VICTOR BORGE – A GREAT COMIC REMEMBERED

This brief article is not about politics, cops, crime, drugs or sex. It’s about a great man who brought the lighter side of life into our hearts, who was equally as funny as he was musically brilliant. We old folks will remember him well. It’s too bad such a dear-hearted soul is not still around, to bring joy, love and laughter into our lives. Examples:

 Who said…

      Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

      Santa Claus has the right idea – visit people only once a year.

      I only know two pieces; one is ‘Clair de Lune’ and the other one isn’t.   

      I wish to thank my parents for making it all possible… and I wish to thank my children for making it necessary.

      My father invented a cure for which there was no disease and unfortunately my mother caught it and died.

      When an opera star sings her head off, she usually improves her appearance.

      If I have caused just one person to wipe away a tear of laughter, that’s my reward.

Born Borge Rosenbaum in Denmark, 1909, Victor Borge was blessed to be the son of professional musicians, where he began studying piano at the age of two. He performed his first major piano concert in 1926. Soon after, the Nazi war machine was creeping into all of Europe, rounding up Jews by the millions. Young Borge, a Jew, was playing a concert in Sweden in April of 1939 where he managed to escape to Finland. He arrived in the U.S. in August of 1940, unable to speak a word of English.

America was fortunate to be graced by this man’s warmth and genius. His talent, not only in music but in humor as well, soon became recognized by some of the most famous performers in America (at the time), including Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee who first featured Borge on his radio show.

The rest is history, most of which has been recorded for show biz addicts to enjoy, including modern times. He died in the year 2000.

What astounds me the most about Borge besides his obvious musical talent, is the effortless manner in which he cracked jokes or engaged in physical stunts while playing the most difficult of classical music. He was not a typical  “stand-up” comic. He never needed to rely on crude language, insults, politics or sex for his audiences. He was an all-around comedian in a genre that belonged to him alone.  No one has copied his style, before or since.

Now I’ll shut up and provide the link in which he was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999. Enjoy. 

Victor Borge – Honored by Kennedy Center, Lifetime Achievement 1999 – YouTube

And if you’ve never seen a Borge performance in which he uses “phonetic punctuation” to tell a story, you’ll be amazed.  Less than 3 minutes. Here’s a link:

Victor Borge – Phonetic Punctuation – YouTube

And…A typical Victor Borge performance at the Eisenhower White House, where people were stricken with powerful stomach aches…

 

 

BEWARE EROSION OF THE POLICE

I served as a cop for thirty years in Miami. The greatest honor was to share the camaraderie and friendship with the finest, most caring and bravest human beings on planet earth. There are about 800,000 police officers in the United States. Their services are called for nearly 183 million times a year. Not much down time, indeed.

When applying for the job, most police officers I’ve known not only seek pay and benefits, they also feel a calling, to be among the greatest of public servants. I loved being an officer, because I helped to save lives and rescued others, I fought criminals, put many dangerous people away, I protected innocent people. I worked within corners of the urban jungle. Voices from citizens often ring in my ears; “Thank you, Officer. Thank you, so much.”

We faced risks every day. That came with the job. I personally knew fifteen police officers, black and white, who gave their lives in the line of duty and many more were messed, for life, up from non-lethal combat. (that doesn’t include suicides) They had families at home. I knew scores of cops who fought hand to hand with criminals, saving lives for you and for me. Other than war, there’s no other job as risky. I too was shot, suddenly blindsided by an insane woman. I have held dying people in my arms, swathed with blood, pleading with them to hold on. Every day, I had no idea what I’d have to face.

I was never a personal witness to an officer using unnecessary/excessive force. That’s in 30 years of policing in Miami. I’m sure it happens now and then, but I was one of the lucky ones. It is not a common occurrence. Don’t believe people who tell you otherwise. With rare exception, it is not a racial motive, not in these times. And, to be emphatic, there is no such thing as “systemic” brutality. When officers lose their cool, it’s generally a reaction to fight, a chase, being assaulted, or because the power of adrenalin may take control of the cop, instead of the other way around.  

