The Week: What Caught Our Eye

July 9, 2022

A bald eagle with eagles in nest, high in a pine treeA family of bald eagles has found a comfortable high rise to while away the summer hours at Lake George. (Mike Borgos)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

Cheerio, Boris. How we’ll miss that hair. And hello, thoroughbreds. So good to have you back.

BOR-EXIT: Deservedly deserted by his party, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson announced this week that he would step down as British prime minister following a wave of resignations from his Conservative government. You knew it was coming: The former London mayor once said: “My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.” Fortune’s David Meyer offers a caustic farewell, a recitation of Johnson’s failures as a leader. “Lessons in true leadership can be found everywhere these days,” he writes, “so thank goodness for Boris Johnson. The soon-to-be-former British prime minister generously leaves us with years of instruction in the art of anti-leadership — here are some key takeaways.”

AND THEY’RE BACK: The 40-day thoroughbred racing meet at Saratoga begins Thursday. The Whitney runs Aug. 6, the Travers Aug. 27. And while all the crowds and festivities will be warmly welcomed, something — someone — will be missing: Sam the Bugler. Since 1993, dressed in his red-coated foxhunt get-up, Sam Grossman has been playing the Call to Post, signaling it was time for the horses and their riders to make the short walk from the tree-lined paddock to the track, and other tunes in between for patrons on request. He was set to return for the 2022 racing season before a routine health checkup revealed his kidneys were failing. Now on the mend and hoping to return next year, he spoke for an hour with Saratoga Report about his career, his health and what he will miss most about summer in Saratoga. “I’m grateful for every single minute I had in that town,” he said. “Next time I play, I won’t be that bloated old man. I’m going to be a fit version of Sam because I want to survive.”

PRESSES, STOPPED: Researchers with Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism analyzed data and information on more than 8,000 newspapers and digital sites over the past year, documenting the continuing erosion of credible local news and the impact that has on the unchecked spread of misinformation and political polarization, among other ills. Among the findings: newspapers are vanishing at a rate of about two per week, and more than one in five Americans live in a community with very limited access to local news. A local elected official in eastern Ohio, commenting after the closure of The Vindicator made Youngstown the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper, said she thinks people stopped buying newspapers that reflect only Democratic viewpoints.

SWANKY NEWSROOM: Hollywood hasn’t given up on newspapers. It turns out that Hilary Swank, a two-time Oscar winner, was in Albany, N.Y., to film a role as an Albany Times Union reporter whose two sons occupy different sides of the law enforcement divide. The film, called “Mother’s Milk,” is directed by Albany native Miles Joris-Peyrafitte and co-written with his boyhood friend, Madison Harrison. Swank made news herself a few weeks ago when she reunited  a lost dog and its owner in Albany.

THE DARK SIDE: The Indianapolis Star spoke with nine women who have spent time as TV sports reporters or anchors in Indiana, asking about the struggles and hurdles they’ve overcome to achieve their professional status. The sexism and creepiness is as bad you might imagine, but each also expressed thankfulness for being able to live their dreams. “I don't know how women did it in the ’80s and ’90s,” Tricia Whitaker, who spent four years at an Indianapolis network affiliate and now covers the Tampa Bay Rays as a sideline reporter for Bally Sports Florida, told the Star. “I can't even imagine, but I thank God for them. They blazed the trail. Women want to be treated the same. I'm not asking for special treatment.”

WHAT, NO PAPER CROWN? Kevin Ford hasn’t missed a day of work in 27 years as a cook at the Burger King in the McCarren Las Vegas Airport, a noble achievement that caught management flat-footed. Trying to come up with a way to thank him, they presented him with a string backpack, a movie ticket, a lanyard, a coffee cup, and some candy. The video of him opening the gifts and thanking his coworkers went viral, so his daughter followed up with a GoFundMe seeking just $200 so he could visit his grandchildren. By the end of the week, it had raised more than $375,000.

A view of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center through columns at the property, under a sunset-lit cloudy skyDave Matthews is here. The ballet is, too, and the orchestra’s on its way. It’s a Saratoga Springs summer. (John Bulmer) 

HISTORIC STEPS: Historian Martha S. Jones traveled to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, hoping to learn more about and, to the extent possible, experience the journey Harriet Tubman took time and again to lead slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. She emerged with renewed respect not just for Tubman’s courage, but for her skills as a naturalist, navigating dark, dense marshes and woodlands by starlight. She also emerged with new concerns about the effect climate change is having on the landscape. 

HOT DOG HEAVEN: Plattsburgh, N.Y., recently celebrated the unveiling of a historical marker dedicated to the “Michigan,” a steamed hot dog buried in meat sauce, raw unions, and a stripe of yellow mustard. Plattsburgh lays claim to the popular delicacy, and town officials declared July Michigan Month. They are planning annual events, including a 5-kilometer road race that we definitely recommend you not try after eating one.

THE ANTI-LOGO: When the Ulster County, N.Y., Board of Elections decided it needed a logo to encourage voters to vote, they ran the routine public contest for logos and got the predictable red, white, and blue results. Fourteen-year-old Hudson Rowan had a different idea altogether. Why not something with crazy hair on a gnarly, energetic, funny head with tentacles and lots of vibrant colors? He thought the look might represent our politics today. Fans worldwide agree.

