Frontiersmen of America, Episode 2

 DATELINE: Never Surrender

 Robert I. Mesa   Robert I. Mesa as Tecumseh

History Channel and Leonardo DiCaprio present the second documentary in the series, Men Who Built America: The Frontiersman.

This time, they take two storylines and entangle them for their parallels: Tecumseh (played by hottie Robert I. Mesa) starts off as a young man whose tribe is wiped out largely by smallpox, brought on by the American settlers flowing into the Ohio and Indiana territories after the Revolution.

The twin sides of the story feature Meriwether Lewis and William Clark being saved by their guide Sacajawea, who meets a long-lost brother and intervenes on behalf of her friends. Jefferson’s plan to have a peaceful settlement soon meets the reality of the greed of American settlers.

On the other hand, Tecumseh’s brother is a visionary who helps the Native American bring together tribes into a united nation. To that end, Tecumseh creates Prophetsville, a symbol of Pan-Indian unification.

The stories diverge from there. Lewis ended up committing suicide and Tecumseh’s village is wiped out in a genocidal attack by Tippecanoe Harrison himself, who parlayed the vile sneak attack into political capitol.

Tecumseh never trusted the British who tried to curry his favor, but the Americans were worse, convinced of their destiny to drive out the natives to settle the land from coast to coast.

The episode manages to bring the highs and lows of American roots into one trail, both of tears and joy. You cannot blame Tecumseh for wanting revenge whose power was enhanced the the New Madrid earthquakes—and an alliance with the British in 1812.

Yet, Tecumseh knew the quality of mercy is never strained. He wanted a diplomatic settlement to the war.




Civil War Gold De-Railed



DATELINE:  More Gary Drayton Please!

In the second episode of The Curse of Civil War Gold, we learn what it’s like to conduct a treasure hunt on the cheap in a show called “Right on Track.” Not even the narrative voice of Robert Clotworthy can save this mess.

Because Marty Lagina has not come through with funding, the alleged treasure hunters continue their amateur hour shenanigans. We presume Marty will cough up some bucks or this show will not be on much longer, or would not be on TV at all.

This series is apparently an exercise in what happens when people over-extend their reach. Without trust in real experts, these hunters make bonehead decisions—and seem to be lucky beyond belief. It’s anti-intellectualism in America writ big.

Of course, maybe the unwashed public loves this kind of fraud: High school teachers gone amok, and President Trump gone bonkers.

Kevin Dykstra is the leader with his brother, in a blatant imitation of the Lagina brothers, and he assembles a group of family and friends to excavate a beach along Lake Michigan in a truly ridiculous effort. Without real knowledge or safety, they begin digging in the sand. Most nitwits know this is a recipe for disaster. Dykstra’s minions cannot overcome the leakage into the pits they dig.

Information tells them that the stolen steam engine from 1869 is buried there, derailed after unloading Confederate gold into the lake. It may be feasible, but with plans like those excavation ideas, no one will find much of anything.

In the meantime, kingpin Marty Lagina sits in his palace with a checkbook, demanding more proof. If you love this kind of thing, you may be in your element.

A new style of colorized Civil War photos starts to look like comic book illustrations, also used recently on the Oak Island series. We are in familiar territory here. We doubt that can stretch this into a five-year plan, but History Channel works in mysterious ways.

We still say, give Gary Drayton, metal detective, his own show.


One Last Gasp from Oak Island for Season 5

DATELINE: Not Exactly a Cliff-hanger

pexels-photo-220994.jpeg Nothing here

Lacking the sonorous tones of Robert Clotworthy as narrator, another “clone” ersatz episode of The Curse of Oak Island came out of the ever-greedy History Channel.

A summary show about Digging Deeper had little of importance to add to the hunt, which is over for this season, but did not let series producers stop them from adding another hour of rehash and recap to the proceedings.

Their cheerleader is the same overactive and overeager puppy that has won the Lagina hearts over the past few years as the in-house and resident documentary interviewer. There’s nothing like having your own toady throw cream-puff questions to you and your friends. It sounds rehearsed because it is.

He is not part of the field crew, and never shows up for anything except to serve as a public relations tool. When Marty Lagina showed him an important “archeological find” that he was unable to explain during the slow season past because of “time constraints,” the host interviewer accepted the shocking information with cheery obtuseness.

