In "A Life Lived Backwards: One Man's Life," a new podcast launching in August 2021, Larry Ruttman makes the case that old age can be the best time of life. You'll hear stories of friendship, mentors, romance, the love of learning, Larry's dedication to his faith, his passion for music, history, the law, and, of course, baseball. Tales told by a master storyteller with a razor-sharp memory and a wit to match! Subscribe and enjoy "A LIfe Lived Backwards: One Man's Life," available on all major podcast platforms.
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What I Mean by “Living My Life Backwards”
Voices of Brookline
Talking with Dogs
Air Force Stories
Jewish Life in Brookline, Massachusetts
Braves Field, Jackie Robinson, and WWII German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
A Tempestuous Parent and Other Family
High School Teachers Are Game-Changers
University of Massachusetts Buddies Are Game-Changers Too
Columbia Law School, the Ambassador, and the Dummy
Boston College Law School, a Happy Mix of Irishmen and Jewish Men
Thespians, Billy Crystal, and a Gravedigger
Acting and the Human Condition
Why I Wrote a Memoir
Baseball and America's Survival
Greg Spiers - The Best Boy Next Door
Row Hard, No Excuses
The Minister Disappears, The Silver Screen, and Other Fascinating Cases
Life and Death
Irishmen and Irishwoman Are a Boy's Best Friend
Looking Backwards to See the Future
Episode 23: Looking Backwards to See the Future
That is what historians do! That is what preservationists do! Many a wise man has said that we can’t see where we’re going if we have no awareness of where we’ve been. Human nature remains the same. The lessons we need to navigate forward are all there in our history. Two late Brookline people who knew that were Jane Holtz Kay and Dr. John "Jack" Little. It seems Jane was born knowing it, raised by her eminent lawyer father, Jackson Holtz, to read, read, read, which brought her as a student at Radcliffe College to stand before Brookline’s 19th Century ornate and beautiful Town Hall in her famous and futile attempt to save it from the wrecking ball. That led to her book, Lost Boston, (1980), which told in words and remarkable pictures how many of Boston’s great homes and buildings of earlier times had met a similar fate. I clearly remember when first looking at that book how sad I was to see how development had won over good sense. It was In Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took over America and How We Can Take It Back (1997), that the prescient Jane Holtz, expanding on the ideas of Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s most renowned landscape architect, that Kay hit full stride as an exemplar of urban design and the conservation of natural and urban environments a generation before others got on board. She demonstrated the deleterious dominance of the car on American culture and climate. To prove it Jane sold her car and got along very well without it living in Boston’s Back Bay. She opted for trains, bicycles, less cars, and living densely. What a lady! What a generous person in my own life, always helping me in my early efforts as a writer.
And what about Jack Little, another Jewish preservationist whose mother, noted historian, Nina Fletcher Little, lived at Brookline’s famous palace of Jewish learning The Maimonides School, named after the famous Jewish 12th Century philosopher. Well, not reallly, not at all. The school stands on the grounds and in the structure of the former affluent Fletcher home where Nina lived as a child looking out on Boylston Street and its horse drawn carriages, now Route 9. In later years Nina returned home in 1978, by when it was the Maimonides School, to give a reading of her work, “Reminiscences of the Philbrick Road Neighborhood,” which the home and now the school partially bordered. She and her husband, Bertram Kimball Little, both noted preservationists, brought Jack Little up in the same tradition in an old house not far away on Warren Street. Besides preserving and building early TV’s, radios, and autos, Jack, as President of the Brookline Historical Society, preserved old houses such as the famous Devotion House which dated back to the 17th Century and where the curator of the Society lives. In his college years Jack and a friend drove an old Model T Ford 12,000 miles over four months seeing the USA, and repeated the exploit in his Army years in Europe in a French Citroen. That led to his collection of vintage cars and old medical apparatus. Truly, Jack Little preserved the past! Indeed Dr.Little even found time to become one of the most famous radiological researchers in the world during his long tenure as a Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, writing five hundred or more published articles, and receiving many honors. Whenever I ran into Jack he always met me with a big smile.
Listen to hear me tell more about these two incredible people!
People, always people!
Episode 22: Irishmen and Irishwoman Are a Boy’s Best Friend
How could I know that I would spend twenty of the happiest years of my life from age 69 to 89 at one of the most undesirable office locations in Brookline:), amidst a gang of Irishmen, two Irishwomen, a Garage Punk Midwesterner, and a severe Italian landlady. After all, I had just recently inhabited the grandest office in Brookline’s famous Coolidge Corner. Sure, I wanted a small and private space to test out my notion of becoming an author and historian, but what was I getting myself into? My tough landlord, Patricia Simboli, had me cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, probably figuring this old guy will be outta here in no time with his grandiose notions. As (bad) luck would have it, on my first day my office mates, each having their own small office, were out in the hall talking, chief among them the seemingly unwelcoming husband and wife legal team, Joe and Paula Killion. Being crazy me, I said, “Hey everybody, I’m just what you need up here, an old Jewish guy.” That broke the ice. We all became immediate friends, and that warmth continued forever.
