PODCAST

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.

RUTTMAN ONE MAN'S LIFE_TRAILERLarry Ruttman and Jordan Rich
00:00 / 01:50

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Episode List

  1. What I Mean by “Living My Life Backwards”

  2. Earlier Relationships

  3. Voices of Brookline

  4. Talking with Dogs

  5. Air Force Stories

  6. Jewish Life in Brookline, Massachusetts

  7. Braves Field, Jackie Robinson, and WWII German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

  8. A Tempestuous Parent and Other Family

  9. High School Teachers Are Game-Changers

  10. University of Massachusetts Buddies Are Game-Changers Too

  11. Columbia Law School, the Ambassador, and the Dummy

  12. Boston College Law School, a Happy Mix of Irishmen and Jewish Men

  13. Thespians, Billy Crystal, and a Gravedigger

  14. Acting and the Human Condition

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 experience 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, 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 your 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!