He was literally dropped into a cordoned-off and filled-in shaft that may go back to the original digging in 1795. Why was this deemed too unimportant for the regular season incidents?

Where was the on-site expert, Laird somebody, the government forced upon the Lagina brothers? How did they find this and why did he not offer any insights? And why did they not continue to excavate the spot that first inspired treasure hunters?

This serious bit of history was shunted aside with red tape.

You won’t find answers here in this addendum episode. This clown narrator/interviewer declines to press on whether there will be an explanation ever.

You know that it is the insurance policy for another season.

It’s called a “teaser” in show business for those disgruntled fans who feel like they have been strung along for another year.


Kingpin Whitey Bulger on History Channel

DATELINE:  King Whitey & Crown & Anchor Gay Bar!

Jimmy  Rough Trade Whitey Bulger

Leave to History Channel to insult women with their series called Kingpin during Women’s History Month. The good news for women is that the first episode, of Kingpin features no women.

Indeed, the episode glorifies the bloody thughood of young Jimmy Bulger who rose from boy prostitute to homicidal maniac. Oh, you mean they didn’t mention the fact that Whitey Bulger started out as a frequenter of gay bars in Boston in the 1950s. The moniker Whitey came from his alabaster skin and blond hair.

The producers also left out the salient fact that Whitey’s brother was one of the most powerful politicians in Boston for a generation, the founder of the St. Paddy’s Day roast, Billy Bulger of South Boston.

Apart from general inaccuracy and consulting a bunch of stiffs who are thrilled at Whitey’s shenanigans, the series is nothing short of appalling. Boston ought to sue History Channel for slander and libel.

We remember that Boston was not Chicago in the 1920s. Crime was localized, however violent.  People like Howie Carr, radio celeb and sometime author, know better, but jumped at the chance to be on screen.

Carr knows better than anyone how Whitey, known as Jimmy in his more refined circles, was a frequenter of Jacques, one of the more notorious gay bars of the the 1950s in Bay (aka Gay) Village, among his foibles and indiscretions.

Cutie-pie and rough trade Jimmy carried on in P-town too, at the Crown and Anchor Bar, where he stayed with its owner often. There, too, he canoodled his affair with movie star Sal Mineo. Oh, they left that out too?

sal Sal Mineo

You don’t want to alienate the audience for this kind of drivel. They wouldn’t cotton to affairs among the cognoscenti when a bloodbath would do.

You can check out most of this stuff in books (try Mafia & the Gays) on the Mafia and Whitey, including one by Howie Carr.


Darkest Hour Before Gary Oldman

DATELINE:  Two Fine Hours

Oldman Churchill Oldman Churchill!

Gary Oldman had several makeup specialists to help him take on the dowdy appearance of an old reprobate as he played the gin-swilling, cigar-chomping temperamental British prime minister during World War II, the irascible Winston Churchill.

You might think he won Best Actor Oscar for his prosthetic achievement, but his performance is a gem—and you can almost forgive him for playing Commissioner Gordon in the Batman movies.

Joe Wright’s Churchill movie is quite different from the many others that have come and gone over the past few years. In the past you had Albert Finney, and in the distant past you had Timothy Spall and even Richard Burton. We could go on and on.

The latest version takes on a slightly different approach, lending itself to atmosphere, style, and a human touch. This Churchill’s worst enemies are his own conservative party members—and appeasing, peace at any price types who want to work things out with Hitler.

The film also takes the non-epic approach to the rescue of British soldiers at Dunkirk. That movie was the arch-rival to the Darkest Hour at the Oscars.

Kristen Scott Thomas plays wife Clemmie and Lily James does a turn as Churchill’s private secretary, but make no mistake, the bull in the china shop is Oldman, almost unrecognizable and totally convincing, perhaps with the performance of his life.

The film puts its focus on a short time when Churchill had to convince the public, and his King, that he was the man for the job. A couple of bravura scenes make the film well-worth the time, in which Churchill challenges himself to ride the subway to find how the common citizens feel, and his stirring speech that set Hitler on the road to ruin.