Joe turned out to be a pussycat who helped me out of the trouble my bad driving habits induced, and discussed baseball with me constantly, he having been a star pitcher at Holy Cross. He also proved to be the Champion Pack-Rat of all time! Brilliant criminal defense lawyer, Paula Killion, stared at me with her gorgeous blue Irish eyes, set in a face of flawless alabaster skin, but later shared with me her vast knowledge of the criminal law and shrewd opinions of people. Linda Gavin, Esq. became a chapter in my book, Voices of Brookline, when she was married by the Town Clerk to her longtime same sex partner at the Brookline Town Hall right after the Massachusetts Supreme Court allowed such unions in the landmark “Goodrich” case. Gentle Walter Landergan flawlessly handled several cases I referred to him with honesty and respect. Walter was close to Joe, and was broken up, as were we all, when Joe passed early at seventy. Walter and I bonded as friends. So too I bonded with the low key Steve Simon who startlingly combined that persona with his love of garage punk music which he blasted out on his program on Boston College radio station WZBZ. Steve’s late small dog, Chloe, came to the office often with Steve, and whimpered when I called him down the hall from his sanctum sanctorum to fish me out of my ineptitude on my computer. It turned out that Patricia Simboli possessed a full measure of warm Italian family feeling when she told me of her happiness with me as a tenant, and of her pride in my success. My luck in friends had held, coming as I did from my previous big quarters and my long friendship there with David Jensen, Esq., who like those above possessed a warm personality that has made us friends to this day.
Listen and you’ll hear much more about these nice folks! Who knows, you might get to like lawyers!
People, always people!
Episode 21: Life and Death
Does anybody have the ridiculous notion he or she will live forever? Yeah, me! Not really, but when Jordan Rich asked me on this podcast why I had waited to age eighty-five to have drawn an estate plan, that is what I answered, along with saying I was having too much fun to think about death. He asked why so many people never get around to drawing a will, let alone an estate plan? I replied that folks don’t want to think about death, although that was not true in my case. My thinking was crystallized into action when an older couple for whom I had drafted a will some years previously consulted me about a codicil to their will. By that time it was plain that their holdings required an estate plan drawn by an expert in that specialty. I sought one out for them. We met with her. She impressed me mightily. Her name is Kristin Shirahama, whose persona impressed many, resulting in her election as President of the Women's Bar Association while still in her thirties, and a partnership in a large Boston law firm a few years after we met. Cool, calm, and collected is Kristin as a professional, warm as a person! I retained Kristin to draw a plan for Lois and me, a necessity in many ways, not least because I am a decade older than my wife of fifty-eight years.
In an unusual collaboration Kristin and I joined forces on a plan leaving major gifts to several charities when we’re gone. She handled the expert advising and drafting required, and I met the leaders of the various charities considered. It required two years to get it right, but the the result was the plan of my and Lois’ dreams. That included the warm friendship Lois and I sought with Kristin for the long term, unanticipated benefits from the charities chosen, such as the august New England Historical Genealogical Society collecting my authorial papers and publishing them on the worldwide net, arrangements for a foundation grant to the newly formed Jewish Heritage Center, a valued participatory association with the Yiddish Book Center, and other honors of the same ilk. The experience directed my thinking to the needs of elder people, and the ideas expressed in my memoir that older folks need not take to the sidelines, but can remain immersed every day in life. For example, anybody can write about their own life for the benefit of family, friends, and associates, even if not for commercial dissemination, by the simple act of dredging their memory for the forgotten incidents of a long life. Everyone has a story to tell! Everyone in reasonable health can contribute meaningfully to their own and others’ lives until their dying day.
Listen to this podcast and hear that not only in my words, but in how I speak those words.
People, always people!
Episode 20: The Minister Disappears, the Silver Screen, and Other Fascinating Cases
You’ve had a look at some terrific lawyers in the last podcast. Now take a listen to some of my own interesting, if not fascinating, cases.
I got a call from my friend ‘Horatio’ one morning asking if I’d be interested in the case of the respected Newton minister who apparently drowned off scenic Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, Massachusetts some years past, and had suddenly turned up alive, wanting to return to home, parish, and wife who, along with everybody else, thought him dead. YES, I softly said at the top of my lungs. Too much to tell here about this publicity attracting case, the handling of which they don’t teach in law school, but listen and relive the adventure with me.
The same might be said about my participation in bringing to these shores the infamous porn film, “I am Curious Yellow.” The legal twists and turns of this case were way more titillating (pardon the pun) than those shown by the so-called lovers on the silver screen in that flick, but our legal team was rewarded aplenty as Americans flocked to see it.
Tinsel Town has its own dark side as you will hear in the case I’ve dubbed ‘“Righting a Wrong,.” In that one a lawyer from north of the Mason Dixon Line (me) joined with another barrister interested in justice from beneath it, to beat Hollywood at its own game and return wherewithal and mental health to a kindly gent who exhibited movies as a sideline. That kind of a case leaves one with a good feeling!
Should you get into an accident involving bodily injury, it’s a bad idea to flee the scene. This otherwise nice guy and family man did, and the gendarmes didn’t track him down until twenty or more miles from the scene. The lady DA was intent on putting him away in a dangerous State prison for a decade or more! What to do? How to help this guy? You’ll see how I did when you listen to this tale of tactical decisions in the courtroom setting along the way to the result.
