,'' she says, rubbing her tongue against the roof of her mouth before reciting the American playwright's adaptation:

"What! feeble night-bird overcome by misfortunes beats at my door!? Can this be that great adventurer, the famous lord of the seas and delight of women, the heir of rich Corinth -- this crying drunkard on the dark doorstep? -- Yet you've not had enough! You have come to drink the last bitter drops. I'll pour them for you.''

The irony is lost on her.

While Holloway says she's still popular -- "People tell me all the time I'm their favorite actress'' -- she's more of a novelty, and to some an increasingly frustrating one.

To certain bartenders of the Irish pub Anna Liffey's, Holloway's performances -- and her occasionally aggressive requests for the price of admission -- are hurting their business.

Some residents of the new condominiums surrounding New Haven Green move to the other side of the street when they see Holloway approaching.

And to former friends and colleagues from the Yale Drama School, where she earned her master of fine arts in 1980, the Shakespeare Lady is a painful reminder that even those with a lot of promise can fail.

Hers is a tragedy of theatrical proportions, propelled by schizophrenia and drug addiction.

Still, earlier this year, there was new hope for recovery. After Holloway was jailed in late 2004 for the fourth time in a year on offenses ranging from disturbing the peace to trespassing, the community rallied around her, vowing to help her get back on her feet.

In June, the state dropped charges against Holloway on the condition that she stay on her medicine for schizophrenia, stay off illegal drugs and stay out of local businesses. Her court-appointed conservator, local attorney Arnold Amore, submitted her application to reside in public housing, which also hinges on her good behavior.

But Holloway keeps leaving the script. On a recent Tuesday night, a rail-thin Holloway, clad in an orange T-shirt, jeans and a tattered black blazer, stood on Church Street, keeping one eye out for possible contributors and the other (bloody and swollen from a run-in with a neighbor) watching for police determined to clear the street of panhandlers.

Seeing one presumed fan, then another, she called to them by name and waved, talking of her injury and of her possible eviction from the rooming house in which she lives, a residence rife with housing code violations.

The conversations end with a plea for money.

"Her struggles sort of bear out all of ours. She is a product of her best talents and shameful weaknesses,'' said Rosemarie Paine, a local lawyer who sees Holloway nearly every day. ``She's playing them out in front of all of us.''

Trouble With The Law

Paine, who considers herself a friend of Holloway's, got to know her in 2000 at Willoughby's, where she placed change in her calloused hand because a monologue lifted her mood. She represented her in 2002, when Holloway started raising the ire of many businesses and the police. In November 2002, Holloway was arrested for blocking the entrance to the Gourmet Heaven store. More arrests followed. Paine can't remember how many times she has stood in a courtroom, urging the dismissal of charges against Holloway.

Law-enforcement records dating from early 2004 chart the escalating problems.

In February 2004, police arrested and jailed Holloway for breach of peace after another dispute with the manager of Gourmet Heaven. Four months later, disorderly conduct was the charge when a police officer on foot patrol noticed her engaging in loud ``sociopolitical banter with Anna Liffey's patrons'' before asking them for money. July brought a confrontation with Anna Liffey's owner, Patrick Mansfield, and Holloway's arrest. In August, Holloway was arrested after panhandling congregants during a Mass at St. Mary's Church. The report listed her at 90 pounds, down from 125 in February.

"People were very angry with us, but we were looking for an intervention,'' said Brother Gerard Thayer of the arrest.

On Oct. 1 a New Haven judge ordered that she be tested at Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown, where she was judged competent for trial. On Dec. 20, Paine could not persuade the judge that Holloway could stop smoking crack and begging aggressively. The attorney saw her client off to jail, where she remained for three months.


Industrial Arts

Painter Captures Cobwebbed Machines, Aged Factories Before They Disappear

May 19, 2005|By ADRIAN BRUNE; SPECIAL TO THE COURANT Photos By RICK HARTFORD | The Hartford Courant

Painter Cindy Tower doesn't wait for the muse to come to her. She goes to it. Once it was in a maze of steamy pipes in the belly of a Navy ship; another time it was a tiny parcel of a work site, while bulldozers flattened an old building nearby.

On a sunny, warm day last week, you could reach Tower's latest workspace by walking down stairs littered with rubble, through several rows of ancient mill machines and just beyond boxes of forgotten paperwork. In a corner stood Tower's easel. A work in progress, the 5-foot-high, broad-brush-stroked canvas paid tribute to mill machines.

``I paint what is left behind, considering the debris to signify cultural detritus,'' said Tower, who was raised in Darien. ``But my paintings are sort of like portraits. I paint the places where the workers would be standing.''