You can fit Darkest Hour on your DVD shelf next to The King’s Speech, as grand use of oratory skills and language during World War II.


Boone Starts Building America

DATELINE: History Channel Series

boone 1820   Daniel Boone, age 84

Leave it to the ever-sensitive History Channel to honor women’s history month with two new series. First on the docket is the Men Who Built America’s sequel: the frontiersman. The other is Kingpin, a series about four criminal thugs.

Don’t let that stop you from watching. The frontiersman series starts with Daniel Boone. It’s produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, probably based on his experience from playing The Revenant. No, Jeremiah Johnson is not among those to be studied.

As documentary dramas go, this is superb. It is an old-fashioned American view of rugged individualism. John Wayne would be proud, not to mention the Fess Parker. In the weeks ahead, the series will also tackle Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, Andrew Jackson, Lewis & Clark, and as a nod to political correctness, Tecumseh. That episode may be the most illuminating.

A few unusual commentators, like Gen. David Petraeus, offer their insights.

Boone was in parallel to the Shot Heard ‘Round the World in Lexington by defying King George and going out to settle territory beyond the Appalachian Mountains.

Boone was a superhero of the 18th century, running 150 miles in 4 days to warn settlers of an impending attack by Indians.

The show gives credit to the daughter of Boone, Jemima, who was heroic in facing kidnapping by Native Americans.

It appears the British put a bounty on American heads and gave the Native Americans rifles to take back their land. It was a losing proposition either way for them. The writing was on the fort’s walls when a rainstorm stopped the Native Americans from burning down the place.

Though it is basic American history, we suspect that most viewers will find it all new stuff. We are always grateful for intelligent TV viewing.


Red Sox Owner Tom Werner & Bill Cosby



Once again, the Boston sports media has fallen down on the job.

Over the past year or so, there have been ample opportunities to ask owner Tom Werner, the media expert of the Red Sox and co-owner of the largest share with John Henry, about his dubious association with Bill Cosby.

You might better remember Werner as the man who decided to fire Voice of the Red Sox for years, Don Orsillo, for no reason except trust in his own good judgment and disregard of fans.

Now it’s come back to us in the age of #MeTooism, that Tom Werner was one of the first great enablers of actor and sexual predator Bill Cosby as a Hollywood TV producer.

Werner was the producer of the Cosby series from 1984 to 1992, making both men rich and giving Werner the opportunity to buy the Red Sox in subsequent years.

Tom Werner is not to become confused with Werner von Braun, the space scientist. They are heavens apart.

No member the media has asked Tom about how he enabled Cosby. No member of the media has asked him for his opinion on all of the charges against his former star and pal of the series.

Unlike the previous owner named Tom (that’s Tom Yawkey, folks), Tom Werner had no problems with hiring black people and using them to profit. Tom Werner has been instrumental behind the name change of Yawkey Way in Boston near Fenway Park, with its racist connotations, to turn back the clock to the original name, Jersey Street.

But, we digress.

What did Tom Werner know and when did he know it about Bill Cosby? No one seems to have asked him the question. So, we will.

Tom, did you have any idea about all the women that Bill Cosby was accosting?

Cosby was the Harvey Weinstein of the Dark Ages in Hollywood. Werner was apparently the man behind the curtain in those dark ages. For years he helped Cosby become a success.

If there are any Red Sox fans who belong to #MeToo’s movement, they should be asking about Werner too.




Grapes & Gold of Wrath: Civil War Curses

DATELINE:  Look Away, Look Away, Dixieland!

ClotRobert Clotworthy

If there is a revelation about Civil War gold in this new series, the big goldmine belongs to Marty Lagina. He has put his production company with Ancient Alien and Oak Island narrator Robert Clotworthy’s dulcet tones behind a new show, Curse of the Civil War Gold.

Marty Lagina admits as he exits Oak Island for the season, that he has money to burn. Why does he need a gold treasure when he already owns one? For the first time in five seasons on Curse of Oak Island, we are treated to a visit to his business on the new series, which happens to be a giant winery in Michigan.

There’s gold in them thar grapes.

So, Lagina finds a group of high school teachers with a penchant for getting rich slowly who come to him for funding. It is a surprise that Marty allows them into his inner sanctum boardroom. His office kingdom is right out of the movies, and these obsequious gold diggers beg for money.