No homeowner wants to have a single family house next door expanded into a much larger two family house to take advantage of the exploding value of houses in Brookline and depreciate the value of your own house, a town conveniently surrounded on three sides by easily reached Boston, but yet retaining its distinct non-commercial environment, open spaces, and great schools. I didn’t when I was threatened with such a disaster. So I fought it, rounding up all four of my adjacent and also threatened neighbors, joining forces with a Brookline zoning lawyer, and going to work. Do you own a house, want to buy one, or have an interest in what lawyers do in this kind of not uncommon neighborhood dispute. Then you’ll learn a thing or two listening to this case.
Can you imagine arguing yet another movie case in front of the highly respected Chief Judge of the Massachusetts Superior Court in which the judge imitated a bunny rabbit. I can’t, but it happened to me, and here I’ll tell you all about it.
People, always people!
Episode 19: Legal Eagles
Do you want a look inside the otherwise opaque world of lawyers? Listen and you shall hear. Like when as a fledging lawyer I was assigned a criminal case to defend pro bono. I thought the defendant had been imprisoned too long to have received the speedy trial guaranteed by the Constitution, and took my argument to Judge Charles Wyzanski, appointed by FDR, and by then a mythical jurist, respected by all, feared by many. He bought my argument, and angrily summoned then Massachusetts United States Attorney, Elliott Richardson, who went on to world fame, to fess up. The case ended well, and Larry and Elliott, an odd couple for sure, became longtime friends.
Several other well-regarded attorneys, who may have viewed my work habits dimly, affected my development profoundly. Like Morris Michelson, a meticulous lawyer’s lawyer civil trial attorney who taught me the basics of that craft, introduced me to my lifelong passion for classical music, and to a Committee of top Boston lawyers committed to social justice and Jewish values.
My early association with wizard real estate attorney and draftsman, Melvin Newman, brought out my previously hidden talent for the facile and clear drafting of legal documents. Through Mel I met Julian Cohen, not a lawyer, but a fabulously talented real estate developer, Chief Fueling Officer in his twenties for convoys in the North Atlantic in WWII, the biggest philanthropist to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and to my good fortune, a valued friend.
Another legal eagle of my youth was Sumner Kaplan, Judge, Selectman, General in the Army, and State Representative, who was instrumental in my appointment as an Assistant AG for Civil Rights in the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Edward J. McCormack, Jr., whose uncle, John W. McCormack, was Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. My senior there was Gerald Berlin, a clarinet playing tough Southerner transplanted from Virginia, appointed by the forward looking Eddie McCormack to lead his newly formed and groundbreaking Office of Civil Rights. Gerry was passionate about fairness in our country, and included me to assist in the United Stated Supreme Court case of “Gideon vs. Wainwright,” one of the most famous cases in 20th Century jurisprudence.
The best friend of all is Paul Sugarman, who rose from nearbthe bottom rung of the societal heap to the very top of the ladder as perhaps Boston’s top lawyer of the last half of the 20th century, a man for all seasons, who found time to be my longtime friend in and out of bad times.
People, always people!
Episode 18: Row Hard, No Excuses
How could I know my life changed direction the day my longtime and esteemed legal assistant, Cathy Jenness, came into my office and asked for a week off. “Sure,” I said, adding, “What for?” Cathy said her husband Mike was leading his gig racing crew to compete in the championships in the Scilly Isles off Land’s End in England. “Wow, sounds exciting,” I said to Cathy. “I wonder if Mike would let me come along.” A day or so later came a “Yes“ from Mike, star lineman at Northeastern, veteran police officer, boat builder with this father, team leader, and all around nice guy. So off I went.
The Scilly Isles are much more about the ocean than the mainland of England. Its folks are English, of course, but a people unto themselves, living on these remote islands. Famous for its gigs, an open narrow and light boat built for speed, requiring six rowers and a coxswain, used in the past from the late 17th Century to guide incoming sailing vessels over the dangerous shoals in the Scillies, or sometimes for the nefarious practice of plundering the cargo of foundered ships. Even worse was the practice of mooncussing, the placing of decoy signal fires to induce a shipwreck, subdue the survivors, and plunder the wreckage. In modern times gigs are more peaceably employed for racing among crews from the Scillies, England, France, the Netherlands, the Faroe Islands, Australia, Bermuda, and America.
The Scillies offer wind, weather, and rough seas enough too charm and excite any adventurer. So adventurous, in fact, that amid the tumult and excitement of the races, positioned on a crowded open observer boat with my heavy camera, accessories, and attire, standing to get a better view, I totally forgot caution, lost my balance, and began falling in the direction of the bottom of the sea, when a strong Dutch athlete caught me in her arms and stayed my fall. Water is life! Water is death! And yet, still adventurous enough for me to capture many more images of the races, stirring enough for me to write about those rapturous days with my new comrades, and to submit my first ever authorial effort to publisher Bob Hicks, who unexpectedly featured it on the front page that year, and again on the front page the following year in his national periodical, “Messing About in Boats”
That year Mike, his crew, and lucky me ventured to the castle town of Muiden, outside of Amsterdam for another Pilot Gig Racing Championship round. On that trip, I combined observing and photographing by day the rowers fighting the dangerous and storm swept seas which almost engulfed the women of “Team Saquish,” as Mike styled his team, and enjoying my abode along one of Amsterdam’s famous canals with my charming Dutch husband and wife bed and breakfast hosts. The Muiden races ended with a loud, boisterous, but quite friendly tent party of a thousand or more which inspired me to leap on a table and wave the Stars and Stripes aloft, and in Amsterdam with attending a rock concert with my host.