BAT MAN: OK, technically the job is bat boy, but as made clear in this fascinating look behind the scenes, it’s not child’s play. Follow along as Adam Crognale carries out his duties as bat boy for the Philadelphia Phillies, a job that is much more than retrieving bats from the field. It requires precision, organization, some athleticism and a willingness to work at all hours to make sure the conditions are as ideal as he can make them for the team to be successful on the field. “Let’s be honest,” said Crognale, a cancer survivor, “this is a dream job.”

BEAUTIFUL MUSICIANS: Vijay Gupta was a 19-year-old violin prodigy with the Los Angeles Philharmonic when he first became aware of Skid Row, a neighborhood famous for its poverty, crime and vagrancy. He started Street Symphony, to bring the beauty and inspiration of classical music to a population that otherwise would never experience it. A recent performance featured a world-class vocalist. “When I saw Skid Row for the first time I felt like a hypocrite,” Gupta told NPR. “I felt that there was more to my life as a person, as an artist, as someone who could belong to the wider fabric of this new city than only being on the stage of a hall where I came alive.”

POINTS MADE: Morgan Smith was a standout soccer player at South Glens Falls (N.Y.) High School, a five-time all-league performer who added kicking duties for the football team her senior year after impressing friends with her ability. She would go on to kick for Division II Franklin Pierce University, where she became the first woman ever to score in a game in the Northeast-10 Conference. She’s now taken her love for the game to the semipro Glens Falls Greenjackets, becoming what is thought to be the first woman ever to play in the Empire Football League, which has been around since 1970.

WHO WILL BUILD MORE HOMES? We’re in the middle of the most severe housing shortage in U.S. history – about 1.5 million homes short. May was the most expensive month since 2006 to buy a home.  In the Adirondacks, the problem is acute. In a region where career-oriented jobs are a pressing priority, too few homes are available for incoming professionals. And there are too few for people who simply want to move their families to a place of safety, health, and natural splendor. Existing housing stock is aging and dilapidated in some places, and many homes that might accommodate families have been turned into short-term rentals to meet increasing demand from visitors.

ONLY MAGNIFICENCE IN THIS BUILDING: If you love New York back stories or are a fan of the Hulu program “Only Murders in the Building,” you’ll love the actual history of the apartment building where the show has amateur sleuths Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez living. It’s the Belnord, a legendary Upper West Side castle of excess, celebrity, and controversy, once the largest apartment building in the country with a half-acre courtyard, apartments decorated in the style of Louis XVI and 1,500 tenants, who waged the longest rent strike in New York City history.

LIVES 

TOM HELMS graduated from Long Lake Central School in the Adirondacks and never really left, except to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Clarkson University and serve as a Russian linguist in the Army. He was the longtime owner and operator of Helms Aero Service, the Long Lake company where he, his father and his son, also named Tom, famously flew celebrities, sightseers and outdoors enthusiasts to the most remote reaches of the Adirondacks. He also taught for a time at St. Lawrence University and was a lover of basketball, both playing and watching. He died at 76.

BRADFORD FREEMAN was a student at Mississippi State when the U.S. entered World War II. He joined the Army in December 1942 and deployed overseas in 1944 as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division’s Easy Company, Second Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, whose heroism was immortalized in the best-selling book “Band of Brothers” and later in a popular HBO mini-series of the same name. After his discharge, he graduated from college and worked 32 years as a letter carrier. The last surviving member of Easy Company, he died at 97.

CLIFFORD ALEXANDER, the son of a Jamaican immigrant, was the first Black secretary of the Army, appointed by President Jimmy Carter and tasked with rebuilding the armed forces after Vietnam. He stressed creating new opportunities for Black officers to rise through the ranks, including Colin Powell, an extension of his earlier work as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He also was the first Black person to reach partner status at a major Washington law firm, briefly hosted a syndicated TV program and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Washington. “Cliff saw his role as secretary of the Army as a key extension of the civil rights movement, and he inaugurated and enforced policies that were spectacularly effective in achieving his goal,” Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. told The New York Times. “The fact that the United States military is, perhaps, the most integrated institution in our society can be traced to the foresight of Clifford Alexander.” He died at 88.

JAMES CAAN earned an Oscar nomination for his role as Sonny Corleone, the hot-headed enforcer and eldest son of Mafia boss Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.” He also played cancer-stricken Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo in the 1971 hit TV movie “Brian’s Song,” among many other roles in a career that enjoyed a second act beginning with a star turn in the 1990 movie “Misery.” He was 82.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS 

“We all wait in life for things to get easier. ... It will never get easier. ... What happens is you become someone who handles hard stuff better. That's a mental shift that has to occur in each of your brains. It has to. Because if you go around waiting for stuff to get easier in life, it's never going to happen.”
—    Kara Lawson, Duke University women’s basketball coach, in remarks to her team.

THE SIGNOFF

SALES FORCE: The owner of a heating, venting and cooling business in Lansing, Mich., did a little venting of his own in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, punching out the words for an advertisement that concluded with, “Honestly, at this point, who gives a SH*T about HVAC. But if you’re hot, give us a call.” The quarter-page ad, buried in a free weekly, went viral.
___ 

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THANK YOU to our contributors:  Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Tina Suhocki, Mike Borgos, John Bulmer, Claire P. Tuttle, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, and Tara Hutchins

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback.  

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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