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At Mill City Museum Thursday, author Neal Karlen gave an animated recounting of Minneapolis's Jewish-mafia era in the 1940s and '50s. That's club owner Augie Ratner on the right. Photo by Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell.
Good thing for Neal Karlen that Israel "Icepick Willie" Alderman no longer roams Hennepin Ave. Ol' Icepick (photo below) -- whose specialty was ramming a you-know-what into the eardrums of his victims to avoid obvious signs of murder -- wouldn't have taken kindly to Karlen's spilling his secrets Thursday night at the Mill City Museum, where more than 120 people braved the spring blizzard to hear the author read from his new book, "Augie's Secrets" The Minneapolis Mob and the King of the Hennepin Strip." The event was hosted by its publisher, Minnesota Historical Society Press.
The "Augie" in the title, Karlen's great-uncle Augie Ratner, owned the strip club that still bears his name, though he sold it in the '60s. Karlen spoke of how Augie's, along with long-gone establishments like the Persian Palms and the 620 Club, was a watering hole for infamous mobsters including Isadore "Kid Cann" Blumenfeld (who got his nickname because he was always in the bathroom when the cops showed up, so the story goes) and gambling kingpin Davie "the Jew" Berman.
Kid Cann gave money not only to synagogues, but also Christian churches, because he said he "liked to play all the angles," Karlen said, adding that the Jewish mafia weren't alone in their shady deals: "There were some corrupt Scandinavians, too."
Israel "Icepick WIllie" Alderman
Walt Bachman, well known in Minnesota as a lawyer, former chief deputy Hennepin County attorney and a member of the family behind Bachman’s garden stores, was back in the Twin Cities this week to launch his new book.
Bachman, pictured, who lives in New York, has written “Northern Slave, Black Dakota” (Pond Dakota Press, $24.95), a biography of Joseph Godfrey, a fascinating and little-known figure in Minnesota history.
Bachman spoke and signed books Wednesday at the Bachman’s store on Lyndale Avenue South, where the crowd included a dozen Bachman family members as well as about 10 ancestors of Godfrey, who was born in the 1830s in Minnesota, the son of a black slave woman. Godfrey, himself a slave until he ran away from his owner, later married a Dakota woman and lived much of his life with the Dakota people.
Walt Bachman’s great-great grandfather, Ernst Dietrich, was among those killed in August 1862 at the outset of the Dakota War in an attack by a party of Dakota Indians that included Godfrey.
The incident in his family history led Bachman to spend more than six years researching and writing about Godfrey and about the often-ignored fact that slavery was present in Minnesota in the decades leading up to statehood, despite its being unlawful in the territory under terms of the 1820 Missouri Compromise.
“Northern Slave, Black Dakota” is a painstakingly researched and tautly written account that pieces together from scant records the early years of Godfrey, who became much better known to the history books after his imprisonment and trial for killings during the Dakota War.
Sentenced to hang, Godfrey’s death sentence was among a very few that were commuted by President Abraham Lincoln. Released after several years in prison, Godfrey found his way to an Indian reservation in Nebraska, where he lived a long life, dying in 1909.
It may seem odd for someone to write the biography of a man who was alleged to have killed his ancestor on a day that is known for a pitiless bloody massacre of whites by Indians in and around what was then Milford, Minnesota. But, said Bachman, he became convinced that Godfrey, while not blameless, has been “unfairly maligned by history,” a wrong he sought to correct. “Northern Slave, Black Dakota” does that with clarity and commitment. The book should compel the interest of all who are interested in 19th-century Minnesota history.
Also see the Star Tribune's recent series about the Dakota War, "In the Footsteps of Little Crow," by Curt Brown.
Joseph Godfrey, pictured on the book cover of "Northern Slave, Black Dakota," by Walt Bachman, was born a slave in Minnesota and lived the first half of his life here.
We know that singing actor Greta Oglesby has earth-shaking vocal prowess, as she demonstrated in such productions as "Caroline, or Change" and "The Amen Corner" at the Guthrie and "Black Nativity" at Penumbra Theatre.
We also know what she has spot-on comic timing ("The Sunshine Boys" and "In the Red and Brown Water," both at the Guthrie). But we did not know that Oglesby also is something of a romantic.
The Ivey Award winner is headlining an evening of "Readings and Reflections on Love" at United Theological Seminary. The Tues., Feb. 5, event will also include singer Dennis Spears and pianist Sanford Moore on piano.
Architect Joan Soranno, who designed the Bigelow Chapel venue where the event will take place, will also read alongside seminary board member Benjamin Oehler. The event will celebrate the many flavors of love.
7:30 p.m. Tue., United Theological Seminary, 3000 5th St., NW, New Brighton. Tickets are $15.