My life had changed. I had become a writer, another adventure which ultimately led to my writing my memoir which I came to realize was written not only to share my unexpected path into old age, but to give “....meaning to my life. That extends life! And it’s something YOU can experience. I think that is the main reason I wrote this memoir,....I’m hoping my life,.... may help you find meaning at any time of life,” as I put it spontaneously in the very first podcast of this series. Indeed, you can set your life down for your own family, friends, and associates.
People, always people!
Episode 17: Greg Spiers - The Best Boy Next Door
I think the title of this podcast could have been, “Greg Spiers - The Best Buy Next Door.” Here’s why. Some years ago I went to Best Buy for expert advice on an item I was considering. Greg was the salesman. Not only was he very pleasant to deal with, but seemed to know cyberspace from endless end to endless end. In our long conversation it turned out like ESP that Greg lived in the house a door or two down the street from my office. Like Rick and Captain Louis Renault in “Casablanca,” that was the start of a beautiful friendship between two guys fifty plus years apart in age, which continues to this day. Not only did the brilliant Greg drag me kicking and screaming into the computer age, and help me on my magnum opus about baseball and Jews. He met my wife, Lois, became like family, and watched over me with advice like, “Hang onto any railing in sight,” as I advanced from my seventies to my nineties. Not that it was one way. Greg sought my advice in his struggle between his low key outward demeanor, and the boiling anger in this highly idiosyncratic person against what he deemed to be the deficiencies in our society to which he would not kowtow. His views can be seen on his Facebook page. For example, Greg refused to do an unpaid internship to win an advanced degree which would have positioned him well to get a highly paid position in the field of cybernetics in biology. His objection was not money oriented, but because of his belief that the intern system took advantage of students. His posture today, fifteen or so years after we met, remains essentially the same. Somewhere along the line he met Carrie Schepker, then an aspiring doctor, now a respected one, who is headed for a starry career. Another example of ESP! Greg and Carrie have formed a warm and seemingly permanent bond in their years together, and prefer now to remain unmarried and without children, against the wishes of close family on both sides. Carrie, as warm as she is capable, as loyal as she is sure of her own mind, has become our dear friend too. Our friendship is a give and take between two very informed millennials and two very informed seniors which is of benefit to each twosome in expanding their respective consciousnesses of trends in societies today. Millennials will soon take over responsibility for administering the world with their very different and very welcome views on how people might get along better. I guess the moral of this story is that if you speak easily and naturally to folks you meet from all walks of life, you may find true friends from any generation who will expand the meaning of your own life.
People, always people!
Episode 16: Baseball and America's Survival
On this podcast you will hear how a theatrical event that started out lightheartedly surprisingly turned into something deadly serious, became an adventure, and brought me a bunch of new and talented friends. Actor and playwright, Larry Tish, contacted me one day saying he would like to write a comic play adapted from my book, American Jews and America’s Game. Flattering? Yes. I met Larry. Terrific guy. Knew nothing about baseball. So what I told myself was, “I’ll teach him and his partner, Lee Goodwin, enough for the purpose.” I said, “How about a musical? I know a talented composer, Erin Murray, who just graduated Berklee College of Music.” The three took to each other, and ultimately decided to leave me out of the writing. OK, see how it goes. Well, it went well enough to be produced several times in Boston, Maine, New York, and finally at the home of the late philanthropist and arts enthusiast, Ted Cutler. Alas, money was wanting to continue advancing the play, cleverly named, “Jews on First,” by Larry Tish’s daughter, after Abbott and Costello’s famous line, “Who’s on First?” What to do? Larry and Lee bowed out, as it were. Using that title, I bowed in, writing a short history of Jews in America since the late 19th Century through Depression times to the present. I befriended and hired a brilliant young woman, Jillian Offermann, still in college, to gather illustrations to be sequenced and related to the history, a talent she had expertly nurtured since her mid-teens. The result was a montage of several hundred photos perfectly matched to the narrative, but which created copyright and brand liabilities in an age where MLB and all businesses protect their logos, brands, marks, and images zealously. At that time I formed a team with Jill, and Jordan Rich, veteran and popular broadcaster and podcaster, who you hear conversing with me on these podcasts. Just before Covid struck, Rotary invited me to tell them of the project on a Zoom show. The presentation impressed their audience, and their community-oriented leader, Joyce Graff, asked if I could do the montage to be followed by my interview of an appropriate person from the front office of the Red Sox, directed by generous Brookline producer, Harvey Bravman. Joyce’s idea was that the interview would be on the issue of inclusiveness and discrimination in America. Joyce knew that I had some friends over there at Fenway Park, but hardly did I think I would be successful in obtaining anyone, let alone my first choice, Assistant Head of Baseball Operations, the articulate and engaging Eddie Romero Jr., born and bred in Puerto Rico. That was before generous and socially perceptive Red Sox President, Sam Kennedy, stepped in and made it all come true. Wow, this is getting serious. Well, there is much more to this story. Along the way key and accomplished people over there at Fenway Park like the aforementioned Sam Kennedy; the astute Chaim Bloom, Head of Baseball Operations; House Counsel, the brilliant Dave Friedman, Esq.; and Adam Grossman, Head of Marketing Operations, helped bring it to fruition. Not only did the story get serious but downright existential, as the subject matter segues from baseball to the survival of democracy. Any American interested in where our country may be heading will want to hear this podcast.
