QB “BROADWAY JOE” NAMATH | NEW YORK, BROADS & BOLD PREDICTIONS

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

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Teammate Sherman Plunkett gave Namath his nickname after seeing this 1965 Sports Illustrated cover with Namath standing in front of New York City’s infamous avenue. The Hall of Famer lived up to the name with both his brash fur coats and bold predictions, the most well known coming in 1969 when he guaranteed his 19-point underdog Jets would defeat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. They did, 17-6, and Namath was named MVP.  Photographed by: James Drake for Sports Illustrated

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Try to wrap your head around this–  you’re the quarterback for the New York Jets in 1968-69; leading an upstart team from the counterculture AFL into Super Bowl III against the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts. You’re the poster-boy in the battle of the longhairs and freaks (Jets) versus the ultimate symbol of straight, corporate NFL excellence  (Colts).  You’re young, very single, and beyond sexy — like catnip to the ladies — you own NY.  You have that sense of immortality that comes with being young, rich, and very, very good.

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New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath lounges by the pool with press and fans before Super Bowl III.  Photographed by: Walter Iooss Jr. for Sports Illustrated

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To say it’s a charmed life is the understatement of the century.  Those heady days leading up to Super Bowl III, rewrote the script for the celebrity athlete, the Super Bowl, and the fortunes of an upstart league of misfits, outlaws & free spirits.  No matter what happened afterward, Joe Namath etched himself into our collective consciousness in that first month of ‘69.  We all dreamt of being like Joe–carousing Manhattan’s hottest spots all hours of the night with a blond and brunette as bookends, armed with a bottle of Jack, letting it all hang out– and still having enough to burn the Raiders the next day.  Dick Schaap, Namath biographer (and later co-host of the Joe Namath Show), said he witnessed just this before the AFL Championship that year.  A legendary story celebrated by us fans– the ultimate testament to how cocksure our QB was.  Today he would have been pilloried for his lack of “focus”, back then we celebrated how fun it all was and lived vicariously through “Broadway Joe”.

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Circa 1970– Rome, N.Y.: Jets’ star quarterback Joe Namath turns equestrian for his role in the forthcoming motion picture, C.C and Company. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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We all know what happened next– Miami, The Orange Bowl, the “Guarantee”, and then going out and making it happen.  Miami Beach must have been a helluva good time that week.  New York is a demanding town– you come to be great or be gone.   If you can back up your bravado with action and bring home the prize then we will love you forever, no matter how much you embarrass yourself or us later on.  We owe you that much for the memories alone.

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“I DON’T WANT ANYBODY IN HERE WITHOUT COATS AND TIES,” SINATRA SNAPPED.

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From the archives of Esquire magazine, featured in their 70th anniversary issue–

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In the winter of 1965, writer Gay Talese arrived in Los Angeles with an assignment from Esquire to profile Frank Sinatra. The legendary singer was approaching fifty, under the weather, out of sorts, and unwilling to be interviewed. So Talese remained in L.A., hoping Sinatra might recover and reconsider, and he began talking to many of the people around Sinatra — his friends, his associates, his family, his countless hangers-on — and observing the man himself wherever he could. The result, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” ran in April 1966 and became one of the most celebrated magazine stories ever published, a pioneering example of what came to be called New Journalism — a work of rigorously faithful fact enlivened with the kind of vivid storytelling that had previously been reserved for fiction. The piece conjures a deeply rich portrait of one of the era’s most guarded figures and tells a larger story about entertainment, celebrity, and America itself. Here are a few choice excerpts from the original Esquire story– a link to the epic piece in its entirety, after the jump.

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Early 1960s, LA — Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra. — Image by © Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis.

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I‘m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniel.”

–Frank Sinatra

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Frank Sinatra, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something. But he said nothing; he had been silent during much of the evening, except now in this private club in Beverly Hills he seemed even more distant, staring out through the smoke and semidarkness into a large room beyond the bar where dozens of young couples sat huddled around small tables or twisted in the center of the floor to the clamorous clang of folk-rock music blaring from the stereo. The two blondes knew, as did Sinatra’s four male friends who stood nearby, that it was a bad idea to force conversation upon him when he was in this mood of sullen silence, a mood that had hardly been uncommon during this first week of November, a month before his fiftieth birthday.

