In 1524 Giovannida Verrazano, a Florentine navigator, may have discovered Narragansett Bay; atany rate, he swung at anchor for a pleasant fortnight off what was not quiteyet the staid, leafy city of Newport, R.I. and then sailed back to tell KingFrancis I of France about it. It was the most singular occurrence onNarragansett Bay until the 1920s when the Coast Guard shot up the fastrumrunner Black Duck. Newport was founded in 1639 by a band of Antinomiansevicted from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for disagreeable beliefs. Antinomiansregarded themselves as elect personages who were predestined to salvation andtherefore absolved from moral law and any duty to repent. When, severalcenturies later, Newport became a celebrated and sumptuous watering place, manyof its transients maintained a similar attitude.
Between 1739 and1760, Newporters made considerable fortunes in, as every schoolboy knows, theTriangular Trade, in which an isosceles triangle, rum, sugar, molasses, slaves,Africa and Barbados were all involved. The first synagogue in the United Stateswas built in Newport in 1763; the Jews did a whale of a business in spermaceti.In 1770 Newport's foreign trade was greater than New York's but the Britishdestroyed the town during the Revolution, and Newport wasn't any great shakesuntil the moneyed, with their ponderous equipage, commenced to summer thereafter the Civil War.
Newport has beenand is a stately, properly gay but rarely giddy resort; in the days ofrotogravure sections, for instance, Newporters were always said to be"sauntering." The following are some of the signal events in itshistory: Richard Sears won the first U.S. national tennis title there (1881);the first functioning flush toilets in the U.S. first functioned in Newport;Charles V. Macdonald won the first U.S. amateur golf championship there (1895);Mrs. O.H.P. Belmont threw a champagne party to introduce a chimpanzee tosociety; the notable fop Ward McAllister coined his phrase "the fourhundred" on the sea-girt peninsula; and a brand of cigarets assumed thecity's glamorous, prestigious name.
September 7, 1958
The Gilt-edgedAge of Newport was, of course, the day of the grand families—the Vanderbilts,the Astors, the Belmonts, the Oelrichses, the Fishes, the Harrimans, theRhinelanders, the Van Alens—and the mansions they built like ziggurats on OceanDrive and Bellevue Avenue in preposterous nonconformity—Greek Revival, Gothic,Norman, Renaissance, Tudor—burdened with gambrels and cupolas, loggias, turretsand towers and landscaped with broad lawns, woods, deep drives and ornamentalshrubbery which took as many as 10 gardeners to maintain. The most notoriouswas The Breakers, erected on Ochre Point for Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1895. Thefootmen wore silk knee breeches and shoes with silver buckles and it took 150tons of coal to heat it during the winter, even though it was tenantless. TheBreakers is now a museum. Some of the other palatial residences are a seminary,a convent, a church, a school, a motel-restaurant, apartment houses and great,drafty pigeon roosts, though still others continue in the eleganttradition—butlers, footmen, gardeners and all.
Today Newport ischiefly noted for its tennis tournament, its jazz festival, PresidentEisenhower and the America's Cup races. Last week Ike made his second vacationtrip to Newport, but he wasn't the first President to sleep there. GeorgeWashington was, and there were 15 Presidents between them. President Eisenhowerwill sojourn this year at Fort Adams, a Navy installation across the harborfrom Newport proper. Last year he stayed at Coasters Harbor Island. This yearthe President will be much nearer the Newport Country Club. Last year he had totake a boatride to get to its golf course. This year he can reach it byautomobile, and heaven help his spine if they haven't filled in the bottomlesspotholes in the entrance road.