People, always people!
Episode 15: Why I Wrote a Memoir
I never know exactly what will be discussed before any given podcast unfolds. That is because Jordan Rich poses the questions, and I answer spontaneously.
Part Two of my memoir is entitled, “Why I Wrote This Memoir: Friendship, Maturation, and Inquisitiveness.” It is a rather academic answer to that question, which I surmised Jordan would follow. He didn’t. So whatever came out, came out differently. Jordan’s comments and questions brought out that writing the memoir was a voyage of discovery in itself.
Friends had said to me that I had led an interesting life, that I ought to write a memoir. I didn’t take that too seriously. I’d done a few things, nothing remarkable, I thought. I started it in a rather desultory manner. Then Covid came along. With time on my hands, I thought I’d give it a shot. Lots of my writings are autobiographical, so I strung them together. My capable formatter, Susan Worst, pointedly said, “Larry, this is an anthology, not a memoir.” So lazy Larry got to work in earnest, writing original material plumbing the labyrinthine caverns and crevices of my ninety year old memory. And you know what? I discovered that I had indeed lived an interesting life, albeit interesting mainly because with my limited authorial talent I could bring ordinary incidents to life, giving them meaning for me and others from which to learn.
You have already heard about several such instances in previous podcasts. How I communed with the late Miss Marguerite Greenshields, whom I hadn’t seen since she was my Housemaster in high school, for example. A transformative and other worldly experience which I related in that mood! Or, recently, in the podcast on acting, when I found new meaning about acting and life from attending Shakespeare’s poetry more closely. Or when Jordan described me as a Renaissance Man because of my many interests, including education, history, politics, music, baseball, whatever, which caused me to view myself as moving slightly away from my previous view of myself as a dilettante. Not much, but some. Or when the modest Jordan asked if I considered myself a little “edgy?” And hearing myself answer that, “Yes I think so. But I am because I always want to be true to myself. I’m lucky now at this age not to be hurt easily, and unafraid to put myself on the line.” Wise man Jordan then asked whether it was hard for me to write negatives about myself, to which I blurted out, “I have no shame.” These late coming experiences coming as part of writing the memoir, or growing from it, like podcasting, have educated me about my own persona, and equipped me to relate my life meaningfully to others, warts and all. As you will hear me say to Jordan, no one is interested in a memoir by a famous person if the warts are not revealed, but many will be interested in one by an ordinary person if he or she tells the truth, most especially if the telling is done with reasonable skill. Add to that all the noteworthy people I’ve been fortunate to meet, write about, and befriend, and you have a book which may win some favor. Indeed, friendship, maturation, and inquisitiveness!
People, always people!
Episode 14: Acting and the Human Condition
Naturally, Shakespeare got it right. Everybody is an actor. He expounded on that notion in his original and poetic way in lines familiar to all of us in his play, “As You Like It.” Here are a few of them:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages…..”
Not that the idea was original with the Bard. He just expressed it way better than anyone else! But it had new meaning to me when I began to think about acting after Jordan Rich brought up the subject in the last podcast. Thinking about it, I thought how much we all act all the time. Take lying. That is acting. We do it every day, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, sometimes out of habit. We often lie to save a friend’s feelings, or to hide from others what we’re doing. Hitler lied to amass power he used to annihilate millions in the Holocaust, and bring on WWII! Haven’t all dictators lied forever? So too do leaders of free countries like America and England lie to save the day. Think FDR and Churchill. Perhaps the most prevalent form of lying are the lies we tell ourselves to deceive ourselves as to who we really are, and what our true thoughts and feelings are, which causes so much insecurity and indecision. All of this might be defined as acting off the stage. Acting on the stage is defined as a craft, even an art, but if what I’ve said above is meaningful, one might reasonably ask, why do we need stage actors? Aren’t they merely dramatizing what we know to be true? Well, no. They are doing something profoundly more important! What is it that they do that invokes names like Shakespeare himself, not to mention a host of Greek playwrights like Euripides, Aeschylus, and Aristophanes who lived two and a half millennia ago, musicians like Mozart and Verdi, and all the folks who support dramatic, musical and poetic presentations the world over - the playwrights, scriptwriters composers, librettists, editors, singers, dancers, actors, and others, of the highest order of artistic ability? Why is it I choose to call such people “reactors,” as much as actors? Listen to this podcast and you’ll find out why all people owe a special debt to all actors and their cohorts the world over, and why all societies honor the acting art in whatever form it is presented.
People, always people!
