Thursday, June 23, 2005

Guys and Dolls

I went to Piccadilly yesterday to see Ewan McGregor as "Sky Masterson", Jane Krakowski as "Miss Adelaide", Douglas Hodge as "Nathan Detroit" and Jenna Russell as" Sarah Brown" in Guys and Dolls.

'Guys and Dolls is the One, the greatest of all the great Broadway musicals' - Daily Telegraph
'Ewan McGregor's charm makes fairy tale of New York a hit' - The Independent
'Jane Krakowski - well worth queuing for' - Daily Express'
Douglas Hodge - a great comic actor' - Daily Telegraph
'Jenna Russell - a delight' - Daily Telegraph

'Guys and Dolls' is a dramatisation of stories written by Damon Runyon, and Runyon is supposed to have based the character Nathan Detroit on a legendary New York figure called Arnold Rothstein (who was also the inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby). Arnold Rothstein was gambling, and Arnold Rothstein was money. He was Mr. Broadway and had his own booth at Lindy�s restaurant in Manhattan where he held court.

He is remembered to this day as the rumoured mastermind of the �Black Sox� scandal, the fixing of the World Series. In 1919, baseball was truly "America�s pastime." Because they considered themselves grossly underpaid by team owner Charles Comisky, eight members of the Chicago White Sox, led by first baseman Chick Gandil, conspired to lose the World Series to the Cincinnati team� if they could find a gambler willing to pay them to lose.

Gandil approached a former featherweight boxing champion who had fought under the name "the little Hebrew" and in retirement, served in Arnold Rothstein�s entourage. He told him told him that, for $100,000, he could guarantee that his teammates would lose to Cincinnati.

In 1921, the eight players were convicted of fraud and banned from baseball. The go-between was was convicted of trying to fix the Series, but Rothstein, who never met the players, testified on his own behalf and was acquitted.

The retired featherweight intermediary was a famous figure in his own right and classed by Damon Runyon himself as "one of the five greatest fighters of all time."

Nat Fleischer, publisher of Ring magazine and probably the world's foremost boxing authority, named him as at least the third greatest fighter his class ever produced, behind only Terrible Terry McGovern and Cardiff's Jim Driscoll, with whom he had fought a ten-round no-decision bout eleven years before his day in court.

Yes, it was the fight I wrote about yesterday, and the conspirator was none other than Abe Attell. "I love it when a plan comes together".


Abe Attell

A postscript: One of my brothers tells a story about chancing on a bar near Broadway, when he was in New York, where all the guys kept their hats on and talked out of the sides of their mouths. It was a shrine to Abe Attell just like the Royal Oak's tribute to Driscoll in Cardiff more than three thousand miles to the East.
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