“THE BEST RELATIONSHIP MARTY EVER HAD WAS WITH ROBBIE ROBERTSON.”

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Robbie Robertson and Martin Scorsese

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

Martin Scorsese was introduced to The Band’s Robbie Robertson by the producer of Mean Streets, Jonathon Taplin, who coincidently helped manage the legendary rock group.  Scorsese’s first impression of the guitarist was, “He was cool, far too cool.” This chance meeting and initial impression would turn into a creative collaboration and friendship that stretches on for the better part of four decades, and includes musical collaborations on at least eight Scorsese films.

By 1976 The Band were on their last legs, after more than sixteen years of non-stop touring the stresses of the road had taken their toll.  The members agreed to one last show, to be played on Thanksgiving 1976 at the famed Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.  The show would feature several notable guest appearances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Hawkins, and Eric Clapton amongst others.  I have always found this ironic, given that Rock and Roll is big business today with the attendant merchandising and multi-media cash cow to feed, that a group like The Band that still had tremendous commercial appeal would just hang it up.  Times were less cynical I suppose.

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Martin Scorsese, left, and Robbie Robertson traveled to the French Riviera in Cannes, France, in May 1978 to present “The Last Waltz” at the 31st Cannes International Film Festival.  –AP image

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THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN | BRITISH RACING LEGEND BARRY SHEENE


“Your arse, if you’re going fast enough.”

–Barry’s famous retort when asked by BBC, “What goes through your mind during a crash?”

In a brilliant racing career in which he amassed back-to-back World Championships (’76 & ’77), 23 Grand Prix victories, and 52 Podium finishes in all– the late, great Barry Sheene is one of the most loved and remembered motorcycle racing legends to this day. The victories alone, as impressive as they were, would not be enough immortalize the man. It was Sheene’s fearless spirit & iron will, a body that was repeatedly broken but not beaten, and his witty charm & handsome looks, that have eternally endeared him to racing fans around the world. It’s that old cliche– every woman wanted him, and every man wanted to be him.

Barry’s career was no doubt impacted by two major crashes that are forever a part of motorcycle racing history. The 1st occurred in 1975– at the Daytona 200, a locked rear wheel at 170 mph jerked him violently and Barry lost control. It’s a wonder he survived at all– amazingly, he didn’t even lose consciousness. In fact, he later recounted the crash in detail as the unforgiving track pummeled his flailing body. He suffered a shattered left leg, smashed thigh, broke six ribs, a wrist, and his collarbone.  When Barry awoke at the hospital, he didn’t miss a beat– asking the attending nurse for a fag (cigarette, for you Yanks out there). The 2nd came in 1982–  the two-time World Champion crashed (again going 170 mph) at Silverstone during practice for the British Grand Prix. Barry later recalled, “Wasn’t my fault; came over a hill and there was a wreck right in front of me.” They feared he’d never walk again, let alone return to the racetrack. His legs were compared to “crushed eggs,” taking eight hours to piece back together– with the aid of two stainless steel posts, two steel plates and almost 30 steel screws. After Barry was told he might be able to bend his knees in three months time, he did it in two and a half weeks– and returned to racing the following year. Some took to calling him– Bionic Barry. How you like them apples?

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October 4th, 1958, Southwark, London– Motorcyclist Frank Sheene here pictured with his young son (the future legend Barry Sheene) at Club Day —Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis. Barry’s old man, Frank Sheene, was no slouch on a bike himself– and could even turn a wrench.  The young and fearless Barry was on a bike at the wee age of 5 yrs old–  a Ducati 50cc motorbike. He entered his first competitive race at the age of 17 at Brands Hatch. He Crashed, (DNF). Wasting no time, Barry entered again the very next weekend and won the bloody thing. The Barry Sheene racing dye was cast.

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JAMES “HUNT THE SHUNT” | THE 1970′s HIGH-FLYIN’ LOTHARIO RUSH OF FORMULA 1

May 11, 1975– James Hunt, driver for Hesketh-Ford (and Suzy Miller, who was his wife for a short time), at the Monaco Grand Prix. –Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis.  Love the patch– “Sex is a high performance thing.”  While many athletes abstain from sex before competing, Hunt was physically insatiable– often having, eh-hem, relations just minutes before hopping behind the wheel to race.

The tales of James Hunt are the stuff of legends– on and off the track.  “Hunt the Shunt” was widely known for his wild indulgence in sex, drugs, booze, women– which redlined in Tokyo the two weeks leading up to his famous battle with Niki Lauda for the 1976 Formula One championship.  Hunt’s favorite hedonistic haunt in those days was the Tokyo Hilton, where he and buddy Barry Sheene (world motorcycle champion that year), settled in to party.  Like clockwork, every morning British Airways stewardesses were delivered to the hotel’s door for a 24-hour stopover.  Hunt would charm them as they checked in, and invited them up to his suite for a party — they always said yes.  Allegedly, James Hunt went on quite a run during this two week binge (33 BA stewardesses).  But, as Stirling Moss, who used to carouse with Hunt in Monte Carlo before he was married, said: “If you looked like James Hunt, what would you have done?”  via

1975, Nurburg, Germany– Hesketh-Ford Formula One racecar driver James Hunt flies during the European Grand Prix. –Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis.  Many of Hunt’s early races ended in disaster. Once his Formula Ford crashed and sank in the middle of a lake. He would have drowned– had he been able to afford seat belts.  His skills improved, but he never conquered his fears. In the garage before a race, it often caused him to vomit– and on the grid he’d shake so violently that his car vibrated. This potent cocktail of adrenaline and testosterone made him a fierce competitor on the track. via

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TAXI DRIVER | “YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?”

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1976, New York — Robert De Niro, as Travis Bickle, and director Martin Scorsese, on the set of Taxi Driver.  The two had previously collaborated in the 1973 film, Mean Streets.  It’s hard to believe that Scorsese originally offered the role of Travis Bickle to Dustin Hoffman, who turned it down.  Hoffman recalls, “I remember meeting Martin Scorsese.  He had no script and I didn’t even know who he was. I hadn’t seen any of his films and he talked a mile a minute telling me what the movie would be about. I was thinking, ‘What is he talking about?’ I thought the guy was crazy!  The film was Taxi Driver.”

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1976, New York — Robert De Niro, as Travis Bickle, and director Martin Scorsese, on the set of Taxi Driver. — Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis.  When he signed-on to play Travis Bickle, De Niro was still abroad filming Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 in Italy.  De Niro would finish shooting on a Friday in Rome, get on a plane and fly to New York.  He even obtained an official NYC taxi cab driver’s license, and when on break would pick up a cab and drive long shifts on the streets of New York City for a couple weeks at a time before flying back to Rome.  In typical De Niro form, he shed 30- 35 lbs. for the role and studied the diaries of Arthur Bremer (who shot presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972) to get inside his head.

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1976, New York — Director Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro on the set of  Taxi Driver. — Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis.  Oliver Stone believes he was the model for De Niro’s Travis Bickle, pointing out that he was being taught by Scorsese at NYU film school at the time, and like Travis he was a Vietnam veteran turned N.Y.C. cabdriver and wore his olive drab army coat while on duty.

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