Episode 13: Thespians, Billy Crystal, and a Gravedigger
Can you make an actor out if a guy who flubbed his one line in a college production of the Bard’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and who was far more interested in the sweaty-but-sparkling young dancer in that play who came offstage to rest near me waiting for her next cue to return to the footlights, bearing the “Scent of a Woman,” as in the Al Pacino movie of the same name? I got my offstage line right, breathing heavily and murmuring indistinctly, “Oh God!” Not likely, and not ever. The guys at my fraternity nailed it when they induced the itinerant caricaturist who came around every year or so to picture me on a stage littered with garbage as I held poor Yorick’s skull aloft. Billy Crystal got it right when he played the gravedigger in a movie adaptation of Hamlet. Hey, I knew Billy Crystal, and you’re no Billy Crystal! So, in this session, theater-loving Jordan abandons searching for my thespian credentials, asking whether I regret not becoming an actor. Indeed not, I answer, because I love to talk, and had plenty of chances to “act” as a lawyer, lately as a Zoom and in-person speaker, and now as a podcaster. In this podcast I tell of my respect for the ancient art of acting in whatever way one might use what might be described as a God-given talent for projecting ideas and personalities to lend a better understanding of life experiences on the stage, or in achieving one’s goals in any other field of endeavor. An attorney is called upon in court to be unafraid to put the best face he can on his client’s case, whether by an over-the-top dramatic performance or an understated but persuasive argument quietly but convincingly expressed to the judge and/or jury. Of course one must walk a fine line not to harm the client’s case by going beyond the pale of truth, or by allowing too extravagant expression to blunt that truth. In this podcast you’ll hear me talk of the last criminal defense in my career, when I defended a family man like you and me who struck down and seriously injured a bicyclist, then fled the scene until the police caught up with him twenty miles away. A tough case to plead for no imprisonment, especially opposed by a DA who wanted no plea bargain but wanted to incarcerate the defendant in State Prison for over ten years. This took acting, albeit not on stage. Actors let it fly. So do I lawyers. Listen here and you’ll find out the result. Who knew when we started this session that Jordan would turn it towards the serious art of acting. My head was spinning with ideas on that subject when we left off. I hope we return to it! Hasn’t acting on or off the stage been used for thousands of years for both good and evil?
People, always people!
Episode 12: Boston College Law School, a Happy Mix of Irishmen and Jewish Men
So how would a Jewish boy do at a Catholic law school? One of the great experiences of my life, that’s how, and still ongoing today, sixty-five years later! On day one a lifelong friendship was struck up between me and the then Dean, the late Jesuit Father Robert F. Drinan, fated to become famous as an educator, Congressman, humanist, author, speaker, ethicist, and champion of the downtrodden, here and abroad. How much luckier could I have been to have the wise counsel and support of Bob Drinan as my life progressed?
And what great people I met there? Take Professor Cornelius Moynihan, bearing a name about as Irish as you can get, with a wit to match. How does Professor Moynihan relate to Judah Benjamin, the accomplished former Jewish Senator from Louisiana, and later Secretary of State of the Confederacy, who was Jefferson Davis’ trusted right hand man? Later, in England, after clandestinely escaping the country to England to become Queen’s counsel and a barrister, Benjamin authored “Benjamin on Sales,” the foremost 19th Century treatise on that subject. Now that’s history you’ll be interested to hear more about! Here’s another unique name! Monroe Inker! A Jew from Brooklyn, accent and all, transplanted to fair Massachusetts, Monroe taught me divorce law at Boston College Law School, changed marital law in the state significantly, was renowned as a practicing lawyer, and outwitted me one time when we locked horns in court. You’ll meet my classmate, and later Monroe’s partner, Marty Aronson, who shamed me in court in my first trial, as well as another classmate, Walter Wekstein, whose brilliance as an attorney shamed one Donald Trump, assuming such a thing is possible. Listen and hear more!
People, always people!
Episode 11: Columbia Law School, the Ambassador, and the Dummy
How could Columbia Law School, one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, have admitted a dummy like me? You really have to be dumb to take a train from Times Square to the middle of Harlem instead of to the Columbia campus! And dumber still to try to traverse the fraught streets of Harlem to and through the depth and dark of Morningside Park which separates Harlem from Columbia, instead of immediately retracing your steps to Times Square, and starting over. How did I make it back safely? Listen, and I’ll tell you. Phil Temple, my roommate, was happy to see me return. Phil and I remained friends forever. Paolo Fulci was happy too, so happy, in fact, that Paolo, the scion of an old Sicilian family studying at Columbia on a Fulbright, has remained a friend to this day. That was a boon because Paolo Francesco Fulci became one of the most storied ambassadors in Italy’s history, rising to become the President of the United Nations Security Council. Lois and I joined Paolo and his wife, Peruvian beauty Clarissa, on a few adventures over the years in Boston, New York, Cape Cod, Canada, and Italy, of which I’ll tell. Hey, better to have a Sicilian for a friend rather than as an enemy!
People, always people!
Episode 10: University of Massachusetts Buddies Are Game-Changers Too
Being away from home at seventeen for the first time is really the start of your adult life. My dorm roommate that first year was George Delaney, who at twenty two had already seen the world in the Merchant Marine, as well as all those fetching senoritas on the South American route. George had stories. George taught me a lot, even if vicariously. My best friend in college was handsome and popular, Milton (Milt Crane), who risked his straight shooting reputation joining errant me in pranks like midnight forays to the out of bounds commissary in the fraternity house to feast on tuna and chips. The most popular show on Broadway then was “Guys and Dolls,” How did Milt and I maneuver backstage, meet with its star, Vivian Blaine, and end up with two young beauties from its chorus line. C’mon along to The Big Apple! It was in those years that I began to realize that I was not quite like most other folks, but the true realization of that lay many years ahead. Who could know that Gene Isenberg, barely out of rags from his deprived hometown of Chelsea, would acquire riches to make him the billionaire oil man and philanthropist he became? It was at UMass that I met another guy from Chelsea, Mel Glusgol, who also followed the law, and whose perspicacity gave me many an idea over the years, all shared with never a hint of envy or jealousy when I ran with them. Milt and Mel, two friends for life! A few years later I met Mickey Finn, slipped to me by violinist Sammy Dale, who didn’t take it too well when his little band’s songstress, Priscilla Howe, took a liking to me. Mickey might have killed me!
