Monday, November 28, 2016

Post-Thanksgiving posturing

The crowd on the Upper West Side at the Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Approximately, 3.5 million spectators watched this year's parade.
Monday, November 28, 2016. The long holiday weekend is over in New York where the weather was mild, often cloudy, chillier at night, and enough precipitation to wet the roads and pavement. The only thing different about it to this New England bred boy was that it wasn’t very cold.

As the world now knows, Fidel Castro died this past Friday. His death comes as no real surprise. He was 90 and had been out of the public eye for sometime with rumors that he had cancer. Much can be said about the man, and will be. One of the most interesting articles was in Saturday’s Miami Herald.
Castro waving to a cheering crowd upon his arrival in Havana on Jan. 1, 1959.
The piece is a rich chapter in Cuban/American history. Reading it online, you can also read many comments of Miamians who had personal or family experiences related to Castro’s dictatorship. The Comments are excellent footnotes in the human experience of his political power.

In the early the days of Castro’s reign, when he had become a kind of international celebrity, a kind of anti-hero; politically controversial but nevertheless a kind of “hero.” He had ended another long political dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista where the rich got rich and the poor stayed poor. His departure was a reason to celebrate.
In the meantime, Castro’s “look,” his dress was popular with a lot of the military-minded and he wore it all the time, at least in public appearances. Our friend out in Montecito, Penny Bianchi sent us a reminder yesterday of a story (of hers) which we’ve published on these pages before. 

Penny’s mother-in-law lived in Portland, Maine where she served on the board of the symphony in the 1960s. Once, when the symphony was having a fund-raising auction, mother-in-law had the bright idea of writing Fidel Castro and asking him if he’d give up his hat for the auction, and he sent her the hat!

Bette Davis wearing Fidel's cap which she won at auction for $25.
When the auction occurred, nobody bid on it except Bette Davis who was then living in Portland with her co-star and husband Gary Merrill.

Years later, Penny’s mother-in-law was visiting her in Los Angeles and one day invited Penny to tea with a “dear old friend from Maine.” When they got to the friend’s apartment (in Los Angeles), Bette Davis answered the door. This came as a great surprise to Penny of course. During the teatime conversation, the story of Castro’s hat came up, and Bette was reminded she still had it somewhere. She got up and did a brief search, fishing it out of a drawer ... ”this dirty old fatigue hat!”

“None of those old biddys understood what a value it was,” Davis explained to Penny, “so I had to buy it.”

Leaving the Davis apartment afterwards, Penny remained shocked that she’d just had tea with Bette Davis and that she had Castro’s hat.

“Why didn’t you tell me your dear old friend from Maine was Bette Davis?” she asked her mother-in-law.

“Darling, that was a test!” said mother-in-law, adding, “Anyone would have taken me to have tea with Bette Davis. You passed!”

Back to the holiday. Thanksgiving to us living in New York, especially Manhattan is also about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade is a tradition that began in 1924. Their first balloons were launched in 1927. Out of towners heard about it it – because parades were big deal entertainment in those days – but they never saw the actual parade to get an idea of its extravagance until the1950s when it was telecast across the country.
An Eddie Cantor balloon from the 1940 Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade.
Over the years its popularity has only grown to the point where hundreds of thousands, even millions come out and line the streets and avenues to watch. Our friend Paige Peterson made us aware of this phenomenon a number of years ago when she hosted a Thanksgiving Eve cocktail party at her apartment overlooking Central Park West in the 80s.
The gang watching the parade from Peter Brown's terrace on Central Park West.
It’s an annual event now. That’s also where the parade people prepare all the balloons and floats and where the actual parade takes place on Thanksgiving morn. Paige is also the photographer who’s covered the event for us. You’ll wish you were there.
 

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