Monday, February 17, 2014

Rose Valland- Little Known WW2 Hero

Last week I went to see The Monuments Men. Some critics thought it was so-so but I thought it was great. I knew that the Germans had plundered all kinds of paintings, sculptures and so much more and hid much of it in secret locations and mines but I did not know that there was a group of men called the Monuments Men and their job was to track down and locate and return all this treasure as the Allies advanced across France and into Germany.

And I had never heard of Rose Valland before. What a hero she was. She worked at  the Jeu de Paume museum which was right next to the Louvre. This museum was the headquarters for all the art the Germans stole. The Germans let her continue to work in the Museum probably because she appeared to be quite unassuming and had a quiet demeanor. Unknown to the Germans Rose knew German and could follow everything they said. And she also kept a secret journal of what art was taken and where it was shipped to (over 20,000 thousand pieces). She also passed a lot of her information on to the Resistance. Had the Germans known what she was up to,  she would have been shot.

As the Allies freed Paris, she gave the journal to one of the Monuments Men, James Rorimer, which greatly aided the Americans locating all the artwork as they advanced into Germany. After the war was over she continued her work and was recognized for her heroic efforts. She received the Legion of Honor, the Medal of Resistance and was made Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government. The United States awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom  and Germany gave her the Officers Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. And finally in 1953 she was awarded the title of Curator! I think she deserved it! And there is a memorial plaque on the outside wall of the Jeu de Paume. The next time I am in Paris I am going to make sure I go there and see that plaque and walk through the Museum and walk where she walked.

She died in 1980 and is buried in her home town of Saint-Etienne-de-Saint-Geoirs. A foundation has been established there to honor her life and accomplishments and there is also a web page And Amazon has a biography of her life available for download on the Kindle.  I am going to get that and read about this wonderful woman, this truly great hero, who thanks to her efforts, and all the risks she took, she basically saved the culture of hundreds of years for most of Europe. What an amazing lady. The next time I am in France I would like to go to her grave and place a bouquet of roses there in her memory.

I would recommend going to see the movie. And I just finished the book The Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel.  And he has written 2 others. One is a pictorial book on all the artwork that was recovered and another book is just on the artwork that was recovered in Italy. He had too much material and it all couldn't fit in the Monuments Men so he did another book. And one quick back story on the movie. The producer was in an airport book store, waiting for his flight, and he saw the book, The Monuments Men, and thought that this would make a good movie. And he was right. And isn't that every author's dream? I  think Robert Edsel is selling a lot of books now and enjoying his movie earnings!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Today is Truck Day!

Some of you might be wondering "what the heck is Truck Day?" Its the day that the Red Sox equipment truck leaves Fenway Park for spring training in Fort Myers, Florida. And that day is today, February 8! But its more than that. Its another sign that spring is coming! As of February 1, there are 52 more minutes of daylight. The sun is now setting after 5pm. Pitchers and catchers report February 15. And one of the great seafood restaurants on Cape Cod, the Kream and Kone in Dennisport, opens on February 13. So despite the 9 degree temperature this morning and about a foot of snow on the ground, spring is coming!

Hundreds of fans gather outside of Fenway to watch the crew load the 18 wheeler with bats, balls, gloves, uniforms, medical supplies and all kinds of equipment. Red Sox officials are there, the team mascot, Wally the Green Monster is there and they all watch all the equipment being loaded from about 7am to noon, and then that giant 18 wheeler with "World Champions 2013" on its side, will roll down Yawkey Way and out to 95 South! So if you are driving on 95 in the next couple of days between Massachusetts and Florida, look for the truck, and honk your horn a couple of times and wave to the drivers.  Spring is coming! Its Truck Day!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

50th Anniversary of Beatles on Ed Sullivan

This Sunday, February 9th, at 8pm, will be the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. I remember it like it was yesterday! I was a senior in high school and was in my room upstairs doing homework, when my father called up and said "They are going to on in a minute." My 2 sisters and I rushed downstairs to watch. It was so exciting. We had heard and read all about them and were listening to their songs, and heard about their long hair. And there they were in person and the audience going nuts.

They took rock and roll by storm. There was nothing like it before. They were the opening salvo of the British Invasion. So many other groups and individuals came after them-The Rolling Stones, the Animals, Herman's Hermits,  Dave Clark Five, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, MaryAnn Faithful, Donovan and so many more. And many of these groups were influenced by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley. A great research project or thesis, would be why did this all happen in the early 60's, in Liverpool and the London area? Why there and why not other places in England? Or why not in Paris or Berlin? I asked Peter Noonan from Herman's Hermits this after a concert in Connecticut several years ago. He said one of the reasons was Liverpool was a sailing town and many of the sailors would buy American rock and roll records and bring them back to Liverpool and play them. And that inspired many of the local groups.

I think the Beatles were dropped from a spaceship. They wrote over 200 songs, most of them by Lennon and McCartney.  How did they do that? And they supposedly wrote some of their melodies in ways that had never been done before. Their music evolved over the years and Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band may be one of the classic albums of all time. I think music fans will be listening to Beatle music 100 years from now. And thanks to YouTube we can always watch them and there  are several tribute bands that tour the country. Last year we saw 1964 The Tribute. They looked like the Beatles, sounded like the Beatles,  and played the same instruments the same way as the Beatles. It was really amazing. It was almost like the Beatles were there in front of you.

And of course, I can't help but think about Pete Best. He was the drummer with the Beatles for two years, from 1960-1962 but  when they did their first studio recording, the Beatles and some of their managers were supposedly not happy with his drumming in the studio, so they let him go and replaced him with Ringo. Yikes. Look at all he missed out on.

So this Sunday night at 8pm, crank up YouTube, watch the Beatles on Ed Sullivan once again. I will be and I will hoisting a glass of Irish Cream on the rocks, and toasting the Fab 4 and those days gone by.