People, always people!
Episode 9: High School Teachers Are Game-Changers
If you’re lucky the teachers you have in grammar and high school will not only ground you in their subject, but teach you something about life. My Principal at Devotion School, the iconic Charles Taylor, felled me with a line drive off my first pitch, teaching me at age eleven, a little bit about bearing pain, but showed me how an elder can elicit love and respect at the same time. At Brookline High, Miss Perkins taught me and my friend, Michael Dukakis, the wonders of Latin, and sparked in me forever a love of Roman history and language, and a better understanding of English, its derivative language. In those halcyon days I was instructed in civics and music, mostly absent when most needed in the curriculum today, when democracy is threatened. Mythical coach Harry Downes summarily took me out of the lineup when I doubled home three runs playing for the Brookline High School varsity nine! How dare he? He dared. I learned a lesson! Dustin Pedroia would have taught me the same lesson! You will hear it. This podcast demonstrates how my interlocutor, longtime broadcaster, Jordan Rich, metamorphoses these sessions into real conversations between two good friends!
People, always people!
Episode 8: A Tempestuous Parent and Other Family
Let’s start with my mother, Doris, an incredible woman who survived a week into her 97th year, bridging the Edwardian era, the Twenty-First Century, and everything in between, matching each era with her apt style sense! Emerging from this podcast is a one-of-a-kind woman whose beauty never dimmed, whose temperament demonstrated to the male world what a liberated woman is all about, and whose influence had a lot to do with the person I became despite the profound differences between us. Lucky for me this tempestuous relationship was balanced by gentle souls like my courtly father, his dancing brother, my in-laws who accepted me as a son, and my father in-law’s Old World mother, who puzzlingly addressed me as “The Prince.” Do family relationships prepare you for life? Let me tell you!
People, always people!
Episode 7: Braves Field, Jackie Robinson, and WWII German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Alas, Braves Field no longer exists. It disappeared not long after the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1952. But it was my field of dreams in the forties! They let kids in for free with their dads, so living nearby and adopting dozens of dads, I attended dozens of games, even gate crashing my way, as became my wont, into the press box. What does German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, who came close to routing the combined forces of England and America as he blitzed across North Africa in WWII, have to do with Braves Field, me, my Uncle Sel, and Game changer, Jackie Robinson? I’m not telling here, but I do in the podcast! So come one, come all, for tales of JFK, larceny at the 1936 All-Star Game, and the feats of Hall of Famers like Ernie Lombardi, Ralph Kiner, and Hank Greenberg.
People, always people!
Episode 6: Jewish Life in Brookline, Mass.
Have you ever wondered how Jewish folks get to be that way, whatever way you surmise that may be? A good place to start is heavily Jewish Brookline, MA, my hometown where I was Bar Mitzvah’d at age 13 in 1944, ostensibly then becoming a man, in my case a dubious proposition! What is that ceremony like? Well, you read and sing a portion of the Torah, the five Books of Moses in the Old Testament, before the whole congregation, taught in my case by an old world scholar then recently escaped from Hitler’s clutches. I drove poor Rabbi Simon Udevich crazy with my late comings and lazy habits. If you live long enough you may find out what your teachers were really like, as I did long after the good rabbi passed from the scene. And as I did in a surreal and moving other worldly time I spent with the lovely and loving Miss Marguerite Stuart Greenshields, Master of Lincoln House, as my high school class was called, long after she left this mortal coil, who had poetically counseled us to,
“Help us, O Lord, to be master of ourselves
That we may become the servants of others;....”
People, always people!
Episode 5: Air Force Stories
Not many of you folks can remember the Korean War during which I served as an ROTC officer in the Air Force from 1952 to 1954 stateside in Washington D. C. during the waning days of Harry Truman’s presidency, and a little later in Wilmington, Delaware, famous for the DuPonts, and later for Joe Biden. It was at the latter that my life almost unraveled at twenty-two, all because of the love affair with the fair Karla, whose father’s Community Church of Boston invited left-leaning luminaries to its rostrum every Sunday, a ‘no no’ during those days when Senator Joe McCarthy and his sidekick, Roy Cohn, were calling practically everybody who blinked too often a Communist. Fear was in the air during those fraught days, and the fear of others caught me up in a web of unfounded suspicion. We all know that romance can get you in trouble, but this one was straightforward. Boy meets girl. girl meets boy, they fall in love. But the Air Force had other ideas. Maybe I was an enemy agent! Even showing them what Karla looked like as the reason for my trips to Boston every chance I got didn’t persuade the brass hats, at least not then. Well, I suggest you listen to this podcast to hear a war story unlike most you’ve heard. I’m still here, so there was no firing squad. I’m a citizen still in good standing at 90. I had some good friends in the AF, of whom you’ll read here, including my boss, the gentle Captain Beck, who flew in the Berlin Airlift. I never did marry Karla, but you know that. When some of the officers on base feted me at the Officers Club when my two-year term was up, they shouted, “You’ll be back!” Wrong! Indeed, that was my last day of service. But I was honored with a Korean War ribbon! And the GI Bill helped me through law school.