The sailors ofthe America's Cup yachts are, for the most part, luxuriously berthed.Weatherly's crew is put up at Seafield, a mélange of white towers on OceanDrive. Owner Henry Mercer and Skipper Arthur Knapp entertain there in agenially generous manner. This is typical of Weatherly's social approach to thetrials—they have taken as many as a dozen passengers out for a pleasure cruiseafter a day's arduous sail. A little farther down the peninsula is the 19thcentury ch√¢teau hired by Briggs Cunningham for the Columbia. Theirs is a moreascetic regime. Quite early in the morning the crew marches out of the huge,ivory entrance hall so they can clamber aboard at 9 a.m. (preceded, often byhours, by Rod Stephens who, perhaps, is up the mast in the fog, tinkering and,if Columbia is on the ways at the Newport Shipyard, hallooing with his brotherOlin in a Mercedes 19SL below). Columbians often remain on board for extradrills until 6 p.m., thence to the chateau for a skull session which oftenpersists from the short cocktail hour through dinner and on until lights-out at11 p.m. Vim's crew holes up at Lily Pond, a monstrous pile camouflaged by amassy forest. Easterner's crew divides its sleeping between Chandler Hovey'spower cruiser and a hotel. Indeed, sleeping is the major liberty occupation ofthe crews; partying is hardly up to traditional Newport standards.
The Britishchallengers, 24 strong, live in a rambling old home built in 1884 calledHorsehead. Horsehead, which stands not in Newport but across the bay inJamestown, an area favored by Philadelphians, was lent free to the British byMr. and Mrs. Sidney Wright. ("Nobody in Newport ever gave anythingaway," says a Newporter, underlining this Jamestown generosity.) TheSceptreians arise at a military 6:30 and leave for their boat by 7:30; theyreturn in the evening around 6:30. When they get ashore, a number of the crewbathe in a natural pool at the foot of the cliff Horsehead sits on. They likethe pool and the prospect because it reminds them of the Cornish coast.
Off the fire-redhull of Brenton Reef lightship, where the racers rendezvous for the trials, thepalatial atmosphere lingers like the frequent fog. Henry Mercer of theWeatherly syndicate is there in his 110-foot Blue Jacket; Gerard Lambert of theColumbia syndicate is aboard the 85-foot Vergemere; Harold S. Vanderbilt ridesthe 88-foot motor ketch Versatile, an edged card table and rattan bridge chairsfastened over the stern skylight. Also on board, on occasion, is Vanderbilt'swife Gertrude, a veteran of these affairs and perhaps the woman who best knowsprecisely how to dress for an America's Cup—a small cloche-type straw hat, arather highly styled middy blouse, blue slacks and superbly made, soft whiteleather shoes quite narrow in the toe.
Vanderbiltusually carries two of the NYYC selection committee, the other three watch fromthe white, 110-foot motor vessel Vedersein. She ties up at Christy's wharf inthe afternoon, the late sun glinting off the sliding glass bulkheads on herafter-lounge, where in a conspicuous but silent world, as though in anaquarium, the committeemen deliberate, highball glasses in hand.
After the day'strials, all nonparticipant hands head for a lobster at Christy's, a drink atStanford White's green-latticed Casino, or at the Viking or theMuenchinger-King, where they can exchange scuttlebutt. Later, when the lawnshave turned blue, they drive through Newport's streets, which reminded HenryJames of the short little walks of little old ladies, and where sailors fromthe Atlantic Destroyer Force, whose ships ride the roads of Narragansatt Bay,lounge, ghostly in their whites; and later, on through the tree-tunneleddrives, watching lights burning yet in the vast mansions, where, alas, themidnight-to-dawn parties—their old dance tunes, their old, fast steps—are, forthe most part, gone with the glorious uselessness of the past.
Rustlers in theOld Corral
There are sureenough rustlers in the old corral out West, and if you don't believe it, turnoff that television a minute. George (Dead-eye) Dickerson, new head coach atUCLA, has just flushed the varmints on a spread of his, he's claiming. Saysthey rode down from the University of California and sneaked in amongst hisdogies a couple of weeks ago. Dickerson has been out gunning.