Do I blindly cover for bad cops? Not if you check my record, which includes my role as chief investigator of the notorious killing of Arthur McDuffie in 1979 when I arrested five officers for beating him to death. Now, there was an example of an adrenalin rush.

I had a personal life as well, which suffered because of my devotion to the profession. That’s not uncommon. The rate of broken marriages is certainly higher than average for police. (Exact statistics unavailable)

We are in a terrible state of chaos, much of which is systemic, because the latest violence from riots in American cities are clearly planned, financed and engineered. Far leftists are flexing muscles by denigrating and reducing police officers through sheer humiliation leaving our constitution on the chopping block. Some inept or hateful politicians are basically aiding and abetting the lawlessness. Anarchists are well trained and programmed on how to get people to hate police officers. It’s all about politics and power. 

Cops are told they have a job to do, to take it or leave it. Respect for law enforcement from some political leaders has found its way down the drain. Anti-police sentiments, such as those taken by several mayors and governors, show contempt for cops who have no choice but to stand and take it when doused with water buckets, flammable fluids, smashes in the head with deadly objects, pelting stones and fireballs while their cars are immersed in flames. Imagine, being an officer standing at attention in tandem, while denizens of the streets scream deafening expletives into the ear canals of officers doing their jobs, trying to remain sane while stones and other deadly missiles are hurled at them and their patrol cars are lying on the sides while fires blaze.  

Why? Because they ARE the first and only line of defense for decent citizens who are suffering enormously by the actions of hate organizations who are given Carte Blanche to destroy what they wish.

Cops are not robots. They are human. They get plenty of training. Now and then, a cop will screw up. It’s the nature of the beast because there are multi-millions of calls for police service annually. If one-tenth of one-percent of 800,000 officers commit an offense once a year, that’s 800 offenses. One, is too many, yes. But it’s also unrealistic to expect otherwise. Officers who commit crimes need to pay a price like any other law breaker. Considering the volume of calls they answer, and the violent confrontations they face, it’s utterly remarkable they still report to duty.

In these times, thousands of cops suffer in their own personal lives. Families suffer. Mental health suffers. Kids suffer from broken marriages. According to the Addiction Center, policer officers rank highest among professions for committing suicide. (Firefighters and other first responders are not included in that ranking)

Cops are killed on the job an average of 150 per year.      

Imagine being one of America’s 800,000 career cops watching the current (and systemic) status of police hatred, and the organized violence against neighborhoods, monuments, businesses, government buildings and police officers who, thanks to our pathetic excuse for government politicians. Today we are witnessing the erosion of funds to protect cops, and citizens. Some cities and states are virtually defunding police budgets. Mayor De Blasio, of New York City, is cutting a billion dollars from the police budget. Cops will be powerless, our enemies will be emboldened.

Sound familiar?  Think: Marxism.

Police officers are retiring early these days. Others are withdrawing their applications. Some will look the other way when suspicious circumstances arise, unless they have no choice. Who’s the biggest loser in the “Hate-Cops” era? Americans. It is Americans who suffer, along with police. It is they who are afraid like anyone else. It is they who just want to be safely at home with their families and work at their jobs. Each day, cops hope and pray they can make it to the finish line: Retirement. 

Cop Lives Matter…like all lives.

SIXTY YEAR POLICE ANNIVERSARY – WHO’D A THUNK IT?

On July 26th, 1960, Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his waning months as president; Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” topped the music charts; baseball Yankee, Mickey Mantle would become the home run champ while most of the south still practiced strict segregation based on race.

     Meanwhile, Dade County was hiring an unlikely new rookie cop.

     Downtown Miami was dark and quiet at 10:50 p.m. Thick with fog, the summer night air was like breathing pea soup. I parked my stick-shift, 1955 green Pontiac in a parking lot free to county employees, and walked toward the 28-story courthouse, the only building with lights on. It was the tallest structure in Florida until 1967.

     July 26th, 1960, would become a memorable day in the life of this unfocused violinist who needed a real job to support an 18 year-old wife and a new baby on the way. The application for police officer sailed through the system unchallenged. Here I was wearing an over-sized bus-driver’s blue uniform denoting me as a rookie, age 21. Looking to the sky, I marveled at the pyramid summit of this mighty building in downtown Miami that housed the county jail and other administrative offices and courts. It would be my pre-hire employment venue for two weeks along with two other rookies, older than me,

     The last job I ever wanted would be carrying a gun and barking orders to people twice my age, or worse, arresting them for breaking laws. I felt like a little boy playing grown-up.