People! Always people!
Episode 4: Talking with Dogs
I call my wife Lois a “dog whisperer.” She whispered to all of them, loved them all, and was loyal beyond belief to every one, even the terrible-tempered Wammy, our first dog long ago, misnamed after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the lovely animals who followed: the Bichon Frises, smart Elke and her daughter, the sweet Mopsy, and Standard Poodles, the queenly Molly and the brave Puppy Puppy. Lois spoke to all of them like they were human beings, and, as I found to my incredulity, THEY UNDERSTOOD, and replied in their own way. It was like witnessing an ongoing miracle! Take Puppy Puppy who lived to almost fifteen, well beyond that breed’s normal life span. How could that be for a dog suffering from life-threatening medical threats and hospitalizing accidents? About halfway through her life, Puppy fell off a high rock playing with another dog, breaking three legs, resulting in delicate surgery not guaranteed by the operating vet to make her whole. Not only did Lois whisper to Puppy, but moved downstairs in our up and down house to sleep on an air mattress with Puppy in her bed by her side every night for six months, during which time Puppy was unable to negotiate the stairs. All that while I knew Lois was talking to Puppy, and that Puppy was responding as the two of them were plotting to prove the vets wrong that Puppy would never again run free. It was inspiring to see the gift Lois bestowed, the resolve Puppy displayed, and the strength of both of them that resulted in Puppy again running with abandon, never once evidencing how severely she had been tested by life.
People, always people! And always with their dogs!
Episode 3: Voices of Brookline
Voices of Brookline is the title of my first book, which came out in 2005, Brookline’s tercentenary, when I was seventy-four. I never thought I would write a book, let alone one about this famous town where I’ve lived for eighty-eight years. It all started with an interview program I undertook as a lark on local access television called “From Community to Cyberspace,” interviewing in one-hour shows around seventy of the famous and regular inhabitants of the town. What a wonderful experience, teaching me a lot about them, Brookline, and myself, and opening the way to a literary career undreamed of before! That is the sort of thing that can happen to you when you put yourself out there at any point in life.
In this segment you’ll meet some of those folks. Sure, Mike Wallace, Bob Kraft, columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Ellen Goodman, and her sister, historian Jane Holtz Kay, and presidential candidate Mike Dukakis are all there, but so too you will hear of Eddie Barshak and his wife, Regina Barshak, Al Rosen, The Baker sisters, Dolly and Bobbi, and same-sex partner and lawyer, Linda Gavin, folks you’ve probably never heard of, each telling their own important and meaningful stories about the law, escaping the Holocaust, liberating the prisoners at Dachau, finally being redeemed as a marital partner in a landmark legal decision, and the life of vaudeville entertainers! Many more stories will be told from Voices of Brookline. Stay tuned!
People, always people!
Episode 2: Earlier Relationships
This podcast is entitled “Earlier Relationships,” but as you will discover as we get to know each other better, I tend to digress because so many stories are bursting out of me wanting to be heard. Here we start off with beautiful Hanna and mischievous Jules, the two young kids next door who came over for dinner with their parents, Angie and Eric, just before COVID, and sort of fell in love with us and us with them, mostly due to my wife Lois’ generosity in the amazing gifts she gave to each of them. Then traversing a landscape of how I gate-crashed my way at age twelve in the midst of WWII into the press box at old Braves Field to join company with the sportswriters there for a game between the Braves and the Cards, my summer camp experiences, at one of which I discovered I never would become a Major League pitcher, we arrive at my first love, the Marilyn Monroe lookalike, Karla. I met her just weeks before my entry into the Air Force, and you’ll laugh at how I revisited the memory of that relationship to gently put down my longtime friend and class “man about town,” in an hilarious way fifty-five years later from the dais at our high school reunion.
People, always people!
Episode 1: What I Mean By "Living My Life Backwards"
How could I know the best part of my life would begin at age seventy? That then I would become an interviewer, an author, a story teller, sort of a personality, and for the first time ever become so immersed in what I was doing, that at those moments I was doing it, nothing else seemed to matter. What a feeling! I still feel it at ninety. That gives meaning to my life. That extends life! And it’s something YOU can experience. I think that is the main reason why I wrote the memoir my good friend, Jordan Rich, just spoke about. I’m not a special person, I’m just a person like any of you listening to this podcast. So I’m hoping my life, and my use of my particular characteristics of Friendship, Inquisitiveness, and Maturation, may help you find yours at any time of life. In this segment I tell of my first book, Voices of Brookline, about my hometown and some of the ordinary and famous people in it; a book I’ve written on my passion for music, titled Intimate Conversations, Face to Face with Matchless Musicians; and how my second career unfolded in the last twenty years or so, leading to my memoir, Larry Ruttman: A Life Lived Backwards. And about some of the people in my life you’ll meet here and later.
People, always people!