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Hyannis Port, MA, Circa 1965–  Singer Frank Sinatra with then actress girlfriend Mia Farrow on deck of the yacht, Southern Breeze.  His look implies “Hit the road, Mac.”  –photo by Bill Eppridge for LIFE.

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Sinatra had been working in a film that he now disliked, could not wait to finish; he was tired of all the publicity attached to his dating the twenty-year-old Mia Farrow, who was not in sight tonight; he was angry that a CBS television documentary of his life, to be shown in two weeks, was reportedly prying into his privacy, even speculating on his possible friendship with Mafia leaders; he was worried about his starring role in an hour-long NBC show entitled Sinatra — A Man and His Music, which would require that he sing eighteen songs with a voice that at this particular moment, just a few nights before the taping was to begin, was weak and sore and uncertain. Sinatra was ill. He was the victim of an ailment so common that most people would consider it trivial. But when it gets to Sinatra it can plunge him into a state of anguish, deep depression, panic, even rage. Frank Sinatra had a cold.

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Dec 26th, 1976, Terrytown, NK —  Frank Sinatra is shown in his dressing room at Westchester Premier Theater in Sept. 1976 with (L-R, standing): Gregory DePalma, a defendant in the case; Sinatra; defendant Thomas Marson who was severed from the trial because of poor health; the late Carlo Gambino; and Jimmy (the Weasel) Fratiano.  Kneeling in front is defendant Richard Fusco. Others in the picture were hidden under to bolster the testimony of its key witness. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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JOHNNY CASH | RIDIN’ THE RAILS

In “Walk the Line,” June Carter refers to Johnny Cash’s voice as “Steady like a train, sharp like a razor.”

Amen, sister.  When I think of Johnny, without fail I’ll get an image in my head of an old steam train– big, black, strong & steady.  And of course that classic Cash chicka-boom rhythm sounds just like a trusty ol’ train a rollin’ round the bend, and right on time– so reliable, you could set your watch to it.  Yeah, Johnny Cash sang a lot about trains, prison and hard times– and we all know through his epic lyrics that the beauty of the train is that it represents the freedom of leaving the past behind.  All that crap that you just need to separate yourself from with miles and miles of railroad track and dust. A new start, a second chance.

There’s also something lonely and soulful about a train ride– staring out as the barren landscape goes drifting by.  It’s just you and that train.  It holds you there firmly, with nothin’ to distract you from who and what you’re leaving behind– as the soothing click of the rails beneath your feet reminds you that soon it’ll all be long gone.

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YEAH, WELL — SOMETIMES NOTHIN’ CAN BE A REAL COOL HAND

Cool Hand Luke

Cool Hand Luke, brother. Enough quotable anti-establishment mantras to ink an entire tattoo sleeve. Enough chambray & denim workwear to choke the toughest clothes horse.

Can’t find your spine? What? You left it at Starbucks, bro? Pick up your shovel and let Lucas Jackson show you how to find it at the bottom of Boss Keans’ ditch.  Sometimes a man enters a fight with nothin’ but his will, and where he came from — and that can be a real cool hand. Watch and learn. Any man who passes up– spends a night in the box.

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JACK NICHOLSON IN REBEL ROUSERS | SPRINGERS & STRIPES

 

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Jack Nicholson on a ’45 Flathead Harley Bobber (with Springer forks) in “Rebel Rousers”

This could very well be one of the coolest shots ever, from one of the absolute worst biker flicks ever made– Rebel Rousers. Shot in 1967, it actually had a pretty decent cast– Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd (Dern’s wife), and Harry Dean Stanton. The film was shelved and then dusted-off in ’69, when Nicholson’s star power was boosted by the release of Easyrider, and all of a sudden Rebel Rousers seemed like a sure thing hit release. Trust me, just watch the trailer after the jump, and that’ll be all you’ll ever need to see of this flick. Jack Nicholson’s get-up and Harley are the only memorable bits– Nicholson looks like a 60’s psychedelic tribute to Lee Marvin’s iconic, misfit biker character Chino from The Wild One. Gotta love the stripes. They both also rode Harley Bobbers on screen– Nicholson on a ’45 HD Flathead for Rebel Rousers, and Lee Marvin tore it up on a ’49 or ’50 Flathead in The Wild One.