      The courthouse was my first step into the cop world. Yes, I was nervous and unsure of myself, but the pay would be good, as was job security. Thank goodness for my stepfather, Bernie the bookie, an old friend of mobster Meyer Lansky, who had connections in the Dade County Sheriff’s Department.

     I exited the elevators at the 19th floor, watching cops hustling to and fro. A large distinguished man, white haired and lumbering, Captain Noah Scott gave me a dutiful lecture then handed me over to an overweight officer from Texas who would show off his mighty brawn with inmates, for my benefit.

     Wham, Whack, Zing, Ohhhh…the Texan was showing me the ropes, how to calm an inmate, a drunk teen, and ordered him to bend naked and show his stuff. Never can tell where those weapons might be.

     Oy.

     Maybe I can work for a grocery store, a car wash, or better yet a symphony orchestra. This wasn’t for me. But I was only twenty-one with two mouths to feed. It was my job to stand tall and suck it up.

     The inmate floors were separated by race and gender. Blacks were not to comingle with whites. These were the times when blacks were not permitted on Miami Beach at night without a work permit. All of Miami was segregated, but I thought that was normal.

     Throughout the cell blocks, noises, voices and smells were unpleasant to say the least.

     After two weeks at the jail, I spent eight weeks in the police academy, where I ended up wearing a badge. My first position as a cop was walking the beat at the airport, blowing whistles and writing parking tickets.

     Eventually, I was assigned to the Sunny Isles section of North Miami Beach, which bordered the ocean and a hundred motels. I didn’t write many tickets. Most cops wrote at least 50 to 100 a month, I wrote about ten. I got my butt chewed by Sgt. Butler. So I started hiding behind bushes along the highway at the end of the month, catching speeders, to bolster my numbers. In one instance, I felt so guilty ticketing newlyweds, I paid their breakfast check at IHOP.

     One evening, around 3 a.m., I chased after a speeding car, weaving until it smashed into a light pole. The streets were barren, but I called in the accident and rushed to the driver. He was pinned behind the wheel, moaning, drunk and slippery from blood, trying to get him out. Finally, as I lowered him on the sidewalk, he looked me directly into the eyes. It was his death moment. I’ll never forget feeling a body going limp in my arms. I never knew the man, but I cried anyway.

     This wasn’t the movies. It was reality.

     I went on to enjoy a wonderful career, working with the finest human beings on the planet. I grew up, so-to-speak, and began working in Homicide in 1966 and eventually heading the Homicide Bureau as a captain. The career spanned thirty years and four crashed marriages.

     I witnessed the social and professional changes that took place in the profession over 30 years. It was not all pleasant, particularly dealing with riots, hatred, and ambushing police officers. I’ll never forget the worst race riots in the history of the south, following a “Not-Guilty” verdict for five officers who were charged with beating a man to death…who happened to be black.

     It was unfathomable, to think that I, a career police officer, would be in a position to arrest fellow cops. Alas, someone had to do it. Gut wrenching to be sure. 

     It all began that summer night, 60 years ago in muggy downtown Miami, at the 28-story courthouse, July 26, 1960.

    Happy 60th anniversary to Bob McGavock as well. Sadly, Herb Overly has passed on.

   The whole story can be found in my memoir book, “From Violins to Violence.” Contact me for signed copies.

READ: “THE YEAR OF DANGEROUS DAYS” (non-fiction)

It is rare that I will praise a new book release. But The Year of Dangerous Days is truly a great read, particularly for those who have followed the course of law enforcement and struggles with civil disobedience and crime in Miami in 1979 and 1981.