POSTED BY CAROLINE PALMER -- Special to the Star Tribune
On May 22, 2011 a tornado tore through north Minneapolis, demolishing homes, scattering belongings and changing the lives of all who were affected in an area that had already seen more than its fair share of challenges. While many of the stories of that day and its aftermath have been told through the media, there is still more to know about what happened – and what came next – for those in the storm’s path.
Choreographer Stuart Pimsler, who lives near the edge of the destruction (his house escaped damage) said by phone that it “was incredible to see how the neighborhood was visibly changed, there were mature old trees ripped out of the ground, every roof had a blue tarp on it. Some stayed on houses for over a year.” He talked with the members of his company, Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater (SPDT), about creating a project in response. The result is a book, “Temporary Shelter: Tales from the Minneapolis Tornado,” which will be released this Saturday, January 26 at 3 p.m. during a free event at the Capri Theater.
Pimsler’s impulse was natural given SPDT’s “Community Connections” program. Over its 34-year history the troupe has developed a “parallel track” to its performance work, he said, involving “different populations and different subject matter inquiries” in workshops and related activities. While much of this work never goes onstage, it often involves opportunities for individuals to express themselves in ways they might not have before. Health care providers and educators, for example, have been among the program’s participants.
The idea for a book about the tornado and its impact came from the desire to “create a permanent record,” said the choreographer, who was joined in the effort by photographer V. Paul Virtucio. Pimsler started by reaching out to local nonprofits like the North Point Health and Wellness Center, Northside YMCA, the Urban League, Urban Homeworks and Pillsbury United. After talking with staff he received referrals to clients. “By the time we were all done we had talked to in excess of 100 people in the neighborhood and more than 30 organizations,” said Pimsler. Homeowners, renters, small business owners, a landlord, recovery helpers – many voices were heard.
As to be expected, there were a variety of perspectives. Some people had positive experiences with the recovery and received the help they needed to get back on their feet; others felt abandoned by the government, insurance companies and landlords. But instead of bringing a particular political bent to the project, said Pimsler, “We soon found out that everybody had really different experiences. It was really important to be hands-off on having an agenda, to let the cross-section of humanity have time to speak and to allow readers to draw their own conclusions.”
For Saturday’s event at the Capri, Pimsler has asked each SPDT member “to select a person whose story they were drawn to and to do an homage to that story. So everybody will be doing a solo.” In addition to the performance there will be a buffet meal.
The following weekend, February 2 at 7 p.m., marks the opening of “Art in the Everyday: Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater Retrospective,” an exhibition at the Anita Sue Kolman Gallery of “artifacts” from the company’s history including sets, costumes and other design elements. The exhibit will include the work of the late Ronald Aiji Kajiwara, a former design director for Vogue magazine who collaborated with SPDT during its early years. Opening night will include interactive performances and a discussion with Pimsler and Artistic Co-Director Suzanne Costello. The show will run through March 5.
As if a book release and exhibition were not enough to keep SPDT busy in the coming weeks, the troupe will also perform a world premiere, “Walking, Singing and Other Habits,” and two repertory works at the Cowles Center February 15-17.
So there's a James Bond fan on your gift list and the $299 pricetag for "Bond 50," the new 22-film blu ray extravaganza, feels a trifle steep? Comsider "50 Years of James Bond," a tribute to Ian Fleming's superspy by the editors of Life magazine (Life Books, $27.95.) It's a handsomely designed coffee table book with the depth and quality you would expect from the flagship of photojournalism. Even inveterate Bond lovers will find images here they've never seen before. The pictures haven't been previously published.
There are breezy two-page entries on all the Bond films, including the non-cannonical 1967 "Casino Royale" and Sean Connery's 1983 return engagement,"Never Say Never Again." There's even a chapter on the sacriligeous 1954 CBS TV presentation of "Casino Royale," starring Barry Nelson as an Americanized "Jimmy" Bond. The essays are long on "hey, listen to this" trivia: Did you know that while singing the theme song for "Thunderball" Tom Jones held the last note so long he fainted? Or that in "For Your Eyes only," Roger Moore's Bond bedded a character played by Cassandra Harris, the real-life wife of Bond-to-be Pierce Brosnan? Don't know the connection between the Bond films and George Harrison's passion for the sitar? Learn about it here.
You shouldn't use this book to settle all your bar bets, though. It asserts that in "You Only Live Twice," "Bond did not pilot any kind of vehicle -- first time ever." How did they miss his airborne duel with four enemy helicopters at the controls of his gyrocopter Little Nellie? It declares that Moore's 007 used a Magnum handgun rather than the traditional Walther, a claim that even a cursory glance at the photos dispels.
Still, there's more to enjoy here than to criticize. There's a compendium of Bond imitators and satirists, nice biographies of the Bond actors and an inflation-adjusted tally of each film's box office take. Those who don't want to trawl the limitless seas of Bond information on the Internet will find this a handy field