Seems to be acase of reverting to type. For 43 years the Pacific Coast Conference ranwestern football kind of peaceable like. Anybody who didn't cotton to the way abody was paying off his hands went and told the commissioner. The commissioner(really a kindly old judge in disguise) would hold a hearing, everything legal.But they have done away with the PCC, kindly old judge and all. The newAthletic Association of Western Universities believes in the code of the OldWest: if there is something troubling you, go talk it out with the fellow atthe next ranch.
Of course, theofficial lingo of the AAWU puts it like a bunch of lawyers. "There shall beno central enforcement agent or agency of this association," the bylawssay. "If a member institution has reason to believe that another memberinstitution is violating either the letter or the spirit of these articles itmay undertake to resolve the differences by discussions with thatinstitution."
Well, UCLA'sCoach Dickerson felt in real need of discussions last week when one of his bestlocal prospects told him he had a date up north at Berkeley next day. Nextthing you know, Dickerson, tall in his saddle in a United Airlines DC-6, wasflying up to Cal with two other players, Bill Kilmer and Dean Moore. Stillsweating mad after their air-conditioned ride they stomped into Cal's StephensUnion Building, double-hopped the stairs and burst into the office of CoachPete Elliott. "Now looka here, Pete," commenced Dickerson (littlecaring that Elliott was interviewing another player and his mother). Then,gouging his spurs into the carpet, he allowed as how Elliott's recruiters, inparticular one Herman Weiner of Los Angeles, had offered $500 a year to bothKilmer and Moore if they would come to Cal. And as how Weiner had even tried tolasso Kilmer at Red Sanders' funeral. And as how it had better stop, pronto, bydang. Elliott promised to round up the boys and look into the matter, and hopedit wouldn't make the newspapers. Two days later it did.
Up and down theCoast, athletic directors and faculty members of UCLA, USC, Cal and Washington,members of the AAWU, turned sagebrush green. Less than three days old, the newconference had been set back at least 10 years. But then, it's like the fellowon the television says, "That's how it was out West." Only thingdifferent—out West, gol durn it, that's the way it is.
Isn't thatlovely?" asked Gilbert H. Jackson the other day, caressing a bloomingorchid (Lowia Grandiflora Westonbirt). Growing orchids is an extraordinarydiversion for a president of the National Boxing Association, but GillieJackson, 60, is an extraordinary, indeed almost Renaissance, man. He isvice-president and director of the Modine Manufacturing Co., Racine, Wis. (1957gross sales: $25 million), an accomplished pianist with a special fondness forRachmaninoff and Debussy, a former stunt flyer and a member of the QuietBird-men. He is a collector of Bohemian glass, bric-a-brac and books (FrenchRevolution and Civil War). He is an amateur photographer and an amateurastronomer ("When you are confronted with these gigantic facts of theuniverse," Jackson has said, "these indescribable distances, you try tomake the effort to meet them in your mind. It brings you up rather short whenyou have picayunish differences, for example, with Mr. Helfand, the boxingcommissioner of New York"). He is a collector of art (a chalk drawing ofthe Madonna and Child by Leonardo da Vinci is his pi√®ce de r√®sistance), and, infine, as Cus D'Amato once exclaimed in wonderment: "He used to be a formerfighter!" Gillie Jackson, as Jack McGill, the Racine Flash, won 29 fights,drew one and received a battered nose.
Jackson hasalmost completed his year's term with the NBA, a regrettably feeble regulatoryorganization whose member commissions are too often subject to political andpromotional pressure. "One thing is certain," Jackson says, "thisboxing business is not an exact science. There's cajolery, persuasion, impliedthreats."
During the past12 months, Jackson, in an attempt to bring a semblance of scientific order tothe business, has fought with dissident commissions (Massachusetts resignedfrom the NBA last January when it was faced with censure for staging anunauthorized welterweight title match between Tony DeMarco and Virgil Akins),reluctant fighters (Joe Brown seemed disinclined to risk his lightweight titleagainst Kenny Lane until Jackson and Texas Commissioner M. B. Morgan forced hishand), Julius Helfand and the International Boxing Club.