The formula is the same:  two brothers, their close friend (also a history teacher in a Michigan high school). Since this is hardly the kind of eclectic, adventurous crew we find on other adventure reality shows, Marty Lagina throws them Gary Drayton, his Australian metal detective, the only real holdover from the Oak Island show.

Lagina will appear as a deus ex machina, or Professor Kingsfield, at the start and finish of each episode, putting down his cynical pronouncements.

When the Michigan high school teachers set off for Dixieland and Georgia where Jeff Davis was captured, we wondered how the locals will take to Yankee hunters wanting to find the Confederate treasure.

This is an enterprise borne out of greed and likely to be as unpleasant as suggesting that J. Wilkes Booth and Jesse James were members of a Masonic-style Knights-Templar wannabe group known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, behind the gold curse.

A bunch of pro-slavery advocates with gold to hide, the KGC and their gold cache should be justifiable confiscation, kind of a government asset forfeiture.

Will a bunch of mundane Michigan high school teachers take the prize? This series is betting you care. Marty Lagina is crushing his grapes before their time.



Wrap Up Oak Island: Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

DATELINE:  Like a Hunt for the Maltese Falcon


If ever a season of hope was upon Oak Island, the fifth year of the series dig was it. Yet, the curse of the treasure hunt was that hope may be their worst enemy.

As the team of hunters gathered at the end of The Curse of Oak Island for an assessment, we came away yet again with a great respect for 94-year old Dan Blankenship. He cut through all the discoveries and made a simple pronouncement. He felt 90% of what they found was on the surface, not under ground.

He wondered about the expense. Yet, he was also even as he comes around the bend toward a century of life, allured by the mystery of the place where he has spent half his life.

We went around the table at the faces of we have come to know quite well: Dan, the wise elder, to Gary Drayton, our metal detector, to Alex Lagina, the hot young nephew of the expedition leaders, to his bearded cousin—and a couple of historians who lead the scribe element of grand expeditions from Alexander the Great to Lewis & Clark.

Dumb luck was lost to dumb decisions, that made the dive team into a 75-foot shaft disheartening. The wish for a steel plate over a treasure chest is the stuff of dreams. If Oak Island is just another Maltese Falcon, we are satisfied with the adventure of it all.

Will there be another season? You can bet your Nielsen ratings on it.








Inventor of Xmas? Charles Dickens, Really?

DATELINE:  Ghosts for the Holidays

Dickens with ScroogeDickens with Scrooge!

One presumes Dickens would be appalled that he was given the label as The Man Who Invented Christmas because in 1842 under financial pressure, he wrote a little ghost story in six weeks. We always thought Jesus probably deserved a little credit for inventing Christmas.

Having dozens of movie versions of the famous holiday tale about the reclamation of Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, it seems only fitting that a charming tale, slightly mythological rather than biographical, would be the latest incarnation of the story.

Dan Stevens, hot off Downton Abbey, plays a stylish, boyish Charles Dickens, a man surrounded by his own spendthrift ways and a brood of interruptions in his home, faces a daunting deadline to come up with a novella to make ends meet.

Stories about writers are usually deadly dull and impossible to show creativity, but this film manages to show how the characters, and caricatures, came to life for Dickens.

No small feat is the marvelous performance of the difficult quarry of Scrooge in the person of Christopher Plummer. He argues he wants his point-of-view better expressed, feeling the story is too one-sided!

The cast is up to the weird exaggerations of Dickens, including Jonathan Pryce as the author’s father. Many people in Dickens’ life take a role in his story.

Cute, by some standards, we see snippets of dialogue picked off the streets as Dickens goes on his daily duties. He hears the best lines and incorporates them into his text. But, it is his debates with Scrooge who visits him in his room that is the heart of the film.

Dickens purists might take issue with the pabulum portrait by Stevens, but this is a sentimental story, intelligently told, without profanity, sexual situations, or other unpleasantness, while maintaining dramatic and psychological effectiveness.

This is a film that insists Dickens did more for Christmas than you may want to believe. Yet, this is more than a holiday fest and more than a simple biographical movie. It is charming, an addition to the Christmas canon.