JACK NICHOLSON REBEL ROUSERS

 

Bruce Dern and his custom BSA pre-unit twin from Rebel Rouser’s

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REQUIRED VIEWING “BULLITT” | THE GRANDDADDY OF CAR CHASE SCENES

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To say that Bullitt had a car chase scene is like saying Steve McQueen was a good actor. Both are arguably gross understatements. The history-making car chase from Bullitt is still considered the gold standard for which all such scenes are held to today.

McQueen hadn’t planned on a driving double– in fact, he firmly insisted on doing all the Mustang stunt driving himself.  But that all quickly changed– while shooting an early scene (that can be seen in the film), he missed a turn pretty hard and nearly lost it.  The studio exec’s immediately pulled the plug on McQueen’s plans and tapped professional stunt drivers with a little more practical experience and skill. As fate would have it, main driving duties were handed over to none other than McQueen’s good buddy (and auto and motorcycle racing legend) Bud Ekins.

The story behind the filming of this ground-breaking scene (I hate to say it) is more fascinating to me than the whole of the film itself.  Read on for great behind the scenes details on how history was made in pulling-off this incredible piece of work– the likes of which had never been attempted before.

BULLITT STEVE MCQUEEN

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DENNIS HOPPER’S “THE LAST MOVIE” | THE FILM THAT BURIED A VISIONARY

Dennis Hopper and wife Daria Halprin at the Jack Tar Hotel San Francisco.

Dennis Hopper and wife Daria Halprin at the Jack Tar Hotel, San Francisco.

From The Village Voice–

The Last Movie was actually to be Hopper’s first. Inspiration hit him in Durango, Mexico, during the making of the John Wayne western The Sons of Katie Elder— “I thought, my God, what’s going to happen when the movie leaves and the natives are left living in these Western sets?” Hopper hoped to make The Last Movie in 1966 but the project fell through when music producer Phil Spector withdrew financial support; his opportunity came in the wake of Easy Rider. Universal gave Hopper $850,000 and total autonomy (including final cut), so long as he stayed within budget.

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 American actor and director Dennis Hopper on the set of his film "The last Movie"  --1971.

Actor and director Dennis Hopper on the set of his film “The last Movie”, 1971. — Image by © Apis/Sygma/Corbis

Given Easy Rider‘s epochal success, The Last Movie was the most eagerly awaited picture of 1971. After winning an award at the Venice Film Festival, Hopper’s opus opened in New York and broke the single-day box office record at the RKO 59th Street theater, site of Easy Rider‘s triumphant engagement. But unlike Hopper’s first film, The Last Movie was attacked and ridiculed by virtually every reviewer in America and was withdrawn by its distributor within two weeks. Although it achieved a negative notoriety unsurpassed until Heaven’s Gate,The Last Movie was not a financial boondoggle. Hopper’s sin wasn’t wasting money—it was something far worse. The Last Movie is an act of visionary aggression that desecrates Hollywood’s universal church.

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American actor and director Dennis Hopper on the set of his movie, 1971.  -- Image by © Apis/Sygma/Corbis

Actor and director Dennis Hopper on the set of his film “The Last Movie”, 1971. — Image by © Apis/Sygma/Corbis

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BILLY SAID JACK YOU UP | VINTAGE 1970’s KUNG FU AWESOMENESS

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“I’m gonna take this right foot, and I’m gonna whop you on that side of your face.  And you wanna know something?  There’s not a damn thing you’re gonna be able to do about it.”    –Billy Jack

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Billy Jack was a martial arts sensation– from the same soft-spoken school of wisdom, justice & chill as Kwai Chang Caine of Kung Fu.  He could lay a smack-down on bullies, bikers and bosses faster than you can say–  “cool hat.”

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THE “REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE” CURSE | A CURIOUS CAST OF CHARACTERS

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James Dean in 1955’s “Rebel Without a Cause”

The 1950s were a very cool time, I only wish I could have experienced them for myself. It is a time in American pop culture that is highly idealized for it’s music, fashion, style and culture. Everyone looked incredible, and seemed so squeaky clean– but you just knew there had to be much more going on behind the scenes. Rebel Without a Cause is one of the most iconic films from that era, and the stories behind the making of the James Dean classic are as incredible as the movie itself. And truth be told, Dean was not the only rebel on the set. Nicholas Ray, Dennis Hopper, Nick Adams and Natalie Wood definitely held there own.

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