"I think theIBC has been very shortsighted in the policy of providing for the future,"Jackson says, "but then that's their business. Apparently, they're waxingfat on the boxing business and putting nothing back into it. You know, thiscountry around here [Union Grove, Wis., his summer home] is a farm community,and you should listen to the farmers talk about a shiftless character who farmsintensively and depletes the growing qualities of the soil. He takes all thegood out of it and doesn't put any fertilizer back in. Same with theIBC."
Jackson is alsoworried about televised boxing. According to him, "As long as it's underits present operation I am [concerned]. If there were competition set up—andthis is D'Amato's idea—we would broaden the field and probably draw in smallerclubs. Then you wouldn't have to submit to the dictates of a monopolisticgroup. It would be far healthier."
Jackson also hasreservations about Helfand, whose New York commission is for bidden byinterpretation of state law from membership in the NBA. "I'm not closeenough to the picture to know what prompts some of the things Mr. Helfanddoes," Jackson says. "I don't know if he arrives at his conclusionsindependently or is swayed by some outside influence. I know it appears attimes that he makes a studied effort to upset NBA procedures. I don't knowwhether that is to demonstrate the superiority of the World ChampionshipCommittee [Helfand is chairman] over the NBA, or whether it is personalaggrandizement, or whether it might be promotional interests, to put it mildly.If you take on a responsibility, you owe a responsibility to the people to dothat job."
Jackson has takenon a responsibility and has provided the hack-ridden NBA with the most honest,feisty and enlightened leadership it has had in years.
The NBA meets inLas Vegas next week for its annual convention and to elect a new president.There is a strong movement to draft Jackson for another term. "If theconsensus is that they want me, I'll do it," Jackson says. "Having nostrings, I can go down the middle of the road without having to kow-tow toTruman Gibson [IBC president] or any others. And that feeling has taken hold ofthe NBA. They like that attitude."
We do, too.
Your Dog and YourCold
To Tweakcontemporary man's fixation on the microbe, Arthur Guiterman some years backwrote a poem about the Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup. You may recallthey "were playing in the garden when a Bunny gamboled up;/They looked uponthe Creature with a loathing undisguised;/—It wasn't Disinfected and it wasn'tSterilized."
"Ho! Ho!"you, or your father, chortled. "That's a good one." Well, you can verywell laugh out of the other side of your mouthwash now. Dr. Shyamal K. Sinha, abiological researcher from Kansas City, has advanced the theory that we catchcolds from our dogs. Or they catch them from us. Or both, mind you. Dr. Sinhawas telling all this to members of the American Veterinary Medical Association,convened in Philadelphia the other day. The way he told it, 13 dogs wereinoculated with one of four strains of live cold virus, and turned out with 13other, unsuspecting dogs. Sure enough, 24 hours later, and 26 were sick. Then,worse to tell, Dr. Sinha infected the recuperated pups with another strain ofvirus. This time he got sick and so did five assistants—sore throats, fever,the works.
Dr. Sinha,thankfully, is not letting it go at that. He hopes to perfect a vaccine foryour dog that will render him, like Guiterman's, "Strictly Germproof."If he achieves it before the second, or sneezing, half of the football season,you'll hear more.
He couldn't holdon
To the pitcher's slider;
The web of his glove
Was made by a spider.
They Said It
Jocko Conlon, National League umpire, agonizing overthe loose use of the word bum as addressed to umpires in San Francisco's SealsStadium: "In my book a bum is a shiftless, seedy, no-good, nonworking-bum.I'm a man with a respectable job, a fine family, two lovely children. What'sthis bum business?"
Dwight Eisenhower, on the proposed move to the Midwestof the Washington Senators: "I am practically certain this city woulddemand that they stay.... But I think they should have a little bit betterclub."
Shane MacCarthy, chairman of the President's Councilon Youth Fitness, as "Joe Palooka" was named Youth Fitness Ambassador:"We are confident that the addition of Joe as a member of the Fitness teamwill reach many who have not yet learned the true intent of the Youth FitnessProgram."