     Nicholas Griffin, a first-class writer, has authored four fiction novels, and three books of non-fiction. His new book, published by Simon and Schuster, has just been released. I finished it in two days, probably because so much of the content was familiar to me, when I was captain of Homicide in the late 1979 and into the 1980s when the world seemed to go crazy, with the business of drug crimes and bad guys out of control, the McDuffie killing by cops and the riots that followed, murder rates topping the national charts following the Mariel Boat Lift when 125,000 new and destitute residents landed at our shores, plus internal investigations of police officers suspected of corruption which led to FBI intrusion and indictments of cops.

     Old-timers and/or relatives and friends who lived through this era, will certainly find the book a gripping read. I thank Mr. Griffin for acknowledging me and what assistance I could offer – amid scores of other contributors — within a very complicated task.

     The book is available at book stores and Amazon.com, in hard cover as well as Kindle.

     To my friends, past and present, who lived through the era, be prepared for some eye-openers.

     Let me know what you think.     

 

(Check my web site marshallfrank.com for info about my 15 books.)

SUICIDES LIKELY TO SPIKE BECAUSE OF COVID-19 – copy

(This Op-Ed appears this date in the Florida Today newspaper.

 

When researching sources for an article about the impact of coronavirus on mental health problems in America, I didn’t realize the enormity of this issue.

     Naturally, concerns would affect millions of Americans, but the stark figures about the suicide problem, via addiction, poverty, joblessness and depression, are far more serious than anticipated. A 650-word essay can barely touch on a subject which is socially, medically and governmentally immense.

     Here are a few aspects about the pandemic’s impact and how it affects our nation’s state of mental health, derived from a Washington Post article on May 4th.

  • According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of Americans claim the current crisis is injurious to their mental health.
  • A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered more than a one-thousand percent increase in April of this year, compared to 2019.
  • On-line therapy company, Talkspace, reports a 65 percent jump in clients since February.
  • Of the trillions of dollars congress has allocated to fight COVID-19, only a pittance has been directed toward mental health.

     What else could we expect? Mental illness is difficult to measure, though we may be surrounded by sufferers without realizing the scope until a tragedy occurs. Then it’s too late. Mental illness, which often leads to suicide, cannot be touched, seen, felt or tallied.

     There are few gauges to provide measurements in the psychologic forum. In the prison system, mental health facilities and dysfunctional families are awash with unbalanced men and women of all ages, races and education, who are dangerous to themselves and others. Jails and prisons are ill-equipped to tackle the problem. That’s often where mental problems worsen while America looks the other way.

     What we do know is that 124,000 Americans have died in just the last three months from coronavirus and 2.4 million have been infected by the disease. In April of this year, the New York Times reports the jobless rate exploding to over 20 million in four weeks. While the powers within leadership handle matters with science and government resources, and trillions of dollars, there’s little that can be done for the millions of grief-stricken and/or destitute people other than require masks and distancing rules, while we all become prisoners of our own abode. For some, that’s a recipe for stark depression.

     The government has handed out relief funds, but jobless victims and their families continue to deal with poverty, grief from loss, homelessness, joblessness, and self-pity, where the sick get sicker and nowhere to turn. This doesn’t even address the millions of those addicted to drugs and alcohol, living virtually on the edge.

     It is reasonable to expect soaring numbers of suicide victims when the stats finally come in. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, Americans killed themselves over 48,000 times in 2018, or one victim every 11 minutes. That’s likely to double. At present, statistics for 2020 are not available, though trends tell us a huge spike in self-killing can be expected. Early data from the Disaster Distress Helpline reports a 338% increase in call volume in March 2020, when government mandates went into effect, compared to February .

     Having investigated my share of suicides in Miami over thirty years, (hundreds) I learned that the majority are brought about by enormous despair whether from medical illness, addiction or emotional distress. Losing jobs, self-support, loved ones, personal freedom and basics like food and shelter with no relief in sight, are certain triggers. When the numbers are counted, I’m sure we will see a sharp spike in self-killings in 2020 – the ultimate escape.

     When we, friends and families, witness such despair, we must try to do something to impede the suicide course. Impart love, care and support. Let disputes become bygones, because life is too precious to discard. Those who choose to end their lives will leave a trail of sorrow that never ends.

     I know.

The national Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Marshall Frank is a retired police captain from Miami-Dade County, author and frequent contributor. Visit www.marshallfrank.com