Her latest project, a series of life-size paintings of the closed Gilbert & Bennett wire mesh manufacturing plant in the Georgetown section of Redding, is part of her five-year quest to capture America's Industrial Revolution in paint, before the evidence is destroyed.

As the real estate market continues to boom in Connecticut, and hungry developers look for new building opportunities, Tower has traversed the state -- and the country -- looking for and painting factories and mills marked for leveling.

``I'm like a fireman. People will call me and tell me of a building that's about to go down, and I rush out to paint it,'' said Tower, whose brother, a West Redding resident, told her about the Gilbert & Bennett demolition. ``The time I can spend on one series of paintings depends on the other crises out there.''

Tower currently divides her time between the Gilbert & Bennett pieces and, close to her home in Brooklyn, a series depicting the rough-and-tumble mechanized environs of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, part of which is being razed to make way for an apartment building.

``Occasionally I paint a landscape, and I'll make sure it has some water in it,'' Tower said, adding that she currently does not have an agent or a gallery because ``mine are not the type of paintings that would necessarily go over a couch.''

But the retired manufacturers, building owners and even the current developers certainly find Tower's work aesthetically pleasing, despite her strong preservationist viewpoints. Many have bought her works, which range in price from $1,500 to $4,500, and either kept them for their private collections or prominently displayed them in the new structure. The Georgetown developers will put one of Tower's paintings in its planned performing arts center.

Tower is one of many artists fascinated by the Gilbert & Bennett site.

Built in 1818 by Benjamin Gilbert, the mill was Georgetown's main employer and economic engine for 171 years -- restaurants, inns, watering holes and churches went up around the mill -- until it shut down in 1989, unable to keep up with modern manufacturers.

For many of the four decades she has lived in Georgetown, Lynda Patee has come to paint variations of the 35 or so angular brick buildings sprawled about the 55-acre campus that abuts a glimmering waterfall and several picturesque New England hills.

``That place is a gold mine of shapes,'' said the graphic artist turned architectural landscape painter. ``Go to any side, and there are always great compositions to be had, especially if you like to paint buildings and mechanical things.


`Nothing else like that looks like it anymore,'' she added. But soon, neither will the Gilbert & Bennett mill.

Bought last year by the Georgetown Land Development Co., headed by Stephen Soler, the mill will become a $300 million redevelopment of apartments, retail shops and a new train station platform on Metro North's Danbury line. The mill's historical importance is not lost on Soler (his offices are lined with old drawings and maps of the factory), and neither is the importance of the artists.

``People have been painting and doing things on the property for 75 years. Artists walk in the door every day and ask us to paint something,'' Soler said, adding that the development will preserve some of the historic buildings and include an artists-in-residence program. Major demolition will start by the end of the summer.

Tower won't be one of those artists. She recently accepted a teaching position next fall at Washington University in St. Louis.

Educated at Cornell University and the University of California, San Diego, Tower has spent most of her career creating installments across the country. Her installations have included ``Westward Expansion Inwards,'' in which she re-created a National Park out of refuse at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in SoHo; ``Pirate Cindy'' at New York's Trans Hudson Gallery, in which she transformed her pickup truck into a pirate ship; and ``Tank,'' a 25-foot-tall tower built out of appliances from a Texas landfill on the Southwest School of Art & Craft campus in San Antonio.

In 1999, Tower quit sculpting for six months and took a bike ride cross-country during which she discovered lots of abandoned factories to paint. ``Everything I love is disappearing, in Connecticut especially, but all over the country as well,'' Tower said.

Tower's ``Workplace Series'' has been an ongoing project.

``I've always loved being around workplaces, tools and machinery,'' Tower said. ``It is important to see the fruits of one's labor directly and to actually see how things work.''

In the past five years, Tower has frantically painted industrial environments as they are being demolished. One of her first was Branford's Nutmeg Steel factory in 2000, and she had to hurry. Tower got into Nutmeg Steel only when workers showed up to dismantle everything. ``I thought I'd have a couple years to paint there, but cutting torches are fast,'' Tower said.

Since she began the series, Tower has completed as many paintings of each place as time allows, usually stopping when ``winter rolls around and the paint will no longer flow off the brush, or when I'm denied access to a site.''

Besides Gilbert & Bennett, Nutmeg Steel and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, she's also painted the U.S. Maritime Administration crane ship S.S. Diamond State in Houston and the Sol Forman metalware factory in Brooklyn. ``I have no idea how many I've done,'' she said. ``I know I can never do them again. I'd have to travel to China to find factories.''