Did Leonardo Forge the Shroud of Turin?

DATELINE: Confounding Conspiracy

Leo purported self-portrait Pia's 1898 negative photo

Same Face? Leonardo & Jesus

A new documentary comes up with an interesting conspiracy theory from the de-bunkers of the famous shroud of controversy.

Though scientists have been unable to prove its authenticity, the de-bunkers have not been able to prove it’s fake.

This little hour documentary spends some time laying some dubious groundwork, blaming a rabid fascination on relics of dead saints on the Roman Catholic Church as a background. Filmed mostly in Italy with a few American, South African, and British “experts”, the film goes about attacking the shroud with logical fallacies.

Guilt by association is a nonstarter. Then, comes a series of attacks on the poltergeist personality of Leonardo Da Vinci. Noting he never mentions “God” in his journals and was a vegetarian and purported homosexual, he would be more than a willing participant to create a fake shroud to delude the public and give the Savoy family more political influence. Hunh? and double hunh?

There are some curios in the hour: but as explicable as any other fallacy, such as the size difference between the height of the man on the front and on the back of the shroud.

DaVinci’s associations with members of the Savoy family and Pope tend to be reason for making a fake shroud on old material through some amazing and undetectable method.

There is the rather fascinating parallel that Da Vinci put his own face on every major work of art, from Mona Lisa to the Last Supper. So, the comparison of the man on the shroud and Leonardo’s self-portrait is amusing.

Chalk this up to another time-passing lack of closure on a barroom betting topic.


Yawkey Way: One-Way Street in Boston

DATELINE:  The Way in Boston

Which way?

When you say the word “racism,” in Boston, you better smile, pardner.

Yes, the birds of a feather are in a snit over the name change on Jersey Street. It was once called Yawkey Way in honor of the Hall of Fame owner of the Boston Red Sox. He died in 1976, and the city of Boston, found it in its heart to name the little bypass in front of Fenway Park after its Southern gentleman, Tom, who tried to buy a World Series in the 1930s by hiring the best players. He failed.

The Colonel, as it were, in baseball, a game for white gentlemen, as it was once called.

Yes, right in Boston, you had an owner who was never truly part of Boston. He never showed up until after the season started and then sat in his high-above-field box like Nero.

He was instrumental in keeping the Red Sox lily white until Pumpsie Green showed up to sit on the bench for a few seasons. He was used as a pinch-runner most of the time. The Sox were the last team in the majors to sign a black man to play.

Race, if it was in the forefront of that Georgian peach, Yawkey’s mind, was never to advance civil rights of black people. He made Ty Cobb look progressive.

The Yawkey Way is not to be confused with the Patriot Way, under an owner who is the epitome of billionaires in Boston.

Uncle Tom Yawkey kept it white for as long as he could.

We have a memory of attending a Red Sox game in the early 1960s when the only black face we saw in the stands was Bill Russell of the champion Celtics. The Red Sox were never world champs under Yawkey.

When the game ended with another hideous Sox loss, I was behind Russell who was tall, silent, and dignified. Why was he there? Perhaps to see the second black Sox player,  pitcher Earl Wilson. That is lost to memory, but Russell was the tallest man leaving the box seats. No one spoke to him, and we walked out of the park—and he went in one direction and I, the other way on then Jersey Street.

Wilson was later traded several weeks after complaining about racism to the Boston media.

We saw Russell at several games over that year, while Yawkey sat high above, looking down. In those days, celebrities did not join Colonel Yawkey in his perch, certainly not a black man.

We think now Russell showed up to make a point: he loved baseball and hated racism. He was the only black face in the crowd.

Imagine: 30,000 seats filled with white fans, and one black man.

And now there is a hulla-baseballoo because Boston wants to dump Yawkey Way in a place where black players were jeered just last season by racial taunts. The present owners want to change the name of Yawkey Way back Jersey Street.

It’s still Yawkey Way, no matter what you call it.



Twofer on Oak Island

DATELINE:  Family History Episode

Drayton Rising Star Gary Drayton!

On the longest of the five seasons of Curse of Oak Island, the series gave fans a grand send-off with two episodes back to back, before the finale next time. We find it hard to believe there are 104-hour episodes of the series, according to some History channel sources.

Though this episode does nothing to advance the treasure hunt, it may be one of the most interesting of the entire five-year history. For the first time, the series consolidates the backstory on all the hunters going back to the late 1890s.

The show is entitled “Family Album,” and it has a nice human touch to the families that supported the diggers and dreamers.7

Interviews with descendants enhance the narrative, but special attention is paid to Samuel Ball, an emancipated American slave who left for Canada after the Revolutionary War, and bought land on Oak Island, with suspected treasure he found.

The other intriguing figure is, of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who came to the island when his grandfather, Warren Delano invested in the latest scheme to find the jewels of Marie Antoinette. The allure of Oak Island never left FDR, even during his presidency.

The tie of wealth and high rank among the Masons seem to highlight the earlier treasure quest. The hints are that they knew something derived from their legendary ties to the Knights Templar.

The other intriguing point of the show is the explanation of the alleged curse—six have died, and a seventh must die before the mystery is solved.

The more recent families have re-visited the island at the invitation of the Lagina Brothers, and their appearances on earlier shows are re-capped with clips from the past five years. Of cours

Nothing earth-shattering, or bored from the ground, is here, but this turns out to be one of the best episodes in five years.


Penultimate Digging, Season 5 on Oak Island

DATELINE:  Coming Down to the Finish

 fake ruby  fake ruby?

A twelve-facet ruby that could be half-a-millenium old? Is it part of the long-lost jewels of Marie Antoinette, decapitated queen of old France? Robert Clothworthy’s voice remains so memorable from Curse of Oak Island as narrator.

Under poor conditions with no historical value, it might render only a pittance of $20,000, but with the allure of Oak Island and a queen’s ransom, the sky is the limit.

However, carbon dating of wood objects now seems to eliminate the Templars as the originators of the building process.  No one wanted to go there among the show’s hunters.

Well, that would be enough to satisfy a season of tedium. Thanks again to Gary Drayton, the Australian metal detective, with his uncanny ability to look in unlikely places for unlikely treasures, the series Curse of Oak Island rendered up more mystery as the fifth season draw to a close.

Other events include finding wood structures buried near the beach that 94-year old Dan Blankenship excavated forty years ago to no avail. Is it part of a French or Spanish galleon? Again, we are left holding our collective breaths.

The series may be reaping its rewards at long last with the arrival of a diver to find out what kind of metal plate is covering what kind of chamber nearly 80 feet below the surface in the area of mysterious vaults.

We don’t seem anywhere near losing another treasure hunter in the process of excavation, which may mean we are facing a long winter of the waiting game yet again.

Marty Lagina has been notoriously absent for many important moments this season, and now it becomes clear that he has moved on to another treasure hunt—and a new series to start on the heels of this season’s cliff-hanger. Yes, we will be lured into the trap of hunting for Civil War gold under Lake Michigan and won’t have time to think about what’s still missing on Oak Island.







Not Springtime for Hitler

 DATELINE:  Ultimately Superb

 hitler & edward

Unlike other History Channel series, the Hunting Hitler: Final Evidence show has gone by quickly and been chock full of suspense and intrigue on a cold-case 70 years old.

The cast of detectives are perfectly off-kilter types that find witnesses too that might be casting gems, if they were not real. We came to appreciate the various duos when they cross-teamed to do their specialty.

We bid adieu to the third season with this episode, presuming it will return to dig up bones where and when necessary.

You know it’s the end of this segment of shows when Bob Baer, host and orchestra leader, leaves his high-rise Los Angeles comfy office to take credit on the big picture. He wants to go to the FBI with his team’s findings.

We would have thought INTER-POL a more apt choice, but former CIA operative Baer goes where the ratings lead him. And he goes alone, because he is the only ‘I” in team. To top it off, he goes to a retired FBI agent. Hunh?

The findings of the show were distressing: uncovering Hitler’s microfilm will in Chile, a concentration-style camp under Pinochet run by escaped Nazis, and remote fortifications in Paraguay.

Baer thinks they were planning a Fourth Reich, but more likely they were hiding, like cowards, from execution in empty luxury at mountainous hideaways.

Next season, if it comes, will hunt for Hitler’s bones.